Saturday, April 29, 2006

South American Solidarity

Yet another sphere of influence slipping away from the United States.

Good for them:
The left-wing leaders of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela have signed a three-way trade agreement aimed at countering US influence in Latin America.

The pact was signed in Cuba by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and their host Fidel Castro.

The initiative, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, was drawn up by Cuba and Venezuela.

Mr Morales, an ally of both Mr Castro and Mr Chavez, decided to join it after his election last December.

The initiative - known by its Spanish acronym Alba - is being promoted as a socialist alternative to the Washington-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas.


Iraq War Causes Terrorism

We've all known it for a long, long time. Bush's government is finally admitting it; Iraq has become the best possible training ground and hiding place for terrorists:
THREE years after its invasion of Iraq the US Administration acknowledged yesterday that the war has become “a cause” for Islamic extremists worldwide and there is a risk of the country becoming a safe haven for terrorists hoping to launch fresh attacks on America.


Brownshirt Thugs

A right wing youth group with ties to the government of President Lech Kaczynski attacked marchers in a parade for tolerance in the southern city of Krakow on Friday.

More than 1,000 people, including a former deputy Prime Minister, took part in the march to open Equality Days a weekend LGBT forum.

Members of the youth group organized a counter demonstration to denounce homosexuality. They marched down a main street carrying signs and banners reading "Stop deviation".

The route for Equality Days march was changed at the last minute in an effort to avoid a confrontation. Nevertheless, the youth group converged on the gays and their supporters and began beating marchers Radio Poland reported Friday night.

Some members of the youth group hurled eggs and stones. Dozens of people were injured. Several were taken to hospital.


Sort of. Kind of.

Gonzales gets it right for a change, while defending Bush to some sixth-graders:
"If the president made us go to war with Iraq, why doesn't he go over there and fight the war?" Christian May asked.

"Why doesn't he go do that?" Gonzales responded. "He's sort of the commander in chief. He's kind of leading the troops."


Friday, April 28, 2006


Zora, relaxed.

Miriam attempts to measure the length of Zora's fur. Can you find Zora in this picture of her bed? No, no you can't.

Gramsci, aka Mr. Chubbs, gets the Mardi Gras spirit.

Tista, meanwhile, is the Swamp Thing, according to The Colbert Report, in the background.


There Is Hope

Some kids still have sense, and the spine to act on their beliefs:
Five high school students were suspended after staging a "die-in" in front of a Marine Corps recruiting booth during an on-campus job fair, one of the students says.
One of the students, junior Bob Hayes, said he planned to appeal his suspension.

"I don't think what we're doing is wrong. I think what we're doing is good," he said.

Hayes said he and four other students staged a "die-in" about 10:30 a.m. by falling down in front of the Marine Corps booth and then passing out leaflets protesting the war in Iraq and the presence of military recruiters on school grounds.

"We're angry," Hayes said. He said the school "shouldn't be occupied like Iraq is."


Mexico Moves Toward Common Sense

We should watch this closely, and reconsider our own failed "War on Drugs":
Owning marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if the drugs are carried in small amounts for personal use, under legislation passed by the Congress.

Police will not penalize people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine, under a bill passed by senators late on Thursday and earlier approvedby the lower house.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sorry, Scooter

You're still on the hook:
A federal judge refused Thursday to dismiss charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former top White House aide who was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges last year in the CIA leak scandal.


It's True: Bush Is a Disaster

Any way you look at Katrina, Bush bears tremendous blame:
A Senate inquiry into the government's Hurricane Katrina failures ripped the Bush administration anew Thursday and urged the scrapping of the nation's disaster response agency. But with a new hurricane season just weeks away, senators conceded that few if any of their proposals could become reality in time.


Farewell, American Century

So much for the United States having primary influence in the world. Russia is breaking away:
Moscow could be on the verge of clinching an arms deal with Syria or Iran that would send the US and Israel into pop-eyed rage.

A few days ago a Russian arms manufacturer let slip at an arms fair in Kuala Lumpur that his state-run weapons design bureau was close to sealing a foreign sale of Iskander-E missiles. The destination of the hardware was secret, he said, but the most obvious market is clear: the Middle East.

China, meanwhile, continues to make very profitable oil deals around the world:
Chinese President Hu Jintao said Thursday his government will seek closer ties with Africa a resource-rich frontier for the world's fastest growing economy after signing a series of major business deals with oil-rich Nigeria.

Hu, on the second and final day visiting Africa's largest oil producer before heading to Kenya, said China is seeking "a strategic partnership" with the continent that would improve living standards for Africa.


Block the Budget

Given that Bush's signing of this budget was unconstitutional, I'm glad that a few congresspeople have the sense to stand up and fight:
Ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives will file a lawsuit tomorrow seeking to block implementation of a budget law as signed by President George W. Bush, RAW STORY has learned.

In February, the President signed a version of the "Deficit Reduction Act" that never passed the House. The draft signed by Bush omitted provisions from the version that passed the House that required the government pay for 36 months of durable medical equipment rentals for those who qualified. The version Bush signed allows just 13 months--a difference of 23 months rental and $2 billion in spending.

According to the Constitution of the United States, the same version of a bill must pass both houses of Congress before it can be signed by the President to become law.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Don't Ask, Don't Tell = Assault

This is the price of ignoring this very real issue and denying people avenues by which to pursue justice and protection:
A female soldier testified that she didn't report alleged incidents of sexual harassment and assault by a superior because she is a lesbian and feared that she might get discharged if others found out.


Passing Is Serious Business

Life or death, at times:
On paper at least, Omar al-Dulaimi no longer exists.

With names that belong almost exclusively to Sunni Muslims in Iraq, al-Dulaimi feared that Shiite Muslims would single him out at one of the 12 checkpoints he crosses between home and work. So last week he bribed a government worker with $25 to change his name on his official paperwork.

"My biggest fear is militias. They move freely. They kill freely. They check your ID, and based on your name or surname they might kill you," said al-Dulaimi, 27, a merchant from Salman Pak who didn't want to reveal his new, more Shiite-sounding name, for obvious reasons.


Horatio Alger Can Go F*ck Himself

America is the Land of Not So Much in the Way of Opportunity Just Now, Check Back Later, We Might Have Something for You Next Week:
America may still think of itself as the land of opportunity, but the chances of living a rags-to-riches life are a lot lower than elsewhere in the world, according to a new study published on Wednesday.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sex Cults!

We are all in danger:
Attorneys for a New York women's group plan to grill Food and Drug Administration officials this week about their failure to decide whether an emergency contraceptive pill called Plan B may be sold without a prescription.

Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy operations commissioner, and Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's drug evaluation center, are to testify in court-ordered depositions to be taken by attorneys for the Manhattan-based Center for Reproductive Rights on April 26, 27 and 28 in Washington, D.C. and Rockville, Md.

The women's group seeks to force approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.

Simon Heller, one of the attorneys, plans to quiz Woodcock about a March 23, 2004, staff memo suggesting she was concerned Plan B might lead to teenage promiscuity.

The FDA is only supposed to consider the safety and efficacy of drugs.

In the memo released by the FDA during the discovery process, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: "As an example, she stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B."


Overturn This

The rights of lesbians have been grossly transgressed:
Lambda Legal is asking the California Supreme Court asking it to review a lower court decision that allowed doctors to refuse infertility treatment to lesbian patient based on their religious beliefs.

"Our client's doctors' behavior goes against established medical ethics and violates California civil rights law," said Lambda Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer.

"We're asking the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court's decision because it goes against the very issue the Court settled in 2004 when it ruled that Catholic Charities, a social services agency and not a church, may not violate civil rights laws no matter how earnestly they may wish to."


A Profound First

No words of mine can add to this. Well done:
For the first time Israel's LGBT community was invited to participate in Holocaust memorial services.

Two members of Jerusalem Open House placed a wreath in the name of the GLBT community at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion monument at Yad Vashem the memorial to the millions who were exterminated by the Nazis.

"As a gay man and as the son of a family of holocaust survivors, I felt that I was closing a circle by participating in the ceremony in the name of the JOH, as a representative of the GLBT community," said Amir Sumaka’i-Fink a member of the JOH board.


Yeah, Right

It was the gas causing the tears:
Athens police have fired teargas during a clash with anti-war demonstrators protesting against a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Agua... agua... agua...

On a very old Sesame Street skit (back from when I was a child, when we also walked miles in the snow to get to school), they tried to teach kids the word for "water" in Spanish by having a guy walking around, desperately searching for water, always asking for "agua" - and never managing to get any. Coming in from the desert, there's a drinking fountain... but even the drinking fountain and water faucet were dry. I watched Sesame Street a lot as a kid (it taught me much of my English, and clearly some Spanish too), and while I can still re-enact some of the muppet-based skits, I was usually bored by the real-people-without-muppets stuff. But this skit I remember; I've remembered it for about three decades, because it was just so awful. The poor guy was thirsty - I got the impression he was about to die of thirst - and there was no agua to be found, anywhere.

I mention this because, in a few decades, that guy is going to be us. In some places in the world, that guy already is us.

Salon ran an interview today with Fred Pearce, a British science journalist who's just written a book on water. Read the whole interview if you can -- you need to click through an ad, but it is worth it:
Pearce, a longtime editor for New Scientist, who is now an environmental consultant for the magazine, calculates that it takes 40 gallons of water to grow the ingredients for the bread in a single sandwich, not to mention 265 gallons to produce a glass of milk and 800 gallons for a hamburger. And that's just what's for lunch. Don't get him started on what you wear to this water-rich feast. Even a simple cotton T-shirt bearing some hopeful green slogan like "Save the Bay" is a huge water user. Pearce figures it takes 25 bathtubs-full of water to grow the scant 9 ounces of cotton for such a shirt.

On the West Bank...the Israelis and the Palestinians are almost as much in conflict over water as they are over land. The Palestinians are very angry that they are not allowed to sink more wells and drill more boreholes on the West Bank region, because the Israelis say that the water is already fully used, when most of that water is in fact used by Israelis not only in their settlements, but also in Israel proper.

While we often see water as a kind of free resource, provided by nature, once it gets in short supply the powerful do have an ability to grab hold and keep water -- whether behind dams, or by sticking pumps into the ground. We haven't quite reached the situation where water wars are breaking out, but we're getting quite close in some parts of the world.

While some people say that oil is the big issue that the world needs to deal with. I think it's going to be all about the agua. The water crisis has already started - the Aral Sea disappeared, the Dead Sea is shrinking, and everyone wants to get in on everyone else's rivers - and it's not getting any better anytime soon. The thing that astonished me about Pearce is that he is nevertheless an optimist, and that's as good a reason as any for you to go read the whole article. (And the book sounds like a fascinating read too.)


Money for Bigots

Well done, Kentucky. Truly, you know what higher education is all about:
After chopping $370 million from the state budget Monday night Gov. Ernie Fletcher spared $11-million earmarked for the University of the Cumberlands - a small private Baptist school that made headlines last month for expelling a student it found out is gay.


Do the Right Thing

Yeah, I'm talking to you, Washington and New Jersey:
As the nation waits to see which state becomes the second to legalize same-sex marriage for gay and lesbian couples in the states of New Jersey and Washington the wait is unbearable.

"The tuxes are in the closet and our wedding bands are in a box in the bureau," said Jeff Smyth. "They've been there for more than a year and we have no idea when we can have our wedding."


GOP Fighting "Softball Socialism"

How much more pathetic can the Republicans become?
Starting this week, hundreds of young Capitol Hill aides will indulge in an annual rite of spring here by changing out of their business suits and heading over to the National Mall to play in the Congressional Softball League.

Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.

This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.

During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.

The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "The commissioner has a long-standing policy of punishing success and rewarding failure. He's a Democrat. Waddya' expect?" read another email, from Gary Mahmoud, the coach of BoehnerLand, a team from the office of Republican Majority Leader John Boehner.

The softball coup is a "reflection of how partisan and Republican this town has really become since Republicans took control," responds Mr. Caruso, a longtime Democratic aide who worked for congressmen in the 1980s and '90s. "Republicans come here and want to bash your head in. And if they don't get their way, they pick up the ball and go home."


Chavez Still Playing Santa...

to Bush's Scrooge:
Chavez, a firebrand populist who has clashed repeatedly with President Bush, said in an interview with the Globe that he would extend the program for next year and increase the amount of cheaper oil available. Former US representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, who was among a group that negotiated the deal with Chavez, said customers would have more direct access to the heating oil and would be subject to looser eligibility rules.

Chavez made the pledge in an interview after meeting with a group including Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Quincy, and Kennedy, who is now chairman of Citizens Energy, a nonprofit Massachusetts group. The two had played a key role in negotiating the initial deal with Chavez last year that
12 million gallons of reduced-cost heating oil to Bay Staters this winter, which assisted about 45,000 needy families. Several other states negotiated similar deals.


War on Iran

It is, of course, already underway. We are being led down the primrose path.

Seriously. Think about it. What are the odds of anything good coming of this?
A former Iranian ambassador and Islamic Republic insider has provided intriguing details to Asia Times Online about US covert operations inside Iran aimed at destabilizing the country and toppling the regime - or preparing for an American attack.

"The Iranian government knows and is aware of such infiltration. It means that the Iranian government has identified them [the covert operatives] but for some reason does not want to show [this]," said the former diplomat on condition of anonymity.