Friday, December 24, 2004

"Pregnant? I'm revoking your divorce!"

Shawnna Hughes divorced her abusive husband. But four days later a judge revoked her divorce because Shawnna Hughes was pregnant-- and pregnant women in Washington, according to this judge, can't get divorced.

Read the story of the judge's twisted logic in this article from Seattle's The Stranger.

It's Snapple or nothing in Brooklyn schools

The New York Daily News reports today that high school students in that city have two choices when it comes to quenching their thirst during school hours - Snapple or nothing. (roll your cursor over the photo to read a New York Times article that tells what some experts think of Snapple)

This year the school district has implemented rules which prohibit students from bring their own beverages onto school grounds. "It's wrong," said Shabana Mohumad, a freshman at Clara Barton High School who saw her sealed water bottle confiscated last week. "It was insulting."

The school district has had a contract with the school district. In exchange for the right to sell beverages in schools, Snapple has returned $4.1 million in profits to the Education Department - paying for an expansion of middle- and high-school sports. The city is expected to reap another $7 million this year.

Merry Christmas

Best of holiday wishes to all. Postings will resume when I get back to San Francisco in a few days.

Hugs to all,


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Selling the forest for the trees

In a gift to timber industry patrons, the Bush administration is thinning national forests and cutting down government scientists who stand in the way.

From a
Salon article by Rebecca Clarren

Dec. 22, 2004 | In eastern Oregon, amid the land where trees grow wider than queen-size beds, Forest Service biologist Kristine Shull has become afraid to speak the truth. She tried that once, and under the industry-friendly Bush administration, she nearly lost the job she has held for more than 15 years. Last fall, Shull's supervisor proposed selling to a timber company more than 3,000 acres covered in part with big, old trees that had been scorched by wildfire -- the kind of trees that birds and animals rely on for their habitat and are critical to keeping forests healthy.

The timber sale, though, would have disregarded federal regulations that prohibit the agency from cutting trees bigger than 21 inches in diameter -- unless the trees are dead. But these trees were not dead; they were green and broad, providing good habitat for the wildlife in the area Shull was charged to monitor. Even so, her manager wanted Shull to sign off on an analysis that said the trees were dying and were not providing habitat for animals. When Shull balked, she says, her superiors in the agency repeatedly asked her to change her assessment. One told her that if she didn't "get this done," she'd lose her job. When she snickered at the comment, she says he slapped his hand on the table and said, "I mean it." Shull didn't change her mind, but the pressure at work did not let up. She was told she wouldn't receive an expected raise, and for months she was ignored by her supervisors and some of her co-workers. Ultimately Shull developed high blood pressure, and her doctor recommended a month of medical leave.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You're scaring me, Bill

Esteemed journalist Bill Moyers left us with a harsh dose of reality as he departed the airwaves recently. In a speech to the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, which had just presented him with its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award he minced no words, painting a very bleak future. Thanks to my friend Edward G. for passing this on to me.

"One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts..."

That's not even the scariest part:

"In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right – the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the Messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow..."
"So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist, Glenn Scherer – "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed – even hastened – as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

"As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election – 231 legislators in total – more since the election – are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the senate floor: "the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." he seemed to be relishing the thought..."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Poll: Most Americans Think Iraq War Not Worth Fighting

Over Half Think Rumsfeld Should be Replaced
From The Washington Post

Most Americans now believe the war with Iraq was not worth fighting and more than half want to fire embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of that conflict, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Read the entire article

Sunday, December 19, 2004

King George II's coronation to be most secure in history

One of my favorite scenes in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 was Bush's limo careening down the street while getting pelted with eggs. Don't expect a replay of that scene this year. King George II's coronation will be held amid the tightest security in inaugural history, with police planning to search every one of the tens of thousands of people expected to line the parade route. (note: leave medical marijuana at home).

More than $4.5 million from the corporate world has been donated to the inauguration fund, much of it from the energy industry. ("Some people call you the 'have's', I call you my base.") To protect this pricey little party no expense has been spared:

"The extra security measures include bomb-sniffing dogs, sophisticated sensors to detect chemical, radiological or biological material, and expanded use of police helicopters and military aircraft. Thousands of police officers from the Washington suburbs and other cities will arrive to help with traffic, crowd control and other duties.

More will be ready to respond behind the scenes. The FBI, for example, will have investigators, evidence technicians, hostage rescue teams, heavily armed SWAT personnel, hazardous materials experts and bomb technicians in place.

“Our whole focus is a smooth operation if something does happen,” Mason said. “We will be able to bring quite a robust force.”

The military will have a heightened security role. This inauguration is the first since creation of the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, set up after the Sept. 11 attacks to protect the Washington area. It includes all branches of the military.

Based at Fort McNair, Va., the command has access to all manner of military assets, from fighter jets to military police to mobile medical units. As many as 4,000 troops will be available to provide assistance with the inauguration, said Army Col. Nelson McCouch.

“Our role is, ’What do you need?’ We will find the appropriate force to meet that requirement,” McCouch said.

Officials also are prepared for demonstrators, who have turned up in numerous past inaugurations. At Bush’s first in 2000, there were egg-throwers. So far no mass demonstration is planned for next month, though some protesters are organizing a campaign to turn their backs on the president as his motorcade passes by.

Overall, security planners said they have learned a great deal about how to prepare for the inauguration through their experience in dealing with other major events since the Sept. 11 attacks. Mason said there have been numerous “tabletop” exercises to consider various possibilities attended by officials from all the key agencies, something that did not always happen in the past."

Gee, do you think that it's possible that they actually did learn from screwing up the Iraq invasion?

"Openly in-your-face homosexuals" struggle in Oklahoma

Sometimes I get depressed watching this country move headlong to the right, while the anti-gay equality groups rub their hands in glee. But then I have to remind myself that I am lucky enough to live in San Francisco. When things start getting too bad, all I have to do is jump on my trusty motorcycle and head a few blocks away to the heart of the Castro District. Just being there surrounded by my people is enough to give me a bit of instant renewal. I can sit and watch the crowds of Queer people of every stripe and hue saunter by and know that I am not alone.

As this AP article points out, not everyone is so lucky.

Okla. gays struggle to remain optimistic


TULSA, Okla. -- Far from the coastal strongholds of the same-sex marriage movement, gays in the red states of the Bible Belt are struggling to maintain confidence and optimism in the aftermath of an election that many viewed as a stinging personal rebuff.

In Oklahoma, the 76 percent support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage has prompted some gays to leave the state or consider leaving. The staff of Tulsa's community center for gays and lesbians say calls to the center's help line, some of them suicidal, have tripled since the election.

In many cases, however, the dismay is accompanied by renewed determination.

"Some people talk about leaving, but there's a larger group more invested in fighting than they were before," said Mark Bonney, a gay activist who heads Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights. "They're saying it's time to come out to their families, to draw a line in the sand."

Read the rest of the article in the Seattle P.I.

Saturday, December 18, 2004



A news story I expect to see any time now...

It is not only the GI's who are celebrating Christmas in Iraq this year. Things are much different at Abu Ghraib
Prison than they were just a few months ago. In the wake of a scandal involving mistreatment of prisoners the prison was revamped from the top down.

In the new "humane" Abu Ghraib the prisoners are treated with dignity and respect. Guards and prisoners respect each other as equals. The prisoners are free to worship in the manner their religion calls for. They not only celebrate those events important to their culture, they are also being introduced to those we "Westerners" hold dear.

In the above photo an inmate trustee prepares to light a Christmas tree for the first time in his life. We would normally do the honor of telling you the prisoner's name, but somehow his file got lost, so no one knows who he is, or why he's here. When asked about the "ghost" prisoner, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld snapped: "This is war. Stuff happens".

Friday, December 17, 2004

Exhibiting unsoundness or disorded of mind; not sane; mad; deranged in mind; delirious; distracted

I'm still trying to recover from the images of GWB presenting this nation's highest civilian honor, The Medal of Freedom to three people who totally fucked over this country by their dismal failure to accomplish their assigned tasks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Enough of this crap!

I've sat down numerous times the past day and a half to update this blog, and frankly folks it's just been a bitch. I had hoped to use this space to point out some of the insanity around us, and to question just where we, as a society are headed. But it's coming too fast, and there is just too much of it to list.

I just realised that the list of recommended blogs that I had so carefully typed up when I started this has somehow disappeared - to those folks who were on the list, I apologize. Let me aim my readers at just a few tonight, and when I get more time I will sit down and see if I can't repost the entire list.

Two blogs that I check several times a day are Pam's House Blend and Americablog. Go read them both. When you are Pam's place, scroll down and check out the story about the Army rewriting the rules to allow women on the front lines in Iraq. The need for fresh meat to run through the grinder of Rumsfeld's war keeps on growing, and short of a draft the folks in the Pentagon are running out of bodies to send.

Then go over to Americablog and look for the story about the 11 year kid with strong anti-war feelings who refused to write letters of support to the troops in Iraq. "They can all die, as far as I am concerned" he said. His mother got a call from the school, the kid got expelled for a day because of his attitude. But then the friggen cops showed up at his house, demanding to know if his parents were teaching him "Un-American values"? WTF???

And speaking of WTF scroll further down over there at Americablog and read about the anti-gay preachers who attempted to disrupt a gay pride celebration. These fools are comparing their actions with the civil rights struggle of the '60's. Hell, I guess that they have a point, only contrary to their view of themselves they are not acting out the role of the minority, but rather that of the bigots who did everything possible to keep Black Americans from a position of equality in this country.

WTF is this attitude from right wing so called "Christians" that they are coming under attack and are a poor suffering minority? The truth is they have it better than they have had in decades. G.W. Bush has gone out of his way to scrap the constitutional prohibitations against merging church and state. Hell, we even had an Attorney General who led prayers every day before allowing his employees to begin their work. It just goes on and on.

Now our Dear Leader is moving in to dismantle health care and social security with his so called "ownership" ideas. Make no mistake about it, privatizing the few social programs which help the citizens of the US will result in you and I and the young who follow after us scrambling in our old age to survive.

If you want to know just how much putting social programs in private hands will result in you and I getting screwed, consider this. The people who will run those businesses to which we will turn to invest the $$ that now go to social security and health care are the same folks who own the banks who issue the credit cards that we all carry. So, you ask?

So go watch and read the PBS/Frontline report The Secret History of The Credit Card. I almost puked after watching the show. An awful lot of us get into trouble with our credit cards, and most of us blame ourselves when we do. Stop pointing that finger of blame in the wrong direction folks. Over the past few years the credit card companies have written the rules to screw the public while the government, which is supposed to protect us, has not only turned a blind eye, but has gone out of its way to make sure any agency which wants to protect us, can't.

When you watch the show you will learn that credit cards are a "honey pot". The credit card companies can do whatever they want to ensnare the consumer into a situation in which a small debt becomes so large that it can take decades to pay off. The credit card companies can change that nice low introductory interest rate pretty much at will. They don't have to have a valid excuse. For example many people complain that their interest rates, which were at 2% to 4% suddenly were jumped up to 15% or 20% or even more.

These are people who have had the cards for years, have never been late or missed a payment. When they ask "why?" they get told such things as "Yes, you have never been late with a payment to us, but you were late on your house payment" or some such.

The fact that the credit card company or bank has no relationship with the people who provided your home loan is immaterial as far as they are concerned. Others find the interst on their cards skyrocket when they have the terminity to apply for some other completely unrelated credit. The credit card companies and banks constantly scan the credit reports of their card holders searching for any excuse to kick the rates up so far that the cardholder cannot keep up with the new "minimum payments", at that point they start charging late fees, which are added to the balance. Pretty soon the balance is greater than the credit limit of the card - That triggers more fees, this time for going over the limit.

Many, many people are forced into bankruptcy because of this. Credit card companies and banks don't like bankruptcy, so they are well on their way to getting the bankruptcy laws changed so that even after you file for bankruptcy you will still have to pay off that credit card debt.

Why did I bring this up? Because these are the same free market providers who are going to go after every penny that you and I try to invest for our futures. Hell, come retirement time you and I are not going to have an account balance to give us enough to at least buy a little food in our old age. We are going to go into old age with less than nothing, we are going to owe and will still be saddled with debt from that Ownership Society.

But you know what? It probably doesn't make a bit of difference because right now the only reason the dollar is worth anything on the world market is because of force of habit. Remember that budget surplus we had when Bush took office? The one he blew through with all the tax cuts for his rich friends? We are so far in the hole now, and our balance of trade is far off that the rest of the world is asking itself, for the first time ever, whether there is any reason at all to assume that we will get our fiscal house in order before the whole thing comes tumbling down.

Experts tell us that the whole house of cards could come tumbling down at any time. All it would take would be one country to start dumping their dollars, figuring that they are only going to be worth less in the future. Right now the eyes of the world are on the Bush Administration to see what actions it is going to take to rein in the growing debt and trade deficit. You think that George is going to do a 180 degree turn and start acting responsibly? I sure as fuck don't, and when it all starts unraveling the shit is seriously going to hit the fan.

Think of Germany after WW-I when that country was saddled with huge international debts for war reperations. Inflation was so bad that it literally took wheel-barrels full of money to buy a loaf of bread. Really. I can remember seeing photos of that in my history books. Remember too what that led to in Germany....

So anyway this is all getting to me. You all have a nice day, hear?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

N.A.M.B.L.A. and the Catholic Church announce proposed merger

The North American Man Boy Love Association and the Roman Catholic Church today unveiled plans to merge the two organizations. In a joint news conference spokesmen said that the move would give new life to the youth orientated American icons. Both NAMBLA and the church have been the victim of declining fortunes in the past few years, leading many to fear that one or both would fail, creating a loss of opportunity for young people who are interested in exploring their sexuality with older adults.

Speaking for the church, Father Peter M. Good explained that NAMBLA brings much to the table, most notably the ability to operate under the radar. "In the 11 years since KRON Television did it's undercover report on NAMBLA, that organization has learned how best to keep from public scrutiny. We feel that they can teach us much in the way of operating free from unfair criticism and overreaching restrictions that the militant anti-Christian God-bashers send our way. The liberal press has been co-opted to the extent that we have found even putting our best spin on our activities is not enough. With NAMBLA at our back we feel that we can avoid this problem and the costs of those pesky lawsuits and move on."

And what will NAMBLA get out of the merger? NAMBLA president Dick Foru explained that the members of his organization are looking forward to new opportunities which will be presented by working with the Church. "It has long been a dream of ours", he said, "to gain access to the schools. But even more than that we want to learn the techniques perfected by priests over the years of convincing the young that 'God wants you to do this'. We are very excited by this opportunity and see it as a win-win situation for both of our respective organizations."

After the merger the resulting entity, the largest child molestation agency in the world, will by known as The Catholic Youth Organization.

Of course the above is total "bull", but the idea was sparked when I read in today's news that the Catholic Church, which shamefully has been doing everything it can to avoid it's responsibility for protecting and enabling those of their employees who prey sexually on the young, once again is cutting back on the so-called reforms put into place recently. Yo, Fathers! it's supposed to be "pray", not "prey"!!!!

The 'Almighty Dollar" $liding toward disaster...

In the latest edition of his excellent weekly column World Views, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Edward Gomez explores international reaction to the plight of the US dollar. Economists and money managers around the globe take the Bush administration to task for a fiscal policy which seems destined to drive the world's most respected currency to failure.

"America has habits that are inappropriate, to say the least, for the guardian of the world's main reserve currency: rampant government borrowing, furious consumer spending and a current-account deficit big enough to have bankrupted any other country some time ago." The Economist fumed.

In a commentary published in The Taipei Times, Princeton University historian Harold James noted that these banks "have accumulated vast foreign-exchange reserves .... The problem is that almost all of it is in U.S. dollars ...." What should these institutions do now? James noted that all the options their directors face right now "appear equally unattractive."

"If they do nothing and simply hold onto the dollars," he explained, "their losses will only increase. But if they buy more, in an attempt to prop up the dollar['s value], they will only have a bigger version of the same problem. If ... they try to diversify into other currencies, they will drive down the dollar faster and create greater losses. They are also likely to encounter the same sort of problem with other possible reserve currencies." James' advice: "Today's big-surplus countries do not need large reserves. They should reduce their holdings as quickly as possible, before they do something really stupid with the accumulated treasure." (Taipei Times)

For foreign observers like Fawaz Turki, the dollar's free fall is symptomatic of another ill, too. "Economics ... is linked ... to politics in an intimate, systemic way," he wrote. "Because there was something rotten in American politics over the last four years, there was something equally rotten in American capitalism, for surely if a giant corporation like Enron turned out to have been built on some kind of Ponzi scam, what would you expect? Corporate malfeasance doesn't grow in a vacuum. The neocons, who run Bush's administration, have not only savaged American foreign policy, but the American people's work ethic as well. These ruthless ideologues, wrapping themselves in the flag, will ride high over the next four years, imbuing Americans with pride in their country's adventurism abroad. But, hey, we all know what pride goeth before." (Arab News)

Call them "The Religious Reich", go to jail???

The "Fundies" are going to love this... Really! It seems that in the UK under a proposed law anyone judged to have stirred up religious hatred through threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, would be liable to a maximum of seven years in prison.

The well intentioned law was proposed to protect Muslims from acts of religious hatred, but could have far reaching unintentional results according to critics.

From The News Telegraph

"Speaking at a press conference in the House of Commons, (British comedian Rowan) Atkinson said the proposals would destroy one of society's fundamental freedoms - the right to cause offence.

It would also threaten the livelihoods of all those whose job it is "to question, to analyse and to satirise". These included authors, academics, writers, actors, politicians and comedians.

There was a "fundamental difference" between cracking a joke about someone's religion and being offensive about their race which was, rightly, already an offence, he said.

"To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion - that is a right. That is a freedom," he said.

"The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.

"And the law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed.

"It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.

'The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression.'"

How do you think the militant religious activists would use such a law on this side of the pond? The thought boggles the mind. Suggest that Christ was gay? - call the cops. Dress up as nuns, like the charitable fund raising group "The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgences" do here in San Francisco? - Get a bus and haul 'em all to jail. Make a joke about some priests' fondness for alter boys? - Hit the slammer.

In the past some have criticised so called "hate crime laws", warning of that oft cited "slippery slope". Perhaps they have a valid point. The above certainly should add some fuel to the discussion.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Abu Ghraib - Even the meals were torture!

The following is by David Phinney, as printed on the CorpWatch website
December 9th, 2004

"Rotten food crawling with bugs, traces of rats and dirt. Rancid meats and spoiled food resulting in diarrhea and food poisoning.

This is what detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were regularly given to eat by a private contractor in late 2003 and early 2004, causing anger to swell to a furious boil between the U.S. military guards and the prisoners.

Foul as the food was, there never was enough. The private contractor, run by an American civilian who was subsequently killed, routinely fell short by hundreds of meals for Abu Ghraib's surging prison population. When the food did arrive, there were often late and frequently contaminated.

So went another sad chapter in the story of the Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. military personnel and private contractors would make headlines and ignite international outrage over allegations of torture psychological abuse in May of this year."

Read the entire article here.

Indecency on TV? 99.8% of complaints to FCC come from one group.

Updated: See below
We all know that the FCC has it's knickers in a bunch over so called indecency on TV. Janet Jackson got her tit in a wringer after that appendage popped out in the infamous "wardrobe malfunction". We all heard how awful the ad was that showed the back of a naked white woman jumping into the arms of a black football player, and there was the string of TV stations who for the first time in three years opted out of showing the movie "Saving Private Ryan" on Veterans' Day because it portrayed soldiers cursing (who woulda thought?)

The FCC has cited "thousands" of complaints in it's crackdown on unbridled breasts and potty mouthed soldiers (Hey, I muttered the "f-word" a few times myself when we came under fire in Vietnam).

What most of us don't realise though is that nearly 99% of those thousands of complaints come from one, yes, one conservative organization. San Francisco Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman spells out how, once that group, the Parents Television Council, discovered the internet, the number of complaints shot up from about 350 a year in 2000 and 2001 to some 240,000 complaints in 2003. According to Mediaweek of all the "indecency complaints" to the Federal Communications Commission in 2003, a startling 99.8 percent of them came from that one conservative group, the Parents Television Council. 240 000 x (99.8%) = 239,520. subtract the PTC complaints and the number of complaints in 2003 drops from 240,000 to 480.

If you are tired of a tiny non-elected, non-representative bunch of prudes setting the standards for what all the rest of us can see and hear over the public airwaves, perhaps it is time to contact the FCC yourself. The Parents Televison Council has a nice form on their website that I suppose you could use, or better yet, go directly to FCC site and use the email form there.

I got into a discussion on this subject with a co-worker a little while ago, and we ended up talking about a point that I forgot to make in the above essay. Apparently many of the complaints mentioned above are coming from folks who never viewed the original "offensive" material. This is indicated by something which at first puzzled observers. They had noticed that most complaints prior to the huge uptick since the Parents Television Council interjected intself into the subject came immediately after whatever televised event it was that sparked the complaints. Lately though there has been a 2 to 3 day window between the time something airs and the time the complaints start flooding in. Looking into this, observers found that the complaints didn't start getting generated until the PTC issued calls via its website and "alert emails" for complaints.

In other words the complainers didn't view and get offended by the material, they are responding to other people's reports of offensive television.

I have a lot of trouble with that. It's one thing to turn on the TV and see something which I find offensive and quite another to get offended that others, many of whom may have very well wanted to, got to view something which I personally don't like to see.

It's the same thing as talking trash about a movie, play or piece of art work that one hasn't seen. If someone comes up to me and starts talking about how horrible Michael Moore's Farenheit 9-11 or Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is, the first question out of my mouth is "Did you see the movie?" If they say "No", my response is, "Come back and talk to me after you have." They usually slink away muttering something along the lines of "I don't need to see it to know that it is garbage." Maybe so, but you do need to see it to carry on an intelligent conversation with me about it.

A case in point is the "featured" clip on the Parents Television Council website from the non-broadcast, cable only show South Park. I have no doubt at all that many people find the show offensive. Like other similar shows on The Comedy Central channel it is crude, lewd and often uses bathroom humor.

But so what? People are not forced to watch the show. They are not even forced to let the footage into their homes. Almost all cable and satellite providers provide "parental controls" on their set top boxes. In addition every TV made since January of 2000 has come equipped with the so called "V-chip" which allows parents to block out offensive shows and channels. (oddly enough the V-chip is one of the most under-utilized features of modern TV's. Most home owners don't know and don't care to learn how to use the feature.

The attempt to make everyone in America watch TV at the level the most conservative people in the country are comfortable with is wrong. This is censorship, plain and simple. If a broadcaster purposefully airs something outside the rules, during the "Children's hours", on over the air (public airwaves), and you or your children happen to see it, fine. File a complaint. But to attempt to force everyone to view only those things that pass your standards, even over cable channels that you are not forced to watch... Hey, MYOB

I should have realised...

Silly me, I should have realised that my duty to God and Country requires me to embrace GWB. It wasn't until I read this letter to the editor in my home town paper that I realised that my failure to do so will lead to the downfall of the USA. Of course I can't help but comment of the letter. My comments will be in red.

Americans must come together, support Bush

I am disgusted reading the hate letters sent in regarding President George Bush winning the election.

The hate mail and comments about liberals, gays, freedom of choice supporters, etc. don't bother you???

These people writing the hate letters evidently have not checked into Sen. John Kerry's record. He served four months in the Vietnam War, and when he came back, he went before Congress and told of horrible things the U.S. servicemen (including himself) were supposed to have done to the Vietnamese people.

I too came back from Vietnam with stories like that. I met far too many GI's who loved to boast that when driving they would purposely run down "gooks" on foot or bicycle, too many helicopter gunners who would regale thier comrades with stories of opening fire on people simply tilling their fields, just far too many GIs who would justify abherant behavior with the attitude that "the only good 'gook' is a dead 'gook'."

I remember, as a Military Policeman, being called on the radio by a helicopter pilot to expect 4 prisoners, only minutes later to receive another call: "Make that 3 prisoners, one 'fell out'."

Members of my own unit used to take a fire engine to the trash dump where all the garbage from our unit was taken. They would use a high pressure water hose to blast the starving locals who were scrounging there for food. These soldiers used to relish describing how the Vietnamese were literally blasted off of their feet to roll all the way to the bottom of the trash pile from the top.

So Mr. Kerry doesn't deserve to be president because he dared tell the truth???

Also, these people need to research what he accomplished in 20 years as a senator.

As opposed to the accomplishments of George W. Bush during the same period of time???

Then they can decide whether they really think he is qualified to be the leader of our country.

Been there, done that.

Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator and did terrible things to his own people.

I agree.

Iraq is so much better off without him ruling their country.

Well, gee. That is not what the Iraqi people are saying. They point out that while Saddam was evil and killed thousands of their own people, at least there was electricity full time, rather than a couple of hours a day as is the case now. The sewage did not flow throught the streets as it does now. The water taps worked. They could send their children to school, the streets were safe, resturants and stores were open and they did not have to cower inside their homes 24 hours a day, afraid of both the roving gangs of insurgents, bandits and kidnappers as well as the trigger happy Americans.

Of course, war takes lives, and we need to support our troops in Iraq.

Yes, we do need to. That was brought home to us last week when it took a very brave young soldier to finally confront Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld about the lack of basic equipment we give those troops.

Would those who have written their hate letters prefer having the terrorists come to kill and destroy our country?

And just what does that have to do with Iraq??? 9/11 had nothing to do with that country.

President Bush has been doing his best to keep this from happening.

Well, many of us think that his "best" just isn't good enough.

Our country was founded on godly principles. In the Bible, Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided [or we could say every country divided] against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against itself falls."

Yes, and President Bush has done so much to unite the citizens of this country. Not.

The people in our country who are writing the hate letters need to stop. It is imperative that all Americans come together and support President Bush and the other elected officials so that our country can stay strong and powerful.

I think that I remember a similar sentiment from the '60's. I can still see the bumper stickers ... "America, love it or leave it" . You know, criticism does not equal hate. Patriatism is not the exclusive property of one party or the other.

The original letter was written by
Imagene Lyon, Olympia

The comments in red are mine...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

How much is the word "f*ck" worth? $74,500 say "shocked" parents

Encouraged, apparently, by the huge fines sparked by Janet's naked nipple a family in Hagerstown, MD has filed suit against retailing giant Wal-Mart, claiming that the store chain violated its own policy of selling only "clean" music cds, by knowingly allowing a song with the word "fuck" to be sold. The family is demanding damages of up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the cd “Anywhere But Home” by the group Evanescence at Wal-Marts in Maryland.

Friday, December 10, 2004

You want to know how to have successful elections In Iraq?

Add a binding resolution to the ballot, with the question being "Should the US and all other Coalition forces immediately withdraw from Iraq?"

17 year old girl victim of series of anti-gay attacks at her school near San Francisco

A 17 year old girl is the victim of a series of on-going hate crimes at Tamalpias High School in Mill Valley, CA., just a few miles north of San Francisco.

The girl, a member of the school's gay/lesbian organization, told authorities that the attacks have been escalating. They began on the first of November when her locker was defaced with an anti-gay message. A week later her car suffered similar damage. The next week she found a threatening, typewritten note at her home. The next attack coming only days later turned physical when unseen attackers pelted her with raw eggs outside her home. This week the words "Die Fag" were spray painted in two foot high letters on the wall of the school.

School officials and police are investigating. The Marin paper, The Independent Journal quotes Bob Ferguson, superintendent of the school district as saying that the attacks have been met with widespread disgust and outrage at Tam High. Numerous students, teachers and other school employees have been wearing ribbons as a show of solidarity with the girl, he said.

"We will take what's behind curtain number three"

Gotta love those voters in Orange County, California. They elected themselves a stealth candidate to the school board there. Rejecting a bid for the open seat by Phil Martinez, a park ranger who has three children in the district, is president of the PTA at his kids' school and is active with the Boy Scouts, voters instead opted for Steve Rocco, a candidate who refused to campaign for the post, provide any information about himself or give interviews. Rocco had also run for mayor of Santa Ana in 2000, when he declined to provide personal information or discuss the campaign, and showed up at a candidate forum dressed in camouflage and sunglasses.

The folks finally got to meet the mysterious newcomer Thursday.

Rocco, decked out in black clothing, sunglasses and a knit cap, was sworn in at his first district meeting and plunged into a five-minute address alleging Orange County is controlled by corrupt politicians, judges and officials.

"You change things here, you change things nationwide," Rocco, 53, said in his first remarks as a member of the Orange Unified School District Board of Education. "The world is watching. Doing my job as trustee and fighting organized crime are one and the same."

Rocco also said, "We are living in a time of secret organizations, living in a time of corruption and, most of all, living in a time of dictatorships."

Well, let me go out on a limb here and suggest that the school board is in for some interesting meetings...

Yeah, right. I so believe you.

Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez and the Pentagon's public affairs chief, Larry DiRita, met with the Pentagon press corps Wednesday for a briefing. But it was a question posed by a serviceman in Kuwait to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at an earlier town hall meeting, which dominated the session...

One reporter asked if the Soldier in question would be admonished for asking a possibly embarrassing question of the secretary and Rodriguez said, "No, that doesn't happen."

This blogger was unable to confirm rumors that General Rodriguez muttered "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you" as he strode out of the room.

Rodriguez didn't go on to say that he also believes in the tooth fairy and that he expects WMDs to be found in Iraq any day now.

Yet another mine disaster in China

It's the Christmas season, that time of year for all good consumers to join in the communal orgy of shopping which has long replaced any religious significance we used to attach to the birth of Christ.

Let's, as we load item after item marked "Made in China" into our shopping carts, give at least a fleeting thought to the blood, sweat and tears invested so that we can clutter our houses with yet more useless crap.

That stuff is so inexpensive because it is being churned out by folks working in sweatshops 12 hours a day for slave wages. The average pay for a factory worker in China is $3 That's 3 bucks a DAY, not an hour. We used to have working conditions like that here in the US. You can read about that time in our history. Check out "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair.

Most of the energy to power those sweatshops comes from what are described as some of the most dangerous coal mines in the world. Seems like an apt description to me. Every couple of weeks I pick up a paper to see a headline like the one today which proclaims
33 dead in latest China mine blast. Less than two weeks ago there were 166 killed in another mine, in October 148 killed. They die so that we can wallow in klitsch. Merry friggin' Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Thumbs down

A great big "thumbs down" to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for telling the GI's concerned about the lack of vehicle armor that America is only capable of retrofitting 400 vehicles a month. Donnie needs a history lesson. After Pearl Harbor, when the country was serious about making sure their fighting forces had what they needed to win the war, the country sacrificed, putting aside non-essentials for the good of the troops.

A sparkplug factory switched to the production of machine guns. A manufacturer of stoves was producing lifeboats. A merry-go-round factory was making gun mounts; a toy company was turning out compasses; a corset manufacturer was producing grenade belts; and a pinball machine plant began to make armor-piercing shells as just a few examples.

What are we being asked to give up to support our troops in Iraq? As far as I can tell the only things we are willing to sacrifice for this war are our children in uniform.

Am I disgusted by this whole mess? You bet!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

4,400 get lay-off notices while exec's still get thousands of dollars in perks...

Colgate-Palmolive is sending 4,400 employees, some 15% of it's worldwide work force, home with an early Christmas present today - Termination notices.

Company chairman and CEO Reuben Mark described Colgate's worldwide sales and volume trends as "excellent" but said the company will close one-third of its factories as part of a four-year plan aimed at boosting its sales and profits.

The Associated Press reports though that while thousands of factory workers will have to explain to their children that Santa won't be able to visit this year, that will not be a problem faced by those in the executive suite. The news-wire discovered that many of Colgate's top executives and officers are given an allowance of up to $11,500 a year to spend on anything from pet sitters to running shoes to karate lessons to movie rentals. This benefit, which comes on top of their earnings, is "To recognize the long hours spent in the office required by the responsibilities of your position."

Considering that the company paid its top five executives $23.3 million in cash and stock, plus another $9.1 million in stock options one might, if he or she were a bit cynical, think an average annual income of $6.4 million plus free dog-walking etc. a bit much.

Gee, though. It is rough being a highly paid corporate executive. That's why Dear Leader President Bush wants to replace our present tax system with one in which the burden will be lifted from the shoulders of the poor executives to rest more firmly where it belongs, on the suckers er, working class.

One supplier of chemical weapons to Iraq charged. 2nd supplier still at large.

From England's News Telegraph

Police have arrested a Dutch man on suspicion of supplying thousands of
tonnes of ingredients for mustard gas and nerve gas to Saddam Hussein.

"The man is suspected of supplying thousands of tonnes of raw materials
for chemical weapons between 1984 and 1988," the Dutch public prosecution
service said in a statement today.

"The chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government in the war
against Iran and against the Kurdish population in North Iraq," it added.

A man, believed to be a 62-year-old, was arrested in Amsterdam
yesterday. He is expected to be charged as an accomplice to genocide and other
war crimes.

A second suspect, shown in the photo below with the former dictator, has not been charged and the authorities have been silent about any possible investigation involving him and the country he represented who ultimately provided the weapons that led to the deaths of thousands.

Report: CIA Paints Pessimistic Iraq Picture

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - The situation in Iraq is deteriorating and unlikely to improve any time soon, according to a classified cable and briefings from the CIA, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The assessments are more pessimistic than the Bush administration's portrayal of the situation to the public, government officials told the newspaper. These officials said the CIA's assessments revealed a "mixed" bag in Iraq, with news of progress tempered by the difficulties expected ahead.

Asked about the Times article, the CIA said it did not comment on classified documents."

Of course the White House neither reads nor comments on "reality based" reports.

Alabama suburb to al-Qaida:
"Bring 'em on!"

The Hoover City Council decided to establish what officials believe is the first municipal homeland security agency in Alabama despite questions over whether the department was really needed or worth the $150,000 cost.

Some suggested that formation of the department might really be a reaction to the growing population of spanish speaking people in the Birmingham suburb. 3.8% of the population is Hispanic, compared to 85.5% who describe themselves as non-Hispanic whites. Mayor Tony Petelos said extensive changes in federal immigration law are expected next year, and he wants Hoover to be at the forefront of implementing the new rules.

Method to his madness

In reports published yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected suggestions that more soldiers should have been sent to Iraq. He said:
"it creates more of an occupation impression."

I hate to rain on your parade, Donald, but I think the people of Iraq have already figured out that they are under the occupation of foreign invaders.

Blowin' in the wind - Again!

It was with a feeling of deja vu that I read this morning that confidential files detailing Pakistani president Musharraf's visit to Britain were found on a London street.
"The dossier was discovered by a member of the public who handed it to the Daily Mirror newspaper which said it revealed security arrangements for President General Pervez Musharraf.

His movements were reportedly covered in minute detail, including confidential police radio channels, call signs and codes.

Another section explained how to identify armed plain clothes police officers."

A former police official said:

"This is a terrible security gaffe.

“If terrorists had got hold of this it would have been a death warrant not only for Musharraf but for the British hosting him.

“It’s astonishing the keeper of these absolutely sensitive documents could be so blasé not to look after them properly.”

Oh, the deja vu part?

Back in July there was a very similar story regarding security plans for Heathrow Airport found blowing down the street. In both cases the finders turned the papers in to London newspapers. Good thing that it didn't happen here in the US. They probably would have been put up for sale on eBay.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Write off your debts the Christian way

So say the subject lines of many of the spam (spams?) which end up in my in box. Needless to say I've never bothered to open any of them to see just what that Christian way is. Maybe it's the method discovered by the good God fearing citizens of Hildale and Colorado City, two small towns which sit astride the Utah-Arizona state line. Those folks, apparently convinced that the end of civilization is about to happen, made an oath among themselves to borrow as much money as possible from the local bank with no plans to pay back the loans. Hey, no tomorrow, no worry.

Of course the bank made things easy by handing out loans left and right, asking for little or no collateral. The embezzlement of nearly $5 million by the head cashier of the institution was the straw that broke the camels back. (Why didn't he just borrow it like everyone else?)

The press reports that "Small-business owners mourned the passing of a friendly bank that gave them easy terms." Ah huh.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Red state has California's back

It's nice to see that sometimes the Reds and the Blues can work together. In this case it is Alabama defending California's medical marijuana law. Make no mistake about it, Alabama isn't about to let their citizen's toke up without worry. In fact 3 possession charges there will get you life in prison. Yet they are supporting the California law, saying the feds should butt out of this "states rights" issue.

Where the hell did THAT come from???

From AP
Police at Paris' top airport lost track of a passenger's bag in which plastic explosives were placed to train bomb-sniffing dogs, police said Saturday. Warned that the bag may have gotten on any of nearly 90 flights from Charles de Gaulle, authorities searched planes upon arrival in Los Angeles and New York.

French police at Charles de Gaulle airport deliberately placed up to five ounces of plastic explosives into a passenger's luggage Friday evening, police spokesman Pierre Bouquin said.

But a "momentary lack of surveillance" led to the bag being lost on a conveyor belt carrying luggage from check-in to planes, he said.

Authorities immediately alerted the relevant airlines that one of between 80 and 90 planes that left the French capital from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday could be carrying the explosives.

"Indeed, it's possible that someone will have a surprise when he opens his bag."

I expect the next story to cross the wires to be along the lines of...

"Homeland Security agents nab terrorist trying to smuggle 5 ounces of plastic explosives into USA"...

Of course the poor "suspect", being a suspected terrorist, will not be allowed contact with a lawyer before being shipped off to Gitmo until the war on terrorism is over.

Coming soon to a police department near you

It should come as no surprise to many that this nation's police departments often end up adopting tools originally developed for the military. Some of these end up in the hands of law enforcement as "surplus", such as helicopters, tanks and armored personnel carriers as well as guns. Other advances, such as "flash-bangs", night vision equipment and body armor end up getting marketed to both the military and the cops at the same time.

So what new tools might we expect to see in the hands of the police soon? Well, here's one of the hottest. It's a ray gun that fires a heat beam that has the effect of having a hot clothes iron placed on the skin of the target.
"The weapon could be used for crowd control and is effective beyond the range of bullets fired by small arms, The effective range of an AK-47 assault rifle is as far as 273 yards, while an M16A2 rifle has a range of 400 meters."

It's a military weapon, you say. The cops would never use something like that, would they? They would. The article goes on to say:
"Raytheon could expand the market by selling a smaller version to law-enforcement agencies. The company is working on a smaller, tripod-mounted version for police forces, and the price would have to come down to a few hundred thousand dollars each to be affordable."

But OK, they would only use such a thing on those who deserve it, right? Ask the 6 year old who recently found himself at the wrong end of a 50,000 volt police tazer. But these kinds of non-lethal weapons are safe, right? Right.

The next story reminds me too much of "Star Wars", the movie, not the space based boondoggle. Remember all the gun firing robots streaming out of the Empire's ships? They're here now.

"Next year, the U.S. Army will give robots machine guns, although humans will firmly be in control of them.

The Army next March will begin to deploy Talon robots from Waltham, Mass.-based Foster-Miller. The robots will be mounted with M240 or M249 machine guns, said a Foster-Miller spokesman. The units also can be mounted with a rocket launcher. Defense agencies have been testing an armed version of the Talon since 2003.... The Talon weighs about 80 pounds, travels at 5.2 miles per hour and can go about 20 miles on a battery charge. In "wake up" mode, in which the unit conducts surveillance but remains mostly dormant, a battery charge can last about a week. The Talon was used in Bosnia to dispose of grenades and during the cleanup of the World Trade Center.

The company has received more than $65 million in orders from various defense agencies."
Look for one on a street near you soon.