Friday, June 22, 2007

Many Cats, No Feet

My theory is that there are only half as many kitty feet in the world as are needed, and so each cat only has feet for half of every day. When they are in loaf position (no feet visible), their feet go back to the Great Cat Foot Continuum, where they are passed on to the next cat who wants to get up.

Ours are doing their part.

Luckily most cats don't even want to use their feet for half of a day, so the Continuum has a constant surplus.


Running, Hiding

The Justice Department snafu goes on, as a nominee flees in the face of hearings:
President Bush's pick to be the No. 3 official in the Justice Department asked to have his nomination withdrawn Friday, four days before he was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bill Mercer sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him as associate attorney general, a post he has held on an interim basis since September. He plans to leave Washington and turn his full attention to his work as U.S. attorney for Montana.

"With no clear end in sight with respect to my nomination, it is untenable for me to pursue both responsibilities and provide proper attention to my family," Mercer wrote.

The Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing on Mercer's nomination for Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the committee had said senators needed the facts from an investigation into the firings of several federal prosecutors before he could be confirmed.

"The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "With a confirmation hearing looming next Tuesday, they have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath."


Mercer's name comes up at times in thousands of pages of e-mail exchanges between Justice Department and White House officials discussing the firings. The panel had authorized a subpoena for Mercer as part of its investigation.


Canada Leads Again

And again, we should follow suit:
Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in North America to offer HIV tests that provide results in just 60 seconds and will double the number of sites across the province where anonymous tests are available, Health Minister George Smitherman announced Friday.

It will cost about $350,000 a year to have the HIV tests available at 50 sites, which Smitherman said is a small price to pay _ especially when it eliminates the agonizing three-week wait patients currently endure for results.

``I'm a gay man, and I'm one of those that has experienced that gut wrenching three-week wait,'' he said. ``Everybody remembers that wait, and accordingly, you can't put a price on it.''


All Is Well

Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Your government is in the hands of sound management:
The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year -- far more than the official $248 billion deficit -- when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss -- equal to $11,434 per household -- is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

"We're on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations," says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.


An Asshole to the Finish

Gonzales is committed to keeping power.
How admirable:
Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a gathering of his colleagues in Atlanta on Thursday that he would complete his term in office, using his final 18 months to fight online child predators and to push to make background checks on gun buyers more current.

The nation's top prosecutor, mired in a political crisis over the dismissal of federal prosecutors, got a round of chuckles from about 40 state attorneys general at a national convention in a Buckhead hotel when he said that it was "good to be outside of Washington, D.C."

He made no reference to the battle swirling over his job but said his "personal attention" would be devoted to four areas of law enforcement that also included fighting terror and public corruption.
He should be particularly adept at investigating public corruption, given that he's the source of plenty.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grand Closing Coming Soon

So long, Gitmo:
The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.


Illegal Immigrants = Goats

The GOP just can't manage to hide their deranged bigotry, can they?
"If the answer is 'build a fence' I've got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain't no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence.

"Now people are at least as smart as goats. Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple times they quit trying to jump it."

-- Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), quoted by the Biloxi Sun Herald, on the solution to illegal immigration.


Australian Paternalism

Great plan.
Break up aboriginal societies, then blame the victims and curtail their rights "for their own good":
Australia's prime minister announced plans Thursday to ban pornography and alcohol for Aborigines in northern areas and tighten control over their welfare benefits to fight child sex abuse among them.

Some Aboriginal leaders rejected the plan as paternalistic and said the measures were discriminatory and would violate the civil rights of the country's original inhabitants. But others applauded the initiative and recommended extending the welfare restrictions to Aborigines in other parts of the country.

Prime Minister John Howard was responding to a report last week that found sexual abuse of children to be rampant in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The report said the abuse was fueled by endemic alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty and other factors causing a breakdown in traditional society.

"This is a national emergency," Howard told Parliament. "We're dealing with a group of young Australians for whom the concept of childhood innocence has never been present."

Howard announced the measures for the Northern Territory, an Outback region where the federal government retains powers it doesn't have over Australia's six states. He urged state leaders to apply similar tough rules in their jurisdictions.

The federal government can change laws in the territory with an act of Parliament, where Howard has a majority that ensures he can implement his policy.

Australia is home to about 400,000 Aborigines. About 60,000 live in the Northern Territory, often in isolated, impoverished communities where jobs are scarce and substance abuse is widespread. The land was returned to them over the past 30 years and accounts for about half the Northern Territory, which is about twice the size of Texas.

The plan angered some Aboriginal leaders, who said it was the kind of government behavior that has disenfranchised Aborigines and created the problems in the first place. They also complained they had not been consulted; the government had not previously indicated it was considering such action.

"I'm absolutely disgusted by this patronizing government control," said Mitch, a member of a government board helping Aborigines who were taken from their parents under past assimilation laws who uses one name. "And tying drinking with welfare payments is just disgusting."


Forcing Bush to Explain

Of course, now he'l continue tol stall and stall rather than complying with the subpoenas in timely fashion:
President George W. Bush faced new pressure on Thursday to explain the legal basis for his warrantless domestic spying program when a Senate panel authorized subpoenas to obtain administration documents.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the subpoenas in a 13-3 vote following 18 months of futile efforts to obtain documents related to Bush's contested legal justification for the program, which was implemented after the September 11 attacks.

Three Republicans joined 10 Democrats in voting to authorize the subpoenas, which may be issued within days unless the White House suddenly provides the materials voluntarily.


Crazy People with Too Much Time on Their Hands

This guy definitely qualifies
, as do many of the haredi:
Moments before Thursday's gay pride march was to begin in Jerusalem police arrested a man carrying a homemade bomb.

Police said the 32 year old said he planned to detonate it near the parade route to scare people away.

The arrest was one of nearly 200 as members of the haredi, an ultra-Orthodox sect, rioted for the past several days in opposition to the parade. Garbage cans were set on fire and stones thrown at police. Twenty-two officers were reportedly injured.


Please, Don't

Just don't do it, Nader:
Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adding Injury to Injury

Just grand:
Her husband volunteered to defend this country, and he has been missing in the deserts of Iraq for more than a month. Now the US government is trying to kick her out of the country.


American Know-How

Another well-planned venture
, this:
Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department.


Still an Ass

Hardly surprising
, of course:

President Bush has chosen to use his veto pen three times — twice on the stem cell issue where politics, ethics and science collide.

Pushing back against the Democratic-led Congress, Bush plans to veto a bill Wednesday that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wasted Money

That's what any tuition spent on Frist's classes will be:
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) is returning to his alma mater, Princeton University, to teach courses on government health policy, the university said Tuesday.

He was a key sponsor of two failed attempts to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Frist, a practicing physician, has been appointed as a visiting professor for the 2007-08 academic year, and will serve as a lecturer at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The 55-year-old Frist will teach a graduate course at the Wilson School on health policy during the fall semester, and an undergraduate course on a similar subject in the spring.

"His years of experience in public service as a doctor and as a leader in the U.S. Senate make him an ideal practitioner-professor," said Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Wilson School.


Bush: Pro-Life

Strange how his policies seem not so much to reflect that claim:
Pregnant Iraqi women who have been forced from their homes by worsening violence are obtaining illegal abortions because they are unable to get medical care for themselves and their unborn, according to a new report by a national humanitarian group.

A record number of Iraqis -- most of them women and children -- are fleeing their homes to escape the bloodshed of sectarian violence and anti-U.S. attacks, according to a new report by the Iraqi Red Crescent organization, the largest aid group operating in Iraq.

Health care is inadequate and difficult to access for those people, according to the IRC report.

"Pregnant women, infants and children are unable to get...required medical care," states the report, which was translated from Arabic, "and criminal abortion became [sic] the norms."

Rape, theft and drug addiction have also become "commonplace" among the displaced, who live in government buildings, at relatives' homes, tents, or squat in abandoned homes or makeshift huts on empty land, according to the report, which was first noted on the Iraq news site


A Victory for Workers?

I'm sure the GOP will fight this tooth and nail, and Bush will more than likely pull out his veto stamp once again, but it's impressive that this measure has gotten so far:

Sixty years ago this month, US labor law was dramatically altered in the interests of capital when the Republican-led 80th Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over intense opposition from organized labor. The legislation survived a veto by President Harry Truman, who described the act as a "slave-labor bill", arguing that it would "conflict with important principles of our democratic society."

The amendments enacted in Taft-Hartley added a list of prohibited actions, or "unfair labor practices", on the part of unions to the National Labor Relations Act, which had previously existed to monitor abuses on the part of employers. The Act prohibited jurisdictional strikes, secondary boycotts and "common situs" picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. Union shops were heavily restricted, and states were allowed to pass "right-to-work" laws that outlawed union shops. Furthermore, the executive branch of the Federal government was empowered to break strikes if an action "imperiled the national health or safety," a test that has been interpreted broadly by the courts.

Earlier this year, the new Democratic-led House passed the Employee Free Choice Act, designed to undo some of the worst aspects of Taft-Hartley. The Act would ensure that when a majority of employees in a workplace decide to form a union, they can do so without the debilitating obstacles employers now use to block their free choice. Union officials called it the most important piece of pro-labor legislation to pass a house of Congress in decades.

In February in this space, I urged readers to lobby their reps and many of you did. Now, the legislation is pending before the Senate, but faces a GOP filibuster and--if that fails--a threatened veto by President Bush. The vote could come as early as Wednesday, June 20.


We're on the Highway to Hell

Common sense just isn't in style these days, it would seem:
Leaders of the committee writing energy legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives backed away on Monday from controversial elements of the bill, including new fuel economy standards for automobiles.


Monday, June 18, 2007

US: Here to Help

Once again, our government proves itself to be the global leader that it is:
A breakthrough agreement to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur risks being undermined by a shortfall of up to $1bn (£504m) in US contributions to the costs of global peacekeeping, campaigners said yesterday.


More Winning

Ah, victory. So very sweet:
At least 36 people were killed today in fierce battles involving British troops and Shia militias in southern Iraq during house searches, Iraqi officials and doctors said.

The Ministry of Defence said it had little information about the clashes but could confirm there were no British casualties.

"Details are still quite sketchy for what has actually happened," a spokeswoman said of the operation led by Iraqi security forces with British support.

Local officials said more than 100 people were injured in the fighting near Amarah, a predominantly Shia city about 200 miles south-east of Baghdad.



U.S. and Iraqi forces began major military operations Monday along Baghdad's southern and northern belts, military officials said.
Insurgents pushing back on newly aggressive coalition military forces have led to continued violence in Iraq, the U.S. commander in Baghdad said Sunday, adding that stabilizing security could take up to a decade to complete.
And winning:
Seven children were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike targeting suspected al-Qaida militants in eastern Afghanistan, a coalition statement said Monday. The strike came hours after the deadliest insurgent attack since the Taliban fell in 2001.


Stone the Gays

Or rather, cops who are defending the rights of gay people.

How very Biblical
Seven police officers were injured when members of an ultra-Orthodox sect staging a rally Sunday night to protest this week's gay pride parade in Jerusalem began throwing rocks and stones at them.

More than 10,000 haredi took part in the rally, far fewer than the 100,000 organizers had predicted would turn out. The sect had been given a police permit for the rally - to let sect members vent their anger over a decision to allow the gay parade to take place on Thursday.

An estimated 15,000 police were assigned to the haredi protest to ensure public safety.

Haredi rabbis reportedly whipped the crowd into a frenzy, calling gays evil and warning that the gay march would bring disaster on the holy city.

"Anyone who helps the evil will be judged," one rabbi told the crowd.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Let's Get Crazier!

Sounds like a great plan to me:
U.S. troops would no longer be asked to reveal previous mental health treatment when applying for security clearances under a proposal being considered by the Pentagon.


Iraq Lessons Learned

By the wrong people
The most devastating suicide bombing in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban killed 35 people and wounded 52 yesterday, in an attack aimed at a police academy bus in Kabul which heralded an escalation in Iraq-style insurgency tactics.

The Taliban, which had threatened to unleash a summer offensive by thousands of suicide bombers, claimed responsibility.


Take That, Ratzi

Good. People need to stay up in the Church's face about this:
Tens of thousands of gay rights activists marched through the streets of Rome Saturday marking gay pride and demanding legal rights for same-sex couples.

Carrying rainbow-colored flags, the demonstrators held banners criticizing the Vatican, which under Pope Benedict has been conducting a fierce campaign to protect traditional marriage.


DoJ Meltdown

Yet another example of Bush's administrative prowess:

The Justice Department is scrambling to find willing replacements for nearly two dozen temporary U.S. attorneys, whose time in office is now limited under a law signed last week by President Bush.

The developments add to growing personnel problems at the Justice Department in the wake of last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys, which led to a political confrontation with Congress, lowered morale and contributed to an exodus of officials from the upper ranks of the department.