Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Jungle

Upton Sinclair's work isn't done:
One of two men caught on videotape apparently abusing cattle at a California slaughterhouse has been sentenced to six months in jail.

The video shows Herrera and other workers at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company dragging sick cows with metal chains and forklifts, shocking them with electric prods and shooting streams of water in their nose and faces.

It led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history.


Approaching 4,000

This is Cheney's "success":
A roadside bomb killed three American soldiers north of Baghdad on Saturday, pushing the U.S. death toll in the five-year conflict to nearly 4,000.


What Century Is This?

Denied entry to an author on the grounds of "moral turpitude"? WTF?
British writer and self-styled dandy Sebastian Horsley was denied entry to the United States after arriving to promote his memoir of sex, drugs and flamboyant fashion.

Horsley said he was questioned for eight hours Tuesday by border officials at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey before being denied entry on grounds of "moral turpitude."

The 45-year-old author was traveling to New York for the U.S. launch of "Dandy in the Underworld," his account of a life dedicated to sex, drugs and finely tailored clothes.

"I was dressed flamboyantly - top hat, long velvet coat, gloves," Horsley said. "My one concession to American sensibilities was to remove my nail polish. I thought that would get me through."


Richardson for Obama

Good news for Obama's campaign:
Bill Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, threw his support behind Barack Obama for president Friday, delivering one of the most coveted and tightly held endorsements in the race for the Democratic nomination.

The New Mexico governor joined Obama at spirited rally Friday and said the Illinois senator demonstrated his leadership abilities this week with his speech on race. "You are a once-in-a-lifetime leader," the governor said from the stage. "Above all, you will be a president who brings this nation together."

Richardson dropped his own bid for the nomination in January. His support for Obama comes during a tough period for the senator, the leader in the delegate chase over Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama has seen his lead in national polls wither as he's grappled with the fallout from divisive remarks by his former pastor.


Obama's Preacher's "Crazy" Anti-Americanism

Was actually inspired by... a white guy:

Meet the man who inspired Reverend Jeremiah Wright's now famous tirade about America's foreign policy inciting the terrorist attacks of September 11.

His name is Ambassador Edward Peck. And he is a retired, white, career U.S. diplomat who served 32-years in the U.S. Foreign Service and was chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq under Jimmy Carter -- hardly the black-rage image with which Wright has been stigmatized.

In fact, when Wright took the pulpit to give his post-9/11 address -- which has since become boiled down to a five second sound bite about "America's chickens coming home to roost" -- he prefaced his remarks as a "faith footnote," an indication that he was deviating from his sermon.

"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday," Wright declared. "He was on Fox News. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true: America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Wright then went on to list more than a few U.S. foreign policy endeavors that, by the tone of his voice and manner of his expression, he viewed as more or less deplorable. This included, as has been demonstrated in the endless loop of clips from his sermon, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuking "far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye."

"Violence begets violence," Wright said, "hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism."

And then he concluded by putting the comments on Peck's shoulders: "A white ambassador said that yall, not a black militant, not a reverend who preaches about racism, an ambassador whose eyes are wide open and is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice... the ambassador said that the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have, but they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them... let me stop my faith footnote right there."


Still Lying

Bush seems to want to keep on spewing stupid lies until the very end:
President Bush contended that Iran has "declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people" and that the Islamic Republic could be hiding a secret program.

Iran, however, has never publicly proclaimed a desire for nuclear weapons and has repeatedly insisted that the uranium enrichment program it's operating in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions is for civilian power plants, not warheads.

Bush made his assertion Wednesday in an interview marking the Iranian New Year with Radio Farda, a U.S. government-run radio service that broadcasts into Iran in the Farsi language. The White House released the transcript on Thursday.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Still Taking the Fall

No more law for Scooter:
Former White House adviser Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted last year for lying to a grand jury and federal agents probing the leak of a CIA agent’s identity, was disbarred from practicing law in the nation’s capital on Thursday.

“When a member of the Bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory,” the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion, which is posted on its Web site.

Last July, a court sentenced Libby, once Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, to a 30-month prison term. President Bush later commuted Libby’s sentence, calling it “excessive.” The president stopped short of an outright pardon, noting that “our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth.”


KBR Kills

This is what we're paying for?
A U.S. House committee chairman has begun an investigation into the electrocutions of at least 12 service members in Iraq, including that of a Pittsburgh soldier killed in January by a jolt of electricity while showering.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday he has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to hand over documents relating to the management of electrical systems at facilities in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, died Jan. 2 of cardiac arrest after being electrocuted while showering at his barracks in Baghdad.

Also Wednesday, Maseth's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Allegheny County Court against KBR Inc., the Houston-based contractor responsible for maintaining Maseth's barracks.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and costs, alleges that KBR allowed U.S. troops to continue using electrical systems "which KBR knew to be dangerous and knew had caused prior instances of electrocution."

"I expected that if I lost one of my sons (in the war), it would be due to an IED or firefight," Maseth's mother, Cheryl Harris, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I never expected to hear he would be electrocuted, that something so senseless happened to him."

An Army investigation found that his death was due to improper grounding of the electric pump that supplied water to the building, Waxman said. Maseth died after an electrical short in the pump sent a current through the pipes, the California Democrat wrote in his letter.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Gitmo Horrors

It doesn't end:
In a fresh document from the Guantánamo war court files, Canadian captive Omar Khadr alleges that he was repeatedly threatened with rape as an interrogation technique in Afghanistan and at U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

The partially censored nine-page affidavit, signed by Khadr on Feb. 22, covers old ground already investigated, including allegations of abuse at Guantánamo that emerged in 2005, prompting a Navy criminal investigation.

But the document includes never-before revealed allegations, such as the rape threats and a partially censored description of regaining consciousness after his capture to discover he was being interrogated in an American field hospital in Afghanistan. He was 15.

Once released from medical care to the Bagram detention center, he said, ``I was interrogated many, many times. For about the first two weeks to a month that I was there I would be brought into the interrogation room on a stretcher.''



Arthur Clarke is dead.

Science fiction writer, inventor and futurist Arthur C. Clarke has died, leaving fans bereft at the loss of his brilliance and creativity.

Clarke died early Wednesday after suffering from breathing problems, the Associated Press reported. He was 90 years old. He suffered from post-polio syndrome and was confined to a wheelchair toward the end of his life.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Double Standard

It's okay if you are a right-wing evangelical:

When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

Dad and I were amongst the founders of the Religious right. In the 1970s and 1980s, while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation's sins instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party. (This was while I was my father's sidekick before I dropped out of the evangelical movement altogether.) We were rewarded for our "stand" by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family. The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American.



I do not think that word means what he thinks it means:
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavor" in a visit to Iraq that was overshadowed by a suicide bombing that killed at least 25 people.
UPDATE: Make that 52 dead.



Congratulations, Bush administration. You outdid the 20th century, and for no reason:
Yellowstone National Park officials shipped 57 wild bison to slaughter this morning, bringing to 1,098 the number of wild bison killed this winter. This year's death toll surpasses that of 1996-1997, when 1,084 bison were killed, constituting the largest wild bison slaughter since the 19th century.

"More wild bison have been killed this year than at any time since the 19th century," said Dan Brister, Buffalo Field Campaign Project Director. "With the Spring migration just beginning and the government showing no sign of relief, this year's slaughter could easily surpass 2,000 bison."

Between February 8 and March 17, Yellowstone National Park and the Montana Department of Livestock have captured 1,040 wild bison and slaughtered 929. At least three have died from injuries sustained in confinement in the Stephens Creek trap inside Yellowstone National Park, where 108 bison currently await shipment to the slaughterhouse. State and treaty right hunts, which have ended, took a total of 166 wild bison.

"It would seem as though history was not learned the first time, for here we are today, watching these same government entities enacting the same policy," said Nez Perce tribal member James Holt.

While the government's official reason for the slaughter is to prevent the spread of brucellosis from wild bison to cattle, no such transmission has ever been documented and the bison being sent to slaughter are not being tested for the disease. Outside Yellowstone's western boundary there are no cattle on any part of Gallatin National Forest's Horse Butte Peninsula at any time of the year, making a brucellosis transmission impossible and Montana's intolerance for bison in the area unjustifiable. Along the northern boundary of Yellowstone, fewer than 200 head of cattle graze Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) lands.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Fuck It

Can there possibly be a bigger waste of time and resources than the government's attempts to save our poor virgin ears from the f-word?
The Supreme Court will decide whether it is indecent when some foul-mouthed celebrity drops the "F-word" on live television, stepping into its first major broadcast indecency case in 30 years.

The high court said Monday it will hear arguments in a case over whether the government can ban "fleeting expletives," one-time uses of familiar but profane words.


Another Bad Sign

Vanishing salmon:

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.

Whatever the cause, there was widespread agreement among those attending a five-day meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council here last week that the regional $150 million fishery, which usually opens for the four-month season on May 1, is almost certain to remain closed this year from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. A final decision on salmon fishing in the area is expected next month.

As a result, Chinook, or king salmon, the most prized species of Pacific wild salmon, will be hard to come by until the Alaskan season opens in July. Even then, wild Chinook are likely to be very expensive in markets and restaurants nationwide.

“It’s unprecedented that this fishery is in this kind of shape,” said Donald McIsaac, executive director of the council, which is organized under the auspices of the Commerce Department.

Fishermen think the Sacramento River was mismanaged in 2005, when this year’s fish first migrated downriver. Perhaps, they say, federal and state water managers drained too much water or drained at the wrong time to serve the state’s powerful agricultural interests and cities in arid Southern California. The fishermen think the fish were left susceptible to disease, or to predators, or to being sucked into diversion pumps and left to die in irrigation canals.



The city of New Orleans continues to suffer the neglect of the Bush administration:
The homeless population of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina has reached unprecedented levels for a U.S. city: one in 25 residents.

An estimated 12,000 homeless accounts for 4% of New Orleans' estimated population of 302,000, according to the homeless advocacy group UNITY of Greater New Orleans. The number is nearly double the pre-Katrina homeless count, the group says.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

UN out of Line

Criminalization of traditional uses of coca would be stupid and wrong:
Lawmakers defiantly chewed coca in Peru's Congress on Thursday while criticizing a U.N. recommendation to criminalize traditional uses of the plant.

The coca leaf, the raw ingredient of cocaine, is used by millions of people to stave off hunger and fight altitude sickness. It is also used in teas, in cooking and by fortune tellers.

"The coca leaf has existed for thousands and thousands of years. It's part of our agriculture, our food and our medicine. It's sacred," Congresswoman Hilaria Supa told Reuters before the start of Thursday's session.

"The United Nations doesn't know our culture. It doesn't understand our values," she said.


Settling Old Scores

The Bush administration apparently doesn't mind illegal spying activities:
Almost 32 years to the day after President Ford created an independent Intelligence Oversight Board made up of private citizens with top-level clearances to ferret out illegal spying activities, President Bush issued an executive order that stripped the board of much of its authority.

The White House did not say why it was necessary to change the rules governing the board when it issued Bush's order late last month. But critics say Bush's order is consistent with a pattern of steps by the administration that have systematically scaled back Watergate-era intelligence reforms.

"It's quite clear that the Bush administration officials who were around in the 1970s are settling old scores now," said Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. "Here they are even preventing oversight within the executive branch. They have closed the books on the post-Watergate era."

Ford created the board following a 1975-76 investigation by Congress into domestic spying, assassination operations, and other abuses by intelligence agencies. The probe prompted fierce battles between Congress and the Ford administration, whose top officials included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the current president's father, George H. W. Bush.


Peace Is at Hand

When such a moral authority as Pope Ratzi calls for an end to war (because an archbishop was killed), how can the violence possibly continue?
Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosul.

The pope also denounced the 5-year-long Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life.

"Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29.

Benedict has called Rahho's death an "inhuman act of violence" that offended human dignity.