Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rational Thought in Government

I'm getting tired of our neighbors to the north displaying reason and common sense. Envy is exhausting:
A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships.

``Criminalization does not address the harms associated with valid foreign polygamous marriages and plural unions, in particular the harms to women,'' says the report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

``The report therefore recommends that this provision be repealed.''

The research paper is part of a controversial $150,000 polygamy project, launched a year ago and paid for by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada.

The paper by three law professors at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., argues that Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code banning polygamy serves no useful purpose and in any case is rarely prosecuted.

Instead, Canadian laws should be changed to better accommodate the problems of women in polygamous marriages, providing them clearer spousal support and inheritance rights.

Currently, there's a hodgepodge of legislation across the provinces, some of whom - Ontario, for example - give limited recognition to foreign polygamous marriages for the purposes of spousal support. Some jurisdictions provide no relief at all.

Chief author Martha Bailey says criminalizing polygamy, typically a marriage involving one man and several wives, serves no good purpose and prosecutions could do damage to the women and children in such relationships.

``Why criminalize the behavior?'' she said in an interview. ``We don't criminalize adultery."


Global Arrogance

I've long despised organizations like the Salvation Army, who see people's vulnerability and need as opportunities to impose their own values. Now, it seems, American conservatives are embracing a similar tactic on a massive scale:
From Peru to the Philippines to Poland, U.S.-based conservative groups are increasingly engaged in abortion and family-planning debates overseas, emboldened by their ties with the Bush administration and eager to compete with more liberal rivals.

The result is that U.S. advocacy groups are now waging their culture war skirmishes worldwide as they try to influence other countries' laws and wrangle over how U.S. aid money should be spent.

"We don't expect to see the United Nations change, or Western Europe change," said Joseph d'Agostino of the Population Research Institute, a Virginia-based anti-abortion group. "But with the Bush administration, pro-lifers feel there's a real opportunity to stop the U.S. government from promoting abortion and sex education and population control in the Third World."


I'm Just Surprised He's Not a Republican

But then Republicans aren't usually this up-front about being deranged bloodsucking parasites:
Minnesota voters, who eight years ago elected a former professional wrestler as their governor, may find a self-proclaimed vampire on the ballot for the office this year.

"Politics is a cut-throat business," said Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey, who said he plans to announce his bid for governor Friday on the ticket of the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans Party.

Like Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who was elected governor as an independent in 1998, the 41-year-old Sharkey once was a wrestler. He went by the nickname "The Unholiest of Kings: Tarantula" on obscure professional circuits.

"I'm a satanist who doesn't hate Jesus," Sharkey told Reuters. "I just hate God the Father."
However, he claims to respect all religions and if elected, will post "everything from the Ten Commandments to the Wicca Reed" in government buildings.

Sharkey also pledged to execute convicted murders and child molesters personally by impaling them on a wooden pole outside the state capitol.



Once again, our expert military intelligence leads to a successful campaign against innocent villagers:
Pakistan on Saturday condemned a purported CIA airstrike on a border village that officials said unsuccessfully targeted al-Qaida's second-in-command, and said it was protesting to the U.S. Embassy over the attack that killed at least 17 people.

Thousands of local tribesmen, chanting "God is Great," demonstrated against the attack, claiming the victims were local villagers without terrorist links and had never hosted Ayman al-Zawahri.


Friday, January 13, 2006



O brave new world, That has such pigs in't!

Scientists at the National Taiwan University have successfully bred three pigs which glow fluorescent green in the dark, marking a breakthrough in stem cell research.


Saddam Judge Is Outta Here

Not surprising, really:
The chief judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein plans to step down, a source close to the judge told Reuters on Friday, in a development that could throw an already turbulent process into further disarray.

UPDATE: He's not leaving after all.


Pure Evil

Looks like some men decided to put America's general disdain for our poorest citizens into brutal practice:
Police are searching for a group of men caught on video tape beating a homeless man.

Investigators say a group of two to four young white males targeted sleeping homeless men in a pre-dawn beating spree, and that one man died from being attacked.

Police say the suspects will face murder charges.

"It's senseless. If you look at these kids, it was almost like it was fun and games for them," said Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Scott Russell. "It looked like they were laughing and finding great joy in what they were doing, which made it more horrific."

Norris Gaynor, 45, died shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday from his injuries at Broward General Medical Center, police said. The two other homeless men were listed in serious condition at the hospital. They have not been identified.


Oh, for God's Sake

Of all the huge mass of Stupid in the world today, this tops the list (for the moment):
When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh.

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho."

No joke.

"I laugh every chance I get," says the instructor, retired Army colonel James "Scotty" Scott. "That's why I'm blessed to be at the Pentagon, where we definitely need a lot of laughter in our lives."
"We believe our program prevents hardening of the attitudes," says Scott, in one of his wordplay aphorisms that beg for a rimshot. The founder and chief executive of the World Laughter Tour is psychologist Steve Wilson, who calls himself "Cheerman of the Bored."

"The guiding principle is to laugh for no reason. And that's one of the reasons it works so well for military families," Scott says. "There's a lot they have to be stressed over, a lot of worries, a lot of concerns."


Rolling Over in His Grave

Of all the stupid bloody ideas. Whoever came up with this needs to be slapped repeatedly:
Peace activists are protesting plans for a military flyover at the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. march, saying the gesture runs counter to the nonviolent beliefs of the civil rights leader.

The city's MLK Commission said the flyover by two fighter jets from Randolph Air Force Base is meant to be patriotic and an honor to King in a city with a strong military presence.

UPDATE: Reader Dave J. has sent me yet another heinous MLK Day event, spotted at the Manhattan VA Hospital. A picture is worth a thousands words.


Moratorium II: Screw It

As expected, New Orleanians are doing what they want. Good for them:
Michael Knight kept nailing new shingles on his home in the devastated Ninth Ward, even after a commission recommended a moratorium on new building permits in areas heavily flooded by Hurricane Katrina until neighborhoods prove their viability.

Knight already hauled a mound of musty furniture and sodden drywall to the street. Wooden studs were exposed inside. The 45-year-old junk car dealer has no intention of stopping now, despite the recommendations of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, appointed by Mayor Ray Nagin.

"Tell him, he can do whatever he wants. I'm not leaving my house," Knight said.
"I don't care if there are no houses around me," said Knight, who spent a week on his roof after levee breaks sent water gushing into his neighborhood. "I want to come back home. This is home to me."

Civil rights activists predict a fight if residents are not allowed to rebuild on their property.
"Are we going to fight it? There's no choice," said Mtangulizi Sanyika, an activist and resident of eastern New Orleans.

Marc Morial, the former mayor and current National Urban League president, called the rebuilding moratorium proposal cruel.

"It says to two-thirds of the city, 'We're not in favor of you rebuilding,'" he said. "You're basically taking people who have been knocked to their knees and saying 'Stay on your knees.'"


Court to Soldiers: You're Screwed

Apparently, the president can keep unfortunate soldiers in the military almost indefinitely. Of course, given his experiences in the Guard, I doubt he feel it's an undue burden:
A US soldier who sued the military to protest against the involuntary extension of his service has lost his challenge of the "stop-loss" policy Washington has used to maintain troop levels.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest upholding the military's right to keep soldiers in the service beyond their original contracted time by issuing emergency stop-loss orders.

The case involved a California National Guard soldier – his name is listed in court papers only as John Doe – whose time under arms was extended by 11 months. Doe argued that the extension was an unconstitutional infringement of liberty but the court disagreed.

"Doe's arguments challenging the president's 'stop-loss' authority are not persuasive," Judge Stephen Trott wrote for the three-judge panel. "The 'stop-loss' order extending Doe's enlistment is a valid exercise of presidential power."


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Clinton: Still Doing More Than Bush

Even without the massive resources of the United States government at his command, Clinton takes action where Bush is callous and inept:
Former President Bill Clinton announced more deals with pharmaceutical companies to provide cheaper AIDS tests and drugs -- a plan that could save developing countries tens of millions of dollars.

"Too many people die simply because they can't afford, or don't have access to, the drugs. Too many people are being infected because most of the people who have the virus today have not been tested," Clinton told reporters on Thursday.

The deals, which were brokered by the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, will cut the cost of rapid HIV tests in half for as many as 50 countries where the foundation operates.


Make Levees, Not War

Buy the shirt. Seriously, the money goes to displaced New Orleans musicians and artists.

UPDATE: scout prime working over at first draft has pictures of a Jackson Square protest timed to coincide with Bush's latest New Orleans drive-by. They are demanding Category 5 levees:


Hate Speech

Neither of these cases should be prosecuted, in my opinion, and the fact that these two incidents are covered by the same law reveals just how problematic the law is:
Police have dropped hate speech charges against a man who called a mounted policeman’s horse gay.

Sam Brown, a senior at Oxford, made the remark to the officer when the student was on his way home after a night of partying with friends celebrating the end of exams last May.

He allegedly approached the officer and said, "Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?”

A few moment later two police cars approached and he was charged with making “homophobic comments” under the Public Order Act.

Brown refused to pay a fine of about $140 and the Crown Prosecutor prepared for trial. But Wednesday in court, the charges were dropped.

While both sides agree that the remark was stupid, and made in jest by an intoxicated student, the case shows the difficulty in prosecuting hate speech.

A second, and more serious case, is also likely to end up being dropped legal experts agree.
That one involves Muslim leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie.

Police said Wednesday (story) they are investigating comments made by Sir Iqbal on a radio broadcast where he said homosexuality is immoral and promotes the spread of disease.

The remarks were in a BBC interview about civil partnerships which became legal in the United Kingdom last month, calling them damaging to society.


Insert Caption


Yield: Sperm Crossing

Well, it's one way to get the word out about condoms...

A group of people dressed as sperm cross a main avenue during a campaign promoting use of condoms in Bogota, Colombia.



I don't know enough about this to comment substantively, but it strikes me as a big "screw you" to the Ninth Ward:
Angry residents expressed frustration Wednesday at the debut of rebuilding proposals for this devastated city, taking aim at a suggested four-month moratorium on new building permits in areas heavily flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

"Our neighborhood is ready to come home," said property owner Jeb Bruneau of Lakeview, which borders Lake Pontchartrain. "Don't get in our way and prevent us from doing that. Help us cut the red tape."
The idea behind the moratorium is to ensure that enough people would move back to a neighborhood to avoid large expanses with isolated houses.

But that didn't sit well with residents from the hard-hit Ninth Ward, Lakeview and east New Orleans. Several lashed out at commission members, such as prominent New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro.

"I don't know you, but Mr. Canizaro, I hate you," Harvey Bender of the Lower Ninth Ward said as he pointed his finger. "You've been in the background scheming to take our land."
Others vowing to fight the plan include City Council members, the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP and former mayor and National Urban League president Marc Morial.

The NAACP said it would be unfair not to allow residents to rebuild and questioned suggestions that some areas of the city should not be rebuilt because they are not "sustainable."


National Security on the Cheap

I continue to be amazed that the Republicans still position themselves as the "support the troops" "national security" party:
A group of National Guard soldiers who were ordered to protect possible targets after the Sept. 11 attacks sued the federal government Wednesday, seeking tens of millions of dollars in expenses they say were never reimbursed.

The soldiers, from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, say they traveled hundreds of miles to security postings and used their own money to pay for food and lodging with the expectation that they would be reimbursed.

But the soldiers say in their complaint that their requests for compensation were repeatedly denied and they eventually were told, "If you don't like the arrangement, we'll make sure you get taken off this mission."


Catholic Bishop for Justice

A nice change of pace:
The first U.S. Catholic bishop to say that he was a victim of sexual abuse by clergy put his support behind legislation that would remove time limits that have prevented past victims from suing the church.

"I speak out of my own experience of being exploited as a teenager through inappropriate touching by a priest," said Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.

He added that there is "a strong likelihood" some perpetrators have not yet been exposed, and the only way to ensure they will be is through the courts.


The Verdict: You're a Moron

I mean, really. Did she think she would win this?
Fetuses do not count as passengers when it comes to determining who may drive in the carpool lane, a judge has ruled.

Candace Dickinson was fined $367 for improper use of a carpool lane, but contended her unborn child qualified to use the lane.


Homophobe Smacked

Ah, justice. And what the fuck is wrong with Grant Storms, anyway? "Homo-fascism?" Get that man some psychological help, stat:
Wisconsin's largest gay rights group was awarded $87,000 in attorneys' fees by a judge who scolded a Louisiana pastor and his lawyer for bringing a frivolous lawsuit claiming the group defamed him.

Grant Storms of the Reformer Ministries in Marrero, La., claimed in the lawsuit that Action Wisconsin defamed him by saying remarks he made at a 2003 anti-gay conference in Milwaukee advocated the murder of gays.

But in a ruling last week, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Patricia McMahon said the group's interpretation of the remarks was reasonable and the lawsuit lacked merit from the day it was filed in February 2004.

The judge also blasted Storms' lawyer, James Donohoo of Milwaukee, saying he should have known the complaint was a waste of time.

Storms was one of several speakers at the "International Conference on Homo-Fascism," a gathering of people who railed against gays.

Action Wisconsin obtained an audio recording of the conference and publicized remarks that the group said incited violence and hatred.

In his speech, Storms said gay rights' opponents should "start taking it to the streets." He mimicked gun fire: "Boom, boom, boom, boom. There's twenty! Ca-ching," according to a transcript.

Storms said Wednesday any contention that he was advocating the murder of gays is "ludicrous and ridiculous." He called the judge "liberal" and "insane."

"I was saying, the Christian community needs to go forward and stand against the homosexual agenda," he said, vowing to appeal the decision. "We'll win this case and we'll win the cultural war. We have God on our side."


Never Mind

Those jokers! Hamas finally reveals that they were just kidding about that whole "Israel Must Die" thing:
Hamas has dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto for the Palestinian parliamentary election in a fortnight, a move that brings the group closer to the mainstream Palestinian position of building a state within the boundaries of the occupied territories.

The Islamist faction, responsible for a long campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, still calls for the maintenance of the armed struggle against occupation. But it steps back from Hamas's 1988 charter demanding Israel's eradication and the establishment of a Palestinian state in its place.

The manifesto makes no mention of the destruction of the Jewish state and instead takes a more ambiguous position by saying that Hamas had decided to compete in the elections because it would contribute to "the establishment of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem."


No ANWR Drilling? Well, Then...

The Republican Congress displays its flexibility. They're not so fixated on ANWR that they won't lay waste to other bits of Alaska:
The Interior Department yesterday agreed to open about 400,000 acres on Alaska's North Slope for exploratory oil drilling, an area that previously had been off limits because of concerns about the impact on wildlife.

Officials said they would lease acreage in the northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil companies to provide access to domestic oil supplies.
The Bureau of Land Management proposed opening the area a year ago. But it was not until yesterday that an Interior Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary Chad Calvert, approved a modified version of that plan.

The area near Teshekpuk Lake was put off limits to drilling during the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration expanded the restricted area.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Safe Sex, and They Mean It

Well, we have seat belt laws, so why not? (Plus it's pissing off the priests, so that's a plus.)
A western Colombian city councilman wants to require everyone in town 14 or older to carry a condom to prevent pregnancy and disease, outraging local priests.

William Pena, a councilman in Tulua, said Wednesday he will present a formal proposal to force all men and women — even those just visiting — to always carry at least one condom. Those caught empty-pocketed could pay a fine of $180 or take a safe sex course, he said.

"Sexual relations are going on constantly," Pena told The Associated Press by telephone. "If you carry a condom, chances are you'll use it during the day. It's not going to be there forever."

Tulua has one of the highest rates of AIDS in Colombia, he said. The proposal will be debated by other town leaders and could go into effect by March, he said.


Defending Marriage!

Hell, I have to say, it is interesting to see Christians trying to be consistent in their deranged zeal:
An Oklahoma university has proposed a policy that would allow them to fire people who get a divorce.

Oklahoma Christian University is already getting some attention for a letter it sent to faculty that stated:

"Because the Christian mission of the university is most effectively fulfilled through mentoring and example, all married faculty and staff should strive to model (healthy) marriages to students."

University president Mike O'Neal said this doesn't mean everyone who gets a divorce would lose his or her job. He said the university would look at each individual case.

Via The Raw Story.


DeLay: Still a Bully

His bullshit doesn't work on Texas courts, it would seem, but DeLay can still bully the media:
A day before a television ad linking Rep. Tom DeLay to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was set to hit the airwaves in the Houston area, lawyers for his campaign told local stations Tuesday that the ad contained falsehoods and hinted that it could lead to court action.

At least one station, KTRK (Channel 13), quickly decided against broadcasting the commercial, which was scheduled to start today .
The 30-second ad from two liberal-leaning interest groups, the Campaign for America's Future and the Public Campaign Action Fund, lists money and travel that DeLay allegedly received from Abramoff. It also calls on the Sugar Land Republican to resign from Congress.
David Donnelly, national campaigns director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, said, "Tom DeLay doesn't want people back home to know what he does in Washington."


More Drug War Madness

Again, compare drug law sentencing to, say, rape sentencing and see how "just" our system is:
A federal appeals court has upheld a 55-year prison term imposed on a Utah man with no criminal record who was convicted in 2003 of selling several hundred dollars worth of marijuana on three occasions.

The case of the man, Weldon H. Angelos, a record producer from Salt Lake City who was 22 at the time of his crime, has become a benchmark in the debate about sentencing rules and justice. The trial judge in the case complained in issuing the sentence, which was required by federal statutes, that he thought it excessive, and 29 former judges and prosecutors agreed, in a brief filed on Mr. Angelos's behalf.

But a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision issued here late Monday, rejected those arguments. The sentence properly reflected the will of Congress, the court said, and was not cruel or unusual punishment.


An Unnerving Step Toward a Nanny State

My feelings about this are mixed, but in the end negative. There is no doubt that chronic illnesses demand our attention these days in the United States, especially those related to our gross overconsumption, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and so on.

Given that our medical establishment is geared almost exclusively toward curing infectious illness as they occur, rather than achieving and maintaining wellness in the long term (universal health care, anyone?), chronic illnesses will continue to plague us at unnecessarily high rates.

However, to use the failures of our medical system as a reason (or as an excuse) to begin protracted, nonconsensual monitoring of people's health seems to be, in the end, a bad idea.

If I had the suspicion that my medical information were being sent to the government by my doctor, I would be much more reluctant to make that appointment (and if you know how I feel about going to the doctor, you know that's saying something):
NEW YORK CITY will monitor the blood sugar levels of its diabetic residents, marking the first time any government in the US has taken the controversial step of tracking people with a chronic disease.

Under the program, the city will require laboratories to report the results of blood sugar tests directly to the health department, which will use the data to study the disease and to prod doctors and patients when levels run too high.

The unprecedented step has been hailed by health experts as a bold attempt to improve care for diabetes, one of the nation's biggest medical problems due to the ageing population and the obesity epidemic.

But some public health experts, ethicists and privacy advocates say it raises serious concerns about confidentiality and represents an alarming government intrusion into people's medical care.

The move is a harbinger of applying tactics traditionally reserved for infectious diseases to chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
But the plan has alarmed privacy advocates, particularly because the information is being collected without consent. Doctors may not even know the data is being collected.

Other privacy advocates are concerned about whether the data could be passed on.

"This is really a recipe for invasion of privacy," said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "Under the law, personal health information can be shared without consent for many purposes."

That fear is shared by some diabetics. "I don't want the city telling me what to do nor do I want the city telling my physician what to do," said Steven Lazarus, 44, a diabetic.


Ignorant, Arrogant Optimists

Ain't that America.

Seriously, though, I am glad to see that the Army itself is publishing this study; I hope against hope that we can learn from our mistakes:
A senior British Army officer has written a scathing critique of the US Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism.

His publisher: the US Army.

In an article published this week in the army magazine Military Review, Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency.

The US Army has been slow to adapt its tactics, he argues, and its approach during the early stages of the occupation "exacerbated the task it now faces by alienating significant sections of the population".


US Tries to Undercut Kyoto

Unwilling to submit to binding agreements to cut emissions, the United States is now pretending to care about the environment. Guess who is not invited to the talks:
The United States is to push for a "common strategy" to cut pollution at talks between six nations and industry leaders seen by critics as an attempt to usurp the Kyoto Protocol.

The US, which has rejected Kyoto due to its binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, will look to agree "industry-specific" reforms to cut emissions, including the introduction of new, greener, technologies.

Washington will come to the Sydney talks promoting mandatory and voluntary targets to cut pollution in mining and heavy industries.

The United States, Japan, China, India, Australia and South Korea, and some of the world's biggest resource and power companies, are to meet this week. Environment groups view the partnership as a breakaway from Kyoto.
Environmental groups have complained that they have been excluded from the Sydney climate talks, which will be dominated by coal-producing and importing nations.


Um, No

I don't care if you think that Alito will be a great Supreme Court justice or not, the man simply is not the sort to generate this sort of feeling.

How much were these people paid, one wonders...


Boy Scouts: Yes, We Are Like the KKK

Amazing, the things people will admit in order to get free stuff:
The California Supreme Court grappled Tuesday with whether the city of Berkeley violated the First Amendment rights of a group of young sailors connected to the Boy Scouts of America.

Berkeley, celebrated in the 1960s as the home of the Free Speech Movement, revoked free berthing that the Berkeley Sea Scouts received for five decades at the Berkeley Marina. The city targeted the group in 1998 because the Boy Scouts bar atheist and gay members, and such conduct ran contrary to the city's 1997 policy of providing free berthing only to nonprofits without policies of membership discrimination.

The case challenges the legality of removing or withholding public subsidies from groups whose ideals run counter to the government's. During an hour of oral arguments, some of the justices thought out loud about the case's implications.

Justice Marvin Baxter wondered who else could get free subsidies at the marina if the scouts were correct.

"What you're saying is the youth KKK group ... is under equal footing?" Baxter asked Sea Scouts attorney Jonathan Gordon while referring to the Ku Klux Klan.

"Yes. That's correct," Gordon responded.


Deranged Hate Speech: Bad for Business

Looks like crazy ol' Pat Robertson may have crucified all hopes of being involved in a Jesus theme park on the shores of Galilee:
Israel won't do business with Pat Robertson after the U.S. Christian Evangelist said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke was divine punishment for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, an official said Wednesday, placing a USD 50 million deal with the Christian leader in doubt.

Robertson, a Christian broadcaster, is leading a group of evangelicals who have collected money to build a Christian Heritage Center in Israel's northern Galilee region, where tradition says Jesus lived and taught.
"We will not do business with him, only with other evangelicals who don't back these comments," Hartuv said. "We will do business with other evangelical leaders, friends of Israel, but not with him."


Spying on Millions

Of course, this does raise the question of why the program is in place; there is no way the government has the manpower to actually pay attention to the mass of information it must generate.

Anyway, once more, Bush is lying:
Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet.

For 20 years, Tice worked in the shadows as he helped the United States spy on other people's conversations around the world.
President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants.

But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used.

"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Killing the Messengers

Once again, reporting evil deeds is more evil than performing them:
A British court on Tuesday ordered two men to face trial on charges of leaking a memo that a lawmaker said described a plan by U.S. President George W. Bush to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

The defendants, civil servant David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a researcher who worked for a former British lawmaker, face a preliminary hearing on January 24 on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act and their lawyers are pushing for the secret document to be disclosed.

A British newspaper reported last year that the memo of a meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004 detailed a proposal by Bush to bomb Al Jazeera but said Blair had persuaded him against the plan.


She Loved Her "Stories"

I'll just let this story speak for itself:
The mummified body of a woman who didn't want to be buried was found in a chair in front of her television set 2 1/2 years after her death, authorities said. Johannas Pope had told her live-in caregiver that she didn't want to be buried and planned on returning after she died, Hamilton County Coroner O'Dell Owens said Monday.

Pope died in August 2003 at age 61. Her body was found last week in the upstairs of her home on a quiet street. Some family members continued to live downstairs, authorities said. No one answered the doorbell at Pope's home Monday afternoon.
An air conditioner had been left running upstairs, and that allowed the body to slowly mummify, he said. The machine apparently stopped working about a month ago, and the body began to smell.


China Moving in on Nigerian Oil

The corporation that backed away from the US last year, citing our government's reaction, is acquiring a large share of Nigeria's oil:
CNOOC, one of China's largest state-run oil and gas producers, has agreed to buy a stake in a Nigerian offshore oil and gas field for $2.3bn (£1.3bn).

It will buy a 45% stake in the license covering the OML 130 field, which is owned by South Atlantic Petroleum and is in deep water near the Niger Delta.

CNOOC is hunting overseas oil and gas assets to supply its domestic market.

China's appetite for commodities such as oil and gas is second only to that of the United States.

The OML 130 field covers almost 500 square miles, and was first discovered six years ago.


Halting the Death Penalty in New Jersey

I hope this is a first step toward abolition:
New Jersey is set to become the first state in the US to pass a law putting a moratorium on the death penalty.

Both houses of its legislature have approved a measure calling for a halt on executions until November while a commission studies the death penalty.

Governor Richard Codey is expected to sign the bill into law. New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963, but it has 10 prisoners on death row.

The states of Illinois and Maryland have had governors order moratoriums.

The moratorium on executions in Maryland has expired.


Morales: Rock Star, on Tour

Can you imagine our leader doing or saying anything approaching this? Can you even imagining someone like Morales running for office in this country?
Bolivia's president-elect Evo Morales is in South Africa on the latest leg of his world tour ahead of his inauguration on 22 January.

On arriving, he said South Africa's struggle against apartheid was similar to the political struggle in Bolivia.

An Aymara Indian, Mr Morales will be Bolivia's first indigenous president.

He is due to meet South African President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday. He has said he also hopes to meet his hero, Nelson Mandela.
Mr Morales was holding talks on Tuesday with the Secretary General of the ruling ANC party, Kgalema Molanthe.

He was also expected to visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

"The struggle of our South African brothers is the same as the struggle of our people," Mr Morales said.

"We were discriminated against as a people. We share a common history of discrimination."
Mr Morales has vowed not to forget the people who put him in power, and has said he will take a pay cut of 50% when he takes office which he says will help pay the salaries of new teachers.

Correspondents say he has spent most of this whistle-stop world tour succeeding in not appearing like a typical politician, appearing in informal clothes, which he made his trademark when campaigning for the presidency.

Mr Morales won the December election on pledges to increase social spending and turn away from free-market policies.


I Do Not Lean to the Right!

Judge Alito's body language gives him away.


Pop Quiz!

Fill in the blank: Condi Rice has a face like a _____ ___.


Pacific Showdown

I think Greenpeace might be outgunned:
Japan has warned it may send armed aircraft to defend its whaling ships in the Southern Ocean if violent clashes with protest boats escalate.

The strongly pro-whaling nation also says it may ask the Australian Government to take action against Greenpeace protesters.

The increasingly tense conflict prompted a Green Party call last night for New Zealand to send a frigate to Antarctica in a monitoring role - an option the Government has quickly ruled out.

The protesters' confrontation with the whalers intensified yesterday, with an extreme conservation group, Sea Shepherd, threatening to ram and disable the Japanese whaling fleet.

The group's ship, Farley Mowat, is equipped with a blade device - known as the "can opener" - mounted on its side and designed to rip open a ship's hull.


Iran Is Getting Back in the Game

Unnerving, but unsurprising:
Iran was today accused of reneging on international committments over its nuclear programme after announcing it had broken UN seals on key facilities.

The EU said the move was "clearly related" to the enrichment of nuclear fuel and could lead to Iran being referred to the the UN security council for possible sanctions. Tehran said the seals were broken to allow research.

A spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the union's foreign policy chief, told Reuters that the removal of the seals - announced at a news conference by the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation - was "very much a step in the wrong direction".


Ali Fadhil Speaks Out

The Iraqi journalist who was kidnapped by American troops, after they had fired into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and childred, reports on his experience.

Audio file here.


Christian Values

TV show evil. Death threats good:
Police in Terre Haute are investigating death threats against the manager and program director at KWBF-TV after the station decided to run the NBC series "The Book of Daniel".


Man Bites Dog!

A Republican representative tells the (obvious) truth about the Iraq War:
The senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives says President George W. Bush has an exit strategy for Iraq, regardless of some charges to the contrary.

“Once we set up a friend as the head of Iraq, the new Iraqi president is going to ask the American military to withdraw,” U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, said Friday in a telephone interview from his home.
While Bush insists the War in Iraq is a part of the War on Terror as well as a war to establish Iraqi freedom, Hall terms it “a war for energy,” a strategy Bush downplays.

“The War on Terror involves keeping the bad guy from having his foot on half the oil reserves in that most populated area,” Hall said. “For that reason I think you could glean that this is a war for energy.”

Via The Raw Story


Good Morning, Baby!

Some pics of the nephew of a good friend of mine...


Monday, January 09, 2006

China Backs Away from the Dollar

And the dollar's value will slide:
China has resolved to shift some of its foreign exchange reserves -- now in excess of $800 billion -- away from the U.S. dollar and into other world currencies in a move likely to push down the value of the greenback, a high-level state economist who advises the nation's economic policymakers said in an interview Monday.

As China's manufacturing industries flood the world with cheap goods, the Chinese central bank has invested roughly three-fourths of its growing foreign currency reserves in U.S. Treasury bills and other dollar-denominated assets. The new policy reflects China's fears that too much of its savings is tied up in the dollar, a currency widely expected to drop in value as the U.S.
trade and fiscal deficits climb.

China now boasts the world's second-largest cache of foreign exchange -- behind only Japan -- and is on pace to see its reserves climb past $1 trillion later this year. Even a slight diminishing of the dollar as a percentage of those holdings could exert significant pressure on the U.S. currency, many economists assert.

In recent years, the value of the dollar has been buoyed by major purchases of U.S. Treasury bills by Japan, China and oil-exporting countries -- a flow of capital that has kept interests rates relatively low in the United States and allowed Americans to keep spending even as debts mount. Some economists have long warned that if foreigners lose their appetite for American debt, the dollar would fall, interest rates would rise and the housing boom could burst, sending real estate prices lower.


Past Peak

With the world's second largest oil field beginning to run dry, perhaps we should think about alternative energy sources?

It was an incredible revelation last week that the second largest oil field in the world is exhausted and past its peak output. Yet that is what the Kuwait Oil Company revealed about its Burgan field. The peak output of the Burgan oil field will now be around 1.7 million barrels per day, and not the two million barrels per day forecast for the rest of the field's 30 to 40 years of life, Chairman Farouk Al-Zanki told Bloomberg. He said that engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 million a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields.

However, it is surely a landmark moment when the world's second largest oil field begins to run dry.



Salman Rushdie gets it exactly right about the phrase "extraordinary rendition":
BEYOND any shadow of a doubt, the ugliest phrase to enter the English language last year was "extraordinary rendition". To those of us who love words, this phrase's brutalisation of meaning is an infallible signal of its intent to deceive.
Language, too, has laws, and those laws tell us this new American usage is improper - a crime against the word. Every so often the habitual newspeak of politics throws up a term whose calculated blandness makes us shiver with fear - yes, and loathing.

"Clean words can mask dirty deeds," The New York Times columnist William Safire wrote in 1993, in response to the arrival of another such phrase, "ethnic cleansing".
People use such phrases to avoid using others whose meaning would be problematically over-apparent. "Ethnic cleansing" and "final solution" were ways of avoiding the word "genocide", and to say "extraordinary rendition" is to reveal one's squeamishness about saying "the export of torture".
The White House, however, plainly believes that it has public opinion behind it in this and other contentious matters such as secret wiretapping. Cheney recently told reporters, "When the American people look at this, they will understand and appreciate what we're doing and why we're doing it."
In the beginning is the word. Where one begins by corrupting language, worse corruptions swiftly follow. Sitting as the Supreme Court to rule on torture last month, Britain's law lords spoke to the world in words that were simple and clear. "The torturer is abhorred not because the information he produces may be unreliable," Lord Rodger of Earlsferry said, "but because of the barbaric means he uses to extract it."

"Torture is an unqualified evil," Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood added. "It can never be justified. Rather, it must always be punished."

The dreadful probability is that the US outsourcing of torture will allow it to escape punishment. It will not allow it to escape moral obloquy.



A more inane law has not been passed in a long, long time. Also unconstitutional and unenforceable, of course.

Two years for trolling!
Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."

And I thought liberals were supposed to be the delicate little flowers who always want protection from harsh language. Apparently, it's the neocons these days.


DeLay: Slapped Again

I have to say, I think Texas judges are enjoying the hell out of their jobs these days:
The state's highest criminal court on Monday denied Rep. Tom DeLay request that the money laundering charges against him be dismissed or sent back to a lower court for an immediate trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the requests with no written order two days after he announced he was stepping down as House majority leader. DeLay had been forced to temporarily relinquish the Republican leadership post after he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges in September.

DeLay, who denies wrongdoing, had been trying to rush to trial in Texas in hopes of clearing his name and regaining the position.


Bolivia Turns to China

China has quietly been acquiring energy resources around the globe, positioning itself to become a major player in that market, while Bush's America remains obsessed with the Iraq quagmire to the exclusion of all else.

Evo Morales has the sense to look east for help developing his nation's resources; Bolivia will not be the last nation to do so:
While on a visit to Beijing, Bolivia's President-elect, Evo Morales, has invited China to help develop his country's energy sector.

One of Mr Morales' economic advisers said China could be interested in converting Bolivia's natural gas into environmentally friendly diesel.

Mr Morales will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday.

Correspondents say his left-wing stance and anti-US speeches may have already won him support in Beijing.

"For the government of President Morales, hydrocarbons is a fundamental topic, in particular the industrialisation of natural gas," Carlos Villegas, an economic adviser to Mr Morales, said in Beijing.

"He invited the Chinese government, through its state companies, to participate."


Why We Don't Need "Moderate" Democrats

The NSA has been monitoring the communications of American citizens without a warrant. That is the very definition of "unreasonable search," on its face. There is no arguing that point.

To repeat: The Bush administration has been spying on the American people, which is a blatantly unconstitutional action.

The response of "liberal" Kevin Drum? Eh, it's no big:
Americans should be suspicious of Bush's assertions, especially given his almost complete lack of candor about the war on terror for the past four years, and they should be concerned about domestic spying conducted without a warrant.

At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11.
Politically, I continue to think Democrats should make it absolutely clear that what they're attacking isn't necessarily the NSA program itself, but the fact that the president unilaterally decided that he could approve the program without congressional authorization.


Calvin Trillin...

channels Bush-think:
"The President believes he has the right to overrule laws the Congress has passed. He is a President, not a king." --Senator Russell Feingold

As long as I'm in charge, Russ,
I'll spy on those who merit it.
If this is not a throne, Russ,
Just how did I inherit it?


Condi + Full Moon


Tom Who?

Bush curses himself for failing to put two and two together: Indicted House majority leader Tom DeLay and disgraced Enron executive Ken Lay (aka "Kenny-boy" aka "Ken who?") have the same last name!!!

He should have seen it coming.


I Am So Much Smarter Than This Twit

...thinks Alito to himself.


Terrorizing the Press

This is beyond the pale, even for Americans. I just don't know what to say; there are so many things wrong with this:
American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the London daily, The Guardian, and TV's Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning, the newspaper reports. He was released hours later.

Fadhil is working with and the newspaper and Guardian Films "on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated," the paper reports.

"The troops told Dr. Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned."

The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: "The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings.


"The First Such Occurrence Since The Great Depression"

Although, according to Bush, the economy is doing phenomenally well (booming, even!), a lot of red ink seems to be piling up...
When the Commerce Department recently tallied up consumer finances for November, it found that Americans shelled out more money than they took in. It was the seventh such month of red ink during 2005.
Given how much red ink households racked up in the first 11 months of last year, Lansing said the nation's personal savings rate could well be negative for all of 2005.

That, he added, would be "the first such occurrence since the Great Depression."


Sunday, January 08, 2006

We Love Belafonte

And not just for his long-ago performance on The Muppet Show:
The American singer and activist Harry Belafonte called President Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" on Sunday and said millions of Americans support the socialist revolution of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
"No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution," Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.


More 9/11 Victims

I remember the pronouncements that 9/11 did nothing at all to contaminate Manhattan; they began coming out almost immediately, long before anyone could really know anything. And they've been implausible from day one.

Now, it seems that Ground Zero may be taking its toll, and as usual the government has done nothing but duck and cover:
As the father of a retired NYPD detective prepares to bury his son, he insisted yesterday that the former cop died because of his work at Ground Zero - and that he was abandoned by the Police Department he used to love.

James Zadroga, 34, died Thursday of brain and respiratory ailments that his family and union believe were caused by his assignment at the World Trade Center cleanup.

His father, Joseph, a retired New Jersey police chief, says the NYPD turned its back on James, refusing to acknowledge the cause of death or pay his $50,000 medical bills.



Flying in the face of homophobic Vatican idiocy, and reminding those stupid enough to need reminding that being gay has nothing at all to do with pedophilia, this Louisiana priest shows how it's done:
Deciding he had to practice the honesty he preached, a popular priest has told his family, his bishop and the people in his parish that he is gay.

The Rev. Jim Morrison said he had been working since October on the letter which he sent early this month to 300 members of the congregation at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and 200 members of the student ministry.

He mailed the letter and handed his bishop a copy on Jan. 2, about a month after the Vatican released a policy statement saying people with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies should be kept out of the priesthood.

Saturday evening, the pews at St. Thomas Aquinas were full.

As pastor, Morrison told the congregation, "I ask you constantly to trust me. I ask you come to me with your life, all the blessings, all the struggles."

"But it's not a one-way street," he said.
In the letter he said that for years, he had counseled people struggling with their sexual orientation to be honest about it with people they love.

"I have come to realize that while I was encouraging others to be honest, I was not putting these words into practice in my own life," Morrison wrote.

He said he wasn't looking for attention or approval but trying to be more true to himself, God and those he serves.
Morrison, a priest for more than 18 years, has been pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church at Nicholls State University for more than three. Students often drop by to chat, drawn by his warmth and wit.

He has led three other churches in Houma and Chauvin, and has been director of vocations and seminarians for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. He also helped found a school for at-risk Terrebonne youths and creating a benefit race to support that school. He has traveled to Nicaragua to minister, mentored youths hoping to become priests and won awards for his service.

After Hurricane Katrina, Morrison welcomed storm evacuees with pets to the St. Thomas Aquinas Center when some other shelters wouldn't allow animals.



Yet another facet of the nightmare that is Guantanamo. How anyone can devote him- or herself to the practice of medicine, and then abandon the fundamental principles of that profession, is beyond me. How can they live with themselves?
New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.

They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.
It is painful, Edmonson admits. Although 'non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs,' including opiates such as morphine, have had to be administered.
Although some prisoners have had to be tied down while being force-fed, 'only one patient' has had to be immobilised with a six-point restraint, and 'only one' passed out.
Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe through their membership of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances. Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth's hospital in Birmingham, is co-ordinating opposition to the Guantánamo doctors' actions from the international medical community. 'If I were to do what Edmondson describes in his statement, I would be referred to the General Medical Council and charged with assault,' he said.


Medicare "Reform": Catastrophic

This instant Bush decided to lay his grubby paws on Medicare, every health care professional in the nation--doctors, nurses, pharmacists--should have marched on Washington to try to stop him.

Who doesn't know by now that everything he touches turns almost immediately
to crap?

The start of the Medicare prescription drug plan for seniors has been difficult for pharmacists in Connecticut.

Pharmacists are helping bewildered beneficiaries, dispensing medications at their own expense and are working out problems with overwhelmed insurance plans.

The program began Jan. 1.

"This has been catastrophic," said Frederick Vegliante, 77, a pharmacist and former owner of Bella Vista Pharmacy and Surgical Supplies Inc. in New Haven.

"The program was very badly planned. In reality we're not legally bound to fill prescriptions that are not paid for. But are we going to turn down a 90-year-old woman?" he asked.

Margherita R. Giuliano, executive vice president of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, said pharmacies are overwhelmed.

"Pharmacies knew it would be bad, but not this bad," she said.

Pharmacists were not included in the planning of the Medicare beneficiary, said Pamela Meliso, senior staff attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc. in Willimantic. Pharmacists also were not trained and were erroneously told they could identify plan members through a nonfunctional Medicare Web site, she said.


The Bugman Is Out

After he sought to redistrict my representative, Lloyd Doggett, out of office (this is but one of many offenses, but it is the most personal to me), all I can say is, "Karma's a bitch, DeLay."
Republican Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas has given up trying to get his job back
as majority leader of the House of Representatives.

The once-powerful politician stepped down from his leadership post in
September after he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges
related to a campaign finance case in Texas.