Saturday, November 18, 2006


I just found out that my grandmother died.

The news came as no surprise; my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins (especially the cousin who is now a priest) have been "on watch" for a week or so now. And grandma has been frail for a long time; the last time I saw her, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch her as she fell--she was always stubborn, and hated to use her walker.

Oddly, I dreamt of her for the only time that I can recall, just a few days ago; not so weird, really, given that I've been thinking about her often. I walked out of the bathroom of her house, into her room, on the way to the kitchen, and she was there, abed but lively--even moreso than when I last saw her. She requested cinnamon toast, and I went to get it for her, from my mother.

She was quite content in her passing, even to planning the funeral, which is to happen this Monday.

All that being the case, and given that she and I were never all that close, why did I not answer the phone when the call came to let me know? And why did I cry when I listened to the voice mail my father left me?

Don't answer.


Retro Kitties

Someting to tide you over till we can find that bloody cable.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rape + Murder = Freedom!

It's the American equation in Iraq:
A US Army soldier has pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and helping murder her and her family.

James Barker agreed to the plea deal at the start of his court-martial in the US to avoid the death penalty, his civilian lawyer said.


Statute of Presby-Lesbi-Tations

This is just ridiculous:
Charges were dismissed Wednesday against a Presbyterian minister accused of breaking church law by performing a marriage ceremony for two women after church officials determined the charges were filed too late.

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted 8-0 to dismiss the charges against Janet Edwards because they were filed several days after a filing deadline. Edwards, a parish associate at the Community of Reconciliation Church in Pittsburgh, had been accused of violating the church's position on marriage by presiding at the June 2005 wedding.


The Most Serious Problem Louisiana Faces

That's right. It's Gay-Mart:
Edwin Crayton was back in front of a Natchitoches Wal-Mart store Tuesday carrying a sign protesting the retailer's LGBT diversity program.

"Christians: Wal-Mart Supports Gay Lifestyles And Marriage. Don't Shop There," the sign read.

Message to Crayton: Drop your sign and get your ass down to New Orleans and help rebuild the Ninth Ward, how 'bout?


Seminole Rock

An interesting move:
A NATIVE American tribe has emerged as the frontrunner in the auction of the Hard Rock Cafe chain by Rank Group after bidding about $1 billion (£530 million) for the business, The Times has learnt.

The Seminole tribe, which already operates two Hard Rock hotel and casino resorts in Florida under a licence agreement with Rank, is believed to be in pole position to sign a deal after entering the process at the eleventh hour.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, which has resorts on its reservations in Hollywood and Tampa, is understood to have defeated the private equity groups Permira, TDR Capital and Apollo Management in the final round of bidding.


Time for a New Commandment: STFU

The Vatican steps in where even idiots would fear to tread:
A senior Vatican cardinal has expressed concern over the use of some Muslim veils by Islamic immigrants in Europe.

This is the first time that the Vatican has joined in the Europe-wide debate on how women who insist on wearing the veil affect the integration of Muslims.

Cardinal Renato Martino said immigrants must respect the traditions, culture and religion of the nations they go to.

They ought to abide by local laws banning the wearing of certain types of Muslim veils, he added.

"It seems elementary to me and it is quite right that the authorities demand it," said Cardinal Martino, who heads the Vatican department dealing with migration issues.



God bless the good men and women of Delta Airlines:
A woman who claims she was kicked off an airplane because she was breast-feeding her baby has filed a complaint against two airlines, her attorney said.

Emily Gillette, 27, of Santa Fe, N.M., filed the complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission late last week against Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines, said her attorney, Elizabeth Boepple. Freedom was operating the Delta flight between Burlington and New York City.

Gillette said she was discreetly breast-feeding her 22-month-old daughter on Oct. 13 as their flight prepared to leave Burlington International Airport. She said she was seated by the window in the next-to-last row, her husband was seated between her and the aisle and no part of her breast was showing.

A flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up, Gillette said. She declined, telling the flight attendant she had a legal right to breast-feed her baby.

Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached and said the flight attendant had asked that the family be removed from the flight, Gillette said. She said she didn't want to make a scene and complied.

"It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child," Gillette said Monday.

A Freedom spokesman said Gillette was asked to leave the flight after she declined the blanket.

"A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way," that doesn't bother others, said Paul Skellon, spokesman for Phoenix-based Freedom. "She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that's all I know."


Keeping Friends Close, Enemas Closer

No way Bush is letting Rove out of his sight now:

Despite being disappointed with Karl Rove’s election performance, President Bush has agreed to keep his chief political advisor for the remainder of his administration.

Administration sources said Mr. Rove has sought to stay with Mr. Bush until the end of his presidency. The sources said despite pressure on the president to reshuffle his staff for 2007, Mr. Bush wants Mr. Rove by his side.

"He knows too much," a source said. "The last thing the president wants is another published memoir and book tour of life inside the White House."

The sources said Mr. Bush was unhappy with the failure of Mr. Rove's election strategy, which focused on national security. They said the GOP defeat would probably lead to a different relationship between the two men.


Caveat Emptor

Hey, kid, what country did you think you were going to?

When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul.


Bawm Chicka

Panda porn. I really just wanted to write "panda porn" on my blog. And to google "bawm chicka" to be sure it was the accepted term (It is, kinda, generally in the context of "bawm chicka chicka," and an oddly popular variation is "baum chicka chicka"):

A Thai zoo will show its star residents, a pair of young giant pandas, "porn" videos to teach the famously sexually-inactive animals how to mate.

"We have to encourage them to mate, and the videos will show mating positions of male pandas and female pandas," said Kannika Nimtragol, a veterinarian at the Chiang Mai zoo in northern Thailand.


Slaughter Mission

For fuck's sake, just stop already:

The Japanese whaling fleet is leaving for the Antarctic under closer control of its Government, in a toughening of its stance ahead of this summer's battle with environmentalists.

The factory ship Nisshin Maru and three chasers are due to leave Shimonoseki in southern Japan later today on an expedition to kill up to 935 minke whales and 10 fins, environmentalists said.


Cops v. Scholars

Guess who's winning in the short term. What a fucking nightmare.
Five senior Iraqi police officers were arrested last night after gunmen in police uniforms seized scores of people at a prominent scientific research institute in Baghdad in an audacious operation that underlined the lawlessness gripping the Iraqi capital and the threat it poses to the country's tottering education system.

As many as 80 armed men took part in the morning attack, which netted male academics, employees and visitors to the ministry of higher education's scientific research, scholarships and cultural relations directorate in Baghdad's relatively peaceful Karradah district.

Last night, reports indicated that most if not all of the hostages had been released in police raids across the city.

But the episode, one of the biggest mass kidnappings since the 2003 war, raised pointed questions about the reliability of the Iraqi security forces.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Global Murder in the Name of BigPharma Profits

Murder is not too strong a word:
Poor people are needlessly dying because drug companies and the governments of rich countries are blocking the developing world from obtaining affordable medicines, a report says today.

Five years to the day after the Doha declaration - a groundbreaking deal to give poor countries access to cheap drugs - was signed at the World Trade Organisation, Oxfam says things are worse.

The charity accuses the US, which champions the interests of its giant pharmaceutical companies, of bullying developing countries into not using the measures in the Doha declaration and the EU of standing by and doing nothing. Doha technically allows poor countries to buy cheap copies of desperately needed drugs but the US is accused of trying to prevent countries such as Thailand and India, which have manufacturing capacity, making and selling cheap generic versions so as to preserve the monopolies of the drug giants.

"Rich countries have broken the spirit of the Doha declaration," said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign. "The declaration said the right things but needed political action to work and that hasn't happened. In fact, we've actually gone backwards. Many people are dying or suffering needlessly."


A Good First Step

The Republicans couldn't be bothered to investigate "extraordinary rendition" (i.e. "outsourced torture") so it's good the Dems have taken over the Senate:
Abuses carried out under the CIA's secret programme of extraordinary rendition are to be investigated by one of the Senate's most powerful committees, it emerged today.

The new chairman of the Senate armed services committee, the Democratic senator Carl Levin, revealed that he was "not comfortable" with the rendition system and said it was making the US less secure.

The extra-judicial programme has seen untried criminal suspects rounded up by CIA operatives in more than a dozen countries and sent to third states for interrogation. Some captives have allegedly been snatched off the streets and suffered torture in detention.


C'mon in, Ya Pervs!

The Catholic Church reaches new heights in the art of the mixed message:
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved new guidelines Tuesday on outreach to gays, trying to support gay parishioners while strictly affirming the church stance that same-sex relationships are ``disordered.''

Gay Catholic activists immediately judged the document a failure that will push gay and lesbians away from the church.

The statement, ``Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,'' upholds the Catholic prohibition against same-gender marriage and adoption by gay or lesbian couples.

Yet bishops insisted that they're trying to be more ``welcoming than condemning.''


Victory in South Africa

Yet another nation puts the US to shame:

The South African parliament on Tuesday approved new legislation recognizing gay marriages - a first for a continent where homosexuality is largely taboo.

The National Assembly passed the Civil Union Bill, worked out after months of heated public discussion, by a majority of 230 to 41 votes despite criticism from both traditionalists and gay activists and warnings that it might be unconsitutional. There were three abstentions.

The bill provides for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.


Not a Quick Study

Judith Miller
Judith Miller, a former New York Times investigative reporter who went to jail to protect a confidential source, said the balance between national security and civil liberties has been tipped, allowing the Bush administration to become secretive about its decisions, intrusive into public lives and reluctant to share information the public has a right to know.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Scary Gays Hold Hands!

Holy shit! Censor that immediately!

Lamar Outdoor Advertising has turned down posters for an exhibit of Polish art in Hartford, Connecticut because they feature same-sex couples holding hands.

Real Art Ways is featuring an exhibit of young avant garde Polish artists including 24-year old Karolina Bregula. Lamar's Hartford office has originally agreed to the billboard campaign, but turned down the images of Bregula's when it saw it.

Lamar's regional vice president Steve Hebert said the company had offered the gallery five free 12-foot by 25-foot billboards at no cost. The billboards usually would rent for $1350 each.

Hebert told that he was concerned the images (pictured) could invite vandalism. He said that three other billboard designs featuring works by other artists had been approved.


Fernando Botero on Abu Ghraib


No Rights

Lest we be lulled into some sense that All Has Changed thanks to the midterm elections:

The Bush administration said Monday that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have no right to challenge their detentions in civilian courts and that lawsuits by hundreds of detainees should be dismissed.



China has a bit of fun at our expense:
A Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned.
The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military.
The submarine encounter with the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying warships also is an embarrassment to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who is engaged in an ambitious military exchange program with China aimed at improving relations between the two nations' militaries.
Disclosure of the incident comes as Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, is making his first visit to China. The four-star admiral was scheduled to meet senior Chinese military leaders during the weeklong visit, which began over the weekend.
According to the defense officials, the Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine shadowed the Kitty Hawk undetected and surfaced within five miles of the carrier Oct. 26.
The surfaced submarine was spotted by a routine surveillance flight by one of the carrier group's planes.
The Kitty Hawk battle group includes an attack submarine and anti-submarine helicopters that are charged with protecting the warships from submarine attack.


Another Sign of Success

Just grotesque:
Baghdad's morgues are full.

With no space to store bodies, some victims of the sectarian slaughter are not being kept for relatives to claim, but photographed, numbered and quickly interred in government cemeteries. Men fearful of an anonymous burial are tattooing their thighs with names and phone numbers.

In October, a particularly bloody month for Iraqi civilians, about 1,600 bodies were turned in at the Baghdad central morgue, said its director, Dr. Abdul-Razaq al-Obaidi. The city's network of morgues, built to hold 130 bodies at most, now holds more than 500, he says.


A Critical Time

McCain is right, in the sense that it is about fucking time to be critical of what's going on in Iraq:

Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) again claimed this is a “critical time” in Iraq and that “we’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.”

On March 23, 2003, McCain predicted, “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” Today also wasn’t the first time McCain has claimed we’re at a “critical time’ in Iraq:

– “The terrorists know that this is a very critical time.” [6/4/04]

– Q: You agree this is a critical moment in Iraq?
MCCAIN: I agree it’s a critical time, yes. [8/20/06]

– “I think that, first of all, things are very serious there. And to say otherwise I don’t think would be an accurate depiction of events, and this is a very critical time.” [10/19/06]


I'm Jealous

Of the person who managed to slap Bush around:

President Bush's wax likeness is taking a thumpin' these days at Madame Tussaud's celebrity waxworks in Las Vegas.

Bush's head suffered about $25,000 in damages when a Madame Tussaud's visitor attacked it the day before last week's elections.


All Is Well

In Iraq:
The Shiite prime minister promised Sunday to reshuffle his Cabinet after calling lawmakers disloyal and blaming Sunni Muslims for raging sectarian violence that claimed at least 159 more lives.
As in Afghanistan:

Insurgent activity in Afghanistan has risen fourfold this year, and militants now launch more than 600 attacks a month, a rising wave of violence that has resulted in 3,700 deaths in 2006, a bleak new report released Sunday found.


National Sovereignty? Hah!

We're America, and we do whatever we want:

Undercover American agents are staging secret 'sting' operations in Britain against criminal and terrorist suspects they want to extradite to the US.
The case has provoked a huge row because the agents used tactics banned in Britain. In addition, the offence of which he is accused would not be a crime in this country. If British police officers had employed this type of sting, the ensuing case would almost certainly be thrown out of court.


String Him Up

If I were Rumsfeld, I wouldn't be planning any European vactions in the near future:
Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski — who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case — has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ."


Sunday, November 12, 2006


Props to anyone who deciphers that headline. Not that it's all that difficult, in context:
President Bush will not relent in his defense of John Bolton, his nominee for U.N. ambassador, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy, aides said Sunday.

Two of Bush's top advisers said the White House is not backing down from a fight to win Senate approval for Bolton to continue in the job. Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. That appointment will expire when Congress adjourns, no later than January.


That's a Wrap, Boys

Vicious warlord? Meh. Pack it in. ("Pack it in" is the new "Stay the course," by the way.)

As the self-appointed defender of his Shia kith and kin, his nom de guerre is "The Shield". But to his Sunni foes – and many of his own people – only one name does justice to the savagery with which Abu Deraa wages Iraq's sectarian war. He is, they say, the "Shia Zarqawi".

Less than six months after an American airstrike ended Abu Musab al Zarqawi's campaign of Sunni terror, an equally brutal fanatic has emerged on the other side of the religious divide. Abu Deraa's trademark method of killing is a drill through the skull rather than a sword to the neck, but his work rate is just as prolific as the former al-Qaeda leader's and shows the same diabolical artistry.


Yet, according to diplomats, the Green Zone is no longer the powerhouse of bright ideas for the future of Iraq that it once was. Until as recently as last year, every ambitious state department intern and junior Foreign Office mandarin was keen to do at least a six-month stint there, keen to help forge democracy in one of the toughest environments ever. Today, though, the brightest and the best and have left, giving it the atmosphere of a place being wound down. Few up-and-coming diplomats, it seems, want "Iraq 2006" on their CVs, much less "Iraq 2007".

"Working there is becoming like an albatross around people's necks," said one insider. "The feeling is that it doesn't matter how many hours a day they do, it won't make any difference. And nobody wants to be around if they end up getting helicoptered out, Saigon-style."