Saturday, December 29, 2007

Navy JAG Resigns Over Torture Cover-up

It’s heartening to see an official in the government who is as horrified by the corruption and blatant dishonesty going on in the Bush administration as I am. Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Williams, a JAG officer with the U.S. Naval Reserve, resigned his commission after watching General Thomas W. Hartmann, legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture.

I am reprinting his letter to the editor of The Pennsylvania Gateway in full. It speaks volumes as to his honor and integrity and the lack of it in our government.

It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy.

There was a time when I served with pride, knowing that by serving with the finest men and women in the country, we were part of an organization whose core values required us to “do the right thing,” and that we were far different from the Soviet Union and its gulags, the Vietcong with their torture camps and a society of surveillance and informers like Nazi Germany.

We were part of the shining light on the hill who didn’t do those things. Sadly, no more.

The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947, giving him 15 years hard labor.

Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the U.S. Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.

General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and it will not be an excuse for you or your superiors, either.

Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the practice by destroying interrogation tapes, in direct violation of a court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Netscape Goes The Way Of he Dodo Bird!

Well all good things come to an end. Netscape, once the king of the browsers fades away for good. AOL who bought the company is ducking out of the browser market and leaving it to IE, Firefox and Opera. What killed it? Well OS with a browser built in is the culprit and Microsoft, the leader of predatory marketing, drove the stake in the heart of Netscape with IE being bundled with Windows. Apple has done the same with its browser Safari and so independent browsers like Netscape just can’t get traction.

Feels like saying goodbye to an old friend. When I was doing web development full time, I always tried to design for both Netscape and IE, but in the end the differences in the two made it cumbersome, and with Netscape’s dwindling market share it finally was a moot point.

The Golden Compass - Anti-Religion or Anti-Dogma?

After watching the Golden Compass I have to wonder what all the brouhaha was all about. I heard stories of fundamentalists condemning the movie as atheistic propaganda. I saw an article that the Catholic League was furious with the picture and even a few friends asked me if it wasn’t anti-religion.

Personally, I liked the Golden Compass, and not just because it had really nifty animated Polar Bears. The theme seemed to be anti-dogma and pro free thought. When you look at it that way it’s understandable that the Catholic League and fundamentalists find its message threatening. Any message that encourages people to think for themselves goes against most heavy duty church dogma. But here is the caveat, it depends on the church.

Religion itself is not a bad thing. It can be a source of inspiration, hope, comfort and do a lot of good things. Dogmatic religions are the problem. Religious dogma that restricts our ability to see the world as it is limits the very God they seek to serve. How can we as mortal ever fully know and understand the divine? Those religions that neatly package God in a few hundred pages of a book have a very tiny God indeed.

For me, I prefer a religion that not only accepts the world as it is, but encourages us to explore and grow with it. More importantly, I prefer a religion that seeks not only a continuing deepening understanding of God, but one that seeks to act to change the world for the better in harmony with divine guidance. How do we know what God is telling us to do? It is a process of trial and error. Those actions that enrich the lives and existence of others would seem to be on the side of God’s will. Those actions that enslave others or seek to hinder their lives would seem to be absent of God’s will.

Now, did I like the movie? Sure did. It was beautiful, enchanting thought provoking and they had the cutest animated Polar Bears!

Huckabee Warns of Pakistani Activity in US - Time for Xenophobia!

Mike Huckabee, eager to play the terrorist card, has warned of “unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country.” He obviously saw the recent Iowa polls that show the GOP loosing on all fronts except “terrorism”. So now he is focusing on border security and is starting to sound like Mitt Romney.

In a press conference in Des Moines he cautioned, “We just need to be very, very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally because, again, we live in a very, very dangerous time.” The only thing he didn’t say was “9/11” but I guess that is Giuliani’s trademark phrase?

Priests Brawl at Church of the Nativity - Silent Night?

What better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace than to fight? Apparently the priests who watch over the Church of the Nativity, built on the traditional location of Jesus birth, began attacking each other with brooms. Two factions, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolics who share the duties of caring for the centuries old church along with Roman Catholics began fighting while cleaning the church on Thursday. Apparently someone stepped inside the other sects area while cleaning the church in advance of the Armenian celebration of Christmas in January.

Personally I think the kind of thing is what happens with any extreme orthodoxy in religions. Look at Muslim countries in the Middle East, where Muslims are fighting Muslims because they are either not orthodox enough, or happen to follow the wrong Imam. Now the Christians of the area have shown that fundamentalism is dangerous no matter what religious tradition it follows. The fight was broken up by Palestinian Police. No irony there, eh?

Tiger Found Shot In Dallas

Sanitation workers were surprised when the pulled back the blue tarp and found the body of a full grown Bengal tiger underneath. The big cat was taken to animal control experts here in Dallas where they performed an autopsy and determined that the tiger was shot to death. Additionally the cat had been declawed and was on a makeshift leash.

Having had experience raising big cats, I can say from experience they are not house pets. Though they are often gregarious and fun to have they are very large wild animals. Ask Siegfried & Roy if you don’t believe that. I was privileged to help raise a female lion back in the early 1970’s and even as cubs they can be very powerful and unpredictable. I always had scratches and my apartment often suffered from the effects of Sasha, the lion my friends and I were raising. Today that would be not only illegal, but unthinkable.

Authorities suspect that the Tiger in this story just become too big and powerful for the owner to handle and so it was killed. The sad thing is it didn’t have to die. There are numerous big cat rescue organizations around who can take would be house pets and raise them in a safe environment If you have a big cat and it’s getting unmanageable, I suggest contacting They are a group in Tampa, Florida who provide a habitat for abandoned and unwanted big cats.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto Already Spoken of as Martyr

Just watched this Video from Al Jazeera. Notice that the person announcing her death says Mrs. Bhutto was "martyred at 6:16pm". Political unrest is building in Pakistan and what happens next is anyone's guess.

Assassin Kills Bhutto!

Benazir Bhutto returning to Pakistan to face the government of General Pervez Musharraf in upcoming elections seemed far too cinematic for my taste. I have to wonder if I was not the only one who expected the events of today or was everyone so blind. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally. Late reports say she was first shot and then the shooter blew himself up.

Already her party is calling her a martyr and crowds are shouting in the streets, "dog, Musharraf, dog!" I suspect it will be only a mater of time before the entire country erupts in a blood bath. The tragedy will probably be compounded by some in our country who will undoubtedly call for the US to intervene on behalf of our ally, the "dog".

I pray that Pakistan can recover from these events peacefully, but if history is any indication we can expect another Muslim country to be in turmoil for the foreseeable future. What makes this situation worse is that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and a hostile neighbor, India who is also armed to the teeth. Maybe I should be praying for us all?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy Recession!

The day after Christmas is traditionally observed as Boxing Day in Canada and England, but here in the USA its "Return Day". Store brace for shoppers eager to return gifts of the wrong size, color or just plain wrong! This Boxing Day retailers are also hoping for a rush of buyers. The season was low, even for those analysts who expected it to be an off year. Slow retail sales will undoubtedly add to the economic indicators that show our country sliding into a recession and that is not good news for anyone.

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a business pundit talking about "Brand China" and how it may be suffering because of the numerous product recalls and the general perception of Chinese made goods being poor quality. No sh*t Sherlock? Brand China in my book already means "piece of crap" and unfortunately it’s impossible to get away from. So what does this have to do with recession? Well, since the US no longer has many manufacturing jobs, we are more vulnerable than ever to economic swings affecting the lower Middle Class. Service jobs, which is about all the lower Middle Class has left, are volatile and can be slashed at the drop of a balance sheet. The old manufacturing jobs were more difficult to eliminate, both because of unions and the major investment in infrastructure they represented. Companies might cut back, but they were very unlikely to just shut down a factory, since that would mean a major asset would be idle. Not so for the cash register at Burger Barn. Besides, you can always install self-service and drop a few more warm bodies from the payroll.

If I sound cynical, then I have succeeded. I am cynical, especially when it comes to our economy. We have been living in a fools paradise for the past 7 years and perhaps longer. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting mired in the refuse left behind by the rich. Big business has been gutting the economy at the expense of the future in quest of the "good quarter". Why? CEOs get astronomical sums for heading a company that has a good quarter and sees its stock price rise. The problem is it’s all short term stuff. I would venture to say few if any CEOs or boards for that matter have any sort of long term plan for their businesses. They are concerned only with get in, make a bundle and get the heck out before the stock slides. That kind of thinking is what tanked Enron, and it is still happening in board rooms across America.

What’s the point of the rant? Well it’s a combination of letting off steam and sending a warning. The warning is something that would be better headed from an economist with lots of letters after his name, however, they seem content to watch from the sidelines and comment, so here goes.

Our country is headed down the sewer pipe. We have successfully crippled our once great manufacturing might and we are outsourcing not only our manufacturing but our inventiveness. Unless we intend to be a nation of poor burger flippers we must begin brining jobs and manufacturing back home. We cannot count on the wealthy class to trickle any of their wealth down to us, they will just move to Dubai or whatever new trust fund playground appears in the world and leave us with the refuse of their looting. We must reinstate progressive taxation and even the playing field, provide universal health care and reexamine out policies toward foreign investment and trade. We cannot become isolationist, but we should not just sell off our country to the highest bidder.

So as you prepare to return that defective DVD player you received, or think about why the seams in your new shirt unraveled before you washed it the first time, remember the old addage. "The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweet aroma of low price." In other words, bargains come at a price, and for us, that price may be our economy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas - May Your Light Shine Bright!

December 25 was not the date Jesus was born. That is a tradition that was started by the church. Does it matter? I don’t think so. And though some right wing pundits try to frame a “War on Christmas” the stores and malls gleam with Christmas sales and specials. Television is awash in Christmas Specials and houses are ablaze with thousands of electric lights, warming the cockles of the power company’s hearts. It is impossible to not know it is Christmas, no matter what Rush Limbaugh and the others say.

But the real importance of Christmas is not the date or the gifts or the celebrations. Christmas is about something meek and small, not grandiose and shiny. Christmas is about a single candle burning in the darkness, not a million electric bulbs. Yet that single flame, the light born into our world to dispel the darkness of our lives, has the power to change everything.

During this Christmas season, may you find that light in your life and amplify it into a beacon so bright it will be impossible to hide. May that beam of light illuminate the dark corners of our world and bring peace, hope joy and love to the world.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bush Cuts $700 From School Medicaid For Kids - Merry Christmas Again!

In another Merry F*#king Christmas move from our glorious leader, the White House has eliminated $700 million in Medicaid reimbursements for public schools. The new ruling will restrict schools from using Medicaid funds for clerical work associated with providing the medical care and other expenses such as transporting students to physical therapy and speech lessons. In other words, we’ll pay for the treatment, but how you account for it and get the people who need it there is up to you!

Now that’s Christian charity ain’t it?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Goldman Sacks CEO Bags $67.9 Million Holiday Bonus!

If there was any wonder why the rich are getting richer in America, here is a great example. Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sacks will be celebrating Christmas this year with a tidy $67.9 million dollar bonus. That’s $67,900,000 comprised of cash and some restricted stock. Exorbitant? Maybe but Goldman Sacks seems to have avoided the sub-prime mortgage debacle and perhaps that is the reason for the wad of cash?

Of course there is no evidence that Blankfein actually was instrumental in making GS a %5 gain this year, but who know? Personally I think it’s bonuses like this that are turning our country back to the gilded age where there was very little middle class, just fabulously wealthy and the working poor. Wonder if he is planing to build another Vanderbilt Mansion?

Kansas Churches Move Toward The Left

This morning I read an article by a BBC columnist who visited Kansas recently and noticed a change. He saw the face of Evangelical Christianity looking very different than the one he previously knew. The Fred Phelps and their wacko ilk are still around, but at one large mega-church the congregation opted for a less dogmatic leader. In fact they opted to kick out the former "hell fire and brimstone" pastor and get one who was more concerned about the environment and the poor.

It’s obvious from the tone of the piece that the columnist has only been exposed to the radical form of Christianity in the US, but it still is an encouraging sign when a church turns from bashing gays to feeding the poor.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Diebold Stock Tumbles Amid Department of Justice Investigation Rumors

Well looks like Diebold may be the latest Enron. The company that brought your those buggy electronic voting machines has been finagling their balance sheets with a practice known as “bill and hold”. Under bill and hold, ownership of a product contractually passes to a customer and revenue shows up on the balance sheets prior to delivery of the product to the customer. In other words they show the income before the check clears. As a freelance writer I can tell you that really won’t work for long.

Thanks to for the news. That little tidbit as their stock hits a 5-year low and the company seems destined to continue sinking as the SEC and the DOJ are now investigating it. Add that to the fact that study after study shows that their electronic voting machines are easily hackable and I really don’t see them recovering. Couldn’t happen to a nice group of Bush supporters!

Borat & Ali G are Retired

Today Sasha Baron Cohen announced that he is officially retiring his character Borat and Ali G. In memory of Borat I present a real television commercial for his beloved country.

Girl Dies After Insurance Company Denies Transplant! Now Murder Charges Discussed.

Anyone wondering about the quality of health care in the US should read this and shudder. A 17 years old girl had been battling leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from her brother. She developed a complication, however, that caused her liver to fail. Doctors at UCLA Medical Center sent a letter to her insurance company CIGNA saying she needed a liver transplant on December 11. The company responded with a denial of payment for the operation.
Here is the kicker, the girl died Thursday, just hours after the fine folks at CIGNA reversed their decision under pressure. It is a clear case of "wealth = life, poverty = death." Had her family had lots of cash or connections with the hospital she might be alive today.

That kind of system is wrong, for our country and morally wrong for anyone. We must have a single-payer national health insurance to cover these kinds of things. It’s time we admit that health care should be part of your rights as a citizen of a developed country.

Next time anyone says to you that the USA has the best health care in the world, remind them we only rank 37th against other countries. And who is first in the world for quality of health care? France! Mon Dieu!

UPDATE: Now the families attorney is talking about pressing manslaughter charges against the insurance company. ABC News.

No Proof Airport Screening Works

As I long suspected and numerous news reporters have anecdotally proven, "airport security" is an oxymoron. Reuters reports that a team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.

In other words, there has been no quantitative study done on how effective the measures such as having passengers remove shoes actually is. The response from the Us Transportation Security Administration? The TSA told research teams requesting information their need for quick new security measures trumped the usefulness of evaluating them. Huh?

Basically, the team found that screening measures were implemented after news reports of threats leading me to the conclusion that they are mainly cosmetic measures meant to assure the traveling public. Additionally, I get the feeling the screening is meant to keep the traveling public scared. People who live and travel in fear are more easily controlled by government agencies. Conspiracy? Probably not, but still it’s easier to get more intrusive security measures passed through Congress when the public is afraid. Roosevelt’s quote was never more poignant than today. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

The "Governator" Sues The Government - Give 'Em Hell Arnold!

The "Governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger is sounding more and more like what Paul Krugman calls an "Eisenhower Republican". Those were the Republicans I grew up with in the 1950’s. They were fiscally conservative and socially moderate and not too much different from the Democrats. Arnold is turning out to be a much more moderate conservative than many in the GOP expected and that is a good thing.

California has tried to lower emissions faster than the federal standard. Schwarzenegger understands that the regulations from the feds are not nearly strong enough to do any good in the foreseeable future. Therefore California tired to do it alone. Not so fast said the EPA. Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson announced the decision Wednesday, refusing the state's request for a waiver that would have allowed it to cut emissions faster than a new federal plan the president signed into law Wednesday.

No the "Governator" is threatening to sue the federal government. Good for him! I sincerely hope the suit goes through if for nothing else to bring to light the ineffective plan proposed by the EPA. It’s time to get serious about this stuff and Arnold knows it.

White House Implicated In Illegal Phone Jamming Scheme - And Still No Impeachment Hearings?

As I have long suspected the White House is the real control behind the GOP, and now the pigeons are coming home to roost. Seems the phone jamming scheme that was being used in New Hampshire to shut down the phone lines of the Democratic Party during the run up to the 2002 primary belonged to the GOP. Now news comes that it was directed by top party operatives in the White House.

So the White House is now implicated in another potentially criminal act and still the Democrats are sitting on their hands and refusing to hold impeachment hearings. Here’s a special word to the Democrats.

A real impeachment doesn’t look like the sideshow put on by the GOP during the Clinton years. A real impeachment is about breaking the law of the land and holding our officials responsible when they do. To let Cheney and Bush sit safely in the White House and not even call into question their activities which very well may have broken the laws that govern our country, not to mention international laws is unconscionable. Not holding impeachment hearings may well be a sign that the Congress was complicit in that illegal activity, otherwise why would they not want to uphold the law of the land?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peace On Earth Video

An organization I support, Hope for Peace and Justice just released this latest video on YouTube. I sincerely hope you find it carries a message for all people this holiday season.

Bear Stearns Looses Big - Turns To China For Help

Yesterday it was Morgan Stanley who lost money and today its Bear Stearns. The sub prime mortgage market is part of the problem, and no doubt there are a dozen Harvard MBA’s right now trying to figure out how to blame the loss on anyone but themselves.

The losses of these two financial giants is disturbing enough, but the biggest red flag I see is to who they have turned to patch their leaky financial ships. Both companies went to the Chinese to shore up their stocks. Bear Stearns swapped stock with Citic Securities and Morgan Stanley got a $5 billion cash infusion from government-controlled China Investment Corp.

The stakes are pretty high in this game, and right now it looks like China is getting a bigger and bigger share of American debt. Not only do we buy cheap goods from China, we borrow the money to do it! This whole thing sounds like the beginning of a collapsing house of cards. I am reminded of the dot com bust and have to wonder what new scandals will be on the horizon.

Glad I am not in the financial sector right now.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dispels 3 King Legend

Glad to see clergy finally weighing in on the "Christmas Story". As a Christian, I have always loved the story of the 3 wise men and the snow and the shepherds, but I always knew there was a problem with it. First of all the date of Jesus’ birth was not December 25. That date was superimposed on it by the early church to coincide with an existing celebration. Not surprising since it was easier to get people to observe a holiday at the time they already were used to, and it was a ingrain the religious traditions of Christianity with those of the Romans.

Now the Archbishop of Canterbury has done an interview where he not only clears up the Christmas date, but dispels the 3 king story as well. In the Gospel of Matthew wise men from the East are mentioned, but they are not Kings nor are there any numbers. The number was extrapolated from the 3 gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. I suspect the song "We Three Kings" helped that legend as well.

His interview will undoubtedly attract the ire of the folks who believe there is some sort of "war on Christmas". Personally, I am glad to see these traditions put in the correct light. They are legends than have become traditional stories and that’s fine. They are not in the Bible, just as the "Rapture" is not mentioned in the Bible either.

Now how long will it take for the fundamentalists to start flaming me?

More Resignations at Oral Roberts University

Things at ORU are heating up again. This week a second regent resigned. Televangelist Jesse Duplantis steps down from the board following the resignation of Creflo Dollar last week and Benny Hinn previously. The school is steadily separating itself from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association following the resignation of Richard Roberts as President.

This all happens at the same time that both Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar are under investigation by the Senate into their spending of tax exempt funds. I have to wonder if there may not be a relation seeing how Richard Roberts spending habits are what lead to his ouster?

Queen Elizabeth II Outlives Victoria Today

Queen Elizabeth II has been the only monarch of the UK that I have ever known. Today she passes the milestone set by Victoria and becomes the oldest reigning monarch in Britain’s history. At 81, Elizabeth II looks like she may reign for several more years and might just surpass Victoria’s record as longest reigning monarch as well.

I feel a special attachment to Queen Elizabeth. Aside from the catty comments some of my friends might make about "queens" I actually have a connection to her. My father was good friends with a Sir Lionel Whitby, one of the Queen’s physicians. Sir Lionel was a Hematologist like my father and they both served as Presidents of the International Society of Hematology for a time.

As a child I remember visiting Lady Whitby, Sir Lionel’s wife at Hampton Court several years after his death. She was a gracious and delightful woman. Due to Whitby’s influence, I was even once considering attending Downing College in Cambridge, however that never happened. My only legacy from that time are a few Christmas cards from Lady Whitby with the Royal address on them.

Long live Queen Elizabeth II and congratulations on another milestone in her reign.

To Pelosi and Reid - Start Acting Like Democrats!

Just because someone wears the Democrat label, it doesn’t mean they are either liberal or progressive. The problem with many of the senior Democratic leadership in Congress is their attempt to masquerade as reformers. People like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are simply Republican "lite". Either that, or they are so entrenched in the politics of Washington that they have little stomach for real change and a real fight. I give as a case in point the pitiful showing on the war funding bill.

The Democratic majority was sent to Washington with a clear message, "end the war". So far what we have is more funding and a general caving-in every time the GOP steps up their pressure. The Democrats are behaving as though they are still the minority and that may very well kill their advantage. Americans have very short attention spans and should the Republicans or someone else come along with a reasonable sounding plan to end the war the public just might vote for them.

Republicans have shown an ability to close ranks and really resist change. It’s time the Democrats tried the same tactic. Democrats have to realize that the GOP is not going to share power or submit to any sort of coalition building. They are adversaries and they play their hand like one. Democrats are still stuck in the 1950’s when both parties could agree on what was best for the country. Unfortunately, the Republicans could care less, their taskmasters are the rich and big business. Their ranks may include the radical religious right, but only so long as they are convenient. The minute that faction should turn against business or the rich and they will be dropped like a hot potato.

So why are the Democrats afraid? I suspect they have been victim or the same PR that made "liberal" a dirty word. They are laboring under the illusion that the country wants "centrist" politicians when in fact the countries views are liberal, even though they won’t call themselves such.

So to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the rest of the spineless Democrats who caved in to the GOP, I would say this. Get your act together or get out of the way. There are many more progressive politicians out there who could actually move this country towards a read democracy and away from the autocratic GOP rule. Start acting like Democrats. Start doing the job you were elected to do!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Obama is Not Black Enough" and Other GOP Myths

Shelby Steele, right wing author and fellow of the conservative Hoover Institute was on our local Public Radio station today promoting his new book. “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win" (Free Press, 2007) is the title and the host of the show failed to really describe the Hoover Institute in her interview. This was another of the old, “Obama is not black enough” propaganda that the right has been spewing now for months.

Steele divides successful black people into two groups, “bargainers” and “challengers”.

“Challengers never give whites the benefit of the doubt. They assume whites are racist until they prove otherwise.”

“Bargainers make a deal with white Americans that gives whites the benefit of the doubt: I will not rub America's history of racism in your face, if you will not hold my race against me.”

Though there may be some truth to these groupings, his rethoric is still the same argument that Obama won’t fly with black voters. This is part of the Republican disinformation campaign that is cranking up early just in case Obama gets the nomination. Republicans are afraid of him, since he defies the racial stereotypes and is not conveniently pigeonholed like some African American leaders. The author even brings up Hillary Clinton as being “more black than Obama”.

The bottom line is who cares? Black or white or grey, Obama is a reasonable and astute politician as well as something rare in this day and age, a statesman. That is what scares the Republicans and so they must try everything they can to “diss” him. So they have to attack his race. It’s still racism, and that is the strong suit of the GOP. Without it, they have nothing but a legacy of bolstering the rich at the expense of the poor.

Newest Japanese Robot Demonstration - Asimo Is Back!

I have to admit I am a techo-geek. I love new technological gadgets and especially the ones that emulate my childhood science fiction favorites. Just a few days ago the folks at Honda held a press conference and showed off their newest version of ASIMO, the friendly little robot featured in their TV ads. In this latest version, Asimo interacts with other Asimos and does tasks such as serving lattes. The spooky thing is he even bows politely as he does it.

I certainly hope they have read "I Robot" and know the laws of robotics, otherwise we are doomed.

Democratic Victories in Ft. Worth Elections!

Texas is slowly turning blue. Last night election results were encouraging for Democrats in Tarrant County. Joel Burns won the runoff election in Ft. Worth City Council District 9 to become the first openly gay man elected in Ft. Worth history! Additionally Dan Barrett, was elected as State Representative for House District 97 taking the seat form his Republican challenger, a seat that has traditionally been Republican.

City Council-District 9
Joel Burns 1,796 votes 54.08%
Juan Rangel 1,525 votes 45.92%

House District 97
Dan Barrett (D) 5,365 votes 52.20%
Mark Shelton (R) 4,913 votes 47.80

Fire In Executive Office Building - Across From The White House

This morning there was a fire in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building just across from the White House. It is the building where the President’s staff and other executive operations are housed. Luckily there are no injuries reported and damage has yet to be assessed.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if records were destroyed relating to the CIA tape destruction. After all, VP Cheney’s office is in that building, although it is a ceremonial one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Even The FBI Saw The CIA Acts As Torture

So it seems that even the FBI thought the CIA was way out of line in their torture of suspects during interrogation. Things were so bad that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller ordered agents to withdraw from the interrogations. One of the agents threatened to arrest the CIA operatives for illegal activities.

It’s pretty bad when our own law enforcement folks find that the activities of the CIA are so abhorrent that they cannot stand by and watch anymore. Personally I wish they had arrested them in order to bring this to a head before now. If they had, we would not be having the investigation of why the CIA destroyed tapes of the interrogations, they would already be on trial and the people authorizing the torture would be out of jobs.

Now we get to wade through months of hearings and tap dancing by Bush and his henchmen as they try to explain away the torture. The way I look at it is, if it was bad enough for the FBI to seek intervention, it’s probably pretty bad!

Bush Logic - Iran Makes Uranium = Bad, Iran Buys Uranium = Good

In a development that seems to have gone unnoticed by most media, our glorious leader gave a speech to the Rotary Club yesterday in which he noted that Russia was selling enriched uranium to Iran. Somehow he managed to find a convoluted logic in this and the silver lining.

“…today Russia sent some enriched -- or in the process of sending enriched uranium to Iran to help on their civilian nuclear reactor. If that's the case, if the Russians are willing to do that -- which I support -- then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich. If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich.”

So what is the difference if the Iranians learn to enrich uranium or they buy it? They still end up with uranium and prior to this odd logic, that is why we were afraid of them building a bomb. Last time I checked, enriched uranium was needed to build an atomic bomb. Now I suppose the real reason it’s OK now is that they bought it. You see PROFIT always trumps national interests.

Sometimes I feel like we have the Ferengi running the country.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bush Thinks American Health Care System is "Fabulous"! For Who?

As further proof that Bush is delusional, he made the patently false statement that America’s health care system is "fabulous" when compared to others around the world. Now normally I would give the Commander in Chief props for using the term "fabulous" but today not so much.

In reality, our health care system ranks 37th out of 191 countries ranked by the World Health Organization. That puts us just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia and Cuba. This in spite of the fact that the US spends more than anyone on health care. And remember this comment is coming from a man who has free government health care!

So Mr. Bush, I am one of those folks who can’t get insurance privately. Now tell me just how frigging great the system we have is!

Insider's Account of CIA Torture at "Black Sites"

After reading the article in about the captivity of a man from Yemen who was never charged with any crimes and held at a secret CIA "Black Site" for 19 months I am physically sick. The interview with the former prisoner includes a detailed drawing of his cell and descriptions of his daily routines. The thought that his captivity was done in my country’s name makes me nauseous.

Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah was imprisoned ni a series of cells, most no bigger than 7 X10 feet, often with only a bucket as a toilet and a constant barrage of rap music and white noise. After several months of this confinement he slashed his wrists and tried to kill himself. The thoughtful folks at the CIA patched him up and tossed him back in his cell. When he went on a hunger strike, they force fed him.

Finally his mental state deteriorated so much that they turned him over to psychiatrists who brought him back from the edge of insanity only to be interrogated even more. His torture is detailed in the article which I can assure you is not easy to read at one sitting.

What sickens me most is that it is Americans who are doing this to prisoners. We have recreated the Inquisition and many folks like Bashmilah got rounded up by accident. Though he is free today, he still suffers the debilitating effects of the torture and mental illness he developed while incarcerated. His life was turned inside out by my country and that makes me angry and sick.

Read the article if you can stomach it, then call your Senator and Congressperson and demand that this kind of madness stop. And while you are at it, encourage the impeachment of Dick Cheney. It is his policies that have lead to this kind of inhumane acts by our country and it must be stopped.

New Jersey Repeals Death Penalty

This morning as I was driving and listening to NPR, I heard a story that gives me hope for our country. The state of New Jersey has decided to repeal the death penalty and instead opt for a life without parole sentence.

New Jersey becomes the first state in a decade to repeal the death penalty and in the words of the governor of New Jersey, John Corzine, "Today New Jersey is truly evolving. I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes."

It is heartening to see that a few people understand how damaging to society the death penalty really is. State sponsored killing affects everyone, and study after study show that executions rarely serve as a deterrent. Now if we could just get Texas to take that step.

Heterosexual Sex Predator - Another High School Teacher!

Another heterosexual sex predator! These dangerous heterosexuals must be prevented from abusing our children, yet school districts all across America insist on hiring them despite the fact that they are the most likely to engage in child sexual abuse.

Now comes the case of Darcie Esson, 33, a former teacher at Elizabeth High School in Colorado. After spending several hours knocking back drinks with other adult supporters of the high school football team, Ms Esson returned to her room and had sex with one of the team’s players. The problem, he was 17 and legally a minor. I believe that is still a crime even in Colorado.

Why do I bother blogging about this? Well, because any time a gay man or woman is accused of any sexual impropriety, it blows up into a big stink and the right-wing fanatics try to use a broad brush to pain all GLBT people as sexual predators. The truth? Well statistically there are more straight child molesters than gay ones, so I am just trying to level the playing field a little.

Wexler Joins the Move For Cheney Impeachment

Now Representative Robert Wexler is calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney. He jumps on the impeachment bandwagon with Dennis Kucinich and Tammy Baldwin and Luis Gutierrez all of whom feel that the levels of possible criminal activity of the Vice President has risen to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

The Congressman writes in the Huffington Post:

"First, impeachment hearings are only proper when significant allegations exist that the President or Vice-President, or others civil officers, committed actions - within their official duties - that constitute 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors.' The allegations against Clinton - involving a personal affair - never reached this threshold. The serious charges against Cheney involve alleged crimes that are central to his duties of Vice-President; namely war and peace, the widespread violations of civil liberties, and the security of the United States and our covert agents."
Show your support for seeing justice done, join the drive for impeachment now.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Rich Are Getting Richer Faster Than Ever

It’s a great time to be rich in America. People with incomes in the top 1% of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20%. The rich are getting richer, faster than ever.

We are living in the new Gilded Age as corporate CEO’s regularly make hundreds of times the salary of the average worker and the stock market delivers more and more into the pockets of the already wealthy. We even have analogs to the robber barons of the first Gilded Age back in the 1870’s through the 1890’s. Now instead of owning vast railroad and steel empires, they sit in board rooms and manipulate the mass media and outsource jobs away from the least able to protest.

I have no problem with wealth, I do have a problem with the idea of a ruling elite populated by billionaires and their cronies. Right now that’s what we have in this country. Gone is the democracy of equality and fairness, replaced by capitalism run amuck. It’s time someone leveled the playing field a little. That’s why we need a congress and Presidency that will take a long hard look at the tax holiday the rich have been taking at everyone else’s expense.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Even Chinese Feel Their Toys Are Dangerous

So when affluent parents go shopping for toys in China they try to find foreign made products. Why? Better quality and safety, according to an article in the Associated Press. Seems even the Chinese know the toys they make are shoddy and dangerous. Wonder why American companies haven’t figured that out?

Rep. Steve King & Christmas Wishes

Ah Christmas! A time for families, celebrations and remembrances of what the season is really about. In Washington that memory is painfully short, especially among Republican lawmakers, Rep. King (R-IA) who introduced the resolution recognizing Christmas and "the importance of … Christian faith" got into the spirit of the season by attacking the 9 Democrats who votes against his resolution. The problem is his memory, because if I am not correct, Jesus (the reason for the season) specifically told his disciples to heal the sick and feed the hungry.

Rep Steve King was one of the Republicans who voted against expanding the SCHIP program to provide health care for children of lower income families. I guess in his version of the Christmas story, Jesus was born not to a poor unwed mother of a carpenter, but to a rich suburban family in a gated community of North Bethlehem.

May his Christmas be filled with visions of sugar plums dangled just out of reach of the less well-off children he is consciously hurting.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bush Becomes a "Leper" to the GOP

Seems like nobody wants to get close to Bush lately. During the Republican debate yesterday in Iowa, the Republican candidates referenced Mr. Bush exactly “0” times! It’s been quite a while since the sitting president was such a liability. Glad to see it.

Nigerian Churches Hunt Children Accused of Being "Witches"

So here is the danger of exporting a biblical literalism version of Christianity. In Nigeria, hundreds of children are being branded as "witches" and being put to death in the name of Christianity. Sounds like a bad movie plot but it’s real.

In areas of Nigeria as well as other parts of the developing world, "Christian" churches are offering exorcisms and "deliverances" from witchcraft for money. Never underestimate the ingenuity of people to make a buck on other people’s beliefs! The sad part is this time it’s leading to murder.

You will perhaps remember that it is some of the Nigerian bishops in the Episcopal church that are screaming the loudest about ordaining gay priests. It seems to me that in that country fundamentalism, the brand of Christianity that was brought by missionaries years ago has finally reaped its reward. It saddens me that any church dedicated to the "Prince of Peace" could sanction this kind of brutality.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bush Vetos SCHIP - Merry F#@king Christmas Kids!

Just in time for Christmas the Grinch, AKA President Bush, vetoed the SCHIP bill today taking affordable health care away from millions of poor children. That’s the Christian spirit Mr. Bush!

This marks the second time Bush has vetoed the SCHIP legislation. Call the White House and let the president know how you feel about it. 202 456-1414

Ike Turner Dead At 76

Sometimes abusive, sometimes crazy but always soulful, Ike Turner passed away today at age 76. Turner who was once married to Tina Turner is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock 'n' roll record, "Rocket 88," in 1951. In 1959 he met and married Anna Mae Bullock, who he reimaged as Tina Turner. Together through their rocky marriage they produced some of R&B’s most memorable hits including “Proud Mary”.

Tina divorced her abusive husband and went on to continued fame as one of rocks superstars. Ike faded from the spotlight but his contribution to Rock will last for a long time. He is immortalized in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Take a final bow, Ike.

Rep. King And The Tired War On Christmas Fiasco

Well it’s that time of year again.. Shopping, parties, holiday hustle and bustle and of course, “the War on Christmas”. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has taken this opportunity to use the Christmas season for his own political gain. In the holiday spirit he has introduced a bogus resolution to recognizing the “importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.”

In an interview on (where else) Fox News the Representative stated, “ I recognized that we’re a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and we’re coming up to Christmastime. … It’s time we stood up and said so, and said to the rest of America, Be who you are and be confident. And let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.

I find it amazing anyone can get as far as the House of Representatives without knowing or at least having a passing acquaintance with the Constitution. America is not a Christian nation, and never has been. Nobody is waging a war on Christmas, in fact the only problem I see is that Christmas has become a secular holiday with almost no mention of Jesus at all.

Rep. King. Stop posturing with a cross in one hand and the bible in the other, you are a civic official. If you want to be a preacher, there are numerous theological schools who would love having you as a student.

Bush White House Under Court Order Not To Destroy Tapes - Destroyed Them Anyway!

The last time I remember the CIA being in so much hot water was back during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Seems Congress has woken from its long sleep and realized that the foxes are in charge of the hen house. Here is the real kicker, the Bush administration was under a court order not to destroy any evidence of detainee torture and abuse months before the CIA took it upon themselves to destroy the tapes!

The out for the CIA may lie in their secret network of overseas prison that they denied having for so long. The technicality may be that the judge’s order pertained to Guantanamo Bay and may not be relevant to "secret locations" elsewhere. Either way, this whole thing smacks of the kind of stuff you expect to find in an old James Bond flick. The only difference is that there the people with the secret prisons and torture were the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union. Sad that we have managed to drop so far in our tactics that we look more like the old Russia than the new one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Colorado Gunman Was Home-Schooled Fundamentalist

The latest in the Colorado tragedy is that the gunman, Matthew Murray was actually a home-schooled fundamentalist, or at least he was raised that way. Apparently Murray once attended the Youth With A mission training center but was thrown out. Since that time he was sending the school hate mail recently.

The really sad thing is a rant he wrote on a web site for people who have left fundamentalist sects. Murray is reported to have written, "You Christians brought this on yourselves'' and ``All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you ... as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.''

Now I am going to go out on a limb here, but what the heck. When you are raised with a simplistic and "bible literalism" theology, you tend to see everything as either good or evil. Fundamentalist theology rarely accounts for shades of gray, and unfortunately that is what the real world is made of. In the end, when your understanding of spiritual and moral matters has not progressed beyond the "Golden Book of Bible Stories" you are headed for a crisis of faith. Seems to me that is what Mr. Murray had, and having no tools to deal with it, he resorted to the "smite or flight" mentality that these kinds of belief systems create.

What happened is tragic, and perhaps there would be no way to stop this kind of senseless killing, but I have to wonder if instilling the kinds of black and white values in our kids really helps ferment these actions. After all, if you believe that there is only good or evil in the world, then it is very easy to decide your course of action. Destroy evil? And then what to do with the evil that is created by that destruction?

I personally agree with Albert Einstein who wrote that the concept of good and evil is a mistake. Much like in physics there is no such thing as "cold", merely the absence of heat. There is no such thing as "evil", merely the absence of "good" or as I prefer the absence of God. What a better world it would be if we all tried to encourage this view. It would certainly be better to try to bring good to those situations that lacked it than to compound the problem by destroying or killing and decreasing the overall good of the world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"If Dick Cheney Didn’t Have Government Care, He’d Probably Be Dead Now" - New Ad Campaign!

Do you have a health problem? If you are like me and millions of other Americans, you can’t get individual health insurance unless you work for a big company with a group policy. Even then it might be prohibitively expensive. Not so for our government folks like Dick Cheney. They enjoy great health care with no expenses. How come single payer health care works for them, but they always vote against it? Well, that is the question being asked by an ad in several Iowa newspapers today.

The California Nurses Association and the Nurses Organizing Committee are sponsoring full page ads that explain how wonderful government health care can be. They use Dick Cheney as an example. If Cheney had no insurance he would undoubtedly be dead today. Instead he gets the best treatment at no expense to him. The group is urging Congress and voters to pressure Congress for a Medicare package for all Americans. Bravo nurses!

Christian Youth Group Puts Teens In Diapers - Kinky!

You just gotta love the folks at the Mt. Lebanon Young Life club, a nondenominational Christian youth group. These nice folks figured out a great ice-breaker for the teenage charges. Several boys were taken to a restroom and told to undress. There they were dressed in adult diapers, bibs and bonnets. The 14 year old boys were brought back in the room and told to sit in girls laps where they were fed baby food and bottles full of soda. The one who finished their "feeding" first won!

Now that’s my kind of Christian youth activity! With any luck it will set these kids on a nice lifelong path toward a really interesting fetish. Personally I think they should have waited until the boys and girls were over 18, but I guess the Mt. Lebanon Young Life club likes to start them early.

Several parents got upset by the whole matter and called police. What party poopers! Seriously, what the heck were these people thinking. Diapering horny teenagers and sitting them in girls laps? Come on people, I’m kinky, but at least I have the good judgement to know that hormone laden teens are all wrong for this kind of stuff.

Colorado Shootings, Some Thoughts

The recent shootings in Colorado should give us all pause. The police have not released the name of the shooter, but I suspect whoever he was the sad truth is that he figured the answers to his questions could be found at the end of the barrel of a gun. What is it that causes people to think this way? I would put my money on a society that looks for vengeance rather than reconciliation.

There was a joke when I was growing up, "Don’t get mad, get even!" Unfortunately that has become a way of life in America and I fear it will be the kind of attitude that will eventually undermine civility all together. The gunman took the lives of numerous people and I suspect he saw that as some kind of solution. Instead it is just another part of the problem.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Huckabee Advocated AIDS Quarantine

It seems Mike Huckabee has some views that are a bit more radical than he lets on. Take his stance on AIDS back in 1992. Then candidate Huckabee advocated isolating AIDS patients. In response to a question about how to handle the crisis he replied, "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.".

Ah, yes. Leper colonies for the new century! Now Mike poses as the enlightened conservative, but underneath he is still the Baptist Minister who even in 1992 failed to educate himself on the nations most pressing health crisis.

(Thanks for the tip, Joshe)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

John Lennon - 27 Years Ago Today.

"Give peace a chance." That was the message from John Lennon who was tragically gunned down 27 years ago today. His body of work, both with the Beatles and as a solo artist was amazing and every time I hear one of his songs I remember the funny, outrageous and talented musician he was.

Strange how I found myself many years later eating lunch with his son, Julian at the Studios at Las Colinas in Dallas. My office used to be on the studio lot and Julian and his band were rehearsing there. I was walking to the commissary one afternoon and a spunky kid on a skateboard passed by. Julian was headed there, too. I had no idea who he was until the waiter called him Mr. Lennon. Imagine that.

Today, I find myself remembering one of my favorite Lennon songs, Imagine, and I know we all need to hear it again. Thanks John, for everything.

Democrats Wake Up And Demand Investigation Of CIA Torture Tape Destruction

Needless to say, Democratic members of Congress want answers on why video tapes of "enhanced interrogation" techniques (that means TORTURE to us common folks) were destroyed by the CIA. Senator Dick Durbin called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to find out if the CIA violated any laws in destroying the tapes. Other Democrats in the Senate are equally outraged, as they should be.

Meanwhile in Happy Land, press secretary Dana Perino said the she did not know whether Bush knew of the tapes and their destruction or not. According to the Washington Post -

Perino refused to say whether the destruction could have been an obstruction of justice or a threat to cases against terrorism suspects. If the attorney general decides to investigate, "of course the White House would support that," she said.

Why do I suspect that support would be about as robust as the support the White House gave during the Vallerie Plame investigation?

UPDATE: Interesting information from the National Review of all places. Columnist David Frum finds info in Gerald Posner's book on 9/11 that might suggest another reason the tapes were destroyed. They may have pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia, since during interrogation, Zubaydah revealed his connections with a Saudi prince. Not a conspiracy theorist myself, but this one sounds really plausible.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Officials Being Targeted By Anti-Gay Hate Groups

Just when you thought the only really crazy and dangerous homophobes were from Lativia, here comes this news. According to a story on Pam’s House Blend, neo-nazis are targeting openly gay officials. Web sites that cater to these bigots have been posting lists of "List of Open and Unapologetic Faggot Politicians". Worse still the sites are suggesting taking "direct action". "Direct Action" is a thinly veiled name for harassment or worse.

These groups are apparently trying to target openly gay city councilman Mark Kleinschmidt from Chapel Hill, NC and have commented on his blog with openly threatening notes. Signing their names as "Adolf Hitler" and "JewstoryMike" the comments come from members of these hate groups. Thanks for brining this to light Councilman Kleinschmidt!

Personally, this stuff scares me. I know that the current government in Washington will do nothnig to stop these kinds of threats. The dirty secret of the Bush administration is that they are supported by these kinds of hate mongers in their "base". About as base as you can get, too!

DOJ Memos Reveal Bush Making Up Laws Regardless Of Constitution

Want proof of a Bush dictatorship? Here ya go!

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spent hours poring over secret opinions issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) — and he took notes.
Here are a few of the highlights from

1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.

The above are just examples of the way Bush is making up his own rules without regard for the Constitution. Senator Whitehouse is a lawyer, a former U.S. Attorney, a former legal counsel to Rhode Island’s Governor, and a former State Attorney General, so he can recognize when something is legal or not and he was outraged. He made an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate today. Watch it here.

UPDATE: Here is the text of Senator Whitehouse's speech. Read it, it's very important and then call your Congressperson right now!

Bush Approval Drops Among Military Families

President Bush’s approval rating among Military families has started to slide big time. This is somewhat of an anomaly since military families are usually the most supportive group during wartime. About 6 out of 10 families disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war.

The poll was conducted by the LA Times. More info here.

Remembering Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941

It was 66 years ago when the US fleet was devastated by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. That event woke a sleeping public to the reality of war that was already raging in Europe and the Far East. Today a few survivors of that attack will honor their fallen comrades in ceremonies and services around the country.

I visited the monument that stands over the watery grave of the battleship Arizona when I was in Hawaii many years ago. It is a sobering sight, the sunken grave of hundreds of service men and women still leaks oil forming a perennial slick on the water above. What I found strange there was in the souvenir shop. They had color booklets of the memorial with archive pictures of the attack. The first one I picked up seemed somewhat strange, and once I looked beyond the compelling photo on the cover, I found I was holding a Japanese translation of the visitor guide. The USS Arizona is a popular attraction for Japanese tourists. They visit the memorial with the same respect and somber mood as that of US tourists. For Japan, Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of a tragic period in their history, just as it was in ours.

Though we dictated the terms of the surrender, both sides in that conflict endured grievous losses and untold pain. WWII was a tragedy for the whole world not just the losing or winning side. Today, Japan is one of our staunchest allies, just as is Germany. I can only hope that someday we have the same relationship with our neighbors in the Middle East. After all, we share the same planet together, and it gets smaller every day.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hate Crimes Legislation Including Gays & Lesbians Falls By The Wayside

Welcome to the side of the road! If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender American, Congress has just thrown you under the bus. The hate crimes bill which was attached to a military spending bill by Senator Edward Kennedy, failed to garner enough support to pass the House. Though many Democrats were for the bill and even some Republican moderates (if such an animal truly exists) supported the bill, many were worried that voting for it inside a spending bill for the War effort would make them look too hawkish. And so GLBT people once again take a back seat in Congress.

Senate backers of the bill expressed their disappointment at the reluctance in the House but in the end they could do nothing about it. The sad truth is it was the last chance this year to get any meaningful legislation passed to protect GLBT people from hate crimes. Once again GLBT people are second class citizens and once again Congress has shown it has no backbone when it comes to gay issues.

The answer? Elect even more liberal representatives to the House to offset the alleged "moderates" who vote like conservatives. The alternative, moving to Canada, just doesn’t sit well with me, yet.

CIA Destroys Video Evidence of Torture

The lack of accountability in the Bush administration really seems to grow greater every day. On the latest news that the CIA destroyed videotapes of its, "harsh interrogation" techniques used on two Al Qaeda operatives because the tapes, "could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy."

Hell yes it could expose it to legal jeopardy, especially since they were using illegal techniques, otherwise why destroy the tapes. This is beginning to remind me of the films the Nazi’s made documenting their war crimes, never figuring they would ever be called to task for them.

Time for a reckoning for the CIA and the Bush administration. When will impeachment be "back on the table"?

California E-Voting Machines Easy to Hack!

For those still following the E-Voting mess, a group in California managed to crack open Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S voting machines using common office supplies and easily available code cracking technologies. The Red Team researchers proved that electronic voting as it stands now is unreliable and easily tampered with. No surprise there.

Read more about it on ars tehnica.

Pharmaceuticals Made in China May Mean Trouble for U.S.

Here’s a cheery holiday note! Seems since so many people have been worried about tainted Chinese goods, they’ve done a little research. A story in the Kansas City Star notes that ingredients in many drugs come from China. With the cheaply manufactured ingredients China has cornered the market on key parts of drugs like cipro and doxycycline both used in the fight against Anthrax and other potential bio-weapons.

More alarming is the fact that Chinese companies produce almost one third of over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen sold in the US. With the kind of quality control found in Chinese toys, and the non-existent regulation for their safety, should we be worried about their drugs? I do.

Now the most interesting thing to me is this. Our government or at least the Bush government has long claimed that we cannot import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada because of the possibility of poor quality or dangerous drugs entering the country. That argument was specious as best and now just sounds silly when major drug companies herein the US are making drugs with dirt cheap Chinese ingredients. Remember all that lack of quality control on their toys? Why should Chinese drug companies be any different. Time for country of origin labeling on every product sold in the US. If you can’t tell where it was made, don’t buy it!

Alarmist? Consider this quote from the story:

The Chinese and Indian companies are all but exempt from oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Only 13 inspections were conducted in China in 2007,” Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said at a hearing Nov. 1. “At this rate, it would take the FDA 55 years just to clear this backlog.”

Mall Shooter Sought Fame & Forgiveness

In his suicide note he said he was sorry, but he said so much more. The note made reference to not being a burden to anyone anymore and then the disturbing line, "I have been a piece of shit all my life, now I’ll be famous."

With that the boy, 19 years old, became "the gunman" referred to by the news media. This boy, who had just lost his job at McDonald’s took an SKS assault rifle and went down to the mall. There he began shooting people randomly to achieve his fame. What he left was a tragedy of 9 people dead and many more wounded but I will not use his name, that would bring him the "fame" he wanted.

Whatever went wrong in his life, in his mind and in his character, the story says something about us as well. It says that in our society, we can value fame over life, we can value violence as a way to solve problems and we can express our sorrow for our actions, yet still go on to commit murder. Surprisingly, I don’t find this mind-boggling. I see very clearly how a young man could develop these beliefs.

As a society we endorse killing as a way to stop killing. We do this in our capital murder cases with the death penalty and we do this in our politics with "preemptive wars". As a society we value fame over character. We reward the vapid troubled celebrities like Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears, yet find little compassion for people who work 6 to 7 days a week just to make ends meet in our inner cities. As a society, and particularly in some forms of religion, we value hollow words over actions and character.

I do not excuse what this disturbed man did. It is horrible and tragic for him, his victims and their families. I understand how he could have reached the conclusions he did, and that is what bothers me more. I am disturbed by living in a society where his actions might indeed bring him fame and where others might see him as an example of how they too might achieve it. Fame, or in this case infamy should have less value, but only we can weigh the costs. Only we can change our currency from the gilded shine of celebrity to the solid rock of love and compassion.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

White House Reveals Bush Lying Again!

Big news! Bush lied again. This is news? It is when the White House actually comes out and proves he is lying! From comes this stunner.

The White House statement released by Dana Perino tonight also states McConnell told Bush "the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran’s covert nuclear program."

Now even his own staff is calling his bluff. Come on Congress, impeach this liar and be done with it!

35% of Toys On Shelves Have Toxic Levels of Lead!

I am getting tired of the lead paint in toys story, but every day there seems to be another new twist. Today the Michigan-based Ecology Center along with the national Center for Health, Environment and Justice released a study that showed only 20% of the 1200 tested toys showed no trace of lead, and a full 35% had levels over the federal limit. Here’s the alarming part, these toys are still on shelves and no recall has been issued on them.

I suggest if you are buying for a child this Christmas, check out the Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys. ( Though there are not many that are not poisoned, there are still a few that pass muster and you can always buy your kids books! (If they are printed in the US or Europe!)

By the way, guess where most toys are made today? China...BINGO! Time for American consumers to insist that the government enforce product safety standards on imported goods.

Fred Thompson on the NIE - "It's a Conspiracy!"

So Fred Thompson, the great white hope of the GOP has now officially joined the ranks of the conspiracy wackos. His take on the recent NIE announcement that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development program back in 2003? Conspiracy!

He somehow figures that it was just too convenient for the report to be issued when in his words, "…the administration gets to say its policies worked; the Democrats get to claim we should have eased up on Iran a long time ago: and Russia and China can claim sanctions on Iran are not necessary. Who benefits from all this? Iran."

So Iran is somehow behind the report from our own intelligence agencies! Puleeeze! Thompson is living proof that the delusional can rise to high status and that anyone, absolutely anyone can run for President!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

America's First Gay Ambassador Resigns

Back in 2001 when Bush appointed Michael Guest as ambassador to Romania I had hopes that things were changing. At that time when he was confirmed, then Secretary of State Colin Powel even recognized Guest’s partner, Alex Nevarez, during the swearing-in ceremony. Guest was the first openly gay ambassador appointed by the Bush administration. It was a landmark event.

Today that auspicious beginning comes to an inauspicious close. Michael Guest resigned because of the State Department’s failure to treat the partners of gay and lesbian foreign service officers the same as the spouses of heterosexual officers. In his words he publicly lambastes the State Department and its leadership.

"For the past three years, I’ve urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. Absolutely nothing has resulted from this. And so I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner — who is my family — and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary’s leadership and a shame for this institution and our country."

Monday, December 03, 2007

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17, 2007 7:00-8:30pm at Charis Books and More(1189 Euclid Ave NE in the Little Five Points Business District in Atlanta, GA)

December 17th is the 5th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Please join us as we celebrate this important day of action with a sex worker open mic, a few brief video screenings and inspiring conversation on the movement for sex workers rights, dignity and de-criminalization!

This event is free and open to everyone, however to participate as a performer in the open mic, the organizers request that you be a current or former sex worker. For more information, please visit:

Danny Glover - Rescue the Constitution

This one speaks for itself. Unfortunately, FOX refuses to run it.

Kellie Picker - Proof The Some Stereotypes Are Based In Fact

OK, all my feminist friends will kill me for this, but I had to post this because it is absolutely unbelievable. Kellie Picker, who I Googled and found out was a recording artist, appeared recently on "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader". Here is a spoiler...she isn't! This has to be an act because nobody is this clueless!

Wolfowitz Is Back! Now WMD Intelligence Czar

Sometimes the old adage about the bad penny rings true. Take that perennial bad penny Paul Wolfowitz. He left the Bush administration much to the relief of many and ended up at the World Bank. There he became the center of a scandal and was forced to leave. And now, guess what? Back in the Bush administration.

I guess with the Bush folks, there is no such thing as burning a bridge, as long as you are loyal to our glorious leader. Wolfowitz is loyal. So, Bush created a new position that will not require Senate approval, and bingo, Wolfie is back!

The revolving door for criminals and cronies at the White House is a disgrace, but the Congress apparently has no problem with it. Write your Congressperson and let them know what is going on, I suspect they are living in an alternate reality and haven’t got a clue.

What's worse is the position he is in. Head of intelligence for WMD! If you recall he was deeply involved in the pumped up claims of Saddam's WMDs in the lead up to the war. Go figure?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Texas Legislators Defrauding Votes in the Texas Legislature

State Representatives have been voting for each other using the push button system in the Texas Legislature. Crookedness knows no boundries especially in Texas!

Rudy Giuliani TV Ad Parody - Funny and True!

12% of Iraq Police Can't Read - Time To Party!

Glad to see our training has paid off in Iraq. Got this video from an Iraqi blogger who is frustrated by the unprofessional attitudes of the Iraqi police. He said in a recent report released by the Iraq government that a full 12% of the police force is illiterate. How can they check ID's if they can't read.

Enjoy the party!

GOP - Gay Old Party? More Larry Craig Encounters.

At least four more men have come forward and are willing to put their names in print as having had "encounters" with Sen. Craig. Add this to the growing rumors about Trent Lott and the previously outed Republicans and you have to wonder if the GOP is not the party of choice for closeted gay men?

I would be willing to say that if you hear a Republican loudly arguing against gay rights, there is a good chance he is a closeted queer. (I use the term queer not as an epithet, just for your politically correct folks.) Me thinks they protesteth too much!

Bush Claims Records of Abramoff's Visits Are State Secrets

Shhh! It’s a secret. At least that is the word from the Bush administration. Records that might show how many times Jack Abramoff visited the White House are being withheld because according to White House lawyers, "the Secret Service has identified a category of highly sensitive documents that might contain information sought in a lawsuit about Abramoff’s trips to the White House."

Bush is playing the national security card again, and I feel he is over playing his hand. The tired lie that everything that happens in the White House if directly involved in the nation’s security is not working. The White House is the nation’s house, the presidency is our realm, we in a democracy decide what and who is welcome there. It’s time the people spoke and turned the current residents of our house out!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Michigan Loses Its Delegates To Democratic Convention

Another state has lost its delegates to the Democratic Convention. This time it’s Michigan because of moving their primary too early in violation of rules. In addition to having their delegates stripped, these states will see no campaigning by Democratic hopefuls. Candidates have pledged to only campaign in states that abide by party rules.

More on this at Raw Story!

I-35 Is God's Highway? Pat Robertson - Still Crazy After All These Years

This clip from the 700 Club is about a wacky as it gets. As a Christian, I find this kind of simplistic brain dead theology offensive. As a gay man, I find it obscene...but it's still somewhat amusing.

World AIDS Day - Always A Good Time To Remember

On World AIDS day I find myself becoming bit maudlin as I searched the Names Project Quilt online. Finding far too many panels that bore the names of friends I finally decided to just log off and write.

I listened to an interview this morning on CNN with a leader in the African American community talk about how it was time that the black churches in America came forward to help stop the spread of AIDS. I found myself talking to the TV saying that, "20 years ago was the time ALL churches came forward to stop the spread of AIDS." And the story was followed by our glorious leader lying about how well abstinence programs are working.

Sometimes I think we live in some sort of alternate universe? Instead of kicking in the TV, I decided it would be better if I continued to work on behalf of people living with AIDS and continue to try educating my community about safer sex. It might not be as dramatic as putting my foot through the TV, but it just might save a life.

The quilt panel here was for John Thomas, a friend and tireless AIDS activist. God blessed us with his presence.

Bush Uses Another Signing Statement To Circumvent The Law

So our glorious leader has once again used a signing statement, a dubiously legal trick, to assert that he will not obey 11 provisions in the Military Appropriations Bill he signed yesterday. In a typical Friday news-dump, he quietly added the "signing statement" to the bill.

As this president continues to add up these signing statements, which claim executive power over the law of the land, he again breaks the record of any other president in their use. Bush has enacted a de facto dictatorship and Congress is silent. Why? That is the $64,000 question.

Write your Congressperson and ask that question. Of course you may not get an answer unless you include the $64,000. The sad truth is that our government is run by the Golden Rule. He who has the most gold, rules!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Now That's Just Plain Odd - Debbie Reynolds Sings Spirituals!

OK, thanks to the folks at McBlogger for this really weird video. Hope it makes your day!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Updated List of Toys & Products With Lead Paint - Merry Christmas!

Here is the Consumer Product Safety Commissions latest list of lead related recalls:

Children's Metal Jewelry Recalled by Buy-Rite Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Cherrydale Fundraising Recalls Bracelets Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Children’s Metal Jewelry Recalled by Colossal Jewelry & Accessories Due to Risk of Lead Exposure La Femme NY Inc. Recalls Children’s Necklace and Earring Sets Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Pure Allure Recalls Metal Jewelry Sold at Michaels Stores Due to Risk of Lead Exposure to Children Metal Jewelry Sold by Family Dollar Stores Recalled Due to Risk of Lead Exposure to Children Dollar Tree Stores Inc. Recalls Children's Jewelry Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Children's Metal Jewelry Recalled By WeGlow International Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Bendable Dinosaur Toys Recalled by Kipp Brothers for Excessive Lead Key Chains Recalled by Dollar General Due to Risk of Lead Exposure TOBY N.Y.C. Expands Children’s Metal Jewelry Recall Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Children’s Spinning Wheel-Metal Necklaces Recalled By Rhode Island Novelty Due to Risk of Lead Exposure
Lead Paint Slipcovers Used With Boppy Pillows Recalled Due to Choking Hazard and Risk of Lead Exposure Children’s Pencil Pouches Recalled by Raymond Geddes & Co. Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Discount School Supply Recalls Paint Brushes Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Hobby Lobby Stores Recalls Halloween-Themed Baskets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Children's Sunglasses Recalled by Dollar General Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Curious George Plush Dolls Recalled By Marvel Toys Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Schylling Associates Recalls Collectable Toy Robot Due To Violation of Lead Paint Standard Schylling Associates Recalls Dizzy Ducks Music Box Due To Violation of Lead Paint Standard Additional Spinning Top Recalled by Schylling Associates Due To Violation of Lead Paint Standard Schylling Associates Recalls Duck Family Collectable Toy Due To Violation of Lead Paint Standard Toy Cars Recalled by Dollar General Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) International Sourcing Ltd. Recalls Toy Dragster and Funny Car Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Northern Tool & Equipment Recalls “Big Red” Wagons Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Toy Figures Recalled by Henry Gordy International Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) Halloween "Ugly Teeth" Recalled By Amscan Inc. Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Pearl-like Bead Attachment Sold with Girl’s Gift Sets Recalled Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard; Sold exclusively at Limited Too Stores Toys "R" Us Recalls Elite Operations Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard SimplyFun Recalls Ribbit Board Games Due to Risk of Lead Exposure Family Dollar Stores Recalls Halloween Pails Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard DecoPac Inc. Recalls Football Bobble Head Cake Decorations Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Jo-Ann Stores Expands Recall of Children's Toy Garden Tools Due to Violation of Lead in Paint Standard Fisher Price Recalls Go Diego Go Boat Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Albert's Recalls Halloween Skull Pails Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) Antioch Publishing Recalls Additional Bookmarks Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Guidecraft Inc. Recalls Children’s Puppet Theaters Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard J.C. Penney Recalls Breyer Stirrup Ornaments Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard J.C. Penney Recalls Deluxe Art Sets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard J.C. Penney Recalls Disney™ Winnie-the-Pooh Play Sets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® Recalls Travel Art Sets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Riddell Recalls Collectible Mini Racing Helmets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Kahoot Products Inc. Recalls Cub Scouts Totem Badges Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Sports Authority Recalls Aluminum Water Bottles Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Antioch Publishing Recalls Bookmarks and Journals Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard CKI Recalls Children’s Decorating Sets Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard; Sold Exclusively at Toys “R” Us Dollar General Recalls Tumblers Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Eveready Battery Co. Recalls Toy Flashlights Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Kids II Recalls Baby Einstein Color Blocks Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard KB Toys Recalls Wooden Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Guidecraft Inc. Recalls Children’s Puppet Theaters Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Children’s Toy Rakes Sold Exclusively at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores Recalled Due to Violation of Lead in Paint Standard RC2 Recalls Knights of the Sword Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard Target Recalls Children’s Toy Gardening Tools and Chairs Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) RC2 Corp. Recalls Additional Thomas & Friends™ Wooden Railway Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) Fisher-Price Recalls Bongo Band Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) Fisher-Price Recalls Geo Trax Locomotive Toys Due To Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español) Mattel Recalls Various Barbie® Accessory Toys Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard (Español)

Seem like a lot? You bet and this is only the recent stuff. Our friendly trading partner China makes almost all this stuff and obviously has absolutely no safety enforcement. The reason? Profit!

Eventually, we as American Citizens will become weary of having our children poisoned by cheap unsafe goods and will be willing to pay higher prices for toys made with safe materials, maybe even in the good old USA?