Saturday, June 17, 2006

So Much for That Idea

The "security clampdown" has done wonders:
About 30 people have been killed and 80 injured in a string of attacks in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The targets included a bus, two markets and two Iraqi security checkpoints.

The attacks came in defiance of a major security clampdown launched in Baghdad on Wednesday, which has seen thousands of extra troops on the streets.

The bombers seem determined to prove they can continue despite the curfews, checkpoints and combing operations, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

At least six attacks happened in Baghdad and another in Mahmudiya, just south of the capital. Some were car bombs and others were mortar attacks.



Shouldn't the right wing be calling for the immediate arrest of these Texas ranchers for aiding and abetting illegal immigration?
A few Texas ranchers tired of costly repairs to cattle fences damaged by illegal immigrants have installed an easier route over the U.S.-Mexican border - ladders.

"It's an attempt to get them to use the ladders instead of tearing the fences," said Scott Pattinson, who owns one of a group of ranches known as La Copa.

La Copa is just south of a U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint that went up 75 miles from the border several years ago, sending migrants through the brambly scrub of nearby ranches instead.

Some immigrants walk for hours or days to skirt the checkpoints in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Their feet have worn visible paths through a forest of cactus and mesquite otherwise thick enough to conceal them from Border Patrol helicopters overhead and agents only a few hundred yards away.

The paths lead from one ripped-down section of fencing to another. Texas ranches can be so large it could be days before owners notice the hole in the fence, long after the livestock possibly escapes.

Paul Johnson protects his 2,700-acre exotic game ranch of zebras, scimitar-horned oryx and wildebeests with about 10 miles of high wire fence, and joined his neighbors in placing ladders along the way.

Border Patrol agent J. Kicklighter, who was patrolling the privately owned land this week, said he couldn't blame the ranchers for trying to protect their investment.


O'Reilly: Still a Class Act

Nothing like a "journalist" bullying people by threatening near-lynchings for disagreeing with him:
Referring to callers he called "nuts," Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said on the October 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show that "we should go to their house[s]." He was prompted by a caller who, in a discussion about outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, told O'Reilly, "If you want true, no-spin facts about this case, you can't do better than [sic]." O'Reilly then replied, "We got another nut on the air," complaining: "That's the worst part of doing this." He then added, "I can get their addresses when they call in. We can trace them back, and we should all go over and surprise them."


Friday, June 16, 2006

The Media Monopoly

The Nation supplies a handy diagram to help keep track of who owns the information that makes it into your brain.

And Amy Goodman comments on what such ownership means:
During the Persian Gulf War, General Electric owned NBC (it still does). A major nuclear weapons manufacturer--which made parts for many of the weapons in the Gulf War--owned a major television network. Is it any surprise that what we saw on television looked like a military hardware show? According to the New York Times, CBS executives "offered advertisers assurances that the war specials could be tailored to provide better lead-ins to commercials. One way would be to insert the commercials after segments that were specially produced with upbeat images or messages about the war."


TIA: It's Back, and It's Worse

Just grand:

Your tax dollars at work: Congress attempted to kill the ill-conceived Terrorist Information Awareness program in 2003. But instead, the Rasputin-like program -- designed to somehow find terrorists from a sky-high pile of credit card bills, car rental receipts and travel records -- came back, bigger and stronger and arguably worse than ever, National Journal's Shane Harris reports today (article not available online -- yet, anyway).

How could a program designed to monitor the minute data of millions of innocent Americans be any worse? By stripping its privacy protections and abuse safeguards, and opening the database up to browsers all over the national security community.


Colossal Failure

No, no, I'm not referring to Bush.

Rather, I'm referring to my plan to post solicited catpics today. No one has responded, so no pics will be posted today.

You have only yourselves to blame.


Preserving the Sanctity of the Roller Rink

Lawsuit, anyone?
The owners of a roller skating rink have fired an 18-year-old woman they called one of their "Top 10" employees because she moved in with her boyfriend, violating a company ethics policy that prohibits "live-in relationships of an intimate nature."

"I loved my job and I didn't want to leave," Crystal Plotner told the Coeur d'Alene Press this week.

She said she was fired after casually telling her bosses, Skate Plaza owners Marvin and Pat Miller, that she planned to move in with her boyfriend in mid-May.

Before terminating her, Plotner said the Millers said she and her boyfriend should "check out their church." She declined.

"Even if I had gone to their church, I don't think it would have saved my job," said Plotner, who worked at Skate Plaza for three years and made $9.25 an hour. "They didn't want me to live with my boyfriend. They were pushing their religion on me and I was offended. I don't have the same religious beliefs as they do."

Pat Miller praised Plotner, saying that "In all the years that we've employed people, she was one of the Top 10. It was a sad day when she left because everybody loved her."

But Miller added, "We've had our (employee) handbook out for many years and it does say if you live in an immoral way with a member of the opposite sex or same sex, you will be terminated."

Miller said that in talking with Plotner, they were approaching the issue as employers, friends and Christians.

"Our advice is not to do this," Miller added. "It's fine and certainly her business that she did, but either we throw the handbook out or follow what's in it."
Um... throw out the handbook, Miller.



Wow. Good for them!

Prompted by a Fort Lewis Army officer's decision to refuse to fight in Iraq, the First United Methodist Church of Tacoma has declared itself a sanctuary for servicemen and servicewomen who also don't want to go to Iraq.

The 300-member congregation's administrative council voted last weekend to open its doors beginning this Saturday after 1st Lt. Ehren Watada announced that he thinks the war in Iraq is illegal and that he has sought to resign his commission.

A statement from the church on Wednesday said that service members "who are unable to deploy to combat areas for reasons of conscience" can find protection behind its doors.

"Our initiative was because of Lieutenant Watada's gesture and a clear sense that we have, as a reconciling congregation, deeply involved in justice issues throughout the city, that any war, particularly this one, is inconsistent with Christian teachings," the Rev. Monty Smith said Wednesday night.

Smith said the church stands "in solidarity" with others who hold similar social-justice convictions. The church essentially is providing a protective space and resources to those contemplating whether to resist deployment to Iraq, he said.


A Call for Kittens

Miriam is away, alas. And my workday is going to be insane and will keep me away from our three for a long time.

Hence, I am inviting all readers to send me catpics, so that I can make good use of the five free minutes I have at work tomorrow, and post a potpourri of felinity.

Come one, come all!


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dazed and Confused

Not to mention lazy. The "Minutemen" just keep on impressing me with their sterling qualities:
The Minutemen civilian border-patrol group has hired a contractor to finish building 10 miles of fence along the Mexican border.

Construction on the fence began May 27, when about 150 supporters turned out for the groundbreaking, but the number of volunteers then dwindled.

"We don't want to put up something that will just be a symbol," said Al Garza, the group's executive director. "We want to make sure it's permanent, properly structured and done right."

As few as four people were observed working on the fence recently, said Cecile Lumer of the humanitarian aid group Citizens for Border Solutions.

"From the beginning, the numbers they have projected have always fallen very short of the reality," Lumer said.

One of the ranch owners, Jack Ladd, said he hoped the fence would keep Mexican livestock off his property, but he doubted it would keep people out.

"We want to make it clear that while we oppose illegal immigration, we weren't necessarily trying to keep Mexicans off the land," he said.

Um, what? The Minutemen were and now are not volunteering to build a fence to keep livestock, but not immigrants out?



From Stupid to Crazy Stupid

More evidence that anti-gay bigotry causes severe brain damage and delusional thinking:
Earlier this month, efforts to ban gay marriage by amending the Constitution failed badly in Senate. Now the religious right is considering appealing to state legislatures to call a Constitutional Convention under an obscure provision of Article 5 that would allow amendments to the Constitution without congressional approval.


Like, 2500 Lives Back?

How the GOP really views American troops:

QUESTION: Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the president on that?

SNOW: You know, it's a number, and every time there's one of these 500-benchmarks, people want something.



A Marine Corps corporal seen in a video singing about killing members of an Iraqi family says the song was only a joke and not tied in any way to allegations that Marines killed as many as two dozen unarmed civilians in Haditha last year.


Checks and Balances

Thank goodness we have such a wise system, in which a deliberative legislative body is in place to rein in the power of the executive:


Cold Front in Hell

Bush does something good!!!
President Bush is creating a vast new marine sanctuary Thursday, extending stronger federal protections to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and its endangered monk seals, nesting green sea turtles and other rare species.

The nation's newest national monument, which will be given a native Hawaiian name based on suggestions from state residents, covers an archipelago stretching 1,400 miles long and 100 miles wide in the Pacific Ocean. It's home to more than 7,000 species, at least a fourth of them found nowhere else.

Bush was announcing his creation of the nation's 75th national monument at a White House ceremony. The decision immediately sets aside 140,000 square miles of largely uninhabited islands, atolls, coral reef colonies and underwater peaks known as seamounts to be managed by federal and state agencies.

Conrad C. Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will manage nearly all of it, said the new protected area would dwarf all others.

"It's the single-largest act of ocean conservation in history. It's a large milestone," Lautenbacher said. "It is a place to maintain biodiversity and to maintain basically the nurseries of the Pacific. It spawns a lot of the life that permeates the middle of the Pacific Ocean."


Democracy Flatlines

American democracy has been in critical condition for some time now, but I think they just pulled the plug:
A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain noncitizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin, and to hold them indefinitely without explanation.



The military death toll in Iraq has reached 2,500, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said.

The number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion was 1,972 as of 9 a.m. today New York time, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Martin said. Including members of the U.S. military who have died from other causes, such a illness or accidents, the total death toll is 2,500, Martin said.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Isn't it about time that bookburning be deemed passe?
The Chicago Public Library says that about 100 books were destroyed after someone set a fire in the section for gay and lesbian literature.

Newsradio 780 is told that someone is believed to have set fire to books with a cigarette lighter and that about 90 gay and lesbian books were destroyed, and that about 10 books destroyed in the African American literature section.

Police say they are investigating but are not calling it a hate crime investigation at this point.

No one was injured.

The first floor of the library stayed open, but the second floor - where the fire was - was closed for a few hours yesterday afternoon.

Gay activists say they are concerned. This month is Gay Pride Month, and the Lakeview neighborhood, where this happened, is the center of the gay community.


Now That's Sanctity, Baby!

Assuming that these women are not planning on marrying each other, of course.

Brides-to-be prepare to take part in a contest to win a $25,000 wedding in New York, June 12, 2006.


Another BIG Step Forward

I blogged earlier about HUD's positive actions in New Orleans.

Now, some more good news, thanks to the unions!
In what may be the start of the city's development boom, the AFL-CIO plans to invest $1 billion to develop 10,000 affordable homes and a new downtown hotel.

The investment, confirmed Monday by the AFL-CIO, is the labor coalition's most ambitious funding project ever. It also is one of the largest yet for New Orleans and seeks to bring new housing to a city where Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 100,000 homes.

The money will come from the AFL-CIO's 40-year-old Housing Investment Trust, which invests worker pensions in affordable housing and requires union labor on the projects.

"So little has been done," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says, referring to the dearth of new development in the nine months since the storm. "It feels like this is the city that America forgot, and I hope our investment will jump-start other investments."


I'm Going to Home Depot!

They've got everything to make your home look better:
Large quantities of drugs were found inside merchandise from at least two Home Depot stores in Massachusetts, and authorities are investigating, police said Wednesday.

A contractor late last week discovered two 50-pound "bricks" of marijuana wrapped in plastic bags inside a bathroom vanity he had purchased at a Home Depot store in Tewksbury, said Chief of Detectives Lt. Dennis Peterson.

The estimated street value of the marijuana is around $145,000, Peterson said.

Similar incidents have occurred in other parts of the state.

A plumber purchased a vanity in western Massachusetts on Monday in which he later found 3 kilograms of cocaine and around 40 pounds of marijuana, with a total estimated street value of $250,000, according to the Southwick Police Department.

Southwick Police Lt. David A. Ricardi said the item was purchased at "a local hardware store" but would not confirm it came from The Home Depot.

According to Peterson, a third individual discovered large quantities of illegal drugs inside Home Depot merchandise.

Peterson would not provide the details of that incident but said it was part of the overall investigation and that Tewksbury police were working with their Southwick counterparts and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Tewksbury police and DEA officials conducted a search Tuesday of about 12 Home Depot stores statewide and found other bathroom vanities that contained drugs, Peterson said. He would not elaborate on how many drug caches were discovered in the search.


The Fiendish Subtlety of American Cultural Imperialism

I always thought it was about McDonalds and Madonna. How naive of me:
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian state has removed nursery rhymes such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep" from its primary school syllabus because they are "too Western," newspapers said Wednesday.


Well, He Was a Cheerleader, After All

Iraq is great!
In a Rose Garden news conference barely more than six hours after his return from Baghdad, a buoyant Bush insisted that U.S. troops would remain there until Iraqi forces can do the job on their own.
"I was inspired to be able to visit the capital of a free and Democratic Iraq," Bush said. Of his first direct contact with the newly named al-Maliki, Bush said, "I saw first hand the strength of his character and his deep determination to succeed."
Republicans are also great!
President Bush predicted on Wednesday that Republicans will maintain majority control of the House and Senate this November despite polls showing voters favor putting Democrats in charge.

"I believe we're going to hold the House and the Senate because our philosophy is one that is forward-looking and optimistic and has worked," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference.


Another Step Taken

A little bit of good news from New Orleans:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday it will reopen 1,000 additional New Orleans public housing units this summer and increase the amount it pays in rent subsidies to help bring the city's poor people back.


It's CYA Time in Guantanamo

Journalists are getting the boot:

Journalists have been ordered to leave Guantanamo Bay and local military authorities have had their permission to invite reporters to the base overruled following last week's suicides at the US detention camp.

Reporters from the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times are being flown home this afternoon having arrived at the base last Saturday, just hours after two Saudis and one Yemeni detainee committed suicide in their rooms with improvised nooses.

The removal of access comes amid unprecedented criticism of the camp and follows yesterday's publication of one of the most frank media reports yet to have emerged from the tightly controlled base.

The article contains scenes of officials discussing harsh treatment of detainees, including a planned operation to forcibly strip British detainee Ahmed Errachidi and put him in a new uniform.

"There is not a trustworthy son of a [bitch] in the entire bunch," one is quoted as saying.


Dog Bites Man Story of the Day

A religious woman wants to hand out pamphlets near a school in Texas.

Eh, let her have her fun. I'm sure the students will have plenty, too, at her expense:
A Fort Worth grandmother can resume handing out religious literature to students outside Crowley High School, as long as she doesn't block a section of sidewalk where students board school buses.

That agreement, announced Monday, is expected to end a federal lawsuit by Janice Colston against Crowley school officials, who barred her in April 2005 from distributing pamphlets on the sidewalk in front of the school.

Lawyers for Colston and the school district filed a joint dismissal motion last week in U.S. District Court. Judge Terry Means is expected to approve the settlement.



The blessings of peace and liberty continue to rain down upon Iraq:
Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers searched cars and secured roads in Baghdad on Wednesday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched a major security crackdown aimed at ending the violence that has devastated the capital.

Despite the stepped up security measures, however, a parked car bomb struck the northern district of Qahira, killing at least four civilians and wounding six, police Lt. Ali Mitaab said.

The crackdown, which army officials said was dubbed Operation Forward Together, began a day after President Bush paid a surprise visit to Baghdad, promising continued U.S. support for Iraqis but cautioning them that "the future of the country is in your hands."


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Screwing the Indigenous

It ain't just for the US government! The Aussies have long held their own in this contest:

The Senate is to inquire into non-payment of wages to indigenous workers over decades.

Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, who proposed the inquiry, said it was appropriate that the Senate investigate this historical injustice by which Aboriginal workers were either underpaid or paid nothing at all, their wages supposedly held in trust.

Under the terms of the inquiry, the Senate legal and constitutional references committee will conduct a broad-ranging investigation and report back by the end of the year.

Senator Bartlett said one expert estimated the total of wages, savings and entitlements not paid to indigenous people amounted to more than $500 million for Queensland alone.


Rove Slips Away

Unsurprising, and depressing:
Top White House aide Karl Rove has been told by prosecutors he won't be charged with any crimes in the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's identity, his lawyer said Tuesday, lifting a heavy burden from one of President Bush's most trusted advisers.

Attorney Robert Luskin said that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald informed him of the decision on Monday, ending months of speculation about the fate of Rove, the architect of Bush's 2004 re-election now focused on stopping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in this November's elections.



In the case of warehouse v. community garden, the winner is...

About 350 people grow produce and flowers on the 14 acres of privately owned land, in an inner-city area surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks. The garden has been there for more than a decade, but the landowner, Ralph Horowitz, now wants to replace it with a warehouse.

At daybreak Tuesday, 120 deputies, some with batons and riot helmets, showed up to serve an eviction order that a judge signed last month. Deputies used saws to cut down the chain-link fence around the site.

Dozens of protesters chanted, "We're here and we're not going to leave!" in Spanish, blew whistles and blocked traffic in the surrounding streets. Protesters linked arms and sat on the tracks. Officers dragged some protesters away.


About Bloody Time, and Not Nearly Enough

And the GOP will fight it tooth and nail, of course:

The national minimum wage of $5.15 is now at its lowest level in 50 years when adjusted for inflation, according to a new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research released by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) today. The lawmakers said the unfortunate milestone should shame the U.S. Congress into finally acting on behalf of America’s lowest-paid workers.

Later today, Hoyer will offer an amendment to raise the national minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. Congress has not raised the minimum wage since 1997.

“The minimum wage is lower than it has been at any time since 1956. All Americans should get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Congress’ refusal to raise the minimum wage shows an utter disrespect for millions of Americans who work hard every day and still struggle to meet even the most basic needs,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.


Monday, June 12, 2006

George W on the Rumsfeld Head:

It's not a tumah!!


Jesus Needs No Captive Audience

The very notion of spending tax money on "faith-based" programs to be imposed upon the incarcerated is an atrocity. And yet, I am rather surprised to find that the courts concur with me on this:
It's a court case that could have major implications for President Bush's faith-based initiative: Is an evangelical Christian prison rehabilitation program, paid for by taxpayer dollars, constitutional?

The answer, issued by a federal district judge in Iowa on June 2, was a resounding "no."

Judge Robert Pratt found that the InnerChange program run by Prison Fellowship Ministries in an Iowa prison was "pervasively sectarian" and that the facts "leave no room to doubt that the state of Iowa is excessively entangled with religion" through the program.

The decision, which will be appealed, is a major victory for those who believe America has gone too far in supporting religious or semireligious activities using public money.

But given the broad spectrum of faith-based organizations that offer programs tackling social ills from substance dependency to illiteracy, the decision also raises questions over where to draw the line of demarcation when it comes to mixing religion and social services, and whether there's a right way and a wrong way for the government to encourage the involvement of faith-based groups.

The judge criticized the lack of real choice on the part of inmates who wanted a similar, nonsectarian option, and the fact that prisoners were offered a variety of special privileges and incentives to join InnerChange, such as better cells and special visitation rights. Mr. Pratt ordered Prison Fellowship Ministries, which runs the program, to repay the $1.5 million it received from the state and to terminate the program within 60 days.


Colbert's Hatred Is Pernicious

He needs to realize the power he wields, that conservative bastard:
Polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea may be turning to cannibalism because longer seasons without ice keep them from getting to their natural food, a new study by American and Canadian scientists has found.


Same Old Playbook

Hell, it's worked before. Why not just stick with the big fat stupid lie, again? What's a little--well, okay, a lot--of poverty and death among, um, friends, anyway?

White House adviser Karl Rove said Monday that Republicans facing midterm elections should campaign on the economy's strength and discuss the war in Iraq with no qualms.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Queen Bea Blogging!


Global Capitalism Is Just Weird

In my considered, profound, Marxist opinion.

Carpenters lift a coffin shaped in the form of a Coca Cola bottle in Teshie, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital of Accra, January 22, 2004. Funerals are important social occasions in this West African country and elaborate, brightly coloured coffins have become an art form.


Just Because You're Paranoid, Don't Mean They're Not After You

Chávez is taking no chances, and is paying close attention to the snafu we've created in Iraq:
The drills here and in other towns each weekend are a key part of Mr. Chávez's rising military profile, which includes arms purchases and what he contends will be the training of as many as two million citizens to fight a guerrilla war, all in preparation for what Mr. Chavez insists is the threat of invasion by the United States.

Officials at the American Embassy in Caracas have said repeatedly that no such plans exist. But their denials do not appear to convince Mr. Chávez, who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup tacitly supported by Bush administration officials.

The two sides have become each other's foils in a war of insults and ideology that has begun to harden into actual policy.


Alberto Garrido, a military analyst in Caracas, says Mr. Chávez is using the insurgency in Iraq as the inspiration for how he would fend off an attack by the United States, which Mr. Chávez says covets Venezuela's oil, the largest proven conventional reserves outside the Middle East.

"In Chávez's view, the regular forces aren't as important," Mr. Garrido said, citing public comments by Mr. Chávez. "By taking inspiration from Iraq, he considers the eventual fusion between civilian and military forces as the best method for striking back at an enemy with far superior firepower."


It Begins

Fortunately, Alberto doesn't pack much of a wallop. Here's hoping we remain so lucky:

Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, developed Sunday from a poorly organized tropical depression in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and appeared likely to carry heavy rain to Florida, forecasters said.

By midday, the storm had maximum sustained wind near 45 mph, up 10 mph from early in the morning, the National Hurricane Center said.

It was expected to continue growing but without developing into a hurricane.

"The satellite presentation of the storm is not very impressive, so not much additional strengthening is anticipated," said hurricane specialist Richard Pasch.