Saturday, February 04, 2006

Murderous Homophobe Finally Brought Down

WTF is wrong with some people?
The hunt for the teen who went on a rampage in a Massachusetts gay bar injuring three ended Saturday night near a small town in Northern Arkansas, but not be fore two people -one of them a police officer - were killed in a shootout.

18 year old Jacob D. Robida had been on the run since Thursday when he allegedly went to Puzzles bar in New Bedford Massachusetts, took a hatchet from underneath his sweatshirt and struck one man in the face and then pulled a gun and began shooting. In all three people were wounded and sent to hospital. (story)


The Path to the Perfect Spouse?

They are the Pentagon's new "rules of engagement" — the diamond ring kind. U.S. Army chaplains are trying to teach troops how to pick the right spouse, through a program called "How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk."
The "no jerks" program is also called "P.I.C.K. a Partner," for Premarital Interpersonal Choices and Knowledge.

It advises the marriage-bound to study a partner's F.A.C.E.S. — family background, attitudes, compatibility, experiences in previous relationships and skills they'd bring to the union.

It teaches the lovestruck to pace themselves with a R.A.M. chart — the Relationship Attachment Model — which basically says don't let your sexual involvement exceed your level of commitment or level of knowledge about the other person.

Maj. John Kegley, a chaplain who teaches the program in Monterey, Calif., throws in the "no jerk salute" for fun. One hand at the heart, two-fingers at the brow mean use your heart and brain when choosing.


RIP, Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique" became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday. She was 85.


Secret US Troops Across the Globe

War without end, amen:
The Pentagon, readying for what it calls a "long war," yesterday laid out a new 20-year defense strategy that envisions U.S. troops deployed, often clandestinely, in dozens of countries at once to fight terrorism and other nontraditional threats.


Did I Say "BahGain"? I Meant "Vietnam-style" Prices!

Oh, yes, we are gettin' our money's worth:
The spending on the Iraq conflict alone is now approaching the cost of the Korean war, about $330bn in today's dollars. Meanwhile the cost of the overall "war on terror" - relabelled The Long War in the Pentagon - is already close to half a trillion dollars, and will soon equal that of the 13-year Vietnam war.

Take note of that. "Relabelled The Long War in the Pentagon."

That says it all.



With the government itself equating pedophilia and homosexuality, that's just one more obstacle to justice. And it is pointless, groundless, and vile:
The State Department said Friday that concern over potential support for pedophilia was behind the U.S. vote to exclude two gay rights groups from membership on a United Nations panel.


Friday, February 03, 2006

It's A Bah-Gain

How can ya beat it for returns?
Currently, the Defense Department says it is spending about $4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, or about $100,000 per minute.

Current spending in Afghanistan is about $800 million a month, or about $18,000 per minute.


Further Catblogging


Bush: Late As Usual

I'd be willing to bet that Bush read a report about this new discovery about Stalin, from eight decades ago, and had such nightmares that he insisted on including dangerous manimals in the SOTU:
THE Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.

Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior.

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

In 1926 the Politburo in Moscow passed the request to the Academy of Science with the order to build a "living war machine". The order came at a time when the Soviet Union was embarked on a crusade to turn the world upside down, with social engineering seen as a partner to industrialisation: new cities, architecture, and a new egalitarian society were being created.


Kansas Gets Something Right

Going after Planned Parenthood is wrong, of course, but not surprising. That a Kansas court agrees that individuals' names must be redacted from abortion recorfds is a refreshing display of respect for privacy:
The Kansas Supreme Court today ordered a district judge to reconsider subpoenas issued at Attorney General Phill Kline’s request for abortion clinic medical records.

The unanimous ruling orders Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson to use tightly drawn restrictions on any requests for medical records.

That means Kline’s investigation of late-term abortion and sexual predators may go forward, but only if the court’s demands are met to keep the privacy of clinic patients.

The ruling, awaited for nearly a year, was released about 9:30 a.m. today.


Phelps Never Fails

Whenever there's an opportunity to display himself as an utterly deranged jackass, he's on the job:
Adding insult to injury, Westboro Baptist Church, led by anti-gay extremist Fred Phelps, is planning a protest at Coretta Scott King's funeral at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday, February 7 at 12 noon.

WBC said “for more than 10 years that by endorsing the homosexual agenda she was brining down the wrath of God upon herself, her family and the black civil rights movement. She is an ingrate-unthankful and unholy.”


Post-Cold War Era: Brief, Over

All it took was Bush's formidable incompetence and myopia to end the single-superpower world of his father and of Clinton:
The post-cold-war era, when there was only a single superpower, is over now. The United States is being forced to enlist Russia and, to a lesser extent, China as partners in finding a compromise. With this, the economic rise of India and the resurgence of anti-yanqui nationalism in several states in Latin America, we have clearly entered a multipolar world.

No one in Downing Street or Washington will admit it publicly, but Jacques Chirac has turned out to be right. His global Gaullism, the notion that the world has several power centres, and it is no longer just "the west versus the rest", offers a more accurate picture than the image of the lone cowboy acting in the name of us all. The analysis is not Chirac's alone, of course. The French president is in most ways a discredited figure, little loved even at home. But he is the most prominent European to dare to embrace multipolarity as the new reality of international politics.


I Will Devour Your Soul!

Apparently, Hillary Clinton is taking lessons in poise and demeanor from Dick Cheney. Or perhaps Michelle Malkin.

Seriously, our ruling class consists of some scary-looking people.


Well, That Answers That Question

Bennett, Colorado is afraid of opera. Or, perhaps, of puppets:
Some parents in this prairie town are angry with an elementary school music teacher for showing pupils a video about the opera "Faust," whose title character sells his soul to the devil in exchange for being young again.

"Any adult with common sense would not think that video was appropriate for a young person to see. I'm not sure it's appropriate for a high school student," Robby Warner said after two of her children saw the video.

Another parent, Casey Goodwin, said, "I think it glorifies Satan in some way."

Tresa Waggoner showed approximately 250 first-, second- and third-graders at Bennett Elementary portions of a 33-year-old series titled "Who's Afraid of Opera" a few weeks ago.

The video features the soprano Dame Joan Sutherland and three puppet friends discussing Gounod's "Faust." Waggoner thought it would be a good introduction to opera.


Take the Bastard's License Away

If this isn't an absolutely infuriating breach of medical ethics, then what is?
A 36-year old Kissimmee woman who mentioned to her doctor during a routine checkup that she is a lesbian has filed complaints with the Florida Department of Health and CIGNA Healthcare against him and his assistant for advocating she change her sexual orientation.

Jamie Beiler alleges that at the end of her appointment with Dr. John R. Hartman she was handed a packet of anti-gay propaganda referring to homosexuality as “sinful” and advising lesbians and gay men to change their sexual orientation.

The complaints, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Beiler, allege that during the March 2005 visit, Dr. Hartman and his medical assistant Dawn Pope-Wright falsely presented their personal beliefs as medical information and provided her with unwanted treatment that has been rejected as ineffective by all major health and mental health organizations.

Beiler is asking CIGNA, her healthcare provider, and the Florida Board of Medicine to take action against Pope-Wright and Dr. Hartman for their unethical conduct.

"When I opened the sealed packet, I was shocked and outraged,” said Beiler. “I was extremely offended and I felt like I had been violated. To this day I dread the thought of ever having to go to a doctor’s office again.”

Beiler said she first made a formal complaint with Dr. Hartman’s office manager, who informed Beiler that their office routinely disseminates the anti-gay materials to patients.


Church and State Working Together!

It's like heaven, right here on earth:
A rehabilitation program at a church is facing allegations it forced people to work as telemarketers for 28 cents an hour under the threat they could go back to jail.

The state Department of Human Services, which investigated the program, notified the House of Refuge on Thursday that it had 10 days to explain itself before its license would be revoked and the program shut down.

The men were sent to the program by judges or state agencies for substance abuse rehabilitation. A department report said they were paid about 28 cents an hour, but even those wages were withheld and donated to the church.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Unnecessary Roughness

Okay, God, back away from New Orleans. Now!
Tornadoes tore through New Orleans neighborhoods Thursday that had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina just five months earlier, collapsing at least one previously damaged house and battering the airport, authorities said.

Roofs were ripped off, utility poles came down and a radio tower fell near a major thoroughfare, but no serious injuries were reported.


Anger Issues...

This kid needs a bit of help, though I doubt that it was really necessary to call in the Secret Service:
The Secret Service is investigating a seventh-grader who wrote a school essay that authorities say advocated violence against President Bush, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and others.

The boy's homework assignment for English class was to write what he would do on a perfect day. In addition to the president and Winfrey, the boy wrote that violence should be directed at executives of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, police and school officials said.

"His perfect day would be to see the destruction of these people," Schools Superintendent David Raiche said.


Now That's Some Libido

Modesto police said Kelli Pratt wanted her feeble 65-year-old husband to have sex with her the night of Oct. 7.

When Arthur Pratt refused, police said, his 45-year-old wife held him down and bit him repeatedly during a savage attack that ultimately killed him.


Substandard Military

As the war goes on, our troops get worse:
This is where waivers come in. According to statistics provided to Salon by the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, the Army said that 17 percent (21,880 new soldiers) of its 2005 recruits were admitted under waivers. Put another way, more soldiers than are in an entire infantry division entered the Army in 2005 without meeting normal standards. This use of waivers represents a 42 percent increase since the pre-Iraq year of 2000. (All annual figures used in this article are based on the government's fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So fiscal year 2006 began Oct. 1, 2005.)

In fact, even the already high rate of 17 percent underestimates the use of waivers, as the Pentagon combined the Army's figures with the lower ones for reserve forces to dilute the apparent percentage. Equally significant is the Army's currently liberal use of "moral waivers," loosely defined as criminal offenses. Officially, the Pentagon states that most waivers issued on moral grounds are for minor infractions like traffic tickets. Yet documents obtained by Salon show that many of the offenses are more serious and include drunken driving and domestic abuse.


Bush Really Really Wanted His War

And was willing to do crazy things to get it:
George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.

The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."


Allah Fish

Weirdness ain't just Christian.

As supposed miracles go, Oscar the fish is the best that the town of Waterfoot, near Bury, has ever seen.

Locals flocked to the village's pet shop, Water Aquatic, this week after it was noticed that the markings on the scales of the two-year-old albinoOscar fish mimicked the Arabic script for Allah.

That the other side of the fish appeared to be inscribed with the word Muhammad only served to compound the spectacle.


Just Call It "Perpetual War" and Be Done With It

I mean, is anyone stupid enough not to see what they are getting at? It's the old Eurasia/Eastasia Shuffle, baby.
Now, the Pentagon is preparing for The Long War. In the 2007 budget due out next week and a soon-to-be-released long-range plan for reshaping the military, the Defense Department talks about the military's future in terms of its ability to fight a new kind of war. It is one that cannot be won in days or weeks, and will be fought on many fronts and against a vast array of enemies.


A Rare Admission of Wrongdoing in DC

Not, I assure you, from the upper echelons:
Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman’s wife from President Bush’s State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The policy and procedures were too vague,” he added. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.”


The State of the World

Kenya dismissed as "culturally insulting" Tuesday an offer of powdered dog food to feed starving children reportedly made by the founder of a canine biscuit company in New Zealand.


Exec to Lege: Fuck Off and Die

That's how it measures up:
The Bush administration is rebuffing requests from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for its classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic spying program, setting up a confrontation in advance of a hearing scheduled for next week, administration and Congressional officials said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is balking at the request so far, administration officials said, arguing that the legal opinions would add little to the public debate because the administration has already laid out its legal defense at length in several public settings.

But the legality of the program is known to have produced serious concerns within the Justice Department in 2004, at a time when one of the legal opinions was drafted. Democrats say they want to review the internal opinions to assess how legal thinking on the program evolved and whether lawyers in the department saw any concrete limits to the president's powers in fighting terrorism.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Time for Kittens!


More Proof That We're the Good Guys

The ACLU is going to bat for a virulently homophobic hypocrite:
The American Civil Liberties Union told an Oklahoma city judge Wednesday that a pastor who frequently speaks out against homosexuality and was arrested last week for propositioning a male police officer was charged in violation of the Supreme Court's ruling on gay sex.

In a friend-of-the-court brief the ACLU argues that the law used to arrest the Rev. Lonnie Latham contravenes the Supreme Court ruling that overturned sodomy laws.



Apparently, the notion that we should "Support Our Troops" is dangerous and subversive:
The wife of a senior House of Representatives Republican was told to leave the House chamber during President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech for for wearing a shirt bearing words of support for U.S. troops.

"Shame, shame," Rep. Bill Young of Florida said on the House floor on Wednesday, condemning the treatment of his wife Beverly by the U.S. Capitol Police.

"She was ordered to leave the gallery, because she was doing ... what the president said we should all do," Young said. "She had on this shirt. A very conservative shirt, long sleeves, high neck, but it says support our troops."

Also on Tuesday night anti- Iraq war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested in one of the House galleries before the speech after she refused to cover up an anti-war slogan on her shirt.

Young, who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said his wife "supports our troops on every day, every hour," visiting wounded soldiers at military hospitals and helping their families.

Young said a guard at the House chamber called her "a demonstrator and a protester."

Her shirt said "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom."



A well-placed lawsuit:
Backed by abortion rights groups, three Massachusetts women sued Wal-Mart on Wednesday, accusing the retail giant of violating a state regulation by failing to stock emergency contraception pills in its pharmacies.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, seeks to force the company to carry the morning-after pill in its 44 Wal-Marts and four Sam Club stores in Massachusetts.

The plaintiffs argued that state policy requires pharmacies to provide all "commonly prescribed medicines."


Don't They Realize...

It'll just lead to gay-straightness in the streets! Or something:
Virginia's House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday allowing local school boards to prohibit the use of school facilities by groups they believe encourage promiscuity.

Opponents of Del. Matthew Lohr's bill claim its real purpose is to dissolve gay-straight alliances, which typically meet on campus.

Dyana Mason, head of Equality Virginia warned that the legislation would essentially dissolve the gay-straight alliances, which typically meet on school grounds.


Jack. Ass.

Miriam and I became more than a little drunk and irate playing the SOTU drinking game, but this is a standout memory:
President Bush reached out to Democrats, called for new education, economic and fuel initiatives and renewed his attack on gay families Monday night in his State of the Union speech.

Addressing a joint session of Congress the president said that "many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage."

Yeah, cuz those two things are the same.


Protecting Americans from Freeance and Truthiness

That would seem to have been Sheehan's laudable goal:
Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested last night after demonstrating in the spectators gallery of the House of Representatives as part of a larger war protest that was held outside the Capitol.

Sheehan, who was apparently given a gallery ticket by a member of Congress, began to attract notice about 30 minutes to an hour before President Bush's State of the Union speech.

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, opened her jacket to reveal a T-shirt that, according to a supporter, gave the number of U.S. war dead and asked, "How many more?"


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Female American Soldiers Die of Thirst to Avoid Rape in Iraq

Utterly vile (via scout prime):
Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview.

It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.


Alito Era Underway

Expect more of this:
Legislators in at least five states are proposing bold anti-abortion measures as the Bush administration reshapes the U.S. Supreme Court, a report said.

With the goal of challenging the Roe vs. Wade ruling that ensured a woman's right to an abortion, lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee propose banning all abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, reported.

If enacted, legal experts said the laws would be the first absolute abortion bans since the landmark 1973 ruling.


Well Done, Gregoire

(Hey, is that French?)

And now, please, homophobes, back off and get a life:
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a gay civil rights bill into law Tuesday, though the law may be held in limbo if opponents are successful in forcing a referendum.

The measure adds "sexual orientation" to the state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and credit.

The amendment, passed by the Legislature on Friday, makes Washington the 17th state to pass a law covering gays and lesbians, and the seventh to protect transgender people.

The law is scheduled to take effect in June, 90 days after the end of the Legislature's session.

However, it would be frozen until a November vote if opponent Tim Eyman gets enough signatures by the June 7 deadline for a referendum.


A Piece of the American Dream

Well, if your idea of the American Dream was to own Terry Schiavo's hospital gown and her feeding tube (ew!), you've missed your fifteen minute window. Those fascists at e-Bay have closed down this perfectly legitimate exercise in free trade.

Click through to see the actual ad.

(Thanks, Daniel.)


The Real State of the Union

If the notion of watching Bush spew nonsense for 36 minutes (and be applauded for 24, so as to fill up the hour) is about as appealing as having your limbs gnaws off by sharks and your remaining torso embraced by amorous jellyfish, then read or listen to Gore Vidal's SOTU.
Here's a taste:
This is an unpatriotic government. This is a government that deals openly in illegalities, whether it is attacking a country which has done us no harm, two countries -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- because we now believe, not in declaring war through Congress as the Constitution requires, but through the President. ‘Well, I think there are some terrorists over there, and I think we got to bomb them, huh? We'll bomb them.’ Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He's not unique. But he's certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.


RIP Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 78.


Post-Communist Russian Utopia

Thank God the Wall fell and democracy streamed in like a blessed, heavenly light from the West:
Seven years after the police tortured him into confessing he had abducted, raped and murdered a girl, crimes he did not commit, one of Russia's many victims of police brutality has won a measure of justice.

Aleksei Mikheyev, now 29 and a virtual cripple from the waist down because of his ordeal at the hands of the police, has been granted €250,000 (£170,000) in compensation by the European Court of Human Rights.

The court recognised that he had been subjected to barbaric torture and that the authorities had failed to investigate his complaint seriously. While the compensation is huge by Russian standards, it will not restore Mr Mikheyev's health. He cannot have children, cannot walk without crutches, cannot administer to his own hygiene needs and doctors have told him he will never make a full recovery.

His case is one of the most extreme in the short history of post-Soviet policing. On 10 September 1998, Mr Mikheyev was arrested and charged with the rape and murder of a teenage girl, Maria Savalyeyeva, to whom he and a friend had given a lift in the city of Nizhni Novgorod.
The police then extracted a written confession from Mr Mikheyev by torturing him for nine days. Wires were attached to his earlobes and electric shocks administered, a police interrogation technique known informally as zvonok Putinu (a phone call to Putin.)
"They beat him, shouted insults at him, scared him out of his wits, and threatened to sexually assault him [by administering electric shocks to his genitals]," Olga Sadovskaya, the deputy head of Russia's Committee Against Torture, said yesterday. The police were keen that he confess to at least five other murders too.

On 19 September, Mr Mikheyev, who had by then already signed a confession saying he had murdered the missing girl, decided he could take no more. Left on his own to ponder further confessions, he broke free from the chair he was tied to and threw himself out of the cell window. He landed on a police motorbike and broke his back.

Soon afterwards, the "murdered" girl turned up unharmed and said she had been staying with friends.
His attempts to win justice and punish the police who had ruined his life came to nothing. The case was opened and closed 26 times. Mr Mikheyev was told to drop the matter or die in a fake apartment robbery.


Good News...

Given that "partial-birth abortion" is not even a medical term. However, it feels as though these cases are just being set up so Alito can belt 'em out of the park, along with many other of our rights:
A federal appeals court declared the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional Tuesday, saying the measure is vague and lacks an exception for cases in which a woman's health is at stake.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the second federal appeals court in the country to hold the law to be unconstitutional.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Afghanistan Breakdown

Imagine that we ever thought a "Coalition of the Willing" could work in Iraq. Now, in that nation where "we" were "victorious," things are breaking down between the two of us, Britain and the United States.

The Brits seem obsessed with getting the country in some sort of functioning order (which includes fighting the narco trade); the United States, on the other hand, has its eyes on the prize and wants to spray the countryside with poison first:
Attempts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium crop have abjectly failed and British soldiers who take part in such operations may face legal action, an international think-tank has said.

Britain is sending a task force of almost 6,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent al-Qa'ida and Taliban and also take part in tackling the country's poppy crops. These supply 90 per cent of heroin to this country and the UK is planning to spend £20m a year on eradication.

But at the eve of the London Conference on Afghanistan ­ co-hosted by Tony Blair, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President ­ differences are emerging between Britain and the US.

American officials are pressing for aerial crop-spraying. But aid agencies and human rights groups point out that poppy fields are often adjacent to ones growing vegetables and wheat.

British officials are against spraying. But a report by the Senlis Council, the think-tank, showed yesterday that the US administration was advertising for aerial spraying jobs in Afghanistan.

Recent job postings by the US Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs include the position of "Aviation Eradication Ops and Safety Officer" and an "Aviation Maintenance Adviser" for operations in Afghanistan. According to the report, a US government document says "the end game of the CN [Counter Narcotics] aviation programme is the curtailment of the supply ... through aerial and airmobile eradication of drug crops".
British defence sources said last night that British troops would not be playing a direct part in opium eradication, but would be training and guiding Afghan government forces.


Shut Up and Hand Over the Cash

The oil industry: Good corporate citizens:
Officials from six major oil companies have refused to testify this week at a Senate hearing looking into whether oil industry mergers in recent years have made gasoline more expensive at the pump.

With oil companies reporting record profits from higher energy prices, consumer groups have complained that mergers in the industry have stifled competition.

Exxon Mobil said on Monday it earned $10.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year and $36.1 billion for all of 2005 -- bigger than the economies of 125 countries.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding the hearing on Wednesday morning, said it asked representatives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Valero Energy and the U.S. units of BP and Royal Dutch Shell to tell their side of the story.

"All declined the invitation to testify," the committee said in a statement on Monday, without providing details.


As Predicted, It's Depression Time!

I reported earlier that all signs pointed toward negative savings rates for the first time since the deep Depression.

It has come to pass, as The Talking Dog notes:
Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing.

The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before -- in 1932 and 1933 -- two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.



This nasty, unnecessary war has generated an ugly word to describe its horrific effects:
To describe the maimed survivors of this ugly new war, a graceless new word, "polytrauma," has entered the medical lexicon. The typical patient arriving at Tampa's Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center has head injuries, visual and hearing loss, nerve damage, multiple bone fractures, unhealed body wounds, infections and emotional or behavioral problems. Some have severed limbs or spinal cords.

These centers are developing a new model of advanced care, a response to the distinctive medical conundrum of the Iraq war: With better battlefield care and protective gear, the military is saving more of the wounded, yet the insurgents' heavy reliance on car bombs and buried explosives means the survivors are more damaged -- and damaged in more different ways -- than ever before.


Alito Is In

Sadly, even this arrogant, executive-privilege loving, right-to-privacy hating judge cannot muster up Democratic opposition in sufficient numbers.

So it goes:
By a 72-25 vote, the Senate cut off a symbolic filibuster attempt today on the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., all but assuring that the federal appeals court judge will be confirmed Tuesday morning by the Senate.

His confirmation, following that of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., would complete the Bush administration's attempt at a court makeover, having deployed two prominently conservative jurists to replace one conservative and one moderate.


Southern Hospitality Runs Short

Charity, conditionally:
Warren Jenkins feels the stares and senses the suspicion when a Texan learns he is a Hurricane Katrina evacuee.

That's when he wants to shout that he is not a criminal or a welfare moocher, but simply a Louisiana native who, like hundreds of thousands of others, has lost everything and is now in Texas trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

Since as many as 500,000 Katrina evacuees poured into Texas -- many of them poor, sick and elderly -- calls for police service have increased in host cities, emergency rooms have become busier, public school campuses have become rowdier and welfare resources have been strained, state officials say.
Once promoting Texas' "vigor of the human spirit" to help the storm victims, Gov. Rick Perry, in a recent statement to the Star-Telegram, sounded more like he was issuing a veiled warning, rather than a welcome, to the people left homeless by Katrina.

"It is up to evacuees and their families to choose where they put down roots.

"If they choose to settle in Texas, I fully expect they will be law-abiding citizens who contribute to our state," Perry said.

Staying at a friend and fellow evacuee's apartment in Houston, Jenkins, 64, who has lived most of his life in New Orleans, said he is offended that anyone -- from the governor of Texas on down -- would suggest that he would be anything but a model citizen if he chose to stay here. He said Katrina victims from Louisiana are being unfairly characterized as being mostly unsavory simply because of the actions of a few who have betrayed Texas' hospitality.
"It makes you feel like you hate to tell people you're from New Orleans and Louisiana," Jenkins said. "You go in a grocery store; they watch you like a hawk. I want to tell them, 'Hey, not me! I've worked all my life. I don't need to steal anything.'"


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Just Stop Talking

I usually pass over stories about Christian universities discriminating against gay students and faculty, because, well, what do you expect? But this "explanation" demands note:
A small Christian liberal arts university that expelled a gay student for failing to adhere to "lifestyle" rules set down by the school is now comparing his dismissal to a hospital asking someone to leave because they are smoking.


Aggressive Stupidity

Infuriating, because this is the sort of bigoted governmental stupidity that gets people killed:
President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly one-quarter of its grants to religious groups, and officials are aggressively pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.
The abstinence emphasis, say some longtime AIDS volunteers, has led to a confusing message and added to the stigma of condom use in parts of Africa. Village volunteers in Swaziland maintain a supply of free condoms but say they have few takers.



Two FEMA disaster assistance employees working in New Orleans were arrested yesterday on federal bribery charges, accused of accepting $10,000 each in exchange for letting a contractor submit inflated reports on the number of meals it was serving at a Hurricane Katrina relief base camp there.

The charges against Andrew Rose and Loyd Hollman, both of Colorado, came after they told a contractor hired on a $1 million deal to provide meals in Algiers, La., that he could submit falsified invoices for extra meals, a Justice Department statement said.

The two were arrested hours after accepting envelopes containing $10,000 apiece. These were supposed to be down payments in what the two had said should be a $2,500 weekly bribe for each, officials said.


Let's Bring Back Impressment Gangs!

It'd be a grand solution to homelessness and a great way to flesh out our "volunteer" army:
The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called "stop-loss," but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.
"As the war in Iraq drags on, the Army is accumulating a collection of problems that cumulatively could call into question the viability of an all-volunteer force," said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank.

"When a service has to repeatedly resort to compelling the retention of people who want to leave, you're edging away from the whole notion of volunteerism."


Bush: Appeaser

Of course, I think it is a good thing that such talks are being held, but in the neocons' own worldview, aren't any attempts to engage the enemy in discussion signs of weakness?
American officials in Iraq are in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents, NEWSWEEK has learned. Americans are sitting down with "senior members of the leadership" of the Iraqi insurgency, according to Americans and Iraqis with knowledge of the talks (who did not want to be identified when discussing a sensitive and ongoing matter). The talks are taking place at U.S. military bases in Anbar province, as well as in Jordan and Syria. "Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership," says U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "The next step is to win over the insurgents." The groups include Baathist cells and religious Islamic factions, as well as former Special Republican Guards and intelligence agents, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the talks. Iraq's insurgent groups are reaching back. "We want things from the U.S. side, stopping misconduct by U.S. forces, preventing Iranian intervention," said one prominent insurgent leader from a group called the Army of the Mujahedin, who refused to be named because of the delicacy of the discussions. "We can't achieve that without actual meetings."