Saturday, May 26, 2007

Well Done, Iowa

Another step forward
Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) Friday signed legislation adding sexuality and gender identity to the categories protected under the state's anti-discrimination law.

"[This is] a message that Iowa is a welcoming place that values each of its citizens whether it’s in the neighborhood or the workplace," Culver said as he signed the bill.

"We send a message that intolerance and discrimination have no place in our state."


Happy 40th Anniversary

Once "native wildlife," now citizens:

EXTRAORDINARY though it seems, it was not until 1967 that Australian Aborigines were recognised as citizens of their own country.

Before that they were classified as native wildlife, along with kangaroos and koalas.


U.S. Says "Screw the Environment"

The US has rejected any prospect of a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany next month, according to a leaked document.

Despite Tony Blair's declaration on Thursday that Washington would sign up to "at least the beginnings" of action to cut carbon emissions, a note attached to a draft document circulated by Germany says the US is "fundamentally opposed" to the proposals.

The note, written in red ink, says the deal "runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to".



We should just admit that we haven't got the knack for it:
The international community is in danger of repeating in Afghanistan the mistakes made in Iraq. Millions of Afghans have seen little material improvement in their lives since 2001, and most still live in desperate poverty. From the start, the damage inflicted by a quarter-century of war was underestimated; this is not about repairing the state but building it from scratch.

Rural communities have seen some improvements, but essential services are scarce or inadequate. In provinces where Oxfam works such as Daikundi, there is no mains water or electricity, and virtually no paved roads. Average life expectancy in Daikundi is 42 and one in five children dies before the age of five. Afghan children chew on mud they scratch from the walls of their homes to stave off hunger.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Well Done, Cambridge

Not bloody likely
to see anything like that happening over here in the "land of the free," are we now?
The mayor is a transsexual, so is her partner, and this university city is taking them in stride.

Jenny Bailey, 45, was installed Thursday as mayor of the Cambridge City Council, and her partner Jennifer Liddle, 49, a former council member, assumed the honorary title of mayoress, which is given to the partner of the mayor.

Both were born male, and had gender reassignment surgery in their 30s.


Baby Steps in the Right Direction

And it's about time:

America's lowest-paid workers won a $2.10 raise Thursday, with Congress approving the first increase in the federal minimum wage in almost a decade.

President Bush was expected to sign the bill quickly, and workers who now make $5.15 an hour will see their paychecks go up by 70 cents per hour before the end of the summer. Another 70 cents will be added next year, and by summer 2009, all minimum-wage jobs will pay no less than $7.25 an hour.

For years, the idea of increasing the minimum wage has been stalled by partisan bickering between Republicans and Democrats.


So It Begins

Does anyone doubt the inevitability of some manner of Turk/Kurd conflict intensification in the near future?
The prime minister said he would back Turkey's generals if they decide to retaliate for a suicide bombing in the capital by striking Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.


Sometimes, It Just Feels Hopeless

So very tired
About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word, a new Gallup poll reveals. This percentage is only slightly lower than several decades ago.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

One Jackass to Be Followed by Another

Again, not terribly surprising
, if indeed it comes to pass:
The White House is starting to draw up a list of potential nominees to lead the World Bank, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a heart surgeon who has traveled widely in Africa, is getting especially close scrutiny for the job, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.


Chaos in the White House

Quite frankly, I never knew Bush had enough power to require Cheney to revolt:
Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush's Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush




“Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the war began, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Six in 10 Americans surveyed say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, and more than three in four say that things are going badly there — including nearly half who say things are going very badly, the poll found.”


Ratzi Still Obnoxious

Praising bigots
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday praised a recent demonstration in Rome against proposed legislation granting legal rights to unmarried couples, including gay ones, saying it showed that traditional family was at the core of Italian society.


Big Fat Goddamned Stupid

This shit is infuriating. It ain't "GRID," you dumbasses!
Gay men remain banned for life from donating blood, the government said Wednesday, leaving in place — for now — a 1983 prohibition meant to prevent the spread of HIV through transfusions.


Before giving blood, all men are asked if they have had sex, even once, with another man since 1977. Those who say they have are permanently banned from donating. The FDA said those men are at increased risk of infection by HIV that can be transmitted to others by blood transfusion.

In March 2006, the Red Cross, the international blood association AABB and America's Blood Centers proposed replacing the lifetime ban with a one-year deferral following male-to-male sexual contact. New and improved tests, which can detect HIV-positive donors within just 10 to 21 days of infection, make the lifetime ban unnecessary, the blood groups told the FDA.


And More Bad News

Tigers on the wane

The initial results of the study, conducted over the past two years by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India, found that the tiger population in some states may be nearly 65 percent less than experts had thought.

Results were only available for some regions, and a total overall figure is not expected until late this year. But conservationists said the early results indicated the last tiger census — which found about 3,500 tigers — was far too optimistic.


The Way to Win

Kick out the gays!
Lawmakers who say the military has kicked out 58 Arabic language experts because they were gay want the Pentagon to explain how it can afford to let the valuable specialists go.

Seizing on the latest discharge, involving three specialists, House members wrote the House Armed Services Committee chairman on Wednesday that the continued loss of such "capable, highly skilled Arabic linguists continues to compromise our national security during time of war."

Former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Benjamin, said his supervisor tried to keep him on the job and urged him to sign a statement saying he was not gay.


Good Luck with That

It's a fine notion
, but it'll be futile, I expect. The Bushies don't talk, especially when it comes to money:

Members of Congress dem­anded on Tuesday that the Bush administration explain how billions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money had gone missing in Iraq in what they called a disastrous effort to rebuild the country.

Responding to the latest report by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, members of the House foreign relations committee also directed much of their criticism at the Iraqi coalition government, venting their frustration with corruption.

“It is simply outrageous that we are mired in the same mud of incompetence that we got stuck in last year and the year before that. But knowing the administration’s abysmal track record on Iraq reconstruction planning, this is no surprise,” Tom Lantos, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said.

Iraq was losing perhaps $5bn (€3.7bn, £2.5bn) a year through corruption, he said.

“The revelation in Mr Bowen’s latest quarterly report that new facilities are crumbling is equally as troubling as the data on incomplete projects. Some of the supposedly completed ventures are actually houses of cards, ready to collapse.”


Negotiating With Terrorists

Just try to tell me with a straight face that the GOP wouldn't be screaming their fool heads off at this, if a Democrat were in charge:
U.S. officials said Wednesday that a "joint campaign plan redesign team" is preparing a new diplomatic and military strategy for Iraq, which is expected to be approved by the end of the month.

The team, led by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, is laying out a new course for how to proceed in the four-year-old war, the officials told CNN.

One element of the plan is to try to identify groups of people -- including possibly Sunni extremists and militia groups -- with whom U.S. officials feel they can do business, such as negotiating power-sharing and cease-fire agreements and granting economic aid, the sources said.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

$27 Million Stupid

So bloody ridiculous.

The following video from CNN's Newsroom shows a new $27 million museum in Kentucky aimed at refuting the theory of evolution. The high-tech animatronic T. Rex's in its exhibits are shown living living side by side with humans and are accorded a place on Noah's Ark.

The museum's spokesman explains, "The mission is to tell people that the Bible's history is true, and if its history is true its message of the gospel is true. ... It's a book of history and you can trust its science."

Video here.


Slavery Lives

It's nice to know you can still buy people in the USA:
A millionaire couple accused of keeping two Indonesian women as slaves in their luxurious Long Island home and abusing them for years have been indicted on federal slavery charges.

Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and her husband, Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, operate a worldwide perfume business out of their home, contracting with overseas factories to manufacture the fragrances.

The two were arrested last week after one of their servants was found wandering outside a doughnut shop on Long Island, wearing only pants and a towel. The woman was believed to have fled the home in Muttontown, a tony community on Long Island's north shore, when she took the trash out the night before.



Looks like Goodling has accused McNulty of perjury:
A former top Justice Department aide denied knowledge of any improper White House role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and accused Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty of misleading Congress about the dismissals.

Monica Goodling, the former White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, told the House Judiciary Committee she had no discussions before the firings with Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, or then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

Goodling testified that she ``crossed the line'' by inquiring into political affiliations of people applying for career jobs at the Justice Department. She disputed McNulty's assertion that she withheld information from him about the extent of White House involvement in replacing U.S. attorneys before his Feb. 6 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony.

Goodling said today she provided McNulty with ``dozens of pages of statistics and other information'' to help him prepare for his testimony. ``Despite my and others' best efforts, the deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects,'' she said. ``I believe that the deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision.''


They Don't Plan to "Follow Us Home?"

A man identified on tape as the Taliban's new top field commander warned Wednesday that new recruits were volunteering as suicide bombers and that fighters would continue their holy war until Western powers leave Afghanistan.


Going after Gougers

And, surprise! The president is considering a veto of this bill!
The House, eager to do something about record high gasoline prices in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, voted narrowly Wednesday to approve stiff penalties for those found guilty of gasoline price gouging.

The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to go after oil companies, traders or retail operators if they take "unfair advantage" or charge "unconscionably excessive" prices for gasoline and other fuels.

The White House called the measure a form of price controls that could result in fuel shortages. It said President Bush would be urged to veto the legislation should it pass Congress.


"Din't Do Nuthin'"

The inevitable defense
The Justice Department's former White House liaison denied Wednesday that she played a major role in the firings of U.S. attorneys last year and blamed Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty for misleading Congress.


Goin' Beggin'

Oh, so NOW the Bushies realize that an international solution is required?

I'm sure he'll find a way to fuck that up too:
The Bush administration is developing plans to "internationalise" the Iraq crisis, including an expanded role for the United Nations, as a way of reducing overall US responsibility for Iraq's future and limiting domestic political fallout from the war as the 2008 election season approaches.

The move comes amid rising concern in Washington that President George Bush's controversial Baghdad security surge, led by the US commander, General David Petraeus, is not working and that Iran is winning the clandestine battle for control of Iraq.


Them Folks Is Weird

A Liberty University student was arrested after telling a family member he had made bombs and planned to attend the funeral of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, authorities said.

Mark David Uhl, 19, was arrested Monday night on charges of manufacturing an explosive device, Major Steve Hutcherson said. A family member notified authorities.


War on Iran, Already

Hardly surprising, more's the pity:
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Applied Stasi Wisdom

Rather disturbing, this:
German authorities are using scent tracking to keep tabs on possibly violent protesters against next month's Group of Eight summit - a tactic that is drawing comparisons with the methods of former East Germany's secret police.

Scent samples have been taken from an undisclosed number of people believed to be a possible danger to the upcoming summit so that police dogs can pick out the perpetrators if there is violence, the Hamburger Morgenpost reported Tuesday.

Andreas Christeleit, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, confirmed the report but would give no further details.

"This has happened to several suspects," he said.

The use of scent samples was widely known to be practiced in Germany by the East German secret police, the Stasi, who used the technique to track dissidents.

Petra Pau, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Left Party, a group that includes ex-communists, criticized the practice as "another step away from a democratic state of law toward a preventive security state."


We're Leaving Iraq Soon

In other news, it's Opposite Day:

The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- a record-high number -- by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

"It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, referring to the Bush administration. "I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."


Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?

Interesting how they just kinda slipped this one in:
With scarcely a mention in the mainstream media, President Bush has ordered up a plan for responding to a catastrophic attack.

Under that plan, he entrusts himself with leading the entire federal government, not just the Executive Branch. And he gives himself the responsibility “for ensuring constitutional government.”

He laid this all out in a document entitled “National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51” and “Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20.”

The White House released it on May 9.


Gonzales Has Stood Up to Bush

Yeah, right. This guy is a compulsive liar, and it'll be a happy day when he's dragged out of office:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says his long friendship with President Bush makes it easier to say "no" to him on sticky legal issues.

Gonzales' critics say the attorney is far more likely to say "yes," and they say that leaves the Justice Department vulnerable to a politically determined White House.


"This intertwining of the political with the running of the Justice Department has gone on in other administrations, both Republican and Democrat," said Paul Rothstein, a professor at Georgetown Law School. "But I think it's being carried to a fine art by this president. They leave no stone unturned to politicize where they think the law will permit it. And they push the line very far."

Gonzales, a friend and adviser to Bush since their days in Texas, calls their close relationship "a good thing."

"Being able to go and having a very candid conversation and telling the president: 'Mr. President, this cannot be done. You can't do this,' _ I think you want that," Gonzales told reporters this week. "And I think having a personal relationship makes that, quite frankly, much easier always to deliver bad news."

"Do you recall a time when you (were) in there and said, 'Mr. President, we can't do this?'" Gonzales was asked.

"Oh, yeah," the attorney general responded.

"Can you share it with us?" a reporter asked.

"No," Gonzales said.



Another exciting development on the left. Labor unions fighting for gay unions:
The trade union movement is taking a greater role in fighting for LGBT civil rights - from negotiating contracts with protections for gay workers, lobbying Congress for rights bills, and speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Transport Workers Union of America is the latest union to announce its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The legislation was introduced in Congress last month. (story) It would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

"You can't just wish discrimination away," said Transport Workers Union of America President James C. Little.


Let the Compulsory Process Begin!

A letter sent to White House attorney, Fred Fielding, today by top U.S. House Judiciary Committee members offers "one last appeal" for voluntary cooperation in the U.S. Attorney firing probe, or else a "compulsory process" will begin.

The letter, sent to The BRAD BLOG by committee chair John Conyers (D-MI) and the chair of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), takes the White House to task for their "rebuff of efforts by the Judiciary Committee to obtain voluntary cooperation" in their investigation "concerning at least nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and related matters."


The Ongoing War on Science

Shame on the Smithsonian for compromising on this:
The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Let the Rhetoric Begin

We have to nuke Iran! Right, neocons?
Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."


No Wonder...

That the Pakistanis are reducing their patrols.

Everything is fine and dandy:

IT'S not just clouds that shroud Waziristan's treacherous high country. Up here on the Afghan border, a veil of state secrecy also cloaks a new Taliban wave breaking eastward across Pakistan.

Against the totemic thump of the drums of war, dust churns as the bodies of suspected anti-Taliban spies are dragged behind Toyota utes - as many as four at a time.

The severed heads of those who cross the fanatical jihadis are held aloft in cheering, jeering crowds. And in the bazaar, just a few rupees buys one of the hottest selling new DVDs - that's the one in which a 12-year-old boy wields the decapitation knife.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bigotry Goes On

To deny a person shelter on the basis of her sexuality is, if I may say so, completely evil:

Civil rights complaints have been filed on behalf of a Chicago woman who claims she was denied access to a City-funded homeless shelter on a cold November evening because she is a lesbian.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois announced Monday it had filed the complaints with the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations and the State of Illinois Department of Human Rights on behalf of Michelle Wang.


The New Life staff person asked to speak with Wang, and inquired about the reason she was homeless. Wang replied that she and her girlfriend had split up and that she had been asked to leave the apartment. The staff person became agitated, suggesting that she did not understand why Wang left the apartment if her name was on the lease.

Wang finally responded that the other woman was her lesbian partner, and they had a romantic breakup.

The New Life staffer put Wang on hold, and returned to say that there were no beds available for here.

The City DHS employee asked a colleague to phone the shelter and check on the availability of beds and that employee found that New Life indeed had space available.

"This is the type of blatant discrimination that too often goes unreported and unchallenged," said John A. Knight, Director of the ACLU of Illinois Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.


Our Helpful Friends in Asia

Pakistan is more than happy to take our money:
"The United States is continuing to make large payments of roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for what it calls reimbursements to the country's military for conducting counterterrorism efforts along the border with Afghanistan, even though Pakistan's president decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the area where Qaida and Taliban fighters are most active," the NEW YORK TIMES will report in Sunday editions, according to a copy of the article advanced to RAW STORY.



Looks like Reid is ready to stand up to Bush over recess appointments!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a little trick up his sleeve that could spell an end to President Bush's devilish recess appointments of controversial figures like former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. We hear that over the long August vacation, when those types of summer hires are made, Reid will call the Senate into session just long enough to force the prez to send his nominees who need confirmation to the chamber. The talk is he will hold a quickie "pro forma" session every 10 days, tapping a local senator to run the hall. Senate workers and Republicans are miffed, but Reid is proving that he's the new sheriff in town.


7 More

The surge goes on
Seven American soldiers and a translator were killed in separate attacks in Baghdad and a city south of the capital, the U.S. military said Sunday.


Everything Old South Is New Again

This whole story is a bloody mess and an embarrassment:
In the cool and beflagged small courtroom in Jena, Louisiana, three black schoolboys - Robert Bailey, Theodore Shaw and Mychal Bell - are about to go on trial for a playground fight that could see them jailed for between 30 and 50 years.

Jena, about 220 miles north of New Orleans, is a small town of 3,000 people, 85 per cent of whom are white. Tomorrow it will be the focus for a race trial which could put it on the map alongside the bad old names of the Mississippi Burning Sixties such as Selma or Montgomery, Alabama.


It began in Jena's high school last August when Kenneth Purvis asked the headteacher if black students could break with a long-held tradition and join the whites who sit under the tree in the school courtyard during breaks. The boy was told that he and his friends could sit where they liked.

The following morning white students had hung three nooses there. 'Bad taste, silly, but just a prank,' was the response of most of Jena's whites.

'To us those nooses meant the KKK [Ku Klux Klan], they meant, "Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,"' says Caseptla Bailey, a black community leader and mother of one of the accused. The three white perpetrators of what was seen as a race hate crime were given 'in-school' suspensions (sent to another school for a few days before returning).


A white student, Justin Barker, was attacked, allegedly by six black students.

The expected charges of assault and battery were not laid, and the six were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. They now face a lifetime in jail.

Barker spent the evening of the assault at the local Baptist church, where he was seen by friends to be 'his usual smiling self'.

Nine days later, with the case technically sub judice, the District Attorney made the following public statement to the local paper: 'I will not tolerate this type of behaviour. To those who act in this manner I tell you that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and with the harshest crimes that the facts justify. When you are convicted I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law. I will see to it that you never again menace the students at any school in this parish.'

Bail for the impoverished students was set absurdly high, and most have been held in custody. The town's mind seems to be made up.

But now the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union - 'damned outsiders' - have become involved and have begun to recruit, enthuse and empower the local black population.


We're Still Not Too Bright

What is wrong with Americans?

In these days of nearly $4-a-gallon gasoline, a three-ton SUV that practically requires a bank loan to fill 'er up would seem to be a tough sell.

Americans, however, are not shunning these beasts. Far from it. Auto industry figures show that after a two-year slump, sales of the gas guzzlers are up over 2006 -- in some cases, way up.

The numbers for large SUVs rose nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2007, and the April figures were up 25 percent from April 2006, according to automakers' statistics provided by, an automotive research Web site.