Jun 29, 2006

Scalito and Thomas bend it for Bush

Everyone's talking about the backhanded pimpslap the Supreme Court gave Bush today when they voted 5-3 to reject his plan to try Guantanamo prisoners in front of a tribunal. From the NYT:
A principal flaw the court found in the commissions was that the president had established them without Congressional authorization.

The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantánamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like "fantastic," "amazing" and "remarkable."
You know what I find remarkable? The fact that Justices Scalia and Thomas have evidently flipped their lids, pretty much abdicating their responsibilities as a check on the other two branches of government:
It is not clear where the court derives the authority — or the audacity — to contradict" Congress and the executive branch, Scalia wrote.

Thomas, reading a dissent from the bench for only the second time in his nearly 15-year career, said the court's decision would "sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy."
C'mon guys, are you Supreme Court justices, or senators up for re-election?

Jun 28, 2006

Trigger locks? Who needs 'em?

Apparently that's what the GOP-controlled House was thinking when they voted today to overturn a law requiring safety triggers on all handguns sold in the U.S.

An existing safety law. Repealed.
The Republican-controlled House handed a victory to opponents of gun control by a vote of 230-191.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican, argued that the added cost of the trigger locks is passed on to gun owners and that they "do not stop accidental shootings."
And, as if this is any surprise:
Last fall, President George W. Bush signed legislation giving gun makers broad protections from civil lawsuits, but that law contained the mandatory trigger lock provision.
Jah forbid we keep those safety trigger locks on our guns, because then, you know, we might actually feel safer and at ease having these weapons in the house, if only just a little bit.

The better to keep you fearful and easily controlled, my pretties.

There's no place like home

Conference is now officially over, thank goodness. Now I can get on with my life!

Jun 27, 2006

Sexual orientation determined in the womb?

Interesting study out of Canada suggests that sexual orientation develops while in the womb, and that, surprisingly:
[T]he more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. But it has not been clear if this is a prenatal effect or a psychosocial effect, related to growing up with older male siblings.
The reason for this, theoretically, is that the more male offspring a woman produces, over time, she'll develop (don't even laugh) antibodies that will try to protect her body against this "foreign" object. So:
"If this immune theory were correct, then the link between the mother's immune reaction and the child's future sexual orientation would probably be some effect of maternal anti-male antibodies on the sexual differentiation of the brain," [Dr. Anthony F. Bogaert] suggests.
Interesting theory, but then, does the same thing happen with women? And is bisexuality a different chemical reaction? Is heterosexuality?

While I do support the idea that people are born with their sexual orientation, I don't know if I'm ready to accept Dr. Bogaert's claim. I mean, I'm an only child, and I'm straight - so does this mean that only children are more likely to be heterosexual? Were the circumstances surrounding my conception "just right" in creating a non-gay daughter? And just how many sons do you have to pop out before you start producing the "anti-boy" antibodies?

Anyway. The whole "a-mother-will-start-to-create-"anti-boy"-antibodies-if-she-bears-enough-sons" idea cracks me up.

Jun 26, 2006

Do you miss me?

One of the perks of having "event planner" as one of your job responsibilities is getting hooked up by your venue people. And as such, I'm sitting in a hotel suite that I wouldn't be able to afford on my own, enjoying the one-million-thread-count bed linens, whirlpool bathtub, and requisite wine-bottle-as-amenity. Not all at the same time, but you get the idea. I think this hotel room is bigger than my apartment.

Tomorrow and Wednesday are the conference days though, so I'm sure I'm going to be running around like crazy. But for now, let me see if I can find something to blog about, as things have been a bit ... lacking ... around here.

Jun 22, 2006

Sweet Jesus, somebody hold me ...

... I just saw on Bravo that season 3 of my favorite show, "Project Runway" premieres July 12.

You know what this means.

Public Service Announcements in Iraq

They don't really expect this to be effective, do they? You know, these US-made public service announcements asking would-be insurgents to please be a dear and not suicide bomb:
It's a tall order considering that post-occupation Iraq is now rife with militant groups and plagued by increasing sectarian violence. In March alone there were an estimated 175 suicide bombings. There’s also the question of just who will be able to see the PSA. The cost of owning a TV is often prohibitive for the average Iraqi, and those who are affluent enough to get Iraq’s state-sponsored programs are not always thrilled by what they’re seeing. Though there is the new, post-Saddam Iraqi Media Network (IMN), its $6-million monthly budget is provided by the United States and many local viewers feel that its positive reports on the U.S.-led war are simply propaganda so they turn to satellite TV instead. Those who are lucky enough to obtain a satellite dish can receive programs from all over the world as well as independent, Arab-run news channels like Al-Jazeera. And will the type of young man drawn to extremist groups be likely to sit around watching TV?
They really know their audience, don't they? Oy.

On a side note, I think it's hilarious that they blow up a Yugo in the PSA spot.

Jun 21, 2006

Hi, I'm an addict.

Why didn't anyone tell me Netflix was so addicting? I've spent the last HOUR doing nothing but adding movies to my queue.

Great, yet another thing for me to obsess over, heh heh.

Bernie Baran Update

A little more than a year ago, I first wrote about Bernie Baran, a Massachusetts man who many feel was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned on charges of child molestation – they believe that Baran was the victim of a homophobic witchhunt. And for the past 20 years, Baran has vehemently maintained his innocence.

Today, the Berkshire Eagle writes that a judge has granted Baran another trial – essentially giving Baran another chance at freedom.

Because his original trial in the 80’s was filled with many shady inconsistencies, this is wonderful news.

The important thing to remember was that the impetus behind Baran’s conviction was the fact that he was targeted for being an openly homosexual man who worked at a day care center. The hysteria that prevailed in 1984 (when his hearing was held) centered around the fear around AIDS and the mystery that surrounded this illness. Many feel that Baran was a convenient scapegoat; hopefully now, with some distance, Baran will get the fair trial he deserves.

UPDATE, 2:20 p.m.: My friend Dan, who has been working on a Baran documentary for the last few years, says that Bernie's "not at all as scary looking as the picture The Berkshire Eagle printed of him, which was taken shortly after major surgery last year, and he still had a morphine patch on his shoulder."

Jun 20, 2006

Fallen Soldiers

If you think the Abu Ghraib torture scandal didn't have any effect on how American troops are regarded in the Middle East (and specifically, Iraq), think again:
Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Muhammed-Jassim, head of operations at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, said the soldiers had been "barbarically" killed. U.S. officials would not confirm or deny that the men, who were identified Monday as Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., had been tortured by their captors.

"Coalition forces have in fact recovered what we believe to be the remains of our two soldiers," said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, at a Baghdad news conference.
My condolences go out to the Tucker and Menchaca families. The brutal death their sons endured was completely unnecessary, at the hands of an incompetent commander in chief and his cadre of warmongering imbeciles.

UPDATE 2:55 p.m.: Oh hell no. Courtesy of Peter Daou's blog The Grit, some right-wing blogger was quick to criticize the uncle of one of the fallen soldiers who blamed his nephew's death on the U.S. government's lack of a plan in Iraq. Click the link to get to that right-wing blog. I won't link to it. Here's a link to the WaPo article instead.

I'd say the uncle's criticism was fair, wouldn't you? Further proof that this theory of "liberal infallibility" is misdirected and a total bunch of horsesh*t.

Because I haven't posted anything today

Did you all hear that the Pope has come down with Avian Flu?

Yeah, he caught it from some Cardinal ...


(Thanks to Jonsey for that knee slapper.)

Jun 19, 2006

Ava, go ON with your bad self!

Ava Lowery, a 15-year-old blogger, has caught some flak (and by "flak," I mean death threats) for clips such as this one that are anti-war.

Her powerful images are striking, and even more so because she's 15 and because she's from the South. She's anti-war, but supports the troops. If even a 15 year old can wrap her head around the notion that the two are not mutually exclusive, then others can. I'm glad that CNN interviewed her, although the reporter's hardball-line of questioning is pretty hilarious to me, considering the girl is 15, godammit. I mean, one of the questions she asked her was:
"How did you even KNOW about the war?"
Um, hell-LO.

Oh, and how about the reporter's attempt at playa-hatin' on left-wing blogs (I'm assuming she's referring to YearlyKos) playing her clips and "using" her? WhatEVER.

Ava handled the reporter's questions very well. Girlfriend did me proud, and I don't even do media prep. Anyhoo.

I'd be curious to see if any of the pundits go after her and paint her as an unpatriotic, evil person who hates America ...

Go visit her blog at www.peacetakescourage.com.

Jun 16, 2006

Hank's love letter to Ann

Oh man, I used to have SUCH the crush on Henry Rollins. And on You Tube is circulating this little short video of Henry, writing a love letter to Ann "Chupacabra" Coulter.

I don't know what Tweety over at I Blame the Patriarchy would say about this, but I think in some small way, Henry's on to something.

Sidebar: Henry's looking old these days. And what happened to his huge neck?

Jimmy Jimmy Bo-Bo

Forget The Wiggles, this 3-year old kid in St. Paul decided that he wanted his birthday party theme to be the Jim "Jimmy Jimmy Bo-Bo" Lehrer NewsHour, complete with NewsHour party hats, a cake, and an autographed photo from Lehrer:
"He's really a normal kid," [Mom] Jennifer Schally said. "I think beyond this, he's pretty fun-loving."

"Outside of 6 to 7 o'clock every weekday night, he's pretty normal," [Dad] Troy Schally clarified.
Oh yeah. This kid's gonna be a blogger. I can feel it. Follow that link to read the article and the video. It's hilarious.

(Props to AMERICAblog for the link.)

Jun 15, 2006

Don't call it retirement

Bill Gates is leaving his day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft so that he can focus his energies on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

That's nice.

Jun 13, 2006

Doughboy's off the hook

Karl "Doughboy" Rove has been waiting to exhale for the last few months, and now he can, since Fitzgerald won't be handing him an indictment in the Valerie Plame case.

Wonderful. I just hope this means Fitzgerald is looking elsewhere (Cheney).

Howard Dean said it best (emphasis mine):
"He doesn't belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago," said Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, speaking Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it's not very good news for America."
Exactly. Boo.

Jun 12, 2006

Pretty blogs make graphs

Check out this really cool thingy --- it graphs out your blog, based on your source code, I guess. I dunno. It's really over my head. But looky here, my blog sure is purty:

I came across the link to this project/applet via one of the blogs on my blogroll, the name of which I don't remember, but it is one of my daily reads. My apologies! I'll update once I find out, as I do love giving proper citation.

Wake up and smell the coffee, Wal-Mart

So Wal-Mart is considering bringing in Fair Trade coffee into its stores. Can you feel the irony?
The Organic Consumers Association posted a notice on the Web about the fair-trade and organic coffee at Sam's Club that urged shoppers to patronize independent cafes and roasters instead. Ronnie Cummins, the group's national director, said the most common complaints about Wal-Mart -- that it runs out small businesses and lowers prices and wages to unsustainable levels -- do not disappear just because the merchandise changes.

Marketing consultant Simon Sinek, who teaches at Columbia University, said labels such as "organic" and "fair trade" may work against Wal-Mart because they are losing resonance with shoppers. "Wal-Mart is the absolute pinnacle of mass market appeal," Sinek said. "If Wal-Mart is selling it, then it's not a big deal."
Here’s an idea: How about paying your employees a living wage and a better health care plan so that they don’t have to rely on government programs to supplement the little you already provide them?

Jun 11, 2006

Gore's Inconvenient Truth

We saw Gore's documentary on global warming last night. It's a pretty powerful piece that provides some very convincing evidence that the threat is genuine, and that something needs to be done - stat.

I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone in the theatre was just as flabbergasted as I was to learn that we've managed to screw up this planet within the last decade than in any other time period. I mean, I knew global warming was a problem, but I didn't think it was THIS BAD. Or that there was this urgent of a need to fix it. Don't believe the pack of lies the current occupier's administration tries to push on us: As Gore says in the movie, global warming is a moral issue, not a political one.

If you haven't seen it yet, go. Now. Find a theatre near you here.

Sidebar: I couldn't get over how awesome his presentation slides were. Does anyone have any idea what (Apple) presentation software he was using?

Secondly, looks like Gore's been to a Tufte conference or two. I totally got off on how perfect the presentation slides were. What can I say, I'm nerdy like that.

PR, suicide style

Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, dismissed the three Guantanamo suicides as a "PR move". Oh, the irony:
Speaking to the BBC's Newshour programme, Ms Graffy ... said the three men did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them.

Detainees had access to lawyers, received mail and had the ability to write to families, so had other means of making protests, she said, and it was hard to see why the men had not protested about their situation.
A friend of mine once told me that if you slit your wrists, you don't really intend to kill yourself - it's a cry for help. If you really wanted to bleed to death, you'd go for a bigger vein and get the job done. And unless you're a detainee at Guantanamo, I'm sure one can't even begin to fathom what it's like being a prisoner there. Imagine: no meetings in front of judges, no charges filed against you, no end in sight. And maybe you have some moments that are sprinkled with a little torture here and there. I imagine these three prisoners found themselves at the brink of hope, and saw no other way to escape from prison, except from a body bag. You can't fake hanging yourself - it's pretty much a done deal.

To call their suicides a PR move is yet another example of how crazy and desensitized and flat-out heartless our government has become. We've gotten so good at blaming others for our missteps and blaming victims for enduring the systemic disfunctionalities that we've created for ourselves and others, that to even presume to suggest that our problems come from within would strike many as utter blasphemy. This is not right. What does this say about us as a country, and as human beings?

Why do we have this kind of prison outside of the U.S. anyway? I just keep thinking of Golding's Lord of the Flies - especially the notion that human beings essentially have an internal evil streak that society pretty much suppresses (sometimes). But take the society out of the equation, and evil and chaos emerges with a vengeance.

UPDATE 6/12: The White House is openly distancing itself today from Graffy's comments. My question is, shouldn't the White House PR staff had their talking points together BEFORE giving the media a quote? Now they have to do damage control, which they wouldn't have had to do had they gotten their stories straight in the first place. Stupid.

Jun 10, 2006

No, No, No!

A thousand times no!

We CANNOT have a president named "Newt."

Jun 9, 2006

Is this thing on?

Blogger's downtime really screwed up my ability to comment on the events of the past two days. And I had some zingers, too.

Oh, and P.S., don't be high-fiving each other and pumping up the pony keg just yet, right wingers. The death of al-Zarqawi just means more violence and retaliation. And hey, maybe this means they'll focus on trying to find bin Laden again?

We'll see.

What's Bush's approval rating today?

Jun 6, 2006

Post-lunch break humor

My apologies if I've offended any Ana fans out there. Go eat a sandwich.

Vote smart, California.

Haven't voted yet? Click here for the Smart Voter guide. Then vote.

666=Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter's at it again. Here's what she had to say about 9/11 widows during an interview with the Today show's Matt Lauer this morning:
“These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing bush [sic] was part of the closure process ... These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.”
Think Progress has the transcript and a clip.

So Coulter's main argument is that you can't "respond to" a woman who lost her husband on 9/11, or someone like Cindy Sheehan because to do so would make it seem you question the "authenticity of their grief."

Bitch, don't even.

Jun 5, 2006

Wooing the base

If my political party blatantly appealed to my fear rather than rationality when it came to matters of, well, anything; if it actively scapegoated certain groups of people for the purposes of furthering – nay, distracting me from – its real agenda; or if it kept a list of hot-button issues in its back pocket from which to draw on whenever the going got tough for it, I’d feel pretty fucking stupid and manipulated after the second or third time I took the bait.

So when I hear Bush is trotting out the ol’ gay marriage ban dog and pony show again, I can’t help but wonder if, this time, it’ll have the same effect Doughboy --- and the rest of the GOP --- is hoping for.

I’d like to think people are smarter than that (I’m being generous here, because really, they freakin’ re-elected the guy), but I also find this particularly aggravating. Because: If you align yourself with a political party that proclaims it has the highest of moral values, how can you condone the fact that they’re pulling some of the dirtiest tricks in the book? And not just one time, but multiple times? And with some great predictability at that?

What does that say about you?

My new strategery

I think I've found the key to helping persuade people that the Bush Administration needs to get the boot --- Give them a cup of coffee:
Australian scientists found that moderate amounts of caffeine can increase people's willingness to be persuaded.
The wheels in my brain are turning. I mean, I got the coffee ...

An Ode to All Languages

This poem was originally performed in 2004 at the San Francisco Poetry Slam, but in light of all the illegal immigration brouhaha and the English-as-national-language law, I found this to be quite prescient. And I'm not usually all over spoken word and stuff.
We've lost our minds
Because we value our English-speaking skills to the point where it defines us
English text and Englishmen told us our languages are inferior
So since birth we twist our lips and bend our tongues in shapes that we were never innately able to
All this to make room to expand this forced knowledge
And after all this, you think you've mastered English
When really, English has mastered you.
"An Ode to All Languages," Adriel Luis

Damn, this girl's kickin' knowledge.

I loved this.

The girl who made it is a junior in high school.

Jun 3, 2006

Collateral damage

As if they need another reason, Iraq is now pissed at us because the US has decided that the soldiers who killed civilians in Ishaqi were cleared:
But following its own inquiries into the Ishaqi operation, the Pentagon enraged Iraqi officials by issuing a statement declaring that allegations that US troops "executed a family ... and then hid the alleged crimes by directing an air strike, are absolutely false".

US spokesman Major General William Caldwell said the US investigation into events in Ishaqi, where the military says it was attempting to capture insurgents, had found no wrongdoing on the part of the troops.
Not enough salt in your wounds? Here, let the Pentagon rub it in (emphasis mine):
He said troops had been fired on as they raided a house to arrest an al-Qaeda suspect. They returned fire and called in air support, which destroyed the building, killing one militant and resulting in "up to nine collateral deaths."
And by "collateral deaths," Caldwell means Iraqi women and children.

It's gonna get uglier, no doubt. I doubt the "few bad apples" defense is going to work with the Iraqis:
"Ishaqi is just another reason why we shouldn't trust the Americans," said Abdullah Hussein, an engineer in Baghdad. "First they lied about the weapons of mass destruction, then there was the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and now it's clear to the world they were guilty in Haditha."
I know, man. I know.

UPDATE 6/5: A dear friend pointed out to me that Haditha and Ishaqi are two different incidents. I know this (and didn't have time to elucidate), but my point is that Iraq is a mess, a weeping sore of ugliness and disarray, and yet, U.S. forces are completely blameless in all of this? Yeah right. Anyway, I've updated this post to make better sense. If that's possible. (Many thanks to said Dear Friend for keeping me honest. And factual.)

Jun 2, 2006

R.I.P. Naked Guy

During my Halcyon Days as an undergrad at Cal, I had been, from time to time, greeted by the glorious naked buttocks of a certain Andrew Martinez. Otherwise known as "The Naked Guy."

I know I'm a little late in the game with this info, but I just found out that Andrew died last week in a San Jose jail cell. Suicide.
On Wednesday night, a guard checked on him at 11 p.m. and he was fine, but a few minutes later other inmates reported hearing sounds coming from his cell. An officer returned at 11:19 and found Martinez unconscious. He was taken to Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead early Thursday.
Apparently Andrew had been struggling with mental illness his entire life, but in his lucid moments managed to inspire people to think about free speech while at the same time challenging social norms.

I don't walk around naked (in public), but I can't help but draw a parallel to what Andrew did and what We Who Write Blogs do - at times, our writing can make us so vulnerable to others, we may as well be naked. So I can't help but feel a oneness there. And I didn't know the guy personally, but we were undergrads together. Go Bears.

I gotta say, I'm sad to hear this news. A promising life ended too young.