Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jesus saves!

Good news on global warming--UPDATED MAY 10

A lot of people have been worried about global warming, and we can see why by looking at this graph. It's obvious that as the number of pirates in the world has been going down, the average global temperature has been going up.

Now people who are concerned about global warming can take heart. You may have seen this story: US, France Push UN to Tackle Pirates. It was precipitated by a recent incident in which pirates off the coast of Somalia, a country with no navy, and essentially no government, had taken over a fishing boat. Fortunately the incident was resolved nonviolently, but there is an important point here:

According to a report from the International Maritime Bureau, piracy is on the rise, with seafarers suffering 49 attacks between January and March - up 20 percent from the period last year.

Pirates boarded 36 vessels and hijacked one, the report said. Seven crew members were taken hostage, six were kidnapped, three were killed and one went missing. Most of the attackers were heavily armed with guns or knives, the report said.

Nigeria ranked as the No. 1 trouble spot. India and the Gulf of Aden tied for second, with each reporting five incidents. Nearly two dozen piracy incidents were recorded off the coast of Somalia since January 2007, according to Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based Seafarers Assistance Program.

That's right--piracy is on the rise! And you know what that means: polar bears, narwhals, and people living in coastal areas can breathe a sigh of relief.

If the pirates are back, don't we all feel a little safer?


At least one guy is trying to do what he can:

Man refuses to take down pirate flag

ASHTEAD, England, May 6 (UPI) -- A suburban London man said he will not take down a pirate flag he erected for his daughter's birthday party, despite threats of legal action.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More campaign finance from Mr. Clean

McCain Used Wife’s Jet for Little Cost

Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

I know I've said it before: we need to make sure people see what McCain is really like.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More religion in America

I got this from PZ, whom you should read regularly, so this is just a quick note to tell you about the innovative plan the mayor of Birmingham, Ala. has come up with to fight crime in his city: a day of prayer, dressed in sack cloth and ashes.

The day of prayer was yesterday, so I guess we'll be seeing the news of the dramatic reduction in crime pretty much immediately.

On Nation, Under God

It's a great country, isn't it?

I actually mean that, although sometimes what goes on makes you wonder. For instance, we have another example of what it's like living under theocratic rule. In Fort Riley, Kansas, a soldier has had to sue the Army because when he held a meeting for atheists and freethinkers, an officer attended, berated the atheists who organized the meeting, and threatened that they would not be promoted or even permitted to re-enlist:

Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats

FORT RILEY, Kan. — When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Now I'm pretty sure that to be an officer in the army you need to swear an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. And, having taken two constitutional law classes while I was in law school, there is no question in my mind that freedom of religion is one of our fundamental rights. At a bare minimum, the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing you to subscribe to a religion, any religion. We've seen it at the Air Force Academy, but fortunately there is an organization dedicated to standing up to the rights of atheists in the military.

And maybe, just maybe, this brave soldier will win his case.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sex discrimination? Republicans say "Thumbs up!"

Picture this: you're a female employee, and you were hired to do the same job as the man sitting next to you, only at a dollar an hour less. Every week you both get paychecks, and every week his is bigger than yours. That means every time you get paid, your employer discriminates against you by paying you less than what they pay your male counterpart, right?

Well, not if you look at the world the way the Supreme Court looks at it, or now, the Republicans in the Senate.

The U.S. Senate had a chance this week to fight against sex discrimination in employment by reversing the Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of workers to sue to redress discriminatory pay decisions by their employers. Since the Republicans never seem to tire of telling us how well they treat women, you would think that they would leap at the chance, right?

Oh, but wait, there's another player involved! If you let women sue their employers, even for illegal discrimination, it might cost the employers money. And if that happens, the big corporations won't like it.

I guess it was an easy choice for them, but not in the way you'd want. Heeding the voice of their corporate overlords, the R's in the Senate voted to block consideration of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have allowed the courts to consider each deficient paycheck a new act of discrimination, thereby reversing the decision by the Supremes.

So the next time you think your paycheck seems a little light, if you're a woman, thank your Republican senator.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is Obama not ready for prime time?

Among people that I talk to, one of the main reasons they give for supporting Clinton over Obama is his lack of experience. They reason that she's been around the block a time or two and he barely has. Another part of it is that she's had a lot more experience with hardball political campaigns, which should also make her more electable than he is. One example of why people are continuing to support (shall we say "clinging to"?) Clinton is this clip from a diavlog in which Glenn Loury explains his positions, including his view that she is just more competent.

Many of us Obama supporters, however, tend to question the relevance of her experience, or argue that his cross-partisan appeal, combined with the deep wells of Clinton hatred across the country, make him more electable than she is. Not only that, part of his appeal is that he has the ability to be a transformational leader in a way that Clinton does not.

Now we have some more data points from recent weeks, and I'm afraid they don't seem to look very good for Obama. We do have the Jeremiah Wright thing, and we also have the clinging to guns and religion thing (which probably doesn't look as bad if you know what was going on when he said it), but these things still seem to demonstrate a political tin ear, which probably makes him look like a weaker candidate than he originally did.

In addition, some of his complaints about the Clinton campaign seem to be in the "Mom, she's being mean to me!" vein, which aren't much fun to listen to coming from your three-year-old, and are much worse coming from a professional politician.

Then, yesterday, he probably did worse than we were expecting. Clinton started out 20 points ahead, he chipped away at her lead, last week people were saying he was going to come within five points or so, and yesterday she won by almost ten.

I will concede that the long hiatus since the last primaries, and the fact that Pennsylvania was the only game yesterday combined to make yesterday look bigger than it otherwise might have. Still, though, if anyone has momentum now, it's not him. (Remember back in 2004, when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 lead in the playoffs to beat the Yankees? It was a big deal even when the Red Sox won their first game, even though they had to win three more in a row.)

So where are we? Obama is still the leader, but there are certain defects appearing that we hadn't seen before. We also know that the R's are going to be ten times as mean and dishonest as any Clinton can be, and they're going to make up as many lies about Obama as they did about Kerry four years ago.

I still hear people say that it doesn't matter, McCain just can't win. I think those views are clearly wrong. I think he can potentially win, and I am thinking more and more that the D's can boot this one.

So what do we do? Is anyone thinking that it's time to jump off the Obama band wagon?

And, in an inside-baseball kind of way, does the deflation of Obama provide the justification of the superdelegate system that people have been criticizing all primary season?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What? Sue the frauds for fraud?

British spiritualists protest change to their legal status

April 20, 2008

LONDON (AP) — Britain's clairvoyants, mediums and mystics foresee trouble ahead.

A small group of "spiritual workers" demonstrated in London on Friday against government plans to regulate their services with consumer protection rules. They fear the move could leave them open to lawsuits by disgruntled customers and troublesome skeptics.

"We live in a very litigious society," said Carole McEntee-Taylor, a spiritual healer and general secretary of the newly founded Spiritual Workers' Association. "There are frauds out there, but to tar everybody with the same brush is really naive."

Now, when they decide to apply the same principles to the frauds promising eternal happiness, or threatening eternal punishment, maybe we'll be making some progress.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Zombie Strippers Movie Trailer

My friend JD usually catches and posts this kind of thing first, but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fire John Yoo

Legal and human rights organizations are calling for the firing of John Yoo, the Berkeley law professor and torture advocate who worked in the Bush Administration.

New York. In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war.

The federal maiming statute, for example, makes it a crime for someone "with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure" to "cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb or any member of another person." It further prohibits individuals from "throwing or pouring upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance" with like intent.

Yoo also narrowed the definition of torture so the victim must experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result; Yoo's definition contravenes the definition in the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the US has ratified which is thus part of the US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. Yoo said self-defense or necessity could be used as a defense to war crimes prosecutions for torture, notwithstanding the Torture Convention's absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances, even in wartime. This memo and another Yoo wrote with Jay Bybee in August 2002 provided the basis for the Administration's torture of prisoners.

"John Yoo's complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act," said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.

Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country's premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.

And this, from the American Freedom Campaign:

John Yoo should not only be disqualified from ever serving in government again, but he should also be prohibited from spreading his distorted view of the law and the role of lawyers to young law students.

He must be fired. And the man to do it is Christopher Edley, Jr, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

Please fill in the information below and click on "Send my message" to send an E-mail to Dean Edley, urging the dismissal of John Yoo.

McCain, Reagan, and money

Once again, McCain is determined to prove that he knows nothing about domestic policy.

This time it was a town hall meeting where he was asked about how he's going to fix the budget deficit.

Asked About the Deficit, McCain Cites Reagan’s Example

By Michael Cooper

WESTPORT, Conn. – When Senator John McCain was asked here this afternoon how he plans to balance the budget, he said that he hoped to do so by stimulating economic growth – and approvingly cited the example of President Ronald Reagan.

There was one thing he did not mention during his response: the deficit nearly tripled during the Reagan presidency, partly due to tax cuts and increases in military spending.

That's exactly right--like other Republicans, McCain wants to canonize Reagan, but he can only do that by either lying about, or being totally ignorant of, Reagan's economic record.

Over the last seven years we've seen what Reaganomics--now known as Bushonomics--does. If you slash taxes on the rich, throw ungodly amounts of money on the military, and have no plan to pay for everything, the budget goes in the tank. That's how we went from surpluses to record deficits.

At the same time, McCain says he's going to balance the budget, while repeating various points of conservative dogma about government spending: "the government is the least efficient way to spend your money". Now McCain may know some extraordinary people, and the record of the Rice/Rumsfeld/Powell cabal gives me little confidence, but I don't think I know many people who could use their own money to create a national defense system more efficiently than the federal government can. The whole idea of government, which the Republicans, clinging to the Reagan slogan that "government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem", don't seem to understand, is that the reason we have a government is to do things that we can't do as individuals.

So once again, McCain is handing us a weapon to hammer him with. We just need to use it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Financially responsible Republicans, and other figments of the imagination

Another great commentary from Doonesbury.

Another round in the Republican war on science

I've written about this before, and it's one of the most annoying things about the Bush administration: the Republicans' campaign to suppress science that contradicts their ideological views.

This time it's abortion. It turns out that the Agency for International Development. You know, the Cold War agency created to advance American foreign policy across the globe without using the Army to kill people? It turns out that Johns Hopkins had a contract with the feds to create and maintain a database on reproductive health, and this database, Popline, is the world's largest database on reproductive health. Unfortunately for Johns Hopkins, the feds didn't like the idea that you could search the database to find information about abortion. (What could abortion have to do with reproductive health, after all?)

I guess Johns Hopkins had two choices: Say "Too damn bad, the science is what the science is," or knuckle under.

They decided to knuckle under, so they just instructed the database to ignore the word "abortion" whenever it was used as a search term. That's right, they just disappeared it.

Finally on Friday, the dean of the JH school of public health found out about it, and was apparently not too happy. After learning of the restrictions on Friday, the dean, Dr. Michael J. Klag, said: “I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the Popline administrators restore ‘abortion’ as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.”

They've fixed it. I just ran a search on Popline using "abortion" as the only search term and came up with almost 27,000 hits.

Still, if the Republicans have gotten powerful enough to scare major institutions into censoring scientific research, we have a lot to be worried about.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

How and why the MSM are in the tank for McCain

There has finally started to be some real coverage of how the MSM are constantly sucking up to McCain.
We have this story from the New Yorker about how he strokes reporters on his bus.
The Times just ran an op-ed piece exploring why they are so enamored of McCain, and what it means for press coverage.
There was also a diavlog between Glenn Greenwald and Ana Marie Cox (I had no idea how insufferable she was until I watched this) in which Glenn attempts to debate the issue and Ana Marie spends the entire time trying to either evade the question or dismiss it without arguing it; while she attacks the Neil Gabler piece for assuming it's true, she finds it inconceivable without attempting to rebut any of the claims made either in the op-ed piece or by Glenn Greenwald.
Finally, we have another clue to what's going on: a video posted on YouTube by McCain's daughter that shows the whole gang of reporters laughing it up with McCain at his house in Sedona, barbecuing some kind of meat with him, and otherwise acting like courtiers instead of journalists.
Of course they're in the tank for him: he's friendly, jovial, and he makes them feel like the close friends of this admitted war hero. I'm guessing they don't spend much time around war heroes, and after they do they get to think about themselves as his friends, and they get to congratulate themselves, or to tell their families and friends the things he confides in them on the bus that he doesn't say to the voters.

It's time to start calling the press on it when they do this.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another twist on the U.S. Attorney purge

So the U.S. Attorney purge is old news, right? It seems like ages since I've posted, or even read, anything about it. What could there possibly be to say that's new?

Well, there's this:

The Justice Department's inspector general is investigating whether a career attorney in the department was dismissed from her job because of rumors that she is a lesbian.

As one Republican source put it, "To some people, that's even worse than being a Democrat."

Read the rest of the story, and then ask yourself: what will it take for people to grasp the utter corruption of this administration?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Cross-posted from Green Mountain Daily:

In a surprising turn of events, and a dramatic confirmation of the story that cost CBS News anchor Dan Rather his job, President George W. Bush has been returned to active duty in the Texas Air National Guard. President Bush will resume his duties as an F-14 pilot, at the rank of First Lieutenant, although if he is able to meet the ANG’s stringent performance standards, he “stands an excellent chance of securing a promotion to Captain, and possibly even Major”, according to Col. Dwight Liggett, public affairs officer of the Texas Air National Guard.

Ironically, it was the Dan Rather story that brought this about. “Once the Dan Rather story came out, and we started getting FOIA requests, we started reviewing our old records,” Liggett said. “It turns out that Rather was right. Lieutenant Bush was a full year short of his commitment. The National Guard is not in the habit of wasting a million dollars plus of pilot training.”

President Bush, who will be known as “Lt. Bush” during his year of active duty, will be paid the standard lieutenant’s salary of $88,977.44, which is a cut from his Presidential salary of $400,000. Like his presidential job, though, his new job as a pilot comes with health insurance and a housing allowance; unlike his presidential job, as a National Guard pilot Lt. Bush will not have to buy his own uniforms.

It was just two weeks ago that President Bush was speaking wistfully of his wish to return to active duty, so that he could be “fighting for freedom alongside our brave men and women in Iran—I mean Iraq, ” and now it appears he will get that chance.

Col. Liggett said, “You know, even with the Dan Rather story, we might never have thought of this until he landed his plane on that flattop. He’s beyond our enlistment age limit, but he keeps himself fit and he can still stick those landings!”

It is unclear whether Bush will be able to maintain his presidential duties while on active ANG duty, and if he isn’t this will mean problems for the Republican administration, as Vice President Dick Cheney will be returning to his job as president of Halliburton. Apparently, a little-known clause in his separation agreement, tied to the value of his stop options, gives Halliburton the right to recall the Vice President if the value of his holdings goes above $1 billion; flush with profits from the Iraq war, Cheney said that "with any luck" he will reach this milestone in mid-May.