Saturday, September 22, 2007

And More Catblogging!

More photos from the trip: Because Tista soooo loves the styrofoam ends that the stereo came in, we actually took one along in our overstuffed car. He was very pleased about this.

Zora and Gramsci tended to hide when anyone passed by in the halls, which led to a lot of scenes like this one (yes, there are two cats in this photo):

Once under the covers, though, Gramsci tended to get verrrry relaxed.

Overall, we were very pleasantly surprised with how mellow the three of them were through 22 hours of driving and multiple hotel stays. (Hurray Motel 6 and its pet-friendliness!) They were just very sweet, which is never how I thought I would describe cats on a cross-country drive.

Gramsci was, of course, as shiny as ever.

Mellow or not, they're all happy to be home now. Especially since "home" now involves a big ol' staircase that is ideal for running up and down (and up and down, and up, and down, and up...)



We finally, finally found the camera cable yesterday and downloaded pictures from the trip!

Gramsci and Zora were much happier when they were in the same carrier. If we took either of them out, the other one complained until they were together again.

In the hotel rooms, Gramsci discovered his love for being underneath the covers...

....which Tista found confusing.

Zora, meanwhile, was comfortable either on top of the covers with us...

...or spent so much time hiding in the shower that I ended up putting her kitty bed there.

More to come!


Friday, September 21, 2007

God Speaks

This Nebraska thing continues to provide hilarity:

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sued God last week, seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty for making terroristic threats, inspiring fear and causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

Chambers, a self-proclaimed agnostic who often criticizes Christians, said his filing was triggered by a federal lawsuit he considers frivolous. He said he's trying to makes the point that anybody can sue anybody.

Not so, says "God." His response argues that the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction.

It adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point.

"I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you," according to the response, as read by Friend.

There was no contact information on the filing, although St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said.


No Rights

Once again, transsexuals bear the brunt of intolerance:
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that found transsexuals are not covered by federal discrimination laws.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Krystal Etsitty had no legal recourse in fighting her firing by the Utah Transit Authority in 2005.

The court, which sits in Denver, found that the trial judge was correct in finding that the transit authority feared it could be sued by people born biologically female if it were discovered Etsitty still had male genitals.



Corporate interests
once again trump Iraq's self-determination:
Despite opposition from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, US security company Blackwater was back on the streets of Baghdad on Friday, four days after being grounded over a fatal shooting incident.


Full of Death

Bring the soldiers home:

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) - A Kansas military cemetery has run out of space after the burial of another casualty of the Iraq war, officials said on Thursday.

"We are full," said Alison Kohler, spokeswoman for the Fort Riley U.S. Army post, home of the 1st Infantry Division.


Jena, Louisiana

They are raising some messed up kids down there:
Authorities in Alexandria, Louisiana, arrested two people after nooses were seen hanging from the back of a red pickup Thursday night, the city's mayor told CNN.

Alexandria is less than an hour away from Jena, Louisiana, and was a staging area Thursday for protesters who went to the smaller town to demonstrate against the treatment of six black teens known as the "Jena 6" in racially charged incidents.

Police say the 18-year-old driver of the truck was charged with driving while intoxicated and inciting to riot and also may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- the 16-year-old passenger.

As police were questioning the driver, he said he had an unloaded rifle in the back, which police found. They also found a set of brass knuckles in the cup holder on the dashboard, according to the police report.

The passenger told police he and his family are in the Ku Klux Klan, the police report said. He also said he had tied the nooses and that the brass knuckles belonged to him, the report said. Video Watch what police found on the truck »

At least one of the nooses was made out of an extension cord, according to the police report.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy said those arrested were "from around Jena" and not in the same parish as his city.


Windshield Cowboy

Fox disses Bush:

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, derided his political friend as a "windshield cowboy" – a cowboy who prefers to drive – and "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life".

He recalled a meeting in Mexico shortly after both men had been elected when Mr Fox offered Mr Bush a ride on a "big palomino" horse.

Mr Fox, who left office in December, recalled Mr Bush "backing away" from the animal.

''A horse lover can always tell when others don't share our passion," he said, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Bush has spoken of his fondness for shooting doves and cutting brush on his Crawford ranch in Texas, which he bought in 1999.

The property reportedly has no horses and only five cattle.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

License to Kill

It's about bloody time the media start paying attention to the atrocity that is Blackwater. I don't have much hope that any significant change will occur, but at least it's being mentioned:
Blackwater USA, the private security company involved in a lethal shoot-out in Iraq last weekend, operates under State Department authority and is untouchable, US and Iraqi officials said.

The department's protection meant the company, which provides security for the most senior American diplomats, was exempt from US military regulations governing other security firms. The State Department defended Blackwater at every turn, the officials said.

In recent months, the State Department's protection of Blackwater has become a central issue as Iraqi authorities repeatedly clashed with the company over its aggressive street tactics.

The State Department has allowed the company's heavily armed teams to operate without an Interior Ministry licence, even after the requirement became standard in Defence Department security contracts.

Blackwater is not subject to the military's restrictions on the use of offensive weapons, its procedures for reporting shooting incidents or a central tracking system that allows commanders to monitor the movements of security firms on the battlefield, officials said.


Our Friends the Saudis

They may well be leading the entire region to ditch the great American dollar:
Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.


2 Million on the Run

The effort to stabilize Iraq continues, in all its glory:
Nearly two million Iraqis have become refugees in their own land in the past year, redrawing the ethnic and sectarian map of Baghdad and other cities, a report by the Iraqi Red Crescent said yesterday.

In Baghdad alone, nearly a million people have fled their homes.

Last month saw the sharpest rise so far in the numbers of Iraqis forced to abandon their homes - 71.1%.

The forced migration raises questions about claims from the Bush administration that the civilian protection plan at the core of its war strategy is making Iraq safer for Iraqis.

Instead, data compiled by Red Crescent staff and volunteers in Iraq's 18 provinces suggests many Iraqis have failed to find real safety or sustainable living conditions after being forced to leave their homes. Some families have been uprooted twice or even three times in search of safety, affordable housing, functioning water and electricity, adequate schools, and jobs.

More than three-quarters of the displaced were women, and children under 12, reducing families to poverty, and compounding the sense of social dislocation.

"The men who were the breadwinners are no longer part of the family. They either fled or joined armed groups," the report said.

How long until the right wingers pull out that old canard, so useful in attacking African Americans in the U.S. (since the Moynihan Report in '65, at the very latest), that the blame for social problems lies with the "absent father"?


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Ruffling Some Feathers"

Okay, Politico, if by "ruffle some feathers" you mean "spout deranged xenophobic bullshit":
New York Rep. Peter King, a prominent House Republican, said there are “too many mosques in this country” in a recent interview with Politico.

“There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam,” King said. “We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.”

King is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. And as an outspoken advocate of strong anti-terror measures, he has been unafraid to ruffle some feathers in his drive to protect the homeland.

When asked to clarify his statement, King did not revise his answer, saying “I think there has been a lack of full cooperation from too many people in the Muslim community.”


Rather Strikes Back

It's been a while, but Rather is apparently still most displeased with kerning-related events:

Dan Rather, whose career at CBS News ground to an inglorious end 15 months ago over his role in an unsubstantiated report questioning President Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service, filed a lawsuit this afternoon against the network, its corporate parent and three of his former superiors.

Mr. Rather, 75, asserts that the network violated his contract by giving him insufficient airtime on “60 Minutes” after forcing him to step down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” in March 2005. He also contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation.”

The suit, which seeks $70 million in damages, names as defendants CBS and its chief executive, Leslie Moonves; Viacom and its executive chairman, Sumner Redstone; and Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News.

In the suit, filed this afternoon in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Rather charges that CBS and its executives made him “a scapegoat” in an attempt “to pacify the White House,” though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect. To buttress this claim, Mr. Rather quotes the executive who oversaw his regular segment on CBS Radio, telling Mr. Rather in November 2004 that he was losing that slot, effective immediately, because of “pressure from ‘the right wing.’ ”


Disbar Him!

Wouldn't it be nice if that were to happen?

The woman who literally wrote the book on legal ethics in Texas says it's likely that the Texas State Bar is probing the professional conduct of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"Given the publicity regarding the allegations concerning Mr. Gonzales, I would be surprised if the [Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the Texas State Bar] is not currently investigating a complaint," said Lillian Hardwick, co-author of the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics.

But the Disciplinary Counsel in Austin, which could mete out punishments up to disbarment, was unable to confirm or deny whether Gonzales was facing scrutiny from his home state's bar association.

"I'm not able to answer that question," Maureen Ray, the Special Administrative Counsel in the Texas State Bar's Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, told the Huffington Post on Monday. "Our rules provide that while grievances are in an investigatory phase, up until anything is filed in district court or a public disciplinary sanction is issued, it's confidential."


Another Step Forward

On occasion, Big Pharma actually does do some valuable R & D:

Pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer Tuesday unveiled the results of lengthy tests on a new anti-AIDS drug which it said could help HIV patients stay healthy for longer.

Selzentry is the first new class of oral HIV medicines to be introduced in more than 10 years, Pfizer said at an annual medical conference in Chicago.

After a 48-week trial, nearly three times as many patients receiving the drug combined with traditional medication recorded undetectable levels of HIV virus, compared with those just getting the normal treatments.


GOP Dissing Minorities Again

No surprise there. What's surprising is that some of them are worried that this might be a bad thing:

Key Republican leaders are encouraging the party's presidential candidates to rethink their decision to skip presidential debates focusing on issues important to minorities, fearing a backlash that could further erode the party's standing with black and Latino voters.

The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) all cited scheduling conflicts in forgoing the debate. The top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June at Howard University.

"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."

Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed.

"For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."


Monday, September 17, 2007

Midwestern Weirdness

Where to begin
on this story?
LINCOLN, Neb. - The defendant in a state senator's lawsuit is accused of causing untold death and horror and threatening to cause more still. He can be sued in Douglas County, the legislator claims, because He's everywhere.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God last week. Angered by another lawsuit he considers frivolous, Chambers says he's trying to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody.

Chambers says in his lawsuit that God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians, also says God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes."

He's seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty.

Chambers said the lawsuit was triggered by a federal suit filed against a judge who recently barred words such as "rape" and "victim" from a sexual assault trial.

The accuser in the criminal case, Tory Bowen, sued Lancaster District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront, claiming that he violated her free speech rights.


Blackwater Gets the Boot

If this report is true, Blackwater is being kicked out of Iraq. And none too soon, I would say:

Iraq ordered the cancellation on Monday of the operating licence of US security firm Blackwater after it was involved in a shootout in Baghdad that killed eight people, a senior official told AFP.

Blackwater offers personal security to US civilian officials working in Iraq.

"The interior minister (Jawad al-Bolani) has issued an order to cancel Blackwater's licence and the company is prohibited from operating anywhere in Iraq," interior ministry director of operations Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf said.

"We have opened a criminal investigation against the group who committed the crime."

On Sunday, a US diplomatic convoy was involved in a shootout in Baghdad's Al-Yarmukh neighbourhood which killed at least eight people and wounded 13.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki condemned what he called the "criminal" response of the contractors guarding the convoy which the US embassy said had come under attack from insurgents.