Saturday, December 31, 2005

Obligatory New Year's Post

My Resolutions For 2006

1) To be more resolute.

2) To resolve more crises.

3) To have a resolution passed by a Democratic Congress.

4) To pass light thru a prism (look it up).

5) To change my monitor settings, thus increasing my....(all together now) resolution.

6) To win a court decision.

7) To turn my dissonant chords into consonant chords (you listening, Katrina?)

8) To economize my quantitative verse.

9) To go back and finish that jigsaw puzzle. Again.


Not For The Faint Of Heart

Yesterday, I posted snippets of an extensive campaign that was flying around blogtopia* regarding Uzbekistan's involvement with torturing enemies of the Coalition of the Bribed.

Normally, you know I'm unafraid to post controversial photos, but I'm linking to these, because they are very graphic, more graphic than the Abu Ghraib photos, so I think a disclaimer is in order: please make sure your stomach is settled and please keep your children away from the computer unless you believe they can handle this.

Uzbekis boiling for torture, and how Bush and Blair are involved

* (© Skippy The Bush Kangaroo)

If It Looks Like A Duck, Has Webbed Feet And Quacks... can call it a chicken, but it's still a duck.

Looks like our old fiend, Tom DeLay is deeper in the glue than I think even he thought he would be...

Report: Group linked to DeLay funded by Abramoff clients

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An organization with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay was funded largely by corporations associated with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing tax records and quoting former associates of the group.

Tax records, other documents and interviews bring into question the purpose of the U.S. Family Network, which functioned mostly by collecting funds from domestic and foreign businesses whose interests coincided with DeLay's activities while he was serving as House majority whip from 1995 to 2002, and as majority leader from 2002 until the end of September, the paper wrote.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million, but kept its donor list secret, the paper reported. That list, obtained by the Washington Post, showed that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners did not identify the money's origins.

According to the paper, two former associates of Edwin Buckham, the Texas Republican Delay's former chief of staff and organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda.

A couple of observations about this story:

First, what is this whole Newspeak trope the Republicans get into? An act curtailing pollution controls is called the Clear Skies bill. Here we have the U.S. Family Network, which is being funded by Russian oil interests and Native American casinos. Not that Native Americans aren't US families but still...casinos are what one might call "family entertainment" the way one might call porn "family entertainment".

Second, when Newt Gingrich allowed lobbyists to write legislation directly on the floor of Congress, what was he thinking? Did he not ponder the probability (not possibility, probability) that this might, you know, lead to more corruption? Or did he think Republican shit don't stink? I also fear for when the Democrats take over again next year: will they dismantle this whole mechanism or decide that it's their turn on the gravy train and leave it in place?

Third, what possible Washington agenda could Russia oil interests have? Last I heard, we were paying lip service to the Russian oil fields, lending some advisors, and that's about it. Besides, there was this story today:
Gazprom tells Eni Ukraine dispute may hit supplies

MILAN (Reuters) - Gazprom has told Eni that gas supplies could be at risk because of its ongoing dispute with Ukraine over prices, a spokesman for the Italian oil and gas firm said on Saturday, confirming newspaper reports.

Il Sole 24 Ore and Corriere della Sera newspapers said in Saturday editions that Russian gas giant Gazprom had sent a letter to Eni warning of possible problems with supplies.

"I can confirm that Eni has received such a letter from the managing director of Gazprom," an Eni spokesman said.

Gazprom is in dispute with Ukraine over a surprise hike in prices and on Friday spurned a plea from the ex-Soviet state to freeze charges as a New Year deadline for a deal approaches.
Meaning that Russia's oil industry is a highly sensitive domestic matter and not likely one they'd want the Americans and their busybody noses poking around in, fomenting unrest in former Soviet states, and potentially crippling a major source of revenue for the Russian government.

So why was DeLay selling out his nation to Russians for?

kos himself posts quite a bit more on this, even tracing where the money went.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm A Mutant

And likely, so are you....
Scientists Find A DNA Change That Accounts For White Skin

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005; A01

Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife.

The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races.

Leaders of the study, at Penn State University, warned against interpreting the finding as a discovery of "the race gene." Race is a vaguely defined biological, social and political concept, they noted, and skin color is only part of what race is -- and is not.

In fact, several scientists said, the new work shows just how small a biological difference is reflected by skin color. The newly found mutation involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome -- the complete instructions for making a human being.
Hat tip to RJ Eskow @ Skippy

Hat Tip To Mimus Pauly @ Skippy For Finding This Gem

Locus of Control Test Results
Internal Locus (56%) Individual believes that their life is defined more by their decisions and internal drive.
External Locus (44%) Individual believes that their life is defined more by genetics, environment, fate, or other external factors.

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The Fox Is Protecting The Hen House?

U.S. to Restrict Iraqi Police
Military oversight will be bolstered in response to reports of prisoner abuse, reasserting American authority over security forces.

By Louise Roug
Times Staff Writer

December 30, 2005

BAGHDAD — After a series of prison abuse scandals that have inflamed sectarian tensions, U.S. officials announced plans Thursday to rein in Iraqi special police forces, increasing the number of American troops assigned to work with them and requiring consultations before the Iraqis mount raids in Baghdad.

The decision to impose more day-to-day oversight suggests a recognition within the U.S. military that the heavy-handed tactics of some Iraqi units, which are to increasingly take on the role of fighting insurgents, have aggravated the sectarian strife that helps fuel the insurgency.
Abu Ghraib. Secret Prisons. Tossing Korans in the toilet. Gitmo. Secret Flights To Torture Chambers. Violations of the Geneva Convention. And then there's this little gem on Americablog:

Confidential British memos show how information procured by torture in Uzbekistan is being used by US and UK, in violation of international law by John in DC - 12/30/2005 12:26:00 AM
Markos has the story, and I'm repeating the gist of it here to help get it out there. Feel free to copy and past this entire post on your blog.Basically, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is livid about the fact that the US and the British governments have been gladly accepting information from Uzbekistan procured by torture.

You may remember that Amb. Murray was none too pleased with the horrendous human rights situation in Uzbekistan - the country is one of the most repressive on the planet - and as a result the Tony Blair, most likely with some US nudging, had Amb. Murray removed from his job. (You can read a chilling speech by Ambassador Murray detailing the Soviet police state that we are supporting in Uzbekistan.)Well, today Ambassador Murray gets his revenge.

Amb. Murray has published a number of confidential British government documents proving that the US and the UK were conding torture in that abominable country. Tony Blair is now striking back, pulling down Amb. Murray's Web site. UK bloggers responded by doing a coordinated leak to get the documents out to the public. Markos has republished the docs to make sure they remain public, and I'm doing the same below.

Our government is sanctioning and benefiting from torture in one of the most repressive regimes in the world. A regime that we openly embraced after September 11. A regime that many of you will recall was torturing gay journalist and human rights advocate Ruslan Sharipov (the Uzbek government arrested Ruslan for being a human rights advocate, then, after beating him, threatened to rape him with a bottle and inject him with AIDS). These are the people that George Bush has buddied up to to fight this honorable war. The worst governments on the planet - people who make the Soviets look downright nice.

And who else do you think personally was sucking up to the Uzbek dictator just a couple of years ago? Donald Rumsfeld. The same man who sucked up to Saddam Hussein before we decided he was evil.

And WE'RE qualified to lecture the Iraqis on how NOT to torture?

Here's a thought: just show them pictures of what Saddam's police forces did, and tell them not to do that. Then show them videos and pictures of what we've done to their countrymen, and tell them to stop.

See, this was my fear all along about this particular form of nationbuilding: violence begets violence, and what we've guaranteed is, whether we are there in Iraq or not, a civil war. It has to stop, now, our degradation and occupation of a proud people who barely tolerate the minorities within its borders, nevermind the strangers in their midsts.
Word Spreads in Iraq of Refinery Shutdown
By SINAN SALAHEDDIN , 12.30.2005, 07:30 AM

Long lines formed at gas stations in Baghdad on Friday as word spread that Iraq's largest oil refinery had shut down, spreading fears of a gas shortage.

Iraq's largest oil refinery, in Beiji, was shut down on Dec. 18 because of the deteriorating security situation in the region, Minister of Oil Ibrahim Bahar el-Ulom told The Associated Press on Friday. A spokesman earlier had said the refinery had been shut down since Saturday.
Yes, the product that was supposed to PAY the US for this invasion is being shut down slowly by the insurgents. That's not going to help make us anymore friends over there.
Iraqi Shiite family slain in 'triangle of death'

Eleven members of a single Shiite family had their throats slit in an attack south of Baghdad that illustrates the size of the task awaiting political leaders trying to sketch out plans for a grand coalition government.
So we have people killing fellow Iraqis ruthlessly and violently, wholesale.

And you know it's only a matter of time before this violence is visited here at home.

Why Weld May Not Run For New York Governor

I've mentioned this before, but Newsday today has a stunningly in-depth study of Weld's ethical failure:
School’s scandal shadows Weld

Critics say alleged fraud at college during his tenure as its CEO could end his NY run to become governor

ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF; Albany researcher Melissa Mansfield contributed to this report.

December 27, 2005

ALBANY - Since he became engrossed in a scandal at the Kentucky trade school he ran for much of this year, William Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, has been crafting a defense that other chief executives have used before.

Weld, a Republican who is now running for governor in New York, said he did not know anything about what federal investigators believe was widespread student loan fraud at Louisville's Decker College.

"I'm not aware of any improper activity," Weld said in a recent interview. He denied any responsibility for the school's woes, and said, "There was nothing I would have done differently."

By the time Weld resigned as CEO in September, after eight months at the helm, Decker faced fraud investigations by the FBI, the U.S. Education Department and the Kentucky attorney general's office. A month later, it went bankrupt and left an estimated 3,700 students in limbo.
Pontius Pilate must have been a Republican, the way these guys find ways to wash their hands of any messes they leave behind.

A smarter maneuver probably would have been to say that, as CEO, he discovered this fraud upon his arrival and became frustrated at his inability to get to the root of the bureaucracy and left shortly after the criminal investigation began in order to clear his name of the whole mess.

That would have been less honest of course, rather than admitting that he had no oversight over such a crucial component of the campus he was in charge of, but it would have saved face for him.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Just About Sums It All Up

And it's from a Rupert Murdoch outlet...

Merry Fucking Christmas! Here's Your Pink Slip...

Jobless claims rose 3,000 last week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for U.S. jobless pay rose by 3,000 last week while a separate gauge of longer-term unemployment posted a third successive weekly increase, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to 322,000 in the week ended December 24 from an upwardly revised 319,000 in the prior week. That was modestly higher than Wall Street economists' forecasts for 320,000 claims but the prior week's claims figure was revised up from an originally reported 318,000 so the rise in claims was not far from expectations.

The closely watched four-week moving average of new claims, designed to flatten the volatility in the weekly numbers to provide a clearer picture of the job market, edged up to 325,000 in the week ended December 24 from 324,750.

The number of continued claims - a measure of how many people remained on benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid -- rose for a third straight week. These claims were up 85,000 to 2.72 million in the week ended December 17, the latest week for which these figures are available.

Don't let the Republicans and their puppets fool you: this economy has only been good for business and will only get worse for consumers, who are officially between a rock and a hard place:
Minimum credit card payments going up


SEATTLE – The holiday shopping spree is over. Now comes the tough part: paying for what you bought.

When credit card bills arrive in a few weeks, some consumer will be in for a surprise. Some minimum credit card payments are expected to double due to new government rules.

Fearing banks may go under for extending so much credit at very low payments, federal regulators ordered credit card companies to raise minimum payments by January.

Some banks waited until the last minute, which means your holiday shopping spree could end up taking a bigger-than-expected bite out of your January budget.


Consumer groups expect minimum payments may double, but in the long run, they say, that's good.

"By increasing minimum payments, people will pay off credit cards, won't pay so much in interest and will have money left over to buy things," said Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

But first, there's that bigger January payment.

What to do?

Credit counselors say you can quickly find extra cash by eliminating cable and cell phone services, and that costly cup of coffee every day.

"Add that $2 a day over 20 working days a month, that's $40 to $60 a month you can use to pay the credit card," said Sue Hunt, National Federation of Credit Counselors.

Or at least start chipping away at it.

Credit counselors say the worst thing you can do is not make the payment and not call the bank to work out a payment schedule.

Due to a new law that took effect in October, it's much harder for many people to declare bankruptcy and have those debts erased.
Welcome to Bush's "ower"ship society, folks, where you own nothing and owe everybody else, and forced to slave at a job you absolutely despise for wages that don't even keep up with inflation in order to make monthly payments for transient things that are shoved at you by marketers who want every last dollar they can squeeze out of you. Oh...and it's ALL your fault, nevermind the pusher in the hat and trenchcoat shuffling down the sidewalk away from the cops busting you...

I wonder how many of those folks who make only the minimum payment even have cable or cell phones?

And now, how many more people are going to only make the monthly payment, which will drastically increase their potential for falling behind in credit card payments, since they no longer have that cushion they had before of cutting back payments?

I can speak intelligently to these issues as I was out of work during the Bush 41 Depression for extended periods. You run up debts, because you presume there's another job around the corner, and figure you'll pay it all back quickly.

Not so. Not that I was ever in danger of filing bankruptcy, but let's face facts: I grew up believing that debt was something you tried to get rid of, like a case of gonorrhea, and the stress to my system was enormous. The sea change in that attitude regarding avoiding debt is breathtaking, in not just how I view myself, but in how society views indebtedness.

And the bills are coming due, folks. Make no mistake about it.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The GOP Gives Up On Hillary's Seat

Novello for Senate?

Health commish is being courted to run against Hil


ALBANY - Republicans close to Gov. Pataki are trying to recruit state Health Commissioner Antonia Novello to run against Sen. Hillary Clinton, sources told the Daily News.
Novello, a high-profile Latina who was U.S. surgeon general during the first Bush administration, has a strong understanding of federal policies, particularly health care, and would be in good position to battle Clinton on those issues, the insiders said.

The only claim to fame this numbnutz Latina has is her ex-husband (nasty divorce, that one) is brother to Father Guido Sarducci!

Antonia Novello has been an absolute shambles, someone who's been a figurehead in the truest sense of the word (the word "token" leaps to mind) as her entire administration has been run out of Governor George Pataki's office.

This is JUST too funny!

It's All Over But The Voting

TWU board OKs contract deal


December 27, 2005, 11:32 PM EST

The executive board of the transit system's main union Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved a contract deal that would raise workers' wages a combined 11 percent over three years, but included no pension concessions.

The agreement would end the worst labor crisis at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in a quarter century -- one that led Transport Workers Union Local 100 to strike for three days last week.


However, city bus and subway employees will have to pay 1.5 percent of their pay in health benefits, through a first-ever premium.

According to state budget documents, the MTA in July set aside funds for a wage and fringe increase at the regional inflation rate. That was calculated at 2.9 percent per year.

This could come close to the final rate when the health insurance concession is taken into account. But sources close to both sides cautioned that the cost of fines for the strike and other factors such as work rules, deployment and other possible improvements for the workers had yet to be spelled out.
My good friends over at NYCEducator have a couple more interesting little tidbits, inside baseball stuff.

Looks like the union, in the end, won what they wanted, while the MTA is able to keep their budget in line.

"Blondesense" Got Bad Figures....

Tip of the hat to Missouri Mule for finding this:
What's wrong with the economy?

by EPI President Lawrence Mishel and Policy Director Ross Eisenbrey

1. Profits are up, but the wages and the incomes of average Americans are down.
Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly wages are still below where they were at the start of the recovery in November 2001. Yet, productivity—the growth of the economic pie—is up by 13.5%.

Wage growth has been shortchanged because 35% of the growth of total income in the corporate sector has been distributed as corporate profits, far more than the 22% in previous periods.

Consequently, median household income (inflation-adjusted) has fallen five years in a row and was 4% lower in 2004 than in 1999, falling from $46,129 to $44,389.
2. More and more people are deeper and deeper in debt.
The indebtedness of U.S. households, after adjusting for inflation, has risen 35.7% over the last four years.

The level of debt as a percent of after-tax income is the highest ever measured in our history. Mortgage and consumer debt is now 115% of after-tax income, twice the level of 30 years ago.

The debt-service ratio (the percent of after-tax income that goes to pay off debts) is at an all-time high of 13.6%.

The personal savings rate is negative for the first time since WWII.

3. Job creation has not kept up with population growth, and the employment rate has fallen sharply.
The United States has only 1.3% more jobs today (excluding the effects of Hurricane Katrina) than in March 2001 (the start of the recession). Private sector jobs are up only 0.8%. At this stage of previous business cycles, jobs had grown by an average of 8.8% and never less than 6.0%.

The unemployment rate is relatively low at 5%, but still higher than the 4% in 2000. Plus, the percent of the population that has a job has never recovered since the recession and is still 1.3% lower than in March 2001. If the employment rate had returned to pre-recession levels, 3 million more people would be employed.

More than 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since January 2000.
4. Poverty is on the rise.
The poverty rate rose from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2004.

The number of people living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since 2000.

More children are living in poverty: the child poverty rate increased from 16.2% in 2000 to 17.8% in 2004.
5. Rising health care costs are eroding families' already declining income.

Households are spending more on health care. Family health costs rose 43-45% for married couples with children, single mothers, and young singles from 2000 to 2003.

Employers are cutting back on health insurance. Last year, the percent of people with employer-provided health insurance fell for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 3.7 million fewer people had employer-provided insurance in 2004 than in 2000. Taking population growth into account, 11 million more people would have had employer-provided health insurance in 2004 if the coverage rate had remained at the 2000 level.
Sort of echoes what I posted wayyyyy back on Labor Day.

Don't let the clown car occupants on the right distract you. This economy is in very serious danger of falling right back into recession. Right now, I'm of the opinion that it's being propped up by the government spending for Iraq and Katrina, but once that falls away, all bets are off.

He Jumped The Couch AND Jumped The Shark

(NOTE: Link may require a subscription, but I'll post the relevant section here)

Andrew Sullivan, who lately has shown a near-moderate side to his usual self-loathing rants about liberalism and it's inferiority complex to his brand of coservatism, posted the following last week in Time Magazine:
In mid-January 2005, President Bush declared that the 2004 election had been his "accountability moment." He spoke a bit too soon. The "moment," it turned out, lasted for the following 12 months. The President didn't see it coming. And who could blame him? For more than three years after 9/11, the American public had given the Administration, and indeed many authority figures, the benefit of the doubt. We were at war, even in mortal danger. Trust was essential. The bigwigs kept assuring us they knew what they were doing. And so most of us went along.


Katrina was the turning point, the moment when the extent of cronyism, incompetence and sheer smugness in Washington reached a level that even the White House couldn't ignore. FEMA's Michael Brown, the American people surmised with their wide-open eyes, was not doing a "heck of a job." And a President who could say such a thing obviously had no clue about what was going on in his own government.
Which got me thinking: While Katrina clearly was his "jump the shark" moment, jumping the shark implies the end of a process: one where hubris and greed take over a process or organization (or man) and turn him down the dark path into buffoonery.

For want of a better term, I'd call this moment the "jump the couch" moment. Yes, a slight alteration from the moment that describes a nervous breakdown, but hey, English is a living language, and the metaphor just fits.

For Bush, I think this moment can be found here:
And it's one of the wonderful -- it's like earning capital. You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.
Social Security reform? Dead.
Tax Reform? Dead.
Economy moving forward? On life support.
Education? Dead.
Fighting the war on terror? Oh, that's alive...if you assume that Iraq is the war on terror, but I'd count that as dead as well.
Winning the war on terror? Aborted.

The notes are in the air of the funereal dirge of this administration, and it shows in Bush's eyes and face: he's a man who's empty of ideas, of intellect, of energy. In other words, he has had a nervous breakdown.

Zen Thoughts For The New Year

Every blogger in his infantile grandeur posts some weak-ass list of resolutions and thoughts as we reach the turn of the new year.

I will be no exception. However, rather than bore you with my resolutions and hopes for the new year, I want to pass along a list of life's little instructions. These were emailed to me by a mysterious monk sitting high in a mountain enclave in Nepal (OK, actually Houston, Texas), who's got slightly more experience in life than I do.

You may refer to him as "Guru":
1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.

2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

4. Sex is like air. It's not important unless you aren't getting any.

5. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

6. No one is listening until you fart.

7. Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else.

8. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

9. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

10. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them you're a mile away and you have their shoes .

11. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

13. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

14. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

15. Some days you are the bug and some days you are the windshield.

16. Don't worry; it only seems kinky the first time.

17. Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

18. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put It back in your pocket.

19. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

20. Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

21. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

22. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

23. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

24. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

25. We are born naked, wet and hungry, get slapped on our ass... then things get worse.

26. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

27. There is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

28. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

29. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday ...around age 11.

30. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
(Yes, I realize most of these have their origins with various stand up comics, and yes, most of these are blatant ripoffs of nearly every spam-filled joke site you've ever seen, but are you getting any pop-up ads here? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! So shut up about it.)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Now The War On Christmas Is Over...

....who will the right declare war on next?

If you said "homosexuals," give yourself five points.

From James Wolcott:
I suspect Stanley hasn't even picked the right phony controversy to work himself into a lather about. What's really got the Christian activists' chastity belts in a swivel is NBC's Book of Daniel, a series where Jesus rides in the front seat with Aidan Quinn and same-sex loving seems to be bursting out all over. More insidious propaganda from heathen Hollywood, and, as the American Family Association helpfully notes, it's written by one of them: "The writer for the series is a practicing homosexual."

I'm not sure how the AFA keeps tabs on "practicing homosexuals" as opposed to those who are only nominally gay and never leave the house, but I suppose they have their methods.
"Stanley" refers to Stan Kurtz, chief crackpot wanker of the National Review Online. Apparently, Stan's knickers are in a twist over a new (and as yet, unproduced series) on HBO called "Big Love". Apparently, Kurtz was unaware that the traditions of the Mormon church included polygamy, and HBO is producing a series examining the trials and tribulations of this arrangement.

But nooooooooooooooo, that's not juicy enough for Kurtz's Christian family values motif (curious, he wrote all this on Christmas...go fig...could it be he's....Jewish?????), he has to drag in the fact that one of the writers on the series is....*gasp*....GAY!.

Wow. A Hollywood writer who is gay...I mean, I never imagined in all the years I've worked on movies and in theatre that there were actual gay men and women around me!

I just thought they were flamboyant.

Anyways...Kurtz tortures logic enough to make a black-ops CIA agent cringe, and somehow flings the following catapeltic turd: "No, polygamy is being used to legitimate same-sex marriage! In other words, gay marriage and group marriage are mutually reinforcing, and both depend upon the larger view that families ought to be whatever people want them to be."

(Sorry for the link, but I got lectured about my exploitation of massive vocabularly)

Hope you didn't split an anal wart pushing that one out, Stan. He goes on to let the rest of his steaming pile flow out predictably, bringing up that famed homophobe and defender of Krustianity, Mel Gibson, and wondered "What Would Hollywood Do?" if Gibson produced a series about "reformed" homosexuals going straight...

Wolcott does a masterful job of skewering Kurtz' premise by pointing out that HBO is indeed a subscription channel (you gotta read his column, I can't and won't try to do it justice here) and as such not beholden to anyone but its viewers, who probably don't give a rat's ass about "The Passion of.....KEEEEEEEEEEERIST! Is that movie a bloody fucking mess or what????".

Wolcott's column got me to thinking now, since Christmas is over and Fitzmas is only just warming up, how will the clown car inhabitants try to distract us now? Can't claim a "war on Christmas," when Christmas clearly won, so what next?

I guess they'll trot out the ol' saw: fag bashing.

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Kinder Got This Flop

Joe Gandelman reports this little gem:
On Tuesday, a day after officials in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian birthplace of Graz removed his name from a soccer stadium to comply with the California governor's wishes, they deleted references to him on the city's Web sites.

Schwarzenegger earlier this month wrote to Graz officials asking for his name to be removed from the stadium and ordering the city to stop using it for promotional purposes.

He was reacting to fierce criticism from opponents in his hometown who denounced him for refusing to block the Dec. 13 execution in California of Stanley Tookie Williams.

Late Sunday or early Monday, Graz officials took down the large metal letters spelling out Schwarzenegger's name on the 15,300-seat arena. On Tuesday, the mayor's office said references to the actor-turned-politician were scrubbed from Graz's main Web site and from a sister site devoted to the region's sports scene.

"It's all settled," Thomas Rajakovics, a spokesman for Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl, told Austrian media.
I'm guessing his strudel is getting stale in his home country.

I didn't weigh in much on the Tookie Williams case, mostly because it was an unlikely case to draw much sympathy or to make a point about the death penalty.

I oppose the death penalty in all cases. Nevermind the state sanctioned aspect of it; simply put, our jails are not just about revenge, but about second chances and we as a people ought to honor that commitment to our fellow man. Sure, there are a relative handful of cases where you simply can't get thru, no matter what. That's why you keep them locked away forever.

Right now, it costs less to imprison someone for life than to sentence him to death, because of the myriad appeals avenues open to him, and generally speaking, death row inmates will use public defenders offices for these appeals. Those bills add up rapidly over the course of decades (yea, I know, why not install express lanes, but hell, we've already executed a few innocent people we can be pretty sure, so why make it even more dicey?).

We ought to be taking a much closer look at rehabilitation. Executions, like abortions, ought to be rarer than they are.

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Could We Be Reaching The Avian Flu Nexus?

While reading this article at, I came across this tidbit:
To be sure, the H5N1 strain hasn't found its way to the U.S., and local health officials say they're closely watching the flocks and say the New York markets are safe. One expert said the state has stringent standards in place for monitoring and testing the birds. And for now, the disease is just one subtype of flu virus that typically infects fowl, so the risk to humans remains low.

But the disease has spread from Asia to birds in other countries, including Russia and Croatia, and outbreaks are expected in Africa as birds migrate south. If the virus were to begin to transmit easily among humans, health officials fear it could launch a pandemic, threatening millions of people worldwide.

Health experts blame the human cases in Asia on close contact between humans and birds at the small farms that sell poultry to live markets. That leaves some health officials here wondering whether workers at New York State's approximately 100 live poultry markets -- the most of any state in the U.S. -- need to take more precautions.
(emphasis added)

It seems to me that the cradle of mankind holds the key to just about any really nasty virus that affects mankind, likely because of the enormous headstart viruses have had there in learning to cope with human immunodefenses (on the order of millions of years), as well as the unique way that viruses can mutate on an RNA-based transfer of genetic material. While avian flus in general originate in Asia, (not sure why, but the last outbreak in 1968 was given the moniker "Hong Kong Flu," and while the 1918 outbreak was called the "Spanish Flu," the world was somewhat distracted by its first global war, and probably missed the originating outbreak) contact with Africa in the past has been nominal, with the flu viruses spreading to Europe and the Americas long before Africa was affected.

The reason? Slower global transportation meant that the flu was transferred out of Asia far slower and ended up in Europe and the Americas long after birds had migrated south. This year, we've already seen outbreaks in Russia, Croatia, France, Germany and the UK, meaning that birds not yet in transit will have come in contact with the virus carried by international passengers and freighted livestock.

Going to be an interesting spring.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Story You Probably Missed During 2005

Still, a Wounded Military
In last year’s list, we pointed out that the health of the U.S. military was in serious decline. At 7 to 1, the ratio of wounded to dead in Iraq was the highest of any conflict in recent memory, including Vietnam, where the ratio was 3 to 1. A year later, the story is worse—and still largely ignored.

In 2005, the most common number cited regarding the war in Iraq was the more than 2,100 U.S. soldiers that have died. When the number of wounded was mentioned, the Pentagon figure of more than 15,500 U.S. troops, or the Army Medical Department’s total of 20,748 medical evacuations, was usually rolled out.

Today, the wounded-to-dead ratio remains near 7 to 1 by this official count. But a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report released in October tells a bigger story. Its data shows that 119,247 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought VA healthcare. Of those, 46,450 were diagnosed primarily with musculoskeletal problems, such as joint ailments and back disorders. More than 36,800 veterans, or 31 percent of those the VA cared for, were treated primarily for mental disorders.

Not even the VA had anticipated the number of soldiers they would be asked to help. In June, the agency told lawmakers that it had underestimated the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and required $1 billion in emergency funding.
But careful readers of this blog wouldn't be surprised by this last bit.
While the US armed forces and the mental health community are acutely aware of PTSD, and Vietnam veterans had a much harder time of it because not only were they in combat but the support system at home was non-existent for many veterans, the Iraqi vets aren't going to have it a whole lot easier.

In addition, the study on posttraumatic stress disorder found that the percentage of troops suffering from PTSD increased by between 7-10% after deployment to Iraq, which would represent 25,000 to 35,000 initial periodcases of PTSD among the roughly 350,000 U.S. troops who have served in Iraq.

That's as of July of 2005. That's nearly half the number of fatalities we had in Vietnam.

Why will this war be a challenge to the mental health of so many soldiers?

Simple. It's an unpopular war in which Americans are killing Iraqis by the thousands, much like in Vietnam. We were led into the war under false pretenses, so the responsibility for those deaths has shifted from a just cause (fighting terrorism, stopping a WMD from being launched at America) to one that is much ore nuanced (removing a dictator from power).

When a soldier questions his rationale for being in a combat zone, that soldier will call into question his own motives for serving. Even in a forced recycling such as we've seen in the Guard and Reserve troops sent to Iraq, the slender justifications for fighting are peeling away as each day's bad news....more American dead, undercover psyops involving shooting people supposedly on our side by British troops dressed as civilians...piles on.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Us?

No quotes, no headlines from articles. This post is from the heart.

Today we celebrate the birth of arguably the greatest Teacher in the history of this measly little rock in space (which brings up most of this article). Be he God, or God-like, or merely an unusually gifted man is irrelevant to that point: He has been more influential than any other inhabitant of this planet, ever.

And yet, we learned so little from Him.

If you believe, as I do, that Jesus was sent here by His Father to save us from our sins, then you have a lot of questions:

1) First and foremost, why? There are an awful lot of subqueries to ask here. A couple that spring to mind:

a) Why aren't we perfect in the first place? God made us in His image. Is He not perfect, then?

b) Why didn't God just wipe us all out like He did during Noah's time? After all, murder didn't go away when He flooded the planet, neither did theft, or lying or adultery, all of which are mortal sins according to Moses. Did God admit He failed the first time He created us? Then for heaven's sake, couldn't He have chosen a less sinful family than Noah's to repopulate the planet? I mean, you know, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent...why a sinner like Noah? Did God run out of the clay He made us from in Genesis? And so quickly?

2) When is God going to get tired of these numbnuts who hijack His name for earthly purposes? The "War On Christmas," indeed! Can we expect another massive flood to level the planet?

3) If Revelation is accurate (a book written 300 years after Christ, by a stoned monk), then heaven only holds 144,000 souls. There are 6 billion people on the planet now, and since "souls" could mean anyone who's ever lived, we're talking about something on the order of ten billion souls. Heaven sounds harder to get into than a WASP country club for a minority.

4) Doesn't this behavior sound odd to you? A God who destroys (Noah) and humiliates His subjects (Adam and Eve, Abraham, David, Job...I could go on) in one book turns around and gives them a beautiful gift in the next? Was not an omniscient God in charge? Could He not see the failures of man ahead of time and prevent them? Didn't He get bored of running around behind us like a kindergarten teacher?

5) In fact, does not Jesus sound more like a Father than His Father does? I'm reminded often of the Star Trek (first gen) episode, The Squire Of Gothos, and that the Father is Trelane, and Jesus one of the beings that scolds him in the end. One can begin to imagine the conversation they must have had ahead of time.

6) And yet, even Jesus' teachings have failed where they count the most: the human heart. Who amongst us can claim to never have had a sinful thought?

7) Which leads me to the place Jesus' teachings should have succeeded wildly: the human mind. After all, the logic is impeccable. If you don't want to be screwed around with, don't screw around with someone else. You get what you put in. Every major religion and belief system has this at its core, this magic bank account where you deposit good will and you withdraw good will, but if you deposit ill will, you withdraw ill will (and in some systems, you even earn usurious interest rates on the order of three-fold!). Why have His teachings failed to impress the one place humans CAN control, their own minds?

Now, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born unto men, died for our sins, arose to Heaven where he will sit in judgement of the quick and the dead, and the Holy Spirits, the last leg of the Triune God.

I just don't believe in religion. I don't believe that man, any man, can tell me how to follow my God. Either God is so involved in the day to day affairs of each man, as He was in the Old Testament, that a priest or minister becomes superficial, that we each have a direct line to Him in our hearts, or God is so uninvolved in our lives that, through Jesus, he gave us blanket immunity from prosecution by just believing that Jesus died for our sins, in which case, priests and ministers become irrelevant (again) as we each must find our own path to salvation, that the most a priest can do for us is to point out what needs forgiving in God's eye.

A tale is told of the man who dies. He enters a large chamber, a vestibule of a sort, high vaulted ceilings bathed in white marble and white plaster ornamentation.

Across the marble floor from him are two doors.

The first door, grand white oak, with brass handles and two sentries posted in the finest guard uniforms, braided gold epaulets , which has a lonnnnnnnnnnnng line of people snaking forth from it, has an huge gilded sign over it: "Lecture On How To Get To Heaven."

The second door, perpetually open with many cobwebs across the entrance, musty, old pine, with a simple knob, is marked with a simple hand carved (by a Carpenter?) wooden sign: "To Heaven".

That doorway is empty.

And to conclude today's services, a hymn...

Fairy Tale of New York (Hi Bandwidth Real Player)k

Fairy Tale of New York (Lo Bandwidth Real Player)

Fairy Tale of New York (WMV Hi Bandwidth)

Fairy Tale of New York (WMV Lo Bandwidth)

Merry Christmas, all. Happy Hannukah, all.

Aw, hell, Merry Happy Christmahannukwanzaakah, everyone! Especially Jesus' General.

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