Friday, March 17, 2006

The Christians Are Pissed

Well, that's what you get for building your victory on the backs of fundie nutjobs:
Prominent leaders from the Christian right have warned Republicans they must do more to advance conservative values ahead of the US mid-term elections.

Their message to Congress, controlled by Republicans, is "must do better".

Support from about a quarter of Americans who describe themselves as evangelicals was a factor in President George W Bush's two election victories.

The Republicans will need to keep them onboard if they are to retain control of Congress in November.


Mmm... Burgers

Definitive evidence that ground beef really does clog arteries:
Debris from a tractor-trailer wreck at Interstate 35 near Slaughter Lane has been cleared, the Austin Police Department reported this afternoon. All main lanes of Interstate 35 southbound are open. One lane on the west frontage southbound remains blocked.

Hamburger patties and other debris were spread over two southbound lanes and the frontage road after the accident this morning involving two big rigs.


Spring Break

lb0313 has called this story to my attention. It is so good to see people working for good:
Thousands of college students who might have spent spring break sunning in Acapulco or on Florida beaches this year are pouring into New Orleans to sleep in dormitory tents or on classroom floors, eat off paper plates and spend a week of vacation hauling foul muck out of homes ruined by floodwaters.


More Kitties!


Bastard on Display

The body of Slobodan Milosevic has been put on public display in Belgrade as up to 1,000 supporters converged to pay their final respects to the former Yugoslav president.

A crowd of supporters waited on the steps of the communist-era building as a grey minivan carrying his coffin arrived at the city's Revolution Museum.

A dozen police were called upon to control the crowd after several impatient people shattered a window pane near the building's entrance amid pushing and shoving.

"Serbia will remain inconsolable because there is no one more patriotic than he was, who has defended the country like he did," said Milovan Majic, 72.


Another Reason to Move to New Zealand

Go Kiwis!
Churches in New Zealand are facing a slow death, a pastors' conference has been told.

As the average age of both congregations and ministers was increasing, pastors were "burning out" trying to put growth strategies into practice to encourage newcomers to church.


Capitalism Doesn't Hold Water

Shocking, but true. Corporations are not the best agents for saving people from dehydration:
Ten years ago, many poor countries hoped private cash would bring safe water to the 1 billion people in the world who lack it, but corporate interest in the developing world is drying up in the face of weak profits and strong protests.

After pumping about $25 billion (NZ$39bn) into water supply and sanitation in developing countries in the 1990s, many companies have retreated or reduced their presence in places as far apart as Bolivia, South Africa and Indonesia.


Bombing Symbols

Yeah, because a foreign army bombing the crap out of a city will really make the Iraqis more peaceful. Right:
The US military said yesterday it had launched the biggest air assault on Iraq since its invasion in 2003, with American and Iraqi troops targeting insurgents near Samarra, the city that has come to symbolise the threat of civil war. A military statement said more than 50 aircraft and 1,500 US and Iraqi troops using more than 200 vehicles had been deployed in an offensive intended to clear a "suspected insurgent operating area" north-east of the city.


The Big Chill Breaks Down

Raymond Martinot and his wife were the toast of the world cryonics movement. For years they were France's best preserved corpses, lying in a freezer in a chateau in the Loire valley, in the hope that modern science could one day bring them back to life.

But the French couple's journey into the future ended prematurely when, 22 years after his mother's body was put into cold storage, their son discovered the freezer unit had broken down and they had started to thaw.


Homophobes Go Down

No, not in the good way:
A group that has spent years battling LGBT civil rights in Maine is out of money and says it will likely have to lay off staff.

The Christian Civic League of Maine is pleading with supporters for cash, but it appears after a series of high profile defeats the plea is falling on deaf ears.

The organization spent all of the money it had for the first quarter of 2006 on last year's effort to repeal the state's LGBT civil rights protections.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Third Time's a Charm

No arrests this time:
Members of the Soulforce Equality Ride were allowed on the campus of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee on Thursday but under strict conditions.

Lee is the third school to be targeted by the Equality Ride a 51 day cross-country trip organized by the nondenominational group Soulforce to draw attention to colleges and military academies that discriminate against LGBT students.


Impeach the Bastard

Millions of Americans agree:
A new poll finds that a plurality of Americans favor plans to censure President George W. Bush, while a surprising 42% favor moves to actually impeach the President.

A poll taken March 15, 2006 by American Research Group found that among all adults, 46% favor Senator Russ Feingold's (D-WI) plan to censure President George W. Bush, while just 44% are opposed. Approval of the plan grows slightly when the sample is narrowed to voters, up to 48% in favor of the Senate censuring the sitting president.


A Ripping Start

For the science geek and anti-creationist in all of us:
Physicists announced Thursday that they now have the smoking gun that shows the universe went through extremely rapid expansion in the moments after the big bang, growing from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space in less than a trillion-trillionth of a second.


Pre-emptive Catblogging


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's Worked Well So Far

So why not stick with the blatantly illegal policy of so-called "pre-emptive" war:
"President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy Thursday reaffirming his doctrine of pre-emptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq," begins a story slated for the front page of Thursday's Washington Post, RAW STORY has learned.


The Perfect Aryan Is a Sociopath

Don't take my word for it, take his:
The Aryan Brotherhood recruits sociopaths and inmates willing to kill without hesitation, a former leader of the prison gang testified on Wednesday in the conspiracy and racketeering trial of four of its leaders.

Convicted killer Clifford Smith, who sat shackled and chained to the witness stand and wore a black eye patch, was the first witness called by prosecutors in one of the largest death penalty cases in the United States.

"Not everybody wants to kill somebody, some people are kind of squeamish about that stuff," Smith, who admitted committing eight murders and directing at least 10 more, said in describing the rare inmate welcomed into the Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the Brand.

Asked by a prosecutor to further describe a candidate for the notorious prison gang, Smith, who is in protective custody after dropping out of the gang and cooperating with authorities, said, "A sociopath."


Name Your Poison

Saddam has this to say:
Saddam Hussein insisted today that he was still Iraq's president and called on Iraqis to stop fighting each other and rise up against US and British troops as he gave evidence for the first time at his trial.

Despite the judge repeatedly shouting at him to stop, the deposed leader insisted on reading from a prepared text.

"Let the [Iraqi] people unite and resist the invaders and their backers. Don't fight among yourselves," Saddam said, praising the insurgency. "In my eyes, you are the resistance to the American invasion."

Meanwhile, al-Sistani urges a different path:
As Iraq sinks closer and closer to all-out civil war the country's most influential Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is reportedly calling for death to gays and Sunni Moslems.

Sunni Arabs, who have run Iraq since its creation nearly 90 years ago, total barely a fifth of the population are involved in bitter armed battled with Shiites.

Sistani, a native Iraqi who was trained in Iran, has emerged as one of the country's leading figures in the push by Shiites for an Islamic republic.

His heavily armed Badr Corps was trained by the Iranian military in the 1980s.

The armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, it was brought into the government by U.S. officials in 2003.

But the Corps, believed to have about 20,000 men, is now suspected of running death squads in the Iraqi police. Estimated to have perhaps.

On his Web site, used to communicate with Shiite masses throughout the country, Sistani this week issued a fatwa against Sunnis and gays.

He urges followers to kill homosexuals in the "worst, most severe way".


Southeast Asia: A Veritable Swamp of Metaphors

The fires, I imagine, will be fed with all those dominoes the Communists left lying about:
ISLAMIC militants would turn South-East Asia into "a ring of fire" unless they are actively confronted, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned yesterday, just hours before she was to touch down in Australia.


Bush Accomplishes the Impossible

No, he hasn't brought democracy to the Middle East.

But he has actually managed to make Americans like Congress! Who'd a thunk it?
In the aftermath of the Dubai ports deal, President Bush's approval rating has hit a new low and his image for honesty and effectiveness has been damaged. Yet the public uncharacteristically has good things to say about the role that Congress played in this high-profile Washington controversy.

Most Americans (58%) believe Congress acted appropriately in strenuously opposing the deal, while just 24% say lawmakers made too much of the situation. While there is broad support for the way Congress handled the dispute, more Americans think Democratic leaders showed good judgment on the ports issue than say the same about GOP leaders (by 30%-20%).


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Abandoning New Orleans

Once again, the Bush administration is failing:
The White House has rejected hurricane disaster-recovery loans at a higher rate than any other administration in the last 15 years, according to a congressional study by Democrats.

The report, expected to be released Wednesday, said business and home loan approval rates averaged about 60 percent after Hurricane Andrew devastated much of south Florida in 1992. The trend continued through the rest of President George H.W. Bush's administration and into the Clinton administration, according to Democratic members of the House Small Business Committee.

After Hurricane Wilma surged ashore in south Florida last year, the approval rate for low-interest, taxpayer-guaranteed loans by the Small Business Administration had dropped to barely 15 percent. Overall, Democrats said, approval rates for home and business disaster loans since 2004 have averaged about 35 percent.

"This was a monumental disaster, and it requires a monumental response," said New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez (news, bio, voting record), the panel's top Democrat. "That hasn't happened. People are suffering, and it's the SBA's role to provide assistance."


More Arrests for the Equality Riders

They are on a roll:
Seven members of a nondenominational group protesting at universities that the organization says bar LGBT students were arrested Tuesday afternoon as they tried to enter the Regent University campus in Virginia Beach.

The university is affiliated with Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson.

The arrests came on the second day of demonstrations by members of the Equality Ride. The seven were charged with trespassing and later released without bond.

Last week 24 members of the group were arrested when the entered Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. (story)


Snubbing the Vatican

Good for him:
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has cancelled a trip to Rome for the installation of the city's former Archbishop as a cardinal reportedly after learning the Church is considering a ban on gay adoption in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Examiner reported Tuesday that banning gays and lesbians from adopting is "patently offensive".

He was to have attended the ceremony elevating Archbishop William Levada to cardinal and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Examiner reports that Newsom changed his mind after reading that the San Francisco archdiocese was considering a change in its policies to specifically bar gays from adopting children.



This is what passes for humor among these people. It's almost as funny as Bush looking for WMDs, even as hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis are dying in his bullshit war:
Lynne Cheney assured everyone that her husband does have "a great sense of humor. The other day I asked him, 'Do you know how many terrorists it takes to paint a wall?' He answered right back, 'It depends on how hard you throw them.'"


Private Cops

It's bad enough that we've been relying so heavily on private security contractors overseas. Now, in a deeply disturbing turn of events, they're going to be patrolling in the USA:
Maj. Pete Tufaro scanned the fenced lot packed with hundreds of stark white trailers soon to be inhabited by Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Shaking his head, he predicted the cramped quarters would ignite fights, hide criminals and become an incubator for crime, posing another test for his cash-strapped sheriff's department, which furloughed 206 of its 390 officers after the storm.

Tufaro thinks the parish has the solution: DynCorp International LLC, the Texas company that provided personal security to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is one of the largest security contractors in Iraq. If the Federal Emergency Management Agency approves the sheriff's department's proposal, which would cost $70 million over three years, up to 100 DynCorp employees would be deputized to be make arrests, carry weapons, and dress in the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Department khaki and black uniforms.


Sabotaging Democracy

Anybody with half an ounce of common sense could have seen this coming. And yet, Bush, in his typical way, just blunders on ahead with his hamhanded plan and to hell with the consequences:
Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need, warning that mere announcement of the U.S. program endangers human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents, the WASHINGTON POST reports on Tuesday page ones, RAW STORY has learned.


Coca for Condi


Condoleezza Rice knew coca would top the agenda in her meeting with Bolivia's new
president, but she likely wasn't expecting to get the real thing.

At the end of their 25-minute meeting, President Evo Morales presented the U.S. secretary of state with an Andean guitar that bore a coca-leaf inlay.

"The gift was well received. We will just have to check with our customs to see what rules apply. We certainly hope we can bring it back (to Washington)," said a senior State Department official who attended the meeting.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, came to prominence as a leader of coca farmers who want more freedom to grow coca, which is the main ingredient in cocaine but is also used legally for traditional medicines and in teas.


Nobody Could Have Foreseen...

This is bitter news. They could have known, and they could have taken action:
Scientists working on an independent study of a floodwall that collapsed during Hurricane Katrina said Monday that a government test 21 years ago predicted the wall could fail.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' built a levee and floodwall system to test a design similar to the 17th Street Canal in 1985, which "indicated that failure was imminent," according to a statement from Raymond B. Seed and Robert G. Bea, in charge of the
National Science Foundation's Independent Levee Investigation Team.

"Not only did they have that in their repertoire of information, they failed to use it, as best we can tell," Seed said in a telephone interview from the University of California, Berkeley.


Monday, March 13, 2006


Does this mean we can finally go after Bush the Deserter? No?
A man was being held in a US military prison yesterday for deserting from the marines 38 years ago after being caught on the American-Canadian border amid a new drive to track down Vietnam-era deserters.

Allen Abney, 56, who lives in British Columbia and who is now a Canadian citizen, had frequently crossed into the US without incident. His family was caught by surprise when he and his wife were stopped by immigration officials on Thursday on their way to a social event in Reno, Nevada.


Fair Play to the Queen

Very well done:
The Queen has used her Commonwealth Day speech to draw attention to HIV/AIDS. The Queen is in Australia to open the Commonwealth Games.

At a service at Sydney's St Andrew's Cathedral she said that half of the world's 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS live in Commonwealth countries.

"Ignorance and lack of understanding about these issues sometimes breed uncertainty, even fear and the inclination to turn from those who are unwell," the Queen said. "But we know, for example, that someone who is HIV positive can, with proper support, lead a full and rewarding life."


Happy 3/14!

It's an irrational sort of day:
In case it has escaped your attention, tomorrow is 14 March which, in American notation, is written 3/14. If you have a certain type of mind you will immediately notice that these digits bear a close approximation to one of the most important numbers in mathematics - pi.

Tomorrow has therefore been declared World Pi Day in honour of the mathematical constant that has beguiled and bewildered successive generations of numerate scholars since the days of ancient Babylon.


Bikers Against Assholes

Well done:
Margie Phelps, 49, a member of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, waves signs in front of a group of American flag waving bikers who are acting as human shields to protect the privacy of a family holding a funeral for their son who was killed in Iraq 11 March, in Flushing, Michigan. The church members have caused national outrage by staging anti-gay protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. About 300 bikers blocked the handful of demonstrators so that family members didn't have to see the signs or hear their jeers(AFP)


Demonic Muslim Power

Pat Robertson is still a freak:
Television evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday on his live news-and-talk program "The 700 Club" that Islam is not a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are "satanic."

Robertson's comments came after he watched a news story on his Christian Broadcasting Network about Muslim protests in Europe over the cartoon drawings of the Prophet Muhammad.

He remarked that the outpouring of rage elicited by cartoons "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with."

Robertson also said that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination."


Chef Gets Religion

This is both ridiculous and unfortunate:
Isaac Hayes has quit "South Park," where he voices Chef, saying he can no longer stomach its take on religion.

Hayes, who has played the ladies' man/school cook in the animated Comedy Central satire since 1997, said in a statement Monday that he feels a line has been crossed.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.


Mad Cow Disease Is Here

Unsurprisingly, the government doesn't really seem to care:
A cow in Alabama has tested positive for mad cow disease, the Agriculture Department said Monday, confirming the third U.S. case of the brain-wasting ailment. The cow did not enter the food supply for people or animals, officials said. The animal, unable to walk, was killed by a local veterinarian and buried on the farm.

"We remain very confident in the safety of U.S. beef," said the department's chief veterinarian, John Clifford.


Don't Buy a Gay Car!

Once again, the American Family Association comes through for us:
The American Family Association and 18 other conservative groups on Monday reinstated their boycott of Ford Motor Corporation over its support for gay rights.

The AFA said the company "reneged on an agreement to stop funding homosexual groups that promote same-sex marriage."


The "Human Touch"

How obnoxious is it that Bush said this? And how pathetic is it that Time wrote about it in such an admiring tone?
Through the challenges, the President has kept his human touch. Touring New Orleans last week, he met a man who had survived for days on canned goods before being evacuated to Utah. "Were you the only black man in Salt Lake City?" Bush asked.



If she really believes this, why did she resign and permit Bush to appoint another right-winger? I'm tempted to be cynical and just assume she's speaking out like this in order to sell more copies of whatever book she's writing:
Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the judiciary.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University, reported by National Public Radio and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ms O'Connor took aim at Republican leaders whose repeated denunciations of the courts for alleged liberal bias could, she said, be contributing to a climate of violence against judges.


Government Death Squads

It's a brave new Iraq:
Senior Iraqi officials Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of government employees had operated illegally from inside two government ministries.

"The deaths squads that we have captured are in the defense and interior ministries," Minister of Interior Bayan Jabr said during a joint news conference with the Minister of Defense. "There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."


Hard Work

Too hard, apparently, for the Bush administration. Honestly, this piece really is rather pathetic. What White House staff hasn't had to work long, hard hours? And when hasn't the Bush White House been incompetent? If they need sleep, let 'em resign and go to bed.
Andrew H. Card Jr. wakes at 4:20 in the morning, shows up at the White House an hour or so later, convenes his senior staff at 7:30 and then proceeds to a blur of other meetings that do not let up until long after the sun sets. He gets home at 9 or 10 at night and sometimes fields phone calls until 11 p.m. Then he gets up and does it all over again.

Of all the reasons that President Bush is in trouble these days, not to be overlooked are inadequate REM cycles. Like chief of staff Card, many of the president's top aides have been by his side nonstop for more than five years, not including the first campaign, recount and transition. This is a White House, according to insiders, that is physically and emotionally exhausted, battered by scandal and drained by political setbacks.


Gutting Endangered Species

Another assault on the environment is under way; here's hoping the Senate stops it:
The House bill would change the law's very purpose by limiting designation of protected habitats to areas needed to save a species from imminent extinction, rather than the current standard of recovery.

The House bill also would require federal agencies to ignore species protection if it interferes with their mission. The Defense Department already has this authority, which would now be extended to agencies overseeing oil and gas drilling, mining, and timbering. Scientists, in making judgments about species survivability, would be forbidden in the House bill from using models, genetic studies, or population surveys. The bill would shift the decision of what constitutes ''best available science" from scientists to political appointees in the Department of the Interior.

Last week, more than 5,700 biologists wrote senators warning against weakening the scientific basis of a law that they describe as ''well-functioning." The biologists write: ''Losing a species means losing the potential to solve some of humanity's most intractable problems, including hunger and disease."

Interesting that the bill specifically empowers agencies dealing with oil drilling to ignore species protection. I'm sure it has nothing to do with this:
Environmental groups are suing the Interior Department to block expanded oil and gas exploration in an ecologically sensitive area of Alaska's North Slope.
The plaintiffs contend the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, violated the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws in failing to properly analyze the potential impacts of oil and gas activity in a region that is a magnet for thousands of migratory geese.

They contend the agency paid inadequate attention to the potential for industrial sprawl that could chop up an Arctic haven for animals of great importance to subsistence hunters.



Once again, arrogance and contempt for the law trump common sense and due process. I'm glad the judge is calling them on it (this, of course, being why the administration gets hives whenever anyone suggests they should try the detainees rather than just holding them):
An angry federal judge unexpectedly recessed the death penalty trial of confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to consider whether government violations of her rules against coaching witnesses should remove the death penalty as an option.

The stunning development came at the opening of the fifth day of the trial as the government had informed the judge and the defense over the weekend that a lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration had coached four government FAA witnesses in violation of the rule set by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema. The rule was that no witness should hear trial testimony in advance.

"This is the second significant error by the government affecting the constitutional rights of the defendant and the criminal justice system in this country in the context of a death case," Brinkema told lawyers in the case outside the presence of the jury.

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon moved to have the judge dismiss the death penalty as a possible outcome, saying "this is not going to be a fair trial." In the alternative, he said, at least she should excuse the government's FAA witnesses from the case.


So, How Long Till the Media Start Calling Them "Leaderless"

That's exactly how they would characterize the situation were it the Democrats. Perhaps also "fragmented," "rudderless," and "in turmoil":
Republicans, more than Democrats, prefer order and hierarchy. When they seek a presidential candidate, their reflex is to look for an establishment frontrunner.

For the first time in decades, they don't have one.

``We normally have a line of people with stature,'' Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said in an interview at the weekend meeting of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. If Vice President Dick Cheney or Florida Governor Jeb Bush decided to run, Barbour said, they would be considered the establishment candidates --``but without Cheney or Jeb, we do not have a frontrunner worthy of the name.''

Cheney, 65, is the first sitting vice president since Charles Dawes in 1928 to say he won't seek his party's nomination to succeed a retiring president. And other potential establishment candidates have either faltered in achieving that role -- such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, 54, who has had difficulties advancing the Republican legislative agenda --or have said they're not running, like Jeb Bush, 53, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 51.



That such scenes are unsurprising illustrates just how badly we've devastated Iraq:
Police found the bodies of four men dangling from electrical pylons Monday in a Baghdad Shiite slum, hours after car bombs and mortars shells ripped through teeming market streets, killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 200.


Equality Arrests #2

It looks as though the Robertson-connected university will follow in Falwell's footsteps:
Regent University, connected to Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson, is warning members of a gay group that if they try to enter the campus on Monday they will be arrested.

The warning comes following the arrest last week of 24 people at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg. (story)

Regent University is the second stop for the Equality Ride. The Soulforce organized ride is made up of young adults on a two-month journey to Christian colleges and military academies that ban GLBT enrollment.