Saturday, July 09, 2005

Setting Fireworks Records

just so all of you who attended the barbecue at Marcel's on the 4th know...
the air pollution meter was three times higher than normal for Fresno (we didn't do as well as most of the other valley cities like bakersfield, which was 10 times higher, but it's still a hell of a go). and I have a good feeling where most of it disseminated from. so hold your heads up high. we made a difference on the 4th. they noticed. we celebrated our freedom in such a grandiose and drawnout manner that other less patriotic folks began to wheeze. so, slap yourselves on the backs (unless it makes you cough). and I, for one, can tell you that the metallic dye in the fireworks that was the culprit of the pollution rise and can cause cancer did nothing to me. nothing at all. even though i was firemaster and stood over all of the explosions. i've never felt better. in fact, i...uh... oh cra

Friday, July 08, 2005

AIDS Help...If You Goosestep With Bush

Posted on Fri, Jul. 08, 2005
Bush gives global AIDS fighters ultimatumJUAN-CARLOS RODRIGUEZAssociated Press
WASHINGTON - U.S. groups fighting AIDS overseas are being given an ultimatum by the government: Pledge your opposition to sex trafficking and prostitution or do without federal funds.
The new rule has created confusion among health groups that wonder how it will affect them, and has drawn criticism from others who say it infringes on free speech rights and could do more harm than good.
It will affect about $2.2 billion in AIDS grants and contracts this year, according to Kent Hill, acting administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which recently issued a policy directive outlining the regulation.
Hill said the pledge is a tool the United States can use to make sure none of its money goes to support a practice he called degrading and debilitating.
"Prostitution worldwide has always been connected to human rights violations, dehumanization, and organized crime," Hill said. "The vast majority of people, globally, do not find themselves there by choice."
Terri Bartlett, vice president for public policy at Population Action International, a health advocacy group for women's issues, said while she agrees with the idea behind the pledge, she thinks the government is infringing on health organizations' free speech rights by requiring it.
"There's a litmus test of issues and organizations' positions on those issues, and regardless of their ability, they will be judged by that position," Bartlett said.
Bartlett said that while she agreed with the pledge requirement's premise that prostitution is a harmful occupation, it may have the unintended effect of deterring prostitutes from seeking help by unnecessarily singling them out.
"We want to build trust and reduce stigma," Bartlett said of dealing with the high-risk population of prostitutes. "This policy flies in the face of what we know works."
There are groups that don't mind signing the pledge, however. "We agree with the statement," said Meredith Long, director of International Health for World Relief.
Congress passed a bill containing the pledge requirement in 2003. It was immediately applied to foreign aid recipients, but the Justice Department questioned the constitutionality of applying it to domestic organizations. Last fall, the department finally gave the all-clear for the government to implement the requirement here.
The rule now affects private U.S. groups conducting AIDS programs overseas. If a group is looking for a federal grant or contract, it must first adopt a statement saying it opposes prostitution and sex trafficking. Then it must sign a form for the government promising it has the policy. Only then is the organization eligible for funding.
Michael Wiest, vice president of Catholic Relief Services, a recipient of USAID funds, said it would take a lot of time and money to make sure his organization wasn't working with any foreign partner groups that violated the pledge. He said that would be wasted energy because "the idea that one of our partners would be pro-prostitution is ... off the charts."
Although the bill that contained the funding restrictions passed with broad bipartisan support, David Olson, a spokesman for Population Services International, said he is worried that the rules will be used against groups that use methods with which conservatives don't agree.
"This administration has made no secret that they want new partners for AIDS work," Olson said.
He said conservatives favor AIDS prevention programs that focus on abstinence and monogamy, rather than ones that endorse condom use and safe sex.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., made statements to that effect in a letter he wrote to President Bush regarding AIDS programs last month. He specifically criticized USAID for funding Olson's group, which has programs aimed at educating prostitutes and their clients in nightclubs and at bingo-type games where the two groups traditionally mix.
"There is something seriously askew at USAID when the agency's response to a dehumanizing and abusive practice that exploits women and young girls is parties and games." Coburn's letter said.
The anti-prostitution pledge rule is a continuation of conservative policy shifts the Bush administration has implemented for non-governmental organizations.
On Bush's first day in office in 2001, he reinstated the "Mexico City policy," which prohibits private, foreign groups that receive federal family planning money from advising or even discussing the possibility of abortions for clients.
The policy, called the "global gag rule" by critics, originated during President Reagan's era but was dropped during President Clinton's.
Besides the pledge, the new rules require AIDS groups to inform clients of condom failure rates. Another requirement is that the federal government must now give equal opportunity to funding applicants that have "a religious or moral objection" to a particular AIDS prevention method or treatment program, such as condoms or needle exchanges.
U.S. Agency for International Development:

From Grist Magazine: Eco-Terrorists?

The Terror of Our Ways
Conflating environmentalists and terrorists is all the rageBy Michael J. Kavanagh
08 Jul 2005
What liberals and their allies in the environmentalist wacko movement fail to understand is: their message has gotten out. Their anti-capitalist, socialist, gloom-and-doom, fear-based, lunatic ravings have been amplified -- and Americans understand exactly who they are, and what they're about. As the "Mr. Big" of the vast right-wing conspiracy, I am proud, ladies and gentlemen, to play a major part in the exposé leading to their depression.- Rush Limbaugh April 25, 2005Currently, about 20 million people tune in to Rush Limbaugh every week. His lingo is now conservative lingua franca. Limbaugh figured out that if you repeat your best lines -- e.g. "environmentalist wackos" -- often enough, they become more than just funny catchphrases; they become a reconfiguration of reality and a call to arms. In his world (and it's a world in which a lot of people live), you can't be an environmentalist and escape wacko-ism. In Limbaugh, a large group of Americans who felt their country was being taken away from them found an emotional outlet. If his facts didn't always ring true, his anger did. Limbaugh proved that someone with a quick wit and a microphone could wield tremendous power, and his success spawned a legion of copycat shows across the country.

One of them is hosted by John Stokes of KGEZ in Montana's Flathead Valley. Stokes is featured in the new PBS film "The Fire Next Time," which premieres Tuesday, July 12. The documentary was made by Patrice O'Neill and The Working Group, a film company that also works with communities to overcome intolerance. The film follows several groups in Kalispell, Mont., over a two-year period in which their community goes up in flames -- figuratively and literally -- over conflicts about environmental preservation. Everybody in Kalispell cares about trees. Trees feed the timber industry, help drain the land, attract tourists, and provide habitat for wildlife; and they also catch fire and endanger homes and lives during the annual forest-fire season. Talking about trees in Kalispell means talking about livelihoods and lifestyles, and the Valley's different interest groups are like sticks dangerously rubbing together in its drought-plagued forests. Enter Stokes, radio host and human blowtorch. On environmentalists, Stokes has this to say: "Eradicate 'em. Their message stinks. They're destroying America. And it all came out of the Third Reich. You know, the Third Reich was born out of the environmental community. I don't make it up. It's there." Stokes attends town meetings, holds rallies, and burns green swastikas to protest what he sees as the tyranny of liberals, the U.S. Forest Service, immigrants, the government, and, of course, the people he refers to as "eco-Nazis" and "green Nazis."

"John Stokes came to this valley and all of the sudden the people had a way of telling the truth," says one timber worker featured in the film.Clearly, Stokes and his listeners are angry. They're angry at the Forest Service and the more uncompromising environmentalists for not letting loggers thin the forests in a way that will (they think) boost the flagging Montana economy and prevent fires. They're angry about losing their timber-industry jobs. They're angry about watching property values soar as millionaires buy weekend ranches in the Valley. During forest-fire season, when the Valley's residents are at their most vulnerable, Stokes' provocations are strongest. "Anybody who's ever written a check to the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Citizens for a Better Planet," he says, "Hope you're happy with yourself, cause we blame you." Stokes warns his listeners to be careful, because "there are eco-arsonist terrorists out there." He holds up a copy of an Earth Liberation Front manual and tells the camera "They just had a terror training camp in Missoula in June." It's not true, but it doesn't matter: with his rants, Stokes has placed environmentalism squarely in the middle of the most charged discourse in post-9/11 America -- the one revolving around the word "terrorism." And while Stokes seems extreme, these days, the jump from environmentalist to terrorist is not as uncommon as you might think. It's not just Stokes who's warning his listeners; it's also Joe Friday.
Fed Up

On June 21 of this year, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism John Lewis called eco-terrorism one of the top domestic terrorist threats in the U.S. One month earlier, he'd made similar statements before a Congressional committee. The FBI claims that 1,200 acts of eco-terrorism have taken place since 1990, causing over $110 million in property damage. Although ELF has said that it has never and would never target humans, the FBI is worried that might change. It has decided that ELF and the Animal Liberation Front pose a threat comparable to militias of the Timothy McVeigh stripe (whose numbers have fallen but whose threat remains significant [PDF], especially in Montana), and to white supremacist groups (whose numbers are rising, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center). Ironically, the Flathead Valley was home to one of the more notorious militia groups, Project Seven, which in 2003 was found with a cache of arms and a hit list of government officials. The FBI says its concern is based on the fact that eco-terrorists are currently the most active of domestic terrorism groups. But when I spoke with FBI spokesperson Bill Carter, he was unable to detail the nature of the 1,200 "acts," how many had occurred in each of the past few years, or how many people have been involved in committing them (although Lewis' testimony says about 150 cases are currently under investigation). Even the top brass at the FBI seems confused about the extent of the threat. In February, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III testified before the Senate Committee on Intelligence that major incidents of eco-terror had actually declined in 2004. Meanwhile, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) recently published a policy paper [PDF] that questioned why a draft of the 2005 terrorism priorities of the Department of Homeland Security reportedly did not mention right-wing terrorist groups (such as militias), while eco-terrorism was placed front and center. Thompson asked to testify before a May Congressional panel that discussed eco-terrorism and threats to the nation's infrastructure, but his request was denied by the panel's chair, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). It was only the second time in history, according to a Democratic spokesperson at the DHS, that a member of Congress had not been given the privilege of making remarks before a panel.According to the Associated Press, Inhofe said he hoped to investigate how ELF and ALF raise money and support from "mainstream activists." "Just like al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization, ELF and ALF cannot accomplish their goals without money, membership, and the media,'' the AP quoted Inhofe as saying.

It's not that Thompson -- or anyone, for that matter -- is defending acts of terrorism on behalf of the environment. (Thompson has denounced ELF and ALF, as has every major environmental group.) It's that they are trying to figure out how and with what consequences environmentalism and terrorism got coupled together in the first place. Yes, some expensive and illegal acts are committed in the name of the environment; and yes, the framework of terrorism is an easy and useful one for the FBI and the DHS to use when handling those incidences. (By calling ecological sabotage "terrorism" as opposed to arson or vandalism, federal officials are given slightly greater powers in investigating and bringing perpetrators to justice.) But what does it mean for environmentalism when the whole movement is defined by its margins? And what does it mean for the nation and the world when language is used so loosely even as last week's attacks in London make the danger of real terror tragically plain?For some, broadening the term "terrorist" to include organizations like ELF is bad for both environmentalists and for our sense of what real terror is. "These people are not environmentalists, they're arsonists," says Eric Antebi, a Sierra Club spokesperson. Antebi also rejects the idea that ELF's actions constitute real terrorism. "Eco-terrorism is not a legitimate phrase -- it cheapens what real terrorism is. We have seen in this country the real forms that terrorism takes," he says.However atypical ELF and ALF may be of environmentalism, they have come to characterize the movement for many on the right, in Congress, and in law enforcement. The backdrop to this development, of course, was September 11, 2001. First of all, 9/11 solidified the power of a government that also happens to be anti-environmentalist. Second, because of a (perhaps justified) national state of paranoia, 9/11 complicated the use of a tool that has been always essential to the environmental movement: direct action. "We used to put banners on bridges, banners on big monuments," says John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. "When people are worried about this kind of structure, you don't see us doing that. Our direct actions always have to be in the tone and the temper of the time." The FBI insists it distinguishes groups like ELF and ALF from the rest of the environmental movement, and is committed to the lawful expression of free speech. But the government has occasionally raised the specter of terrorism to support its cause, even if it meant darkening the name of mainstream environmental groups. In a widely publicized 2003 case in which Greenpeace activists boarded a ship carrying illegal mahogany from the Brazilian Amazon bound for the U.S., the Department of Justice seemed so bent on prosecuting the environmental group that it dug up an obscure 1872 law prohibiting "sail-mongering." Greenpeace's Passacantando says that during the trial, federal prosecutors regularly referred -- directly and indirectly -- to 9/11. (At one point, he says, federal prosecutors stood a scale model of the ship on its aft next to two other scale models: a skyscraper that looked like one of the twin towers, and a 747.) "Even with Greenpeace, a group that's been doing nonviolent action for 30 years, they tried to make us look like terrorists," he says. The case was thrown out of court. Meanwhile, few seem to be paying attention to another kind of eco-terror. For many environmentalists and politicians, eco-terrorism used to mean blowing up a nuclear plant or poisoning a water system -- actions that, unlike those of ALF or ELF, would deliberately put thousands or tens of thousands of lives at risk. Ironically, the post-9/11 crackdown on terrorism has stifled some of the organizations that used to draw attention to those threats. "Greenpeace used to go into nuclear plants, chemical plants," Passacantando says. "We don't do that anymore. We could -- the security there is terrible. We put out reports instead." In a country where up to 80 percent of the citizenry professes some support for environmental protections, the environmental movement has somehow found itself on the fringes of the political discourse. In part, that's because people like Rush Limbaugh and John Stokes have been effective at reducing the environmental movement to a group of little green Hitler elves, running around blowing things up. Clearly, destroying private property in the name of the environment is a crime, and the few activists doing so are a proper focus of law enforcement. But equating ELF and ALF direct actions with the deadly attacks of terrorist groups fuels the anti-environmental rhetoric of the right and irresponsibly conflates two very different kinds of criminal activity. What we lose in the process is our grasp on both the real nature of environmentalism and the real nature of terrorism. For someone like John Stokes, who is only interested in exploiting his listeners' fear, the difference doesn't matter. For the rest of us, it should.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

All Roads Still Lead To Rove

saw this quote and it fit for the current climate of 'kill the dissenter':
"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murder is less to fear."
-- Cicero Marcus Tullius, Born on January 3, 106 BC and was murdered on December 7, 43 BC.

"Presidential Bike"?????? What the Fu-???

Bush Involved in Bike Crash in Scotland
Wed Jul 6, 7:00 PM ET
GLENEAGLES, Scotland -
President Bush collided with a local police officer and fell during a bike ride on the grounds of the Gleneagles golf resort while attending a meeting of world leaders Wednesday.
Bush suffered "mild to moderate" scrapes on his hands and arms that required bandages by the White House physician, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. The accident occurred on asphalt, McClellan said. It was raining lightly at the time, and Bush was wearing a helmet.
Police said the officer suffered a "very minor" ankle injury.
The officer was on a security detail. He is a member of the police department of Strathclyde, McClellan said.
The president talked with the officer to make sure he was all right, and also asked White House physician Richard Tubb to monitor the officer's condition at the hospital.
The presidential bike suffered some damage, McClellan said, so Bush rode back to the hotel in a
Secret Service vehiclee.
The fall did not affect the president's schedule. Dressed in a tuxedo, he attended a dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth at the annual Group of Eight economic summit. He showed no signs of distress.
A year ago, Bush was cut and bruised when he sailed over the handlebars while riding a mountain bike at his Texas ranch.
In 2003, he tried out a Segway, the standup, motorized scooter at the family's seaside estate in Maine. It went down on his first attempt, but he stayed on his feet with a flying leap over the machine. Undeterred, he got on again and cruised around the driveway with his father.

Plame Timeline and Great Bush Quote

"But I want to tell you something -- leaks of classified information are a bad thing. And we've had them -- there's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. And we've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them and I want to know who the leakers are."

Perhaps the most famous leaker in all of washington's history is John Handcock. At the first sign of snow he'd pratically wet his pants in anticipation of writing his name in it for all to see.

All Roads Lead To Rove

Bill Israel, a friend and former colleague of Karl Rove, is speaking out about journalists' need to know when to draw the line as it concerns source confidentiality. The title of this post is a line that Israel wrote and I think it speaks volumes.

and then there are some good quotes by and about Herr Rove that provide food for thought.

Astrologist Sues NASA Over Comet Crash

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian astrologist who says NASA has altered her horoscope by crashing a spacecraft into a comet is suing the U.S. space agency for damages of $300 million, local media reported Monday. NASA deliberately crashed its probe, named Deep Impact, into the Tempel 1 comet to unleash a spray of material formed billions of years ago which scientists hope will shed new light on the composition of the solar system. "It is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris, will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distorts my horoscope," Izvestia daily quoted astrologist Marina Bai as saying in legal documents submitted before Monday's collision. A spokeswoman for a Moscow district court said initial preparations for the case were underway but could not say when the hearing would begin. NASA representatives in Moscow were unavailable for comment.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Crusades Are Over As Of Now!!!

okay, they probably aren't, but my friend mustang sent me this link that describes a journey by christians to retrace the route of the last crusade in the 1100's in order to apologize to the very people who were massacred by it. very powerful and a good moral lesson for those of us who think "our god is bigger than their god".

Letter To Congresspeoples

I expect the next Supreme Court Justice to follow in the footsteps of Sandra Day O'Connor and rule both by the wisdom of common sense and by the progress and evolution our nation has undergone during these almost 250 years since our independence as markers for deciding what is and is not in the best interest of this nation judicially. To base a confirmation on ideology or philosophy goes against the very grain of democracy. To maintain that the writers of the Constitution would not have approved of a contemporary ruling is to say that our nation has made no progress on our "experiment" in over two centuries. Justices must be allowed to deviate and think outside of accepted norms when dealing with arguments that can polarize us. If "thou shall not kill" can be construed to mean "thou shall not murder" by those who would demand strict Constitutional adherence, then their own argument is destroyed. Please demand that any Supreme Court nominee show a devotion to common sense rather than a slavery to blind obedience.

Independence Day Bash

for those of you who know me or lecram and did not receive an invite via email (probably because i don't have your address) there will be a burning of the meat tomorrow at 3ish. food should be ready by 4ish. at twilight there will be a fireworks display (and maybe a trash fire or two). bring something to put on the grill if you can or a salad, fruit dish, beer or other beverage, chips (unopened this time), cookies...etc.
it will be a swell time as marcel and i are versed in the finer arts of burning meat and making things explode.
that is all. as you were.