Saturday, December 17, 2005


Cleaning the entire house: Pain in the ass.

Eating Miriam's cooking and baking and my own baklava: Fantastic.

Having dozens of friends over after a year-long flood-induced party hiatus: Invaluable.

(I cannot bring myself to say "pricele**.")

Anyway, no blogging for a bit!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Jon Stewart Wins Again

It's a shame this comes just as The Daily Show takes its holiday (yeah, that's right. I'm waging War on Christmas. What are you going to do about it?) break.

Ah, well. So long, douche:

"After 25 years of serving as a CNN commentator and program host, our colleague Bob Novak's tenure on the network will come to a close (effective 12/31). Through the years, Bob has offered incisive analysis for much of CNN's programming, including Crossfire, The Capital Gang, Inside Politics, Evans and Novak, The Novak Zone, and Novak, Hunt and Shields. Bob has also been a valued contributor to CNN's political coverage. We appreciate his many contributions and wish him well in future endeavors," said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S.


One More Reason Santorum Doesn't Live in France

The first person to be prosecuted under France's year-old law against homophobic speech is a member of Parliament.

Christian Vanneste, a member of the ruling UMP party, faces jail and a fine after being convicted this week.

Vanneste made a series of anti-gay speeches in Parliament. In one he called gays a "threat to humanity".

His speeches, in the lower house, are protected by parliamentary privilege but Vanneste then repeated the remarks in interviews with two newspapers which printed them.
The UMP party has distanced itself from Vanneste, 58, a professor of philosophy.

He does not deny making the remarks to the papers but says they were far from being illegal.

Vanneste says that he did not say homosexuality was dangerous "only that it is inferior to heterosexuality and could, in extreme circumstances, become a danger to mankind."

The prosecutor said Vanneste was guilty as charged but made no recommendation on sentencing. Judgment will be handed down on Jan 24.

He could be fined $25,000 or sentenced to six months in jail or both.

Sexuality was added to an existing law banning hate speech against other minorities one year ago this month.


Get Specific

Yet more evidence that America's bizarre prudery is lethal in the context of AIDS:
Fear of HIV infection is not enough to get everyone to practice safe sex, according to a University of Florida research team’s comprehensive study of AIDS prevention strategies.
Results showed that the most familiar form of safe-sex campaigns — one consisting of radio and television ads reminding people of the dangers of AIDS — has no effect on condom use. The ads focus on making people aware of their risk, increasing their fear or providing general information, but none of those strategies is effective, said UF associate professor Dolores Albarracin.

“Campaigns that do not get people to clearly imagine the situations in which they will be having sex do not increase condom use,” Albarrracin said. “The approach has to be realistic; it has to anticipate the real problems of the individuals in that situation such as being drunk or high.”
While women can benefit from participating in discussions on the merits of condom use and learning the facts on HIV/AIDS, men need hands-on training and access to condoms before they will practice safe sex. “Still, there are many pressures to not implement these programs, particularly in schools, because policy makers are concerned that such an approach may have negative moral consequences,” Albarracín said.

Gay men, intravenous drug users and their partners, and people with multiple sex partners all seem to benefit most from receiving information, being supplied with condoms, and training in how to succeed at condom use given the multiple obstacles. Teenagers and the more disenfranchised populations — women and ethnic minorities — also need behavioral-skills training and actual access to condoms.


Just Because You're Paranoid...

It's sad how utterly unsurprising this particular revelation is:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mona Lisa Smile: Unsurprised, a Tad Disgusted

In what they viewed as a fun demonstration of technology rather than a serious experiment, the researchers scanned a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and subjected it to cutting-edge "emotion recognition" software, developed in collaboration with the University of Illinois.

The result showed the painting's famous subject was 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry. She was less than 1 percent neutral, and not at all surprised.


Misery Tours

Mixed feelings about this...
For $35 per person — $28 for children — a New Orleans company is offering bus tours of some of the city's most misery-stricken spots, including the Superdome, the Convention Center and neighborhoods ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The three-hour tours, called "Hurricane Katrina — America's Worst Castastrophe," were announced last week by Gray Line New Orleans, with the first one set for Jan. 4.

"It's a catastrophe that happened here and I just think that people need to be a little more considerate," said Nakia James, who lived in the devastated Ninth Ward.

But restaurant owner Roland Adams, tearing up the ruined oak flooring from his Lakeview living room, said it is great that tour guides have been told to explain the origins of the disaster, including deficient levees and other human errors.

"It's like an awareness program," he said.
Company vice president Gary Hoffman said he intends to show "the utmost sensitivity" to those whose homes were destroyed. After all, he said, they include about 60 percent of the company's 65 pre-Katrina employees, including himself.

The company will give $3 per ticket to Katrina-related charities, he said.


Here's Hoping...

That they are serious. That they will remain committed. That they do this right.
The White House announced has agreed to a $US3.1 billion plan to strengthen the New Orleans levees to withstand a major storm.

"The levee system will be better and stronger than it ever has been in the history of New Orleans," said Donald Powell, the Bush administration's point person for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast area devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Mayor Ray Nagin, who is struggling to persuade displaced residents to return to the shattered city, said at the White House news conference: "This action says 'Come home to New Orleans'."


Tolerant Cuba

I confess myself surprised to read this:
Communist Cuba hasn't exactly been tolerant of gays. In the late 1960s, Cubans were sent to labor camps for being gay, with homosexuality derided as an illness of the capitalist past.

Even today, Cuban transsexuals are sometimes detained and threatened with prison. But a new tolerance over the past decade has led to what many believed they would never see on the island: an exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial American photographer known for his homoerotic images.
"I never thought I would have this experience in Cuba, to see Mapplethorpe's work firsthand," said Ricardo Rodriguez, a 35-year-old photographer. "When people told me this exhibit was coming, I didn't believe them."

Rodriguez said his surprise stemmed from the fact that Mapplethorpe is gay, American and highly controversial even in his own country.

In 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and its director were charged with obscenity for exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photographs.


Bush's America: Always Petty

Just absurd:
The inaugural world Baseball Classic might not include one of the game's biggest powerhouses.

In a surprising development, organizers for the WBC were informed yesterday that the U.S. government won't allow Cuba to play in the much-hyped international event, which is to be staged during spring training next year.

The decision was made by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC), which is responsible for enforcing the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Since each country's national team would earn money from playing in the tournament, Cuba was required to receive a permit from OFAC to take part. That permit was denied, according to reports.


A Headline We Should Never Have Had to Read

"White House near deal on anti-torture measure"


Our Secret Weapon

If T-shirts and bumper stickers won't win the "War on Terror," what will? Call me crazy, but I think the world will soon be utterly enamored of the United States government:
A $300 million Pentagon psychological warfare operation includes plans for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the U.S. government as the source, one of the military officials in charge of the program says.
Run by psychological warfare experts at the U.S. Special Operations Command, the media campaign is being designed to counter terrorist ideology and sway foreign audiences to support American policies. The military wants to fight the information war against al-Qaeda through newspapers, websites, radio, television and "novelty items" such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.

The program will operate throughout the world, including in allied nations and in countries where the United States is not involved in armed conflict.


Oh, Lord

She actually wrote this? I tend to steer clear of right-wing derangement, but I had the misfortune of stumbling upon this Coulter rant, and misery loves company:
These liberals are fanatics about privacy when it comes to man-boy sex and stabbing forks into partially-born children. But a maid alleges that she bought Rush Limbaugh a few Percodans, and suddenly the government has declared a war on prescription painkillers.


The New Medievalism

This bizarre incident speaks volumes about the character of Rat's Catholic Church:
A heresy trial has been held for a Roman Catholic priest who permitted gays to take Communion, ordained women clergy, and joined a sect that doesn't accept papal infallibility.
He is accused of heresy defined as "the rejection of fundamental matters of Catholic faith at the highest levels," such as papal authority, according to the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesperson for the diocese.

Reidy, 69, also is charged with schism for breaking communion with the Roman Catholic church. If convicted, he could appeal to the Vatican, although Reidy said he would have no interest in doing so.
Reidy called the trial "medieval" and contends that it has no authority because he stopped being a Roman Catholic in 1999.

"I just think the discourtesy level is appalling," he said in a telephone interview. "I have moved way beyond all that and the brutality of the Roman Catholic church and for me to go would give a certain legitimacy to this witch hunt."

Reidy was automatically excommunicated when he went to another denomination, Lincoln said, but under canonical law he remains a Roman Catholic priest until he is formally excommunicated and defrocked.
Such cases are rare anywhere in modern times, said Msgr. Thomas Green, a professor of canon law at The Catholic University of Washington in Washington, D.C.

"By and large, once you get past the Council of Trent and the 1600s and 1700s, you don't hear much about it," he said.


Katrina Inquiry

The Republican chairman of a special House investigation panel has subpoenaed the
Pentagon and is considering sending another to the White House, to get documents detailing the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

The unusual legal action was the latest twist in the congressional inquiry of failures that occurred during the Aug. 29 storm that killed more than 1,300 people in Gulf Coast states. The investigation continues Thursday with a Senate hearing to examine New Orleans levees unable to withstand Katrina's might.
The subpoena against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, issued Wednesday evening by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., demands internal records and communications about the Pentagon's response, efforts to send supplies to victims, stabilize public safety and mobilize active duty forces in the Gulf Coast. It requires the Pentagon to deliver the documents, spanning from Aug. 23 to Sept. 15, from Rumsfeld and eight other top military officials by Dec. 30.

Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Paul Swiergosz said the panel's requests for information have been "very far-reaching and very broad, and we're doing everything we can to answer them as quickly as we can."

"We're going to provide the documents as fast as we can," Swiergosz said. "No one has been dragging their feet on these things."


Killing Whales

High intensity naval sonar poses a serious threat to whales, dolphins and porpoises that depend on sound to survive, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The study lends the first official support to allegations by environmental groups that military manoeuvres are responsible for the increasing incidence of mass whale beachings.

"While we know about other threats such as over-fishing, hunting and pollution, a new and emerging threat to cetaceans is that of increased underwater sonars," said Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society.

"These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from the source."A coalition of environmental groups launched by, among others, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, sued the US Navy in October over its use of sonar, saying the ear-splitting sounds violated environmental protection laws.

The lawsuit, which is ongoing, is aimed at vessels that use mid-frequency sonar to locate submarines and underwater objects.

The navy has 60 days to respond to the action.

Tests on the bodies of seven whales that died near Gran Canaria in 2002 found haemorrhages and inner ear damage, which experts said was caused by high-intensity, low-frequency sonar used in the area, it added.

There are no laws governing noise pollution in the world's oceans, but western governments, considered largely responsible with their increased military presence in the seas, say they need more research before taking action.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Homophobic Jackass Loses Lawsuit

Why can't people get less annoying hobbies?
A federal court has ruled that a conservative pastor's rights to free speech were not violated when police ordered him to remove homophobic banners from a highway overpass.

Pastor Ralph Ovadal filed a lawsuit against the city of Madison and the Madison Police Department following two incidents on a pedestrian bridge over a busy city thoroughfare in September and October 2003.

Hanging a large banner proclaiming "homosexuality is a sin" from the bridge, Ovadal and his followers yelled homophobic slurs.

Police said the banner impeded traffic and could cause accidents. The officers ordered the group to disperse or face arrest for disorderly conduct.


O'Reilly Lies Yet Again

I am so sick of this idiotic "War on Christmas" crap that the right wingers continue to make up and spew all over the airwaves.

It's just so stupid:
A Mid-Michigan Township makes national news but there's a problem, local officials say the whole thing was made up.

Bill O'Reilly is making the claim that Saginaw Township officials banned residents from wearing red and green during the holiday season. Local officials say he's dead wrong.

Syndicated controversial talk show host Bill O’Reilly said on his radio show:

“In Saginaw , Michigan , the township opposes red and green clothing…on Anyone, In Saginaw Township they basically said anybody, we don’t want you wearing red or green. I would dress up from head to toe in red to green if I were in Saginaw Michigan .”

-- Bill O’Reilly

WNEM TV-5 Talked to Saginaw Township supervisor Tim Braun who says O’Reilly’s comments are flat out not true. Braun goes on to say the township hall has red and green Christmas lights adorning the building at night.


Don't Fence Me In

The absurd notion that we can wall out Mexican immigrants rolls forward. Looks like Werthein's shoes will be needed more than ever:
A federal judge on Monday lifted the final legal barrier to completing a border fence meant to thwart illegal immigrants in the southwestern corner of the U.S.
In a lawsuit in 2004, the Sierra Club said the project threatened the Tijuana River estuary, home to more than 370 migratory and native birds, six of them endangered.

The proposal calls for adding two fences to an existing barrier made of Navy landing mats. A maintenance road would be built between the primary and secondary fences, along with lights, sensors and cameras.

The 2006 Homeland Security budget includes $35 million to cover most of
the work.
The final leg of the fence would cross steep, rugged canyons including "Smuggler's Gulch," a maze of trails once overrun by illegal border crossers. The federal government launched a crackdown in the area in 1994, forcing migrants to cross in more remote areas.


Environmental Racism

It's one of those issues that never seems to go away, though study after study proves that it is real and it is profoundly unjust and ultimately deadly to many. We need to address this, but there's little chance that we will:
An Associated Press analysis of a little-known government research project shows that black Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger.

Residents in neighborhoods with the highest pollution scores also tend to be poorer, less educated and more often unemployed than those elsewhere in the country, AP found.

"Poor communities, frequently communities of color but not exclusively, suffer disproportionately," said Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration when the scoring system was developed. "If you look at where our industrialized facilities tend to be located, they're not in the upper middle class neighborhoods."
More than half the blacks in Kansas and nearly half of Missouri's black population, for example, live in the 10 percent of their states' neighborhoods with the highest risk scores. Similarly, more than four out of every 10 blacks in Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin live in high-risk neighborhoods.


Katrina Call to Action

swampytad needs our help. Via Lori at Camera Obscura:
I just sent this email to some folks, but I repeat it here for my LJ friends in hope that you'll have a few minutes to help out with this. Consider it a Christmas gift to me and MRs. Swampy and GBW:

Look, everyone, I need your help. Just a few minutes, really. I need you to write your state's entire congressional delegation. Mine's already on board, and few of the others' websites will accept an email from a nonconstituent without saying something to the effect of, "You're not my constituent; I'm neither going to read nor respond to what you have to say."

Strong, real levees and floodwalls. Restoration of the marshes and wetlands that buffer against these storms. Storm surge protection gates. Rebuilding grants for businesses and homes. Maybe some bridges in Alaska will have to be sacrificed to get it done, but these things are necessary, and every congressmember needs to get the message. This is not to fix or stave off tremendous damage caused by a storm that hit a place that people shouldn't be living. This is to fix and stave off harm caused by the catastrophic engineering failure of the federal government and those it contracts with.


Monday, December 12, 2005

scout prime is right

And Michelle Malkin is, of course, dead wrong.


Surrogate Catblogging

No, these are not, in fact, my cats. Rather, they belong to reader smarty jones, who is experiencing computer difficulties at present.


Success in Afghanistan

Liberty is springing up everywhere:
Resurgent Taliban forces have forged an alliance with drug smugglers in the lawless Afghan province of Helmand, underscoring a worrying slide in security just months before thousands of British troops are due to take control in the spring.

Community elders and police officials said the Taliban has flooded remote villages with "night letters" ordering farmers to grow poppies. The notices are pinned to mosque doors or shop windows, said community leader Haji Nazaraullah. "They say 'cultivate the poppy or we will come and kill you,'" he said in Khanishin, a remote village bordering a vast desert criss-crossed with smuggling tracks. "A lot of people are very scared."

The intimidation suggests the Taliban, which had condemned opium as "unIslamic", has turned to the billion-pound drugs trade to earn money and undermine the fragile authority of President Hamid's Karzai's Kabul-based government.


Give It a Bloody Rest Already

Of all the stupid, destructive notions that obsess this White House, this is the stupidest. Just leave ANWR alone, all right?
Bush administration officials on Monday urged Congress to include opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling in a broad budget-cutting bill that could see a vote this week.

ANWR drilling is one of several politically sensitive items that will be in play when Senate and House negotiators try to finalize legislation to cut federal government spending by at least $35 billion over five years.

The Senate included ANWR in its package of spending cuts. But the House-passed budget bill dropped the ANWR drilling provision after a group of moderate Republicans threatened to vote against the measure if the drilling language was included.

The Bush administration stepped up its lobbying efforts to give oil companies access to the refuge.


A Little Good News
A program that put Hurricane Katrina evacuees in hotels at government expense while they sought other housing must be extended until Feb. 7, a month beyond the deadline set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Judge Stanwood Duval's temporary restraining order came in a class action lawsuit filed in November by advocates for hurricane victims.


In Re: Re-Redistricting

At long last, the Supreme Court will address DeLay's deformation of democracy in Texas:
The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.


Goddamn It

Katrina continues to reveal just how low we have sunk:
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans it was the city's poor - almost exclusively African Americans - who were left to fend for themselves as the city drowned in a lake of toxic sludge. Now, three months on, the same people have been abandoned once again by a reconstruction effort that seems determined to prevent them from returning. They are the victims of a devastating combination of forced evictions, a failure to reopen the city's public house projects, rent gouging and - as in the case of Mildred - a decision to write off whole neighbourhoods.

They are victims too of a reconstruction effort that, while its funding remains stalled in Congress, and lacking proper leadership, has been left to the care of the private sector with little interest in the city's poor. As a rapacious free market has come to dominate the rebuilding of the Louisiana city, it has seen spiralling prices and the influx of property speculators keen to cash in on the disaster. The result is one of the most shocking pieces of urban planning that black and poor America has seen: reconstruction as survival of the wealthiest.


Sweet Freedom

Thank goodness we deposed Saddam and ended the horrors of his reign:
An Iraqi government search of a detention center in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday night.

An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," includingsessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.

"Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone," the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Homeland Security

If you look just to the right of Zora, you will see the terrorist kitten who attempted to infiltrate our home.

Needless to say, the threat was averted.




The Drug for All of Us

No Capital heartily endorses this product:
PANEXA is a prescription drug that should only be taken by patients experiencing one of the following disorders: metabolism, binocular vision, digestion (solid and liquid), circulation, menstruation, cognition, osculation, extremes of emotion. For patients with coronary heart condition (CHC) or two separate feet (2SF), the dosage of PANEXA should be doubled to ensure that twice the number of pills are being consumed. PANEXA can also be utilized to decrease the risk of death caused by not taking PANEXA, being beaten to death by oscelots, or death relating from complications arising from seeing too much of the color lavender. Epileptic patients should take care to ensure tight, careful grips on containers of PANEXA, in order to secure their contents in the event of a seizure, caused by PANEXA or otherwise.


In a year filled with political wrangling, natural disasters and pop culture curiosities, Americans turned to Merriam-Webster to help define it all.

Filibuster. Refugee. Tsunami. Each was among the dictionary publisher's 10 most frequently looked-up words among some 7 million users of its online site.

But topping the list is a word that some say gives insight into the country's collective concern about its values: Integrity.


The Lost

Another deeply disturbing result of Katrina:
Three months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, the fate of more than 1,300 children remains unknown.