Friday, July 14, 2006



President Vladimir Putin called US vice-president Dick Cheney's criticisms of Russia "an unsuccessful hunting shot."

Remember Dick Cheney has shot a fellow hunter by accident.


Thursday, July 13, 2006


A Picture from Cassini



"I'm a Goldwater Conservative which puts me somewhere left of center"

John Dean, author of Conservatives Without Conscience and former Nixon staffer


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Baghdad Burning

I can feel the pain in these words.


It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere. The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.. . .

At nearly 2 pm, we received some terrible news. We lost a good friend in the killings. T. was a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he'd brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on- a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.

He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he'd promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing. . .

It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages. . .

The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest - I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?

Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.

Buses, planes and taxis leaving the country for Syria and Jordan are booked solid until the end of the summer. People are picking up and leaving en masse and most of them are planning to remain outside of the country. Life here has become unbearable because it's no longer a 'life' like people live abroad. It's simply a matter of survival, making it from one day to the next in one piece and coping with the loss of loved ones and friends- friends like T.

It's difficult to believe T. is really gone. . . I was checking my email today and I saw three unopened emails from him in my inbox. For one wild, heart-stopping moment I thought he was alive. T. was alive and it was all some horrific mistake! I let myself ride the wave of giddy disbelief for a few precious seconds before I came crashing down as my eyes caught the date on the emails- he had sent them the night before he was killed. One email was a collection of jokes, the other was an assortment of cat pictures, and the third was a poem in Arabic about Iraq under American occupation. He had highlighted a few lines describing the beauty of Baghdad in spite of the war. . . And while I always thought Baghdad was one of the more marvelous cities in the world, I'm finding it very difficult this moment to see any beauty in a city stained with the blood of T. and so many other innocents. (Link)


Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Libertarian Fund Raiser Blocked By Police

I like libertarians, I wouldn't want them to run a country where I live, but they do serve as a purpose by challenging any form of state power. Given that their general orneriness that fall out from this incident should prove interesting.


Kansas Libertarians were stopped from holding a fundraiser at a nudist camp in southwest Shawnee County, when sheriff's deputies blocked people from entering.

Shawnee County deputies said they were merely enforcing a court order when they stopped people from accessing Lake Edun on Friday. Last year, Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock issued a court order banning "commercial or recreational activities" on the property unless the owners get a permit for such events - something the county refuses to provide.

But Rob Hodgkinson, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Kansas, said a political party fundraiser isn't a commercial activity. He also said the deputies suppressed party members' constitutional right to hold such an event on private property.

Gates were to open at 4 p.m. Friday, said Webb Garlinghouse, who owns the property with his wife, Julie, but an employee called him that morning and said deputies were blocking the driveway. By mid-afternoon, six marked sheriff's cars were parked along the road outside the main entrance.

Hodgkinson said the Libertarian Party moved the three-day event to an alternative site.

Shawnee County Undersheriff Don Long said his office learned about the Libertarian gathering at Lake Edun from county counselor Rich Eckert. A sign at the property's entrance said the event was to run Friday through Sunday.

Patrick Wilbur, vice chairman for the Libertarian Party of Kansas, said admission was to be $75 per person and $90 per couple in advance and $80 per person and $100 per couple at the door. Topics for discussion included property rights and freedom of assembly. <Link>

Here is an interesting effect of gay marriage in Massachusetts. It is putting pressure on straight people to marry. Personally, I am a bit doubious about the whole marriage thing (as a concept... not for specific groups). This does put discredit the religious nut-bar idea that gay marriage weakens marriage as an institution... we have empiricial evidience to the contrary.


What the Herald doesn't mention is that many Massachusetts companies had domestic partner benefits for both heterosexual and gay couples, and many of those have been terminated on the grounds that everyone can get married. Gay marriage has not only put financial pressure on heterosexual couples to marry, but it has created social pressure as well. "Why aren't you married?/When are you getting married?/You should get married" became a socially acceptable comment even in the most liberal of circles, and those opinions started getting air time. At my former employer the first year of gay marriage, I felt like we had some sort of wedding shower every other week - the gay couples got married and then all the straight ones started planning weddings too.

And so marriage as an institution is strengthened by this, rather than weakened. As I have said now for almost two decades, anyone who really cares about marriage and the family should back the inclusion of gay couples. It's the true pro-family position. <Link>


Monday, July 10, 2006


Discrimination against atheists in America

PZ Meyers over at Pharyngula has presented this interesting/distressing court case from Oklahoma. Please remember that though discrimination against atheists is not unusual in the US this level of discrimination is almost unheard of.


There was a weird court case there recently. Well, maybe not so weird, unfortunately—I could see it happening here. To make it short, an atheist girl in high school was kicked off a sports team because she wouldn't join in team prayers; abuse ensued; school officials lied; the principal assaulted the father; police and principal perjured themselves to press charges against him; threats were made to try and drive the family out of the state. It's actually a little bit hard to believe such stuff could go on in 21st century America, but it went to trial, and this next little anecdote alone is enough to convince me that the Smalkowski family was discriminated against for their lack of faith.

Edwin introduced himself to the jury as National Legal Director for American Atheists and asked the prospective jury in the Oklahoma panhandle if they could accept the testimony of an Atheist over that of a professed Christian. When the jury looked at him blankly, the judge asked the prospects if they understood the question. One woman spoke for many in the group by asking "What is an Atheist?" Edwin explained that an Atheist was a person who did not believe in a god or gods or in a supernatural world, and that the defendant and his entire family were such persons. Many of the prospects said they could not believe such a person over a Christian and were struck for cause. To their credit, many members of the jury panel, including two ministers' wives, told the judge they could not be fair to an Atheist in such a situation and were excused.

Anyway, the good news is that they did manage to find 12 intelligent people, and got a fast and unanimous verdict of not guilty. Yay, Oklahoma! <>

Furthermore the man who was at the center of this story has purportedly send a letter to Pharyngula which is shocking to read:

The bailiff took the piece of paper from the foreman of the jury and handed it to the Judge. He opened the paper and while staring at it he nodded. The courtroom was silent and the jury stared straight ahead. I have been in many situations where my life or limb were on the line but I was still in the game and had a hand to play. But not here, here I just sat waiting for the verdict.

Though I worried about being sent away for five years on bogus charges, my dread was the Christian mob. They knew I must be found guilty in order to slow or stop the civil case being filed in Federal court. Since the start of my daughter's stand against the public schools disregard for the law of the land, it was imperative to run us out of the county to make any civil action non valid. With me in jail for five years running my family out would be a whole lot easier, or so they might have thought.

The courtroom was packed for it is the Bible belt. There was no love in this courtroom.

The loving Christians brought their children to hear the verdict. They brought the town. They brought ministers. I even saw another Judge in the back of the room. The Judge who in an earlier hearing while slapping an inch thick stack of papers on his bench saying with a list of witnesses this big you had better be a good boy. It was lies then, it was lies now and the DA knew it! (She was later forced to hand over a written statement she denied for over a year existed!)

People prayed openly for a conviction. Many holding their bibles. During the trial the Prosecutions side of the courtroom was packed. Only my son and Edwin Kagin's wife, Helen sat behind me, but now there was not enough room in the whole courtroom.

Yet now the so-called victim, the 325 lbs victim, the ex Marine, hurrahs, was nowhere to be found. Neither was the woman assistant district attorney anywhere to be found.

This was not a case of simple justice. The town's people were out for blood:

Others had walked out into the hall and warned a police witness saying that justice must be served, that justice better be served. The judge called a hearing on the threat. He warned the crowd that if it happens one more time he would have no choice but to throw out the case. He was between a rock and a hard place. He knows my lawyers are watching and the loving Christians are out for my blood, and they are watching too. The law, elections and politics were all in play. The Judge left the court for his chambers and stayed away for a quite awhile.

I suggest you read the whole thing for yourself. You can taste the fear in his words and you can see the courage in his actions. <>


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