Saturday, December 08, 2007

Oh. My. God.

The Pope is a shill. I suppose it has always been thus, but never quite so blatantly:

For devout Catholics fearful of a long stint in purgatory -- a vast metaphysical holding area where the faithful believe they will go to be "purified" prior to their admittance to heaven -- the Pope had some encouraging news this week: there's an easier way.

Pope Benedict XVI has decreed that Catholics can cut short their future purgatory stays by visiting a holy shrine in Lourdes, France, a site where believers say the Virgin Mary appeared to a shephardess in 1858. Catholic pilgrims who visit Lourdes from now through next year, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the miracle claim, will receive an "indulgence" from the Pope, which he says will speed the trip to heaven.

"The door for indulgences is not always open, though, and for years after the Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s, they were rarely offered -- until 2000, when Pope John Paul II started using them to attract pilgrims to World Youth Day," reports the New York Times' Mike Nizza. "The pilgrimage, which must be made in the next year, can be accomplished using Vatican charter flights that began over the summer."

I was raised Catholic, but this story just makes me wonder how anyone can believe anything that comes out of this man's mouth from now on.



Newsflash: Congress Dems have no spine!

House Democratic leaders could complete work as soon as Monday on a half-trillion-dollar spending package that will include billions of dollars for the war effort in Iraq without the timelines for the withdrawal of combat forces that President Bush has refused to accept, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday.

In a complicated deal over the war funds, Democrats will include about $11 billion more in domestic spending than Bush has requested, emergency drought relief for the Southeast and legislation to address the subprime mortgage crisis, Hoyer told a meeting of the Washington Post editorial board.

If the bargain were to become law, it would be the third time since Democrats took control of Congress that they would have failed to force Bush to change course in Iraq and continued to fund a war that they have repeatedly vowed to end.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Baklavablogging!



How many dozens of these studies will it take?

Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of mil lions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.


Friday Houseblogging

With a bonus image of the neighborhood bar...

Yeah, it be all cold up in here.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rations Increased in Iraq

Only, of course, in the Orwellian sense:
From the beginning of 2008 the quantity of national food rations delivered freely to all Iraqi families will be further reduced - from 10 to five items, due to lack of government financial support, Trade Minister Abid Falah al-Soodani said on 3 December.


Faith, Family, Freedom

Also, prostitute-frequenting political operatives:
Mike Huckabee, the evangelical pastor emerging as a strong Republican contender for the White House, is being advised by a former Bill Clinton aide with a history of sexual scandal.

As the backlash against Mr Huckabee's increasingly confident campaign gathered pace yesterday, his staff admitted that he has regular telephone brain-storming sessions with Dick Morris, a consultant seen by some as the epitome of the cynical Washington political operative.

Mr Huckabee, like Mr Clinton a former governor of Arkansas, recently described Mr Morris as "one of the smartest political minds in the business".

The two men have known each other for 17 years, but have rekindled their relations as Mr Huckabee has turned into a serious candidate for the Republican nomination.

Without revealing their connection, Mr Morris has in a series of columns promoted the affable Mr Huckabee as the only true conservative in the Republican field.

In the past fortnight he has sprung to the top of the polls in Iowa, where the first caucus to choose nominees is held in four weeks.

The Huckabee campaign slogan is "Faith. Family. Freedom".

In 1996 Mr Morris was forced to resign as President Clinton's political consultant after it was alleged that he had regularly met a prostitute at a Washington hotel.


Failing Matthew

I'm disgusted:
House Democrats are reportedly resigned to removing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime bill from defense authorization legislation.

Congressional Quarterly reports that House Democratic leaders believe they lack the votes to pass the measure.

The Shepard Act would add sexuality to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law.

It passed the House in May and the White House threatened to veto it.


If Only Bush Were So Brave

Some leaders of democracies truly want to hear the voice of the people:
Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Wednesday he would ask for a referendum on whether he should remain president, and challenged opposition governors to do the same.

Bolivia has been paralyzed by violent street protests as the opposition accuses Morales of acting illegally and seeking to concentrate his own power through a proposed constitutional overhaul.

Speaking on national television, Bolivia's first indigenous president said he would send congress a proposal to put his leadership to a popular "rapid vote."

"If the people say that I should go, I don't have any problem with that. Let the people say who goes and who stays," Morales said.

"If they are democrats, let's bet on democracy," he said, challenging opposition leaders among Bolivia's nine provincial governors.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Huckabee Annoyed

It is just so very unfair to ask presidential candidates about matters of public policy. (Note to Huckabee: The question wasn't about your personal faith, jackass. It was about education policy.)
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher who has surged in Iowa with evangelical Christian support, bristled Tuesday when asked if creationism should be taught in public schools.

Huckabee — who raised his hand at a debate last May when asked which candidates disbelieved the theory of evolution — asked this time why there is such a fascination with his beliefs.

"I believe God created the heavens and the Earth," he said at a news conference with Iowa pastors who murmured, "Amen."

"I wasn't there when he did it, so how he did it, I don't know," Huckabee said.

But he expressed frustration that he is asked about it so often, arguing with the questioner that it ultimately doesn't matter what his personal views are.


Devious Detainees

Those clever bastards, with their tactics to discredit America!
An inmate at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay slashed his throat with a sharpened fingernail, US officials have confirmed.

The prisoner, described by his lawyer as an Algerian held for six years, required several stitches and spent a week under psychiatric observation.

US officials characterised the incident as an act of "self-harm" rather than a suicide attempt.


Cmdr Haynes said "self-harm" incidents were a tactic to discredit US forces.

There have been four suicides at the camp.

Two Saudis and a Yemeni prisoner were found hanged in June last year.

This May another Saudi was found not breathing in his cell and attempts to revive him failed.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ya Gotta Eat

If there truly is a fundamental law of economics, that is it.

And a crisis is looming:
The risks of food riots and malnutrition will surge in the next two years as the global supply of grain comes under more pressure than at any time in 50 years, according to one of the world's leading agricultural researchers.

Recent pasta protests in Italy, tortilla rallies in Mexico and onion demonstrations in India are just the start of the social instability to come unless there is a fundamental shift to boost production of staple foods, Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, warned in an interview with the Guardian.

The growing appetite of China and other fast-developing nations has combined with the expansion of biofuel programmes in the United States and Europe to transform the global food situation.

After decades of expanding crop yields and falling food prices, the past year has seen a sharp rise in the cost of wheat, rice, corn, soya and dairy products.

"Demand is running away. The world has been consuming more than it produces for five years now. Stocks of grain - of rice, wheat and maize - are down at levels not seen since the early 80s," said von Braun, whose organisation is the world's largest alliance of agricultural researchers, economists, and policy experts.

Soylent Green, anyone?


Change the Locks

Kick out the deadbeat homophobes!
Philadelphia's branch of the Boy Scouts of America has ignored a city deadline to disavow homophobia or face the imposition of $200,000 a year rent on a city owned facility it uses.

The Cradle of Liberty Council, the third-largest scouting group in the country has been battling with the city for more than three years over the anti-gay policy which violates Philadelphia's human rights ordinance.

City officials say it would be illegal for it to provide a taxpayer-owned property rent-free to a private organization that discriminates.

The group has made its headquarters on a half-acre owned by the city in the upscale Philadelphia Art Museum area since 1928, when the city council voted to allow the Scouts to use the property rent-free "in perpetuity." The Scouts pay for building upkeep.

In May the city told the Council it would be evicted if it did not renounce the BSA's ban on gays.

Last month Philadelphia offered a compromise saying that if the scouts maintained the ban it could remain in the facility by paying fair market value for the property - an estimated $200,000 a year. It set a deadline for the Council to respond.

But now the deadline has come and gone, and the city will have to decide whether to take the Council to court or arbitrarily change the locks on the doors of the building.


The Lies Go On

I long for the day when Rove finally shuts up:
On the Bill Press Show this morning, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) dismissed Karl Rove’s false claim that Democrats in Congress — not the Bush administration — forced a war vote prior to the 2002 midterm elections. Daschle called Rove’s “outrageous statements” a “joke” and a clear effort to “sell some books”:

Well, I was called last week a couple of times and I literally thought it was a joke. I thought somebody was trying to pull my leg. I can’t believe that anybody would make such an outrageous statement and I was interested in that several of the former Bush high level people have now disputed it as well. But, he’s saying it and I guess he’s trying to sell some books.

Daschle also reiterated the fact that he had “directly” asked President Bush to delay the vote on the war in September 2002:

I reminded the President that his father waited until after the election for the 1991 war. It was a wise thing to do and allowed him to build consensus around the world and de-politicize it here at home. I turned to him and said that he ought to do the same thing. I wish you’d consider that. He looked at the Vice President. They smirked a little bit and then looked at me and said. “Can’t do that.”


Monday, December 03, 2007

So Long, State Sovereignty

Corporate interests trump the public interest:
A Canadian company wants to open a new plant in Claremont, N.H., to bottle fresh water from a source in Stockbridge, Vt.

But if Vermont wants to limit how much water the company takes, it may run afoul of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

States around the country are growing increasingly worried about the threats posed to their laws and regulations by the secret tribunals that resolve disputes in international trade. Experts say everything from environmental rules to the licensing of nurses and other professionals could be affected.

"Free trade agreements are to state sovereignty and economic development what global climate change is to the environment and natural resources," said state Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden. "I think it's a really significant issue for our state, and for every state in the country."

Vermont is one of seven states to establish committees to study the possible impacts of international trade on their laws.

Assistant Vermont Attorney General Elliot Burg said NAFTA and other trade agreements have opened up a path for international companies that want to circumvent state laws they don't like.

"The issue is not really fair treatment or equal treatment" of domestic versus foreign companies, Burg said. "It's really, `We don't like the laws you're passing.'"



The United States truly has gone mad with perceived power:

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.