Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bush Is Trying to Kill Us

What other conclusion can be drawn?
The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.



When I lived in New Orleans (pre-Katrina), I weathered hurricanes and tropical storms.

Once, a hurricane struck just east of the city, and the impact was not all that bad. A few weeks later, a tropical storm hit to the west, and I found myself wading to work in water up to my knees.

Storms spin counterclockwise in our hemisphere, and so if one hits to the west of New Orleans, its eastern side will drag water straight up onto the city.

And that's exactly what it looks like Gustav, now a Category 4 hurricane, is going to do.


Still at It

Bush continues to work hard to maintain his presidency-as-dictatorship vision of government:
Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.


Ronvoys! Ronstock!

Despite Gustav, I did laugh when I read this:
There's no room at the Xcel Energy Center for maverick Ron Paul, so his acolytes have packed their cars, hitched rides on "Ronvoys" and will pitch tents at Ronstock '08 in Minneapolis in defiance of next week's GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.



I can't even think straight right now:
Hurricane Gustav strengthened into a dangerous storm Saturday targeting the U.S. Gulf Coast, and as New Orleans officials started evacuation plans, some residents were not waiting to be told to leave.

Cars packed with clothes, boxes and pet carriers drove north among heavy traffic on Interstate 55, a major route out of the city. Gas stations around the city hummed. And nursing homes and hospitals began sending patients farther inland.

"I'm getting out of here. I can't take another hurricane," said Ramona Summers, 59, whose house flooded during Hurricane Katrina three years ago. She hurried to help friends gather their belongings. Her car was already packed for Gonzales, nearly 60 miles away to the west of New Orleans.

Gustav swelled into a major hurricane south of Cuba and could strike the U.S. coast anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Texas by Tuesday, but forecasters said there is a better-than-even chance that New Orleans will get slammed by at least tropical-storm-force winds. That raised the likelihood people will have to flee, and the city suggested a full-scale evacuation call could come as soon as Sunday.


Friday, August 29, 2008


An amazing woman has died:
Lesbian rights pioneer Del Martin died Wednesday. She was 87. She and her partner Phyllis Lyon were the first to be legally married in the state of California.

“Today the LGBT movement lost a real hero,” Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement.

“For all of Del’s life, she was an activist and organizer even before we knew what those terms meant. Her last act of public activism was her most personal—marrying the love of her life after 55 years. In the wake of losing her, we recognize with heightened clarity the most poignant and responsible way to honor her legacy is to preserve the right of marriage for same-sex couples, thereby providing the dignity and respect that Del and Phyllis’ love deserved.”

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has lost one of its bravest and most admired activists,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

“Del Martin dared for decades to fight to marry her beloved Phyllis, and by doing so became an iconic hero the LGBT community. Her death is a great loss to all of us, but her life is an inspiration,” Solmonese said.

In 1955, Lyon and Martin were among the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization.

In 1956, they launched “The Ladder,” the first lesbian newsletter, which became a lifeline for hundreds of women isolated and silenced by the restrictions of the era. Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to the board of the National Organization of Women (NOW), and in 1971, encouraged the board to pass a resolution stating that lesbian issues were feminist issues.

Del Martin’s publication of Battered Wives in 1976 was a major catalyst for the movement against domestic violence. Martin became a nationally known advocate for battered women, and was a co-founder of the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women in 1975.


Cross Your Fingers

I feel sick at heart watching this and knowing what might happen:

Federal and state agencies along the U.S. Gulf Coast were activating plans and moving resources in anticipation of what Gustav may bring, with mandatory evacuations possible as soon as Saturday in some coastal areas lying in the "cone of uncertainty" issued by the hurricane center.

The center's five-day chart places a possible landfall anywhere from Corpus Christi, Texas, eastward to Panama City, Florida, with Gustav being a Category 3 storm by Tuesday evening. New Orleans, Louisiana, devastated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago Friday, is at the dead center of the projected path.


So Much for the Quick Fix

Bush's idiotic little refund had exactly the impact any sane person would have foreseen:
Personal incomes plunged in July while consumer spending slowed significantly as the impact of billions of dollars in government rebate checks began to wane.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that personal incomes fell by 0.7 percent in July, the biggest drop in nearly three years and a far larger decline than the 0.1 percent decrease that analysts had expected.


Three Years Ago Today

The Katrina Information Network has a 29 for the 29th list of suggestions of actions you can take - "designed to provide everyone – regardless of how much time they may have – opportunities to support the rebuilding effort and help keep New Orleans in the public eye." Go and help.

And if you haven't yet, rent and watch When the Levees Broke. (And, if it's playing near you, Trouble the Water.)


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Somewhat Disjointed Thoughts on Barack Obama

Just finished watching Obama's acceptance speech, and am trying to get some thoughts down, so bear with me if these aren't fully formulated yet.

Here's the thing: I know that Barack Obama will disappoint me. I know that he will sign bills and stand for policies that I disagree with. I know that there will be plenty of times when I think that he's just not going far enough.


He's going to be someone I will actually be proud to have as my president.

This is a historic candidacy, and a historic moment, and while his stance on policies will at times disappoint me (and, in fact, already has), he is a candidate I actually believe in; this is someone I think has basically the right ideas, and the right priorities (and you know, I think he really believes the things he says).

Listening to his acceptance speech earlier, there were a couple moments where I teared up, especially at the end, when his family came out, because suddenly, it was real, and in January there might be an African American family in the White House. That's pretty damn amazing.

I also was thinking about what I always used to say - "The first Black president is going to be a Republican." I figured that the mathematics of race and racism would never allow a progressive African American candidate to be the first. And of course, given today's anniversary, I was thinking that 45 years ago, marchers in the civil rights movement faced white Americans - Democrats and Republicans - who fought tooth and nail to deny African Americans access to voting rights, education, and public space.

It amazes me how far we've come, not just since 1963, but even in the past few years. We have a candidate who gave a speech about race in America that was astonishingly honest and insightful - a speech I never would have thought any candidate would have the courage to give. It's no longer unimaginable that we might have a progressive African American president. We also have a candidate who, in his acceptance speech, asks Americans to support the right of same-sex partners to visit each other when they are in the hospital, and who speaks about the need for equal pay for equal work, who acknowledges the need to support working class Americans. You look at his daughters and you can see some of what motivates him; he wants his daughters to know that they, as African American women, will have a chance to do whatever they want, and that they should be able to succeed whether their father is the president or a teacher or a mill worker or unemployed.

Clearly, he's not going to be able to even the playing field for his daughters or for any other children to the point where their race, class, gender, and sexuality won't impact their opportunities. But I believe that he will try his damnedest to do it anyway, and that's exactly what we need.

Realism tells us that these problems are not going to be solved in one presidency, or one lifetime. Realism tells us that Obama will not live up to all of his promises, and realism tells us that there will be compromises that many of us won't like.

But sometimes, we need to ignore realism for a moment, and believe that maybe we could solve these problems now, today. Because those moments - moments where you listen to a candidate and you want to believe that, yes, these things are possible - those are the moments that give us the strength to fight against the odds, the strength to fight against all realistic expectations, for the changes we need.

And you know, it's really hard to end this post with something that doesn't sound like an Obama campaign slogan, because it is all about change; we need a candidate who believes that he can change fundamental things like the way we think about race or the way our political system favors corporations over people. We need someone who understands that even if the change will not come tomorrow, we have to fight for it as if it will.

We need hope. We need optimism. And even if you know that you'll be disappointed, it's still OK to believe.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary

And wishes for many more:
As gay advocates await an Iowa Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage the state’s only legally married gay couple prepares to celebrate its first anniversary.

Last August Polk County Judge Robert Hanson struck down Iowa’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act ruling that it violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of six gay couples who had sued.

Later that day he stayed his ruling to allow for an appeal to the Supreme Court, but not before several dozen couples applied for marriage licenses.

The marriage license approval process normally takes three business days, but one couple took advantage of a loophole that allows couples to skip the waiting period if they pay a $5 fee and get a judge to sign a waiver.

Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan became the only same-sex couple to be married in Iowa. On Saturday they will celebrate their first anniversary.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Poor, Confused Republicans

They just don't know what they want, do they, nominating a man who doesn't agree with their fundamental principles?

Oh, well, I'm sure he'll cave in as usual:

Despite the stylistic change, familiar divisions are back as Republicans debate the principles over two days and strive for a united front behind McCain. That means bridging some differences, detouring around others.

The platform draft calls for constitutional bans on abortion and gay marriage, two steps McCain does not support.


Last-Minute Destruction

Just because he's a lame duck doesn't mean he can't take out a few whales before he goes:

The Bush administration yesterday proposed scaling back protected zones for endangered whales in the Atlantic Ocean, yielding to cargo companies' concerns about new speed limits for ships in these areas.

The proposal, unveiled yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could end more than a year of wrangling between federal fisheries scientists and the White House over new measures to protect the North Atlantic right whale. About 300 of the whales remain, and researchers say their tiny population has been reduced further by fatal collisions with large ships.



The job of identifying and thwarting actual terrorists is in the hands of incompetents:

The database used to produce the government's terror watch lists is "crippled by technical flaws," according to the chairman of a House technology oversight subcommittee—and the system designed to replace it may be even worse.

In a letter to the inspector general at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) complained that the National Counterterrorism Center's "Railhead" initiative, designed to upgrade the government's master database of suspected terrorists, "if actually deployed will leave our country more vulnerable than the existing yet flawed system in operation today."

Miller, who chairs the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, cited "severe technical troubles, poor contractor management, and weak government oversight," which he said had brought the Railhead program to the "verge of collapse."