Saturday, May 27, 2006

What a Moron

Bush once again proves himself to be callow and flaky:
When they met in 2001 the new US leader was asked what they had in common and could only think of a shared preference for Colgate toothpaste. Two wars and a political meltdown later, Mr Bush still seemed at a loss to define what bound them together. Asked what he would miss about the prime minister, his first response was: "I'll miss those red ties, is what I'll miss."


Cheney Ignores Bush's Orders

Once again, we see who wears the pants in that relationship:
For the third year in a row the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to disclose data on its classification and declassification activity, in an apparent violation of an executive order issued by President Bush.

"The Office of the Vice President (OVP), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and the Homeland Security Council (HSC) failed to report their data to ISOO this year," the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) noted in its new 2005 Annual Report to the President (pdf) (at page 9, footnote 1).

The Office of the Vice President has declined to report such data since 2002. Yet it is clear that disclosure is not optional.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Our Vanishing Earth

Deserts are expanding:
Deserts in the American Southwest and around the globe are creeping toward heavily populated areas as the jet streams shift, researchers reported Thursday.

And rainforests are unprotected:
Almost all the world's tropical forests remain effectively unprotected even though two-thirds have been designated for some sort of preservation over the past two decades, according to a report released Thursday.


Going the Extra Mile

This man takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously. Pretty damn impressive:
A heart surgeon had to take a break from a mercy-mission operation in El Salvador so he could donate his own rare-type blood for his 8-year-old patient.

Dr. Samuel Weinstein said he had his blood drawn, ate a Pop-Tart, returned to the operating table and watched as his blood helped the boy survive the complex surgery.


Lies and "Methodical" Slaughter

Utterly revolting:
A military investigation has reportedly concluded that US Marines embarked on the "methodical" killing of two dozen Iraqi civilians - including women and children - in what may be the worst incident of its kind since the 2003 invasion.

The Pentagon had said initially that the Iraqis were killed by an insurgent bomb and a separate inquiry is investigating whether there was a cover-up.

Results of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service's (NCIS) inquiry have not been published but officials briefed on the matter said not one civilian had been killed as the result of a makeshift bomb and that the marines had not come under hostile fire.


But How Do You Really Feel, Mr. Galloway?

Oh my:
George Galloway has said the assassination of Tony Blair would be "morally justified" given his support for the war in Iraq.

The anti-war Respect MP said a suicide bomb attack on the prime minister would be "morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq as Blair did".


Going MAD Again

And this time, I think it will be even more dangerous, as we will lack the relative symmetry of the Cold War era:
The world could be pushed back to the brink of destruction, as during the height of the cold war, due to the spread of nuclear technology, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog has said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the former US president John F Kennedy's prediction of a world with 20 or 30 countries with nuclear weapons could become a reality.

That could mean the return to prominence of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, the belief that international security can be maintained by the threat of nuclear annihilation, Mr ElBaradei told Johns Hopkins University's Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in the USA.


Ain't That America

Guns and gasoline. That's what it's all about:
Deputies arrested a store owner accused of shooting out two tires on a customer's vehicle after the customer said he had no money to pay for gasoline, spokesman Jason Ard of the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office said Thursday.

The motorist had pumped $36.50 worth of gasoline, then discovered he didn't have the money to pay for it, Ard said. An argument with the store owner followed.

When the motorist tried to leave, the grocery store owner fired a shot that hit one of the customer's tires, then fired a second shot into another tire after the driver pulled back into the parking lot, deputies said.

Deputies booked Nardeep S. Bhullar, 25, the owner of Singhs Grocery, with aggravated assault, criminal damage to property and illegal discharge of a firearm.

Deputies also booked Chaz R. Watkins, 18, of Holden with theft of gasoline, Ard said.




Fashion Police

Yet another gift we have bestowed upon the Iraqi people:
Gunmen in Baghdad killed the coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two players, reportedly for wearing Western-style tennis shorts, an Iraqi Olympic official said on Friday.
A witness, who asked not to be named, said the shorts-clad tennis players had just left some laundry at the cleaners, when gunmen stopped their car and asked them to step out of the vehicle.

When two did so they were shot in the head. The third was then dragged from the car, thrown on the bodies of his teammates, and shot as he lay on the ground.

The gunmen then kicked the corpses before stealing the car and making their escape, the witness said.

He added that fundamentalists had been distributing leaflets recently warning residents of the area not to wear shorts.


Fait Accompli

The erosion of the distinction between military and civilian powers is underway:
The US Senate has confirmed the appointment of General Michael Hayden as the head of the CIA.

Gen Hayden, approved by 78 votes to 15, is the first active or retired military officer to head the CIA in 25 years.

Gen Hayden, President Bush's nominee for the post, replaces Porter Goss, who resigned earlier this month.

Critics have questioned putting a military man in charge but Gen Hayden says he that will remain independent of the Pentagon.


The People Require Catblogging

Therefore, catblogging shall be provided for the people.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Let's just start flushing money down the toilet, shall we?
A tiny White House commission has spent the past five years and $1.5 million trying to bring a new American tradition to Memorial Day's barbecues, parades and sales: A moment of remembrance, a sigh, perhaps a prayer. Just a 30-second pause.
In general, though, the commission's hyper-energetic executive director, Carmella LaSpada, has been somewhat frustrated by the lack of interest.

"We're a little disappointed," she said. "What has been the problem is that we haven't gotten the support that we would like to have from the media."
LaSpada has been repeatedly criticized in annual federal financial audits for blurring the lines between her tiny federal agency and No Greater Love, a nonprofit agency LaSpada founded 30 years ago, which operates right next door and has a similar mission.

Link via josh shear.


Size Does Matter

Just bizarre. A sex offender avoids prison because he's short:
A US judge has sentenced a man convicted of sexually assaulting a child to probation instead of jail, fearing he is too short to survive in prison.

Nebraska's attorney-general will appeal the sentence as being "far too lenient."

The judge's sentence outraged advocates for child sexual abuse victims. But supporters of short people said it is about time someone recognised the challenges they face.

Richard Thompson, only 1.55 metres tall, had faced up to 10 years in prison after he was convicted of two charges sexually assaulting a minor - the 12-year-old daughter of his fiancee - in Sidney, Nebraska.


Growth Industry

Putting people into small concrete and iron cages is extraordinarily profitable. We should build more and more and more of these facilities, I say:
The people in Ellsworth, Kansas are lucky: it has a prison. That statement may seem a little odd, but for the good people of Ellsworth the jail is a lifesaver. In a region of dying small towns increasingly populated by the aged, the prison is a reliable source of valuable jobs.

Ellsworth was recently part of a scheme offering free plots of land to city dwellers willing to give up the hassles of urban life for small town Kansas, and as I watched a Little League baseball game on a sunny day at the local high school, it struck me as a pretty good deal.

And it was the prison that made it possible. The jobs it provided meant Ellsworth was still viable. Ellsworth's Main Street did not have the boarded up windows that plagued other towns nearby. Its diner was busy with a lunch time crowd (and yes, everyone inside did know everyone else).

No one had a bad word to say about the prison.

That's great for Ellsworth. But there are issues here for American society as a whole that need exploring. This week new figures came out that showed more than 2.2 million Americans now live behind bars, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. It is also a figure that is growing. There are 50,000 more Americans in jail now than this time last year. Amazingly 62 percent of them have not even been convicted of a crime. They are just waiting trial in a system that is clogged. This should be seen as a national crisis. But it is not. In America this is increasingly seen as a business opportunity. And business is booming.


Evil "Sex Activists" Invade Utah Schools!

Be afraid. Be very afraid:
A conservative political action group that regularly fights LGBT issues has asked Utah's Attorney General to investigate a suburban school for allowing a student to publish two pro-gay articles in a student newspaper.

On Nov. 17, when a Gay-Straight Alliance formed at Lone Peak High School in Highland, about 25 miles from Salt Lake City, the student run newspaper, The Crusader, ran two news stories on the GSA - one pro, one con.
Graham and his group say the two stories by Brimhall violate a Utah law that prohibits schools from allowing any activity that results in students revealing information concerning their sexual behavior, orientation or attitudes and a law that requires schools stress abstinence and not advocate homosexuality or sexual activity outside of marriage.

"Sex activists are targeting kids,'' Graham told the Associated Press. "They know that high school newspapers can be highly effective carriers of anti-parent, pro-sex propaganda. School administrators are either complicit or clueless.''



It's frightening to watch the careless political games these people play with our dwindling resources:
Citing the public outcry over $3-a-gallon gasoline and America's heavy reliance on foreign oil, the House on Thursday voted to open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, knowing the prospects for Senate approval were slim.
But the action may be little more than symbolic. Arctic refuge development, while approved by the House five times, repeatedly has been blocked in the Senate where drilling proponents have been unable to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.



How long will these fundamentalist assholes continue to put their own morality ahead of women's health and welfare?
Circumventing normal practices, the nation's top drug regulator seized control of a request to sell the "morning-after" pill without a prescription and delayed the drug's approval, two senior Food and Drug Administration officials told lawyers suing the agency over the decision.

Lester M. Crawford, then acting commissioner of the FDA, intervened in early 2005 as the agency's staff was preparing to authorize over-the-counter sales to women 17 years and older, the two FDA officials said in sworn depositions last month.

The two officials, Dr. Janet B. Woodcock and Dr. Steven Galson, said Crawford effectively cut them out of a process they normally participate in and handled the matter by himself. The two were interviewed for a suit filed by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

Barbara van Gelder, Crawford's lawyer, said he confirmed yesterday in his deposition for the suit that Plan B "was his decision."

After being appointed permanent FDA commissioner, Crawford announced last August that the agency was indefinitely delaying approval to further study the effectiveness of allowing some women to buy the pill over the counter but not others.



So long, Kenny-boy:

A jury found former Enron Corp. chief executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling guilty of lying about the company's financial troubles in a verdict yesterday that could send them to jail for years.

The convictions in a business scandal that sent shockwaves to Wall Street and Washington were a major victory for US prosecutors intent on sending a message that corporate America must clean up its act.

Lay, 64, was convicted of six counts of conspiracy and fraud and faces up to 45 years in prison.

Skilling was found guilty of 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, insider trading and making false statements which, combined, carry a maximum sentence of 185 years. He was not convicted on nine criminal counts.


Call Him

I know that the reality would probably be in no way as gratifying as my imagination makes it out, but I'd still love to see them sit his ass on the witness stand:
Could Vice President Dick Cheney be a star prosecution witness in the perjury trial of his former chief of staff?

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggested in a court filing Wednesday that Cheney would be a logical witness for the prosecution because the vice president could authenticate notes he jotted on a copy of a New York Times opinion column by a critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq

Fitzgerald said Cheney's "state of mind" is "directly relevant" to whether I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former top aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how Libby learned CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and what he later told reporters.

Libby "shared the interests of his superior and was subject to his direction," the prosecutor wrote.

"Therefore, the state of mind of the vice president as communicated to (the) defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether (the) defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how he learned about (Plame's) employment and what he said to reporters regarding this issue," according to the filing.


They Must Have Better Tests

That's the only reasonable explanation, right? Independent scientists are just sloppy.

Drug companies fund a growing number of the studies in leading psychiatric journals, and drugs fare much better in these company-funded studies than in trials done independently or by competitors, researchers reported Wednesday.

About 57% of published studies were paid for by drug companies in 2002, compared with 25% in 1992, says psychiatrist Igor Galynker of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

His team looked at clinical research in four influential journals: American Journal of Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

In the report, released at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Toronto, reviewers did not know who paid for the studies they evaluated, Galynker says. There were favorable outcomes for a medication in about:

• Eight out of 10 studies paid for by the company that makes the drug.

• Five out of 10 studies done with no industry support.

• Three out of 10 studies done by competitors of the firm making the drug.


How Many My Lais?

This can only be the tip of the iceberg. If you put soldiers into an occupancy situation, such incidents are inevitable:

A key member of Congress said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a dozen Marines faced courts-martial for allegedly killing Iraqi civilians Nov. 19. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis, first reported to be 15, was actually 24. He based that number on a briefing from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee on Wednesday.

Hagee visited Capitol Hill in anticipation of the release of two investigation reports, which are expected to show that among the 24 dead civilians, five of the alleged victims, all unarmed, were shot in a car with no warning, Murtha said. The killings took place in Hadithah, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad.

At least seven of the victims were women and three were children.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DeLay Has the Truthiness on His Side

Just hilarious and pathetic. DeLay is turning to Colbert's fake conservative character for support!
A good sign that Tom DeLay doesn’t have the facts on his side: the top source for his latest defense against his critics is Stephen Colbert.

This morning, DeLay’s legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” by “Outfoxed” creator Robert Greenwald.

The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). The headline of the “fact sheet”:

Hollywood Pulls Michael Moore Antics on Tom DeLay
Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind the Movie

DeLay thinks Colbert is so persuasive, he’s now featuring the full video of the interview at the top of the legal fund’s website. And why not? According to the email, Greenwald “crashed and burned” under the pressure of Colbert’s hard-hitting questions, like “Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?”

Apparently the people at DeLay’s legal fund think that Colbert is actually a conservative. Or maybe they’re just that desperate for supporters.


Coalition Time

I've never understood how actual hunters and cowboys and soldiers could bring themselves to vote for such an obvious fraud as George W Bush. But it seems now that the time might finally be ripe to draw outdoorsmen away from the party of Big Oil:
About half of America's hunters and anglers -- including many who said they voted for President Bush in 2004 -- told pollsters they are witnessing firsthand, in the outdoors, the effects of some form of climate change, according to the results of a nationwide survey of sportsmen released Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group based in Washington, D.C.

The sportsmen are seeing climate change in the form of lakes that no longer freeze over for ice fishing in the winter, fall-hunting seasons without enough snow to track deer and other drastic environmental changes they consider a threat to wildlife, the group says.

Of those who say they have seen such changes, the majority attribute those changes to global warming, and many go a step further to blame the burning of fossil fuels as the cause of the warming.


The Death of Communism Slightly Exaggerated

Still going strong in the world's largest democracy:
There is a certain irony to the fact that recent elections in India saw communist parties become the main power-brokers in the world's largest democracy.
Broadly pursuing an agenda that many say will stilt the nation's development, the communists gained power in two of five provinces, claim 63 seats in Parliament and form the backbone of a new coalition Government.
In eastern Bengal state, the Communist-led Left Front was celebrating its seventh consecutive victory, making it the world's longest-running elected Communist Administration: in office uninterruptedly for nearly three decades.
A Communist-led coalition of nine parties also comfortably wrested power from the Congress Party in Kerala state.


Fat and Exhausted

It's the American Way:
Women who fail to get enough shut-eye each night risk gaining weight, a Cleveland-based researcher reported at a medical conference in San Diego today.

In a long-term study of middle-aged women, those who slept 5 hours or less each night were 32 percent more likely to gain a significant amount of weight (adding 33 pounds or more) and 15 percent more likely to become obese during 16 years of follow-up than women who slept 7 hours each night.

This level of weight gain -- 15 kg, or 33 pounds -- is "very clinically significant in terms of risk of diabetes and heart disease," Dr. Sanjay Patel of Case Western Reserve University told Reuters Health.


Go Ahead and Pass It on the Left Hand Side

Pot is safe:
The smoke from burning marijuana leaves contains several known carcinogens and the tar it creates contains 50 percent more of some of the chemicals linked to lung cancer than tobacco smoke. A marijuana cigarette also deposits four times as much of that tar as an equivalent tobacco one. Scientists were therefore surprised to learn that a study of more than 2,000 people found no increase in the risk of developing lung cancer for marijuana smokers.

"We expected that we would find that a history of heavy marijuana use--more than 500 to 1,000 uses--would increase the risk of cancer from several years to decades after exposure to marijuana," explains physician Donald Tashkin of the Uinversity of California, Los Angeles and lead researcher on the project. But looking at residents of Los Angeles County, the scientists found that even those who smoked more than 20,000 joints in their life did not have an increased risk of lung cancer.


More American Sadism

Why oh why do they hate us over there, I wonder:
Prosecutors at the court martial of an Army dog handler said Tuesday he was part of a crew of corrupt soldiers who enjoyed tormenting detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Maj. Matthew Miller said in his opening statement that Sgt. Santos A. Cardona harassed prisoners for "nothing more than the entertainment of the accused and the enjoyment of the other corrupt cops serving on the night shift at Abu Ghraib."

As testimony began, former Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II said he saw Cardona's dog bite Bollendia twice after the prisoner attacked a military police officer in a prison hallway.

Frederick, now a private serving an eight-year sentence for his role in the scandal, said the MPs probably could have subdued Bollendia without the dogs but that he believes the canines were used properly.

Frederick also testified Cardona told him that he and Sgt. Michael J. Smith were having a contest to see how many detainees they could make urinate on themselves by terrifying them with the dogs.


Star Wars Lives

Stupid, stupid, stupid:

In a move that is raising hackles in Moscow, the US is proposing to install an anti-missile defence system in central Europe to counter any future attack from a nuclear-armed Iran.

The plan, for which the Pentagon has requested $56m (£30m) of exploratory funding from Congress, would cost $1.6bn and involve 10 interceptor units.

The most likely base for the system is Poland, followed by the Czech Republic, officials said. For the moment, the scheme ­ first reported in The New York Times this week and which would parallel the anti-missile shield under construction in Alaska and California against attacks from North Korea ­ is largely symbolic and hypothetical.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Post #4444

F*ck Bush and everything he has done to this nation.

That is all.


Ignoring Intelligence

That's what Bush is all about. Here's yet more evidence: They knew, straight from Hussein's own foreign minister, that the WMD story was completely false. And continued to lie about it:
Perhaps most damning is an interview, added for the broadcast version, with Tyler Drumheller, a CIA veteran of twenty-six years' service who was the agency's top spy in Europe until his retirement a year ago. According to him, before the war Hussein's foreign minister had been "turned" and was talking secretly to US intelligence. At first excited by this rare inside look at Hussein's regime, the top dogs at the White House dropped the issue like a hot rock as soon as his information contradicted their overheated rationale for "pre-emptive" war. "The policy was set," Drumheller told CBS correspondent Ed Bradley. "The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

That's how now, more than three years later, after at least two major governmental investigations into pre-war intelligence on Iraq and countless journalistic post-mortems, we are only just finding out that a highly-placed double-agent in Iraq was poking a huge hole in the Hussein-as-WMD-bogeyman story.

"They were enthusiastic" at first, said Drumheller, "that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis." CIA Director George Tenet reported the news that Hussein's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was working covertly for the United States to a White House meeting attended by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Their initial enthusiasm, Drumheller says, quickly turned to cold indifference when Sabri told them the opposite of what they wanted to hear.

"He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," said the ex-CIA official. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'."


Uppity Iraqi

Who does he think he is? It's almost as though he sees himself as the leader of a sovereign nation or something:

THE new Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, had a surprise for his British counterpart, Tony Blair, when he announced at a joint news conference in Baghdad a much speedier and more ambitious timetable than the US and Britain have so far admitted to.

The announcement on Monday was news to Mr Blair and his team. Mr Maliki said there was an agreement with the British: but British officials said there was no agreement. And he said the withdrawals would be in June; officials say it will be July.

Mr Blair was more vague than the Iraqi Prime Minister. He insisted that there was no timetable and that the handover to Iraqi forces would depend on the prevailing conditions.

Both Mr Maliki and Mr Blair's comments were telling. With the formation of an Iraqi government, the US and British can at last begin to plan for specific withdrawals.

Some Bush Administration officials raised eyebrows at Mr Maliki's timetable.


Persona Non Grata

Smart Republicans are avoiding Bush like the plague he is:

President Bush goes to Pennsylvania tomorrow to campaign for embattled Republican House members in the Philadelphia suburbs. But one of the candidates isn't expected to be there.

Mr. Bush "is really doing poorly in our state," says Rep. Curt Weldon, explaining why he won't be on hand and hasn't asked for the president's help. "I've got to win this by myself."


One local paper in suburban Delaware County quoted Mr. Weldon suggesting that he is running from Mr. Bush, saying, "What am I supposed to do?"


Bat. Shit. Insane.

What more can one say about Pat Robertson? This is not a parody:

Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds! How does he do it?

Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman?

One of Pat's secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients.

Discover what kinds of natural ingredients make up Pat's protein shake by registering for your FREE booklet today!



Sometimes it seems that Dixiecrats will never fully die:
Alabama Democrats should get rid of a candidate who denies the Holocaust and another who has advocated killing illegal immigrants, activist Al Sharpton said Monday.

While state party officials say they are powerless to remove the pair from the ballot because the June 6 primary is so close, Sharpton said: "There's no room for these two men in our big tent."

Larry Darby, seeking the party's nomination for attorney general, denies the Holocaust occurred and recently spoke at a gathering of National Vanguard, which describes itself as a "pro-white" organization.

Harry Lyon, who wants to become the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate, has advocated killing illegal immigrants as a way to keep them out of Alabama.


Why the Hell Not?

A part of me thinks it's rather obscene that this should be necessary. But at this point, we might as well:
An Arizona political activist is placing his bets that a proposal to pay one lucky voter $1 million will drive people to the polls.

Dr. Mark Osterloh, a Tuscon ophthalmologist who has run unsuccessfully for governor and the Legislature, filed paperwork Monday to put the idea before state voters on the 2006 ballot.

"Who do you know that doesn't want to be a millionaire? What's the worst thing that could happen? Everybody who's eligible to vote could be voting," he said.

On the other hand, I think this particular proposal should be voted down, on the basis that it discriminates against third parties:
Under the plan, the $1 million awarded to one randomly selected voter after each election would come from unclaimed Arizona Lottery prize money. A voter could get one entry in the drawing for voting in the primary and another for the general election.


Surveillance Society

The instances that are causing such furor these days are but the tip of the iceberg. In this, as in so many things, the government makes good use of the private sector to rob us of our rights:
The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans' finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Often, the agencies and their contractors don't ensure the data's accuracy, the GAO found.

Buying commercially collected data allows the government to dodge certain privacy rules. The Privacy Act of 1974 restricts how federal agencies may use such information and requires disclosure of what the government is doing with it. But the law applies only when the government is doing the data collecting.

"Grabbing data wholesale from the private sector is the way agencies are getting around the requirements of the Privacy Act and the Fourth Amendment," says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington and a member of the Homeland Security Dept.'s Data Privacy & Integrity Advisory Committee.


Monday, May 22, 2006

More Theocracy

Tax dollars v. abortion:
The Wyoming Department of Family Services has funneled tens of thousands of dollars to a grant program administered by a private religious corporation that has funded churches, ministries and religiously oriented anti-abortion centers, an Associated Press investigation has found.


Brutal, Much-Needed Honesty

Kudos to McGreevey for telling a truth that desperately needs telling:
Former Gov. James E. McGreevey once resorted to anonymous homosexual trysts at highway rest stops, according to recently released excerpts from his memoir being released later this year.

McGreevey — who proclaimed himself "a gay American" in 2004 while announcing his impending resignation as governor — describes his long struggle with his homosexuality in the book The Confession.
According to the excerpts published Sunday in The Star-Ledger of Newark, McGreevey engaged in the secret encounters because he feared having a relationship with a man would ruin his chances of success as a politician.

"So, instead, I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops — a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory," McGreevey wrote.
According to the excerpts, McGreevey said he also became "as avid a womanizer as anybody else on the New Jersey political scene."

"I knew I would have to lie for the rest of my life — and I knew I was capable of it," McGreevey wrote. "The knowledge gave me a feeling of terrible power."

He said he became an avid student of human behavior during his rise from the state Parole Board to Woodbridge mayor to governor, and that allowed him to keep up the charade.

"I studied the moves, figured out what worked and what didn't, practiced and perfected my perfect inauthenticity," he wrote.


Marketing Sexual Health

Planned Parenthood is very, very smart:

Shoppers come to this upscale brick strip mall to pick up bouquets of cookies decorated like soccer players, or $39.99 bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape. Soon, they'll be able to get emergency contraception, too.


Sister affiliates in states including California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Alabama have opened 87 express clinics in the last two years, and more are in the works. But Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said this one will take the focus on the customer to a new level.

"Ours will have a very different look and feel," Stoesz said. "We're going to the women where they spend their lives, to help them solve some of the problems in their lives."

The clinic will not perform abortions. Instead, lotions, essential oils and decorative carrying cases for pills and condoms will beckon shoppers inside, where they can also get oral contraceptives, pregnancy tests and screening for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea — all in about 20 minutes. If customers are interested, the clinic may add massages and other spa services later, spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.


Some Good News!

Proof that humans really can get something right. In this case, CFCs:
The ozone hole over the Antarctic is likely to begin contracting in the future and may disappear by 2050 because of a reduction in the release of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting gases, according to a team of Japanese scientists.

According to a report posted Friday on the institute's Web site, the hole is at its largest now but is likely to gradually start contracting around 2020 and disappear by around 2050.

The team's findings are in line with research by other scientists.


Still Petty. Still Willfully Ignorant.

That's our president:
Is President Bush likely to see Al Gore's documentary about global warming?

"Doubt it," Bush said coolly Monday.



Cold busted:
Allegedly scamming a Virginia businesswoman could prove to be a major mistake for a Democratic congressman from New Orleans.

The FBI revealed Sunday that Rep. William Jefferson, under investigation for bribery, was videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer, according to a court document released Sunday.

At one meeting captured on audiotape, Jefferson chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa



Yet another colossal blunder by Bush and Co.:
Personal data on about 26.5 million U.S. military veterans was stolen from the residence of a Department of Veterans Affairs data analyst who improperly took the material home, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said on Monday.

The data included names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for the veterans, Nicholson said, but "there is no indication at this time" that the data had been used for identify theft.


Why a Warship?

If we need a symbol of human triumph over adversity, why on earth must it take this form? Why not something not designed to wreak further injury and destruction?
IN A city still emerging from the floods of Hurricane Katrina, a ship has begun to rise from the ashes of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Bringing together America’s two great calamities of the 21st century, the USS New York is being built in New Orleans with 24 tonnes of steel taken from the collapsed World Trade Centre.

There is no shortage of scrap metal in New Orleans these days, but the girders taken from Ground Zero have been treated with a reverence usually accorded to religious relics. After a brief ceremony in 2003, about seven tonnes of steel were melted down and poured into a cast to make the bow section of the ship’s hull.

Some shipworkers say the hairs stood up on the backs of their necks the first time they touched it. Others have postponed their retirement so they can be part of the project.

One worker, Tony Quaglino, said: “I was going to go in October 2004 after 40 years here, but I put it off when I found out I could be working on New York. This is sacred and it makes me very proud.” Glen Clement, a paint superintendent, said: “Nobody passes by that bow section without knocking on it. Everybody knows what it is made from and what it’s about.”

The ship is being built by Northrop Grumman on the banks of the Mississippi. It should be ready to join the US Navy in 2007.


Epistle from the Dark Ages

In what world does Ratzi live, in which low birth rates are a bad thing?
Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that low birth rates in Canada are the result of the "pervasive effects of secularism" and asked the country's bishops to counter the trend by preaching the truth of Christ.

Benedict, who has spoken out several times in favor of large families, blamed Canada's low birth rate on social ills and moral ambiguities that result from secular ideology.

Canada legalized same-sex marriage last year.

"Like many countries ... Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism," Benedict told visiting bishops from Canada. "One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate."

Canada's birth rate in 2005 was 10.5 births for every 1,000 people, according to Statistics Canada.


Another Black Monday?

Economics being The Dismal Science offers precious little in the way of predictive power, but still, the similarities are unnerving:
CONDITIONS in the financial markets are eerily similar to those that precipitated the “Black Monday” stock market crash of October 1987, according to leading City analysts.

A report by Barclays Capital says the run-up to the 1987 crash was characterised by a widening US current-account deficit, weak dollar, fears of rising inflation, a fading boom in American house prices, and the appointment of a new chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

All have been happening in recent months, with market nerves on edge last week over fears of higher inflation and a tumbling dollar, and the perception of mixed messages on interest rates from Ben Bernanke, the new Fed chairman.


Miners' Lives Cost Too Much to Save

I mean, really. Let's not get all hysterical and start fighting about whose mines killed who:
Although the anguish and anger remain raw from January's fatal accidents at the Sago and Aracoma mines in West Virginia, the coal industry wants to roll back or amend most of the federal emergency rescue rules adopted in response to them.

In testimony over the past month at four federal Mine Safety and Health Administration hearings around the country, industry officials and lobbyists offered condolences to the families of the 14 miners who lost their lives in January and voiced general support for safer mining practices, but they challenged the core provisions of the emergency rules aimed at helping miners escape after an underground fire or explosion.


Nagin Hangs On

Rather surprising, given the new, less--erm--"chocolate" demographics of post-Katrina New Orleans:

Ray Nagin, New Orleans' outspoken mayor, was narrowly re-elected to a second four-year term after a campaign waged in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina in which he and his rivals fought over the slow pace of recovery from the storm and struggled to envision the future of the city.

It was an election in which the realities of the campaign issues were reflected in the voters' everyday experience: neighbourhoods bereft of their residents and filled with abandoned buildings, waterlogged cars sitting by the sides of roads, litter and waste left uncollected.

Mr Nagin was pummelled by his rivals for what they called his incompetence and his excessive willingness to pin the blame for his own shortcomings on state and federal officials. In the end, though, the incumbent proved just adept enough at reviving his diverse political base - predominantly poor African Americans, along with white business owners and middle-of-the-road voters attracted by his independence from Louisiana's entrenched political machines - to squeak home.


Cranky Landlords

How dare they think we owe them anything at all for the use of these facilities?

The unmitigated gall of these people:

Kyrgyzstan warned on Friday that the US risked eviction from its last military base in central Asia unless it agreed to a 100-fold increase in rental for aircraft landing and refuelling facilities at Manas outside the capital Bishkek.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the Kyrgyz president, said the US must pay $200m (€156m, £106m) a year, up from $2.7m, for the use of Manas, which was set up in 2001 as a launch pad for US-coalition forces operations to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said there would be "no room for haggling" in the next round of talks with the Pentagon opening in Bishkek next week.


Women Choosing

You read that right. Apolcalypse is nigh.

Women! Choosing!

For young women with a world of choices, even that monthly curse, the menstrual period, is optional.

Thanks to birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives, a growing number of women are taking the path chosen by 22-year-old Stephanie Sardinha.

She hasn't had a period since she was 17.

"It's really one of the best things I've ever done," she says.

A college student and retail worker in Lisbon Falls, Maine, Sardinha uses Nuvaring, a vaginal contraceptive ring. After the hormones run out in three weeks, she replaces the ring right away instead of following instructions to leave the ring out for a week to allow bleeding. She says it has been great for her marriage, preventing monthly crankiness and improving her sex life.

"I would never go back," said Sardinha, who got the idea from her aunt, a nurse practitioner.

Using the pill or other contraceptives to block periods is becoming more popular, particularly among young women and those entering menopause, doctors say.

"I have a ton of young girls in college who are doing this," says Dr. Mindy Wiser-Estin, a gynecologist in Little Silver, N.J., who did it herself for years. "There's no reason you need a period."

Such medical jury-rigging soon will be unnecessary. Already, the Seasonale birth control pill limits periods to four a year. The first continuous-use birth control pill, Lybrel, likely will soon be on the U.S. market and drug companies are lining up other ways to limit or eliminate the period.

Most doctors say they don't think suppressing menstruation is riskier than regular long-term birth control use, and one survey found a majority have prescribed contraception to prevent periods. Women have been using the pill for nearly half a century without significant problems, but some doctors want more research on long-term use.


The Question Endures

And once again we shall stand by and watch, appalled, as the powerful, such as Rumsfeld, go unpunished:

As the Iraq insurgency grew rapidly in the spring of 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld complained to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in the country, that he was not seeing results from the interrogations of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers.

"Why can't we figure this enemy out?" Sanchez recalled Rumsfeld asking in frustration, according to a previously unreleased transcript of a July 2005 interview by senior Army investigators. "Was there intense pressure? You bet. You bet there was intense pressure" to extract more from the interrogations, Sanchez said -- some of it self-imposed and some of it emanating from "different levels of the chain of command."

The involvement of senior Pentagon officials in policymaking associated with the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib later in 2003 will once again be debated in a military court at Fort McNair beginning today, during one of the last two trials involving Army personnel accused of the abuse recorded in photos circulated around the world.


Our Carceral Society

They got the wrong kind of bars in those places, take it from me:
Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 U.S. residents, behind bars by last summer.

The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in 2004, the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates.

Of particular note was the gain of 33,539 inmates in jails, the largest increase since 1997, researcher Allen J. Beck said. That was a 4.7 percent growth rate, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in people held in state and federal prisons.