Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Garfunkel busted for marijuana

That $200 fine is really going to make Art Garfunkel think twice before smoking another joint in his car.

Republicans Accused of Witch-Hunt Against Climate Change Scientists

By Paul Brown

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.
A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.
Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Show Me the Science

Show Me the Science - New York Times: "The fundamental scientific idea of evolution by natural selection is not just mind-boggling; natural selection, by executing God's traditional task of designing and creating all creatures great and small, also seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God. So there is plenty of motivation for resisting the assurances of the biologists. Nobody is immune to wishful thinking. It takes scientific discipline to protect ourselves from our own credulity, but we've also found ingenious ways to fool ourselves and others. Some of the methods used to exploit these urges are easy to analyze; others take a little more unpacking.

A creationist pamphlet sent to me some years ago had an amusing page in it, purporting to be part of a simple questionnaire:

Test Two

Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder? [YES] [NO]

Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter? [YES] [NO]

Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker? [YES] [NO]

If you answered YES for any of the above, give details:

Take that, you Darwinians! The presumed embarrassment of the test-taker when faced with this task perfectly expresses the incredulity many people feel when they confront Darwin's great idea. It seems obvious, doesn't it, that there couldn't be any designs without designers, any such creations without a creator.

Well, yes - until you lok at what contemporary biology has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt: that natural selection - the process in which reproducing entities must compete for finite resources and thereby engage in a a tournament of blind trial and error from which improvements automatically emerge - has the power to generate breathtakingly ingenious designs."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Call for assassination fuels outrage
By James Gerstenzang and Larry B. Stammer
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Televangelist Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez provoked a storm of criticism yesterday, triggering condemnation from fellow religious leaders and international outrage, while the Bush administration said he was a "private citizen" whose remarks were "inappropriate."
Robertson remained publicly silent, but was criticized across the political and religious spectrum in the United States.
A pioneer of the nation's evangelical political movement, Robertson is the founder of the Christian Coalition of America and was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. Hundreds of thousands of his conservative Christian fans tune in to his "700 Club" television show daily.
Although the influence of Robertson, 75, has ebbed among religious conservatives in recent years, he retains a huge following and occupies a revered position among a key Republican constituency.
Robertson said on Monday's program that the Venezuelan leader would make his nation "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent." Killing Chávez, an ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, would be "a whole lot cheaper than starting a war," Robertson said.
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," he added. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
In Venezuela, Vice President José Vicente Rangel said yesterday that Robertson's remarks were "terrorist statements." He condemned them as incitement to commit murder, and called on U.S. officials to make clear that the law applies "even to such Christians."
An executive order signed by President Ford on Feb. 18, 1976, prohibits any U.S. government employee from engaging in political assassination.Chávez, who was winding up a visit to Castro, brushed off the controversy. He told reporters at Havana's Jose Martí airport that he never had heard of Robertson and did not know or care what Robertson had said.

Past controversies

Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuela President Hugo Chávez was not the first time Robertson captured attention with an eyebrow-raising comment. Among them:
He suggested that the Sept. 11 attacks occurred because "we have insulted God at the highest level of our government."
He once warned Orlando, Fla., that God might send hurricanes its way if Disney World continued to recognize gay-pride events.
He has said feminism encourages women to kill their children and become lesbians.
He once called for blowing up the State Department with a nuclear device.
He said he considered liberal judges a more serious threat to America than "a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."


Monday, August 22, 2005

US appears to back Islamic state in Iraq

After all that double double toil and trouble (or is it much ado about nothing?) in Iraq, the US seems to now be backing a Shia-led constitution allowing Islamic law as the basis for the new Iraqi government.

So, essentially, 1800 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died to help turn Iraq into Iran. That's just swell.

Well, there goes another one of the 'reasons for the war'...

I guess that 'establishing secular democracy' can go the way of WMDs and 'played a part in 9/11'.

Read this from the Sunday Herald:
THE careful negotiations over the Iraqi constitution appeared last night to be leaning further towards making Islamic law the main source of law for the country rather than a source after US diplomats apparently gave way to the concerns of Iraqi officials.
We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites. It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state. I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want.
Sunni Arab negotiator Saleh al-Mutlak said a deal was struck which would mean parliament could pass no legislation that "contradicted Islamic principles".
Yesterday Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators, meeting with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani and US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.
One secular Kurdish politician said: "We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites. It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state. I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Intelligent Falling

From The Onion
KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University...

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

Support for our troops

Mr. Northern:
I am a Veteran of the Iraq war, having served with the 4th Infantry Division on the initial invasion with Force Package One.
While I was in Iraq,a very good friend of mine, Christopher Cutchall,was killed in an unarmoredHMMWV outside of Baghdad. He was a cavalry scout serving with the 3d ID.Once he had declined the award of a medal because Soldiers assigned to him did not receive similar awards that he had recommended. He left two sons and awonderful wife. On Monday night, August 16, you ran down the memorial cross erected for him by Arlington West.
One of my Soldiers in Iraq was Roger Turner. We gave him a hard time because he always wore all of his protective equipment, including three pairs of glasses or goggles. He did this because he wanted to make sure that he returned home to his family. He rode a bicycle to work every day to make sure that he was able to save enough money on his Army salary to send his son to college. At Camp Anaconda, where the squadron briefly stayed, a rocket landed inside a tent, sending a piece of debris or fragment into him and killed him. On Monday night, August 16, you ran down the memorial cross erected for him by Arlington West.
One of my Soldiers was Henry Bacon. He was one of the finest men I ever met. He was in perfect shape for a man over forty, working hard at night. He told me that he did that because he didn't have much money to buy nice things for his wife, who he loved so much, so he had to be in good shape for her. He was like a father to many young men in his section of maintenance mechanics. They fixed our vehicles with almost no support and fabricated parts and made repairs that kept our squadron rolling on the longest, fastest armor advance ever made under fire. He was so very proud of his son-in-law that married the beautiful daughter so well raised by Henry. His son-in-law was a helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division, who died last year. Henry stopped to rescue a vehicle belonging to another unit on what was to be his last day in Iraq. He could have kept rolling - he was headed to Kuwait after a year's tour. But he stopped. He could have sent others to do the work, but he was on the ground, leading by example, when he was killed. On Monday night, August 16, you took it upon yourself to go out in the country, where a peaceful group was exercising their constitutional rights, and harming no one, and you ran down the memorial cross erected for Henry and for his son-in-law by Arlington West.
Mr. Northern - I know little about Cindy Sheehan except that she is a grieving mother, a gentle soul, and wants to bring harm to no one. I know little about you except that you found your way to Crawford on Monday night in August with chains and a pipe attached to your truck for the sole purpose of dishonoring a memorial erected for my friends and lost Soldiers and hundreds of others that served this nation when they were called. I find it disheartening that good men like these have died so that people like you can threaten a mother who lost a child with your actions. I hope that you are ashamed of yourself.
Perry Jefferies, First Sergeant, USA (retired)

Molvanian Anti-Pope Axed

Zladko ("ZLAD!") Vladcik’s hopes of representing his country on the world stage have once again been dashed. The Molvanian heart-throb was informed at the last moment by contest officials that his entry had been withdrawn."Satanism has no place at Eurovision", was the terse one-line statement issued by theKiev press office.Clearly-devastated, "ZLAD!" insists his song "I Am The Anti-Pope" is not an attack on Christianity - rather, a light-hearted ballad recounting the short reign of little-known Beelzebub the First – the only Vicar of Christ to have been crucified at the stake.

The Tragedy Deepens

Police 'ordered to take Brazilian alive'

The police officer in charge of the anti-terror operation that ended in the death of an innocent Brazilian ordered her men to take him alive, a newspaper has reported.
Commander Cressida Dick, who was the Metropolitan Police Gold Commander on July 22, instructed officers following Jean Charles de Menezes to detain him before he entered Stockwell Tube station, the Daily Mirror has claimed.
The paper quoted a senior police source who said: "There's no doubt that Commander Dick did not instruct anyone to shoot de Menezes.
"The gun team were there as a precaution. It looks as if they didn't have time to tell them to grab the man, not shoot him dead. The difference between de Menezes living and dying may have been five seconds."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Uh-oh... this can't be good.

Turns out the police were wrong (er...lied?) about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Underground on July 21st.

But the camera does not lie.

And CCTV footage shows that Menezes was wearing a light denim jacket, not a suspicious-looking heavy coat.

IT also shows Menezes calmly walking into and through the subway station, even stopping to pick up a paper.

Police are now denying that they ever suggested that he jumped the turnstiles or even that he ran from the police (who, we should remember, were in plain clothes).

Most disturbing of all is that he wasn't even wearing a rucksack.

Essentially, all that we are left with is that a man left a building that was under surveillance, and committed the crime of having a dark complexion and going to a train station.

Excuse me while I go get sick.


Disgusting Right-wing Slander of Cindy Sheehan

Don't question authority: that's the message behind the systematic character assassination going on in the right-wing press.

"No one wants to be the first person to call the mom of a dead American hero an idiot," writes The Conservative Voice, but launches into a rant entitled "Cindy Sheehan Gives Aid and Comfort to the Enemy". That's pretty sick. She gave a lot more to the "enemy" than these neo-fascistic wannabe pundits ever will!

As author Joseph Gutheinz, J.D. (!) put it, "There is a simple test to discern which side Cindy Sheehan is on with respect to the war on terror; don't ask her which side she believes she is on, but ask Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein if they see Cindy Sheehan as a friend or a foe. My guess is they would both say they see her as a friend. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, it would make sense that the friend of my enemy is my enemy; which is how I see Cindy Sheehan."

I beg to differ. I think that people like Osama bin Laden love people like Dr. Gutheinz, Esq., for keeping them in business. And business is booming in Iraq!

And now let's go to over to Rush, for this pathetic tidbit:
From Media Matters - Limbaugh said that Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents."

How low can you go?

Now let's see what Fox has gotten up to in their disgusting slander of the mother of a dead soldier, for Christ's sake.

Bill O'Reilly :
Writing in The Seattle Post-Intelligence there, columnist Robert Jamieson, no conservative, put it this way: "Trouble is Sheehan is not sincerely interested in meeting Bush for a private, heartfelt chat about her understandable anguish and lingering questions. She wants to make a public splash by allowing critics of the unjustified war in Iraq to use her as a human bazooka against Bush."
Well, I believe Jamieson's analysis is correct. And I point to this. If Cindy Sheehan is really about getting the troops out of Iraq, why isn't she traveling to Washington to stand outside Hillary Clinton's home? The senator supports the war. Will Ms. Sheehan go to Nantucket and stand outside John Kerry's beach house? He isn't a cut and run club member."""

Well, that's just stupid. If that's the best old Bill can come up with, then that's just sad. I don't know what Sheehan really wants, but I take it she wants some kind of feeling of justice. If all that Americans will listen too, rather than, oh, I don't know, facts and logic, is cheap sentimentality, then bring it on! I think the Republicans are just mad that somebody is staling a play from their playbook.

If they can do cheap flag-waving, we can do sob stories. Mothers of dead soldiers demand an answer! Remember, this is the kind of society we asked for. Now we are reaping the rewards (along with the Terry Schiavo case, etc, etc ad infinitum)

Over and matt.

Bush Tanking

Take a look at these poll numbers:

Bush - job as president

Approve Disapprove
Gallup, Aug 8- 11 45% 51% (has stayed over 50 for last three weeks)
Newsweek, Aug. 2 - 4 42% 51%
AP, Aug. 1- 3 42% 55%
CBS, July 29 - Aug 2 45% 46%

Direction of the country Satisfied Dissatisfied

Gallup, Aug 8- 11 37% 60% (has been over 55 since March!)
Newsweek, Aug. 2 - 4 36% 54%

Congress Approve Disapprove

AP, Aug. 1- 3 33% 62%

Source: www.pollingreport.com
From the Duluth News Tribune:

Lourey to join antiwar protesters

Minnesota state Sen. Becky Lourey said Tuesday she will join a grieving California mother who is protesting the Iraq war outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch.
"This is mother to mother," said Lourey, whose son, Matthew Lourey, was killed in the war in May.
Lourey, a DFLer from Kerrick, said she just wanted to "put her arms around" Cindy Sheehan and let her know she's supported.
Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in the war in 2004, has been camping outside the president's ranch since Aug. 6, demanding that Bush answer her questions about the war.
"This isn't about politics," said Lourey, who has been a consistent critic of the war.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What about taxes?

Altercation reader Roger Werner of Stockton, CA:
Americans are not overtaxed and I am sick of hearing this phrase repeated ad nauseum. In fact, the belief in over taxation is a red herring begun by anti-tax groups to drum up support for their beliefs. The main problem with taxation in America is that Americans see little direct benefit from their tax dollars. Considering how much we pay combining all forms of taxation, I think it fair to say Americans come nowhere close to getting their money's worth. Considering how much money each working American adult pays in taxes I ask: What have we got to show for the billions collected? Anyone who is not oblivious to reality sees: Deteriorating infrastructure, dysfunctional public schools, an overworked and understaffed court system, understaffed police and fire, 40 million plus Americans lacking health care, a collapsing social security system, an inadequate child care system, rapidly increasing post secondary school costs, lack of a viable energy policy, no real support for alternative energy sources or recycling at a time when these are absolutely crucial, decreasing water and air quality, a general decrease in public services such as libraries, increase public use fees (on top of the taxes we pay), and a generally decreasing quality of life owing the above list of issues and others not listed.
Each issue plagues different communities differently but one or more of these problems affects most Americans regardless of where they live. I really do hate comparing countries to one another but having spent quite a bit of time in Europe, the differences in taxation and how public money is spent between Europe and the U.S. are striking. I will grant that the U.S. is the best place to be if one is wealthy but it is not so wonderful for a family living at a lower income level.

I am well aware of the argument that Europe prospered because Europeans let themselves be defended by the United States. This is a simplistic analysis that is only partly true and those who render this argument never state that the country that most benefited from this arrangement was the United States; in truth, we were really doing the Europeans a favor but simply helping them while making our own country the economically dominant player in the world. Indeed, Europeans appear to have taken advantage of our military largesse but the arrangement was equally and perhaps more beneficial to Americans. And what are the differences between Europe and America? For more than 25 years, politicians have told us that we should strive for a rugged individualism. I have always found this commentary ludicrous given the nature of modern society since each American is rather interdependent and what affects one group ultimately affects the whole; unless of course we all think it advisable to rewind the clock to the pre-industrial era. I suspect that much of this ideal is a result of Hollywood depictions of the American frontier. Fortunately, none of us lives on the frontier any longer.

Patrick Henry once said that we must all stand together or hang separately and this polemic perhaps exemplifies the true American spirit of enlightened community cooperation. It is the American sense that we are better off and stronger as a democratic unit that has allowed this nation to grow and prosper; over the past 30 years however society seems to have lost its sense of wholeness and so today we have a nation of 275 million rugged individuals who apparently don't care about what happens across the street let alone in another community or state. I think Barak Obama hit the nail on the head in his Knox College commencement address. I understand that obsessing about over-taxation is as American as apple pie dating to before Revolutionary War and there are those among us who will always oppose any taxation. It is my contention however that taxation is necessary in a modern and enlightened society, and, if a government wants the body politic to support taxation some effort must be made to ensure that that those paying the bill (the citizens and voters) get something in return.

If we tax too little, we see a decrease in complaints about taxes but also a decrease in the public services most of us desire. Increased taxation without a collateral increase in real government services engenders complaints about over taxation. The goal then should be to seek a balance between taxation and services. We all want the government to protect us from internal and external enemies but when expenditures for these services grows to obscene levels, which is where they are today, and, when other obviously necessary domestic services are suffering, as they clearly are today, such a situation also provokes anti-tax animus. I would like to see the debate on taxes include this middle ground position: Americans get too few direct benefits from their taxes, which then leads to the belief that we pay too much to the government. Is it any wonder that whenever taxpayers are polled they appear to want their cake and eat it too? They want lover taxes but more services. These polls perhaps more than any other evidence supports my belief; it also supports Massey's implication that liberal government taxed the working class too much and gave too little in return. I grew up in a working class family and can attest to the fact that as a family, we received no direct benefits from the taxes we paid but did have access to a well-maintained civil infrastructure, and decent public schools and libraries.

Monday, August 08, 2005

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