Sunday, July 30, 2006

mel gibson, drunken whacko anti-semite

What's the Hebrew word for schadenfreude? Anyway, whack anti-semite Christ-on-a-Cross pornographer Mel Gibson got his sorry ass arrested for drunk driving the other day in Los Angeles.

Then a gossip web site obtained a partial readout of Gibson's tirade when he was arrested, recorded by the arresting cop. A couple of tired Hollywood-cliche type rants -- "I own Malibu", threatening to "get" the cop, and calling a female cop "sugar tits" (bringing to mind the Jerky Boys) are amusing, in a sad, pathetic, stereotypical way.

But then Gibson launched into an anti-Jewish outburst, asking the arresting cops if they were Jewish, and going on about how Jews call all of the world's wars. Sounds like at first, LAPD was going to cover up Gibson's rants. I don't entirely blame them -- people say stupid crap all the time when they're arrested, and as offensive as Gibson's remarks were, they weren't crimes. But of course, it has been leaked.

And now Mel comes out with his contrite apology about his despicable behavior, how he said things he doesn't believe (oh, really?) and how he is an alcoholic. I'll give Mel credit for being 2/3rds right. His behavior WAS despicable, and I do believe him if he says he's an alcoholic, and I'm sympathetic for that -- I don't wish addiction on anybody.

But sorry Mel, there's too much prior evidence out there to dismiss the anti-semite charges.

bird flu and bioterror, too

Haven't heard as much about bird flu lately. Don't worry, it hasn't gone away, it's just that, like other influenzas, it tends to strike more in the winter months. There was encouraging news recently about a more effective H5N1 vaccine being under development. But today, a piece about the difficulty of containing bird flu. Vietnam is struggling to stamp out H5N1 outbreaks in birds, but chickens smuggled in from China are another conduit for the virus. Especially since the smugglers are apparently bringing in chickens from H5N1-affected regions and selling them for a song in Vietnam, and then telling the Chinese government that they have culled their flocks as ordered.

The movement of birds by humans is thought to be responsible for most of the spread into distant places like Nigeria and Iraq. Prediction -- if H5N1 makes the leap to human-human transmission, human quarantines are likely to be ineffective at keeping the virus from spreading from one region to another.

In another story, a long piece about the government's defenses against bioterrorism. It might surprise you to learn the de facto Bush administration is keeping this secret. Actually, some level of secrecy is appropriate for security reasons, but it leads to further suspicions of whether they are breaking any laws. A bad bird flu outbreak among people would stretch our bio defenses, too.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

god-boys for climate change

The Associated Press reports that a group calling itself the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) has issued a "Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming." This "call" refutes the "Call to Action" issued a few months ago by the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), religious leaders who want to take steps to mitigate climate change.

The ISA "Call to Truth" says we shouldn't do anything about climate change because it won't be so bad, besides we can't do anything about it, and that poverty is a bigger problem than climate change anyway. What a coherent argument. The ECI folks actually used the fact that climate change will hurt the poor the most as one argument for trying to stop it.

ISA's "Call to Truth" is authored by professor of theology, a guy who works for anti-conservation organizations, an economics professor, and a climate scientist whose work is sponsored by Exxon (Roy Spencer). There isn't a single person with a shred of scientific credibility associated with ISA, which was founded last December specifically as an "alternative to radical left-leaning environmentalism."

It always discourages me when religious types act badly and, for their personal profit or the profit of those that sponsor them (Exxon?), abuse the faith that many people put in them. This is a truly terrible example, right up there IMHO with how segregationists used to use Bible scripture to sanction thair racism.

Friday, July 28, 2006

the ant bully: a movie review, castrated

Over the past year or so, the Washington Post, no doubt to save a nickel, has gone from having different writers review new movies for the Style section and the Weekend section to instead printing shortened versions of the Style reviews in Weekend. I don't usually bother to read the Weekend ones, but today a travesty of editing caught my eye.

Stephen Hunter, whose reviews I usually enjoy very much, reviewed "The Ant Bully" today. And the Weekend version has a completely different tone that the longer Style version.

The Style review and the shorter Weekend version praised the movie's technique and animation. Obviously, Hunter thought the movie is technically well done. Both articles also pointed to the ant colony being a paradise, except when the bully boy poured water on them.

The Weekend review concludes, "The movie is an epic adventure with a rigorously moral point of view." So you'd think that Hunter enjoyed the movie, right?

Wrong. If you look at the Style review -- three times longer than the hacked-back Weekend one -- you see what Hunter admits is a "rant" about the movie. First off, Hunter can't stand the "psychotic anthropomorphism" (I haven't seen the flick, but I suspect I would agree with him). And he doesn't like
"promiscuous empathy." We identify with anything: birds, bees, flowers, trees. We weep for all. We make a fetish of our compassion and treat our feelings as if they're ideas. This contagion holds that there is no us and them in the world, that we are all one big us. The fact that the world then makes no sense is of no matter to those who hold this point of view; far more important is how happy it makes them feel, how moral, how superior. All they are saying is give peace a chance.
None of that is included in the Weekend review.

And Hunter sees the above as a not-so-subtle allegory.
You'd have to be an idiot to miss the Middle Eastern allegory in all this. More foreign policy advice from the savants of Hollywood: We Americans, we're the ant bullies, with our huge technical might, and we blunder into the Third Worlds of this world, huffing and puffing, only to be humiliated by the determination and resilience of the indigenous forces.
The Weekend review concludes, "The movie is an epic adventure with a rigorously moral point of view." The full Style version ends, "The whole thing is a lie, from start to finish. Other than that, I liked it a lot."

Wow. Could the butchers who edit the Weekend section have gotten it any more completely wrong? I haven't seen the movie, probably won't, and I'm not sure whether I would agree with Hunter or not. But Hunter's rant (his word) about Hollywood foreign policy advice and "promiscuous empathy" clearly reflects his strongly-held view. And not only is that completely ABSENT in the Weekend version, they managed to turn the review on its head to make it look like Hunter overall LIKED the movie.

The Weekend edited snippet was "a lie, from start to finish," completely perverting Hunter's review.

I'd say those editor/butchers are just about ready for a job on the editorial pages. And if I were Stephen Hunter, I'd be livid.

we don't need no stinking ethics

The blandly named Tom Davis (R-Va) a few years back was about to become chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. So his friend, smelling an opportunity, starts a company consulting with tech firms seeking government contracts. The friend (Donald Upson) hires a Virginia politician, name of Jeannemarie Devolites. Devolites soon after marries Tom Davis.

And now the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct tells Davis that having his wife work for Upson's company is OK "as long as the couple does not personally benefit from any official acts by the congressman."

Oh, good decision, solomonic House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. I'm sure that sleeping with a powerful chairman couldn't POSSIBLY bring any benefits to the company, and even if it did, none of those benefits would POSSIBLY accrue to the wife/employee, who I'm sure is paid minimum wage for 60 hours a week of backbreaking labor. And I'm sure the Committee would have ruled the same way if Davis had been a Democrat. Because after all, the Committee is made up of high minded public servants and friends of that paragon of ethical conduct Tom DeLay, and they wouldn't possibly condone even the slightest whiff of scandal, misconduct, or conflict of interest.

Read the article and judge whether any of the company's activities look like they benefitted Mr. or Mrs. Davis... I think it's clear.

no need to worry, they don't torture anyway

Oh, those naive Congressional Republicans. When back in 1996 they voted (with heavy Democrat support, too) to allow prosecutions in US courts for violations of the Geneva Conventions, they obviously never imagined that this could be used to threaten employees of an American, REPUBLICAN (de facto) Administration with prosecution. So now they're trying to change it:
The Justice Department's top legal adviser, Steven G. Bradbury, separately testified two weeks ago that Congress must give new "definition and certainty" to captors' risk of prosecution for coercive interrogations that fall short of outright torture.
Why make any change? If you don't torture, you won't be prosecuted. And the Administration has reassured us over and over that it does not condone torture, so no worries, right?

I mean, asking to change this law shows a certain lack of faith in all the people in the military and law enforcement and intelligence fields, that those people won't faithfully abide by Cheney-Bush's sincere ban on torture. Gosh. I mean, people who aren't doing anything wrong shouldn't worry about their phones being tapped and their email being read, by the same standard, people not torturing detainees needn't worry about this law either.

Or is it possible that in its heart of hearts, the de facto Administration realizes that it DOES condone and order torture?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

ooh ooh, pick me, pick me!

I sometimes look at Blogger's "Blogs of Note" choices, and I must admit I don't quite understand how Blogger picks 'em. So let's see what Blogger has highlighted for us today, shall we?

Geeks Are Sexy. OK, this is easy to explain -- just the title would make Blogger staff likely to fall for this, and the blog is full of shiny electronic stuff for geeky consumers to drool over. Leaves me cold.

On being a scientist and a woman. Also understandable, and an interesting blog that I've read before. Blogging since April 2005.

Bluepulseblog. All about getting content for cellphones. I would gouge my eyes out rather than read this blog on a regular basis, but if you get sexually aroused by cellphones, or if you don't find ironic the Arctic Monkeys' lyric that says there are only new songs so we can have new ring tones, this might be good for you. Since October 2005.

Budak in Berlin. Some student blogs about his six weeks in Germany. Actually, not as bad as it sounds. Some cool photos. And he isn't blogging about frigging cellphones, so that's a plus. Been at at it since June 2006, I guess.

nmherps. No, I couldn't decipher this one either -- apparently an abbreviation for "New Mexico Herpes." Just joking, really "New Mexico Herpetology," all about snake rescues at the Wildlife Center in Arroyo Seco, NM. Interesting, nifty snake photos, and again a scientific topic. Been on Blogger since April 2006.

Digital Inspiration. This is a blog by a tech writer, Amit Agarwal. It is for techies. Sample entry subject: The Man Who Invented Ctrl-Alt-Del Keyboard Shortcut. I kid you not. He has a couple of archive entries from 1990 (!!), been doing this blog regularly since July 2004.

Spinfluencer, by Eric Schwartzman, explains how "marketing, advertising, public relations, the news media and emerging technologies influence perceptions." Looks pretty good, been doing this blog since January 2005.

Good evening. It appears to be a blog by or for John Hodgman (Daily Show, the bland PC guy in those Apple commercials), and has a dry, offbeat sense of humor. I assume it is by that dude; if not, arrest that man for impersonating a TV comic. Very dry humor. No cell phone software links or breathless updates about Windows 3K, nor the history of the use of colons in writing code for Commodore 64s.

Sports Law Blog. Several contributors who, unsurprisingly, write about sports from a legal perspective. I've seen this before, and I quite like it. Again, thankfully there are no techie links like updates on BlueBalls, a brand new wireless application that will allow your toaster to contact your cellphone when your english muffin is burning. Archives back to November 2003. Ancient by blog standards!

And finally, Sketchblog, in which a young artist posts her sketches. Some of the drawings aren't bad, and she clearly likes Tolkien and rock music. In this blog's favor, there are no articles describing how to get more performance from your video bus by overclocking the schiffernaxxel in your computer, or on how to download lemonade to your cellphone. And she began blogging on -- July 24, 2006. Instant success, on Blogger for 37 seconds and already a Blog of Note.

So, how do YOU get listed as a "Blog of Note?"

Beats me. But here's a photo of a cellphone with a Google map on it.

tour de testosterone

Wow, a professional cyclist tests positive for drugs after winning the Tour de France? Unbelievable. Next thing you'll tell me, Republican politicians accept money from big business, and cats like tuna.

What's REALLY unbelievable is that Floyd Landis would be the first Tour de France winner stripped of his title for unusual substances, in his case very high levels of testosterone. Because seriously, hands up for everybody who thinks somebody could, oh say have a nut removed because of cancer that goes to your brain and almost kills you and them come back and win seven consecutive Tours WITHOUT doping? I mean, is that any more likely than hitting over 200 home runs after turning 36, like Barry Bonds? Nope.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

abortion again

This is nice. The Senate wants to make transporting a minor girl across state lines to do something LEGAL in the state they are traveling to (specifically, to get an abortion) illegal unless the parents of the girl are informed.

Should the House pass the bill (they passed something similar last year), I guess if you live in one of the states that require such notification, you'll be screwed if you're pregnant and 15 and have no parents. Or if your parents are violent types who might beat or kill or imprison you if you inform them. Wonder if this law would apply to Greyhound, should a knocked-up 15 year old take the bus?

The White House says this will "protect the health and safety of minors". Bullshit. It "protects the health and safety" of GOP Senate candidates' support among anti-choice voters. Red meat for the base.

how long do last throes last, anyway?

So de facto President Bush notes that we're moving troops to Baghdad because of worsening sectarian violence. Those "last throes" of violence and insurgency are certainly quite sustained, aren't they Mr. De Facto Vice President Cheney? And Iraq's prime minister is criticizing Israel but not Hezbollah over the situation in Lebanon. Funny, I thought we were told that a new, democratic Iraq would be supportive of Israel. Gosh, another thing the Cheney-Bush Administration got wrong before March 2003.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

the climates, they're a changin'

Op-ed pieces by industry apologists in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages notwithstanding, there IS consensus on the causes of climate change, as the scientist who did the survey of climate change research explains here. It's humans. Simple. Wishing it weren't so won't change the facts. So, let's do something about it, now.

And we'll see if the Supreme Court decides that Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon as an air pollutant, in accord with the Clean Air Act. The argument in favor seems compelling -- CO2 in sufficient quantities can (already has begun to) cause considerable damage to the US. Yes, CO2 is a substance that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," and as the LA Times points out, the Clean Air Act specifically includes substances that might affect the "weather" or "climate." Seems like a no-brainer. EPA has the legal authority to regulate it. But does it have the guts? Probably not as long as the current oilbaron junta is in office.

free at last, free at last

The Nationals are FINALLY officially free of the greedy and evil clutches of Bud Selig. Good luck to the Lerners, they'll need it. I have to say I'm concerned that they kept Jim Bowden, and that the recent draft included so many high school players (it is much harder to predict how they'll do than for college players). But I like Stan Kasten's recent assertion that the Nationals will spend heavily on scouting, and the decision to cut the price on cheap seats at RFK effective now.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

politics of climate change

Michael Grunwald writes about how climate change is having its moment in the sun in the political arena. Even de facto President/oilman/scientific illiterate George W. Bush defends his nuclear deal with Russia by noting that we need to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons. Organizations as disparate as Wal-Mart, BP, and the state of California are working to slash carbon emissions.

It's not too late yet, but we need to get moving on this. This is the single most important issue that faces human civilization today, and Americans being so wealthy have as much or more to lose than anybody. So it would seem appropriate to me that perhaps the Federal government might like to get involved in this in a significant way. If that wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience for Halliburton and Exxon, that is.

Meanwhile, check out the tips from Tim Flannery (the Australian scientist who wrote "The Weathermakers," not the former American baseball player and coach turned country singer) for how you can reduce YOUR carbon emissions.

"fiasco" in iraq, and another day, another four dozen deaths

Today's Washington Post excerpts from an upcoming book about Iraq, aptly titled "Fiasco".

It's a depressing read, as is everything about Iraq that has the least bit of intellectual honesty. US military leaders were fundamentally unprepared for an insurgency. In August 2003 when the insurgency really began with the bombing of Jordan's Embassy in Iraq, military officers had an email debate about how to improve interrogation techniques, discussing how to hit prisoners and use electric shocks, dogs and snakes to elicit "better" information -- in other words, officers discussing what would become policy at Abu Ghraib (and only enlisted reservists would be punished, but that's another gripe). One unnamed Army major in the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion proved to be both wise and (unfortunately) prescient, writing "We need to take a deep breath and remember who we are. It comes down to standards of right and wrong -- something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient, any more than we can declare that we will 'take no prisoners' and therefore shoot those who surrender to us simply because we find prisoners inconvenient."

Anyway, US military tactics -- torture and the massive use of patrols and firepower -- ended up increasing opposition to our presence, and although the military has begun to wise up (and some classic anti-insurgency texts from Vietnam and Algeria are becoming must-reads in Army circles), we and Iraq's people are still dealing with our mistakes. Witness the latest atrocities killing at least 50 Iraqis in Baghdad and Kirkuk (remember, Kirkuk is in a "safe" part of Iraq).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

fear in phoenix somewhat misplaced

Residents of Phoenix are afraid because two separate serial killers have killed at least eleven residents of that city over the past year or so. Phoenix's police department has organized a task force of 120 detectives (with assistance from the feds and neighboring police departments), has offered big rewards for information leading to arrests, and residents are taking self-defense classes and locking their doors.

Meanwhile, a much more devastating killer is getting less attention. In 2005 through July 31, 98 people were killed in Phoenix by this public safety menace, and for the whole year of 2004, 170 died. (Can't quickly find 2006 stats but indications are the numbers are on the rise.)

The killer? Traffic accidents.

I don't want to belittle people for being afraid of criminals and killers, it's natural. But it's exacerbated by the way our media and our public officials sensationalize these issues, and by our poor understanding in many instances of the relative risks of different activities.

The risk to the good people of Phoenix from driving around that fair burg is far higher than the risk of being targeted by the Baseline Killer or Serial Shooter.

surprise, the government fights dirty

It's bad enough those two lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are being prosecuted by the de facto Bush Justice Department under that vague, outdated, World War One-era (1916) espionage law (aimed then at agents of enemy governments) for receiving classified information. But the lobbyists' lawyers allege Justice is fighting dirty, pressuring AIPAC into firing them and to stop paying their legal fees to make it harder for them to defend themselves.

A US District judge recently ruled Justice's tactics -- pressuring employers to stop paying legal fees -- "unconstitutional" and "an abuse of power."

Also seems to me Justice must not be confident of its case if it has to resort to such chicanery against those it is prosecuting...

Friday, July 21, 2006

unprecedented role in blocking justice

Quotes from Murray Waas in the National Journal about how the de facto President's decision personally to block an investigation is unprecedented.

I agree. When Nixon tried something like this, at least Attorney General Elliott Richardson (and others) had the decency to resign rather than allow the president to block justice so nakedly. (The official who agreed to do Nixon's dirty work? Robert Bork.) But nobody in this de facto Administration has the slightest sense of decency, apparently. And no, the President does NOT get involved in deciding who should and should not have security clearances; this is truly unprecendented and frankly a bit chilling.

The whole episode is further proof that this regime's ruling philosophy is quite simply, The president is always right.

charity begins at home if you're a rich real estate baron with your own bogus charitable foundation.

Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt and his family of Utah real estate barons, water lords, and insurance tycoons have a "charitable foundation" that has saved Mike Leavitt alone at least $1.2 million-plus in taxes, while paying out around $50,000 a year to charities. This "charity" also has made interest-free loans totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars to commercial businesses owned by the Leavitt family.

The best thing the family can say about this was in a statement from an HHS spokesperson: "The foundation's activities are totally legal and proper."

These activities very likely ARE legal. Because this is precisely the sort of crap that rich people, amply represented in Congress that caters to their every whim, get passed into law to allow THEM to shelter THEIR income and wealth from paying their fair share of taxes to support the society in which they have been fortunate enough to become (or remain) wealthy.

However, to call them PROPER is another thing entirely. It isn't too much, I'd say, to expect that assets given to a charitable foundation be used to actually SUPPORT CHARITABLE WORKS, not just function as a tax shelter and a source of interest-free loans.

A Leavitt family member said they would change the activities of their foundation if Congress changed the legislation. In other words, if Congress made it illegal to use a charitable foundation to save on taxes and as a source of interest-free commercial loans while paying out a pittance in charitable work, the Leavitts will obey the law. What a bold and generous commitment. Otherwise, they'll continue their comfortable and profitable "Type III supporting operation," categorized by the IRS as one of the biggest tax scams it faces.

Charity begins at home, if you have enough money to take advantage of the sleazy little shelters that the rich men in Congress create through legislation for their wealthy supporters.

Meanwhile, the de facto Bush Administration can be expected to push for still MORE tax cuts for the wealthy, for people like Mike Leavitt and his family of charity-scamming self-serving Utah real estate barons and insurance tycoons.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt, the charitable donations overwhelmingly have gone to Leavitt-family-linked organizations, and Mike Leavitt's alma mater, Southern Utah University.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

neocons are insane

Neocons at the National Review and elsewhere (like Newt Gingrich, who might try to return to politics, something I look forward to like a recurrence of gallstones) are griping at de facto President Bush for not attacking Iran and North Korea simultaneously, while also conquering Syria and Lebanon and overthrowing the non-democratic regimes in Russia and Egypt. Even if the US military had all the capacities implied by Robert Kagan in his fetishized overhyping of our armed forces in his books and magazine articles, we probably couldn't do even ONE of these things right now militarily. Let alone the huge diplomatic and public relations disaster that such half-cocked adventures could provoke. Thank whatever gods you believe in that (so far) the de facto Administration has ignored these ideas (partly because they are ass-deep in Iraq, another of their brilliant plans).

Repeat after me: the neocons are insane. The neocons are insane.

ralph, hope next time you're in the news is at your trial

That smug, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, gambling-money-accepting prig of a Moral Majority-style Republican Ralph Reed, Friend of Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist, lost to a no-name state senator in his bid for the GOP lieutenant-governor nomination in Georgia.

I must congratulate Repubiclan voters of Georgia on rejecting him. But I hope we will see him again in the news, at his own corruption trial.

god in the house (bush at the naacp) (john carter of texas)

The empty gesture by the House GOP to vote (unsuccessfully) to ban gay marriage by constitutional amendment is disturbing. One way it disturbs me is that apparently large parts of the Republican Party still see bigotry as a valid electoral strategy. An aside -- that could make de facto President Bush's decision to address the NAACP convention tomorrow interesting! But I imagine Bush will stick to the "approved for mixed company" version of the GOP talking points. In other words, he will lie lie lie about his de facto Administration's allegedly strong record on civil rights to a group of people who will understand damn well that he is lying his ass off, and Fox News will cover it as if Bush were the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi all rolled into one buff, sixty-year-old body. Back to God and the House.

And what does it say about religion in America when so many of the GOP House members say they voted to ban gay marriage based on instructions from God? Guess the "love thy neighbor" and tolerance parts of the Christian message aren't getting through very clearly.

One GOP moron (John Carter, not of Mars but of Texas) said it was part of "God's plan for the future of mankind." (Plenty of other House GOPsters said something similar, but none of them share their name with a classic science fiction character, so John Carter, White Man of Texas, gets the nod here.) First, I'd love to know how Carter got access to God's plan. Could he post it on his website so the rest of us humans can see what God's got in store? Second, if it's really "God's plan," would He need mere mortals to enact it through legislation for Him? Seems an omnipotent God could take action just a bit more directly if the mood struck Him.

I'm glad to see that with so many other pressing priorities, the Karl Rove worshipping House Republicans wasted everybody's time with this empty little nod to hatred, misunderstanding, bigotry, and intolerance. In other words, they reinforced their basic message.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

religious liars

The theo-cons in the US have shown no compunction in breaking various of the Ten Commandments to forward their cause, which for some reason often seems to center on abortion, which is of course never mentioned in the Bible (unless I missed the 11th Commandment, "Thou shall not abort"). We already know about people who have no problem ignoring the "thou shalt not kill" commandment in targeting doctors and bombing medical clinics. And plenty of the anti-choice crowd ignore the exhortation against lying.

But it's even worse when theo-cons use Federal tax money to run "pregnancy centers" where they can lie to women about the potential risks of an abortion. A federal study found 20 of 23 such centers were giving false facts to women calling for information about abortion. They frequently give information about raised risk of cancer and other "risks" from abortions that are completely at odds with mainstream research -- i.e., not religiously motivated scientific research that does not start with a desired outcome and twist the data, Bush-Administration-going-into-Iraq-for-WMD style, to "support" their version of the facts.

Liars for Christ, Ten Commandments be damned.


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, suffering from a bad case of "I-wanna-be-president syndrome," has reversed himself on stem cells and will allow a bill on the issue to come up in the Senate, despite de facto President Bush's threat to veto it. Frist is obviously trying to look normal and sane to appeal to moderates. No doubt he'd also like us to remember his position on THIS medical issue, and not his unethical remote-diagnosis of Terry Schiavo's condition last spring...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

medical professionals and their beliefs

You hear more and more about medical professionals refusing to fill legal prescriptions for legal drugs, or to do legal procedures that are contrary to their religious beliefs. A few quotes from the article I think get to the gist of the issue -- you're a professional who's duty is to the patient.
Wisconsin-Madison bioethicist R. Alta Charo: "As soon as you become a licensed professional, you take on certain obligations to act like a professional, which means your patients come first. You are not supposed to use your professional status as a vehicle for cultural conquest."
Hawaii-Manoa philosophy professor Ken Kipnis: "If your religious orientation is such that you can't discharge your professional responsibilities, then you shouldn't take on those responsibilities in the first place. You should find other work."
This article doesn't address it, but I wonder whether the ability to conduct "cultural conquest" through medical work isn't attracting some people to those professions?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tired of spoiled, overpaid athletes? Then watch Major League Soccer.

The all-star goalie for the best team in MLS, Troy Perkins of DC United, works part-time as a mortgage loan processor at a bank to supplement his $29,400 annual salary. And Perkins is not the lowest-paide player in MLS!

the vines love carbon dioxide

No, not the Australian rock band, but real vines like kudzu and poison ivy. They are thriving in warmer temperatures and with higher CO2 levels.

Scientists talk about possibly engineering plants to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Worth a shot, but this ain't gonna be a free ride. We have to reduce emissions, and quickly.

short comment on a family tragedy

A former de facto Bush Administration senior political appointee at the Department of Commerce killed his son and himself. It's a family tragedy, and no doubt the media will treat it as such. But you can bet that if it had been a DEMOCRATIC political appointee that the conspiracies would already be being concocted at Republican National Headquarters and (to be redundant) Fox News.

Friday, July 14, 2006

so, how's the middle east look now, cheney-bush?

EJ Dionne notes that with the Middle East going up in smoke, the de facto Administration's "Big Bang" argument (as made by Darth Cheney in August 2002) that taking out Iraq would bring happy days, sunshine, and peace and stability to Israel and the rest of the Middle East is ALSO obviously wrong, wrong, wrong.

Is this even open for debate anymore? Obviously, the Republican amen chorus will continue to prattle on about this, but it will take one hell of a reversal to make the Iraq invasion look like a good thing. Funny, you don't hear so much any more of their taking credit (falsely) for the Lebanese "miracle" as a positive side-effect of Iraq.

I sometimes have to strain to think of something on which our feckless I mean fearless leader has been right about. I can think of one thing, though, on which I agree with George W. Bush unreservedly -- grass IS better than astroturf for baseball.

the republican attitude to elections, on trial

Another example of the rather cynical GOP view about elections is their phone-jamming against the Democrats in New Hampshire in 2002. Now a court has ruled that NH Democrats can try to have GOP officials be deposed in their lawsuit to see what connections there were between the local GOP and the White House.

This control-freak White House almost certainly was aware of this illegal operation at some level. Be interesting to see what comes out.

Remember, the GOP supports freedom to vote only for its supporters, and only because in the modern age they need a veneer of democracy to perpetuate their pro-rich ruling system.

memo to minorities and the poor -- republicans really aren't your friends

The Republican Congress voted to renew the Voting Rights Act. Hooray. But remember, the TRUE GOP attitude towards minority voters is, the fewer the better.

Remember it was the GOP in Florida that intentionally designed its program to keep (largely black) felons from voting so broadly that it kept people with names SIMILAR to felons from voting too. It was Florida GOP that set up roadblocks to do "drivers license checks" near polling places in mostly black precincts on Election Day 2000. It is the Georgia GOP trying to force voters to buy special election IDs if they don't have drivers licenses, overwhelmingly aimed at poor black voters. It was the Ohio GOP on Election Day 2004 that challenged many thousands of voters, overwhelmingly black citizens.

I could go on, but you get the drift. The GOP really only cares about voting rights for THEIR supporters. It was politically inexpedient to oppose this legislation, so they voted for it while cloaking themselves in the mantle of civil rights heroes. But if they had their way, we'd go back to literacy tests and property qualifications for the right to vote.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


One definition of desperation -- signing Sidney Ponson as your fifth starter. Yet somehow, the damn Yankees remain in contention. I hope Sidney gives the same quality performance as he did the Cardinals.

plamegate goes to the courts

Interesting to see that exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame is suing the true Axis of Evil -- Cheney, Rove, and Scooter. It was established during Clinton's term that lawsuits against sitting presidents would be permitted by the courts. Whether that same ability will apply here seems uncertain to me.

First, these are Republicans being sued, not libertines I mean Democrats, who after all deserve to be sued because they get oral sex in the office and don't cut taxes on the obscenely wealthy. Second, the triumverate is being sued for things done in the line of work, more or less. If you believe their line that they can plot to expose a secret agent's identity in the cause of partisan politics and call that part of their official duties...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

shine on, you crazy diamond

A moment of silence to honor the passing of one of the greats of psychadelic rock, former Pink Floyd front-man Syd Barrett. After Pink Floyd's early successes, and after much LSD, Syd became unable to cope with the life of a rock star -- or really, even with plain old every day life, and dropped out to live with his mother. The story of him showing up unannounced and unrecognizable a few years later, while his former bandmates were recording "Wish You Were Here" -- an album that served as a tribute to their former mate -- is one of the saddest things in rock history.

a succinct summary of the administration's governing policy

As expressed by Justice Department
Steven Bradbury in the Guantanamo detainees case:
The president is always right.
That's the total sum of the ruling philosophy for the de facto Bush Administration. Let me bring up a concept or two you might remember from your misspent days in high school history.

The Divine Right of Kings.

And to quote the Sun-King (not the Son-President) Louis XIV of France: "L'etat, c'est moi." Translation -- I am the State. Modern version: "The president is always right."

When the president is always right, what do we need with a Constitution? The president will tell us how we should organize ourselves. We don't need Congress, the president will give us our laws and decide how to spend our money. We don't need courts (at least, we only need criminal ones) because the president will tell us how to interpret the laws, just as he does with his signing statements.

And I'm sure Jeb will also always be right, once he is selected by the Supreme Court to succeed his brother.

war pigs

I think Black Sabbath had Halliburton in mindwhen they wrote "War Pigs". This war pig is having its free access to the feeding trough cut back a bit...

Monday, July 10, 2006

saber-rattling from an unlikely source

This is one of the most surprising things I've seen in a long time (since the last time Donald Rumsfeld said something sincere, in fact). Reports that JAPAN of all countries was considering whether they could legally attack North Korean missile sites. You know, pre-emptively like the US did in Iraq.

Japan hasn't done anything offensive in over sixty years (not counting foisting Hello Kitty and karaoke onto the rest of the world, that is) Guess they really were upset by those missile tests that Kim Jong Il set off to honor the Fourth of July.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

even the republicans are getting worried

The New York Times today, perhaps in belated atonement for its absurd willingness to publish anything the de facto Administration wanted before the Iraq war began, today publishes another story about the Bushies' penchant for buggery I mean secrecy. Today, it is a warning from Congressman Peter Hoekstra to Bush charging that the Administration may have broken the law by not informing Congress of some secret intelligence programs. Hoekstra is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and of course is a Republican. Hoekstra also wrote in his letter that the Administration risks losing support among Congressional Republicans on intelligence questions.

Two thoughts pop to mind. One is, I wonder precisely what programs Hoekstra is alluding to? We already know that the Administration is monitoring financial transactions, listening to select phone calls, monitoring our email and records of what websites we visit, and accessing our library records. Oh, and declaring American citizens (not to mention foreigners) "enemy combatants" and arguing that they don't owe anybody a fair trial to detain them for ever. Not to mention TORTURING people. So what's left? Unless they've finally devised that mind-reading device...

Two, all I can say is that, if the Republicans in Congress are finally deciding that actually doing their jobs and serving as a check on the Cheney-Bush-Nixon cabal's power grab and shredding of the Constitution, it's about time.

I'd like to think this is a sign of Republicans in Congress taking their duties seriously. But frankly, I suspect it's more a case of covering their collective asses for the upcoming elections by slowly disassociating themselves from an unpopular, radical regime that any real change of heart.

ben stein is right again

Once again, Ben Stein is right. Read his column today -- actor, game-show host, economist, conservative pundit, former GOP adviser Stein correctly notes the accelerating trend towards higher wages for the bosses and lower wages for the rest of us, the vastly decreased tax burden on the wealthy, our profligate spending and borrowing habits (because it's easier to borrow than to expect politicians to do the honest thing and raise taxes, or in de facto President Bush's case, to at least stop CUTTING taxes on the wealthy), and notes that it ain't the children of the rich who are dying in Iraq.

Stein asks a tough question about American in 2006: "Is this still a community of the heart, or a looting opportunity?"

You don't have to be a liberal to ask these questions, and you don't have to be a liberal to share Stein's concerns about the direction America is headed.

grover is small enough to drown in a bathtub

Crusading anti-federal-government conservative movement ideologue Grover Norquist has had his holier-than-thou image tainted by his long, close and personally lucrative association with Jack Abramoff, and the Post reports his influence is slipping. As one GOP person said, Grover is just "not that likeable" and now the knives are out even within conservative circles.

It's a sad commentary that he has had any influence in the first place. He's famous for saying he wants to make the Federal government small enough to drown in a bathtub. That's a great ideology if you are rich enough to imagine being able to pay for all of your own needs yourself, but it's pure and simple dumb even for the wealthy to imagine they can do without some of the benefits of the Federal government. You know, stuff like air traffic controllers to make sure you and another rich dude don't have mid-air collisions in your private airplanes. You know, stuff like approving drugs so that you can have some hope that the tremendously expensive medicines you get from your (state-licensed so you know he's not a quack) doctor aren't in fact going to strike you dead. You know, some level of financial regulation to give you some sort of assurance that the company whose stocks you buy really do what they purport to do, and really do earn what they claim to earn. (See Enron and Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling for examples of why that's important.) You know, energy regulators to prevent companies from taking unfair advantage of their market power to manipulate markets and jack up prices (again see Enron...).

Anyway, despite his claims of ideological purity (no matter how dumb the ideology), Grover is revealed as just another venal money-grubber lining his pockets with money that ultimately comes from FEDERAL taxpayers. If Norquist had any sense of shame, he'd drown himself in a bathtub.

Friday, July 07, 2006

another close election

A close election in Mexico. Makes de jure President Gore's 2000 victory look like a landslide. EJ Dionne points out the election that would ensue if a country like Mexico weighted its vote in a way to heavily favor rural, conservative constituencies at the expense of more urban areas in a way that the winner of the popular vote could actually LOSE the election. Gosh it's hard to imagine any country stupid enough to do it that way, is it?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

ken lay is still critically dead, but his estate is alive and well

It kind of irks me that Kenny Boy's apparent death not only allows him to avoid prison, it could also void his conviction and make it impossible for the government to seize his assets. Isn't that truly, truly convenient?

Because if instead of swindling billions of dollars out of customers and employees and investors, Ken Lay had made $50,000 selling pot, the feds would have seized all of his possessions AND all the possessions of his wife and kids and parents and sold them off just on the SUSPICION that they had been bought with drug money. The very wealthy who cause serious economic damage (and who can afford to lawyer up), get treated more nicely. Ain't fair.


I don't understand spending $120,000 on your bathroom so you can soak in the tub for an hour each morning while watching the "Today show." I don't understand spending thousands of dollars to make a 9' by 4' shower. I don't understand spending $300 on a FAUCET, or getting a bathtub with a "waterfall feature," or spending thousands on computerized toilets with a control panel.

Look, I'm not saying that bathrooms should be reduced to a hole in the floor to crap in and a little tub to wash in. But wasting that much money on bathrooms is, pardon the expression, just flushing your money away. Consumerism thrives, and we're being played for fools.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

is ken lay dead?

Did disgraced Enron boss Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay really die today, conveniently just a few months before he was to be sentenced to prison? Or did he pull an Elvis and fake his death, to get away with his millions and live out his life in obscure comfort somewhere?*

*Note -- this is satire, unless it turns out Lay really did fake his death, in which case I told you so.

you should care about corals

Rising acidity levels due to climate change are killing the corals and other see animals that need certain acidity levels to grow shells and live. No biggie, you think? Well, coral reefs are critical ocean ecosystems, very fertile areas that provide major sources of food for fish. Including fish that us humans eat. So it isn't just a question of pretty reefs disappearing.

The climate is kind of like an operating system for the Earth, an OS that has been stable and conducive to agriculture and the rise of human civilization for the past several thousand years. By allowing business-as-usual unchecked carbon emissions we are locking in a series of changes that could dramatically alter how our planet's operating system works. And we can't be sure the OS won't crash. We need to do something quickly to at least try to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, while we (maybe) have a chance.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

slow train coming

How'd you like a 47-hour train ride at altitudes so high that you have to suck on oxygen? Well, now's your chance -- you can take the train from Beijing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

The Chinese call this a great leap west. It will make it easier for people to get to Tibet, true. But ultimately this is less about economic development for Tibet and more about making the bonds that keep Tibet tied to China just that little bit tighter...

Monday, July 03, 2006

condi for president?

So, what does Condoleezza Rice offer as a presidential candidate for the Republicans? Competence? Nah, she was National Security Advisor when the de facto Bush Administration went into Iraq, she deserves some of the blame for that.

Electoral experience? Nah, she's never run for office.

Charisma as a candidate? To some extent. And she looks REALLY charismatic when you compare her to Bill Frist.

A fresh start? Well, she is a black woman which is different for the GOP. But she is perhaps THE single closest person in this group to the President, so she can't credibly run as an outsider.

Nah, I think it's the hope that running somebody like Rice, seen as a moderate and with some obvious differences from the usual parade of White Males can stop the drop in popularity for the GOP among many groups -- including women, blacks, and hispanics. But whether you like her or not, and whether she is more moderate on abortion or civil rights than the current crowd or not, remember -- she voluntarily associates herself with the party of Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, and Tom DeLay.

whew, that was close

An asteroid missed the Earth by 270,000 miles last night. It was as close to the Earth as the Moon -- pretty close in space terms. A half-mile asteroid hitting the planet would have ruined all of our days...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

happy second of july

As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, we should remember that Founding Father John Adams actually expected the SECOND of July to be the day we would remember. That was the day the colonies actually voted for independence. But it was a secret vote, and the Declaration of Independence wasn't actually adopted until the fourth -- so that's the day we remember with fireworks, hot dogs, beer, and sunburn.

Anyway, a few other key dates of history are presented here. It's interesting to imagine how things would have been different if the struggling English colony in Virginia hadn't been reinforced in 1610, or if Napoleon's army hadn't succumbed to disease in trying to defeat the slave revolt in what is now known as Haiti, causing Bonaparte to abandon his dreams of establishing a new French Empire in North America and leading to his offer to President Jefferson to sell the huge Louisiana Territory. Or if the cruise missile Bill Clinton had ordered fired at Osama Bin Laden had arrived just one hour earlier in 1998...

that's LORD don q blogger to you

I always knew that I was related to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. But it turns out I am almost CERTAINLY descended from many kings, popes, lords and ladies, and even prophets (Mohammed). Yes, I have royal blood.

But don't feel bad, YOU probably have royal blood, too. Geneologists say everybody on the planet is almost 100% sure to be descended from royalty. A Dublin City University professor says, "Millions of people have provable descents from medieval monarchs. The number of people with unprovable descents must be massive."

So go ahead, get that coat of arms based on staking a claim to blood ties to 14th century English King Edward III. But don't think you're in exclusive company -- experts think up to 80% of England's current population are descended from Edward. And that means you're related to Brooke Shields too, so it's not all good.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

death and cynicism in iraq

Funny, but since that maggot al-Zarqawi was killed, deaths of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians continue apace, the latest being this big blast in a Baghdad market that has killed at least 60 people. You'd think that perhaps that stupid Jordanian wasn't the only person involved in the anti-occupation resistence in Iraq.

But still our noble leaders tell us that things are going well enough for us to begin reducing troop levels starting in September. I'm sure it is a sheer coincidence that this drawdown is set for two months before the November midterm congressional elections. Just as it was surely a coincidence that the last time they discussed troop reductions in Iraq was right before the 2004 presidential elections.

I mean, we wouldn't want to impugn the integrity of the Republican party by implying they are playing partisan politics with the anti-terror campaign and the war in Iraq*, now would we? I mean, it would be simply wrong if for example the Republicans were to cynically use the recent Supreme Court decision reminding us all that we have a president, not a king, to try to make the Democrats appear soft on terrorists, right? Oops, wait, they ARE planning to do just that. Kudos to Karl Rove and his ilk in the Republican Politburo for putting Party ahead of country.

*two separate things, by the way...

playing the odds

I know astronauts are brave and are well aware that they have a risky profession. But I'd be particularly worried if I were on today's scheduled launch. Engineers and top managers are worried that the Discovery's fuel tanks might be exposed, and NASA chief Michael Griffin himself even says they are "playing the odds" with this.

Good luck and safe mission, Discovery crew. But regardless of whether the seven astronauts going up today come back down safely, the Shuttle program should be ended. It is 1970s technology, terribly expensive to operate, and sucks up a huge chunk of NASA's budget. I support manned space flight, but we need to start over and ditch the Shuttle.