Saturday, June 03, 2006

Take Him Down

Fuck Phelps:
The father of a Maryland Marine who died in Iraq plans to sue an extremist group that picketed his son's funeral, according to his lawyer.

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., the father of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder of Westminster, will sue the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., for unspecified actual and punitive damages, according to attorney Sean Summers of York. The civil suit will claim defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Summers said he would file the suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The plans to sue were first reported by the Carroll County Times.

Matthew Snyder, 20, died March 3 after an accident in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. The accident did not involve combat, the Defense Department said.

He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Summers said it never occurred to the elder Snyder that protesters would be at his son's funeral. "He was hoping for closure, and Mr. Snyder didn't get it," the lawyer said.

About seven members of the group picketed outside St. John Catholic Church during the Marine's funeral, carrying signs that read "Thank God for dead soldiers," "You're going to hell," and anti-gay epithets.

Group members believe that American soldiers are dying because of the nation's tolerance of gay people.


Coors and Christ

Better than mom and apple pie, these days:
Colorado, there stands a holy shrine called Coors Field. On this site, named for the holiest of beers, a team plays that has been chosen by Jesus Christ himself to play .500 baseball in the National League West. And if you don't believe me, just ask the manager, the general manager and the team's owner.

In a remarkable article from Wednesday's USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with "character." And according to the Tribe of Coors, "character" means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs." When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it's usually because their beliefs are offensive.


Killing Iraqi Civilians Is OK

Americans, a priori, could never do anything this wrong! QED:
A US military probe today cleared US troops of wrongdoing in a March raid in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi in which Iraqi civilians died, while Iraq's government sought US files on civilian deaths in Haditha in November.

The exoneration in the Ishaqi case came amid growing impatience from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over incidents involving civilian deaths. Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by US troops are common, but few have been confirmed by official investigations.

Police in Ishaqi, 100 km north of Baghdad, said in March that six adults and five children were shot dead in the US raid on a home on March 15.


For Art History Geeks

And: It would be Bacchus, wouldn't it?
Archaeologists studying an ancient mosaic found by workers laying cable south of Rome have been astonished to discover that it is an optical illusion.

Viewed one way up it is a bald old man with a beard, but turned the other way round it is a beardless youth.

Roberto Cereghino, a government archaeological official, told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that it was "a very beautiful work, of immense significance".

He said it appeared to be a depiction of Bacchus.


But Those Were 1965 Dollars, Mind You

And... why the dog?
A couple tried to hire a hit man to kill their three grandchildren and daughter-in-law to stop them from testifying against their son in his rape trial, authorities said.

The couple, ages 60 and 59, were charged with four counts each of criminal conspiracy to commit murder. They were being held without bond.

Police said they initially offered $100 to an undercover sheriff's deputy to kill their son's wife, their 10-year-old granddaughter, two step-grandchildren, ages 14 and 16, and the family dog. More money was promised after the killings, said Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Christie Mysinger.

The couple's 31-year-old son has been jailed since November on 22 charges of sexual battery on a child, lewd and lascivious molestation and showing obscene material to a minor, court records show.


The Bush Economy Is Great!

Well, except for this:
Job growth slowed and wages stalled in May, the Labor Department reported yesterday, providing more evidence that the economy is cooling.

Employers added 75,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the weakest gain since October, when hiring nearly halted after a series of destructive hurricanes. The report followed others this week showing that the economy is losing some momentum because of rising interest rates and high energy prices. The housing market softened, auto sales dropped and manufacturing activity dipped last month.

"With evidence that the economy is slowing, the employment data suggest firms have grown more cautious of taking on additional workers," economists at PNC FinancialServices Group Inc. wrote in an analysis for clients.

And, well, this:
From biology to business, women now earn most of the diplomas in fields that men used to dominate. But they're still not paid as much as their male counterparts.

Newly released federal statistics suggest women have caught up with men while pursuing advanced degrees in areas like law and medicine.

But the numbers say the women who've made such strides over 25 years are still paid less than men in comparable jobs. They also lag behind in landing top positions on college campuses.


Back on Top

We are Number One:
Many rich nations' emissions of greenhouse gases rose in 2004, led by a U.S. rebound to record highs after a dip since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, according to data on Friday.


Three Words You Never Want to Hear

"Unsterilized prostate probes":
Letters are going out this week from the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center to 2,270 patients, warning that they are among thousands nationwide who may have been exposed to an improperly sterilized probe during their prostate biopsy.

In a biopsy, a tiny sample of tissue is removed for examination under a microscope, usually to find out whether it is cancerous.

VA officials emphasize that the risk is tiny and theoretical -- no patient is known to have become infected during use of the device.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Sofa Surveillance

How long until they combine this technology with that of the Texas rancher who mounted a .22 caliber rifle to be used via the Internet to hunt deer, and let the hunt begin!
A US state is to enlist web users in its fight against illegal immigration by offering live surveillance footage of the Mexican border on the internet.

The plan will allow web users worldwide to watch Texas' border with Mexico and phone the authorities if they spot any apparently illegal crossings.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said the cameras would focus on "hot-spots and common routes" used to enter the US.


Friday Catblogging!

And don't miss Miriam's late night catblogging...


More College Idiocy

Campus GOP organization just cannot stop embarrassing themselves. It's rather a bizarre compulsion:

Freeze out environmentalist scare tactics with a little humor. The Oklahoma University College Republicans gave out free snow cones to students for an event they called "Global Cooling Day."

Stage an event like this one to grab the attention of your campus and raise awareness on the falsities of the global warming phenomenon. Engage with students and debunk some of the myths and cool the hyperbole surrounding the issue.

OU CRs simultaneously used the event to promote their first meeting, sign-up members, and sell CR shirts. A tent and tables were set up at the busiest spot on campus, and OU CRs gave away nearly 1,000 snow cones each day.


Lawsuit Against NSA Proceeds

Warrantless tapping is, in fact, illegal. Shocking, I know, but this judge, at least, is angry enough to keep the lawsuit alive:

A federal judge will go ahead with hearings in a legal challenge to a warrantless domestic surveillance program run by the National Security Agency.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor also criticized the Justice Department for failing to respond to the legal challenge, The Detroit News reported Friday.

The NSA and the Justice Department declined immediate comment. The Bush administration has said that hearings would reveal state secrets that affect national security.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Detroit and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed lawsuits against the program in January, saying it violates Americans' rights to free speech and to privacy.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cats vs. Flowers

Guess who won...


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sinking Down

Yet, if we do something, we can save the city:
Everyone has known New Orleans is a sinking city. Now new research suggests parts of the city are sinking even faster than many scientists imagined — more than an inch a year.
The research, reported in the journal Nature, is based on new satellite radar data for the three years before Katrina struck in 2005. The data show that some areas are sinking four or five times faster than the rest of the city. And that, experts say, can be deadly.

"My concern is the very low-lying areas," said lead author Tim Dixon, a University of Miami geophysicist. "I think those areas are death traps. I don't think those areas should be rebuilt."
"You have to change how you provide short- and long-term protection," said Bea, a former engineer in New Orleans. He said plans for concrete walls don't make sense because they sink and can't be easily added onto. In California, engineers are experimenting with lighter weight, reinforced foam-middle levee walls, he said.

Dixon and his co-author Dokka disagree on the major causes of New Orleans' not-so-slow fall into the Gulf of Mexico.

Dixon blames overdevelopment and drainage of marshlands, saying "all the problems are man-made; before people settled there in the 1700s, this area was at sea level."

But Dokka said much of the sinking is due to natural seismic shifts that have little to do with construction.

Dokka also thinks all is not completely lost. Smarter construction can buy New Orleans some time.

"We've made the pact with the devil by moving down here," he said. "If we do things right, we probably can get another 100-200-300 years out of this area."


More Progress in Iraq

As the Pentagon reports that insurgency is worse than ever, Iraq resorts to heavy-handed measures that smack of desperation in Basra:
The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency in Basra yesterday after one of the most violent months in the British-controlled sector since the 2003 invasion.

The new prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, vowed to use "an iron fist" against warring factions, tribal leaders and criminal gangs who have brought the city to the brink of chaos. More than 140 civilians were killed last month and the British army suffered its highest casualty rate since the invasion in 2003, with nine killed in two roadside bomb attacks and a helicopter crash.


Some Arguments Just Don't Fly

Exempli gratia:
Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals, sparking widespread outrage.

The Charity, Freedom and Diversity (NVD) party said on its Web site it would be officially registered Wednesday, proclaiming: "We are going to shake The Hague awake!"

The party said it wanted to cut the legal age for sexual relations to 12 and eventually scrap the limit altogether.

"A ban just makes children curious," Ad van den Berg, one of the party's founders, told the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) newspaper.

"We want to make pedophilia the subject of discussion," he said, adding the subject had been a taboo since the 1996 Marc Dutroux child abuse scandal in neighboring Belgium.

"We want to get into parliament so we have a voice. Other politicians only talk about us in a negative sense, as if we were criminals," Van den Berg told Reuters.

The Netherlands, which already has liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution and gay marriage, was shocked by the plan.


Yeah, Right

Why do I get the feeling he hasn't lost just a whole lot of sleep over it?
President Bush said Wednesday he was troubled by allegations that U.S. Marines had killed unarmed Iraqi civilians


Going after the Estate Tax, Again

I truly hope these early signs mean that the Dems will put up a real fight:
Democrats have prepared for an upcoming Senate battle over repeal of the estate tax by releasing estimated savings the repeal could equal for oil executives and members of the Bush Administration, RAW STORY has learned.

The Senate is set to consider legislation (H.R. 8) to repeal the tax, which has been law since 1916, next week. At the time it was first repealed by President Bush, the tax applied only to estates worth more than $1 million. The current plan is to gradually phase the tax out, until it is permanently repealed in 2010. In April of last year, the House passed a bill removing the law's sunset provision, making the repeal permanent upon Senate approval.

Pointing to data indicating that 99 percent of the estate tax is paid by the highest-earning 5 percent of Americans, a report released by the Democrats indicates that CEO's of major oil companies stood to gain significantly from a repeal. Democrats' estimates put oil company gains at at least a "$200 million windfall." The family of one oil executive, Lee Raymond (the former ExxonMobil CEO, pictured above left), alone stood to receive a tax break worth over $160 million.

Democrats have also once again issued a 2005 Government Reform Committee report indicating that repealing the estate tax repeal would save the President, Vice President, and 11 cabinet members anywhere from $91 - 344 million.


Last Throes!

Pessimists will say that this sign of strength is actually a sign of strength. But we know better, don't we?
The Pentagon reported yesterday that the frequency of insurgent attacks against troops and civilians is at its highest level since American commanders began tracking such figures two years ago, an ominous sign that, despite three years of combat, the US-led coalition forces haven't significantly weakened the Iraq insurgency.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bonus Catblogging!

Courtesy of my friend Sorcha.

Her name is Beatrix, aka Queen B:



Anyone who has any ability to think knows that this is the emptiest of empty posturing.

What's next, a press conference opposing flag burning?
President Bush reportedly will hold a Rose Garden press conference on June 5 to press Congress to enact the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

The conservative Weekly Standard reports that Bush will gather supporters of the amendment behind him as he makes his pitch.


A Christian Education

The author of The Purpose-Driven Life and head of a megachurch, is set to help market a new way to instill "Christian" values (such as shouting "Praise the Lord" while killing people) in the next generation:
Time magazine has described Mr. Warren as one of the nation's most influential Evangelical Christian leaders. He describes himself as a "stealth evangelist" and describes his training programs as "a stealth movement, that's flying beneath the radar, that's changing literally hundreds, even thousands of churches around the world." He claims that he has sold tens of millions of copies of The Purpose Driven Life by developing a worldwide network of pastors.

The international director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver, is a former investment banker who serves on the Advisory Board of the corporation created in October 2001 to develop and market this game. The creators plan to market their game using the same network marketing techniques that Mr. Warren used to turn The Purpose Driven Life into a commercial success. For example, they plan to distribute their merchandise through pastoral networks, especially mega-churches.

This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.


Fighting the Anti-Choicers in SD

And winning, for now:
A petition to repeal the South Dakota abortion ban is due to be filed today, with organizers claiming that nearly 38,000 signatures have been collected.

Under South Dakot law, just 16,728 of those signatures need to be valid in order to nullify implementation of the ban until after it goes before voters in the November election. The law was set to go into effect July 1.

At press events in seven communities, supporters of the repeal touted the strength of their efforts, boasting that all of the petition's 1,200 signature-gathering volunteers from 138 towns were unpaid volunteers.


Venezuela: Crippled by US Arms Embargo

Or, well, maybe not exactly crippled so much as emboldened:
Venezuela is buying helicopters, boats and military transport planes in defense deals worth about $2.7 billion, modernizing its military as tensions grow between leftist President Hugo Chavez and the United States.

Flush with oil profits but blocked from buying U.S. arms, Chavez is increasingly looking to countries like Russia and Spain as suppliers.

A cargo ship carrying 30,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles is headed to Venezuela with the first shipment of an order totaling 100,000 guns to arrive by year's end. The military is looking to buy more submarines, and Chavez is planning an even bigger deal for Russian fighter jets.

"The United States is failing in its attempt to blockade us, to disarm us," Chavez said after announcing the first shipment of Kalashnikovs.

Washington has pointed to the mounting defense deals with concern and urged Russia and Spain not to do business with Venezuela. Both countries have shrugged off the warnings.


Securing Russia's Precious Bodily Fluids

Pass the pure grain alcohol and rainwater, please:

Moscow's influential mayor said on Tuesday the city banned gay activists from holding a parade because it is morally cleaner than the West, which is caught up in "mad licentiousness".

The gay activists tried to hold their protest against homophobia and discrimination at the weekend despite the ban, but were detained by police, abused by militant Christians and attacked by neo-fascists.

They had wanted to lay flowers at the grave of the unknown warrior, a monument to those who died defeating Nazi Germany, but police blocked their path.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Schools Are Prisons

Foucault's insights are becoming more and more obvious:
Using a program similar to the Global Positioning System already in use in consumer and commercial vehicles, Gateway Communications Inc. has been testing the technology on three TUSD buses since January.

If the program is approved for a districtwide rollout in the fall, the company would give TUSD's 12,000 bus-riders from fifth grade down a plastic watchband, a small black box hooked to a belt loop or a key fob. The devices will let administrators, teachers and parents know when students get on a bus, when they get off, where they are at noon and when they're dropped off.

Parents would pay about $20 to participate in the program and buy the equipment. Part of the fee would go toward school fund-raising efforts.


Climate = Jews

And Gore = Hitler.
Last week, Sterling Burnett – a senior fellow at the Exxon-backed National Center for Policy Analysis – compared Al Gore to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

In this weekend’s Washington Post magazine, meteorologist Bill Gray – one of the most prominent climate skeptics – directly compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler:

Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.

It’s telling that so many of the attacks on Al Gore and his movie are ad hominem, not substantive. There really is no credible scientific rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth, so people are forced to attack the messenger.


Memorial Day

Walt Whitman puts it well, as John Nichols notes:

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the
pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming
full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they are flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring
And every blow of the great
convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is
brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave
awaits them.)
And nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike
more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large
transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march
you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my
soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give
you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you


Our Success Story Continues

Remember Afghanistan?
A deadly traffic accident Monday involving U.S. troops sparked the worst rioting in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban regime, with hundreds of protesters looting shops and shouting "Death to America!" At least eight people were killed and 107 injured, an official said.


Failing Children

And pharmaceutical companies are by and large resting on their profits, doing nothing:
More than 2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa where there is no access to treatment and death almost certain, seven leading child advocacy organizations said.

"We are failing children," said Dean Hirsch, chairman of the Global Movement for Children, which issued an urgent appeal to governments, donors and the pharmaceutical industry to recognize a child's right to treatment as fundamental.

The movement, made up of seven organizations, released a report Friday that painted a grim picture of the impact of the disease on children: 700,000 children were infected with the HIV virus in 2005, bringing the total to 2.3 million, and 570,000 died of AIDS — one every minute.

Less than 5% of HIV-positive children have access to the pediatric AIDS treatment they desperately need, the report said.


Battle Fatigue

More and more, this latest story from Iraq points out the inevitable consequences of using our military as an occupying force in a nation whose populace is not particularly friendly:
WITNESSES to the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by US marines in the town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a lance corporal in a roadside bombing.

Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as the marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbour across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for the lives of himself and his family.



I'm so glad to see this one made it through Katrina. I used to hang out with the white alligators (leucistic, not albino--they have blue eyes) during my lunch breaks when I worked there.


Stripping on the Goddess

Wrong on so many levels:
The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association urged the government Saturday to take action against a sherpa who reportedly stripped on top of Mount Everest.

The Himalayan Times had reported Friday that the Nepali climbing guide, whose name it gave as Lakpa Tharke, stood naked for three minutes in freezing conditions on the 29,035-foot summit of the world's highest peak.

If confirmed, he would be the first person known to have stripped atop Everest, considered by Nepali Buddhists as a god.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, head of Nepal's top mountaineering body, said he could not confirm that the incident had happened.

"But if he did it, it is very shocking because Sagarmatha is the goddess mother," he said, using the mountain's Nepali name.


Chavez Has Some Nerve

He's asserting the right of South American nations to sovereignty. Crazy talk:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday bluntly accused the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia of trying to stir up military rebellion against his leftist ally Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Chavez, at the forefront of a leftist shift that is challenging U.S. influence in Latin America, routinely trades insults with Washington, which he blames for a short-lived coup that briefly toppled his own government in 2002.

"The (U.S.) embassy in Bolivia is already whispering in the ears of the Bolivian military to turn them against the government of Evo Morales," said Chavez, wearing a traditional red poncho and bead necklace, at the sacred pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanaku high in Bolivia's Andean plateau.


Signing Statements R Us

Bush's impression that he can ignore whatever laws he doesn't like is being well fostered:
The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.

The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush administration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.