Saturday, July 15, 2006


Images from Lebanon.


Suggest a Caption

Because I'm just speechless.


America's Roads: Pwned

Just rather odd. We pay taxes to build roads, and then we pay foreign corporations so that we can use these roads?
Roads and bridges built by U.S. taxpayers are starting to be sold off, and so far foreign-owned companies are doing the buying.

On a single day in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road. An Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway, and Texas officials decided to let a Spanish-American partnership build and run a toll road from Austin to Seguin for 50 years.

Few people know that the tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, go to a subsidiary of an Australian company — which also owns a bridge in Alabama.


Georgia Forced into Tolerance

Not a new story in the South, granted.

But still, heh:
A federal judge has issued a ruling requring a Georgia county to allow students at the White County High School to hold a meeting of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) on the school's grounds. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This is a great victory for the lesbian and gay students and their friends at White County High School," said Beth Littrell the Associate Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia in a statement released today.

Instead of allowing the GSA to meet, the White County School Board voted to take an action purported to prohibit all clubs from meeting. The ACLU, in filing the case in February of this year, challenged the School District's decision to not allow the GSA to meet. Depite the district's claim, extracurricular clubs continued to meet at the school, a fact proven in the case's trial.


They Won't Even Help Us Kidnap People

Or let us build gulags in their country. Out of step, indeed:
Stepping up complaints that Venezuela isn't cooperating in the war on terrorism, U.S. government officials say the country has provided no substantive response to about 130 written requests for information on terrorism suspects over the past three years.

In addition, socialist President Hugo Chavez's government has turned down 20 written requests by the U.S. Embassy in Caracas for interviews with senior Venezuelan counterterrorism authorities - without explanation, the U.S. officials said.

The refusals are fueling concerns that Venezuela, ruled by a president who's condemned the Bush administration while maintaining close ties with countries such as Cuba and Iran, is becoming a dangerous blind spot in international counterterrorism efforts.

"Unfortunately, today in Venezuela we see a regime that is increasingly out of step with the world," Frank Urbancic, the State Department's principal deputy coordinator for counterterrorism, told a hearing Thursday of the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation. He called Venezuela a liability in the fight against terrorism.


One Mustn't Talk of Such Things!

Once again, the Republicans don't mind doing evil, but suddenly become delicate little flowers when it comes to discussing evil. And the Dems do what Dems do. Comply:
Democrats pulled an Internet ad that showed flag-draped coffins Friday after Republicans and at least two Democrats demanded it be taken down on grounds the image was insensitive and not fit for a political commercial.

The ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called for a "new direction" and displayed a staccato of images, including war scenes, pollution and breached levees as well as a photograph of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay doctored to look like a police mug shot.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Late Catblogging

Just home from my 14+ hour workday...


Gitmo Abuse General Picked to Head NATO

A US army general who oversees the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been chosen as Nato's next military head.

General Bantz Craddock, chief of US Southern Command, has been picked to be Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

The choice of Gen Craddock, who succeeds retiring General James Jones, needs approval by the US Senate.

Gen Craddock has normally defended the controversial camp against criticism, although he has ordered investigations into some claims of abuse of suspects.

In one case, he blocked attempts to get a Guantanamo commander reprimanded over abuse claims, insisting the officer had done nothing wrong.


Serial Kidnappers

Is this how we plan to win the hearts and minds?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has until 5 p.m. Friday to hand over a raft of documents to Congress that might shed new light on detainee abuse in Iraq. The documents could substantiate little-known allegations that U.S. forces have tried to break terror suspects by kidnapping and mistreating their family members.

It now appears that kidnapping, scarcely covered by the media, and absent in the major military investigations of detainee abuse, may have been systematically employed by U.S. troops. Salon has obtained Army documents that show several cases where U.S. forces abducted terror suspects’ families. After he was thrown in prison, Cpl. Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader at Abu Ghraib, told investigators the military routinely kidnapped family members to force suspects to turn themselves in.

A House subcommittee led by Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays took the unusual step last month of issuing Rumsfeld a subpoena for the documents after months of stonewalling by the Pentagon. Shays had requested the documents in a March 7 letter. "There was no response" to the letter, a frustrated Shays told Salon. "We are not going to back off this."


Thursday, July 13, 2006


Nothing like seeing homophobic bigots getting screwed:

An anti-gay Kansas church has been slapped with a $5,000 bill for not showing up for a military funeral in Genesee County. Mundy Township police say the group asked in advance for special police protection, but never arrived for a July 1st memorial service for Marine Lance Corporal Brandon Webb.

Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka have held a number of controversial demonstrations at military funerals. They say the deaths are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

A church member says the bill is a joke and will be ignored. She says the Holy Ghost told them at the last minute to stay home.


Heh heh. Heh.

Once again, what a fucking embarrassment:

Other than definitively supporting Israel's right to defend itself, Bush was more timid and wishful than assertive. He spoke in unusually deferential terms about collaborating with other world leaders and pretty much ruled out military action against Iran. His comments about the current situation in Israel suggested a highly unrealistic notion of how well things were going there up until now, and a naiveté about the effect Israel's actions may have on Lebanon's embryonic democratic government.

Stopping off in Germany on his way to the G-8 summit in Russia, Bush reserved his greatest enthusiasm for tonight's pig roast -- technically, a wild-boar barbecue -- bringing it up three times. "I'm looking forward to that pig tonight," he gushed.


Here's an exchange toward the end of the session:

"Q Does it concern you that the Beirut airport has been bombed? And do you see a risk of triggering a wider war?

"And on Iran, they've, so far, refused to respond. Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?

"PRESIDENT BUSH: I thought you were going to ask me about the pig.

"Q I'm curious about that, too. (Laughter.)

"PRESIDENT BUSH: The pig? I'll tell you tomorrow after I eat it."

Pathetic. Via Echidne.


Insightful Media Criticism from a FoxNews Fan

Via digby.


Just Keep on Flushing

What an obscene waste of money:

Yesterday, the White House released its FY2007 mid-session budget review with great fanfare, celebrating its projection that the deficit will be nearly $300 billion this year.

Buried within the mid-session review, the White House reveals that it will ask Congress for another $110 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year.


Cyborg Progress

Scientists have for the first time developed a brain implant that allows people to control electronic devices by thought alone, it emerged yesterday.

The remarkable breakthrough offers hope that people who are paralysed will one day be able to independently operate artificial limbs, computers or wheelchairs. The implant, called BrainGate, allowed Matthew Nagle, a 25-year-old Massachusetts man who has been paralysed from the neck down since 2001, to control a cursor on a screen and to open and close the hand on a prosthetic limb just by thinking about the relevant actions.


Very Bad News

When even China can't sway North Korea, we're in trouble:
Hopes for an early end to the North Korean missile crisis were dashed today after China reportedly failed to persuade its ally to stop test-firing missiles and return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme.


More War

Worse yet:
Israel blockaded Lebanese ports and struck Beirut airport and two military airbases today, widening a military campaign that has seen 53 civilians killed in Lebanon since Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah fighters fired more than 80 rockets into northern Israel in their heaviest bombardment in a decade. The Israeli army said one of the rockets hit Haifa.


Holy Breakfast Taco

What with Jesus appearing on tortillas, all we need is a bacon-related Buddha incarnation and we're set!
A chicken in a Kazakh village has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, state media reported Thursday.

"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.

"We'll keep this egg and we don't think it'll go bad."


It Gets Worse

Israel intensified its attacks Thursday against Lebanon, blasting Beirut's airport and a Lebanese army air base near the Syrian border, and imposing a naval blockade. More than 50 people have died in violence following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Unified in Hatred

A vile display, and one that points up all the ugliness that religion can inspire:
Christian leaders condemned it. Jewish radicals put a bounty on participants. Muslim clerics threatened to flood the streets with protesters. Jerusalem's conflicting religions have found rare common ground: opposition to an international gay pride parade next month.

"We consider this offensive and harmful to the religious integrity of the city," said Sheik Taissir Tamimi, head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"This group of homosexuals, we consider them impure," he said, calling on Palestinians to take to the streets to prevent marchers from entering east Jerusalem, where the holy sites are located. They "must not be allowed to enter Jerusalem."

He added, "especially not through the rear gates, because that would make me very uncomfortable. I might freak out."


Israel Invades Lebanon

Bad news, this:
Israeli tanks and troops today invaded southern Lebanon after Hizbullah captured two soldiers and killed several others.


Goodbye FEMA, Hello EMA!

I'm sure this will fix everything:
The U.S. Senate has voted to abolish the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency and replace it with a retooled new agency.

The provision was part of an amendment to a domestic security budget bill, and calls for replacing FEMA with the Emergency Management Authority to respond to domestic disasters, the New York Times reported.

The measure passed 87-11 Tuesday night, the newspaper said.

As with FEMA, the new agency would remain under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Okay, This Is Serious

Our wine is in danger:
Climate warming could spell disaster for much of the multibillion-dollar U.S. wine industry. Areas suitable for growing premium wine grapes could be reduced by 50 percent _ and possibly as much as 81 percent _ by the end of this century, according to a study Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Mighty White of Him

Bush is just so kind, deciding to extend Geneva Convention rights to the detainees in Gitmo. I'm sure they're ecstatic with gratitude:
The Bush administration, bowing to court edict and political pressure, guaranteed the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions to captives in the war on terrorism and asked lawmakers Tuesday to restore the military tribunals now in limbo.

These "military tribunals," meanwhile, are an utterly idiotic idea. At best, they'll just lead to years of legal challenges to whatever decisions they hand down.



He was the ultimate soul of Pink Floyd (pace Waters fans):
Syd Barrett, the troubled Pink Floyd co-founder who spent his last years in reclusive anonymity, has died, the band said Tuesday. He was 60.


Bowdler Is Rolling Over in His [Content Deleted]

A US federal judge in Colorado has ruled that distributing sanitized Hollywood films edited of crude language and nudity violates the rights of the films' creators.


Ain't Gonna Happen

Can there be any more glaring evidence that we are not liberators, but an occupying force?
Iraq will ask the United Nations to end immunity from local law for U.S. troops, the government said on Monday, as the U.S. military named five soldiers charged in a rape-murder case that has outraged Iraqis.

In an interview a week after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded a review of foreign troops' immunity, Human Rights Minister Wigdan Michael said work on it was now under way and a request could be ready by next month to go to the U.N. Security Council, under whose mandate U.S.-led forces operate in Iraq.

"We're very serious about this," she said, adding a lack of enforcement of U.S. military law in the past had encouraged soldiers to commit crimes against Iraqi civilians.


Monday, July 10, 2006

"Get Real"

It's true: Christian values are no match for a little latex, and the Pacific nations need to wake up NOW:

THE Pacific is ripe for an HIV epidemic like the one Africa is now fighting unless religious governments face up to the sexual promiscuity of their peoples, international health agencies say.

"Papua New Guinea is where many countries in Africa were five to 10 years ago," said Stuart Watson, the program director for UNAIDS Pacific. "Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati and some parts of the Federated States of Micronesia are where PNG was five to 10 years ago and heading in the same direction."

But most governments in the Pacific were "sticking their heads in the sand" and "not allocating adequate resources" to stem the epidemic, he said.

"The only successful initiatives to turn around the epidemic have been programs that actively and aggressively supported the use of condoms," he said.

"[The latest statistics] should serve as a huge red flag for the governments in the Pacific. They need to get real and stop believing their good Christian values will keep them safe. If that was the case, they wouldn't have high STI rates and high numbers of unwanted teenage pregnancies."


Pre-emptive Strike...

by Japan? Why does the idea make me nervous?

JAPAN wants the power to stage a pre-emptive strike against weapons bases in North Korea, political leaders in Tokyo said, even as the United States argued that diplomacy could defuse the threat from Pyongyang.

Among those pushing to "deepen the discussion" on pre-emptive strikes was the candidate most likely to become prime minister in September, Shinzo Abe.

"There is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defence. We need to deepen the discussion," Mr Abe said.

Also making the case for pre-emptive strikes was the director-general of defence, Fukushiro Nukaga, who said that Japan should be able to launch an attack if an enemy "puts a finger on the trigger of a gun".

The Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, said that if missiles were aimed at Japan "we do not have an option of doing nothing until we suffer damage".


More British Troops in Afghanistan...

and the Taliban are re-energized by this:

Taking stock of the violence in Afghanistan, UK defence secretary Des Browne has admitted that the deployment of 3,300 extra troops in the war-ravaged country's south has 'energised' the Taliban.

Browne's assessment of the situation in the restive southern province of Helmand came as he prepared to announce next week the dispatch of reinforcements to Afghanistan, including extra air cover and engineers, The Guardian reported.

"It is certainly the case that the very act of deployment into the south has energised opposition, and the scale of that opposition and the nature of that opposition became apparent when we were deploying," Browne said.


Hard to Argue

Daily, evidence keeps mounting that Ayad al-Samaraie has it right:

On Sunday, masked Shiite gunmen roamed Baghdad's Jihad neighborhood, dragging Sunnis from their cars, picking them out on the street and killing them in a brazen series of attacks. Police said 41 people were killed, although there were conflicting figures that put the death toll at more than 50 and as low as nine.

Sunni leaders expressed outrage over the killings, and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, appealed for calm, warning that the nation stood "in front of a dangerous precipice."

Ayad al-Samaraie, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, blamed members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia for Sunday's killings. He called on the U.N. Security Council to send peacekeepers to Iraq, saying Monday that U.S.-led "occupation forces" cannot protect Iraqis.


Tobacco Still Going Strong

And killing by the millions.

I just have to say, parenthetically, that if you are looking for the feel-good summer read of the year, you should probably not go for the Cancer Atlas:
If current trends hold, tobacco will kill a billion people this century, 10 times the toll it took in the 20th century, public health officials said Monday.

Tobacco accounts for one in five cancer deaths, or 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year, according to two new reference guides that chart global tobacco use and cancer. Lung cancer remains the major cancer among the 10.9 million new cases of cancer diagnosed each year, according to the Cancer Atlas.


The First Step

Here's hoping the insurance companies don't get off the hook due to this quibble:
Attorneys carried files and exhibits into a federal courthouse Monday for what they expect to be a groundbreaking trial on whether insurance policyholders who lost homes in Hurricane Katrina are entitled to recover losses that insurance companies claim were caused by flooding.



How many hearts skipped a beat in NYC today, I wonder:
An explosion and fire leveled a residential building on New York's Upper East Side Monday morning, fire officials told CNN. Eleven people were injured.

The cause appeared to be a gas explosion, New York Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told CNN.

Firefighters rescued a man identified as Nicholas Bartha, believed to be the building's owner. Scoppetta said his injuries were serious but he appeared to be alert.

Fire Department officials said Bartha was a doctor who had his offices there and lived on the upper floors.

Scoppetta said someone in the building sent an e-mail to a person in the neighborhood that "leads us to believe this may have been a suicide attempt."


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bush: Quitter

But, then, we all knew that:
The man who led America's hunt for Osama bin Laden has said the CIA was wrong to disband the only unit devoted entirely to the terrorist leader's pursuit - just at a time when al-Qaida is reasserting its influence over global jihad.

Shutting down the Bin Laden unit squandered 10 years of expertise in the war on terror, said Michael Scheuer, who founded the unit in 1995 and arguably knows more about Bin Laden than any other western intelligence official. He believes the unit was dismantled because of bureaucratic jealousies within the CIA, and that the closure delivers a further setback to a pursuit that has been squeezed for resources for the past two years.