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February 22, 2006
Behave yourselves

Did I mention I'm leaving town?

I'm leaving town tomorrow morning. I'll be back online Tuesday.

If you can manage it, please don't let the country fall entirely to the wingnuts while I'm gone.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:31 PM | Comments (5)

Okay, so they've found a unusual genetic behavior in women who have more than one gay son. And even in women who have one gay son.

So, yeah, more evidence on the "it's inherent, not chosen" side of the discussion.

But why just gay sons? Is there some perception that "gay" doesn't matter in daughters? Are lesbians just not of concern to the medical community? Does not one care to fund research on whether or not lesbianism might have a genetic link?

Even our discrimination is discriminatory.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)
What do you think?

U.S. Concedes to Force-Feeding Detainees

Hardly "news" since they admitted it some time back, but there are new details, including the definition of the most adamant protesters as "hard-core guys" and satisfaction at having made the hunger strike not "convenient" and "too much of a hassle" for detainees. Sounds like code for inhumane treatment to me.

Military spokesmen have generally discounted the complaints, saying the prisoners are for the most part terrorists, trained by Al Qaeda to use false stories as propaganda.

Except that we've read enough stories about the prisoners in Guantanamo now to know that a lot of them probably aren't terrorists at all.

At least, they weren't when we locked them up.

We also read there was a hunger strike and the government said, "not true" except that later it was found to be true. And we read that there were a lot of prisoners involved and the government said, "no, just a handful" and then later they had to admit that that hand had 20 or 25 fingers on it. And then they said they weren't force-feeding anyone but of course we found out that was a lie.

So, you know, reasons to believe anything they tell us about anything that's happening in Guantanamo? A little thin on the ground these days.

In a letter to a British physician and human rights activist, Dr. David J. Nicholl, on Dec. 12, the former chief medical officer at Guantánamo, Capt. John S. Edmondson of the Navy, wrote that his staff was not force-feeding any detainees but "providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."

Maybe the medical staff wasn't force-feeding anyone before December 12, but someone sure has been since then.

General Craddock suggested that the medical staff had indulged the hunger strikers to the point that they had been allowed to choose the color of their feeding tubes.

"Indulged." They "indulged" the terrorists?

Two other Defense Department officials said a decision had been made to try to break the hunger strikes because they were having a disruptive effect and causing stress for the medical staff.

I'm sure many people share my sorrow that the medical staff was "stressed" by the intransigence of prisoners of war.

That effort was stepped up, one official said, in January, when Captain Edmondson left Guantánamo for a new post after receiving a Legion of Merit Medal for "inspiring leadership and exemplary performance."

Sounds to me like Edmondson refused to play ball and was transferred out so a hardliner could be put in charge.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)
Sleight of Hand

Now that the story about the deal to license running those 6 USofA ports to a UAE-controlled company is dominating the news, does the Bush Administration think it has dodged a bullet on that illegal domestic spying thing?

You might wonder, if they cancelled scheduled hearings right about now, huh?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:46 AM | Comments (1)
Sin Taxes

Booze. Cigarettes. Oil?

The surest way to break oil addiction is to make gasoline much more expensive. High gasoline taxes have helped Europe discourage consumption and promote more fuel-efficient cars.

In that vein, Americans for Energy Independence proposes a gradually rising import energy tax. The revenue it would generate "would be used for incentives to spur the move to plug-in hybrids (gas-electric cars) and a national bio-fuels campaign," said Chris Wolfe, the group's president.

Logical, perhaps, but likely?

"That's a non-starter, not just with Republicans but Democrats," said Borenstein of the University of California. He doubts that politicians have the stomach to impose a so-called "sin tax" on oil.

The one thing I rarely see mentioned in serious discussions on how to conserve energy is the appalling state of our public transit systems.

And you can trust Knight-Ridder to lay things out in simple terms. Remember the SotU and that pledge to break our addition to oil?

A day later, his energy secretary clarified the goal - it's actually to reduce oil imports from anywhere by the equivalent of 75 percent of projected Middle East imports.

The Energy Department projects that Middle East oil imports will total 6 million barrels per day in 2025, so Bush's goal means displacing 4.5 million barrels a day by then.

That's more like a bartender taking away the glass but leaving the bottle. The United States would still be consuming nearly 23 million barrels per day of oil, and about 13 million barrels a day would come from abroad.

So, you know, the speech was just manipulation of the figures to make better rhetoric.

The next big thing is expected to be plug-in hybrids whose batteries are recharged by the gasoline motor, but also can be plugged into any 120V electrical outlet for charging. Once perfected, these stronger batteries could achieve 100 mpg or more.

"You're substituting electricity for gasoline - that's the big benefit," said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.Org, a nonprofit in Palo Alto, Calif.

Yeah, but... Right now, most of our electricity comes from coal (if my reader comments are to be believed, and they are) and coal is both a non-renewable resource and a dirty one.

Unless we combine this with a move to drastically increase the amount of electricity we generate from wind and/or solar power, it's not really a fabulous solution.

(I can afford to be smug. Excel, our local electric utility, offers consumers the ability to purchase some portion of their electric needs from wind power. There's a price premium, but it's a "green" alternative. We switched to 100% from wind power quite a while back.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)
That Long War

Robert Kaplan has an interesting opinion piece up about the military's view of their strategy going foward.

First, mockery:

"After Iraq," one officer in the Pentagon told me, "we hope not to be invading a big country for a long time,

Has anyone shown the map of Iraq to the Pentagon and explained that it's actually a little, bitty country?

Moving on:

The goal from now on is to get into a place fast, before a problem begins to fester, when there is leeway to experiment and thus to make mistakes without suffering a loss of prestige. The way to avoid quagmires is to be engaged in more places, not fewer.

That started out admirably, but it didn't end so well. I agree with addressing problems sooner. But not if the reason is to avoid "loss of prestige."

I know I'm repeating myself, but the reasons you do things matter. If the focus is on avoiding "loss of prestige,", well, that implies that if things start to go sour, we'll wipe off our fingerprints and run away in the night.

There is precedent here: the British Colonial Office was, in effect, an interagency office, overseeing not just the military aspects of empire but also civil service, education and the like. No matter how vehemently people deride 19th- century imperialism, the same people often ask why the Americans can't be as smart in the field as the British.

Because both colonialism and imperialism are sort of out of favor these days? Because it takes brains, planning, and flexibility to take on these roles without dominating and weakening a country's faith in its ability to self-govern? Because we've bankrupted our government and impoverished our own population to the point where we really don't have the funds or the brainpower to take on these kinds of jobs?

Okay, so all I did in the end was mock, but that's not fair of me. I diss other people for cherry-picking quotes and here I am doing it.

It really was a good column full of some very interesting ideas, and you should read it.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)
Send him!

I'd give money to send Bill O'Reilly to Darfur.

I think it would be a good idea if Bill had to leave the cozy confines of his office and face some of the wretched reality he's so contemptuous of.

And O'Reilly is wrong. No one is using his name to boost their publicity. "O'Reilly" and "human rights abuses" isn't really a combination that would attract anyone outside of wingnuts.

No, I think Kristof is on the right track. If some of these people can see the devastation they find it so easy to ignore, maybe they'll learn a little humility...and a little humanity.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)
Here we go again
Not that George W. Bush needs much encouragement, but Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new target for the administration’s domestic operations -- Fifth Columnists, supposedly disloyal Americans who sympathize and collaborate with the enemy.

“The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements,” Graham, R-S.C., told Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6.

“I stand by this President’s ability, inherent to being Commander in Chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don’t think you need a warrant to do that,” Graham added, volunteering to work with the administration to draft guidelines for how best to neutralize this alleged threat.

Joseph McCarthy must be laughing in his grave. Detention Centers, Labor Camps, Pentagon Surveillance, "Homeland Defense", and a plan to publish propaganda to influence USofA opinion.

On second thought, McCarthy could only dream of that kind of government complicity in his witchhunts.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

As you might imagine, this story is on my mind today.

Nearly 100 Dead in US Custody in Iraq, Afghanistan: Rights Group

Nearly 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, the Human Rights First organisation said ahead of the publication of their report.

At least 98 deaths occurred, with at least 34 of them suspected or confirmed homicides -- deliberate or reckless killing -- the group of US lawyers told BBC television Tuesday.

Their dossier claims that 11 more deaths are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.

I ws reading along, wondering how reliable the story was and regretting that I don't have time to research it today, when I stumbled, and choked, over this bit:

However, David Rivkin, a former White House legal adviser, said the numbers had to be put in perspective.

"[If] 10 people were tortured to death out of over 100,000 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan" that was "a better rate" than in both world wars and "most civilian penal systems".

If we tortured 10 people to death, it's okay because worse things have happened in other places and at other times.

The Right just keeps repeating variations on that theme and eventually they're going to convince someone besides the wingnuts that it's true.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)
February 21, 2006
Other People Said....

ColoradoLib has more on the story on that NREL situation. I don't think he mentions the part about where the "restored" funding still won't get NREL back to where they were a year ago.

An Olympic story I missed, and one I'm glad Prometheus 6 pointed out to us.

Also from Prometheus 6, A once-in-a-while in a lifetime event He links to the...wait for it...Wall Street Journal's OpinionPage! To agree with them!

Over at Body and Soul, a follow-up on what's happening in Basra.

Andrew Olmsted has a really good entry up at the moment. Democracy Doesn't Work.

And Majikthise has another of those entries that make me feel guilty...an admonition to organize, act, and blog locally. (I'm going to.)

And, on that note...Wash Park Prophet on Colorado's redistricting, now kicked back down to the district court. ColoradoPols has more on the same story. (Both via ColoradoLib.)

Ahhh...one of my pet peeves. Corporate personhood, over at King of Zembla. Not only are they "persons" but thanks to Bush&Co., they're getting perks and protections some of us other "persons" might not approve of.

On the other hand, corporations held liable for crimes employees commit while they're not at work?

Patriotism versus nationalism. Well worth reading.

And Mustang Bobby has a story we should all know about. Democrats should live their principles.

I swore I wouldn't blog the story, but Tom Engelhardt has just the right angle on the story. It's not so much who got shot but the fact that Cheney was, once again, pretending to be a "hunter" and a "sportsman" while slaughtering farmed birds. And the reason I found the story interesting is because it's a pretty darned good metaphor for the whole Republican chickenhawk phenomenon.

Eric's being a tease. What book is this?

Mmmm.... Chocolate!

Posted by AnneZook at 08:45 PM | Comments (3)

What bothers me a lot about the port security story is not that the company in question is from the UAE. It's the revelation, over the past couple of days, of the fact that almost all USofA ports are "owned" (i.e., leased) by foreign companies.

But, speaking of the UAE, it seemed to me that the UAE or Dubai...those were names I'd heard in the past, connected with the Bush Administration.

Searching, I found a Google cache of an article removed from the Gulfnews site, datelined UAE. It's headlined, " Bush's family long ago entangled themselves in Middle East dealings."

Dynasties in American politics are dangerous. We saw it with the Kennedys, we may well see it with the Clintons and we're certainly seeing it with the Bushes.

Between now and the November election, it's crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president's family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links.

And I found an article (well, a couple of dozen) about Neil Bush (of Silverado fame) "fishing" in the UAE for investors for his software company that supposedly helped students improve "standardized test scores." (You know what those are. Those are the kinds of tests the Bush Administration's NCLB act relies so heavily upon. But I'm sure the legislation was just a happy coincidence.) Not much light on the current situation in that.

Wayne Madsen at CounterPunch had a story in July of '02, about the selling out of the Fourth Estate. Among stories he seems to feel the media was failing to cover? One that tied the UAE, Neil Bush, and the Taliban all together. Or...let's say showed they were linked by a sort of 6 Degrees Of Corruption kind of thing.

And then there's the Dubai, USofA, currency story. (Thank goodness for Google's cache program.)

The point is, my memory wasn't at fault. I've heard of the Bush family and the UAE linked together before, especially Dubai. Which makes this latest deal so much less surprising. It's the same sort of cronyism we've seen in the Bush Administration dealing with USofA corporations, isn't it?

Or maybe I spoke too soon and I should have put more research and thought into the state of the UAE. I don't know. Not everyone agrees with that view.

On the other hand, is Atrios right? Is the point not that it's a foreign country, but that it's a corporation owned by a foreign government?

But does it matter?

Because, what I really want to know? Is why can't we "own" our own ports?

I mean, we've allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for "homeland security" in the past few years. What are we spending it on besides making airports a nightmare to navigate?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:47 PM | Comments (1)
And it KEEPS happening here

The inspirational effect Bush has on Dem candidates

In 2004, Bush visited Walz's hometown of Mankato, and Walz, a command sergeant and 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard, decided to take a couple of his high school students to see their president. They had tickets and valid identification, and went through the metal detectors like everyone else. Walz and his students, however, were ordered to leave — because one of the boys had a John Kerry sticker on his wallet.

Seriously. I know you're all tired of these stories and not even the information that the guys' wife was told the Secret Service might arrest him makes this one all that different, but think about it.

What kind of political party partisanship is so extreme that someone is pulled aside, questioned, and then banned from entering an event because they have a harmless and entirely legal sticker in their pocket?

Today's Republican Party. Twice the paranoia and none of the common sense.

(Via Kevin Drum)

Posted by AnneZook at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)
Did that happen here?

Pa. School Board Votes Down Baccalaureate

PITTSBURGH -- An internationally recognized educational curriculum has been eliminated by the school board in an affluent suburb despite an outcry from parents and students.

The Upper St. Clair school board voted 5-4 Monday to cut the International Baccalaureate Programme, whose curriculum some school board members have alleged is liberal and anti-American.

What they mean to say, of course, is that being liberal is anti-American.

And that "liberal" is anyone not in danger of falling off the rightwing edge of reality.

Also, anyone who objects to war is liberal and anti-American, so a program whose "mission is to "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."" is anti-American in a billion different ways.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)
No. It can't happen here.

Guantanamo actors held at airport

The actors who star in movie The Road to Guantanamo were questioned by police at Luton airport under anti-terrorism legislation, it has emerged.

The men, who play British inmates at the detention camp, were returning from the Berlin Film Festival where the movie won a Silver Bear award.

One of the actors, Rizwan Ahmed, said a police officer asked him if he intended to make any more "political" films.

They acted in a protest film and got detained by the Terrorism cops. This one was in the U.K., but it could happen here, and we all know it.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)
It can't happen here

Proof of torture surfaced, and the head of the army resigned in shame.

At least four other offices have already been detained. The President called it "deplorable" and "serious misconduct."

No, not in the USofA. In Columbia Colombia.*

Scandal claims Colombia army head

The head of Colombia's army has quit amid a scandal in which superiors allegedly abused young recruits.

Gen Reinaldo Castellanos resigned after a magazine printed photos of 21 soldiers apparently being tortured at a base in the eastern town of Piedras.

Gen Castellanos had said earlier he was ashamed of the allegations and that those responsible would be punished.

Colombia. Setting an example for the rest of us?


* Cough. I really shouldn't blog in a hurry while I'm at work. I make stupid mistakes. Sorry.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:46 PM | Comments (3)
February 20, 2006

I've been following this story and I have two thoughts.

#1 - I'm starting to wonder if this was a "typo" in spite of all the headlines calling it that. A change seems to have made, quite deliberately, to the wording of a bill after it had been agreed to by both chambers. And the "wrong" version wound up on Bush's desk? Just what kind of procedures are we supposed to believe they're running in the Senate?

#2 - Slipping through changes in a bill after it's been agreed to...that really is just throwing the entire system out the window, isn't it? It could drive a wedge between the House and the Senate. At the least, it could slow down future legislation, as both chambers insist on reading and rereading bills before they're sent to the White House in the future. And Congress has enough problems already, don't you think?

I'll say it again. It's a serious mistake to act as though your party is never again going to be out of power.

Especially in an election year.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

Facing Pressure, White House Seeks Approval for Spying

After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.

No, no, no.

The Administration committed a crime and now they want "retroactive" absolution?


Impeach George Bush.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)
No Sectarians Need Apply

U.S. Warns Iraq It Won't Support Sectarian Goals

For the record? I think there's a difference between separation of church and state here in the USofA, where the Constitution calls for it, and in another country where maybe they won't decide on a style of government that calls for such separation?

"The United States is investing billions of dollars" in Iraq's police and army, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."

Although, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe we need more of this attitude on USofA soil?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:41 PM | Comments (2)
That'll shock 'em

We shocked and awed the Gulf in 2003. Is the U.K. getting the fallout?

UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq shells

RADIATION detectors in Britain recorded a fourfold increase in uranium levels in the atmosphere after the “shock and awe” bombing campaign against Iraq, according to a report.

The government says its a coincidence or from local sources, although they don't seem to have any suggestions about who might be playing with loose uranium in the neighborhood.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:25 PM | Comments (3)

'Signs of Life' Heard in Buried School

GUINSAUGON, Philippines Feb 20, 2006 (AP)— High-tech gear detected "signs of life" Monday at the site of an elementary school buried under mud that swept down a hillside soaked by rain in the eastern Philippines, the provincial governor said.

That's the best news I've heard all day.

I'm keeping my eyes on the headlines....

Posted by AnneZook at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)
Fighting the fight

I spend a fair amount of time dissing the Dept of Defense, so when I read a story about someone fighting to do right, it's only fair that I link to it.

One night this January, in a ceremony at the Officers’ Club at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia, which sits on a hill with a commanding view across the Potomac River to the Washington Monument, Alberto J. Mora, the outgoing general counsel of the United States Navy, stood next to a podium in the club’s ballroom. A handsome gray-haired man in his mid-fifties, he listened with a mixture of embarrassment and pride as his colleagues toasted his impending departure. Amid the usual tributes were some more pointed comments.

“Never has there been a counsel with more intellectual courage or personal integrity,” David Brant, the former head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said. Brant added somewhat cryptically, “He surprised us into doing the right thing.” Conspicuous for his silence that night was Mora’s boss, William J. Haynes II, the general counsel of the Department of Defense.

He might not have won, but he tried to stop the torture.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:14 PM | Comments (2)
Watch out, Chavez

You're on the terrorist hit-list now.

Less than half the crude oil used by refineries is produced in the United States, while 60 percent comes from foreign nations, Bush said during the first stop on a two-day trip to talk about energy.

Some of these foreign suppliers have "unstable" governments that have fundamental differences with America, he said.

"It creates a national security issue and we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us," Bush said.

Who could this be but Venezuela?

Aside from that, I do have to wonder just who pulled Bush's string and how NREL got their funding back.

On Tuesday, Bush plans to visit the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to talk about speeding the development of biofuels.

The lab, with a looming $28 million budget shortfall, had announced it was cutting its staff by 32 people, including eight researchers. But in advance of Bush's visit, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the weekend directed the transfer of $5 million to the private contractor that runs the lab, so the jobs can be saved.

The department "has been informed that the NREL lab director will use these funds to immediately restore all of the jobs that were cut earlier this month due to budget shortfalls," the department said in a statement Monday.

He also visited a solar energy company.

Who on earth is going on?

Posted by AnneZook at 07:07 PM | Comments (2)
Blogging Africa

Sudan - Darfur

First, Gary Farber is cranky because the world o'blog isn't paying attention to the genocide in Darfur. For the record, I think I've probably mentioned the story about 50 times, but let me add my voice to his.

Please care.

Joey Cheek cares. He's donating his entire $25,000 "Olympic gold medal bonus."

Even Even George Bush seems to be caring these days.

(Although, there are other schools of thought.)

On the continuing misery in Darfur

The Holocaust. Rwanda. The Armenian genocide. These words evoke thoughts of ineffable death and suffering. After these tragedies, the world vowed "never again." Genocide is a problem of the past, right? But what about Darfur? Do you even know where it is?

There's no quick or easy fix for this one.

Sudan Opposes U.N. Troops in Darfur

Sudan's vice president told a visiting U.S. delegation that the country opposed a proposal to deploy international peacekeepers to Darfur, but was committed to negotiations to end tensions in the region, state media reported Monday.

Sudan president says no extradition of Darfur war crimes suspects

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile] has again said that his country refuses to extradite [JURIST report] any Sudanese citizens for prosecution by the International Criminal Court [official website]. In remarks made during this weekend's celebration of the golden jubilee of the Sudanese Judiciary, al-Bashir said that only Sudan had jurisdiction over war crimes suspects in cases stemming from the Darfur [JURIST news archive] conflict. A year ago, Sudan's vice president made a similar refusal [JURIST report] to turn over genocide suspects to foreign courts, and al-Bashir said Saturday that he is confident that Sudan has the judicial machinery to properly try and allow for the defense of accused war criminals.
6.7 Million People in Sudan Need Food Aid Despite Good Harvest

- Neediest Found in Darfur, Southern Sudan And Marginal Areas in Central And Eastern Parts of the Country

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that while Sudan was likely to reap a reasonably good harvest in 2005-2006, almost seven million people would still require food aid over the coming year.

Most of the needy have either been forced to flee their homes by fighting or are in the process of returning home following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Moreover, vulnerable households will for the most part be unable to benefit from the harvest due to the currently prevailing high cereal prices.

Americans should act to prevent genocide

If you absolutely can't bring yourself to care about Darfur, there are plenty of other problems that need some attention.


Niger Delta Militants Kidnap 9 Oil Workers

Barely 10 hours after helicopter gunship of the Nigeria Air Force launched the second in the series of planned raids on oil bunkerers in the Niger Delta at the Ijaw community of Okerenkoko, Ijaw militants in retaliation yesterday hit four oil industry facilities in the area and in the process kidnapped nine expatriates.

Nigerian Kidnap Drama Hits World Oil Markets

THE hostage drama in Nigeria, which saw nine foreign oil workers kidnapped on Friday and a Shell oil platform set alight, could have severe repercussions not only for SA's inflation outlook, but for oil prices globally if it is not resolved soon, analysts said yesterday.

Nigeria, Africa's largest oil exporter and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries' fourth-largest producer, has been rocked by unrest in its oil industry, with open rebellion against the government by Nigerian militants.

Oil Jumps in New York After Nigerian Rebel Attacks Cut Output

Crude oil rose the most in a month in New York after rebel attacks in Nigeria cut output from Africa's largest producer by about 20 percent.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc stopped pumping 455,000 barrels a day in Nigeria after militants set fire to an export terminal and kidnapped nine foreign oil workers three days ago. The rebels assaulted a pipeline yesterday. Nigeria pumps about 2.8 percent of the world's oil. Also, talks in Moscow to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear research ended without agreement yesterday.

Western Sahara

Tens of Thousands of Refugees Homeless After Rains Wipe Out Shelters

Aid agencies are rushing to help some 60,000 Western Sahara refugees after freak rains late last week wiped out houses and schools and damaged hospitals in camps in eastern Algeria.

Because the rains - reportedly the worst seen in the area since 1994 - came on the heels of the UN World Food Programme's February distribution, refugees have lost an entire month's food supply, a WFP official told IRIN on Wednesday.


Hundreds of Thousands Affected By Water Shortages - Oxfam

Hundreds of thousands of people in drought-hit areas of Somalia are facing dehydration, with some having to drink their own urine as chronic water shortages persist, aid agency Oxfam International said on Thursday.

Fifteen Killed as Militias Clash in Mogadishu

At least 15 people have been killed and hundreds of families displaced in fighting that started on Saturday between rival militias in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, witnesses said.

Please care.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)
February 19, 2006
The Census Bureau first fielded the SIPP in 1984, after over six years of careful design and testing. Since then, the Census Bureau and social-science researchers have gained extensive experience with the survey and worked together to refine and improve it. The SIPP has served as the basis for thousands of academic papers and government and independent policy reports on poverty, income mobility, and the effectiveness of state and federal government programs. Over the last quarter century, hundreds of millions of public and private dollars have been invested in the development of the SIPP and the capacity to analyze its data. This investment will be lost if the SIPP is eliminated.

Gosh, why do you think the Bush Administration would want to kill a program that measure the impact of government programs on real poeple's lives?

I mean, it's only $40 million. That's barely a rounding error in the war budget.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)
Evolving Social Systems

Gay marriage debate centers on history vs. change

Gosh. That's a big surprise.

Opponents say same-sex marriage is - among other things - a historical contradiction. Marriage, they say, has always been between a man and a woman and the laws are written to reflect that.

That argument echoes reasoning that has been proffered time and again to defend such outmoded laws as those that defined wives as the property of their husbands, or that prohibited divorce, or even

In the first place, saying that marriage has "always" been between a man and a woman just isn't true.

In the second place, it's not just "change," it's "progress."

It's the same kind of social evolution that, for instance, allows rightwing radio hosts to call for the deaths of liberals without getting lynched. Or for rightwing so-called "pundits" to call for the deaths of prominent politicians without getting tossed into jail without benefit of trial.

And, yes, that makes it illegal for us to buy and sell other human beings, no matter what their skin color or ethnicity.

But Katherine Spaht, a law professor at Louisiana State University and an expert on family law, said permitting gay marriage would constitute a change more profound than any other in history.

"Most of the changes, historically, have been at the edges of the concept of marriage, not at its core," Spaht said. "We've changed lots of things about the relationship between married people, but not as much about the fundamental idea of what marriage is."

Yeah, well, no. Because I'm kinda thinking that the whole thing about women-as-chattel was a pretty radical change in its day. The idea that not only was a married woman not just another kind of table or household fixture owned by a man, but a human being entitled to ownership of her own property and even her own body caused a certain amount of comment, back in the day.

And I'm thinking that interracial marriage was pretty traumatic for a lot of people. I mean, I've heard rumors to that effect, you know?

Apparently, Ms. Spaht's study of law didn't include any study of even comparatively recent history.

And I'm thinking that two people getting married is pretty much two people getting married, so it's not so much a change in the fundamental idea as she thinks. That whole "procreation" thing doesn't hold a lot of water in these days.

Of course, I'm also thinking that homosexuality, while proscribed at various times in various places, really hasn't been the focus of as much targeted hatred and repression during most of history as it is in the USofA today. In a lot, an awful lot of historical societies, people had real problems to worry about.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:16 PM | Comments (2)
Will you bother to vote?

Turns out that those Diebold voting machines are unreliable, prone to failure, and open to being hacked quite tracelessly. Not to mention that they don't actually fulfill the requirements of HAVA.

So it's certainly interesting to read that California's Secretary McPherson took it upon himself to re-certify the machines for use in California, isn't it?

Posted by AnneZook at 06:40 PM | Comments (2)
Pay As (If) You Go

You though we were kidding, those of us who said the Bush Administration and their friends wanted to institute a "play if you can pay" system of government, but we weren't.

Airline passengers are facing paying for the cost of airline security for the second year in a row. Granted, Congress kicked it back last year and seem determined to kick it back again this year, but that doesn't change the fact that the Administration has tried twice to double costs to passenger.

Hawley said the increase reflects the administration's belief that passengers should cover the bulk of security costs.

Which in turn reflects the Bush Administration's belief that government shouldn't handle "services" for people. Any "services" that anyone needs, they'd better be ready to pay for, cash on demand.

What comes next? Taxing the people who live in flight paths if they want to be protected from having an airplane come down on their house?

Hawley offered no proposal but said if the fee plan were rejected he would have to recommend that some security operations be eliminated. He was not specific.

I'm betting that plan to provide a full staff of screeners for rich folks at the Kennedy IA heliport isn't one of the "operations" that's going to get cut.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

I haven't blogged about the mudslide that ate a village in the Phillipines, but that doesn't mean I don't care or that I'm not reading the latest headlines closely every day.

As always, give if you can. A USofA dollar buy a lot of hope in some parts of the world.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

If this story is accurate, we're turning over the USofA's port security to the Middle East?

Chertoff said Dubai Ports World should not be excluded automatically from such a deal because it is based in the UAE.

Critics have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

The Bush Administration's Just Abysmally Stupid-to-Deliberately Evil ratio just tilted dramatically in favor of the former.

(Of course, our security procedures aren't all that impressive when we handle them, either.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)
I'm Not So Smart

Sometimes, as I'm watchin' myself sitting here blogging away, posting opinions on foreign policy, international terrorism, economics, education, healthcare, or government corruption, I find me shaking my head and wondering. Where do all of these words come from?

But mostly, you know, it entertains me to pretend to be smart and well-informed. I don't lack for attitude and I really enjoy the sound of my own voice, so blogging is an ideal hobby for me. (Also, I really like to type. It's a quirk.)

But it's just a hobby. None of it is as real or as serious as I sometimes claim when I'm feeling all ranty. I know that, and I reassure myself with that idea.

I console myself with the knowledge that if the Bush Administration was really as bad as I make out, the media would be taking it seriously, too. I'm reassured by the knowledge that we have a free press and freedom of speech and if anything really fishy was going on, they'd be there, shouting about it. Because, that's what they do right? Even something as unpolitical as a blow job. If there are any real shenanigans in D.C., the press is all over the story.

And I know that Congress has its own powers that it guards jealously. Congress isn't going to hand over a huge chunk of their influence to anyone, not without a fight. Checks and balances and all of that. Besides, men with power don't just hand it over without a protest, right?

I, like most USofA citizens, sleep better at night knowing that Congress is watching the White House and that the media is watch-dogging them both.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Lieberman really has been drinking out of the neocon kool-aid pitcher, hasn't he?

I feel a rant coming on...but I also feel like I need a shower to get the cooties off.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)