Saturday, April 01, 2006

'An Underwater Holocaust' of Coral

According to this article, conservative estimates are that 1/3 of the coral in the Caribbean died in the last three to four months.

One third of the Caribbean's coral gone. In the last three to four months! There are areas in the Indian and Pacific Oceans where coral mortality has been 90%. Ninety percent gone! We must address global warming forcefully and immediately. Please, vote the global warming deniers out of office in November. The world is depending on us, who contribute 25% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, to fix our problem.

In Puerto Rico, colonies of 800-year-old star lobed coral died from the bleaching.

This old chunk of brain coral is at least 90 percent dead from the disease called "white plague".

AP, via CNN: Caribbean coral suffers record die-off
World's coral reef loss 'an underwater holocaust'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A one-two punch of bleaching from record hot water followed by disease has killed ancient and delicate coral in the biggest loss of reefs scientists have ever seen in Caribbean waters.

Researchers from around the globe are scrambling to figure out the extent of the loss. Early conservative estimates from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands find that about one-third of the coral in official monitoring sites has recently died.

"It's an unprecedented die-off," said National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller, who last week checked 40 stations in the Virgin Islands.

"The mortality that we're seeing now is of the extremely slow-growing reef-building corals. These are corals that are the foundation of the reef ... We're talking colonies that were here when Columbus came by have died in the past three to four months."

Some of the devastated coral can never be replaced because it only grows the width of one dime a year, Miller said.

Coral reefs are the basis for a multibillion-dollar tourism and commercial fishing economy in the Caribbean. Key fish species use coral as habitat and feeding grounds. Reefs limit the damage from hurricanes and tsunamis. More recently they are being touted as possible sources for new medicines.

If coral reefs die "you lose the goose with golden eggs" that are key parts of small island economies, said Edwin Hernandez-Delgado, a University of Puerto Rico biology researcher.

On Sunday, Hernandez-Delgado found a colony of 800-year-old star coral -- more than 13 feet high -- that had just died in the waters off Puerto Rico.

"We did lose entire colonies," he said. "This is something we have never seen before."

On Wednesday, Tyler Smith, coordinator of the U.S. Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monitoring program, dived at a popular spot for tourists in St. Thomas and saw an old chunk of brain coral, about 3 feet in diameter, that was at least 90 percent dead from the disease called "white plague."

"We haven't seen an event of this magnitude in the Caribbean before," said Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch.

The Caribbean is actually better off than areas of the Indian and Pacific ocean where mortality rates -- mostly from warming waters -- have been in the 90 percent range in past years, said Tom Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Goreau called what's happening worldwide "an underwater holocaust."

And with global warming, scientists are pessimistic about the future of coral reefs.

"The prognosis is not good," said biochemistry professor M. James Crabbe of the University of Luton near London. In early April, he will investigate coral reef mortality in Jamaica. "If you want to see a coral reef, go now, because they just won't survive in their current state."

For the Caribbean, it all started with hot sea temperatures, first in Panama in the spring and early summer, and it got worse from there.

New NOAA sea surface temperature figures show the sustained heating in the Caribbean last summer and fall was by far the worst in 21 years of satellite monitoring, Eakin said.

"The 2005 event is bigger than all the previous 20 years combined," he said.

What happened in the Caribbean would be the equivalent of every city in the United States recording a record high temperature at the same time, Eakin said. And it remained hot for weeks, even months, stressing the coral.

The heat causes the symbiotic algae that provides food for the coral to die and turn white. That puts the coral in critical condition. If coral remains bleached for more than a week, the chance of death soars, according to NOAA scientists.

In the past, only some coral species would bleach during hot water spells and the problem would occur only at certain depths. But in 2005, bleaching struck far more of the region at all depths and in most species.

A February NOAA report calculates 96 percent of lettuce coral, 93 percent of the star coral and nearly 61 percent of the iconic brain coral in St. Croix had bleached. Much of the coral had started to recover from the bleaching last fall, but then the weakened colonies were struck by disease, finishing them off.

Eakin, who oversees the temperature study of the warmer water, said it's hard to point to global warming for just one season's high temperatures, but other scientists are convinced.

"This is probably a harbinger of things to come," said John Rollino, the chief scientist for the Bahamian Reef Survey. "The coral bleaching is probably more a symptom of disease -- the widespread global environmental degradation -- that's going on."

Crabbe said evidence of global warming is overwhelming.

"The big problem for coral is the question of whether they can adapt sufficiently quickly to cope with climate change," Crabbe said. "I think the evidence we have at the moment is: No, they can't.

"It'll not be the same ecosystem," he said. "The fish will go away. The smaller predators will go away. The invertebrates will go away."

Friday, March 31, 2006

Et tu, Antonin?

Judicial intemperance - Scalia flips message to doubting Thomases

Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.

“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture, flicking his hand under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.

“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.

Fans and foes weigh in on justice gesture

While legal watchdogs wagged a disapproving finger at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his off-color “Sicilian” salute in Boston’s cathedral, the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday it won’t publish a photo of the gesture in its newspaper The Pilot.

“Because it won’t,” archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon responded when asked why.

Justice fires back

To the Editor:
It has come to my attention that your newspaper published a story on Monday stating that I made an obscene gesture - inside Holy Cross Cathedral, no less. The story is false, and I ask that you publish this letter in full to set the record straight.

Photographer: Herald got it right

Amid a growing national controversy about the gesture U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the freelance photographer who captured the moment has come forward with the picture.

“It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.


Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

Church fires photog over Scalia picture: Freelancer pays for ‘right thing’

A freelance photographer has been fired by the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper for releasing a picture of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making a controversial gesture in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Good News From Iraq

Jill Carroll released:

NYTimes: Freelance Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq Is Freed

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 30 — Jill Carroll, the American reporter who was kidnapped in Baghdad nearly three months ago in an abduction that generated international attention, was released today.

Ms. Carroll said in an interview shown on Baghdad television that her captors "never hit me and never even threatened to hit me."

Asked what message she wanted to send to the United States, she said firmly, "I was treated very well, it's important for people to know that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Massachusetts Phases Out Mercury

Boston Globe: Senate passes bill to phase out mercury

BOSTON --Senate lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would phase out products containing mercury.

Environmentalists had argued that Massachusetts lags behind other New England states in regulating the sale and disposal of mercury-containing products such as thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs and electrical switches.

The bill calls on manufacturers to use available alternatives to the toxin in their products, and also requires environmentally safe disposal of the items.

Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine have all enacted laws restricting the use and disposal of mercury. In 2000, New Hampshire became the first state in the country to ban the sale of mercury thermometers.

Another Battle in the Bushco 'War on Science'

From today's Los Angeles Times:

How Environmentalists Lost the Battle Over TCE

After massive underground plumes of an industrial solvent were discovered in the nation's water supplies, the Environmental Protection Agency mounted a major effort in the 1990s to assess how dangerous the chemical was to human health.

Following four years of study, senior EPA scientists came to an alarming conclusion: The solvent, trichloroethylene, or TCE, was as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than the EPA had previously believed.

The preliminary report in 2001 laid the groundwork for tough new standards to limit public exposure to TCE. Instead of triggering any action, however, the assessment set off a high-stakes battle between the EPA and Defense Department, which had more than 1,000 military properties nationwide polluted with TCE.

By 2003, after a prolonged challenge orchestrated by the Pentagon, the EPA lost control of the issue and its TCE assessment was cast aside. As a result, any conclusion about whether millions of Americans were being contaminated by TCE was delayed indefinitely.


The agency's authority and its scientific stature have been eroded under a withering attack on its technical staff by the military and its contractors. Indeed, the Bush administration leadership at the EPA ultimately sided with the military.

After years on the defensive, the Pentagon — with help from NASA and the Energy Department — is taking a far tougher stand in challenging calls for environmental cleanups. It is using its formidable political leverage to demand greater proof that industrial substances cause cancer before ratcheting up costly cleanups at polluted bases.

The military
says it is only striving to make smart decisions based on sound science and accuses the EPA of being unduly influenced by left-leaning scientists.

But critics say the defense establishment has manufactured unwarranted scientific doubt, used its powerful role in the executive branch to cause delays and forced a reduction in the margins of protection that traditionally guard public health.

If the EPA's 2001 draft risk assessment was correct, then possibly thousands of the nation's birth defects and cancers every year are due in part to TCE exposure, according to several academic experts.

"It is a World Trade Center in slow motion,"
said Boston University epidemiologist David Ozonoff, a TCE expert. "You would never notice it."

Blogtopia Round-Up

Digby asks: I Wonder Why Bush Didn't Attack Zarqawi When He Had The Chance?, in which he discusses NBC's story that Bush ignored several chances to take out or capture Zarqawi.

Firedoglake digs up some early work by Atrios, when he was an intrepid footsoldier for the late, lamented Media Whores Online: Late Night FDL: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Blogger

Will Bunch of Attytood finds that one of the wingnuts running for Duke Cunningham's House seat in California has posted a photo of his visit to "calm and stable" Baghdad on his website. Problem is, the picture is not only not Baghdad, it's from some other country. Play along as blogtopia plays "name the place in this photo": Can you spot the mistakes in this photo?

Here's shock. ThinkProgress says Scalia isn't going to recuse himself from the Hamdan case. Told you the odds were a gazillion to one against.

Body and Soul tells the Democratic Party to find the good in themselves and become the party of Roosevelt again: Roosevelt Democrats

Steve Gilliard posts a list of immigration facts for the fact-free corporate media, by American author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez: Stupid Americans

Note to readers: Posting will be light for the next week as Coach Mom arrives and we go to the women's basketball Final Four this weekend (Duke and Monique Currie, LSU and Simone Augustus, Maryland and Kristi Toliver, and my pick to win it all, North Carolina and Ivory Latta!)

Bushco Policy: Muzzle the Honest Scientists

Global warming? Let's just pretend it's not happening. The only government scientists who are free to speak to the media are the ones who hew to the "global warming, pshaw" bottom line. The ones who speak the truth? Silenced. Can only speak while a Bushco media monitor is in the room.

From the Scripps-Howard News Service (via Booman Tribune)
NOAA accused of hiding truth about global warming

Hurricanes are getting worse because of global warming.

Kerry Emanuel, a veteran climate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made that assertion to a roomful of University of Rhode Island scientists a few months ago. He also charged the federal government's top science agency with ignoring the growing research making that link.

Instead of telling the public the truth, he said, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are insisting that hurricanes are worse because of a natural cycle.


James E. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, was quoted in The New York Times in January as saying he had been threatened with "dire consequences" by some NASA political appointees if he continued to call for limits on emissions of gases linked to global warming.

Many climate scientists at NOAA may no longer take calls from reporters, the story went on to say, unless the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and is conducted with a public-affairs officer present. But where scientists' views on climate change align with those of the administration, the Times said, there are few restrictions on speaking or writing.


Soon after Emanuel's appearance at URI to discuss his research and his new book, "Divine Wind: The History of Science and Hurricanes," The Providence Journal sought to test his conclusions.

The first call was to Isaac Held, a senior research scientist at NOAA's prestigious Geophysical Fluids Laboratory, in Princeton, N.J. It was there, last fall, that Emanuel said he first heard about NOAA censorship. Held said he hadn't been affected, but he advised calling Thomas Knutson, a NOAA scientist whose research showed a link between climate change and hurricane intensity.

"Stick to hurricanes. Talk to Tom," Held advised.

Knutson wouldn't talk.

"When we're contacted by reporters, we have to have clearance before we can speak about issues. This is NOAA's media policy," Knutson said.
He suggested calling Jana Goldman, in NOAA's public-affairs office.

Is this a new policy? he was asked.

"Check with her," Knutson said. "I'm not sure when the policy was implemented."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

When is a Debate Not a Debate?

This is the Senate, empty.

This is a debate in the Senate. See the difference? Senators present.

Did you know that when the Hamdan case is argued today, the Supreme Court will be asked to believe a lie? Oh, no, you protest, that can't be true? But it is. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kyl (R-AZ) have filed a brief claiming to have 'debated" the bill in question on the Senate floor. They rely upon an eight page colloquoy in the Congressional Record. Problem is, it wasn't an actual debate. They stuck their little eight page script in the Congressional Record at the last minute, and the script read like it was live. But it wasn't. It was written, not debated. None of the Senators, even Kyl and Graham, actually participated. Democrats had no chance to get up and be heard, because THERE WAS NO DEBATE.

Will the Supreme Court be conned?

From Anonymous Liberal, via Unclaimed Territory:

The fictitious Kyl/Graham "floor debate"

Apparently this entire 8 page colloquy--which is scripted to read as if it were delivered live on the floor of the Senate, complete with random interruptions from other Senators--never took place. It was inserted into the Congressional Record in written form just prior to passage of the bill.

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog--who appears to have been the first to pick up on this juicy story last Thursday--noted that the authenticity of the floor debate was disputed by Hamdan's attorneys in their reply to the Government's brief. Hamdan's attorneys pointed out that the C-SPAN footage for Dec. 21, 2005--the date this debate supposedly took place--shows no sign of Senators Kyl or Graham (or, for that matter, the other Senators who appear in the record).


What we have are two Senators falsely suggesting--to the highest court in the land--that an imaginary dialogue inserted in the Congressional Record was in fact a live floor debate which reveals the definitive intent of Congress. If all this is true--and it certainly appears to be--Senators Kyl and Graham have some explaining to do.

Terrible First Amendment Decision

Don't answer any questions or say slavery was morally wrong, some parent might disagree.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker Judge Rules Teachers Have No Free Speech Rights in Class

Here's an update on Deb Mayer, the teacher who said her contract was not renewed because she answered a student's question about whether she would participate in a demonstration for peace. (See “Teacher Awaits Day in Court.”)

Her case involves an incident that occurred on January 10, 2003, at Clear Creek Elementary School in Bloomington, Indiana.

The students were reading an article in Time for Kids about peace protests. She responded to the student’s question by saying she sometimes honks for peace and that it’s important to seek out peaceful solutions both on the playground and in society. Afterwards, the parents of one of the students got angry and insisted that she not speak about peace again in the classroom. Mayer’s principal so ordered her.

When the school district did not renew Mayer’s contract at the end of the semester, she sued for wrongful termination and for violation of her First Amendment rights.

On March 10, Judge Sarah Evans Barker dismissed Mayer’s case, granting summary judgment to the defendants.

The judge said the school district was within its rights to terminate Mayer because of various complaints it received from parents about her teaching performance.

But beyond that, Judge Barker ruled that “teachers, including Ms. Mayer, do not have a right under the First Amendment to express their opinions with their students during the instructional period.”

The judge ruled that “school officials are free to adopt regulations prohibiting classroom discussion of the war,” and that “the fact that Ms. Mayer’s January 10, 2003, comments were made prior to any prohibitions by school officials does not establish that she had a First Amendment right to make those comments in the first place.” The judge also implied that Mayer, by making her comments, was attempting to “arrogate control of the curricula.”

And the judge gave enormous leeway to school districts to limit teachers’ speech in the classroom.

“Whatever the school board adopts as policy regarding what teachers are permitted to express in terms of their opinions on current events during the instructional period, that policy controls, and there is no First Amendment right permitting teachers to do otherwise,” Judge Barker wrote.

The judge “has simply gotten the law wrong,” says Michael Schultz, Mayer’s attorney. “There is a long line of authority that teachers do not check their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door. And, in this case, Ms. Mayer was asked for her opinion in the context of teaching the approved curriculum. She only gave her opinion in a very appropriate, limited way and then related the issue to the students' lives (i.e., on the playground), and then moved on in the lesson. If giving one's opinion in response to a legitimate (and predictable) question is fair game for making a decision to terminate a teacher, who will want to teach? And, more importantly, what impact will this state of affairs have on the quality of instruction?”

Mayer says she’s going to appeal. “It’s too important not to,” she says. “Teachers everywhere are at risk because of what this judge has said.”

This judge was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1984 (the first woman ever appointed to the federal bench in Indiana) and it seems that her brain has calcified.

I'm familiar with the Time for Kids issue that was discussed, because my friend's kid was assigned the same article to summarize. You really couldn't avoid discussing war and peace given the topic, peace protests.

This decision would make it impossible to teach, because if children think about the material presented and ask questions, you have to remain mute.

My father would have been fired a million times if this were the law.

25,000 Students Walk Out in Los Angeles

Huffington Post: Walkout!

On Monday, thousands of Latino high school students walked out of their classrooms en masse and took to the streets of cities from Detroit to Dallas to Los Angeles to protest the draconian, anti-immigrant "Sensenbrenner bill" (aka. HR 4437). Walkouts in Los Angeles spread east into the Inland Empire and south to Santa Ana, where police provoked a brief scuffle by wading into the protest with full riot gear and batons drawn. 25,000 students from the Los Angeles Unified School District are estimated to have participated in the otherwise peaceful demonstrations.

As was the case during Sunday's mass mobilization, the walkouts' most dramatic moment arrived at the city's main artery: the 101 freeway. There, according to an eyewitness I spoke to last night, 200 jubilant, flag-waving students paraded down the center lane while a cavalcade of LAPD motorcycle cops followed closely behind, ensuring that the backed-up traffic didn't plow them over (sorry, no pictures for now). While the walkouts were planned well in advance, the idea of taking to the freeway seemed to have been devised organically and disseminated through word-of-mouth, text messages and Myspace.

Many people I talked with around the city yesterday questioned whether Edward James Olmos' newly released documentary about mass Chicano student protests against discriminatory educational policies in 1968 East L.A. high schools, "Walkout," influenced yesterday's events. In an interview yesterday with Hoy, an L.A.-based Spanish language paper, Olmos refuted this idea by claiming the conditions that precipitated the protests against HR 4437 were drastically different than those that animated Chicano life in 1968. However, a student demonstrator from Manual Arts told Hoy, "Before I saw the movie, I didn't think we could do something like that. I didn't understand how you could affect change. But after I saw it, I felt in my heart that I could do something."


Though the mobilizations are over
, their effect will be felt for generations. Under mounting pressure, the Senate Judiciary Committe overwhelmingly approved a bill providing a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants -- a humiliating blow to Majority Leader Bill Frist and the reactionary forces pulling his strings. A new movement has been galvanized which will not only transform the face of American politics, it will challenge the country to, as one dreamer once put it, rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.

I'm not sure the mobilizations are over. Protest is exhilarating. Coverage is cool, too. Maybe these kids will take on the Iraq War next?

Democracy Now: Between 500,000 and 2 Million Protest Immigration Bill in LA

Other large immigrant-led protests occurred throughout the country. 50,000 people took to the streets in Denver. 20,000 rallied in Phoenix in what may have been the city’s largest protest ever. In Atlanta, 70,000 immigrant workers took part in a work stoppage on Friday. Other protests occurred in New York, Charlotte, Dallas and Sacramento.

Senators Back Guest Workers
Panel's Measure Sides With Bush

A key Senate panel broke with the House's get-tough approach to illegal immigration yesterday and sent to the floor a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws that would provide lawful employment to millions of undocumented workers while offering work visas to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year.

With bipartisan support, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 6 to side with President Bush's general approach to an immigration issue that is dividing the country, fracturing the Republican Party and ripening into one of the biggest political debates of this election year. Conservatives have loudly demanded that the government tighten control of U.S. borders and begin deporting illegal immigrants. But in recent weeks, the immigrant community has risen up in protest, marching by the hundreds of thousands to denounce what they see as draconian measures under consideration in Washington.

Recuse, Antonin

WaPo: Retired Generals Want Scalia Off Gitmo Case

Hamdan's lawyers have not called for Scalia to step aside. Instead, five retired generals who support Hamdan's arguments sent a letter late Monday to the court with the request that Scalia withdraw from participating in the case. They say Scalia appears to have prejudged the case.

The retired generals said Scalia's speech in Switzerland "give rise to the unfortunate appearance that ... the justice had made up his mind about the merits" of Hamdan's arguments.

In the speech, first reported by Newsweek, Scalia repeated his views from 2004 that enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should not have access to U.S. courts and traditional legal rights.


The letter came from five retired generals and admirals: Navy Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter; Navy Rear Adm. John D. Hutson; Vice Adm. Lee F. Gunn; Marine Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms; and Army Brig. Gen. James P. Cullen.

I doubt this show of military might and right will influence chickenhawk Scalia. (Originally I typed 'chickhawk' Scalia, one of the funniest typos ever.)

In today's print edition, WaPo:

Scalia's Recusal Sought in Key Detainee Case
Retired Officers Say Justice's Impartiality Is in Question After Remarks on Combatants

In a letter delivered to the court late yesterday, a lawyer for the retired officers cited news reports of Scalia's March 8 remarks to an audience at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland. Scalia reportedly said it was "crazy" to suggest that combatants captured fighting the United States should receive a "full jury trial," and dismissed suggestions that the Geneva Conventions might apply to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Scalia's remarks "give rise to the unfortunate appearance that, even before briefing was complete, he had already made up his mind" about issues in the case, the lawyer, David H. Remes, wrote. Noting that Scalia reportedly had discussed the rights of accused terrorists in the context of his son Matthew's recent tour as an Army officer in Iraq, Remes wrote that this creates an appearance of "personal bias arising from his son's military service."


In his letter to the court, Remes said Scalia's reported reference to the Geneva Conventions was of particular concern to the retired officers as it is directly at issue in the case. Their brief supports the view of the petitioner, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, that the conventions apply to him and could entitle him to a court-martial trial like that which U.S. soldiers receive.

Other calls for Scalia's recusal came yesterday from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights organization that supports the challenge to the military commissions, and from Rep. John D. Conyers (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Previous posts: Ethics, Schmethics (March 27, 2006)

Scalia: 'Flipping a middle finger to his critics'
(March 27, 2006)

Conned by Big Oil Once Again

Image courtesy Greenpeace

ABC asks the question:

Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job? Some Claim Disinformation Campaign Attempted to Create the Impression Scientists Were Broadly Divided

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan blames a 15-year misinformation campaign by the oil and coal industries.

"The point of this campaign was not necessarily to persuade the public that global warming isn't happening," Gelbspan said. "It was to persuade the public that there is this state of confusion."

A 1998 memo by the American Petroleum Institute said, "Victory will be achieved when … average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science."

To redefine global warming as theory — not fact — the industry funded research by "friendly" scientists such as [climatologist Pat] Michaels.

Of course, the answer is yes. Just like there is no litigation crisis. That meme is bought and paid for the insurance industry. It's a win-win for them. They keep raising their rates, and then point to the litigation crisis (a false story which they funded) as the cause. So insurance companies continue to collect high, unregulated premiums, legislatures put caps on lawsuits, or eliminate categories of lawsuits altogether, and insurance saves even more in payouts.

I saw this at Suburban Guerilla.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Suicide by Witness Chair

Zacharias Moussaoui makes his case for his 72 virgins in heaven:

WaPo: Moussaoui Testifies Over Attorneys' Objections

Zacarias Moussaoui testified in an Alexandria courtroom this morning that he was tapped by Osama bin Laden to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House as part of the terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

Testifying at his own death-penalty trial, over the objections of his attorneys, Moussaoui said he had not known the precise date the attacks were to take place, but that he knew they would involve the White House, the World Trade Center and other targets.

He said he was supposed to head a five-man crew that also would have included Richard Reid, a British citizen who tried to set off explosives in his shoes aboard a transatlantic flight two months after the Sept. 11 attacks.


Questioned by defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin for less than 30 minutes, Moussaoui was asked: "Were you scheduled to be a pilot in the operation that was to be run on Sept. 11, 2001?''

He replied: "Yes. I was supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House. I only knew about the two planes of the World Trade Center in addition to my own plane.''

Prosecutors have argued that Moussaoui should be executed because he lied to the FBI when he was arrested in August 2001 -- and Moussaoui appears to have made much of their case in his testimony today by admitting that he lied "because I wanted my mission to go ahead.''

When he pleaded guilty, Moussaoui signed a document admitting he had lied to allow his "al-Qaeda brothers to go forward" with the plot. Asked today who he meant, he named Mohamed Atta, the leader of the hijacking teams who piloted the first plane that hit the World Trade Center.

Well, he wanted to go down in flames. He'll get his wish. The government tried to drive a stake in its own case against him with the cheating FAA lawyer, etc., and Moussaoui made himself Dead Man Walking by his desire to tell his story. The urge to be heard is always powerful. Who will ever know if he is telling the truth. If you're facing life in prison at a minimum, why not make yourself seem really important?

Dana Milbank essay, WaPo: A Terrorist's Grand Delusion

When Republicans Attack ... Each Other

If they were women, would Steve Clemons call it a catfight? Mmmrrrohwwww.

Huffington Post: Behind the Scenes: Rove and Libby in Deadly Legal Dogfight

According to several Pentagon sources close to Rove and others familiar with the inquiry, Bush's senior adviser tipped off Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to information that led to the recent "discovery" of 250 pages of missing email from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.


According to one source close to the case, Rove is providing information on deleted emails, erased hard drives and other types of obstruction by staff and other officials in the Vice President's office. Pentagon sources close to Rove confirmed this account.

Scalia: 'Flipping a middle finger to his critics'

Not this finger, the middle one

AMERICAblog: Scalia just gave the finger in church yesterday (not kidding)

From UPI:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."

The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper.

"Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.

Right back at you, Antonin. I too swore an oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution; unlike you, I meant it.

And Now for Something Completely Different

The Sound of Young America: Unearthed Monty Python Footage From 1975

All but John Cleese. Note: the audience could be my high school class. The hair, the hair.

I saw this on BoingBoing

Turnout Wins Elections, Sayeth St. Gloria

Seattle for Dean: QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Only 30% of the country is ultra right-wing – but, here is the thing – they turn out 90% of their membership. Meanwhile the remaining 70% only turns out at about 50%."

-Gloria Steinem, speaking in Seattle[.]

US Prisons Hold 25% of the World's Prisoners; 1/3 to 1/2 Are Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Photo courtesy National Conference of State Legislatures

Great post on the insanity of the drug laws in America and the millions imprisoned for nonviolent drug 'crimes, by guest poster Hypatia, at Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory:

Prison & the War on Drugs: Just Say No

While the United States constitutes 5% of the world's population, this “land of the free” holds 25% of the world's prisoners – a third to a half are there for drug offenses . With all the talk of Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition, many overlook that we have a Gulag Prison System here at home, fueled by our drug laws.

Most Americans seldom think about or discuss penal policies in any systematic or focused way. That failure is itself a poltical/ethical crime, because prison and its uses is a consummately moral issue. Sentencing citizens to prison entails sending armed agents of the state after them, then placing them at the tender mercies of scalp-seeking prosecutors, and if convicted, locking them in cages and robbing them of their autonomy.

For us to collectively decide that the consensual, adult use or sale of intoxicants will be criminalized, means we are agreeing that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans will experience life-destroying calamity. These POWs will be ripped from their communities -- and frequently from their children -- for years, decades and for life, pursuant to mandatory sentencing schemes as Draconian as those in any dictatorship; how else to characterize putting, e.g., non-violent, vegetarian 23-year-olds in prison for life for selling LSD at Grateful Dead concerts? (It is some small measure of progress that in New York, they recently did away with the life sentences for drug offenders.)

Instead of being with their families, these citizens will be confined among a population teeming with violent predators, under harsh and terrifying conditions. Conditions in which, especially for the disabled, their health often cannot be maintained, as this shameful example shows, as does the case of Lillie Blevins, a non-violent woman who died while serving her life sentence for conspiracy to sell crack cocaine.

As bad as the wretched attention to health, if not worse, is the fact that in many prisons drug-offender “criminals” cannot be (or are not) meaningfully protected from rape and assault. And the drug war is directly feeding prison rapes.

Read the whole thing. The War on Drugs (cited by Ronald Reagan as one of the greatest achievements of his administration) has cost us dearly. There's all the federal money that's ended up enriching drug dealers and their financiers, as well as the shattered lives of nonviolent drug offenders. A sensible drug policy would be so ... sensible. Will it ever happen? In the land of Reefer Madness, that's doubtful.

We Love Lists

From Grist Magazine:

Wallet and Grimace
Stats on how much Americans pay for essentials

Some of these really make you think:

79.4 -- percentage of Americans who reported that a single-passenger vehicle was their principal means of getting to work in 2003

4.4 -- percentage of Americans who reported that public transportation was their principal means of getting to work in 2003

$8,759 -- average annual cost of owning and operating a midsize car in the U.S. in 2004 (assuming 15,000 miles driven per year)

$590 -- estimated annual cost of riding public transit (assuming a base fare of $1.25 per ride)

Bush Lies Memorialized in British Document

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and President Bush arriving for a White House news conference on Jan. 31, 2003, after a meeting about Iraq that would be summarized in a memorandum by an adviser to Mr. Blair.

The war plan was definite at least by January 31, 2003: three days after Bush's State of the Union speech (filled with lies like: Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production") the date for invasion was set. (The actual invasion took place nine days later than anticipated, on March 19, 2003.) And I imagine the war plan was 'set' long before this. Contrary to Bush's lies at his press conference last week, he was set to go to war all along.

NYTimes: Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says

LONDON — In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

: Was my face red ... must have more coffee before posting ... this is just another one of the Downing Street memos, which has been out there on the web for two months. It was reported in the Guardian (uk) on February 3, 2006:

Blair-Bush deal before Iraq war revealed in secret memo
PM promised to be 'solidly behind' US invasion with or without UN backing

I even blogged about these very documents before:

Going to the UN Was a Sham; War Was Already Decided (Feb. 3, 2006)

The charge: Blogging while sleepwalking. The verdict: guilty as charged. Penalty: We report, you decide.

Ethics, Schmethics

Surprise, surprise. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has already made up his mind about the Guantanimo Bay enemy combatant cases. And he's in favor of lifetime detention without the right to counsel. How constitutional.

WaPo: No Legal Rights for Enemy Combatants, Scalia Says
'War Is War,' Justice Tells Audience

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told an overseas audience this month that the Constitution does not protect foreigners held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He also told the audience at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland that he was "astounded" by the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to the prison, this week's issue of Newsweek magazine reported.

New Chief Justice John Roberts has already recused himself from the cases, as he was a member of the federal appeals court panel whose decision is under review.

Odds of Scalia recusing himself from hearing these cases, about which he has already made up his mind and announced his position publicly? That would be about a gazillion to one. Sheesh, Scalia didn't even recuse himself from the case involving Cheney's secret energy task force meetings after he went duck hunting with Dick Cheney. (He's lucky he's still alive, but that's a separate matter. Or is it? Maybe he didn't recuse because Big Time threatened to give him the Harry Whittington treatment. Hmmmm.)

Ethically, of course, he should recuse himself.

U.S. high court judge said to slam detainee rights

Ethics experts said the impression that Scalia had already made up his mind before the hearing should mean that he will voluntarily drop out of the proceedings. However, Newsweek said he did not refer specifically to this week's case.

"He should remove himself when there is a reasonable doubt of his impartiality," said Father Robert Drinan, a professor of law at Georgetown University and long-standing human rights campaigner, who teaches judicial ethics.

"It should logically be a reason for his recusal but I don't think he'll do it ... he's so stubborn" said Drinan.


"A judge has to have an open mind; when he hears the articles and reacts to briefs. If he's made up his mind on a particular issue, he shouldn't be sitting (in)," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

"Here he has publicly said that this is what my position is, before the arguments ... It's really stacking the deck," Ratner said. CCR has argued for Guantanamo prisoner rights.

Barbara Turner Overdrive

Barbara Turner propelled UConn into the Elite Eight of the women's NCAA basketball tournament last night with 31 points, the most points she ever scored in her four years at UConn. The game ended with 4 three pointers. Georgia's Cori Chambers hit a three with 20.3 seconds left. On the final play, Connecticut had a hard time moving the ball, and at the bottom of the TV screen, there was Turner, gesturing, no, insisting that the next pass go to her. She finally got the ball with 5 seconds on the clock, and closely guarded by two Georgia players, she fired up a desperation, falling away from the basket, hell, falling off the court three-pointer. Which went in. Georgia got off a final shot on the inbound when Tasha Humphrey, who had a huge game for Georgia, hit the rim with a shot fired from three quarters of the length of the court.

Whew. What a game.

Hope the Huskies make it to Boston next weekend. Now that BC is out of it, they're the last Northeast team with a shot.

WaPo: Turner's Late Basket Bails Out Connecticut

Boston Globe: UConn heaves sigh of relief

ESPN: Turner the star, but gets plenty of help (with video of the final sequence in a box on the right hand side of the page)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I Had No Idea

That Markos Moulitsas of dailykos looks like a twelve-year-old! Who doesn't shave yet! This is a screen cap from his appearance on CNN today:

You can watch the video on Crooks & Liars.

He's so cuuuute.

Rene is a Weenie

Rene Portland, the head coach of Penn State's women's basketball team, has been openly discriminating against lesbian players for years. Coach Mom & Dad & I were at the Women's Final Four in New Orleans in 1991 when she was given the National Division I Coach of the Year Award. We sat on our hands when the award was announced. We were too polite to boo, but Coach Mom did mutter "Discriminator!" loudly when she stepped to the podium.

Massachusetts has big billboards on the highways as you enter the state warning about our gun laws (at least we used to -- has our series of Rethug governors had them taken down?) I wish we had big billboards warning people like Rene Weenie Portland that Massachusetts doesn't tolerate discriminators and haters. Get out of town, and take your medieval attitudes with you, Rene Weenie.

Boston Globe: When the fouls get very personal
Player's suit claims Penn State coach was biased against lesbians

By Bob Hohler, Globe Staff | March 26, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- They echo through the years, voices from a generation of female basketball players who say their lives were marred by a powerful college coach's campaign against homosexuality.

Their legacy of pain began in 1982, when, Cindy Davies says, Penn State coach Maureen T. ''Rene" Portland threatened to expose her as a lesbian. The legacy endured as Portland in 1986 publicly espoused her opposition to coaching homosexuals and reaffirmed her stance in 1991, all the while allegedly engaging in a pattern of bias based on sexual orientation. And the legacy grows as Jennifer Harris pursues a federal discrimination claim that Portland cut her from the Penn State team last year in part because the coach considered her a lesbian.

As the women's basketball community converges on Boston this week for the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, the Portland case looms as a watershed chapter in a decades-long struggle to eradicate prejudice that has long festered in the sport against homosexual players and coaches. Numerous athletes and coaches said in interviews that nearly every facet of women's college basketball, from recruiting to hiring practices, has been affected by discrimination based on sexual orientation.

''This lawsuit is the most significant thing that has happened in trying to address homophobia in the sport to date," said Pat Griffin, a professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts whose educational program aimed at curbing bias against homosexuals has been distributed by the NCAA to every member school. ''It's a cautionary tale for coaches and athletic directors that they cannot discriminate with impunity anymore."

While the NCAA prepares a survey on the impact of homophobia in the sport and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association plans at its national convention in Boston this week to adopt a code of ethics that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, Harris, 21, is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a number of institutional reforms in her 20-count civil rights suit against Portland, Penn State athletic director Timothy Curley, and the school. The list of proposed reforms includes annual mandatory anti-discrimination training for Penn State's athletic staff.


Confrontational coach
In Portland's case, the timeline of her campaign against homosexuality dates to 1982, her second full year at Penn State (she was hired by the school's legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, who then doubled as athletic director). Suspicious that Davies, one of her prized players, was romantically involved with the team's female student manager, Portland dismissed the manager and confronted Davies, the former player said in a telephone interview.

''It's seared in my mind to this day," Davies, 43, said of the confrontation. ''[Portland] said, 'I don't know if it's true, but if I find out it's true, there's nothing that will stop me from going to your parents, the university, and the media.' "

Davies said she ''felt like I was being blackmailed" but lacked the support she would have needed as a 19-year-old to challenge Portland.

''I was scared to death," she said. ''I felt like I was cornered. I ended up saying I would leave the program to concentrate on my academics."

After leaving Penn State, Davies said, she entered a lengthy period of depression in which she contemplated suicide.

Big Week for Plagiarists

First Box Turtle Ben, then George Bush's good friend Vladimir Putin. Guess Smirky McAWOL didn't see the plagiarism when he looked into Putin's heart and soul. If I had Photoshop, I'd be changing the "Red State America" banner to "Red State Plagiarist" with Vlady's picture.

The Sunday Times (uk): Putin accused of plagiarising his PhD thesis

THE career of President Vladimir Putin of Russia was built at least in part on a lie, according to US researchers. A new study of an economics thesis written by Putin in the mid-1990s has revealed that large chunks of it were copied from an American text.

Putin was labelled a plagiarist yesterday after a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC think tank, established that the Russian president’s academic credentials were based on a dissertation he had lifted in part verbatim from the Russian translation of a management study written by two professors at the University of Pittsburgh in 1978.


According to Clifford G Gaddy, a senior fellow at Brookings, 16 of the 20 pages that open a key section of Putin’s work were copied either word for word or with minute alterations from a management study, Strategic Planning and Policy, written by US professors William King and David Cleland. The study was translated into Russian by a KGB-related institute in the early 1990s.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that six diagrams and tables from the 218-page thesis also appeared to “mimic” similar charts in the US work. The newspaper quoted Gaddy as saying: “There’s no question in my mind that this would be plagiarism.”

"[T]he serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming [] is the real deal"

The photograph taken in 1928, above, shows how the Upsala Glacier, part of the South American Andes in Argentina, used to look. The ice on the Upsala Glacier today, shown in 2004 below, is retreating at least 180 ft. per year

Time Magazine's cover story this week (I had to watch an ad to get access to the article; it's time well spent):

Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever... More And More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought... Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities... By Any Measure, Earth Is At ... The Tipping Point
The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame. Why the crisis hit so soon--and what we can do about it

Some of the side articles are very good, also:

Feeling The Heat
Global warming is already disrupting the biological world, pushing many species to the brink of extinction and turning others into runaway pests. But the worst is yet to come

What troubles scientists especially is that if we are only in the early stages of warming, all these lost and endangered animals might be just the first of many to go. One study estimates that more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by the year 2050.

The Climate Crusaders
They saw which way the wind was blowing and set out to save the world

How It Affects Your Health
Expect more risk of heatstrokes, asthma, allergies and infectious disease

Vicious Cycles

The debate over whether Earth is warming up is over. Now we're learning that climate disruptions feed off one another in accelerating spirals of destruction. Scientists fear we may be approaching the point of no return THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT Without the greenhouse effect, life on Earth would not be possible. Energy from the sun is absorbed by the planet and radiated back out as heat. Atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide trap that heat and keep it from leaking into space. That's what keeps us warm at night.

But as humans pour ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, more of the sun's heat gets trapped, and the planet gets a fever BURNING FOSSIL FUELS RELEASES CARBON FUELING THE FIRE The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is climbing fast. Most of it comes from burning fuels for energy--gasoline in cars or coal for electricity, for example. The U.S., with less than 5% of the world's population, produces one-quarter of all greenhouse gases BURNING FORESTS REDUCES OXYGEN AND INCREASES DROUGHT SPREADING THE PAIN Deforestation, through clear-cutting or burning, sows havoc far beyond the affected area. The fires release still more carbon into the atmosphere, fewer plants survive to convert CO2 into oxygen, and scorched soil absorbs more heat and retains less water, increasing droughts •Plants take in CO2 •Fires release carbon •Less carbon absorbed •Soil dries out RISING TEMPERATURES MELT POLAR ICE AND PERMAFROST THAWING OUT The North Pole may be seasonally ice free by 2050. Melting permafrost will release vast amounts of trapped carbon into the air LESS ICE MEANS MORE HEAT WHICH MEANS LESS ICE SPEEDING UP Ice reflects nearly all the sun's energy that hits it. As the planet's ice melts, more of that energy is absorbed by Earth--which further raises the temperature. That, in turn, makes the remaining ice melt quicker •20% reflected by vegetation and dark soil •10% reflected by ocean water •90% reflected by ice MELTING ICE RAISES SEA LEVELS INUNDATING LOW COASTAL AREAS WASHING ASHORE The ice at the North Pole is floating, so as it melts, the sea level won't change much. But the massive ice sheets over Antarctica and Greenland are another story. If both melted completely, sea levels could rise nearly 220 ft. (72 m). That's a worst-case scenario. But the melting is accelerating, and sea levels are projected to rise gradually, threatening low-lying communities.

Know Your "Charities"

WaPo: Red Cross, Humane Society Under Investigation

The Louisiana attorney general has launched inquiries into two of the country's best-known charities -- the American Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States -- after receiving complaints that they misused some of the millions of dollars they raised in the fall to help the human and non-human victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. plans to announce tomorrow that he is looking into allegations that Red Cross volunteers diverted money and supplies meant for hurricane victims in New Orleans, spokeswoman Kris Wartelle said. And the attorney general's office has begun an inquiry into whether the Humane Society spent the money it raised after Hurricane Katrina appropriately.

The Red Cross said yesterday that it has dismissed three of its volunteers who had been involved in food and shelter operations in the stricken city after the storm. The volunteers "have been relieved of their duties" after it was determined that "allegations involving waste and abuse were substantial enough to warrant their immediate removal," said a senior Red Cross official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Yesterday, Red Cross volunteer Jerome Nickerson Jr., a Baltimore lawyer who was asked by the Red Cross in the fall to team with another volunteer to investigate complaints of misuse of supplies and cash, said he found numerous problems in the disaster-relief operation.

He said they found "rogue warehouses" filled with Red Cross supplies that they believed were being sold. Also, some disaster staffers were ordering suspiciously large volumes of such supplies as cooking oil, coffee and canned food from Red Cross warehouses for areas in which they weren't needed. Large numbers of prepared meals were also being ordered and, in at least once instance, were delivered to local restaurants, Nickerson said. Red Cross volunteers were also using multiple debit cards loaded with thousands of dollars in Red Cross funds. "It was completely out of control," he said.

Nickerson said other Red Cross disaster volunteers and staffers interfered with their investigation, corrupting computer files and refusing to give them documents.

But in December, after Nickerson and his partner, Michael Wolters, a Wisconsin security guard, presented their findings to Red Cross officials in Louisiana, and told them they wanted to investigate further, they were sent home.

"It was very disappointing," Nickerson said.

Of course, the Red Cross isn't really an independent charity. It's a quasi-governmental organization, and in this era of corrupt Republicans, it's run by corrupt Republicans.

From the

The right-wing, scandal-ridden “charity” that isn’t really a charity
The truth about the Red Cross

People who think of the Red Cross as a “private charity” would be shocked to discover its actual legal status.

Congress incorporated the Red Cross to act under “government supervision.” Eight of the 50 members of its board of governors are appointed by the president of the United States, who also serves as honorary chairperson. Currently, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are members of the board of governors.

This unique, quasi-governmental status allows the Red Cross to purchase supplies from the military and use government facilities--military personnel can actually be assigned to duty with the Red Cross. Last year, the organization received $60 million in grants from federal and state governments. However, as one federal court noted, “A perception that the organization is independent and neutral is equally vital.”

The leading administrators and officials of the Red Cross are almost always drawn from the corporate boardroom or the military high command. Among the past chairs and presidents of the Red Cross are seven former generals or admirals and one ex-president.

The current president Marty Evans is a retired rear admiral and a director of the investment firm Lehman Brothers Holdings. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the chair of the Red Cross, is also CEO of Pace Communications, whose clients include United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and AT&T--a group of companies known for their vicious treatment of workers.

The Red Cross has become particularly tied up with the Republican Party in recent decades. Both McElveen-Hunter and Evans are Bush appointees--for her part, McElveen-Hunter has donated over $130,000 to the Republican Party since 2000.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THOUGH IT is technically a nonprofit, the Red Cross is run more like profit-hungry corporation than what most people think a “charity” would act like. The most deadly example of this was the Red Cross’ criminally negligent response to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

The Red Cross has been for many decades, and remains today, the largest blood bank in the country. In 1982 and especially 1983, when it would have possible to contain the outbreak--or at least stop the spread of the disease through infusions of infected blood--major blood banks, led by the Red Cross, opposed national testing of blood for HIV.

The Red Cross’ opposition was based on the financial cost. As investigative journalist Judith Reitman wrote in her book Bad Blood: “It appeared it would be cheaper to pay off infected blood recipients, should they pursue legal action, than to up the Red Cross blood supply.”

Previous post: Please, Give to Charity. Just Not the Red Cross (Sept. 25, 2005)

War Crimes

The Sunday Times (UK)

Iraqis killed by US troops ‘on rampage’
Claims of atrocities by soldiers mount


One eyewitness told Time: “I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.”


“Women and even the children were blindfolded and their hands bound. Some of their faces were totally disfigured. A lot of blood was on the floors and the walls.”

Khalaf said he had found the body of his mother Turkiya with her face unrecognisable. “She had been shot with a dumdum bullet,” he claimed.

While many allegations of US atrocities have later turned out to be exaggerated or false, the Abu Sifa incident was supported by hospital autopsy reports that said all the victims had died from bullet wounds. A local Iraqi police commander — supposedly co-operating with US forces — confirmed that the bodies had been found with their wrists tied.


Last week Jalal Abdul Rahman told this newspaper about the death in January of his 12- year-old son Abdul. It was a Sunday evening and father and son were driving home after buying a new game for the boy’s PlayStation.

They were a few hundred yards from their home in the Karkh neighbourhood of Baghdad when — according to Rahman — US forces opened fire on the car, killing Abdul.

Soldiers approached the car and told Rahman he had failed to stop when ordered to do so. Rahman said he had never heard an order to stop. The soldiers searched the car and, as they departed, they threw a black body bag on the ground.

“They said, ‘This is for your son,’ and they left me there with my dead son,” he added.

Rahman claimed he had had nothing to do with the insurgency until that moment. “But this is America, the so-called guardian of humanity, and killing people for them is like drinking water. I shall go after them until I avenge the blood of my son.”

Republican Thieves; or, It's All About the Benjamins

From large to smaller, the Republican party has been ripping off the country for the last five years. Just look at the Iraq War Cost Clock in the post below, for the big rip-off. What follows are some of the smaller rip-offs. I was tempted to say small, but how can you say that people who are siphoning tens of thousands and millions of dollars are small rip-off artists? They're just smaller. And ethically, and morally, they have to look up to see the curb. Worms.

Front page of the Washington Post, today:

Former DeLay Aide Enriched By Nonprofit
Bulk of Group's Funds Tied to Abramoff

Tom Delay's chief of staff created a nonprofit then paid 1/3 of its monies -- more than a million dollars - to himself. Nice work if you can get it.
A top adviser to former House Whip Tom DeLay received more than a third of all the money collected by the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit organization the adviser created to promote a pro-family political agenda in Congress, according to the group's accounting records.

DeLay's former chief of staff, Edwin A. Buckham, who helped create the group while still in DeLay's employ, and his wife, Wendy, were the principal beneficiaries of the group's $3.02 million in revenue, collecting payments totaling $1,022,729 during a five-year period ending in 2001, public and private records show.

Notice that Buckham's wife was one the beneficiaries. That's because she was designated as a 'fundraiser' for the nonprofit, so she got 10% off the top of anything that was donated.

Apparently this thieving model was circulating in Republican circles, because Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) wife took 15% of the monies contributed to his campaign, and Rep. John Sweeney's (R-NY) wife took 10% of the monies donated to her husband's campaign. Neither woman had any prior experience as a fundraiser. Nice work if you can get it, no?

Barbara Bush earmarked a charitable contribution ostensibly for Katrina victims to her ne'er-do-well son's company, Ignite! Problem is, Barbara Bush is also an investor (Washington Post, December 28, 2003) in Neil Bush's company. So she earmarked a charitable donation to enrich her own investment. Nice work if you can get it. I guess given that she's filthy rich anyway, this is working out very well for her.