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Saudi Protesters Lashed
A Saudi court sentenced 15 antimonarchy protesters to lashes and imprisonment, conveniently proving the protesters’ point that the government needs to be reformed.
Thread: Saudi Arabia
Antievolution Stickers Removed
The school district of Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, put antievolution stickers into biology textbooks. Recognizing that the stickers did nothing but promote religious alternatives to science, a federal judge ordered them removed. God bless the ACLU.
Occupation forces in Iraq have identified the core of the insurgency as comprising Wahhabis. This detail is a little too much for US mass media, which has only recently twigged to the difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Iraq. WMD Search Called Off
No snarky comment can do this milestone justice.
Iraq. Abu Ghraib Guard Convicted
Why was it the guards who went overboard? Because the military has a huge document detailing the restrictions placed on interrogators. If the highly trained interrogators aren’t allowed to humiliate and terrorize detainees, it has to be left up to the untrained, unregulated guards, who make it up as they go along.
Hats off to the Iraqis who braved insurgent attacks in order to vote. Any legitimacy that our nation-building effort has was in their hands.
Democrat Governor in Washington State
After a contentious and error-riddled election process, Christine Gregoire has been sworn in. As Bush taught the Dems in 2000, it’s not how you win that counts, just that you win.
Abbas Wins Election
Once more, the man that Arafat stonewalled has replaced him. Meanwhile, a slim majority of Palestinians opposes continued violence against Israel, a reversal from a few years ago when a solid majority supported the violence.
Greek Orthodox Corruption
The Greek Orthodox church faces shocking revelations of sex and corruption within its hierarchy. It’s a reminder that there’s nothing especially evil about the Catholic church. Wherever clerics are elevated as members of a hierarchy, they’re tempted to use their status for their own ends.
Public School Bible Classes
Parents in Staunton, Va., are challenging the school district’s policy of arranging for elementary school students to attend Bible classes on school time but off school grounds. Contrary to what you might think, the Supreme Court ruled in 1952 in Zorach v. Clauson that classes such as these were constitutional. But rural Virginia is apparently one of the few parts of the country still living in the 1950s.
Harvard researchers are going to give MDMA to terminal cancer patients. David Murray, with the White House, opposes the study. He says, “The record on the risks of this drug is unambiguous.” Risks? It’s being given to patients with less than a year to live.
George Tenet’s Medal
Tenet’s failure was so catastrophic that the only way to deal with it was to give him the highest civilian honor in the US, the medal of freedom.
Mahmoud Abbas Head of the PLO
The man Yasser Arafat stonewalled has succeeded him. Marwan Barghouti, from prison, endorses Abbas, aka Abu Mazen. Abbas calls for an end to violence among those resisting Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, Israel is withdrawing from Gaza. Is peace finally possible?
Gay Marriage in Canada
OK, you northern neighbors out there, you got gay marriage. Sure, you’ve got guaranteed health insurance. We know that your government bargains on your behalf to get you less expensive drugs. You’ve got medical marijuana. We know about your lower crime rate. But just because you have good ideas doesn’t mean we’re paying any attention.
“Intelligent Design” Lawsuit
The school board of the Dover Area school district in Pennsylvania has mandated the teaching of “intelligent design.” Predictably, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed suit to block the mandate. In 1987, the Supreme Court said that states had no secular reason for mandating the teaching of creationism . The “intelligent design” proponents are betting that their new, stripped down “theory” will pass muster.
Why didn’t all our Humvees have armor? Because the Iraqis were supposed to welcome us as liberators. We weren’t going to face a terrorist insurgency. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld contradicted the Powell doctrine and conquered Iraq on the cheap. Now our troops are salvaging armor from scrap heaps.
Iraq War a Mistake
Now that the Republicans no longer have to defend the Iraq war in order to support their candidate in the presidential election, some of them are taking a second look. For the first time, most people in the US think that the Iraq war was a mistake.
The company Genetic Savings & Clone has cloned a woman’s dead cat, giving her an identical twin kitten for $50,000.
Retired Judge Robert Hammerman killed himself after making meticulous plans to end his life. This is the way out that Nietzsche envisioned, except that Hammerman died alone instead of among loved ones.
Saudi Scholars For Iraqi Insurgency
Twenty-six Saudi scholars have issued a fatwa calling on Iraqi Muslims to fight a jihad against US soldiers in Iraq. Remind me again why we’re friends with the Saudis.
Thread: Saudi Arabia
Ashcroft’s Parting Shot
On his way out, John Ashcroft kicked his challenge to Oregon’s assisted suicide law up to the Supreme Court. But doesn’t Bush say that he’s against federal bureaucrats coming between doctors and their patients? Sometimes I wish Bush meant what he said.
Catholic Bishops' New President
William S. Skylstad has been elected president of the US conference of Catholic bishops. Skylstad has a history of abetting predatory priests, and his diocese is entering bankruptcy to avoid the nasty trials that are looming. There had been some question as to whether the bishops would consider it appropriate to elect as their president someone who had sacrificed minors to protect clergy. Apparently they do.
Thread: bishops' coverup
Colin Powell Resigns
Here's to Colin Powell, hero of the first Iraq war, stooge of the second.
The US voters chose the candidate who said that America had done everything right over the one who said that the nation had made a huge mistake. Go figure.
Creationism in Wisconsin Schools
The school board of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, has ruled that its schools can teach creationism. Superintendent Joni Burgin said that science classes "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory." OK, but creationism isn’t a theory. It’s the opposite of a theory. more
Schwarzenegger Calls Democrats “Losers”
First it was “girlie men.” Now it’s “losers.” “Losers” is a lot more accurate.
Hurray for America. We overthrew the Taliban and gave the Afghans a reasonable facsimile of a democracy. Sure, we start needless wars now and then, but sometimes we get it right, and a big sigh of relief when we do.
Han and Hui killing each other. Hui are Muslim.
Muslims killing nonmuslims.
Osama bin Laden
He finally acknowledged having directed 9-11. I wonder what the Muslims who thought that 9-11 was a Jewish plot are thinking now?
Shi’ites and Sunnis killing each other. Remember, Islam is a religion of peace.
No WMD after all. Now that the election is over, can we finally agree that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake? In order to support Bush’s bid for the presidency, loyal Republicans had to keep their mouths shut. But now that the election’s over, can we look at the issue realistically and see what a bad idea it was?
Halloween fell on Sunday this year, and some Christians observed the holiday Saturday night in order to preserve the sanctity of the sabbath. Unfortunately, a “day” as understood in the Bible starts at dusk, not at midnight. Saturday night is the start of the sabbath, and all those little kids were profaning the Lord’s Day.
Monkeys and Swine
Sheik Younus Kathrada, of Vancouver’s Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society, says that his calling Jews the “brothers of monkeys and swine” doesn’t make him anti-Semitic. He was referring only to the bad Jews, not to all Jews. Of course, if the bad Jews are “brothers of monkeys and swine,” then so are the good Jews. Kathrada’s attempt to distance himself from his own comment is disengenuous.
Ashcroft Fails Again
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed Ashcroft's request for a new hearing on Oregon's 6 year old Death with Dignity Act. In May, the court thwarted his challenge to the law, and in August it refused to reconsider. About 170 terminally ill people have chosen physician-assisted suicide since the law was enacted.
Jeb Bush's Feeding Tube Law Overturned
The Florida Supreme Court unanimously struck the law that has kept Terri Schiavo alive for the past year. Specifically crafted to let Bush thwart the ruling of the courts in this case, the law violated the separation of government powers.
No More Parking on the Lawn
The city of Tukwila (my south end Seattle suburb) has passed an ordinance prohibiting the parking of cars or boats on lawns. This is another example of urban sensibilities conflicting with rural practicalities.
Presidential Election in Indonesia
Indonesia has, for the first time, elected its president. Former Chief Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has defeated incumbent Megawati Soekarnoputri.
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
Fairuz Yamulky, kidnapped in Iraq, escaped by offering her guard help in establishing a new life in Canada. Apparently these extremists hate Western culture so much that they'll betray their compatriots to live here.
Pledging to Thwart the Constitution
The U.S. House passed a bill that purports to bar federal courts - including the Supreme Court - from ruling on cases dealing with the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. But, before they pass a law that amends the Constitution, don't they have to pass as a law that allows them to amend the Constitution simply by passing laws?
US Representative Ed Schrock (R-VA) resigned after being outed. Commentators have called him hypocritical for voting against gay marriage, but that's not fair. It's not hypocritical for a Christian to feel that his own sexual desires are wrong.
Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Defeated
The US House failed to pass a constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage. The doomed proposal was never meant to succeed. Republicans brought the proposal up to embarrass Representatives who are too serious about liberty, equality, and states' rights.
Thread: gay rights
Seeing that decades of trade restrictions have failed in their goal of squeezing out Castro, Bush tried a new tactic: more trade restrictions. Or, seeing that decades of trade restrictions have succeeded in their goal of winning the support of Cuban exiles, Bush repeated a tried-and-true tactic: more trade restrictions. So much for Republican talk about free trade.
Presidential Election in Indonesia
The world's most populous Muslim country has had its first free election for president. Eighty percent of eligible voters participated. Retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a plurality but not a majority, meaning that the nation will hold a runoff in September. It looks as though it will be the non-Arab Muslim countries that will lead the way as the Muslim world adopts democracy.
The Florida Supreme Court voided a couple's marriage because the husband is transsexual. Rather than judge the merits and drawbacks of treating a transsexual as his or her self-dentified sex, the court took an essentialist shortcut and declared sexual identity to be immutable.
In response to a ruling from its own Supreme Court, Israel has redrawn its plans for its "wall" in and around the West Bank. The revised plans reflect a greater effort to avoid inconveniencing Palestinians while some their land is being taken. The Israeli government is not deaf to legal appeals to its policies. The Palestinians would get farther with a nonviolent political movement than they are getting with terrorism.
US Withholds Funds for Family Planning
For the third year in a row, the Bush administration has withheld funds that Congress earmarked for the UN Population Fund. This year, the total was $34 million, for a total of $93 million over the last three years. The administration portrays this concession to the religious right as opposition to coerced abortion in China. Previous to 2002, the US contributed to the fund on the conditions that its funds not be spent in China and that its contribution would be reduced by the amount that the fund spends in China. Since the fund spends only $3.5 million per year in China, and those funds are not used for coercive abortions, the administration's stated reasoning is a sham.
Gay Marriage Ban Fails in Senate
Far from getting the 67 votes needed to pass the Senate, the proposed Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage didn't even get the simple majority needed to bring it to a vote. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) opposed the amendment despite Bush's support, calling it "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." The failure of the amendment is a well-deserved setback for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).
Marriage Protection Act
The Republican-controlled House passed a measure that purports to prevent federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA says that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. But don't they also need to pass a Marriage Protection Act Protection Act to bar federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the Marriage Protection Act? And then don't they need a Marriage Protection Act Protection Act Protection Act?
Same-Sex Partners in New Jersey
New Jersey has begun registering same-sex couples as domestic partners with some (but not all) of the same rights that married couples enjoy. The legal acknowledgement of same-sex couples in one more state hasn't made much of a splash in the news. The fact that registering same-sex couples isn't newsworthy is, itself, news.
Thread: gay rights
Anti-Vibrator Charges Dropped
A judge has dropped obscenity charges, which entailed a potential sentence of a year in prison, against Joanne Webb, who sold vibrators to undercover cops in October 2003. The judge simply didn't want to waste the county's time. Yes, that's right, vibrators and other sex toys are illegal in Texas. Adult stores can sell them only by labeling them "novelties."
Texas Mother Murders Children
Deanna Laney killed two of her children and tried to kill the third. Her previous statements that she had smelled sulfur when none was around and that God was speaking to her about the end of the world were taken as authentic rather than psychotic by those around her. Like Andrea Yates, Laney is (or was) a deeply religious Texas mother who home-schooled her children. That's probably just a coincidence.
Supreme Court Pledges Not to Decide
The Supremes dodged the "under God" issue on a technicality. Sandra Day O'Connor repeated the absurdity that the reference to God is constitutional because amounts merely to "ceremonial deism." The lawmakers who rushed to recite the pledge when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down were not defending anything as washed out as "ceremonial deism," nor were the numerous Christians that have threatened to kill Michael Newdow.
Voting on Clean Elections
Republican, business, and religious right interests are working together to thwart Arizona's clean elections law. The clean elections law provides funds to state candidates so that they don't have to auction themselves off to lobbyists to raise the money they need to compete in elections. Those who want to bid on candidates and the party whose candidates want be bid on are working together to return the state to politics as usual.
Mosque Bombing in Pakistan
Sunni terrorists (probably Wahhabis) bombed a Shi'ite mosque, killing 15 and wounding over 100. Despite reports of increasing harassment of Muslims in the US, it's still safer to be a Muslim in the US than in Pakistan.
FDA = "Faith and Drug Administration"?
In an extremely uncommon move, Dr. Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, overruled the FDA's own staff and expert advisory panel to deny over-the-counter status to Plan B, a "morning after" contraceptive. The expert advisory panel had recommended nonprescription status for the contraceptive 24 to 3. Each year, nearly half a million unwanted pregnancies end in abortions. If abortion opponents were really concerned about preventing abortions, and not about legislating morality, they'd have lobbied for the drug instead of against it.
Japanese and Korean scientists have created a fatherless mouse, named Kaguya. Conceived of two egg cells, Kaguya has grown to adulthood and born children of her own (albeit naturally). Once women take note of how much crime is committed by men, and once two-egg conception gets past the long-shot odds it now suffers from, well, I'm sure nothing untoward could possibly happen to the XY lineage.
Chalabi and Iran
For a long time, it seemed that the US had been fed disinformation by Ahmad Chalabi, a self-serving would-be power-monger. He told us that Saddam had a WMD program and that Iraqis would welcome our troops as liberators. It's worse. Instead of being hoodwinked by an opportunist, we were hoodwinked by Iran. Iran was eager to see Saddam toppled and Iraq's Shi'ite majority come to power, and it used Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to funnel disinformation to Bush and above-top-secret US documents back to Iran.
Powell, Iraq, and Oil
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that we are in Iraq because of our need for imported oil. He was careful to point out that our war in Iraq is not "for" oil, merely because of oil.
Court Orders Not to Procreate
Judge Marilyn O'Connor (New York state) ordered a dysfunctional couple to stop having children until they can take care of the ones they already have. Judge D. Michael "Mickey" Foellger (Kentucky) has told at least seven men to have a vasectomy or go to jail. Judge James L. Kimbler (Ohio) told a man to take "reasonable" measures to avoid conceiving another child while on 5 years' probation or go to jail. Judges have long been able to stop men from procreating by sending them to prison. Their authority to stop men from procreating without sending them to prison is controversial.
The latest documentary from Michael Moore took the top prize in the Cannes film festival. Sticking scrupulously to protocol, the judges watched the anti-Bush film before awarding the prize.
Stem Cell Research
For the first time, the Bush administration acknowledged that its restriction on stem cell research, dating from 2001, hurts the advance of medical science. In response to pressure from the House of Representatives that the restriction be lifted, Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a letter defending Bush. He admitted that the restriction against using federal funds for research that involves destroying human embryos slowed research. He implied that the policy is based on not using taxpayer dollars for research that some taxpayers find immoral. It's a bizarre stance, since Bush is constantly using taxpayer dollars for efforts that some taxpayers find immoral, such as blood transfusions, to say nothing of the invasion of Iraq.
Abortion Politics and Catholic Communion
Various Catholic authorities have said that pro-choice politicians shouldn't take communion, with one bishop going so far as to say that someone who votes for a pro-choice politician shouldn't take it. It's refreshing to see the Catholic hierarchy being true to their medieval ways and using sacraments to wield power over the laity. In fact, I'd like to see them go further and deny communion to anyone who votes for a politician who opposes making contraception illegal again.
Vatican Criticizes Muslims
The Vatican urged Muslims to show more respect for human rights, gender equality, and democracy. The Catholic Church is well-positioned to serve as a model to Islam. It demonstrates that even a religion with a history of religious persecution, subjugation of women, and support for tyranny can move forward boldly into the 20th century.
Terrorism and the Election
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that signs indicated that terrorists plan to attack the US this summer. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, however, said that the warning was unfounded and did not raise the color-coded alert level. In a breathtaking display of irony, Ashcroft said that the terrorists might try to use fear to influence the upcoming presidential election.
Euthanasia and States' Rights
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Ashcroft's 2002 directive shutting down Oregon's 1994 "death with dignity" law is invalid and not to be enforced. God bless the 9th.
Condaleeza Rice says that there was no silver bullet that could have preventing the 9-11 hijackings. In fact, the administration could have enacted stricter air travel security measures. The reason that stricter security was infeasible, however, is that these measures would have scared people. The measures might have made some travelers more conscious of the danger of hijacking and less likely to fly. The airlines, which had lobbied against stricter security for years for just this reason, would have turned against whichever party was behind the measures. Stricter security was possible but politically infeasible.
Though US gasoline prices have gone up, they're still low when you take inflation into account. Presidential candidates, however, are systematically required to pander to the public. Rather than explaining to the populace that gasoline are low from an historical perspective, Bush and Kerry has each made "high" gas prices a campaign issue.
Right to Brew Ricin
A Washington man was arrested for exercising his second amendment right to bear arms. Robert Alberg, 37, bought large amounts of castor seeds and extracted the poison ricin from them. Ricin has no antidote. Inexplicably, the NRA has not jumped to his defense.
Divorce in Chile
Chile has made divorce legal, finally overcoming the regressive resistance of the Catholic Church. With Chile gone, the last country that the Catholic Church can keep divorce out of is the Philippines.
The Pope on Feeding Tubes
In the Terry Schiavo case, Catholic clergy had stood out as voices of reason, supporting her husband. Now the Pope has defined removal of a feeding tube from someone in a persistent vegetative state as "euthanasia by omission." The leaders of Catholic hospitals around the US are trying to figure out how to balance patients' living wills on one hand and the Pope's surprise announcement on the other.
Muslim Countries and Democracy
Malaysia's anti-Semitic prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, resigned last October. Algeria just had free elections. Indonesia, the nation with the largest Muslim population in the world, just had free legislative elections. The voters rebuffed the hard-line Islamicist parties, and they are about to elect their president directly for the first time. Maybe Muslim countries outside the Mid-East are going to lead the Mid-East to democracy.
Ariel Sharon provoked the Palestinians into launching the latest uprising, then used the uprising as a reason to get elected prime minister, increase the violence, and start building a physical barrier around and through Palestinian lands. Now he plans a partial withdrawal from Palestinian lands, but he can't withdraw if it makes him look weak. After killing two high-ranking Hamas leaders, Sharon has proved that he's acting from a position of strength. His brutality demonstrates, or is intended to demonstrate, that he is withdrawing from Gaza because he wants to, not because he has to.
Sharon's Peace Plan
With Bush's backing, Sharon is planning a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and most of the West Bank. He plans to negotiate permanent borders later, but stipulates that Israel will be keeping five settlement areas in the West Bank. Palestinians rejected Sharon's plan, saying that it was no fair to declare the results of negotiations before the negotiations take place. They also said that they would reject any settlement that didn't acknowledge the Palestinians' "right of return."
Iran's Reform Movement Fails
Years ago, Iranians seeking more freedom from Iran's theocrats voted in a reformist parliament. The theocrats, however, stifled the parliament's reform campaign. Then, for the recent elections, the theocrats disqualified most reformist candidates, including many incumbents. The reformists raised a stink, but there was nothing they could do. They couldn't even swing the population to their side because the people had already given up on them. The Iranian people still want freedom. They have learned that they can't win it through politics. What will they try next?
Israelis and Palestinians
Suicide bombings, political assassinations, gang violence, and continued oppression undercut tentative gestures toward peace. Wait a minute, this isn't news.
With gay marriage soon to become legal in Massachusetts, San Francisco was about to lose its special place in the hearts of the gay community. The mayor saved the day by authorizing gay marriage licenses. Meanwhile, Bush has found a tenable position advocating a constitutional amendment to forbid gay marriage. The religious right thinks he's defending the nation from perversion, while the moderates are cool as long as he doesn't forbid civil unions.
Cynics say that Bush has lifted the embargo against Libya and not Cuba because Libya has oil and Cuba does not. Don't forget, however, another big difference between the two countries: a president can lift the embargo against Libya and still win in Florida.
Kerry looks like he could be elected president. Of course, in order to be elected, one must first look like one could be elected, so looking like he could get elected is pretty big for Kerry. News that Bush had plans for invading Iraq before 9-11 and that he misled the citizenry means that Kerry can criticize Bush's handling of the invasion even though he voted for it.
Nader has shown up again, impolitely pointing out that neither Bush nor Kerry is in any position to do anything about corporate control of politics. Sure, Nader's right, but what are we supposed to do about it? Vote for him? If my corporate masters are going to let me choose between Kerry and Bush, I'll choose Kerry.
The Catholic Church commissioned a report on sex abuse by its priests in the US. The report blames bishops for protecting predatory priests rather than protecting their victims. Maybe we'll finally hear the Pope referring to this scandal as a failing on the bishops' part instead of simply as the mysterious sins of individual priests. Probably not, since the report also says that some US bishops had been lobbying the Vatican for years trying to get it to change its disciplinary policy on this issue. The Pope doesn't want people following the scandal up the chain of command.
Korean scientists created human clones up to the embryo stage, an important step in advancing medical technology. Bush's faith-based science policy is making us lose our lead in cutting edge medical science.
Christ and Anti-Semitism
People are complaining because "The Passion" might encourage anti-Semitic sentiments. But wait a minute, according to the Gospels, Christ disguised his wisdom in parable form in order to prevent the Jews from understanding Him and avoiding divine judgment. He told the Jews that their father is not God but Satan. How are you supposed to do a biblically accurate movie about Christ without being anti-Semitic? Historically accurate, no problem. But biblically accurate? A lot harder.
Boy Scout Discrimination
In 2000, the Supreme Court rightly upheld the Boy Scouts' right to be bigots. Now the Boy Scouts say that it's unfair for states to treat them differently just because they're bigots. In particular, Connecticut dropped Boy Scouts from a state-run charity fund-raiser because of its discriminatory policy against gays. The Supreme Court, however, turned down the Boy Scouts' appeal, letting stand a lower court ruling that Connecticut doesn't have to fund bigots if it doesn't want to.
Mission to Mars
Bush wants to send people to Mars, but that's a 20th-century way to think. By the time we could get people to Mars, our robot engineering is going to be so good that it will make sense to send robots instead. Imagine how much engineering it would take to get people safely to and from Mars. Now imagine what sort of super robots you could make with the same amount of engineering. And for the record, I think we'll find that there never was life on Mars.
Bush's Plans for Iraq
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed that Bush had his eye on Iraq and its oil all along. Nine-eleven gave him the cover he needed to enact his secret agenda.
As part of a global campaign against obesity, the World Health Organization has recommended restricting food ads aimed at children. Sensing valuable political donors might see their profits hurt, Bush spoke out for the right of big corporations to entice kids into eating their junk food.
Reformist Iranian lawmakers stood up to the almighty Guardian Council. But then they sat down again.
Bush wants to spend more money teaching kids not to use birth control. We're just lucky that the Christian Right is so weak that Bush throws it such a little bone.
Iraq and Democracy
It looks pretty bad for Iraqis to protest for direct elections of their leaders and for the US to deny them that right. The reason the Shi'ites want direct elections (and that we don't want them to have them) is that Shi'ites are a formerly-repressed majority. Kurds and Sunnis sure don't want the government to be established by majority rule. If we had let Iraq split up into the three countries that it effectively is ("Kurdistan," "Sunnistan," and "Shiastan"), then Kurds and Sunnis would be majorities in their own countries, and direct elections would be OK.
Excommunication for Legislators
Before leaving his Wisconsin diocese to become the archbishop of St. Louis, then-bishop Raymond Burke instructed his priests to refuse Holy Communion to Catholic lawmakers that support abortion rights. This medieval gesture is a striking example of how the doctrine of sacraments gives the clergy power over lay people.
New York Subway Safety
The New York subway system ranks lowest in number of incidents per passenger of all the subway systems in the US? How does crime-challenged NYC manage to earn the top spot? New York doesn't count misdemeanors as "assaults" only felonies. Thus, they have fewer "incidents" per passenger than some other subway systems that are in fact safer.
Now that it's over, can we agree never to support dictators like Saddam any more? Is that really so much to ask?
Gaddafi Plays Nice
This is a hard one for those of us who opposed the invasion of Iraq to dodge. It would seem that our show of force in Iraq has spooked Gaddafi into coming clean about his weapons programs.
The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that a state's right to allow sick people to use medical marijuana trumps the federal government's desire to prohibit marijuana. What the ruling basically says is that as long as pot use is within a state, it doesn't involve interstate trade and is not subject to federal control. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual's medical need doesn't outweigh federal prohibition. This time around, the issue is state's rights, usually a pet cause for conservatives.
Mercury Pollution A federal appeals court put on hold the EPA's plan to loosen regulations on mercury emissions from power plants. The regulation is on hold until a lawsuit brought by 12 states is resolved. Under Bush, the EPA is such a joke that states have to sue just to get it to do its job.
Mad Cow Disease
A downer cow here in Washington had mad cow disease and was slaughtered for human consumption. There's a huge amount of fuss over this one cow. Meanwhile, beef is killing plenty of people across the country with its saturated fats and dense calorie count. BSE is pretty minor in the big picture.
Crucificixes Safe in Italian Schools
Italian courts have reversed the decision to banish crucifixes. Religious equality will not be imposed on Italian schools, regardless of what the Italian constitution claims.
Thread: Italian cricifixes
The Tax Bush Likes
Reputedly against taxes and in favor of free trade, Bush nevertheless last year imposed a tax on imported steel. As a result, US manufacturers that use steel have seen their costs go up and their international competitiveness go down. Plus, we're now facing billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs from Europe.
Iraq Invasion Illegal
Richard Perle, a member of Bush's defense policy board, admitted that the invasion of Iraq broke international law. Leave it to someone who doesn't hold an elected position to tell it like it is.
Power Handover in Iraq: Bush has vowed that we'll not run from poll-damaging casualties in Iraq. But maybe we'll jog. He says that, in response to increasingly deadly attacks, we're going to transfer of power quickly to the Iraqis. What? Does that mean we weren't planning to transfer power quickly? We were going to take our own sweet time?
Turkey Told Not to Invade Iraq: Turkey threatened to send troops into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish terrorists. Bush told Turkey that it can't haul off and invade Iraq unilaterally just because there are terrorists in the country that threaten Turkey's people. I mean, what would international law come to if such a thing were allowed?
Moore No More
"Ten Commandments Judge" Roy Moore has been removed from office for refusing court orders to get rid of his Ten Commandments monument. These Ten Commandments monuments wouldn't bother me so much if they were translated more authentically. Like "I am YHWH your god," "Remember the Sabbath day (Friday dusk to Saturday dusk) and keep it holy," and "You shall not covet your fellow Hebrew's house."
Gun Rights for Terrorists
When someone on the terrorist watch list successfully buys a firearm, the information that the suspected terrorist submits as part of the application is not passed along to the FBI. Why not? Because Ashcroft is protecting the rights of gun owners. Mr. Patriot Act protects suspected terrorists, provided they're buying guns.
Cuba Travel Ban Not Lifted
The House and the Senate voted to lift the ban as an amendment to an appropriations bill. The conference that was meant to reconcile the House and Senate bills, however, stripped the amendment out. Removing an amendment that the House and Senate both agree on is against the conference committee's rules, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If the bill had come across president's desk, the decision of whether to veto it would have put him between the people across the nation who want more open trade with Cube on one hand and a key voting bloc in Florida on the other. Bush, as we have seen, is not one to let the democratic process get in his way.
Gay Marriage in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it's against the state's constitution to deny marriage licenses to gays and defined marriage as between "two persons." When the same thing happened in Hawaii and Alaska, each state passed a constitutional amendment so that discrimination against gays would no longer be against the constitution. While conservatives might like to do the same thing in Massachusetts, the state's constitution can only be changed by two successive legislatures. Therefore, the Massachusetts constitution will remain unchanged until 2006 at the earliest, and the court gave the state only 180 days to remedy the discrimination against gays that want to marry.
Legal Pot in Alaska
The Alaska Court of Appeals upheld Alaskans' right to have less than four ounces of marijuana in their homes. The court denied the state's petition for a rehearing the case of David Noy, found with pot in his home in 2001. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the right to a small amount of pot in one's home. In 1990, the legislature passed a law against it anyway, and it's that law that's in trouble now. Next stop, Alaska Supreme Court.
Sodomites and Sinners
The Pope's number two man, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, downplayed the seriousness of child sex abuse by priests, saying, "There are thieves in every country, but it's hard to say that everyone is a thief." It's standard for the Vatican to portray sex abuse by priests as the unrelated actions of disparate individuals. They're hoping we'll forget that it was the church hierarchy and doctrines that empowered and protected these individuals, allowing them to victimize minors over and over again for years. Rapist priests aren't like thieves; they're like Mafia racketeers.
Meanwhile, the Pope is upset about US Episcopalians confirming an openly gay man as a bishop. Weird. It's not as though the Catholic Church has had a great results with its policy of keeping gay clergy in the closet.
Thread: bishops' coverup
Doctors Can Give you The Straight Dope
The Supremes said that the feds can't punish doctors for talking to their patients about the medical effects of marijuana, or even recommendinding that they use it. While it's fun to poke fun at Bush and Ashcroft, the policy of punishing doctors for talking to patients about pot was started by Clinton. The campaign against medical marijuana is a bipartisan fiasco.
Jackson Should Go
We've updated the look of the $20 bill again. Next time we update it, we could improve it significantly by removing the face of mass murderer Andrew Jackson.
How Arafat Should Go
Israel is officially cool with the idea of removing Arafat, one way or another. Doing so would be a mistake. The Palestinians have to get to the point where they want to get rid of him themselves. If Israel gets rid of him, that just makes him a hero.
Cuba Travel Ban
The Senate voted to join the House in defying the ban on travel to Cuba. The two senators from Florida and President Bush oppose lifting the ban because they know that support in Florida depends on maintaining the embargo (that is, pleasing the "former friends of Batista" clan). If Bush doesn't support the embargo against Cuba, he might lose Florida again in 2004.
Three young men in Seattle say that they were mistaken for muggers and falsely jailed because they're Asian and black. More to the point, they were mistaken for muggers and falsely jailed because they're young men. Differential treatment of men by police is so commonplace that most people don't even notice it.
Crucifixes in Italian Schools
A judge in Italy says that the crucifix at a public school should come down. The Italian constitution says that the government is to treat religions equally, but a 1923 law says that all public schools are to display a cross. Apparently some religions are more equal than others.
Dooming not Killing
Doctors are willing to let Terri Schiavo, in a persistent vegetative state, die. They're unwilling to kill her. That fine line suggests a certain lack of forthrightness. If I'm in a persistent vegetative state some day, overdose me on opiates just in case there's some basic awareness left in there.
God's People Versus Satan
Lt. Gen. William Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, depicts our conflicts with radical Muslims as a battle between God's true faithful and Satan's lackeys. Isn't in nice that our Christian extremists and their Muslim extremists can finally agree on something?
Jews and World Domination
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says that Jews secretly control the Western world, but even he says that suicide bombings don't help the Muslim cause.
Reform in Saudi Arabia
Bowing to pressure from those calling for reform, Saudi Arabia announced that it would hold its first-ever elections: municipal elections to be held next year. Meanwhile, over a hundred protestors calling for the release of political prisoners were arrested. Demonstrations are forbidden in the kingdom. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia touts itself as a modern country in television ads that it's airing in the US.
Thread: Saudi Arabia
Pot a Low Priority
Seattle voters (God bless 'em) passed an initiative directing the police to make busting pot users a lowest priority, meaning that practically no one will get busted just for having a little pot. The police say that the initiative doesn't change much because simple possession is already a low priority for them. Most minor pot busts are opportunistic, like the police stop a driver for some driving infraction and wind up busting them for pot, too. Still, the initiative victory is at least a symbolic gesture in the struggle to resist crazy, stupid, punitive drug laws that make Ashcroft happy.
$87 Billion for Iraq
Remember two things: the administration itself understands that $87 billion is not enough, and that this is only for a single year's budget.
Abu Mazen Resigns
Arafat finally squeezed Abu Mazen out of office, much to his own benefit and to the detriment of Palestinians who are hoping for peace and a state they can call their own.
Israel is building a security fence around the West Bank. Given that they're spending $2 billion to build the wall, it's bizarre that folks expect them not to grab a little land that isn't theirs in the process. Who do critics think the Israelis are, after all, God's own chosen people or something?
Israeli Pilots for Peace
A number of Israeli fighter pilots, elites among their military, have vowed not to fly missions into civilian territory in the West Bank. When will we hear some Palestinian terrorists saying the same thing about civilian territory in Israel?
SAT Scores Up
Once again, SAT scores have been tabulated. Once again, people are mistaking SAT scores for a meaningful measure of students' achievement. The SAT is too self-selecting to be worthwhile as a measure of overall student performance.
Bush Denies Ties Between Saddam and Al-Qaeda
Now that troops are in the thick of it in Iraq and the supposed link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda is no longer necessary to bolster support for the war, Bush has admitted that there was no such link in the first place. Bush knows that as long as Iraqis fire on US troops, we'll hate the Iraqis, and a tie to some terrorist group or another is no longer necessary to make US voters angry.
Bush Asks UN for Help in Iraq
As in, Bush asks UN for help in Iraq. That is to say, Bush asks UN for help in Iraq. Sort of like Bush asking for the UN for help in Iraq. In case you didn't get that, Bush asks UN for help in Iraq. For the sake of our troops, let's hope to UN helps, even if it their doing so bolsters the president's sagging approval ratings.
Pot and Privacy
The Supreme Court of Alaska struck down the 1990 law that made possession of any amount of pot against the law. In 1975, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state's constitution protected private possession of up to four ounces of pot, and now the court has upheld that ruling. Alaska is the closest thing that the Libertarians have to a bastion.
Autistic Child Healed to Death
A pastor trying to drive "spirits" from an autistic child, Terrance Cottrell, inadvertently asphyxiated him by kneeling or sitting on his chest. Yet again, belief in evil spirits has claimed a child's life.
Doctors called for the US to step boldly forward into the 20th century and institute a single-payer, universal, federal health insurance program. Eight thousand MDs backed such a proposal in JAMA. Maybe someone should organize a letter-writing campaign in which Canadian MDs explain to their US counterparts how much money they make on their single-payer system. That might swing the rest of the AMA.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Southern Baptist, couldn't stop the removal of the monument to the ten commandments that he installed at the state judicial building two years ago. He'd had the monument moved in overnight. There are ten-commandments monuments at courthouses all over the country. Why is it always the ten commandments that Christians want honored, not the golden rule? Maybe because the ten commandments are better for finger-pointing.
Chinese Breed Rabbitmen
The Chinese took human complete, adult, diploid DNA and put it into denucleated rabbit ova. The "zygotes" multiplied but were destroyed before they turned into embryos. Some ask, "Were these living zygotes human beings?" Others find the question pointless.
Sodomite Installed as Episcopalian Bishop
Having long installed usurers as bishops, as well as people who wear clothes made of two materials, the Episcopal Church in the US decided that it would be hypocritical not to confirm sodomites as well.
The Pope has launched a propaganda campaign against same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, GOP politicians like Frist are garnering favor among conservative Christians by speaking out in favor of a constitutional definition of marriage. They GOP had better be quick with that amendment because support for gay rights has been growing for decades and isn't about to stop.
Not Having to Compromise
Talking about gay marriage, Bush said, "[S]omeone like me" doesn't have to compromise. He did not clarify what he meant by "someone like me." Maybe he meant "a rich white man," possibly "a Protestant." Then again, he might have meant "an unelected head of state."
Peacekeepers in Liberia
We're going to send troops to Liberia. Why? Because we didn't find WMDs in Iraq. Not finding the WMDs forced us to reinvent our mission in Iraq as one of military altruism. Now we're the guys whose troops go around helping people again. In the presidential campaign, Bush said he wasn't an interventionist, like Clinton was.
Mounting Casualties in Iraq
Our troops keep getting shot in Iraq. I wish Bush would declare the hostilities over, but for real this time.
earlier "In the News" posts