Saturday, May 22, 2004

KtL report
Posting might be a bit sparse today, it's a big day with the significant other followed by the Flyers game.

Friday, May 21, 2004

U.S. asks for war crimes immunity
Ridiculous. Last year's abstention needs to become this years "no". The past month has demonstrated that United States soldiers can sink to depths that we wouldn't readily want to consider them capable of. But the truth has been revealed, and the truth is that no matter how high a nation holds its standards, the citizens can sink below them, into any level of depravity. We have to stop kidding ourselves and making us the exception. If anything we should be the example - the country that does as little wrong as it can, and isn't afraid to take the blame when it does.

Strange stories on "wedding" attack
Hmmm. Let's look at this:

Gen. Mattis dismissed the assertion that a wedding was involved. "How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?" he asked.

Now this:

Among the dead were 27 members of the extended Rakat family, their wedding guests and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony, among them Hussein al-Ali from Ramadi, one of the most popular singers in western Iraq.

A singer was killed? How are we supposed to believe that this gathering of militants happened to have over a dozen children and a singer?

On top of that, the family hosting was clearly wealthy enough to hire a celebrity...why not hold a wedding way out in the desert?

More on torture
Perhaps people that compare it to frat hazing can, um, stop doing that.

Images are here.

More experts say Berg video staged

American businessman Nicholas Berg's body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website ( ) on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.

"I certainly would need to be convinced it was authentic," Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said from New Zealand. Echoing Dr Simpson's criticism, when this journalist asked forensic death expert Jon Nordby, PhD and fellow of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, whether he believed the Berg decapitation video had been "staged", Nordby replied: "Yes, I think that's the best explanation of it."

Questions of when the video's footage was taken, and the time elapsed between the shooting of the video's segments, were raised by both experts, reflecting a portion of the broader and ongoing video controversy. Nordby, speaking to Asia Times Online from Washington state, noted: "We don't know how much time wasn't filmed," adding that "there's no way of knowing whether ... footage is contemporaneous with the footage that follows".

While the circumstances surrounding both the video and Nick Berg's last days have been the source of substantive speculation, both Simpson and Nordby perceived it as highly probable that Berg had died some time prior to his decapitation. A factor in this was an apparent lack of the "massive" arterial bleeding such an act initiates.

"I would have thought that all the people in the vicinity would have been covered in blood, in a matter of seconds ... if it was genuine," said Simpson. Notably, the act's perpetrators appeared far from so. And separately Nordby observed: "I think that by the time they're ... on his head, he's already dead."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Iraq: Bush's child

Several members of Congress said Bush expressed his determination to stick to a June 30 date for handing partial governing authority to Iraqis.

"He talked about 'time to take the training wheels off,'" said Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio. "The Iraqi people have been in training, and now it's time for them to take the bike and go forward."

It must be hard to learn how to ride a bike when you're being shot at every day. This is a ridiculous analogy that entirely downplays the fact that Iraq is a political mess. Teaching a kid to ride a bike takes a couple weeks at the most. "Teaching" a people to embrace liberal democracy and building a functioning government around it...well I don't know how long that usually takes, but I'd say that until June 30th might be a bit premature.

Abuse gets worse
Honestly I've been able to control myself when hearing some cases of abuse, but this is fucking outrageous:

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

The new account of mistreatment came as Army Spec. Jeremy Sivits was sentenced in Iraq to a year in prison Wednesday and a bad-conduct discharge after pleading guilty in the first court-martial stemming from the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Bush says he had oil plan

"I anticipated this three years ago. I asked my team to put together a strategy to make us less dependent upon foreign sources of energy. I submitted that plan to the United States Congress. . . . On the one hand, they (Democrats) decry the price at the pump, and on the other hand, they won't do anything about it."

Well...while the ANWR drilling might have helped bring prices down perhaps ten cents max., that isn't really the problem. First, as the article says, our refineries are running at near capacity (96%) and new ones haven't been built in decades. On top of that, demand in the recovering Asian economies is high. Also, there is the matter of a little war in Iraq...

Sky falling on Halliburton
Hopefully this will go somewhere positive:

One of Australia's largest postwar contracts in Iraq has collapsed, with the partners embroiled in a multi-million-dollar legal battle and allegations of corruption in the awarding of contracts by a leading Pentagon supplier.

Morris Corporation, a Queensland catering company that has delivered meals to the armed forces in hot-spots from Somalia to Cambodia, was dumped last year by the giant US military contractor Halliburton, losing a $100 million contract to supply meals to US troops in Iraq.

The contract was to feed 18,000 troops at three camp sites in northern Iraq. But the US company quietly canceled the deal six weeks later, saying that Morris and its Kuwaiti partner had not met their obligations.

Now an insider involved in the deal alleges that the Australian-Kuwaiti joint venture was approached by a Halliburton employee seeking kickbacks worth up to $3 million during the contract negotiations. "We're not talking about a paper bag. This guy was after a percentage of your sales every month."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Unitarians not tax-exempt in Texas
What utter bullshit:

AUSTIN, Texas - (KRT) - Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Texas Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization - at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: The organization "does not have one system of belief."

Never before - not in this state nor any other - has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group's religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn's ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison, Texas, congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller's office.

"I was surprised - surprised and shocked - because the Unitarian church in the United States has a very long history," said Althoff, who notes that father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both Unitarians.

Strayhorn's ruling, as well as a similar decision by former Comptroller John Sharp, has left the comptroller's office straddling a sometimes murky gulf separating church and state.

What constitutes religion? When and how should government make that determination? Questions that for years have vexed the world's great philosophers have now become the province of the state comptroller's office.

Questions about the issue were referred to Jesse Ancira, the comptroller's top lawyer, who said Strayhorn has applied a consistent standard - and then stuck to it. For any organization to qualify as a religion, members must have "simply a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power," he said.

"We have got to apply a test, and use some objective standards," Ancira said. "We're not using the test to deny the exemptions for a particular group because we like them or don't like them."

Since Strayhorn took over in January 1999, the comptroller's office has denied religious tax-exempt status to 17 groups and granted them to more than 1,000, according to records obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Although there are exceptions, the lion's share of approvals have gone to groups that appear to have relatively traditional faiths, records show.

But of the denials, at least a fourth include less traditional groups. In addition to the Denison Unitarian church, the rejected groups include a Carrollton, Texas, group of atheists and agnostics, a New Age group in Bastrop, Texas, and the Whispering Star Clan/Temple of Ancient Wisdom, an organization of witches in Copperas Cove, Texas.

Some of the denials occurred because of missing paperwork or other problems, according to the comptroller's office. A few, like the denial for the New Age group and the witches group, were decided because their services were closed to the public, according to documents.

But the denials of the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church in Denison, the North Texas Church of Freethought in Carrollton, and an earlier denial by Sharp for the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin, were ordered because the organizations did not mandate belief in a supreme being.

I have so much to say about this that if I do it all at once, it might come out in an unreadable ball of rage. However, my conclusion should be clear to most people.

NC GOP rejects Log Cabin Republicans

(Raleigh, North Carolina) Gay Republicans have been told they are not welcome at the party's state convention this weekend. The state's Log Cabin Republicans had requested a table to display its literature at the convention, but Ferrell Blount, the Chairman of the GOP in North Carolina rejected the group and in a letter to Log Cabin accused the LCR of disloyalty.

LCG "advocates special rights and privileges for homosexuals," wrote Blount. "It openly opposes President Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment to protect the sanctity of marriage as being the union between one man and one woman."

Blount pointed to the party platform that says "Republicans believe that a two-parent family, where a husband and wife live in harmony in one home, provides the ideal environment for raising children and is the best model for family life. We praise the courageous efforts of single parents who work hard to provide stable homes, and we recognize that single parents often succeed and two-parent families sometimes fail. We, therefore, oppose efforts to redefine the traditional family structure and offer the Republican Party as a refuge fore everyone concerned with about the breakdown of family life in America."

Ed Farthing, the chair of the North Carolina Log Cabin Republicans called Blount's position "discouraging".

"It appears to be you have to be a white, Anglo-Saxon married Protestant for the Party to pay any attention to you," Farthing told

Aldrich defines clarity
From his column:

Clarity is a focused state-of-mind – a concentration on one or just a few important issues. These days, clarity is a precious commodity, hard to come by and difficult to maintain. We had clarity right after September 11, 2001, but it soon slipped away. We are a nation on caffeine, desperately seeking its "meds." We jump from one manufactured crisis to another. I'm beginning to believe our society suffers from a collective Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to national security.

What? He thinks that our heads are clear immediately after enormous catastrophe? Why does this whole "common sense" thing never penetrate the minds of the right?

Israel kills innocents
While I don't take sides on this issue, it often pisses me off that Israel can escape with killing civilians because they are collateral damage. This situation changes it a bit:

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Israeli tanks and helicopters fired on protesters in a refugee camp on Wednesday, killing 10 Palestinians and raising a two-day death toll to 33 in Israel's bloodiest Gaza raid in years, witnesses said.

Medics said about 50 people were wounded at the besieged Rafah camp in southern Gaza and that the casualties included many children and teenagers.

The firing sent a marching crowd fleeing in terror, some dragging bloodied comrades and others carrying wounded children in their arms, demonstrators said.

Expressing "deep sorrow over the loss of civilian lives," the army said it did not fire deliberately at the procession but that tank fire designed to drive back the protesters may have caused casualties. It said gunmen were among the crowd.

Uh huh...the good guys never claim to shoot at innocents. But hey, my advice to the Israeli military: don't use TANK FIRE to drive back protesters. Ever hear of rubber bullets?

Hollings defends column
A lot is being said about Sen. Hollings' column, which essentially says that Israel and the Jewish vote was a large factor in Bush's decision to go to war:

In 1993, President Clinton responded to Saddam's attempt on the life of President George H.W. Bush by putting a missile down on Saddam's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. Not a big kill, but Saddam got the message -- monkey around with the United States and a missile lands on his head. Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction. Israel's intelligence, Mossad, knows what's going on in Iraq. They are the best. They have to know.

Israel's survival depends on knowing. Israel long since would have taken us to the weapons of mass destruction if there were any or if they had been removed. With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush's policy to secure Israel.

Led by Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there has been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel's security is to spread democracy in the area. Wolfowitz wrote: "The United States may not be able to lead countries through the door of democracy, but where that door is locked shut by a totalitarian deadbolt, American power may be the only way to open it up." And on another occasion: Iraq as "the first Arab democracy ... would cast a very large shadow, starting with Syria and Iran but across the whole Arab world." Three weeks before the invasion, President Bush stated: "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example for freedom for other nations in the region."

Is saying that securing Israel was a reason for war anti-Semitic? No! Hollings is trying to show a motive, not to say that we should let the Jews be thrown out to the wolves. Saying that Bush is pandering to the Latino vote - which is is - isn't anti-Latino. It's just stating a fact.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

SS trust empty
If this is true, then the pension must have been raided by every administration since Reagan. Investigation - we need to demand one.

MO GOP PO'd over billboard
The billboard:

That's race-baiting? Perhaps if you only see the man on the right as a black man, and not as just a member of the human race. Eh, guys?

Matt Towery on gas prices
Talk about wrong:

Have you wondered why the Democrats are so quiet on the seemingly tempting issue of sky-high gas prices during the current political season?

The answer is that they've already seen polling numbers similar to those in our most recent survey of American voters. The InsiderAdvantage poll asked, "If the price of gasoline remains high, will that have an effect on your vote for president?"

The results:
Yes: 33 percent
No: 63 percent
Don't know: 4 percent

The poll was conducted in April among 500 Americans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Well...that WOULD be insignificant, except 33% is a large amount of people to be affected by gas prices. Here is why: in most cases, those whose opinions would be changed by something like this are moderates, as any partisan thinker would not let something so insignificant overcome their rationale for voting a certain way. Even if one in ten of those 33% are moderates, that is three more points to Kerry. Catching my drift? That poll isn't exactly bad news for the Dems.

Egyptians call abuses "gay"
If there is one thing that would piss off the right, it's having enemy countries call your troops gay.

WH says they won't tap oil reserves
So if "record" oil prices aren't reason enough to tap into the emergency oil, exactly what is? Are we waiting for prices to reach levels that we believe will never be beaten? What kind of cataclysm are we waiting for? Oh, right. The election.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Chuck Colson grounds to first
Sorry, Chuck, but your column is spewing this week:

Today marks the beginning of legal same-sex “marriages” in America. It begins in Massachusetts: the result of the state Supreme Court's ruling in the Goodrich case which said, “barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution.” Once again, courts are out of control.

What is happening in Massachusetts today threatens to redefine and, ultimately, permanently damage our society’s most basic institution. That being so, you would expect a huge public outcry. Unfortunately and surprisingly, that isn't happening. Congress is seeing little evidence of public outrage--not enough calls and letters to force them to act.

It amazes me since it’s clear that the impact of same-sex “marriage” won’t be limited to same-sex couples. Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institution has written that widespread acceptance of same-sex “marriage” will widen the already existing gap between parenthood and marriage and continue to break down the family. Countries, like Norway, that adopted same-sex “marriage” saw their rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births shoot up. There’s no reason to suppose that won’t happen here.

First of all, the whole Scandinavian gay marriage deal has been fact, Norway doesn't even have gay marriages.

And I still can't believe that the right is harping on the "damage to marriage" bullshit. 50% of our couples divorce. HALF! How much more could that possibly get damaged?

Bush reinforces gay marriage stance

On the same day that Massachusetts began issuing licenses to gay couples, Bush said in a statement, "The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges."

In the statement, read aboard Air Force One by White House press secretary Scott McClellan while traveling to Topeka, Kan., Bush said that "all Americans have a right to be heard in this debate." know what would really give the people who support it a chance to be heard? A ban on it.

Well, shit
I go for a walk in the park, and I come back to a slain Iraqi leader. Great.

U.S. athletes told not to wave flags in Athens
This is ridiculous. We can't wave U.S. flags when we win an event? Can we wear uniforms that identify our nation of origin? Can we tell people that we're American?

KtL update
My apologies on the light posting this weekend - I traveled to New York to see Jeff Greenfield and Al Franken speak, which was splendid. Posting shall be in full swing by 3 pm today.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Rumsfeld approved prison interrogation techniques
Fire him.