Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm Not Touching You!

Gramsci, attempting to get Tista to play, engages in that classic sibling technique of "I'm not touching you! I'm not tooooouuuuuuuuching yoooooouuu!"

It is one of Gram's favorite methods of getting Tista to chase him. That, and putting his paw on Tista's forehead.


Um, Just Kidding?

No offense intended by that whole "evil and inhuman" thing I said about your most holy prophet. Sorry:
A statement from the Vatican failed to dampen growing worldwide Muslim anger over quotes in a papal speech that touched on the concept of holy war.

The Vatican last night said Pope Benedict XVI had not intended to offend when he quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor as saying the Prophet Muhammad had introduced only "evil and inhuman" ideas into the world.


The FCC Can't Handle the Truth

Every last member of that commission should be forced to read The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian:
The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.


Ugly Is on the Rise in East Germany

A damn shame:

THERE was not a skinhead to be seen in this Baltic town at the heart of Germany’s neoNazi revival. No thugs with steel-tipped paratroop boots, no ranting xenophobes.

Yet the signs are clear: the far Right is on the march in Eastern Germany.

The neo-Nazis, picking up an astonishing level of support on the home turf of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, look set to win a big chunk of seats in regional elections on Sunday. And to make sure that middleclass voters do not panic ahead of the ballot, they have donned camouflage.

“What did you expect,” asked Michael Andrejewski, the new face of the extreme Right. “That I would beat your brains out with a baseball bat?” Blinking from behind gold-framed glasses, Herr Andrejewski looked as threatening as a maths teacher — unlike the five young men who formed a protective semicircle around their leader. “You’ll be wanting to move along,” said one of them with menacing politeness. One quickly got the point. The slogan on his T-shirt read: “Granddad was right”.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Irony

For the US to deem the arms purchases of another nation "excessive" is just all kinds of hypocritical:
Recent weapons purchases by Venezuela seem excessive and have raised concerns that it may be funneling arms to leftist rebels elsewhere in Latin America, the U.S. military chief for the region said on Thursday.

Asked whether Colombia's Marxist guerrillas could have received some of the 100,000 Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles that Venezuela bought in June, Gen. John Craddock, who heads the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, said: "I don't know.

"It appears that the number is in excess of the number of folks they have in their active military force," said Craddock, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Latin American economic conference.

Citing discussions with military officials from Latin America, he said: "I do know that there is concern that small arms (from Venezuela) could end up in the hands of insurgents in the region and create more instability."

He did not refer specifically to populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a former army officer who is locked in confrontation with Washington. But the United States has banned arms sales to Venezuela, citing Chavez' close ties to Iran and Cuba.

Chavez often accuses the White House of planning to invade his oil exporting country and has ordered troops and civilian reserves to train for a war against U.S. imperialism.

"We're in a situation now where the military relations are strained," Craddock said of U.S.-Venezuelan ties.


Goodbye, Ney

Another criminal Republican goes down

Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney has agreed with the Justice Department to plead guilty to at least one criminal charge in a deal that could be announced as early as Friday, Capitol Hill sources said Thursday.

The Justice Department and Ney’s attorney would not discuss whether a deal has been reached.

“I don’t have anything I can share with you right now,” said William Lawler, a lawyer for Ney. Ney’s congressional office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But Capitol Hill sources close to Ney said the plea agreement was ready to be publicized on Thursday, but an announcement was delayed to avoid influencing a special election in Ney’s congressional district.


Gays Are...


No, wait, it's even worse. They're...

A cancer!

But, seriously, folks. You homophobic assholes just need to fuck off. Really:
The prelate of the Anglican Church in South Africa says it is time for conservative church leaders in Africa to stop attacking gays and get on with more important issues.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane issued the call in advance of an Anglican conference in Rwanda of church leaders from Africa, Asia and Latin America and a day after Episcopal bishops in the US were unable to reach an accord on gay clergy.

The controversy over gays within the worldwide Anglican Church have been fuelled by the denomination's leaders in Africa - primarily Nigeria. Ndungane said Thursday he fears the divisions will tear apart the Church.

"We should try to find solutions of living with difference and otherness. Diversity is the creation by the Almighty... we need to embrace, all of us, in our differences and seek to walk together," Ndungane told reporters.



Unnerving, to say the very least
. And we're paying for it:
Move over, G.I. Joe. The Army has found some recruits in its latest effort to enlist soldiers. In a campaign targeting teenagers, the Army announced on Thursday a new version of its "America's Army" video game, incorporating digital likenesses of eight actual soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're trying to put a face on soldiers so that kids can relate to them," said Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the America's Army project. "It's hard to relate to a big green machine. This is a chance to get to know some of them who have done really outstanding things."

The "America's Army Real Heroes" program will also include a series of $10 action figures, based on the same real soldiers, in store shelves by Christmas, Wardynski said.

The program comes after the Army fell short on recruiting last year, the first time since 1999. As of last month, the active-duty Army had signed up 72,997 new soldiers, nearly 3,000 above its year-to-date target. The Army National Guard was about 200 below its target of 63,240, while the Army Reserve was almost 2,000 below its year-to-date target of 33,124.

Wardynski said the Army spends about $2.5 million annually on the free PC game, a first-person shooter in which players go through a simulated boot camp or team up with other real players online in three-dimensional battles.

About 27 million copies of the taxpayer-funded game have been distributed since its July 4, 2002, debut, and there are about 7.5 million registered users.


Aw, Leave 'er Alone, eh?

Silly Conservatives

The Canadian government will introduce a motion to re-open the issue of same-sex marriage the week of September 25 a Montreal newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The French language La Presse reports that the motion will be presented shortly after Parliament resumes sitting and quoting party sources the paper says that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper expects to lose the vote.


Get Rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell

Why anyone, gay or straight, would be fighting to join up while this bullshit war is being mis-waged is beyond me, but:
The three young men who tried to enlist at an Army recruiting station here appeared to be first-rate military material.

Two were college students, and the other was a college graduate. They had no criminal records. They were fit and eager to serve at a time when wars on two fronts have put a strain on American troops and the need for qualified recruits is great.

But the recruiter was forced to turn them away, for one reason: they are gay and unwilling to conceal it.

“Don’t judge me because of my sexuality,” said one of the three, Justin Hager, 20, a self-described Republican from a military family who has “a driving desire to join” the armed forces. “Judge me because of my character and drive.”

As the Pentagon’s search for soldiers grows more urgent, gay rights groups are making the biggest push in nearly a decade to win repeal of a compromise policy, encoded in a 1993 law and dubbed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” that bars openly gay people from serving in the military.

The policy, grounded in a belief that open homosexuality is damaging to unit morale and cohesion, stipulates that gay men and lesbians must serve in silence and refrain from homosexual activity, and that recruiters and commanders may not ask them about their sexual orientation in the absence of compelling evidence that homosexual acts have occurred.

The push for repeal follows years of legal setbacks, as well as discord among gay rights groups about how, or even whether, to address the issue. Now, rather than rely on the courts, advocates are focusing on drumming up support in towns across the nation, spotlighting the personal stories of gay former service members and pushing a Democratic bill in the House that would do away with the policy.


RIP Ann Richards

"Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
--Ann Richards


South Asia History 101

If this comes as any measure of surprise to you, go back and read newspapers and magazines from the '80s:

In a speech to the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf blamed the United States and the West for "breeding terrorism in his country by bringing in thousands of mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then leaving Pakistan alone a decade later to face the armed warriors," according to an article at Pakistan's Daily Times published on Wednesday.

"Musharraf told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday that Pakistan was not the intolerant, extremist country often portrayed by the West, and terrorism and extremism were not inherent in Pakistani society," the Daily Times article continues.

Excerpts from article:


“Whatever extremism or terrorism is in Pakistan is a direct fallout of the 26 years of warfare and militancy around us. It gets back to 1979 when the West, the United States and Pakistan waged a war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,” Musharraf told EU lawmakers.

“We launched a jihad, brought in mujahideen from all over the Muslim world, the US and the West…We armed the Taliban and sent them in; we did it together. In 1989 everyone left Pakistan with 30,000 armed mujahideen who were there, and the Taliban who were there,” he said, adding that Pakistan had “paid a big price for being part of the coalition that fought the Soviet Union.”



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Even Britain's Calling It

Lord Falconer speaks
Guantánamo Bay is a "shocking affront to the principles of democracy" and a violation of the rule of law, the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, said today.

The criticism from the highest-ranking official in the British legal system represents the most direct government attack yet on the US military detention camp.

Despite suggestions in recent months that Guantánamo could be closed soon, the US president, George Bush, last week signalled that the camp, in Cuba, would remain open for the long term.



Of course, we cannot call it a loss...
The most senior US marine commander in Iraq has been forced to downplay a secret intelligence report which asserted that the United States had "lost" Anbar province, the main heartland of Sunni resistance to the US occupation.


Anything Goes

That's what the Bush government is all about. Let's just give the whole damn country away to private corporations:
Leases issued for deep-water drilling in the Gulf in 1998 and 1999 released oil companies from paying the royalties even if the price of oil escalated to incredible heights, as they have in recent months.

Congress and the Interior Department Inspector General have been trying to dissect the blunder with their own investigations. CBS News has obtained the Inspector General's findings in advance of his appearance on Wednesday before the House Government Reform Committee.

Specifically, Inspector General Earl Devaney's prepared remarks say that the best he can tell, after interviewing dozens of witnesses and examining 11,000 e-mails, the royalty snafu was simply the result of "bureaucratic bungling...(and the) stove-piping of various responsibilities."

But in the bigger picture, he faults an entire culture within the Interior Department, whereby he says mistakes are too often overlooked and there's a lack of accountability.

"Short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior," Devaney's prepared testimony says. "Ethics failures on the part of senior Department officials — taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias — have been routinely dismissed with a promise 'not to do it again.'"

Devaney goes on to say, "I have watched a number of high-level Interior officials leave the Department under the cloud of ... investigations into bad judgment and misconduct. Absent criminal charges, however, they are sent off in the usual fashion, with a party paying tribute to their good service."


More Bigotry in Florida

An Orlando man has filed a complaint with Orlando Human Rights Board after being denied fertility services because of his sexual orientation.

Dennis Barros, an Orlando veterinarian, and his partner decided to have a child with a surrogate mother who agreed to carry an implanted egg.

They sought fertility services with Dr. Frank Riggall, a practicing fertility doctor.

After initially agreeing to provide services for the couple, Dr. Riggall's offices sent Barros a letter saying they were denying him fertility services because performing the procedure would breach FDA guidelines.

The formal complaint was filed Wednesday by Lambda Legal which is representing Barros. It cites Orlando's non-discrimination ordinance which includes gays and lesbians.

"Dr. Barros was denied services not because of any real medical risk, but solely because of his sexual orientation," said, Gregory Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office.

"The FDA's recommendations against sperm donation by men who have sex with men are scientifically unfounded, furthermore, they are clearly not applicable in this case."


65 More

In Iraq:
Police found the bodies of 65 men who had been tortured, shot and dumped, most around Baghdad, while car bombs, mortar attacks and shootings killed at least 30 people around Iraq and injured dozens more.


As Always, the Civilians and the Children Suffer

Afghanistan burns:

Afghanistan - Suicide bombings have killed 173 people in Afghanistan this year, NATO announced Wednesday amid a sharp escalation of violence that saw at least 40 militants slainand an aid worker gunned down in the west.

A suicide attacker was the sole victim of a bombing inside a Sunni Muslim mosque in the city of Kandahar, while militants fired two rockets into the eastern city of Jalalabad ahead of a visit by President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Police said there were no casualties.

NATO spokesman Maj. Luke Knittig said 151 of the year's suicide attack victims were Afghan civilians, including children, while the remainder included NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan authorities.


Pissing Off Poseidon

Never a good idea:
Athens- A large number of factories and other industrial sites across Greece were continuing to discharge large quantities of unprocessed toxic waste into rivers, lakes and the sea despite European Union pressure, a report released Tuesday said. According to a study by the Hellenic Environmental Inspectorate (EYEP), alleged environmental violations by factories and other industrial sites occurred at 90 per cent of sites checked last year, up 30 per cent from 2004.

Of the 145 checks conducted by the inspectorate last year, 43 per cent were done on manufacturers, 24 per cent on waste processing plants and 6.5 per cent on quarries.

The study found that the most common violations were inadequate waste processing and illegal activities in protected areas.

It also expressed concern about the quality of water in several rivers, with dozens of manufacturers found to be dumping waste and creating large concentrations of chromium, lead and nitrates.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

RIP Tyrone Garner

He brought a little touch of sanity to Texas law:
Tyrone Garner who challenged Texas' sodomy law to the US Supreme Court and won a landmark decision has died.

In 1998 Garner and John Lawrence were charged under the sodomy law after police burst into Lawrence's Houston home in search of an armed intruder and discovered the two men engaged in sex.

Police later said the tip there was an intruder came from an anonymous source.

Garner and Lawrence pleaded no contest to the charge and were fined $200 each and ordered to pay court costs. The convictions barred both men from holding several types of jobs in Texas. If they moved to other states, they could have been required to register as sex offenders.

The pair later challenged the constitutionality of the Texas law and in 2003 it reached the US Supreme Court.

In a 6 - 3 decision, the court said that states cannot make laws regarding the private sexual conduct of Americans.

The ruling said the Texas law violated the Due Process clause of the Constitution. Writing for the majority Justice Anthony M. Kennedy called the ban on gay sex an "unconstitutional violation of privacy."

"[It} demeans the lives of homosexual persons," Kennedy wrote.


There Will Be Hell Toupee

Radar magazine gives insight into the 2006 congressional candidates you won't find anywhere else.

A sample:

Dead Animal Hair

Crazy Old White Guy Hair

Extreme Symmetry Hair

Just Nuts Hair


Misdirected Animosity

Steve Irwin's spinning in his grave

Stingrays found dead on two Queensland beaches may have been the victims of "revenge attacks" for the Crocodile Hunter's untimely death, the BBC reports.

Ten of the animals have been discovered "mutilated" - two on a beach north of Brisbane and eight at another undisclosed location.


Well Done, Bush

Nothing says national security like massive trade deficits in oil:

The U.S. trade deficit hit a record $68 billion in July as surging global oil prices pushed America's foreign oil bill to the highest level in history.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the July deficit jumped 5 percent from the June imbalance. Analysts had expected the deficit to worsen slightly, but the overall imbalance was worse than expected and surpassed the old monthly record of $66.6 billion set last October.


Feeling the Love in Syria

Our lucky embassy staff
Four gunmen shouting religious slogans attempted to storm the US embassy in Damascus today.

Reports said at least one Syrian guard was killed and a car blown up outside the building before Syrian security forces stopped the attack.

At one stage, a grenade was thrown into the embassy's yard by the assailants, who were believed to be Islamist militants. Witnesses said the gunmen and security forces exchanged heavy fire before the attackers were overwhelmed.


Penn Puts It Pithily

On Bush: "he's Beelzebub -- and a dumb one."


Morales Wants to Talk about Human Rights; Bush Not Interested

But Bill and Jimmy are:

Before embarking on a trip that includes the United States, Bolivia's leftist leader Evo Morales said on Monday he would like to meet President George W. Bush to tell him "some truths about human rights."

Morales, a close ally of U.S. critic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is scheduled to visit with former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter next week. But he will not hold talks with Bush because, as he told reporters, the U.S. leader has not asked him to do so.

"If he asks me, I would like to (meet up) to tell him some truths about human rights, about social and economic problems, and (I would like to tell him) that aggressions feed rebellion, and share with him some experiences," Morales said.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Abu Ghraib Still in Action

Just under "new management":

THE notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is at the centre of fresh abuse allegations just a week after it was handed over to Iraqi authorities, with claims that inmates are being tortured by their new captors.
Prisoners released from Abu Ghraib last week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects there.


Our Pakistani Allies Still Love Protecting Rapists

And punishing the victims who come forward:
In a setback for women's rights in Pakistan, the ruling party in Islamabad has caved in to religious conservatives by dropping its plans to reform rape laws.
Statutes known as the Hudood ordinances, based on sharia law, currently operate in Pakistan. They require a female rape victim to produce four male witnesses to corroborate her account, or she risks facing a new charge of adultery.


Arrest That Man

By his own standards, isn't he desecrating the flag?


Six More Dead

A suicide bomber hits the funeral of a man killed by a suicide bomber:

KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber strapped with explosives killed at least six people Monday at a funeral for a respected provincial governor who died in a suicide blast the day before.

The explosion happened as more than 1,000 mourners in eastern Khost province met to bury Gov. Abdul Hakim Taniwal, a scholar who had returned from Australia to help rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

Four police officers, one tribal elder and one other person were killed in the attack, officials said. At least 30 people were injured, although four Cabinet ministers at the funeral escaped unhurt.

"This was the work of terrorists," said Merajuddin Pathan, the former governor of Khost, who attended the funeral. "They have no mercy. They think they can carry on with this, but they will never win."


Mayor Vetoes Living Wage

Chicago doesn't move forward after all; it's more important to Daley to have monstrosities such as Wal-Mart in his city:
Mayor Richard Daley vetoed an ordinance Monday that would have required mega-retailers to pay their workers more than other employers after some of the nation's largest stores including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. warned the measure would keep them from opening their doors within the city's limits.

Supporters said the measure would guarantee employees a "living wage," but in a letter to City Council members released Monday, Daley said the ordinance would drive businesses from the city.

"I understand and share a desire to ensure that everyone who works in the city of Chicago earns a decent wage," Daley wrote. "But I do not believe that this ordinance, well intentioned as it may be, would achieve that end."

The ordinance was approved by the council in late July and requires so-called "big box" stores to pay workers at least $10 an hour plus $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010. The rules would only apply to companies with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet.


Get This Priest Another Hobby

Shouldn't he be sending his time thinking about the other Madonna?

Amsterdam prosecutors have announced that a 63-year-old priest has confessed to phoning in a fake bomb threat to a Madonna concert in the Dutch city.

"He was hoping to stop her from performing her famous 'crucifixion' act," prosecution spokesman Robert Meulenbroek said, referring to a scene in the 48-year-old pop star's latest show.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fast Food Planet

Isn't it just so refreshing to see McDonalds squashing small businesses in the third world? God's in his heaven, and all is right with the world:

U.S. burger chain McDonald's Corp has won a five-year legal battle against a tiny Malaysian eatery called "McCurry," persuading a judge that passers-by might confuse it with the fast-food giant.

The 24-hour open-air restaurant serves spicy fish-head curries, tandoori chicken and other Indian delicacies on a street corner in the capital, under a large "McCurry" sign.

"The defendant's use of the word McCurry and employing signage featuring colors distinctive of the plaintiff's was indulging in acts that could rise to confusion and deception," the judge was quoted as saying in local media Friday.


Faux Pas

A bit of reflection
might have been in order before making thousands of these:
Hundreds of Latvians knitting 4,500 pairs of woolen mittens as gifts for the November NATO summit have been told to avoid a folk symbol said to ward off evil since it looks like a Nazi swastika.

A spokeswoman for the NATO leaders' summit said the Latvian Thunder Cross, or Fire Cross, will not figure in the design of any of the thousands of unique pairs of mittens some 300 Latvians are producing for NATO delegates lest it be misinterpreted.


US Covert Operations in Somalia

Once more, our government demonstrates that it doesn't care one whit about national sovereignty. If we feel the need to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations, then we just go right on ahead:

Dramatic evidence that America is involved in illegal mercenary operations in east Africa has emerged in a string of confidential emails seen by The Observer. The leaked communications between US private military companies suggest the CIA had knowledge of the plans to run covert military operations inside Somalia - against UN rulings - and they hint at involvement of British security firms.

The emails, dated June this year, reveal how US firms have been planning undercover missions in support of President Abdullahi Yusuf's transitional federal government - founded with UN backing in 2004 - against the Supreme Islamic Courts Council - a radical Muslim militia which took control of Mogadishu, the country's capital, also in June promising national unity under Sharia law.

Evidence of foreign involvement in the conflict would not only breach the UN arms embargo but could destabilise the entire region.