Saturday, September 01, 2007

Untaxed Hatred

Evil work if you can get it:

Homophobia has flourished in the Bush era, both as a potent political tool — many people believe George Bush would have lost Ohio in 2004, and thus a second term, if Karl Rove hadn’t made sure there was an anti-gay initiative on the state ballot — and as an industry unto itself. In just one year, the top 10 Christianist groups that promote homophobia raised over $400 million in tax-free dollars:

  • Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)
    Founder, CEO and Director: Pat Robertson
    2004 Revenue: $186,482,060
  • Focus on the Family
    Founder and chairman: Dr. James C. Dobson
    2005 Revenue: $137,848,520
  • Coral Ridge Ministries
    Founder and President: Rev. D. James Kennedy
    2005 Revenue: $39,253,882
  • Alliance Defense Fund (ADF)
    President, CEO and General Counsel: Alan Sears
    2004 Revenue: $17,921,146
  • American Family Association (AFA)
    Founder and Chairman: The Rev. Donald Wildmon
    2005 Revenue: $17,595,352
  • American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)
    Founder and President: Pat Robertson, Chief Counsel: Jay Sekulow
    2005 Revenue: $14,485,514
  • Family Research Council (FRC)
    Founder: James C. Dobson, President and CEO: Tony Perkins
    2005 Revenue: $9,958,115
  • Jerry Falwell Ministries
    Founder and Director: Jerry Falwell (deceased)
    2005 Revenue: $8,950,480
  • Concerned Women for America (CWA)
    Founders: Tim and Beverly LaHaye
    2005 Revenue: $8,484,108
  • Traditional Values Coalition (TVC)
    Founder and Chairman: The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
    2005 Revenue: $6,389,448

All of these groups use homophobia as a fundraising tool, but while some address a wide range of social issues, four of them — Focus on the Family, AFA, FRC, TVC — are one-trick ponies that focus all or most of their activities on promoting homophobia. (The late Falwell and CWA arguably could belong to this group too.) These four groups raised $169 million of the revenue in 2005.


Exterminate the Brutes!

We seem to have drawn our foreign policy from Joseph Conrad:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday.

In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227. The numbers are based on morgue, hospital and police records and come from officials in the ministries of Health, Defense and the Interior. The statistics appear to indicate that the increase in troops ordered by President Bush this year has done little to curb civilian bloodshed, despite U.S. military statements to the contrary.


Friday, August 31, 2007

You Smell Purty

Jeez, does Bush ever do anything that is not simultaneously offensive and creepy?

U.S. President George W. Bush (L) hugs his newly announced White House Press Secretary Dana Perino (R) in the press briefing room of the White House August 31, 2007.


al-Qaeda Forces Us to Kill Whales

Makes perfect sense:
The Navy can use high-power sonar during exercises off the Southern California coast, despite the technology's threat to whales and other marine mammals, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

National security interests outweigh the possible harm to marine life, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined in overturning a judge's order banning the practice.

"The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote for the majority. "But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries."



Hurray Iowa!

Yesterday, a judge threw out a law banning gay marriage. As of next week, it's likely that there will be a stay in place while that decision is appealed (by homophobic bigots).

But for now, it's wedding season!
A minister married two men outside his Iowa home Friday morning, sealing the state's first legal same-sex wedding. Less than 24 hours earlier, a judge had thrown out Iowa's ban on gay marriage.

The Rev. Mark Stringer declared college students Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan legally wed.

"This is it. We're married. I love you," Fritz told McQuillan after the ceremony on the front lawn of the Unitarian minister's home in Des Moines.

On Thursday, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson ruled that Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed marriage only between a man and a woman, violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of six gay couples who had sued.

The ruling cleared the way for gay couples across the state to apply for marriage licenses in Polk County, and more than a dozen had by Friday morning.

The window of opportunity could be narrow, though.

County attorney John Sarcone promised a quick appeal, and he immediately asked Hanson for a stay that would prevent gays and lesbians from getting marriage licenses until the appeal was resolved. A hearing on the stay request is likely next week, said Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization.


The GOP Hates Children

The evidence continues to mount. Recently I noted Bush's zeal to cut back the CHIP program, but it seems as though the Republicans really do like injuring children just about any way they can imagine:

In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter (pdf), the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were "grateful" for his staff's intervention to stop health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads.

The formula industry's intervention -- which did not block the ads but helped change their content -- is being scrutinized by Congress in the wake of last month's testimony by former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona that the Bush administration repeatedly allowed political considerations to interfere with his efforts to promote public health.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating allegations from former officials that Carmona was blocked from participating in the breast-feeding advocacy effort and that those designing the ad campaign were overruled by superiors at the formula industry's insistence.

"This is a credible allegation of political interference that might have had serious public health consequences," said Waxman, a California Democrat.

The milder campaign HHS eventually used had no discernible impact on the nation's breast-feeding rate, which lags behind the rate in many European countries.


Kids Learn

They really do. The trouble is that so many people strive to teach hatred:
It started with a simple question and ended with at least one student chanting "white power" in a classroom.

It happened Tuesday in a classroom at Holy Family High School, the Catholic school that sits at the corner of 144th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard in Broomfield.

The classroom discussion started with the question: Why do students need to learn Spanish?

According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the conversation soon became about immigration and it turned ugly.

"It became a heated discussion and some rhetoric was used that was inappropriate for the classroom," said Jeanette DeMelo, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Denver.

At least one e-mail sent to 9NEWS said that at least one student started a chant of "white power" and some said that all Mexicans should go back to Mexico.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Gifts from the U.S.

Nothing like a cholera outbreak to prove how right we were to invade:
An outbreak of cholera in two northern Iraqi provinces has killed eight people and infected 80 others, the Kurdistan Regional Government has said.

Kurdish Health Minister Zeryan Othman said local health authorities were also treating 4,250 suspected cases of the disease in Sulaimaniya and Tamim.

Specialist teams and emergency aid have been sent to the affected regions.

Serious problems with water quality and sewage treatment, worsened by crumbling local infrastructure, are being blamed.



No officer did anything wrong, at all, ever.

I am so relieved, as are the Iraqi people, I feel certain:
The acquittal of a US army colonel on charges relating to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib means no officers have been found criminally guilty.


The Heartland Isn't Heartless

Well done:
A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa's law banning gay marriage.

The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples.

"This is kind of the American Dream," said plaintiff Jen BarbouRoske, of Iowa City. "I'm still feeling kind of shaky. It's pure elation, I just cannot believe it."

Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the ruling requires "full equality for all Iowans including gay and lesbian Iowans and their families."

"The Iowa Constitution has lived up to its promises of equality for everyone," she said.

Gay couples from anywhere in Iowa could apply for a marriage license from Polk County.


We're Standing Up As They Stand Down

That was the plan all along, right?
The US military is ready to intervene in southern Iraq to quell any unrest as British forces prepare to pull out from their last base in the oil port of Basra, the Pentagon said Thursday.


Long Day

More orientation all day today as they drove us all around Oshkosh and showed us the cultural resources. At the opera house, we were even greeted by the mayor of Oshkosh who is, by all appearances, about five years old.

Is there nothing about this town that isn't cute?

At any rate, the day ended with a boat cruise that included drinks. Never a bad thing.

We filled the boat. It was a big hiring year, and they got a lot of smart and interesting people.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

U.S. Funding the War on U.S. Troops

Once again, well done, Bush:
Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province.

The payments, in return for the insurgents' allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said.

A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military's recent alliance with some Anbar tribes — 200 new projects are scheduled — provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn.

"Now we're back to the same old story in Anbar. The Americans are handing out contracts and jobs to terrorists, bandits and gangsters," said Sheik Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, the deputy leader of the Dulaim, the largest and most powerful tribe in Anbar.


Bush Is Evil

Yet more evidence, as he works to help kids get sick and die:
The governors of New York and New Jersey were upset and not trying to hide it.

“We had zero forewarning,” said New Jersey’s Jon Corzine. “It was sprung at 7:30 on a Friday night in the middle of August, the time when it would draw the least fire.”

He was talking about the Bush administration’s latest effort to thwart the expansion of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. Governors in several states are trying to include more youngsters from the lower rungs of the middle class and have vowed to fight the president on this issue.

Acting during a Congressional recess, and making a distinct effort to stay beneath the radar of the news media, the administration enacted insidious new rules that make it much harder for states to bring additional children under the umbrella of the program, known colloquially as CHIP.

The program is popular because it works. It’s cost effective and there is wide bipartisan support for its expansion. But President Bush, locked in an ideological straitjacket, is adamant in his opposition.
Several states, including New York and New Jersey, have used federal waivers to raise the family income ceiling for eligibility to participate in CHIP. New Jersey, for example, offers coverage to the children of families with incomes as high as 350 percent of the official poverty rate for a family of four, which is $20,650 a year. New York has an upper limit of 250 percent of the poverty rate and is trying to raise it to 400 percent.

State officials said the onerous new rules would make it all but impossible to offer coverage beyond 250 percent of the poverty level.


War, on Drugs

Heckuva job, Bushie!

Britain faces a war on two fronts in Afghanistan, following the revelation that the province where British troops are deployed has become the biggest source of illicit drugs in the world.

In an annual survey of opium production released yesterday, the UN reported that Helmand province had produced 48 per cent more opium compared to its record-breaking crop last year. Opium production in Afghanistan as a whole will reach a "frighteningly new level" at 8,200 tons, 34 per cent higher than last year, the report said.

British troops sent to back up reconstruction efforts in Helmand have been pinned down by resurgent Taliban fighters, who have a stranglehold over the drugs trade which is funding the resistance.

Although another record opium crop had been expected, the massive jump in the Helmand output reflects the level of insecurity in the province, where the insurgency has deepened in the past year. British commanders have described the conflict as the most intense since the Korean war.


First a Private Army...

And now a private Air Force. Just great:
As if having them run around Iraq like loose cannons wasn't bad enough, Blackwater is building an Air Force. Via Scholars & Rogues:

Security company Blackwater U.S.A. is buying Super Tucano light combat aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer. These five ton, single engine, single seat aircraft are built for pilot training, but also perform quite well for counter-insurgency work.... The bubble canopy provides excellent visibility. This, coupled with its slow speed (versus jets), makes it an excellent ground attack aircraft.


Petty, Vindictive

That's Rove for ya:

Yesterday Wonkette reported that departing White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove was looking to get even with some students at American University who had the tenacity to show him their asses. See, back in April Rove gave a speech before the university's College Republicans, meeting with some feisty protestors as he made his way out. Those arrested were forced into 40 hours of community service, and that was that. But now arrest warrants have been issued by the Secret Service for the mooners. From the Culture Warrior:

On Friday, Gardner and the rest of the group were notified by AU’s Dean of Students that the Secret Service has issued warrants for their arrest. Details are scarce because nobody seems to know what the fuck is going on and we couldn’t get the Dean on the phone on a Sunday, but Gardner and presumably all the others are being charged with crossing a police line and disorderly conduct.
I'm no lawyer, but isn't there a statute of limitations on this type of stuff? And does Rove really need the Secret Service to issue the arrest warrants? Aren't there more pressing threats to the president, his staff, his family and the country to attend to?



Yeah, he was pretty goddamned quiet when Katrina was actually happening, too:
President Bush commemorated Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow Wednesday with a somber moment of silence.


Two Americas

Edwards has got it right:
Top executives at major U.S. businesses last year made as much money in one day of work on the job as the average worker made over the entire year, according to a report released on Wednesday.
At the same time, workers at the bottom rung of the U.S. economy received the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. But the new wage of $5.85 an hour, after being adjusted for inflation, stands 7 percent below where the minimum wage stood a decade ago.

"CEO pay, over that same decade, has increased by roughly 45 percent," the study found.

On average, CEOs at major American corporations saw $1.3 million in pension gains last year. By contrast, 58.5 percent of American households led by a 45- to 54-year old even had a retirement account in 2004, the most recent year these figures were available.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Striking Moment

Today, in the Festival Mart in Oshkosh, there was a mother, each of whose two children, perhaps six or seven years old, pushed a miniaturized shopping cart.

Each cart had a little pole flying a plastic flag bearing the words: "Customer in Training."


Monday, August 27, 2007


The new internet service is just phenomenally atrocious in just about every respect.

Casting about for a workable option here, while missing the halcyon days of the online experience in Austin.


Miss Me?

No? Well, fine then.

Anyway, after closing on the house on Wednesday, we were ecstatic, but given that we had almost none of our possessions with us, and really didn't want to sleep on the lovely hardwood floors, we stayed another night at the hotel.

Upon learning from the movers on Thursday that our things had just now left Texas! (they seemed so very pleased with themselves to have been so prompt), we opted to move in anyway. We bought one of those inflatable mattresses and spent the evening sitting on the floor, reading and cursing all of mover-kind.

In fact, the movers didn't show up till Sunday. This gave M and I time on Saturday to hit A) outlets malls, to buy new clothes in which to be all professorial and B) Target, to buy luxuries like soap and shampoo and frozen dinners.

Sunday at 11 AM, the truck showed up with one surly manager and two friendly movers. The manager did very little work and remained unpleasant, while the actual workers remained cheerful even though they performed the task of moving the entire combined libraries of two English profs. Up to the second floor.

So now, here we are, with chairs upon which to sit at long last. And we just invested in Alltel's high-speed internet service.

My first orientation was today and went well, though was a tad overwhelming, both in terms of suddenly meeting a lot of new people after essentially speaking to no one but M and the cats since we left Austin and in terms of all the usual idiosyncratic networks and programs and procedures one finds at any institution. I'm fairly certain I was the only one in the room who has not previously taught this course at this university, given the number of times the phrase, "I know you already know this" was tossed about, willy nilly.

So there you have it, in far greatly detail than you could possibly have desired.