ThePoliticalCat

A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bringing Democracy to Wounded Knee


Image from http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistorydecember.htm

Here's what the column "2day in History" in today's Oakland Tribune says:
In 1890, the Wounded Knee massacre took place in South Dakota as an estimated 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops sent to disarm them.
Well, that's kind of a sanitized description of what happened. And, yes, there's disagreement about what happened. But here are some things that aren't mentioned and are agreed upon:
  • The troops were sent to disarm AND move the Sioux to Omaha, Nebraska.
  • It's not agreed what started the shooting. Some say it started with the Indians; others say it was the soldiers. But what is agreed is that chaos and cruelty followed. It left 290 Sioux men, women, and children dead. Approximately 25 soldiers were killed and historians agree that most of these were killed from "friendly fire."
  • The soldiers fired on non-combatants.
Can you imagine yourself raising your rifle and aiming at an unarmed woman or a child ... perhaps many children? And your comrades are doing the same thing?

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2008 Elections: Not Another Dim Bulb!


The last dim bulb we elected, seven years ago, managed to start two wars in two distant lands, alienate a world that had turned to us with empathy and fellow-feeling, lied, lied, lied about everything, and has now officially killed more Americans than Osama bin Laden.

We need to be very careful about the next person who can get us in trouble. Nearly 4,000 dead Americans, and some 40,000 wounded and maimed, over 1 million dead Iraqis, 4-5 million refugees, a broken economy, broken Army, broken National Guard, broken disaster recovery, broken FEC, FCC, and other federal agencies from the Department of Justice to the FDA - let's not do it again, OK folks? We just can't afford it.

Who are we talking about? Why, Mike "Teh Huckster" Huckabee, of course. We do understand that people of a religious bent might feel as if they can't support Giuliani, Romney (except for practising Mormons), or McCain. But if the alternative is Huckabee? Folks, either hold your nose and vote for one of the others, or sit out the election.

Because this dude doesn't know what he's talking about, half the time. Listen to this:
"we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities, except those immediately south of the border."
Say what? Does this man even know where Pakistan is?
A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, however, concluded that, over all, illegal immigrants from the Philippines, India, Korea, China and Vietnam were all far more numerous than those from Pakistan.
From the NYT.

Later, speaking to MSNBC, he said,
the Pakistani government “does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists.”
Excuse me? Look it up on a map before opening mouth and inserting foot, dude. Afghanistan is to the WEST of Pakistan, not the east.

Then, in Orlando, he tells a crowd that he offers his
“apologies for what has happened in Pakistan.”
Either he knows something the rest of us don't, or he is pulling stuff out of his butt. His aides later explained that he meant to say "sympathies."

If he needs interpreters to explain every other thing he says, we're looking at a replay of the last seven years of the Idiot-in-Chief. And we really, really cannot afford that.

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Vermont Town Wants to Arrest Bush and Cheney for War Crimes

This blog salutes the activists in Brattleboro, Vermont!!!! We're with you in spirit!!



Kurt Daims of Brattleboro, Vermont, speaks Friday about his movement against Bush and Cheney. Photo from Brattleboro Reformer/AP

Here's an article from the Associated Press:

Vermont Town Seeks Bush, Cheney Arrests

By DAVE GRAM – 20 hours ago

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes.

A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.

"This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do," said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive.

As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont.

The town meeting, an annual exercise in which residents gather to vote on everything from fire department budgets to municipal policy, requires about 1,000 signatures to place a binding item on the agenda.

The measure asks: "Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?"

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The press office did not immediately respond to an e-mail.

Support for the measure is far from universal, even in Vermont, where the state Senate voted earlier this year to support impeaching the president. Anti-war rallies are regular occurrences here, and "Impeach Bush" bumper stickers are common.

"I would not be supportive of it," said Stephen Steidle, a member of the town's selectboard, which oversees its government.

"It's well outside of our ability. From my perspective, the Brattleboro Selectboard needs to focus on the town and the things that need to be done here."

Daims has been circulating documents that claim the community acquires a "universal jurisdiction" to take such steps "when governments breach their highest duties."

"We have the full power to issue indictments, conduct trials, incarcerate offenders and do all other acts which Independent jurisdictions may of right do," the statement says.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, a Democrat whose office has repeatedly sued the Bush administration over environmental issues, called the move "of very dubious legality."

"I have not seen the proposal, and I've done no legal research on any of the issues," Sorrell said. "But at first blush, if this passed, they'd have really uphill sledding trying to have it be legal and enforceable."

Yes, well, women getting the vote was uphill sledding too, buddy boy.

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Caturday!

It's Caturday, dammit. And I haven't got my latest pix of the Evil Childer transferred from this newfangled digital camera thingummy onto the computer. So, instead, I give you:

WUT�S DAT? IT�Z CATURDAY? OK, I NOT RLY SICK
moar funny pictures

It's rainy, gray, and cold (the heat keeps coming on by itself, and the thermostat is set below 50F, so deity alone knows how frozen our joint and several tuchus (tuchi?) are. Suffice it to say that the Evil Childer, normally only too happy to sproing out of bed and provide endless impediments in our path, are, today, snoring in small clumps.

Gojira and Madu, whose last interaction was a faceful of claws from each to the other, are tightly coiled together, sleeping in sweet comity. Bandicoot only moved twice, for kibble. And Zingiber thinks he is the laptop.

Peace, if only briefly.

It's a day for making stock and hearty soups. On the menu at Casa de Los Gatos, this week: Tom Ka Gai, Thai chicken soup with galangka, lemongrass, lots of hot chillies, coconut milk, chicken thighs, garlic, cilantro, and fish sauce.

Black bean soup with onions, ground cumin, smoked ham, sherry, sour cream and parsley.

Minestrone with three kinds of beans, salt pork, pasta, carrots, celery, cabbage, leeks, basil, garlic, tomatoes, and onions.

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Caturday! A good day to lie down in a warm spot ...


Here are Cosmo and Boomer back to their old selves of snuggling together in peace and warmth. Not a minor blessing in this world of ours.

Cosmo continues to heal nicely and is gaining weight. He is so enjoying being out and about now in the house. And Boomer gets to suck on his flank again, so he's in a good mood too.

Yes, these kittens (!) from day one had this behavior: Boomer sucked Cosmo's flank ... actually the fur ... with great gusto, mind, and Cosmo simultaneously chews on the tip of Boomer's tail ... with equal gusto. At some point it gets too intense for one of them and that one jumps down and walks away. My only criticism of the whole thing is that it is sooooo distracting when I'm trying to read and there they both are right next to me on the couch. Because when I say "gusto" it means the accompaniment of loud noises. I once had a roommate in college. We had bunk beds. And she and her boyfriend would fuck in the bunk bed below mine - while I was up top. Cosmo and Boomer are a little bit like that.

Okay, okay "Overshare!" ...

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Crime: The Trial Of Reginald Potts


Latest update here. To find all posts about Nailah Franklin, type "Nailah Franklin" in the box at the top left corner of this page and hit RETURN. To find all posts about Reginald Potts, type "Reginald Potts" and do not include his middle initial or honorifics. Thanks.

It's often said that a person who represents himself at trial has a fool for a client.

Reginald Potts' hearing in the matter of the murder of Nailah Franklin was supposed to be held today. Mr. Potts is representing himself. The prosecution wants the death penalty. Her family has opined that death is too good for Potts.

No new information was presented, as a result of the postponement of the hearing. Previous coverage is available, with links, here, here, here, here, here, and here. We have been following this story since Nailah was first reported missing. Mr. Potts' preliminary hearing has been rescheduled to January 4th, at which time we will do our best to update those who care about Nailah Franklin (there's a lot of you out there!).

Nailah's family has asked for your prayers for them, and for Mr. Potts' family as well.

CBS has details. Incidentally, WBBM is now reporting that Mr. Potts has eight prior felony convictions. Prior reportage showed five felony convictions and three misdemeanor convictions. However, at the time, there were charges pending in unrelated cases, so it's possible that he may have received additional felony sentences since then.

The Chicago Defender would like us all to remember (and rightly so) that, no matter what his prior criminal record, Reginald Potts has rights, too. This is true. Despite what looks like very convincing evidence, Potts is entitled to his day in court. The prosecution has not yet proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Potts murdered Nailah Franklin.

May she rest in peace.

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LGBTQ: Uruguay Sanctions Gay Unions


Good grief. When is it our turn?

Uruguay has just enacted civil unions for queer folk, giving them the same rights as straight folk when it comes to inheritance, child custody, and pensions. PageOneQ includes this quote:
The law recognizes "two people--of any sex, identity, orientation or sexual option--who maintain an emotional relationship sexual in nature, that is exclusive, stable and permanent, without being united in matrimony."
That's a far cry from the "meretricious relationship" language of U.S. courts, isn't it.

First Nepal, and now Uruguay. When does the U.S. propose to join the ranks of civilized nations around the world and allow two people who love each other to share all the legally granted rights and privileges that so many straight people take for granted now?

Details here.

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2008 Elections: Are You A Muslim?

Because Rudy Giuliani wants the whole world to know that, if you are a Muslim (regardless of whether you're observant, nonpractising, orthodox, or in-name-only), he will "chase you back to your cave."

Don't have a cave? No problem! Just tell Rudy which benighted country you come from, and he might just arrange to bomb caves in it! Then he'll deport your Moose-lamb ass back there, so you can hide in obscurity. Yup. He's gonna get rid of you, that's what his spokesweasel says.

Vote for Rudy Giuliani! He'll make you caves and bomb you right back into them.

Video clip of Rudy's spokesman opening mouth and inserting foot available at Crooks & Liars. I wonder if Rudy remembers there are some 100,000 Americans of Pakistani descent in New York? Or if he even cares at all.

Slimy son-of-a-bitch.

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World: Pinkie Bhutto Update


What a surprise. Not. Bhutto told a supporter in the U.S. via email that if any harm came to her, Musharraf would be responsible for failing to provide adequate security, says Raw Story.

A telling quote from the story:
"Benazir was very concerned by the lack of security that she had on her arrival in Karachi on October 18th," Siegel said. "The circumstances around the attempt on the night of the 18th, the morning of the 19th, was very, very suspicious. ... There was no investigation of that horrendous killing which killed 179 people. She had asked that Scotland Yard and the FBI be brought in for forensic help for the investigation. The government of General Musharraf absolutely refused."
Why refuse top-notch investigators? Unless, that is, you have something to hide.

Raw Story has the video clip of the news program on which this information aired.

Meanwhile, Musharraf's government is now claiming that Bhutto hit her head on a lever in her sunroof while attempting to duck (duck what?), and that caused so severe an injury that her brain oozed out of her skull. Say what? Story's getting less likely by the second, innit?

More interesting -
  • Musharraf's security police, who were supposed to be protecting Bhutto, abandoned their posts shortly before her death;
  • Doctors at the hospital to which she was taken are now saying there was no evidence of bullet or shrapnel wounds to the head and no bullets in her skull or body;
  • No autopsy was performed;
  • She is now buried - it may appear that the burial took place with unseemly haste, but it is customary among Muslims to bury as soon as possible after death.
Still, these are some interesting questions, it should be popcorn-worthy to see Musharraf's spokesweasels attempt to answer them.

So far, said spokesweasels have been working hard at drumming up the old bogeyman, al-Qaeda. Sorry, Perv old boy, but if al-Qaeda could assassinate Bhutto when she was under your protection, and in such a public manner, then your intelligence and security people are not doing such a great job at all, don't you think. What's more, why should al-Qaeda target Bhutto now? Much better for them to target you, and wipe her out at their leisure in the ensuing chaos. After all, all she had was a bunch of supporters "willing to die" for her. You have the army, air force, navy, police, ISI, and who knows what-all else.

And, according to Raw Story:
... it remains unclear precisely who was responsible and some speculation has centered on Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, its military or even forces loyal to the current president Pervez Musharraf. Rawalpindi, where Bhutto was killed, is the garrison city that houses the Pakistani military's headquarters.

"GHQ (general headquarters of the army) killed her," Sardar Saleem, a former member of parliament, told Shah at the hospital.

Whatever the case, Bhutto's precise cause of death may never be known because of the failure to administer an autopsy. The procedure was not carried out because police and local authorities in Rawalpindi did not request one, according to IBNLive, but the government plans a formal investigation why this was the case.
Perhaps the local authorities were told that they'd better not request an autopsy?

Pervy, we suspect your European and American paymasters - who were definitely backing Bhutto over you, since her corruption merely involved money, not arms, ammo and nuclear weaponry - are not buying your story at all. In fact, since they were working hard and paying top dollar to have her jointly holding power with you, they're probably upset enough to turn the money tap off, old chum. Then where do you go?

Islamic nations are pretty pissed off with you, for sucking up to the Chimperor. And as for the non-Islamic nations, the only ones that have any interaction with you are the U.S. and the U.K. The U.S. is the prime real estate for deposed dictators, but you made little georgie mad, as well as royally pissing off a ton of Pakistani-Americans. Besides, people don't mind paying for the hangman to do their dirty work, but nobody invites him over for dinner.

The jig is up, Pervy. Better get ready for the neck-stretching coming your way. At least we won't have to look at your dreadful rug any more.

Interestingly, the U.S. is beating the drum of al-Qaeda so hard, one can only wonder if the chimperor's people were somehow involved in helping with the assassination. Without telling Dumbwit McFuckpants, of course. I don't think Cheney tells george much of anything, just feeds him the results afterwards and smiles a twisted smile watching the idiot dance as he tries to explain the facts.

Raw Story has some of the details.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

LGBTQ: Looks Like We're Not The Only Ones

NOT GAY!!!

Protestant minister Marcos Zapata of Spain is holding seminars in Galicia to "cure" homosexuals, says the Guardian.

Is that like the Richard Cohen school of ex-gaydom, like, "We can make you 'straight' so you can still hang out with lots of men and touch lots of men but have a wife and kids?" Let's see what Fr. Zapata has to say.
... Zapata likened homosexuality to alcoholism and called it an illness, but said healing was possible through family therapy. In his family, he said, he reinforces masculine roles by watching professional wrestling with his two sons. Zapata also advised the audience to "hug your sons as much as you can, because if you don't, perhaps another man will".
Watching professional wrestling? With all those guys dressed in skin-tight clothing and major makeup that just screams "I am so not fucking gay, you sissymary!"? Oh, yeah, that'll make a person straight.

About as straight as Ted Haggard. No, he's straight now, reeelly.

The "hugging your sons" bit? Dunno. Homosexuals are not the same thing as pedophiles, but if you're an adult male fighting off libidinous desires for some hunky young dude, and you start in on hugging your adolescent sons, uh ... not that you'd have sexual desire for them, necessarily, but you want to keep away from temptation, not sport a woody (thereby leading to lots of embarrassing questions) while embracing it. It's probably OK when they're really young, but what happens when they're at the height of their adolescent beauty?

And before anyone starts casting stones, consider that teenage girls are what defines the height of desireability for the slack-jawed male masses, in this culture. Why should things be any different for homosexuals than heterosexuals? Would you want straight fathers hugging their adolescent daughters? Isn't that what creeps most people out about those Purity Ball thingies, men dancing with their adolescent daughters as they would dance with their wives or lovers?

At any rate, the Galician regional government is about to investigate Fr. Zapata to ensure he's not promoting homophobia, and Spanish gay/lesbian organizations plan to sue him.

Pity there's no therapists offering a cure for homophobia.

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Health: Nataline Sarkisyan Update


Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes in the L.A. Times that Nataline Sarkisyan had a successful bone marrow transplant on Nov. 21, and subsequently developed complications that required hospitalization in the ICU.

On Dec. 6, Nataline's doctors put her on the liver transplant list and a liver became available four days later, according to Nataline's family. That would be December 10th. CIGNA proclaimed the liver transplant was an "experimental" treatment and refused to approve and pay for the procedure (according to Nataline's family). As a result, Nataline apparently was taken off the waiting list for a liver transplant.

According to emedicine, the liver is the second most commonly transplanted organ in the human body. The site states, in part:
the Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease (PELD) scoring system [is used when a recipient is] younger than 18 years.

* Status 1 (acute severe disease) is defined as a patient with only recent development of liver disease who is in the intensive care unit of the hospital with a life expectancy without a liver transplant of fewer than 7 days.
That would pretty much define Nataline Sarkisyan. Without a liver transplant she was certain to die. CIGNA knew that when they made the decision to refuse to pay for the transplant. Also, the second most commonly transplanted organ in the human body is hardly "experimental." Of course, the insurance companies apparently reserve the right to define experimental, a definition that they do not share with the public or with treating physicians and other medical professionals.

On December 11th, Nataline's own doctors told the family and Cigna that patients in Nataline's situation have a 65% chance of living at least six months with a liver transplant. They urged CIGNA to reconsider its decision.

On December 14th, another donor match was found for Nataline. CIGNA refused to approve payment, and Nataline's family could not come up with the $75,000 downpayment required for the surgery. Meanwhile, the California Nurses' Association joined with the Sarkisyan family and Armenian-Americans to protest CIGNA's heartless denial of coverage.

The L.A. Times article states:
The family's benefit plan does not cover experimental treatments. But this week, after receiving an appeal from the family and UCLA doctors, the company reconsidered.
Supposedly, a medical decision is based on fact, not emotion or pressure. Either the patient's benefit outweighs the cost of treatment, or not.

For example, had Nataline been 80 years or older, and on the transplant list with a less than 50 per cent likelihood of survival, her family might weep and wail till the cows came home, but the public would most likely not sympathize with them and the "experts" who evaluated her case would be supported by CIGNA and the public at large in refusing her a liver transplant.

But Nataline was only seventeen, and her doctors felt she had a better than 65 per cent chance of survival. So CIGNA knew what they were doing when they refused coverage. They were condemning her to death.
Arlys Stadum, a Cigna spokeswoman, said the insurer submits all transplant requests to physicians with transplant expertise for review. Every request that is refused has been seen by at least one expert physician, she said.
Having been seen by "expert physicians" working for insurance companies, we here at this fine establishment can testify that most of them appeared to be some decades past active practice. Their sole source of income appeared to be the insurance companies, and we're willing to bet that they were not being paid to render decisions that would cost the insurance companies money.

These people, some past the age of retirement, many having little knowledge of the newest information in their field, were being allowed to pass judgment on working medical practitioners who perform medical diagnostics and procedures in their field on a daily basis.

It's like asking your mother the retired librarian her opinion of the latest developments in information management when she hasn't worked in the field since you were born three decades ago. She might well know the theory, but you couldn't rely on her to implement an information management system without training and hands-on time. And nobody dies from mismanaged information.

Six days later at approximately 4:40 p.m. on December 20th, just as the family had decided to remove Nataline from life support, Cigna sent a letter to the family's attorney approving the transplant.
The letter, faxed to attorney Mark Geragos, is stamped 4:44 p.m. Geragos said his staff tried unsuccessfully to reach the Sarkisyans at the hospital. The family said they didn't see the letter until after they removed Nataline from life support at 5:20 p.m.

"They took my daughter away from me," Krikor Sarkisyan, 51, an automotive technician, said at the news conference outside Geragos' downtown L.A. office.

In the letter, Deborah Garnsey, a registered nurse who reviews cases for Cigna, said she had reviewed the family's appeal on Thursday and decided that day "to make an exception in this rare and unusual case."

She noted that the family's appeal was reviewed by an oncologist and liver specialist.

"We are making this decision on a one-time basis, based on the unusual circumstances of this matter, although the treatment, if provided, would be outside the scope of the plan's coverage and despite lack of medical evidence regarding the effectiveness of such treatment," Garnsey wrote.
Shouldn't the treating physicians, and UCLA's top-notch transplant team be the best judges of the medical evidence available, and what weight to accord to such evidence, Nurse Garnsey? How does it happen that a nurse - no matter how intelligent, able, and well-qualified - is empowered to overrule the medical decisions of two "specialists" in the field, two doctors, in "reconsidering" a decision? Also, what "unusual circumstances" are these? The fact that people protested? Does this mean that insurance companies have a policy of denying treatment unless people protest?

The article goes on to quote Dr. John Roberts, chief of the transplant service at UC San Francisco:
"The problem that they got into is, here's a situation where she didn't have very long to live," he said. "Probably in this situation, they're probably better off to say, 'The transplant center really feels like this is the right thing to do, let them go ahead.' "

Dr. Goran Klintmalm, chief of the Baylor Regional Transplant Institute in Dallas, said the operation that UCLA wanted to perform was a "very high-risk transplant" and "generally speaking, it is on the margins."

But Klintmalm said he would consider performing the same operation on a 17-year-old and believes the UCLA doctors are among the best in the world.

"The UCLA team is not a cowboy team," he said. "It's a team where they have some of the soundest minds in the industry who deliver judgment on appropriateness virtually every day."
Of course, when quoting insurance company spokespeople, the reporter fails to question their underlying bias.
Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, said that the case shows how few employers, and even individuals, want to pay for experimental care coverage when they buy insurance, but that when people find themselves in dire health, everyone wants it.
Ms. Ignagni, that's disingenuous, to be very charitable. It's clear that the second commonest organ transplant performed can't be judged to be "experimental." The article in emedicine states that 5,300 such transplants were performed in 2002. As the population ages, more and more people will find themselves needing organ transplants. It's the coming crisis in the healthcare system - a system that pays insurers to stand between sick people and their doctors is inherently unjust.

People realize this, which is why there is such a tremendous outpouring of anger over the very preventable death of Nataline Sarkisyan. Because Nataline is you and me and everyone else who needs health care and pays for health care and finds, at the end of the day, that to save a penny here and a dollar there, the insurance companies which have taken our money for twenty years are quite willing to let us die.

Caveat: The cited articles have been extensively snipped due to space limitations. To view the articles in their entirety, please click the links.

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World: Benazir "Pinkie" Bhutto Is Dead


As tempted as we are to say "La Reine est mort, vive La Reine," we'll hold our tongue this once.

Her autobiographical work, "Daughter of the East," tells you all you need to know about the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Mangoes from Fortnum & Mason, is all I have to say.

On the other hand, the political situation in Pakistan has been steadily spiraling out of control since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto first came to power. Since then, it's been a succession of militarist dictators, coups, assassinations, judicial murders, and mayhem. We would speculate that erstwhile Bush-butt-buddy Musharraf is now in some serious doo-doo. He had this to say:
President Pervez Musharraf condemned the killing and urged people to remain calm so that the "nefarious designs of terrorists can be defeated."
From Auntie Beeb's news story.

Various political panjandrums have already made mouth-noises of appeasement at the populace of Pakistan, who will now decide what comes next. We expect the mullahs to win out. The various governing entities of Pakistan, much like those of the U.S. of late, have assiduously courted religious extremists in order to prevent true democracy taking hold. They are about to reap the whirlwind. They deliberately kept vast sections of the populace in the grip of a fundamentalist-based ignorance, preferring to let the madrassahs give the people a pitiful excuse for an education. Now those same uneducated, fundamentalist, crazed beasts will rise up to bite the hand that feeds them.

It's sad, but to be expected. Freedom is the right of all people. If their desire for it is perverted, then a perverted freedom is what they will strive for.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Entertainment: Movie Reviews

Graufrau's comment on "Curse of the Queerwolf" over at Netflix just HAD to be read. In part:
This movie was so bad, I nearly had a seizure trying to watch the whole thing. My stomach, in a frantic attempt at self-preservation, leapt up through my throat and attempted to throttle my brain into a life-saving coma. Alas, it was not to be!
I am so renting this.

Over at World o'Crap, Scott and S.Z. are plotting a successor to "Better Living Through Bad Movies." Being sick and twisted, I confess, humour gets me hot (and nude and sweaty, but that's TMI already, so never mind) and I think it's the best kind of foreplay, so that's what my partner and I do when we're in the mood: read BLTBM movie reviews to each other. It's a book worth having. You will larf till your pants fall off (which is the whole idea, right?). Give them your suggestions on what movies to viciously rip to shr - er, review, for the promised sequel. You can buy the book from Amazon at their site - this will keep S.Z.'s vast menagerie of rescued beasties alive for a day or more! - AND feel good about yourself.

And finally, an object lesson for rudesbies everywhere:


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Entertainment: It's Boxing Day

So we're just putting up some tidbits for your amusement.

Check out It's A Blunderful Life, you'll be glad you did.

Thanks to World o'Crap for the finding of it.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Xmas, You Louts!


And a very happy New Year!

or as the old fart would say, a very smelly crismas and a happy newt's ears.

Peace on Earth, goddammit, and goodwill to all.

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Entertainment


Your Xmas gift, from Bloomberg: The Chimp-in-Chief plans to spend most of next year schlepping around the world
to rebuild the U.S.'s international standing and create a foreign-policy legacy beyond Iraq.
Did that make you LOL? Huh? Did it?

Just asking. Because you know, we thought it was LOL funny. He's going to SCHWHAAAAT? Does the idiot have any idea how thoroughly unpopular he is? Wait, let's see, where does he plan to go? I mean, the British don't like him much because he dragged them into an unpopular war, saddled them with the lying lapdog Tony Blair, and showed an unforgivable lack of protocol when dealing with the Queen's state visit; the French don't like him much because he and his cohorts bruited about all that anti-French sentiment at the start of the war of occupation in Iraq; the Germans don't like him much because of the completely uncivilized, stupid, ignorant, idiotic behaviour he's displayed both towards Merkel and towards any global initiative, whether it be on warming, war, or trade; and pretty much everyone except maybe the Poles think he sucks ass.

On his last visit to India, the parliamentary representatives of the people threatened to pelt him, so he couldn't speak before them; they tried to let him speak at the Lal Qilla (Red Fort) but that heavily Muslim area was deemed too great a security risk; and he ended up lecturing before the animals in the zoo at the Purana Qilla (Old Fort).

He's not too popular with the Chinese, based on his manhandling of China's prime minister and his attempts to force reevaluation of Chinese currency after borrowing huge gobs of money from them to finance his pet war project.

So where is he going? According to Bloomberg,
The president plans trips to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America,
Gee, at last count we don't recall him being popular at all in Africa, the Middle East, or South America, either.

Maybe he can get Daddy to go with him and keep the bottle away.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, the idea of the Chimperor doing any fence-mending this late in the game, when he's single-handedly succeeded in making this nation almost universally hated and despised just kills us.

We remember 9/12, when millions of people all over the world demonstrated their solidarity with us, mourning our dead and sending love and good wishes to this nation. Six short years later, that's all gone to hell:
`"Bush also has problems at home, but he has even bigger problems with the rest of the world," said Andy Kohut, president the Pew Research Center in Washington.

[...]

A Pew study of public opinion in 47 nations found ``extensive'' anti-Americanism and ``increasing disapproval'' of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy.

A perception that Washington acts unilaterally was shared by 89 percent of the French, 83 percent of Canadians and 74 percent of Britons. America's image in most Muslim nations is ``abysmal,'' Pew said.
You know, if Shrubya the Lesser was a modest, humble sort of feller, he could pull it off. But he's pissy, arrogant, snippy, rude, immodest, uncultured, an absolute boor. He has no cultural sensitivity whatsoever. Chances are, he'll rub some stateman's bald head, or give a shoulder massage to some head of state, or spit breadcrumbs all over some diplomat or politician, as he's done before, and piss off both friends and enemies even more. The dumb schmuck.

This has been your Xmas HO HO HO.

Let's hope no one arrests the idiot on war crimes charges.

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Health Care: Nataline Sarkisyan


More on the case of the callously-killed Sarkisyan child.

Over at DailyKos, Eve Gittelson, blogging as nyceve, has some more details on the case of Nataline Sarkisyan. Including action items. If you're pretty immobile, as certain political cats are (gimpy leg, y'know), here's a way to do something without having to drag your nonfunctioning bits out onto the stage. nyceve suggests you get in touch with the L.A. County D.A.'s office and demand that they file charges against the executives of CIGNA for denying life to Nataline Sarkisyan.

Interesting. Not a peep from the so-called "right-to-life" crowd, whose manic howls were heard around the world when Terry Schiaivo was ready to be put out of her misery. The same people who rushed to her Florida hospice to prevent her from dying in peace are all hiding and quiet now that somebody who really could've used a shot at life lost hers.

If you're wondering why ThePoliticalCat is so all-fired-up on this issue - we lost a sibling many years ago to an insidious form of leukemia. It's terrible when a child dies before their parents. It's terrible to see your parents lose control of themselves, and cry their hearts out. And it's never over. Our parental units still - five decades later - cry over their dead child.

Nataline Sarkisyan's death was preventable. It was not prevented because CIGNA did not want to pay the cost of her care. Apparently, the right-to-lifers only want to save fetii. Once the fetii are born and are real human children, RTLs could care less if they have health insurance, if that insurance gives them any real coverage, or if their insurers condemn them to an early, unnecessary death.

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2008 Elections: Grampa Fred Tries To Breathe A Little Hate

Toad impersonator Fred "Saggy" Thompson

Or maybe that's "Life" - into his flagging campaign.

We thought once Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race due to his underwhelming support, the way would be clear to wipe the nasty racist rhetoric of the "anti-immigrant" cause right off the table. But no, Fred Thompson has taken up the mantle.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Think about what you're asking for. Most Americans are pretty torn about the whole immigrant issue. Pew seems to be showing a 55/45 split. Most Americans would prefer no illegal immigrants and tighter border control. However, nobody wants to pay $20 for a flat of strawberries, and we're all realistic enough to understand that undocumented workers do most of the low-paid unglamorous stoop labour in our fields and vineyards.

Clearly this is an issue that will take time and patience to resolve. No one wants to tear families apart. What do we do with illegal immigrants whose children were born in this country? Can we kick their families out? What if the children are under the age of majority? Who will care for them, and keep them on the right track?

Despite our current Messadministration's propensity for torture, the average American is basically generous. Just because we don't want another 12 million to cross the borders into our country illegally doesn't mean we want to tear babies from their breastfeeding mothers or force sisters to say goodbye to brothers whose only "crime" was to be born in a different country.

And it doesn't help to have the current Republican frontrunners try to criminalize these people, many of whom come to this country to better their lot. Most of them are hardworking taxpayers trying to achieve the American Dream.

Then you have some schlump like Fred "I'm Awake, Honest" Thompson tear himself from his trophy wife's 34DDs long enough to mumble something along the lines of "immigrants deserve some blame for the mortgage crisis." HELLO, you senile fool? What percentage of the total number of ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) were given to people who are in this country illegally?

I'll bet you don't know, do you? Because you're not awake long enough to do the research. Sheesh. The fact of the matter is, Alan Greenspan deserves some blame for the mortgage crisis. A lot of blame. Other good candidates for blame here would be George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and their associated neocon buddies who kept beating the drums for a war in Iraq. A war which has cost close to $2 trillion dollars so far, not including lives lost, equipment destroyed, health care for the wounded and maimed (an ongoing cost), and destroyed families, American and Iraqi. Next in line would be the banks that lusted to get their lunch hooks into the public. They handed out guaranteed-to-blow-up mortgages like Santa with christmas candy. Let's not forget the mortgage brokers and appraisers, some of whom fraudulently inflated the price of properties to get larger loans; the greedy individuals who tried to flip houses for profit, and walked away when they couldn't afford the cost of their greed; and the idiots who pulled out their equity to finance an expensive wedding, a fancy holiday, SUVs or luxury cars, and other such inconsequential fantasies. The real victims are those who refinanced to fund medical bills; and the elderly or poor who were cheated by unscrupulous criminals.

What percentage of these folks would you say, Mr. Thompson, were in this country illegally? We here don't really know - and we suspect you don't either. But we're willing to bet it was a very very small fraction of the total. From Raw Story:
Thompson's anti-immigrant rhetoric -- which apparently wasn't limited just to those people who enter the US illegally -- came as the former Tennessee senator and Law & Order star tried to breathe some life into his lackluster campaign. His attempt to come across as the "true conservative," came just days after the virulently anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo withdrew from the presidential race, and it marked a 180-degree switch from his attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters at a Spanish language debate less than three weeks earlier.
Can we say "Flip-floppin' Fred"? You bet we can. And furthermore:
For the record, a confluence of negative economic factors, including the burst of the housing bubble, led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis that has shaken the US economy. Language barriers are not widely believed to be among its leading cause.
Raw Story has the rest.

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Now here is something encouraging for the New Year

Andrew Sullivan wrote a good article published today for the Times Online titled "The Torture Tape Fingering Bush As a War Criminal." Now unless there is more than one Andrew Sullivan running around, then Andrew is a libertarian conservative who has also written for Salon in the past and he nails Bush as a war criminal in this article. Andrew approaches the issue of the destroyed torture tapes from an angle I hadn't quite thought of. Mr. Sullivan asks:

"What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?"

There are some finer points in his article that I disagree with, such as calling Congresswoman Jane Harman, "the respected top Democrat."

Jane Harman is the woman who sponsored the thought crime bill, HR1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism act, an act as unAmerican as an act can be.

But it is encouraging to see commentators coming from somewhere other than where I sit coming out and calling Bush exactly what he is. A war criminal. Happy Holidays and hopefully happier times to come.

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Blogging

You may have noticed that your hosts at this fine establishment took yesterday off. Yes. And while we were napping, as it were, at the helm, Santa Fixer came along and POW! tagged us. So pardon our dust while we post the results.

Da Rulez

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Gift bags unless the spouse wraps.

2. Real or artificial tree?
No tree. Plenty enough all around the house, don't need one inside.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Hah!

4. When do you take the tree down?
Fixer sez: Normally, since I don't put one up (godless, atheist, heathen, infidel bastid) [snips].
So I sez: I'm with Fixer on this one.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Yup. In small quantities.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Scrabble set of revered memory.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Did one one year, using animals for the various figures. Joseph was a buffalo, and Mary was a rhino. I think the three wise men were a camel, a tiger, and a lion. And of course, we had two cats in there as well. All done with the assistance of The Divine Madame X.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Corky's euthanasia. That was a sad Xmas.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail, but we've been slack lately.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Something scary and dark - Aliens, or like dat.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
We try to get stuff like memberships to the SPCA, subscriptions to Science News or Funny Times, and the odd thing that we pick up over the course of the year. Allergy to crowds absolutely precludes shopping any time between mid-October through January.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Anything that doesn't try to eat me first. (Fixer, we must be twins separated at birth.) I draw the line at eyeballs and bad cooking.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
No lights.

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
Adeste Fideles, or any Latin hymns, really.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Drive up to the inlaws.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Hmmm ... On, Donder, On Blitzen, On Master and Visa? (Filched, of course, from Fixer.)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Cat. They just love running up trees. I used to worry about getting them down, till a nice young fireman assured me that no one had ever found a cat skeleton in a tree.

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Christmas Day after lunch, which is served around 4 pm.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The commercialism and the crowds and the dreadful music.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
No.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Jeebus, what am I, stupid, I'm going to leave stuff for something I don't believe in? You can bet your ass if I find someone schlepping down my chimney he'll be leaving in cuffs by the front door with an ass shot fulla holes.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
Anything modern. I like the fusty old songs and hymns.

23. Favorite ornament?
What, with five cats, we're gonna have ornaments?

24. Family tradition?
Ever since we started driving up to the inlaws, the day has been spent getting thoroughly soused. Now we have to cook dinner as well, so there's the obligatory nervous shrieking about all the stuff to schlep up there (they're not the best cooks, they think pepper is a spice), plus enough wine to keep the old girl soused. And books to read while sitting through the endless blather.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes. I actually do like midnight mass on Xmas Eve, especially if its in Latin. Not much patience for religious flummery at other times of the year, but there's something beautiful about lighting the candles at the statue of the Virgin and the procession around the old church.

Hmmm ... Who to tag?

Sister Nancy Beth Eczema

NTodd at Dohiyi Mir

Maru the Crankpot over at WTF Is It Now?

PSOTD

Biomesblog

Skippy!

The Strange Death of Liberal America

Tag, you're it!

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Health Care: Nataline Sarkisyan


More details are coming out about CIGNA, the company that insured teenaged cancer survivor Nataline Sarkisyan.

For background on Sarkisyan, go here.

Her family has hired attorney Mark Geragos to represent them in their suit against CIGNA for her wrongful death. Geragos plans to refer the case to the prosecutor for criminal charges for either murder or manslaughter. He alleges that the reason the insurance company waited so long and then changed their mind was that they were reasonably certain that by the time they changed their mind and approved the transplant, the girl was too close to death to receive the transplant.

ABC has the details.

If you're still furious about the unnecessary death of teenaged cancer survivor Nataline Sarkisyan, you might want to read this post which includes a very interesting letter from a surgeon. He's absolutely right. Certain members of this household were required to submit to insurance company "experts" to determine whether their injuries were as bad as they claimed. The so-called "experts" had shoddy little offices in which they did not practice medicine (at least two of them looked as if the last time they practised medicine was over a decade ago; the third spent his time flirting with his receptionist and giving us a very cursory and extremely rough examination, which he then had the gall to lie about in his report). Their sole income appeared to derive from "examining" patients who required procedures for which the insurance company did not want to pay.

I'm sick of the health care system that would deliberately kill someone's child. But there are probably millions of us out there who at one time or another have been screwed over by these companies which reward their shareholders with big profits and pay their CEOs more than any other industry. Think of that. The bloated salaries of most CEOs in other fields are significantly smaller than the bloated salaries of CEOs in the "health care" industry.

They're killing us. It's time to fight back.

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Caturday!

I spy Caturday, dammit.

I spy Caturday
moar funny pictures

And the sun is shining for the first time in days, so I'm off to examine my garden. Brrr. Happy solstice, all, and all the joys of the holiday season - such as fighting with the family, getting overly drunk, being exhausted from cooking, penniless from shopping, and overstuffed from the groaning board!

Bwahahaha!

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Politics: Presidents and Serial Killers

While rooting around in Watertiger's comments, today, we came across an interesting link which led us to this:



Does it bother you that the current occupant of the highest office in the land bears such an eerie resemblance to a famous serial killer?

A link on the site led us to this article in the Guardian about Bush. It's a good article, but we disagree with one premise, that Bush believes his enemies are evil. We don't think Bush believes anything. We think he is so consumed by rage and fear that he spends every minute of every day distracting himself from his inner landscape, so that he never truly has to think or feel. Because if he allowed a thought or feeling to escape from his tight control, all the rest would follow, and then that country-hick facade would crumble to be replaced by the terrified, empty, furious, worthless little man that he truly is. And he doesn't want anyone to see that. See what we mean?


Another thing: why do the British papers have so much better coverage of American news?

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Friday, December 21, 2007

2008 Elections: Entertainment

Just a little something I filched from Fixer & Gordon's because I liked it so much.



Good Solstice, all. Tomorrow, the days start growing longer!

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Gay Rights: Nepal


Auntie Beeb tells us that the Supreme Court of Nepal has ordered the Nepali government to strike down laws that discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, and that sexual minorities should have the same rights as other citizens.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex are natural persons irrespective of their masculine and feminine gender and they have the right to exercise their rights and live an independent life in society."
Great news! I'll drink to that.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is apparently willing to ally itself with fundamentalist Muslims in Iran to deny rights to LGBTQ people. Thanks a lot, Condi. I wish somebody would pick up on the fact that Condi is a dyke who is invested in making life difficult for other sexual minorities, just like a lot of other Republicans. Let's not even talk about how this purported woman turned over Jamie Leigh Jones' rape kit to the same company that threatened Ms. Jones.

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Health: Nataline Sarkisyan


If you've been following the story of teenaged Nataline Sarkisyan, then you know that CIGNA, her health insurance company, refused to pay for her liver transplant (after promising to do so and finding a match), and finally, after a great deal of pressure, reversed its decision.

Too late. The teenager passed away last evening.

Nataline's family say that CIGNA had agreed to a liver transplant some time ago and had found a match for Nataline. Thereafter, Nataline, who was battling leukemia, received a bone marrow transplant from her brother. Shortly afterwards, she developed a lung infection, at which point CIGNA apparently decided a liver transplant was too risky. Nataline's doctors then wrote CIGNA stating that the liver transplant was essential. CIGNA dragged its feet until yesterday, when they finally reversed their decision about the transplant, after demonstrations by nurses and teenagers sympathetic to the Sarkisyans' plight. Nataline had spent the past week in a medically-induced coma to stabilize her while waiting for the liver transplant.

If you haven't been following the story, ABC has the details.

To put this into perspective, CIGNA CEO H. Edward Hanway made $13+ million a year in 2004. (Here's a fine article on HMO costs and CEO pay.) Last year, his pay was more than double that figure.

In fact, he could probably well afford to pay Nataline Sarkisyan's medical costs out of his own wages. By the way, wages ain't everything Mr. Hanway gets. He also gets tons of stock options, bonuses, freebies, and other compensation - totaling $78.31 million over the five-year period from 2001 to 2006.

Health "care" in this country is an obscenity.

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Politics: Good Grief!


What is it with the goddamned Republicans? Is every single one of them a mother-raping, father-fucking, sister-sodomizing, dog-beating closet pervert?

As animal lovers, we at ThePoliticalCat are truly disgusted with these stories that keep coming to light, but slipping under the radar of the Mainstream Media. First it was Bill Frist taking cats home from the pound on the pretext of adopting them, befriending the poor creatures, then cutting them open for surgical experiments. Next it was Judith Nathan Giuliani, cutting living dogs open to demonstrate surgical tools. Then it was Willard "Mitt" Romney tying the family dog to the roof of the car so the poor beast could shit itself with terror, and recounting the story as an example of his cool head in a crisis (Jeebus, don't manufacture the crisis so you can deal with it, fool!).

Then it was Mike Huckabee's dog-torturing son, strangling some poor stray mutt with its leash, slitting its throat, and stoning it to death - while purportedly acting as a counselor to a group of Boy Scouts.

Today's revolting animal scandal of the day is John McCain's national finance co-chair - killing a dog, ripping out its insides, skinning it and prepping it for barbecue.

That is simply unbelievably sick. Why? Because that dog was undoubtedly someone's pet. Because cruelty to animals often spills over into cruelty to other humans. Because killing a dog with a two by four cannot possibly be humane. Argh. Lambert has all the revolting details over at Corrente. Including other criminal behaviour on the part of this revolting excuse for a human being, Frederick V. Malek. The same Frederick V. Malek who has long been accused of anti-Semitism and bigotry in previous political offices.

To quote Lambert:
These are not “isolated incidents.” We’re looking at the Republican aristocracy here, and animal abuse is pervasive among them and their families. It’s no wonder that they turned us into a nation of torturers.
I hadn't thought of it that way before, but now the thought is inescapable. These people make me sick.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Donate to the Anti-Religious Wingnut Cause Now!


It's so easy and enjoyable.

All you have to do is go buy a ticket for The Golden Compass.

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World: Snippets


The Supreme Court of India just overturned the archaic British-era law that prohibits women from working as bartenders. A lucrative new opportunity for women! Details at the NYT.

Approximately 100 children between the ages of five and 15 years have disappeared from displaced persons' camps housing Reang tribespeople. The Reang fled their homes in the neighbouring province of Mizoram under pressure from the majority Mizo tribes. Auntie Beeb states that 5,000 women have also disappeared from various such camps over the past decade. Most of these tribal people are illiterate, and it is believed they were tricked into signing away their parental rights. Their children have reportedly been taken for the sex trade or for cheap labour. Some of the children have apparently been traced to the Ananda Marg, a secretive Hindu cult that is involved in various, often illegal, acvtivities.

China and India are holding joint war games as part of their joint fight against terrorism. Despite a border dispute which once marred their friendly relations, the two great nations are showing every inclination of strengthening their ties.

Workers in Macau protested the lack of democracy in the PRC-controlled island that prevents the workers from enjoying the economic benefits of Macau's current boom. Protests are uncommon in the island, although one occurred earlier this year against the importation of cheap foreign labour.

Lee Myung-bak is the new President of South Korea. Unfortunately, he appears to be a hardliner and a conservative, which means difficulties in improving relations with North Korea. Even more unfortunately, the South Korean National Assembly has voted to appoint a special counsel to look into charges of fraud against Mr. Lee. Although he will not automatically lose his post if convicted (unless for treason), a conviction would weaken both the President-elect and his political party.

Thailand is holding elections this Sunday, the first since the Thai generals ousted the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra. Martial law is still in effect in 31 of the country's 76 provinces, mostly those in the North. The Northern provinces strongly support Thaksin, whose populist policies awoke the sleeping rural giant and brought enormous change to Thailand. Regardless of what happens in the elections, the ultimate result will be a coalition government composed of several different parties.

Jacob Zuma is the new President of South Africa. A great achievement after years of imprisonment by the former apartheid government and many other dangers that he has overcome. However, what does it mean that South Africa's Chief Prosecutor, Mokotedi Mpshe, has just announced that he has a substantive case against Mr. Zuma on charges of criminal corruption, and he is ready to go to court? Either way it bodes ill for the country. If the prosecutor proves his case, Mr. Zuma will be forced to step down and a new head of state must be chosen. If the prosecutor fails to prove his case, it will still mean a lengthy legal battle, and a cloud may continue to hang over the presidency.

Australian police, acting on a tip from Interpol, have arrested 31 men on charges of child pornography. They identified one child as being "at risk" and removed the child from further harm.

Lex the German Shepherd bomb-sniffing dog has officially been released from duty. He is retiring to the home of his former handler's family. His handler was killed on duty in Iraq.

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Science: Fall In Love


The NYT carried a wonderful story today about physics professor Walter H.G. Lewin, who teaches at MIT.

Professor Lewin's mission, as he sees it, is to help people fall in love with physics. He does this with amazing real-life demonstrations of the principles of physics, in video (and other medium) lectures. And MIT has very kindly, and in the spirit of international comity and the increasing of intelligence, made his teachings available over the Net.

Together, of course, with a lot of other teachings, on a lot of other subjects, by a lot of other people. So, if you love learning and want to exercise your biggest muscle (OK, it's not really a muscle), your brain, leg it, as it were, over there forthwith, and enjoy!

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World: Quake Hits Turki


An earthquake measuring 5.7 rocked Turki's capital city, Ankara, on the first day of the Eid festival. CNN has the details.

Unsurprisingly, the USGS rates it at 5.3. I sense a trend here (see previous post on New Zealand's earthquake).

The quake was the third of the day, the other two measuring 3.9 and 4.0 respectively, and was centered in the town of Bala, approximately 50 miles south of Ankara. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.

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World: Big Earthquake Hits New Zealand


Beautiful New Zealand, scenic site of the shooting of fave movie(s) Lord of the Rings, experienced a 6.8 earthquake today, according to its government. The USGS rates the earthquake at 6.6. Although we'd like to take this opportunity to say, based on our experience, that it really don't make much difference what they rate it at, once you hit 6 on the seismometer. It's just a question of whether you can get your stomach out of your teeth and your eyeballs out of the ceiling, at that point.

CNN has the details. The quake apparently originated in the coastal city of Gisborne, which reports some structural damage to buildings, but no apparent deaths or serious injuries. Communications are currently described as "patchy," so if you know someone in or around that area, you might want to wait a day before calling and overloading the phone lines.

No danger of a tsunami, thank Poseidon.

Aside: Those who know us know that we live in a disaster-prone area, and each time one hits, the phone lines are affected. Naturally, everybody inside and outside the disaster zone wants to reassure/contact friends on the other side. Unfortunately, this causes problems. Suffice it to say that when the last major disaster hit (thanks, CNN, for the coverage!), the Authorities (cops, FD, whoever-all wears dem big hats) unanimously requested that frantic callers limit their efforts so that disaster response could take place. While our friends were looking at round-the-clock TV coverage of our stricken homebase, we were not able to get an outside connection to reach them, nor were they able to call in and find out whether we survived.

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Vatican: Open Mouth, Talk Nonsense ... Again!


So, the Vatican once again opens mouth and talks nonsense. Reuters:
The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God.
Of course, extreme capitalism ... monopoly capitalism ... disaster capitalism ... this promotes warmth and hope and a belief in God, does it?
The Vatican newspaper [referring to l'Osservatore Romano] called the movie "the most anti-Christmas film possible" ...
Oh, realllllllly now. What about Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? ... or Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem ... no? Then what about .... Debbie Does Dallas? Will Smith's new one I am Legend ... where he fights off vampires? Alvin and the Chipmunks? Oh, yes ... Alvin shows great disrespect towards male authority figure. Very very ... very anti-Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Iowa Voters' Number 1 Issue


Today the host of NPR's Marketplace was talking to a financial/elections 2008 pundit and they were talking about how there's been a shift in what voters in Iowa are asking about. It used to be that the war was the number one topic but now it's the economy.

FOLKS, THE WAR AND THE ECONOMY ARE LINKED. YOU MIGHT EVEN SAY THAT THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME TOPIC.

There, I got that off my chest. Can someone please explain why some people think that they are completely different topics? And as Denzel said so perfectly in Philadelphia: Now, explain it to me like I'm a four-year old.

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Let's get to know Mike Huckabee


Republican presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, speaks to supporters in Asheville, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007.(AP Photo/Alan Marler)

Reported recently in an article in the Sacramento Bee:

Huckabee told a gathering of Christian South Carolina conservatives recently that he had the toughest position against gay marriage of any Republican candidate.

"Unless Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain to tell us something different, we need to keep that understanding of (heterosexual) marriage," he said, referring to the movie about two gay cowboys.

And in a Dec. 9 release from the Associated Press:
GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Sunday he won't run from his statement 15 years ago that AIDS patients should have been isolated.

Huckabee acknowledged the prevailing scientific view then, and since, that the virus that causes AIDS is not spread through casual contact, but said that was not certain. He cited revelations in 1991 that a dentist had infected a patient in an extraordinary case that highlighted the risk of infection through contact with blood or bodily fluids.

"I still believe this today," he said in a broadcast interview, that "we were acting more out of political correctness" in responding to the AIDS crisis. "I don't run from it, I don't recant it," he said of his position in 1992. Yet he said he would state his view differently in retrospect.

Huckabee, as a Senate candidate that year, told The Associated Press that "we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague" if the federal government was going to deal with the spread of the disease effectively. "It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents," he said then.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," the former Arkansas governor denied those words were a call to quarantine the AIDS population, although he did not explain how else isolation would be achieved. "I didn't say we should quarantine," he said. The idea was not to "lock people up."

Huckabee stated his 1992 positions in an AP questionnaire in which he also called homosexuality "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle."

Okay Log Cabin Republicans, vote away!

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Women's Rights: Update on Jamie Leigh Jones

Photo from ChinaDaily.com

Channel WFAA of Dallas/Fort Worth has this update on the Jamie Leigh Jones case. Apparently, all KBR/Halliburton employee contracts contain a clause requiring arbitration instead of litigation of any claims the employee might have against KBR/Halliburton for violation of laws or their rights. This has caused some concern, and Ms. Jones made a good argument at the Congressional hearing today that cases such as hers are ill-served, at best, by arbitration.

WFAA then tells us:
A National Employment Lawyers Association analysis found that an arbitrator ruled in favor of Halliburton 82 percent of the time between Jan. 1, 2003, and March 31, 2007.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., has sponsored a bill that would make such agreements invalid in certain cases.

"The deck is stacked against Ms. Jones and others who find themselves trapped in this system, a system that strips citizens of their rights to a jury trial and offers no meaningful avenue of redress," Johnson said.
The rapists, in the course of the rape, ruptured Ms. Jones' breast implants. They must have used a great deal of force - on an unresisting, drugged, unconscious woman. For WHAT?

Jones has started a foundation to help women like herself, more power to her. China Daily reports:
Ten other (female employees of KBR/Halliburton) reported their stories through a foundation Jones began to help women with similar experiences.

[...]

Jones submitted a copy of an affidavit from KBR human resources supervisor Letty Surman to the committee, in which she said she was aware of the work environment.

"During my time as an HR supervisor, I was aware that a lot of sexual harassment went on — it was our major complaint. ... I am aware that Halliburton has a policy of sweeping problems under the rug," Surman said in the affidavit.
And KBR/Halliburton spokesworms have the unmitigated gall to claim that Jones' allegations are 'without merit.'

I gotcher merit right here, you weaselly, stinking, foul, necrotic blivets.

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Women's Rights: KBR Rape Scorecard

So the House Judiciary Committee's appropriate subcommittee held a hearing today, CNN reports, on the complaints filed against KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary that has been the recipient of so much American taxpayer largesse in the form of no-bid contracts in Iraq. Which, we understand, has nothing at all, nothing whatsoever (the point cannot be stressed firmly enough) to do with the fact that the current Vice-President of the U.S.A. was, in a previous incarnation, the CEO of Halliburton. Pure coincidence.

The Justice Department did not even bother to send an attorney to answer the Committee's questions and to look the victim Jamie Leigh Jones in the eye. Incidentally, some of the knuckle-draggier of the knuckle-draggers in that series of tubes comprising the Internets have claimed that Ms. Jones was filing a lawsuit against Halliburton/KBR because she hoped to get money from them.

We at this blog opine as how Ms. Jones would probably settle for beating each and every one of her rapists within an inch of their lives, followed by the administration of similar corrective measures upon each and every official at Halliburton/KBR who was involved in the decision to cover up this crime, up to and including Dick "Head" the Veep himself.

Apparently, Ms. Jones was only 19 at the time the crime occurred. Imagine, if you will, your tender teenaged daughter in the hands of these thugs and you will perhaps understand the simmering rage about this crime and its coverup. Imagine your kid being tossed into a shipping container with no food, water, or telephone because she committed the "crime" of being a girl, a naive young girl in her first job.

Ms. Jones lucked out when one decent human being surfaced among the subhuman slime assigned to guard her. He let her use a telephone, she contacted her father, her father contacted his Congresscritter, Texas Republican Ted Poe.

To his credit, Poe called the State Department and requested immediate intervention. The State Department complied, but turned over the rape kit with the evidence that might have been used to prosecute the rapists - to Halliburton.

Poe testified before the committee, saying:
It is my understanding that an Assistant US Attorney interviewed Jamie and that a State Department Special Agent investigated her case. However, the Department of Justice has not informed Jamie or me of the status of a criminal investigation against her rapists. It is interesting to note that the Department of Justice has thousands of lawyers, but not one from the barrage of attorneys is here to tell us what, if anything, they are doing. Their absence and silence speaks volumes about the hidden crimes of Iraq.
In early 2006, Ms. Jones filed a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC examined the case and rendered a decision in her favour, writing a Letter of Determination that stated Jamie was sexually assaulted by one or more KBR employees, that physical trauma was apparent, and that KBR’s own investigation “was inadequate and did not effect an adequate remedy.”

Still no action from the Justice Department or the State Department. Two years have passed since the crime occurred, and Halliburton/KBR's only response to multiple allegations of rape (details on the other victim here) has been to attempt to force the cases into arbitration, which means, of course, that there will be no public record that other victims can use to assist their cases (depend on it, there are other victims); no discovery process that Ms. Jones can use to prove her case; and no right to appeal.

At today's hearing, Rep. Poe (a good Texas Republican, for those who are trying to allege that this whole thing is a smear by lefties on the purportedly good name of Halliburton/KBR and the Veep) stated that three other women have since contacted his office with similar allegations.

What, isn't it enough for KBR/Halliburton to be screwing the American taxpayer, the nation of Iraq, the Iraqi people, and deity only knows who else? They have to be raping their own employees too? And then screwing them over with arbitration hearings?

Take the bastards to court, establish their revolting practices, strip them of the right to arbitration, and render a judgment against them big enough for them to feel some real pain. The kind of pain these women, their families, and friends are feeling. That would be justice.

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Environment: Alternative Fuel - Human Fat?


Wow. We here know so many people who would think this was a good deal - you know, lose fifty pounds, fuel your monthly commute. At least, if if really did work that way, it would sell like ... like ... hotcakes?

Okay, that was just wild woolgathering on our part. The fat, I mean, fact, of the matter is, someone has designed a boat powered by biodiesel, which includes human fat. The fat was removed by liposuction from some willing volunteers, and 10 litres of human fat is equal to 7 liters of biofuel.

Unfortunately, that only takes you 15 km. But we sense a, um, killer product on the horizon. Self- and other-lipectomy as car fuel. Heavier friends could be persuaded to donate and receive, oh, maybe half the proceeds? We could all be trained in liposuction techniques.

Of course, the downside is, overweight folks would be mugged for their avoirdupois. But the upside is, there would be lots of slimmer people, you could eat whatever you wanted with the excuse of turning it into biofuel for your car, and people would stop obsessing about weight and size. Or not.

Details from The Daily Mail via The Huffington Post.

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