Saturday, January 21, 2006

East Timor: Still There

In case you were wondering what all the fuss and Nobel Prizes were about, or what came of it lately, since the NYT, for one, apparently hasn't reported on East Timor since a few months ago...

East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission in a report to the United Nations has blamed former Indonesian occupation forces for the deaths of 103,000 Timorese or one tenth of the population. The report, based on testimony from 7,000 survivors, alleges that Indonesia's military used starvation and sexual violence to suppress the former Portuguese colony between 1975 and 1999 when Indonesia quit during an intervention by UN-mandated peacekeepers. Indonesia's defence minister has rejected the report. It's been handed to UN chief Kofi Annan by Timorese President Xanana Gusmao. He urged the UN to learn lessons to prevent a repeat elsewhere. East Timor became independent in 2002 and remain's Asia's poorest country.

Via Deutsche Welle, who seem to actually take international reporting seriously. There are many issues we should not lose sight of; this is one of them.


Friday, January 20, 2006


How ridiculous can these people get?
Our Nation was founded on the belief that every human being has rights, dignity, and value. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we underscore our commitment to building a culture of life where all individuals are welcomed in life and protected in law.


I Love Molly Ivins

Here's the latest reason why (excerpts, so read the whole thing):
I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.




What's the Phrase?

Oh, yeah. "Whiny-ass titty baby":
Embattled White House adviser Karl Rove vowed Friday to make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue in November and said Democratic senators looked "mean-spirited and small-minded" in questioning Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.


Want Benefits? Then Get Fucking!

The title of this post is no more crass than the provision that inspired it. I have to say, I like the notion that a public pronouncement of gay sex gets people money:
Some employees of the University of Florida are balking at a provision in the school's health care plan for the domestic partners of its workers.

Last month the university became the state's only public university to approve a benefits plan for its partnered unmarried workers. (story) The plan is scheduled to go into effect in February. Married employees have long been able to insure their spouses.

But now as details of the program are being rolled out a number of gay and lesbian employees are discovering a provision asks unmarried couples to sign an affidavit swearing they are in a sexual relationship.
Cavanaugh said that the affidavit only asks enrollees to affirm they "have been in a non-platonic relationship for the preceding 12 months."

Some UF senators said the question is pointless. One, Marylou Behnke, who represents the College of Medicine called it "offensive,." suggesting the university would have go into couples bedrooms to ensure they were not lying.

"Are you going to police it?" Behnke asked Cavanaugh.


But, But, I Don't Like Gays Either!

It's amusing in a Schadenfreude sort of way to see a homophobic minister perplexed at being cast out by even more homophobic superiors:
The conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has severed ties with a Baytown, Texas church over its connections to a ministry designed to appeal to gays and lesbians.

The executive board voted unanimously this month to "disaffiliate" Faith Harbour after determining that it violated a constitutional provision preventing churches from supporting or endorsing "homosexual behavior", spokesman Gary Ledbetter said Thursday.

Pastor Randy Haney expressed frustration with the convention's decision, saying he agrees that "homosexual behavior is sinful."

"They were convinced I was starting a gay church and setting up a woman as pastor," Haney said Thursday. "I believe the Bible very clearly teach that homosexuality is wrong, but I also believe the Bible teaches that we are to love those who are homosexual and minister to them."



Imagine that you are a leader of a society in a world where there's one vast, bloated superpower that has demonstrated nothing but cultural arrogance and the amoral exercise of force, and that happens to depend (to a ridiculous degree) on a natural resource that you control in some measure.

What would you do?

Iran warned of a world oil crisis if sanctions are imposed over its nuclear program even as the United States and Europe struggled to get support for UN Security Council action.


They're Ready

I don't see any chance of Alito not being confirmed.

That being the case, we had better prepare ourselves for a lot of these:
A Cincinnati legislator's bill to ban abortion in Ohio drew widespread support here Wednesday from a dozen groups eager to trigger a review of Roe v. Wade by what they see as an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

At a Statehouse news conference marking this week's 33rd anniversary of the landmark 1973 decision, opponents called on the Ohio General Assembly to debate a bill banning all abortions.

Introduced nine months ago by Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, House Bill 228 would make it a felony to carry out abortions or transport a woman across state lines to have one. It would allow abortions only to save the life of a mother.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Real Americans Love My Lai

This arrest is just madness. And it wouldn't surprise me if they just shipped him to Iraq to make up for missing his last chance at slaughter:
At 17, Ernest McQueen thought he had it all figured out.

The honor student quit high school and joined the Marines. He planned to go to school to become a payroll clerk.

"I was gung-ho when I went in," McQueen recalled about his January 1968 enlistment.

Then came news of the March 1968 My Lai massacre by U.S. soldiers. Hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women, children and elderly men, were killed.

McQueen heard about the protests. He heard stories from fellow Marines who had come home.

"I thought it was a crazy world. All the killing. All the Nam. All the people protesting. All everything," McQueen said. "I said, 'Wow. What have I done?' "

In November 1969, McQueen left Camp Lejeune, N.C. He never went back.

"I just decided I didn't want to be a part of killing anybody," McQueen said. "That's about as plain as I can say it."

After more than 36 years on the lam, McQueen is behind bars on a federal warrant for military desertion.


Yet Another...

Politicization of governmental functions. Sigh:
The Bush administration on Thursday appointed Randall Tobias, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, to the powerful new position of director of foreign assistance, in a move officials said would subordinate US overseas aid programmes to the broader policy objectives of government.

Mr Tobias, a big donor to the Republican party who heads the US global anti-HIV/Aids campaign, will run a combined $19bn (€16bn, £11bn) budget and also replace Andrew Natsios as head of USAID, the US agency for international development.
But development organisations are concerned that USAID, created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, will lose its independence and that development assistance will become hijacked by a short-term political agenda driven by the “war on terror”.
A former CEO of Eli Lilly, the pharmaceuticals group, and with little background in public health, Mr Tobias spearheaded the administration’s sometimes controversial anti-Aids campaign that has been criticised for overemphasising abstinence and fidelity, rather than condoms. While at Eli Lilly, Mr Tobias lobbied for stronger intellectual property rights to protect expensive drugs.


Come One, Come All

Apparently, the United States has just realized the, um, value of experience, or something:
The U.S. Army said Wednesday that it has raised the maximum enlistment age from 35 to 40 years for new soldiers.

"Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands of military service generally make excellent soldiers based on their maturity, motivation, loyalty and patriotism," the Army Recruiting Command said in a statement.


The Past Through Tomorrow

Although the spectacular claims made about this map are likely more than a little exaggerated, the phenomenon itself provides a guide to what we should expect in the future:

Journalists (this one included) were intrigued by the sensational assertion of the owner - the eminent lawyer Liu Gang - that the map proved that admiral Zheng He had set foot in America before 1418, more than 74 years ahead of Christopher Columbus.

A degree of credibility was provided by several western experts, who said the map was at least 100 years old. Royal Navy submariner Gavin Menzies argued that - give or take a few years - the chart accorded with the main tenets of his bestselling book, 1421: the year China discovered America.

Mr Liu, however, leapt several steps further. At a packed press conference, he said the map proved that the eunuch navigator also navigated the waters around the north and south poles, Africa, the Mediterranean and Australia, as well as charting the northwest passage.

It took dozens of western expeditions hundreds of years to map the globe in such detail, but Zheng's cartographers were said to have done it all in the space of just 13 years between 1405 and 1418. And their remarkably accurate depiction of latitude and longtitude used techniques not developed in the west until more than 100 years later.
For most of the past 50 years, the west treated China with a mixture of suspicion and pity. Ten years ago, when memories were still fresh of the disastrous cultural revolution, if someone claimed to have found a map that rewrote the history of the world - putting China ahead of more developed nations - they would probably have been ignored, laughed at or condemned as a fraud.

But the country's spectacular economic growth has fostered credibility and respect, even awe, among outsiders. China's marriage of communist politics with capitalist economics has prompted some to describe it as a new model. Its Olympic successes at Athens are held up as signs of athletic prowess that can only grow at the Beijing Games in 2008. Its military is seen as a growing threat. Recent comments by statesmen and international policymakers suggest that it is only a matter of time before China returns to its ancient position as the world's leading civilisation.

Amid such a climate, international audiences are more likely to consider claims that China discovered the world. History, in this case, is being rewritten to reinforce our expectations of the future.


More Gay Marriage Fallout

Hamster named Gohan, right, and snake Aochan live together in a cardboard box at Mutsugoro Okoku zoo, outskirts of Tokyo, in this January 14, 2006 photo. Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 9 centimeter dwarf hamster; the other is a 120 centimeter-long (yard-long) ratsnake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster _ whose name means 'meal' in Japanese _ to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.


Freedom. Fried.

Remind me again why the neocons hate the French?
Jacques Chirac, France’s president, on Thursday threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that backed terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction.


Ya Think?

I cannot wait to witness the histrionic shock and horror evinced by every last American when someone royally pissed off because we destroyed their nation and killed tens of thousands of their neighbors decides to respond violently. Actually, I can wait. And I'd rather wait my entire life and never see it happen. But I very much doubt that will happen:
Drawing parallels between the Iraq war and the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s, journalist and terrorism analyst Peter Bergen believes that the terror blowback from the Iraq war will be "particularly vicious."

While working as a terrorism analyst for CNN in 1997, Bergen became the first Western television reporter to interview Osama bin Laden. In his new book, "The Osama bin Laden I Know," Bergen uses interviews with family, schoolmates and comrades-in-arms to trace the development of bin Laden's religious and political motivations. Speaking at the New America Foundation on Jan. 17, Bergen called the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a catalyst in the life of the al-Qaida leader and suggested that the American invasion of Iraq would mark a similar turning point in the lives of future terrorists.


Virginia Stops Being Stupid for Now

Good job. Oh, and Delegate Marshall? Shut the f*** up:
A bill that lesbians said was designed to keep them from having children has been dropped.

Although the legislation would have prevented any unmarried woman from receiving in-vitro fertilization - its impact would have been felt most by lesbians.

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) filed the bill on the first day of the new session of the legislature.

The measure would have prohibited licensed health professionals from performing medical procedures for unmarried women who want to get pregnant, including everything from in vitro fertilization to artificial insemination by a donor.

"To say women are desperate for this, well Al Capone was desperate for money ... just being desperate doesn't mean you have a right to anything period," said Marshall.

"My dad's name is donor, okay, no kid wants that. They want a relationship with a real person, someone to hold their hand," Marshall said.


F*** Michael Brown

I don't have enough foul epithets for this little piece of shit--and I was night manager of a French Quarter gay bar in the mid-1990s, so that's saying something:
Former FEMA Director Michael Brown said Wednesday that he deserved much of the blame for the government's failures after Hurricane Katrina, saying he fell short in conveying the magnitude of the disaster and calling for help.

"I should have asked for the military sooner. I should have demanded the military sooner," Brown told a gathering of meteorologists at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada.

"It was beyond the capacity of the state and local governments, and it was beyond the capacity of FEMA," said Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Brown's remarks Wednesday stood in sharp contrast to his testimony at a congressional hearing in September, when he blamed most of the government's failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin - both Democrats.

He specifically targeted them for failing to evacuate New Orleans, restore order and improve communication.

"These are not FEMA roles," Brown told the congressional committee. "FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications."

On Wednesday, he told a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists that he failed to delegate responsibility and instead tried to attend to the details himself.

By the by, here's Michael Brown "attending to the details himself":
_Sharon Worthy, Brown's press secretary, to Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, and others, Aug. 31, 2 p.m.

"Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn (sic) that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.

_Bahamonde to Taylor and Michael Widomski, public affairs, Aug. 31, 2:44 p.m.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! No won't go any further, too easy of a target. Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep.

And for explanations of Michael Brown's sudden and oh-so-fucking-laudable willingness to take one iota of responsibility, I'll just direct you to scout prime:
OK so what's his angle now?

A. Drownie needs some attention
B. Drownie has a guilt ridden conscience he must unburden
C. Drownie is concerned about the future welfare of his fellow man.
D. Drownie realized he needs to demonstrate he does indeed have a grasp on reality if he is to attract clients to his consulting biz.

I'll go with D of course.


Early Morning Exultation Haiku

"Hey... where are my clothes?"
"I hung them in the closet."
"Holy shit! You rock."


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sudan: Little Short of Hell on Earth

The nightmare continues:
Saida Abdukarim was eight months pregnant and innocently tending her vegetables when she was set-upon, raped and beaten mercilessly.

Begging for the life of her child, she was told by her attackers: "You are black so we can rape you." As they raped her and beat her with the butts of their guns she crouched over, absorbing the blows in an attempt to protect her unborn baby.
In Darfur, where close to 400,000 people have been killed as part of a government-sponsored program of ethnic cleansing, the brutal rape of women and children has become a weapon of war.
Sexual violence is now an integral and devastating part of the conflict aimed at breaking the will of the local people, humiliating them so that they will abandon their lands and weakening tribal ethnic lines.

Every day women in Darfur face the prospect of being raped and beaten when they leave their homes to find food or search for firewood.
Until a few weeks ago women who sought medical help after being raped were actually arrested by the Sudanese security forces. This silence leaves its marks on the society and on the women themselves.

Not only will many of the women be unable to marry, but they also face the stigma of violation.

When the international community finally found the will to complain to the regime in Khartoum, the arrests stopped, proving we can make a difference when we can be bothered to confront Sudan's dictators.
The United Nations has repeatedly refused to send peacekeepers to Darfur. However, there are other steps we can take to protect the women there.

We could send groups of policewomen from African nations to accompany the firewood-gathering trips.

Civilian police would not represent the same challenge to the national sovereignty of Sudan that soldiers would.

By training, supporting and enabling female police officers from African countries we could build the capacity of their forces, thus achieving two worthwhile aims at once.

We could help provide fuel-efficient stoves so less firewood is needed.

We could vastly increase the currently tiny number of African Union monitors in Darfur, giving them enough personnel to deter the militia from attacking women.

We could provide rape counselling and a chance to break the taboo of silence.

We could increase medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, as recommended by Médecins Sans Frontièrs.

Unless steps are taken now, the long-term consequences could include a generation of women unable to have children due to infection or physical damage and thousands of raped women who are pregnant and will live with the stigma all their lives, unable to get married.


More Campus Conservatives...

who desperately need to get a life:
An organization calling itself the "Bruin Alumni Association" that has no official affiliation with the University of California has published on online list of UCLA professors it deems "radical."

The Association also posted an online offer to pay students for evidence proving that instructors have been espousing left-wing views in class, in violation of University of California rules.

The Association lists an advisory board of UCLA alumnae that includes Senator and current Congressional candidate Bill Morrow, R-San Diego, former Congressman Jim Rogan, and former California Republican Party head Shawn Steel. The group's founder is Andrew Jones, a 2003 UCLA graduate who has worked as a research assistant to David Horowitz, the right-wing commentator closely identified with criticizing universities for being too liberal.

The Web site,, lists 31 current and former professors in disciplines such as African-American studies, Chicano studies, education, history and political science. These names are linked to detailed profiles of professors and their activities. There is also a ratings system in which faculty are rated from one to five "black power" fists to indicate how radical they are.

The site, which states that it was launched Jan. 7, also includes a button that reads, "UCLA Students: Help UCLAprofs and get paid!" This invitation leads to a page that states:

"Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? It doesn't matter whether this is a past class, or your class for this coming winter quarter. If you help expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work. Full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session, for one class: $100."

This offer was followed by a list of another 24 professors who had yet to be profiled but were "of special interest." The text of the offer matched that sent to Capitol Weekly by several listed professors.

Offering to pay students for notes and recordings violates University of California rules, according to UCLA campus counsel Patricia Jasper. A 2003 policy gives instructors copyright on their class materials. Another rule precludes the recording off classes without explicit permission and disclosure of the purpose of the recording.


War on Easter!

I wonder what the odds are that Bush will cancel:
"On April 17, 2006, when the White House lawn is opened to families for the Annual Easter Egg Roll, imagine if the first 1,000 families onto the lawn were LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] families," enthused a January 4 email alert from Soulforce. Once America sees the White House lawn awash in LGBT families, "there will be no going back," Soulforce promised.
According to Soulforce, "LGBT" participants are being urged to gather at the White House gate the night before so as to be the first to enter the next morning. Volunteers will stand in line for "LGBT" parents who cannot do it themselves.

Although Soulforce insists this will not be a political protest, only a gathering for families, its supporters will arrive with special "non-political" t-shirts to identify themselves as "LGBT."


Free Enterprise

Learning of this is not exactly how I'd wanted to start my day, but there it is:
An online casino has a piece of Capt. Kirk.

Actor William Shatner has sold his kidney stone for $25,000, with the money going to a housing charity, it was announced Tuesday.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

All Your Kids Are Belong to Them

The evolution of public relations and advertising as sciences over the past century is unfortunate enough, given that it has fed the overconsumption that is destroying this planet and keeping Third World peoples in stark misery, but this (ab)use of such techniques in the direct interest of death strikes me as even more sickening:
Parents cannot remove their children’s names from a Pentagon database that includes highly personal information used to attract military recruits, the Vermont Guardian has learned.

The Pentagon has spent more than $70.5 million on market research, national advertising, website development, and management of the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies (JAMRS) database — a storehouse of questionable legality that includes the names and personal details of more than 30 million U.S. children and young people between the ages of 16 and 23.

The database is separate from information collected from schools that receive federal education money. The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to report the names, addresses, and phone numbers of secondary school students to recruiters, but the law also specifies that parents or guardians may write a letter to the school asking that their children’s names not be released.

However, many parents have reported being surprised that their children are contacted anyway, according to a San Francisco-based coalition called Leave My Child Alone (LMCA).

“We hear from a lot of parents who have often felt quite isolated about it all and haven’t been aware that this is happening all over the country,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Felicity Crush.

Parents must contact the Pentagon directly to ask that their children’s information not be released to recruiters, but the data is not removed from the JAMRS database, according to Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman.


Happy Birthday, Steve Earle

And thanks again for proving that not all Texans are assholes:
Last night I had a dream
That the world had turned around
And all our hopes had come to be
And the people gathered ‘round
They all brought what they could bring
And nobody went without
And I learned a song to sing
The revolution starts now.


CNN Continues to Distinguish Itself

By emulating Fox and hiring morons to pollute the airwaves with bloviation:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 17 that CNN Headline News has hired Glenn Beck -- a nationally syndicated radio host known for making controversial statements -- "for a new prime time program." Media Matters for America has compiled some of Beck's more notable comments:

On families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: "[T]his is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this -- you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year."

On Hurricane Katrina survivors who remained in New Orleans: "And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones that we're seeing on television are the scumbags -- and again, it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention."

Discussing disclosures from a caller who claimed to have tortured prisoners in U.S. custody: "I've got to tell you, I appreciate your service. ... Good for you. Good for -- I mean, good for you. Is it because you did it for the country? ... I have to tell you, when all is said and done, I'm glad people like you are on our side."

On filmmaker Michael Moore: "Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"


South America Continues to Show the Way

Free of IMF debt, Brazil turns its attention to social projects:
Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday said that by settling its debt with the International Monetary Fund, Brazil will be able to substantially increase its investments in social projects.

"The millions and millions of dollars saved in interest payments will be invested in education, health and in highways," Silva said in a speech broadcast nationwide.

In December, Brazil paid off its full US$15.5 billion (euro13 billion) debt, the largest payment ever made by a member country to the IMF.

Brazil ended its loan program with the IMF in March after taking more than $40 billion in loans from the fund over a seven-year period beginning in 1998.


Free Iraq

Free of law. Free of order. Free of security:
The activities of religious extremists against secular Iraqis were also noted by USAID. The paper describes how in the southern part of Iraq, which is dominated by Shiites, "social liberties have been curtailed dramatically by roving bands of self-appointed religious-moral police." In cities, women's dress codes are enforced and barbers who remove facial hair have been killed, and liquor stores and clubs have been bombed.

The USAID paper describes some findings that in the past were carried only in classified briefings, congressional sources said. For example, the paper states that external fighters and groups such as al Qaeda "are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors," and that most suicide bombers are coming from "Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."

The breakdown of Iraqi society and "the absence of state control and an effective police force" have let "criminal elements within Iraqi society have almost free rein," the paper states. Iraqi criminals in some cases "have aligned themselves with most of the combating groups and factions to further their aims" and Baghdad "is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organized criminal groups-clans," it states.

Government run by bands of criminals. It is looking more like the United States over there, after all.


Supremes Uphold Right to Die

I am impressed:
The Supreme Court, with Chief Justice John Roberts dissenting, upheld Oregon's one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law Tuesday, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Try to Save Your Life, Lose All Benefits

Mad and evil.
Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.



This rhetoric is tiresome. Maybe Nagin finds it to be useful and/or necessary, but really, that shit should be left for the Falwells and Robertsons:
Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and otherstorms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities,too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he an other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."


Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Answer: Anyone with a hint of sense:
Call it a case of why you should be careful what you wish for.

President Bush's efforts to spread democracy to the Middle East have strengthened Islamists across the region, posing fresh challenges for the United States, according to U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and democracy experts.


Bangladesh Thinks of the Children

Because people should not speak unless the sun is shining:
Bangladesh has told phone companies to stop free late-night mobile phone calls, arguing that they corrupt its youth -- making them speak vulgarly, hitting studies and promoting chit-chat between boyfriends and girlfriends.

In the mainly Muslim and deeply conservative country, where dating is discouraged, parents complained to the telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), that the free night calls were changing their children's behavior.


Newsflash: Columbus May Have Been a Jerk Without a Pedigree

And wouldn't that just change everything?
Spanish scientists are to test the DNA of hundreds of Catalans with the surname Colom to determine whether Christopher Columbus, far from the Italian gentleman he has long been believed to be, was in fact a pirate born in Catalonia.
The experiment, in determining whether any of the participants are related to the pioneering explorer, is designed to clarify the disputed origins of the man who made landfall in America in 1492.

While historians have mostly assumed that Columbus was an Italian born in 1451 in Genoa, a persuasive counter-lobby argues that the mariner who pioneered the Spanish conquista was in reality the Catalan Cristofol Colom, who airbrushed
his past to conceal his activities as a pirate and conspirator against the king.


These Keys Could Stand to Be Lost

Let the sociopaths rot:
Two South Florida teens suspected in the beatings of three homeless men turned themselves in to police Sunday, authorities said. Family attorneys negotiated the surrender of Brian Hooks, 18, and Thomas S. Daugherty, 17.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Freeing South America

In the past few months, when looking for real energy in the fight for social justice in the world, I find my eyes drawn again and again, inexorably, to South America:
More than 4,000 slaves were freed by the Brazilian authorities last year, according to new government figures. But campaigners fear hundreds of thousands more still live and work in near-slavery.

The Brazilian employment ministry said its officials raided 183 farms, the highest number since Swat-style teams were introduced 10 years ago. In total 4,133 workers were freed, with R$7.4m (£1.8m) paid to victims, the ministry said.

"What we know about is the tip of the iceberg," said Father Ricardo Rezende, an anti-slavery campaigner and author of Stepping Out of the Shadow: Slavery for Debt in Contemporary Brazil, the first study of modern-day slavery in Brazil.


Tapped Out

Okay, all you neocons who kept bringing up Germany and Japan as examples of how we were going to remake Iraq in our own image--what say you now?

We aren't putting in the money that we did back in the '40s and '50s. So how, exactly, is this supposed to have a happy ending?
After more than 2 1/2 years of sputtering reconstruction work, the United States' "Marshall Plan" to rebuild this war-torn country is drawing to a close this year with much of its promise unmet and no plans to extend its funding.
With the country still a shambles, U.S. officials are promoting a tough-love vision of reconstruction that puts the burden on the Iraqi people.


South: It's the New America

Well done, Chile:
Michelle Bachelet led in elections in Chile where she pledged to help students, workers and retirees benefit from the copper-rich country's economic growth in a bid to become the nation's first woman president.

Bachelet, who leads the coalition that ousted Augusto Pinochet from power in 1990, won 53 percent of the vote with more than half of the ballots counted.


WTF Are You Saving It For?

If this vile, homophobic, woman-hating, opportunistic weasel is not worth a filibuster, who is, Sen. Feinstein?
A Democrat who plans to vote against Samuel Alito sided on Sunday with a Republican colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee in cautioning against a filibuster of the Supreme Court nominee.

"I do not see a likelihood of a filibuster," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."

She said she will not vote to confirm the appeals court judge, based on his conservative record. But she acknowledged that nothing emerged during last week's hearings to justify any organized action by Democrats to stall the nomination.

"If there's a filibuster of this man based on his qualifications, there would be a huge backlash in this country," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. He is one of 14 centrist senators who defused the Senate's showdown over judicial filibusters last year, saying such a tactic is justified only under extraordinary circumstances.


The Pope Is Profoundly Weird

I guess the stress of issuing homophobic dicta is getting to him:
THE Vatican, citadel of secrets and intrigue, has thrown up another little mystery: what has Pope Benedict been doing on a spate of night-time outings to his old cardinal lodgings?

Over the past few weeks he has been spotted three times sneaking back to his old room outside the Vatican walls, La Stampa reported at the weekend.

About 9pm a dark car carrying the Pope, 78, and his private secretary, Don Georg Gaenswein, sweeps out of a side door of Vatican City. It doubles round in the back streets before arriving at 1 Piazza Citta Leonina, a hall of residence for senior church figures and the Pope's home as a cardinal for almost 24 years.

A Vatican security guard is waiting in front of the apartments in a pedestrian zone tucked behind St Peter's Square. The Pope gets out of the car, disguised in the plain black priest's robes he wore when he was the Catholic Church's senior theologian.

Wearing a black hat and with his head down, he opens the door himself, as he did for all those years, and tiptoes inside, followed by Father Gaenswein.

"It's is not a question of just dashing in for a few minutes to grab a bag or a book," La Stampa wrote. "He spends at least a couple of hours there."

Nine months after moving into the spacious papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict appears to be hankering after his old, reflective life as a cardinal and a theologian in a bed-sit.

"We shouldn't be surprised," wrote Marco Tossati, La Stampa's Vatican correspondent. "The calm existence he had before, and the most certainly more weighty one he has now are separated by just a few hundred metres; maybe the temptation is just too much even for the strong but delicate personality of Benedict XVI."

The Pope is already gaining a reputation for slightly eccentric behaviour and a penchant for disguise. At Christmas he delighted crowds by turning out in a red fur-lined hat that used to be worn by popes in the Middle Ages to keep their heads warm. He has also been seen wearing red Prada shoes and pricey Serengeti sunglasses.


'New Orleans stinks, but this bitch is mine.'

A dismal report.


Mothers: Smarter
It is a time of sleep deprivation, constant tiredness and a regular inability to carry out even the simplest task. But now scientists have discovered - after experimenting on the California deer mouse, laboratory rats, and humans - that pregnancy also confers startling benefits: it actually boosts brainpower.

During pregnancy, learning and memory skills improve dramatically, say researchers, reversing the popular myth that it is a time of dumbing down. Key brain areas also alter in size; changes that can persist for decades. Far from transforming mothers into weakened emotional wrecks who lose car keys and drop in IQ, it turns out having children makes them cleverer.


"Ideological Sexuality"

Now that is a phrase I've not heard before.

But I like it!
Tens of thousands of women marched through Milan on Saturday to demand Italy keep its liberal abortion law intact while gays rallied in Rome to push for legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Both topics have become issues in Italy's election campaign, and the Roman Catholic Church and ministers in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government were scathing in denouncing the rallies.

"These demonstrators are really nauseating," Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli, a member of the right-wing Northern League, was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA. "Family is a serious thing, based on love between a man and a woman."

Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione, who is close to the Vatican, told reporters that people's energy should be spent on pro-family efforts like finding jobs and housing.

"These are the political problems you should put the spotlight on, because without children, Italy dies," Buttiglione said.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, denounced as "provocations" efforts to give legal recognition to unmarried couples "independent of whether the partners are of different or the same sex." A program on Vatican Radio described the gay rally in Piazza Farnese as "ideological sexuality."

A crowd of gays and their supporters filled the Rome square to lobby for legal recognition for both gay and unmarried heterosexual couples. "Let's free love from religious phobia," read one banner in the crowd, estimated by police to number about 1,000.


No Surer Way to Fuel the Insurgency

To coin a phrase, "No Sex = Death":
Ahmed Hadi and his new wife Tiba Mohammed, like many young married couples in Baghdad, are not getting enough sex. The problem, they say, is not a lack of desire but of power -- electrical power.

Making love for many of Iraq's Muslim population not only requires a willing partner but also a sure supply of water -- preferably hot in the winter -- to enable the participants to take a shower afterwards before going to pray.

No hot water means no hot shower and therefore prayers, which take place five times a day for devout Muslims, can become a problem.

Either a couple avoids sex or they are forced to take a cold dip, not a pleasant prospect during the winter months.


Blair Learns Quickly

Wiretapping is the wave of the future, it would seem:
Tony Blair is preparing to scrap a 40-year ban on tapping MPs' telephones, despite fierce Cabinet opposition, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

He is expected to formally announce to the Commons within weeks that MPs can no longer be sure that the security services and others will not intercept their communications.

Until now, successive administrations have pledged that there should be no tapping "whatsoever" of MPs' phones, and that they would be told if it was necessary to breach the ban.

But that convention - known as the Wilson Doctrine, after Harold Wilson, the prime minister who introduced it - is to be abandoned in an expansion of MI5 powers following the London bombings.