Saturday, February 17, 2007

Only the Best for Our Troops

Walter Reed has become a disgusting travesty:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.

They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentially -- they outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1 -- that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is 10 months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years.


Hardaway's Sin

Not homophobia, but obviousness
, according to Barber (who lacks subtlety himself):
The leader of an organization that opposes homosexuality has condemned former NBA player Tim Hardaway for the language he used in attacking gay players.

"Hardaway's comments are both unfortunate and inappropriate," said Matt Barber, the policy director for Concerned Women of America.

"They provide political fodder for those who wish to paint all opposition to the homosexual lifestyle as being rooted in 'hate.'"

But Barber then fires off his own anti-gay broadside.

"It's perfectly natural for people to be repelled by disordered sexual behaviors that are both unnatural, and immoral."


We're Not Wanted

More evidence that the world views us as a blight:
Tens of thousands of people marched throughthe streets of Vicenza on Saturday to protest against plans to expanda United States military base in the northern Italian city. "We came to say 'no' to war," said one participant.

Organizers said well over 100,000 demonstrators attended the rally while authorities spoke of 80,000. Around 1,500 policemen in riot gear were on standby. Several police helicopters flew over the scene to monitor the largely peaceful demonstration, which was up to six kilometres in length.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Catblogging Part II: Electric Zoraboo

The people demand Zora; therefore Zora shall be provided for the people.



It's official. The Mashpee Wampanoag actually exist!

Some have even questioned whether the 1,461 members of the tribe are "real" Indians, as if the Wampanoag had been reduced to mere myth.

Four centuries after being conquered, colonized, attacked, assimilated, and slowly squeezed off a rapidly developing corner of Cape Cod, the U.S. government declared the Mashpee Wampanoag survivors to be worthy of federal recognition as a sovereign Indian nation.


The Face of Contentment

...and the reason he's sometimes known as Snugglebug.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shocking News

This war, set up from the beginning as a boondoggle to funnel huge profits to corporations like Halliburton, has been marked by (gasp!) government waste!
The U.S. government has squandered as much as $10 billion in public money on Iraq reconstruction aid because of overcharges and unsubstantiated expenses. More is yet to come, federal investigators said Thursday.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.


As the Saying Goes...

Mars, bitches!
A high resolution camera mounted on a spaceship orbiting Mars has found evidence that water once ran under the planet's surface. The geological features could be probed for fossil evidence for past life or used to point to other regions of the planet where running water - and maybe life - can be found today.


First Transsexual MP Steps Down

But her fascinating career is far from over:
The first transsexual elected to a national office stepped down Wednesday but her political career is likely far from over.

In her final speech as a member of New Zealand's Parliament Georgina Beyer was as risque as she was in her first one seven years ago.

"While I have relished the opportunity at being a member in this House I am glad I don't possess one", she quipped to laughter and applause from throughout the chamber.

Beyer has not said why she is leaving Parliament but there is growing speculation she will run for mayor of Wellington. Parliamentary and local elections will be held later this year.

Beyer, who is part Maori, has had a wide and varied life.

Before she transitioned Beyer had worked as a male stripper and hustler in Australia. After she transitioned she moved to New Zealand and worked as a server in a restaurant and became a champion of LGBT rights.

In 1992 she ran for town council in Wairarapa a small rural town, later becoming mayor. Seven years later she ran for parliament for the Labor party winning a healthy majority.

In the 2002 election she won by 6,000 votes, doubling her majority, and has since had little trouble getting re-elected.

She has declined to comment on the speculation she will run for the mayor's office. In an earlier interview she suggested she would like to become involved in performing arts, films and television.


Italian Catholics to Pope Ratzi: Butt Out

Very nice:
In a stinging rebuke of Pope Benedict XVI's condemnation of legislation granting limited rights to same-sex couples a group of well known Italian Catholics Thursday told the Vatican it had no business interfering in politics.

A civil partnership bill is expected to be presented in Italy's lower house within days. It was approved by the cabinet last week.

On Monday the Pope labeled the bill as "subversive" and the Vatican has issued a statement saying Catholic politicians have a duty to defeat the measure.

"Should such an intervention take place ... it would destroy the freedom and dignity of Catholic lawmakers in parliament," former Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro told la Repubblica.

Scalfaro is a highly regarded Catholic. He attends mass daily and has said he has discussions with the Virgin Mary.

A group of prominent Catholic intellectuals issued an open letter to the Vatican on Thursday warning the Church that it had a concord with Italy that in return for the Vatican being regarded a separate state within Italy it would not interfere in politics.


Chavez Baits Condi


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to the national spotlight Wednesday, saying in a tongue-in-cheek manner that he missed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's criticism.

"It had been days since she had given me any attention," Chavez said in a speech to pensioners in the capital of Caracas.

The remarks were Chavez's first response to Rice's testimony last week before a congressional committee in Washington that the president was "destroying his own country" - an apparent reference to a centralization of power in Venezuela and moves to nationalize key economic sectors.

"My dear friend Condoleezza says I am destroying the Venezuelan economy," said Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S.-style capitalism. "Death to the empire! We will not be dominated. We have decided to be free!"

Chavez also said Venezuela was unconcerned with plans by the Bush administration to become less dependent on crude oil from politically unfriendly nations.

"If they do not want to buy it, say it, and I will not sell them oil," he said.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some Good News

A substantial advance in the fight against HIV:
Scientists have captured an image of the AIDS virus in a biological handshake with the immune cells it attacks, and said on Wednesday they hope this can help lead to a better vaccine against the incurable disease.

They pinpointed a place on the outside of the human immunodeficiency virus that could be vulnerable to antibodies that could block it from infecting human cells.

U.S. National Institutes of Health researcher Peter Kwong said the study, published in the journal Nature, may reveal HIV's long-sought "site of vulnerability" that can be targeted with a vaccine aimed at preventing initial infection.

"Having that site and knowing that you can make antibodies against it means that a vaccine is possible," Kwong said in a telephone interview.

"It doesn't say we've gotten there. But it's taken it off the list from an impossible dream and converted it to something that is a (mere) technical barrier."


10th Annual Freedom to Marry Day

Happy Valentine's Day
, to all GLBT people everywhere:
Same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses descended on clerks offices from one end of the country to the other on Wednesday, marking the 10th Freedom to Marry Day. As in the past nine years in every state except Massachusetts they were refused.

But even in the Bay State - the only place in the country were same-sex couples can legally wed, gay marriage advocates were out in force denouncing a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts constitution that would end the practice.

Marriage advocates were also out in force in the three states that allow civil unions - Vermont, Connecticut and most recently New Jersey - seeking to have the laws revised to permit same-sex marriage.


Happy Lamb Day!

New Zealand honoured its sheep with National Lamb Day on Thursday, the 125th anniversary of the first shipment of frozen meat sent across the world to Britain. "It was a tectonic shift in our history that radically changed our economy and society," Otago University professor Tom Brooking told Radio New Zealand.

A fledgling British colony in 1882, New Zealand was struggling for economic survival when the SS Dunedin left the South Island's Port Chalmers with the first refrigerated cargo of lamb.

The sailing ship survived a fire which burned the rigging in the tropics and arrived in London with its cargo in good condition on May 24.


Utterly Vile

Are there any depths to which the anti-choicers will not sink?
Legislation introduced in Tennessee would require death certificates for aborted fetuses, which likely would create public records identifying women who have abortions.


He Takes after His Mother

In his beautiful White House, he doesn't sully his beautiful mind thinking of the horrors he has caused:
Asked by an ABC reporter whether he thought Iraq was roiled by civil war, Bush said, "It's hard for me living in this beautiful White House to give you an assessment, a first hand assessment. I haven't been there. You have, I haven't. But I do talk to people who are and people whose judgment I trust and they would not qualify it as that. There are others who think it is."


Georgie to Dad: Don't Watch the News

Pretty much the same advice he'd like all Americans to follow, I imagine:
As the House gets ready to begin debating the Iraq war today, President George W. Bush has a piece of advice for his father: Turn off the television.

It seems that former President George H.W. Bush has been getting agitated watching attacks on his son - so much so that the current president said yesterday he is worried for his father's well-being.

"I am actually more concerned about him than I have ever been in my life, because he's paying too much attention to the news," the president told C-SPAN in an interview to be broadcast this morning.
Once again, Dennis Hopper from Blue Velvet springs to mind: "Don't you f***ing look at me!"


Balancing the Budget...

on the backs of the vets. Not just requiring wounded soldiers to repay their enlistment bonuses (see story below), but also cutting veterans' health benefits.

Bush is always a class act:

The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans' health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system.

Bush is using the cuts, critics say, to help fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by 2012.

After an increase sought for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.


Breach of Contract

Malingering paralyzed, brain-damaged soldiers must pay back their enlistment bonuses for not finishing their tours of duty:
Soldiers who were paralyzed, suffered brain damage and lost limbs owe the government enlistment bonus money.

They must pay the money back because they didn’t fulfill their tour of duty.

Bob Truska, who was in the Navy, got an honorable discharge for what the Navy calls a personality disorder.

One year later, he got a bill for more than $3,000, part of his $7,000 enlistment bonus.

Bob said, “I didn’t know of anything I had to pay back after I got out of the military.”

The Navy said his honorable discharge “does not exempt him from recoupement of the unearned enlistment bonus, and his personality disorder is not a disability but could interfere with assignment or performance of duty.”

According to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, each month from October 2005 through October of 2006, at least 600 members of the military and as many as 1,100 have owed bonus debts totaling anywhere from $2.5 million dollars each month to $4 million.



Reynolds displays his immorality for all to see, calling for the surreptitious murder of scientists:

Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot get any more depraved in what they advocate, they always prove you wrong. This is what University of Tennessee Law Professor and right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds said today about claims by the administration that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents (claims which, needless to say, he blindly believes):

This has been obvious for a long time anyway, and I don't understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Orleans Can't Catch a Break

Eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, Stella Chambers' modest red-brick house had finally been repaired, and she was waiting for one last utility hookup to move back in. But the 85-year-old woman never made it.

A tornado tore through her neighborhood in the city's Gentilly neighborhood before daybreak Tuesday, flattening her house, ripping apart the front-yard FEMA trailer in which she was living, and killing her.

At least 29 people were injured, including Chambers' daughter, Gail, as the twister heaped more misery on neighborhoods still trying to recover from Katrina. The storm destroyed at least 50 FEMA trailers and dozens of homes, and damaged many others — many of which were in various states of repair.

"We were trying to get my mother back in the house. Now there is nothing to repair," said Mervin Pollard, whose 81-year-old mother's Katrina-flooded home was reduced to a pile of lumber Tuesday. "How do you start over again when you are already trying to do that?"


Kansas Gets Smart

Kudos to all who fought to stave off the fundie madness:
The Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday threw out science standards deemed hostile to evolution, undoing the work of Christian conservatives in the ongoing battle over what to teach U.S. public school students about the origins of life.

The board in the central U.S. state voted 6-4 to replace them with teaching standards that mirror the mainstream in science education and eliminate criticisms of evolutionary theory.

"I'm glad we've taken this step. If we are going to have a well-educated populace, this is important," said board member Sue Gamble.


He Should Have Gone Down for Murder

Passaro gets 8 1/3
A former CIA contractor convicted of mistreating a detainee in Afghanistan who later died has been jailed for eight years and four months.

David Passaro, 40, the first US civilian to be charged with abusing a prisoner since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, was convicted last August.

Afghan prisoner Abdul Wali was beaten in June 2003 and died two days later.

Mr Wali, an Afghan farmer, had gone to the US authorities voluntarily to clear his name over a rocket attack.

US District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, sitting in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that a lack of an autopsy kept Mr Passaro from being charged with murder.


Hard Times in Russia

Prison for gays:
A bill introduced in Russia's lower house will impose a five year prison sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality.
Gay prostitution for soldiers:
Young Russian conscripts reportedly are being routinely forced by senior officers to work as male prostitutes and turn over the cash to their superiors.


The War on Whatever

Eighty million dollars, and... nothing but senseless prolonged incarceration:

Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose persecution and show trial are parts of a long string of egregious acts of injustice perpetrated by the Bush administration, has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 22 to protest the prolongation of his imprisonment.

Al-Arian’s travels through the halls of American justice, and now the subterranean corridors of the nation’s Stygian prison system, reads like a bad rip-off of Kafka. Al-Arian was acquitted on eight of the 17 counts against him by a Florida jury, which deadlocked on the rest. He agreed to plead guilty to one of the remaining charges four months later in exchange for being released and deported. The judge gave Al-Arian as much prison time as possible under a plea deal—57 months at his sentencing. He was set to be released this April, something that now appears unlikely.

The trial was a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration’s drive to turn the American judicial system into kangaroo courts. Over the six-month trial a parade of 80 witnesses, including 21 from Israel, attempted to brand the Florida professor as a terrorist. The government submitted thousands of documents, phone interceptions and physical surveillance culled from 12 years of investigations. The trial cost taxpayers an estimated $80 million. The 94 charges against Al-Arian and his co-defendants resulted in no convictions. But because Al-Arian has twice refused to testify before a grand jury in Virginia in a case involving a Muslim think tank, he has now been charged with contempt of court. The date of his release could be extended by as much as 18 months.

Al-Arian, who is a diabetic, began a hunger strike in response.


Private War; Hidden Casualties

Numbers we don't hear:
Nearly 125,000 contractors are now at work in Iraq supporting roughly 135,000 troops, according to the most recent military figures. The ratio is far higher than for any previous U.S. conflict, military analysts say.

More than 750 contractors have been killed in Iraq, according to Department of Labor statistics, and almost 8,000 injured. The figures include Americans, Iraqis and other nationalities employed under U.S. government contracts.

Contractors' surviving relatives and wounded contractors have many of the same problems as military members and their families, including searing grief, difficult recoveries and unanswered questions.

But the contractors' status as private employees on a public mission has created an uncertain future, where surviving a bullet in the head does not mean a lifetime of care and where a local bar becomes the closest thing to a veteran's hospital.


The 9/11 Boon

A new car wash in Houston. Plus a new dry cleaners.

Money well spent:
here in Houston, some 200 businesses got more than $97 million in government-guaranteed 9/11 loans.

11 News showed the list to Houston Congressman Ted Poe.

“That’s absurd,” he said. “The loans were specific for people generally in the New York City region and then those in Washington, D.C. Businesses that were directly affected by what happened on 9/11.”

Instead, all over the country all kinds of businesses got the loans.

In our area, the biggest loan, nearly $2 million, went to build a car wash.

One and a half million went to a “wellness” center; $1.3 million to a pre-school; and a $1.2 million to a dry cleaners.

And on and on.


Another Moron

Huckabee, former governor of my homestate.

This piece begs the question: HOW exactly would gay marriages act as "challenges" to hetero marriages?
Republican Mike Huckabee said Friday that marriage shouldn't be treated as an experiment in response to questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter should have the right to wed.

The former Arkansas governor, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, said heterosexual marriages face enough challenges without adding new configurations to the mix.


Putin Making His Play

And given the stupid, violent, blundering presence of the US these past several years, why wouldn't Middle Eastern nations be open to Russia's overtures?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on the final leg of his three-nation Middle East tour.

He is scheduled to hold talks on Tuesday with King Abdullah II and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

A Jordanian spokesman said he hoped Mr Putin's visit would help restart the Middle East peace process.

Mr Putin arrived in Jordan from Qatar, after having held two days of talks in Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say the visit comes amid signs Russia is seeking to reinvigorate its contacts in the Middle East.


Jordan's chief government spokesman, Nasser Judeh, said Mr Putin's visit was "very important and welcomed".


Killings at a Baghdad College

Just horrible.

A suicide bomber blew up the truck he was driving near a college in a mainly Shiite area on Tuesday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 27, police and hospital officials said.

The attack occurred about 9:50 a.m. at the College of Economic Sciences as students were arriving for class at the campus in the Iskan neighborhood in western Baghdad.

The neighborhood is largely Shiite, but the students are religiously mixed, including Shiites, Sunnis and some Christians.


Nota Bene: Nowhere in This Article Does McCain Deny Taking the Money

What a vile little weasel:
Sen. John McCain blasted a report in the Washington Post that said the Arizona Republican, who has campaigned against the use of "soft money," is using just those kinds of funds to support his GOP presidential nomination.

McCain told CNN the article is "worst hit job that has ever been done in my entire political career."

According to the story published on Sunday, campaign and IRS records show several of McCain's finance co-chairmen "have given or raised large donations for political parties or 527 groups."

Named after tax code, a 527 is a tax-exempt organization created to influence political campaigns. "Soft money" refers to a type of unlimited contribution to these organizations from corporate and wealthy donors.

"In all, the finance co-chairs have given at least $13.5 million in soft money and 527 donations since the 1998 election," the Washington Post reported.

A leader in the charge to limit the use of "soft money" in political campaigns, the senator co-wrote the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that, for the first time, prohibited political parties from raising "soft money."

He has also sought to regulate independent 527 groups from raising and spending millions on "issue" ads that are often thinly veiled attacks on candidates.

These groups played an influential role in the 2004 presidential election because of the McCain-Feingold regulations on soft money.

McCain "has been and remains committed to 527 reform, as evidenced by the fact that just two weeks ago he introduced a bill in Congress to restrict contributions to 527s," said Brian Jones, a senior adviser to McCain and spokesman for his presidential exploratory committee.

"He also understands that if neither the FEC (Federal Election Commission), the courts or Congress enforce laws that already exist to govern 527s, they will continue to operate outside legal restrictions on the amounts of money that can be contributed to campaigns," Jones told CNN.


Syria Closing Its Borders

Iraqi refugees are worse off than ever as a result:
Fleeing Iraqis' last refuge is virtually closing up shop.

Syria, the last Arab country welcoming large numbers of Iraqi refugees, is all but shutting down its border. The strangely unannounced decision leaves the 40,000 Iraqis who escape their war-torn country each month with almost no place to go.


Oops Times 1.8 Million

Quite the blunder
, no?
The Department of Veterans Affairs began notifying 1.8 million veterans and doctors Monday that their personal and business information could be on a portable hard drive that has been missing from an Alabama hospital for nearly three weeks.


A Novel Valentine's Notion from Australia

I think I'll pass on this idea:
Men are being encouraged to give their partners something more permanent this Valentine's Day -- by getting a vasectomy.

Not-for-profit health organisation Marie Stopes International is using the day of love to promote the procedure, saying it is safe, effective and appreciated.

"A vasectomy is perhaps not as romantic as chocolate and roses, but not having to worry about contraception is a present many woman would appreciate," Australian chief executive Suzanne Dvorak said.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Unintelligent Design

It's the only explanation for McCain's existence:
Today is Darwin Day, commemorating the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and of the publishing of On the Origin of Species. The National Academy of Sciences, “the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization,” declares evolution “one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.” President Bush’s science adviser John Marburger calls it “the cornerstone of modern biology.”

Yet, on February 23, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country. The Discovery Institute, a religious right think-tank, is well-known for its strong opposition to evolutionary biology and its advocacy for “intelligent design.” The institute’s main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, “a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.”


Count Me In

We need to institute siestas as a national policy, immediately:

Office nappers now have the perfect excuse: New research shows that a little midday snooze seems to reduce the risk of fatal heart problems, especially among men.

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped for about half an hour at least three times weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

Most participants were in their 50s, and the strongest evidence was in working men, according to the study, which appears in Monday's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers said naps might benefit the heart by reducing stress, and jobs are a common source of stress.


Ratzi Whines Again

Suck on it, pope:
As the government of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi prepares to introduce legislation in Parliament to create civil unions for same-sex couples and opposite-sex pairs who do not wish to marry Pope Benedict XVI blasted the plan on Monday as "subversive".

"No law made by man can subvert the law made by the Creator without society being drastically damaged in its foundations," the Pope declared in a speech to Catholic academics.



It's high time that we start going after these tax-exempt "religious" organizations that actually serve as political fronts:

According to United States law governing the behavior of 501(c)(3) organizations, it seems highly likely that William Donohue--President of the Catholic League, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization--may have broken the law by attempting to intervene in a political campaign.

The IRS document Organizational Test – IRC 501(c)(3) (link opens PDF file) states explicitly that an organization with this tax exempt status cannot intervene in a political campaign.

Despite the legal restrictions on his organization, Donohue appears to be using the Catholic League to campaign against John Edwards bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President, in particular the IRS strict prohibition for 501(c)(3)'s on "issue advocacy" as a form of political intervention.

Beyond Donahue's appearances on broadcast media, during which he has spoken out against the John Edwards campaign, The Catholic League which Donahue used its 501(c)(3) non-profit status website to publish the following Press Release that included this explicit attempt to intervene in a political campaign:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue is demanding that presidential hopeful John Edwards fire two recently hired anti-Catholics who have joined his team: Amanda Marcotte as Blogmaster and Melissa McEwan as the Netroots Coordinator.


McCain's Hypocrisy Once Again on Display

How can this man have even the slightest bit of credibility any more as a "straight talker"? He stands for exactly nothing other than his own desire for power.

Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.

As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.

In his early efforts to secure the support of the Republican establishment he has frequently bucked, McCain has embraced some of the same political-money figures, forces and tactics he pilloried during a 15-year crusade to reduce the influence of big donors, fundraisers and lobbyists in elections. That includes enlisting the support of Washington lobbyists as well as key players in the fundraising machine that helped President Bush defeat McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries.


80 More

Welcome to another week of FUBAR:

Thunderous explosions and dense black smoke swirled through the center of Baghdad Monday when at least two car bombs - one parked in an underground garage - tore through a crowded marketplace, setting off dozens of secondary explosions and killing at least 71 people, police said. Another bombing nearby killed at least nine.

The blasts shattered the city center on the first anniversary, according to the Muslim lunar calendar, of the bombing of the important Shiite Golden Dome shrine in Samarra.


Bee Blight


A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some affected commercial beekeepers - who often keep thousands of colonies - have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees. A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter, and up to 60,000 in the summer.

"We have seen a lot of things happen in 40 years, but this is the epitome of it all," Dave Hackenberg, of Lewisburg-based Hackenberg Apiaries, said by phone from Fort Meade, Fla., where he was working with his bees.



Creationism can do nasty things to one's brain. Just say no to cognitive dissonance:
Monday's New York Times features a front page article on a paleontologist/creationist who believes that the earth is "at most 10,000 years old."

"There is nothing unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island," Cornelia Dean writes.

"His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago," the article continues. "The work is 'impeccable,' said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross's dissertation adviser."

"But Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist," Dean writes. "He is a 'young earth creationist' -- he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old."


For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”


Go Chicks!

Very gratifying, this:

The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines could not resist the rich irony - or the chance to rub their success in the face of a country music establishment that turned its back on them.

"That's interesting,'' Maines said in picking up the band's Grammy for best country album, one of four awards the group received today.

Country radio stations have largely ignored the band after Maines' infamous 2003 remarks critical of US President George W Bush on a London stage.

"Well, to quote the great Simpsons: 'Heh-heh','' she said, invoking the gloating laugh of a bully character on The Simpsons TV series.

The Dixie Chicks' Not Ready to Make Nice, a blistering retort to their critics following the incident, had already won the Grammy for song of the year. They drew several standing ovations from an audience well aware that their victories had a political point attached.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hunting Gays

No, not in the bad way. In the Canadian way:
Toronto police were in the heart of the city's gay village on the weekend hoping to further expand the force's diversity portfolio through one of many recruiting sessions aimed at members of the gay community.

The police service has made efforts to diversify its force by recruiting officers who reflect a variety of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds found across the city.

Const. Gail Steed from the police employment unit said the information sessions for the gay community are a natural extension of that outreach.


A Story to Give Us Hope

All it takes, sometimes, is concerted, collective will. We humans really can do good things when we want to:
In this dust-choked region, long seen as an increasingly barren wasteland decaying into desert, millions of trees are flourishing, thanks in part to poor farmers whose simple methods cost little or nothing at all.

Better conservation and improved rainfall have led to at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres in Niger, researchers have found, achieved largely without relying on the large-scale planting of trees or other expensive methods often advocated by African politicians and aid groups for halting desertification, the process by which soil loses its fertility.

Recent studies of vegetation patterns, based on detailed satellite images and on-the-ground inventories of trees, have found that Niger, a place of persistent hunger and deprivation, has recently added millions of new trees and is now far greener than it was 30 years ago.


Severe drought in the 1970s and ’80s, coupled with a population explosion and destructive farming and livestock practices, was denuding vast swaths of land. The desert seemed determined to swallow everything. So Mr. Danjimo and other farmers in Guidan Bakoye took a small but radical step. No longer would they clear the saplings from their fields before planting, as they had for generations. Instead they would protect and nurture them, carefully plowing around them when sowing millet, sorghum, peanuts and beans.

Today, the success in growing new trees suggests that the harm to much of the Sahel may not have been permanent, but a temporary loss of fertility. The evidence, scientists say, demonstrates how relatively small changes in human behavior can transform the regional ecology, restoring its biodiversity and productivity.


Putin Calls Out the U.S.

Not that Putin is a wonderful human being or anything, but his message rings true. The US has grown wildly and dangerously arrogant with power:
Vladimir Putin delivered the strongest attack of his seven-year presidency on the US yesterday, blaming it for fanning conflicts across the world through the unilateral use of 'hyper-force'. He said America was seeking to impose its standards on other nations, triggering new arms races and the spread of nuclear weapons, and threatening Russia through new missile shield programmes.

In a blistering assault that reflected the Kremlin chief's self-confidence and conviction that he has restored Russia's international clout after years of decline, Putin told a security conference in Munich that America was destroying the international system and seeking to eliminate nuclear deterrence through the uncontained use of its power. 'One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way,' he told dozens of Western ministers and policy-makers including the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, and a likely Republican presidential contender, Senator John McCain.


Victory Is Not an Option

And how many of us saw this coming years ago?
The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq starkly delineates the gulf that separates President Bush's illusions from the realities of the war. Victory, as the president sees it, requires a stable liberal democracy in Iraq that is pro-American. The NIE describes a war that has no chance of producing that result. In this critical respect, the NIE, the consensus judgment of all the U.S. intelligence agencies, is a declaration of defeat.