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December 29, 2004

Bloggers Rule the News World

Bloggers offer witness accounts, ways to help quake and tsunami victims, AFP

via Blind Boy Grunt

fyi - mi chavo and I are going away tomorrow and will be incommunicado until Sunday night. So this is prolly my last post till 05. Happy New Year!!!

Posted by cj at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snipers As Community Builders

In Tikrit, Iraq Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment combines community building with snipers on rooftops and house raids. It's a "delicate balance," that got jacked up yesterday when Iraqi soldiers were attacked yesterday on the outskirts of town. But on the bright side, there's Blues Clues in Tikrit.

From "Calm Is Broken in Hussein's Home Town," by Josh White, WaPo:

Soldiers have quietly monitored the people of Tikrit, implementing operations with such names as Orange Crush and Blues Clues to identify, photograph and tag all taxicabs and their drivers and all local Iraqi police vehicles. Those steps are aimed at securing the vehicles against use by insurgents. Operation Stock Market has logged all businesses in the city.

Sinclair has developed a relationship with the local sheiks, meets regularly with government councils, speaks to Tikrit University students and hosts a call-in radio show to answer questions. He walks the streets to encourage the sharing of information, and he has disbursed money to local stores to create jobs.

At the same time, U.S. troops have stationed artillery on the city's outskirts, placed quick-reaction forces in the surrounding desert, put snipers on rooftops and conducted frequent raids of area homes.

This is the best we've done in Iraq. I'm not clear why we need snipers on rooftops and home raids to secure the peace. But there you go.

Posted by cj at 12:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

Interior Security Whistleblower Fired Abruptly

Clark Kent Ervin was basically fired from his job as inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security when Republicans failed to confirm his recess appointment and Shrub failed to renominate him. He was an outspoken critic of the crumbling, wasteful bureacracy, which is obviously why he was canned.

"Ex-official tells of Homeland Security failures," by Mimi Hall, USAT

Two gems from Ervin's inspections:

---The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency.

---The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink.

Could you imagine getting a $16,477 bonus? Could you imagine working for the government and getting that bonus? How bout drinking a $3.75 can of pop?

Posted by cj at 3:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Guatemalan Travel Essay

In Guatemala, Bliss by a Blue Lake, by Joyce Maynard

Posted by cj at 3:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Supermarkets Make Farmers Poorer

"Supermarket Giants Crush Central American Farmers," by Celia W. Dugger, NYT

Sigh. Could you imagine leaving your farm, your country, and your family to work the graveyard shift at a golf course for 6 bucks an hour to try to keep your creditors from taking your farm?

Posted by cj at 3:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

At Least 50,000 Dead

Asia Struggles With Disaster Aftermath, 50,000 Dead Reuters report by David Fox via ABC News

Posted by cj at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

The Skies Are a Lot Less Friendly These Days

Union members who work for airlines are being forced to take serious pay and benefit cuts, sometimes more than once. New flight attendants can make as little as $12,000 a year, less than what they could make at Wal-Mart. Oh, and bankruptcy judges force unions to accept pay cuts whilst leaving CEO pay in tact.

No wonder US Airways suffered an unorganized sick out this Xmas. It's based in Pittsburgh - a town that knows about dying industries (see steel) and whose residents are tough and don't lose their livelihoods lying down.

Sigh.
Beware, United is trying to force cuts on its employees. And apparently every big airline (American, Delta, Continental, Northwest, US Airways, and United) is in line for cuts and could bear the brunt of a sick out.

More depressing deets at "Airlines' Woes May Be Worse in the Coming Year," by Micheline Maynard in NYT with additional reporting from Eric L. Dash and Jeremy W. Peters

Posted by cj at 3:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire

The difference between categorizing a post as Justice or US News is strictly arbitrary and strictly decided by me (obviously). This story is clearly one about justice. Shrub wants to balance the budget on the backs of the old and poor, especially those who are sick. He wants to slash funding for Medicaid and Medicare. I say it's time for Universal Healthcare. Socialized Medicine. Let's stop wasting billions making drug companies and HMO administrators rich. Let's spend it getting people well and securing jobs for doctors to the poor. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

"Bush Team Prepares to Swing Budget Ax", by Joel Havemann with contributions from Janet Hook, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Maura Reynolds in the LAT

"Governors Unit in Fight Against Medicaid Cuts," by Pam Belluck in the NYT

Governor Huckabee of Arkansas, where nearly a quarter of the population is on Medicaid, said the governors' objective in the coming months would be to ask the federal government to "first do no harm."

He said the soaring federal budget deficit had made federal officials realize "their house is on fire, and they're probably so consumed with the flames around them that they're unaware as they look to us for water that our tanks are empty.

"Folks, our house is on fire too," Mr. Huckabee added, "and asking us to put out your fire is probably not the solution."

From the NYT article

Posted by cj at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Island of Sumatra Moved by Quake

Wow. I first heard about the quake in the Indian Ocean yesterday morning while watching the beginning of This Week (while I was waiting for Bozo Phil to get off my regular program). I knew that it had to be seriously major because they were already reported that it reached 9.0 on the Richter Scale. See, as a resident of Northridge during that quake, I heard many theories about earthquakes: including that they averaged the measurement for the Northridge Quake instead of reporting how big it was at the epicenter so as to calm the nerves of scared Angelenos. Frankly, that's probably hogwash conspiracy theories but there you go.

So the LAT reports:

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Indonesia on Sunday morning moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet to the southwest, pushing up a gigantic mass of water that collapsed into a tsunami and devastated shorelines around the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. ...

Seismologists will use the opportunity to learn a great deal about the Earth's structure, Hudnut said. Because of the magnitude of the temblor, "the whole Earth would be ringing like a bell for a long time," he said. That effect will be like a gigantic medical CT scan, allowing researchers to study the structure of Earth's interior in detail.

I'm not sure how big Sumatra is, but it moved 100 feet and that's a signficant distance even if it was just a speck of land. Goodness. Someone else reported that the earthquake cause a glitch in the Earth's rotation. And to think that the land under our feet will be ringing like a bell for a long time. Exactly what does that mean? More earthquakes?

Posted by cj at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

Corruption Keepin Oil and Gas From Iraqis

Here's the deal: ever since the interim government took over oil, gas, and electricity production and distribution, there have been more shortages and a bigger black market for the products. From WaPo:

Even if there were no sabotage, officials say, Iraq's fuel supply is clearly being diverted by the people who control it. The official system builds in numerous incentives for distributors to siphon gasoline before it reaches service stations. For one thing, the government sets an artificially low price for fuel -- so low that the government spends $5 billion to $7 billion a year subsidizing it.

"It's bigger than the cost of the food ration," said Adnan Janabai, a government minister of state, referring to the massive subsidy for staple foods that, along with the fuel subsidy, eats up half of Iraq's budget, according to officials. "What's doing the damage is the smuggling."

For anyone entrusted with distributing gasoline, the temptation is obvious. At the pump, the price of a gallon of gas is officially set at 80 dinars, the equivalent of one American nickel.

Ten days ago, customers unwilling to wait in line were handing over $2.70 for the same gallon. On Saturday, the black market rate had dropped to perhaps half that, but the 2,500 percent markup remained a powerful enticement to sell the stuff on the side.

"Yes, the people blame us, but what can we do?" said Atiyaf Abdul Sattar, an Oil Ministry employee, who was driving a Toyota van so new it had no license plates. Because she works for the ministry, she had to wait in line only an hour at a Baghdad filling station. "The main problem is the security situation."

Hrm. Sounds to me like the main problem is that officials don't have to deal with the problems they cause. The bitch quoted in the WaPo story reminds me of school administrators in L.A. who say there's no money to pay for air conditioning in classrooms. Students and teachers sweat their way through the day, desperately trying to stay focused on teaching / learning whilst administrators sit in their air-conditioning chilled offices.

Posted by cj at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

More College Students Will Be Broke Like Me When They Graduate

More fabulous news from the Shrub administration. "Students Bear More of the Cost of College," by Greg Winter in the NYT:

College students in virtually every state will be required to shoulder more of the cost of their education under new federal rules that govern most of the nation's financial aid.

Because of the changes, which take effect next fall and are expected to save the government $300 million in the 2005-6 academic year, at least 1.3 million students will receive smaller Pell Grants, the nation's primary scholarship for those of low income, according to two analyses of the new rules. ...

The enormous University of California, with campuses scattered across the state, estimates that at least half of its 46,000 Pell Grant recipients will face some sort of reduction as a result of the changes. At the other end of the spectrum, Knox College, a small liberal arts institution in Illinois, says the changes will most likely reach upward to affect the middle class as well.

"Of course we focus on the students who have the greatest need, but these families are needy, too," said Teresa Jackson, Knox's director of financial aid. "They can't just sit down and write a check for $30,000 a year. I can appreciate the difficulty with the budget, but my gosh, to cut back on financial aid given the times doesn't make a lot of sense."

You see even when your rents make loads of money on paper, you could still struggle to make ends meet with your tuition bill. Personally, it was a struggle every year to get Swellesley to guarantee my folks' education loans (because of a past bankruptcy) and to add insult to injury, a "helpful" woman in the Financial Aid office called me in during my senior year to point out that my personal contribution to my tuition bill was much higher than most students and asked if I was sure my folks were paying as much as they possibly could. Sigh. The end result is that I'm stuck with a bill that's too much for my meager paycheck to afford on top of my car loan, car insurance, credit card bills from a year of unemployment, rent, and utilities.

I remember when English students took to the streets last year when Prime Minister Tony Blair forced them to contribute towards the cost of their college education. Their yearly bill is now about thirty bucks. Would that I was an English woman.

Posted by cj at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

Public Land No Longer for Public Use

Shockingly, Shrub cares more about the timber industry than he does about rapidly dying species and public use of public land. Yesterday he issued new rules for the use of national forests that basically makes it easier for the timber industry to rape and pillage our property. From the WaPo article by Juliet Eilperin:

The new rules give economic activity equal priority with preserving the ecological health of the forests in making management decisions and in potentially liberalizing caps on how much timber can be taken from a forest. ...

One-quarter of U.S. species at risk of extinction -- including more than 25 species of trout and salmon -- live in national forests, according to the conservation group NatureServe. Large animals such as grizzly bears, wolves and elk depend on the forests' large, undisturbed swaths of land for habitat.

"The end result of all this is there will be more logging and less conservation of wildlife," said Mike Leahy, natural resources counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. "They're not going to provide enough land for these species to hang on."

Just more Christmas cheer from the folks in DC...

Posted by cj at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2004

Big Pharma Is Afraid of Michael Moore

Dude, this is sad. From CQ Midday Update:

The pharmaceutical industry has issued an urgent warning to its work force: Be on the lookout for a scruffy-looking fat guy in a baseball cap. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least six of the nation's biggest drugmakers have alerted employees to steer clear of filmmaker Michael Moore, whose previous targets have included General Motors ("Roger & Me"), the gun lobby (the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine") and President Bush ("Fahrenheit 9/11"). Moore, it seems, is taking aim at the health-care industry, including drug companies. The companies told employees to refer all questions to "corporate communications," the Times reported. The Moore epic is tentatively titled "Sicko," and will probably be released in the first half of 2006. The movie, Moore said, is only in its early stages "and already people are freaky-deaky."
See, I'm one of those strange aberration lefties who hates Moore. I despise anyone who screws up a perfectly valid point with lies and manipulation. Someone other than a rich white guy should be this country's star political documentarian.

Posted by cj at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Good News from Chile

Check this out: Two women are the top candidates in the race to be the next president of Chile. And only 36% of women in Chile work outside the home. (Don't be fooled by the article; just because you're not paid to work doesn't mean you don't work.) Right. So, in Chile, two women not tied to a former president are the most likely people to become the next president. YAY!

"Chile Women Break Political Mold," by Danna Harman in the Christian Science Monitor

Posted by cj at 8:27 PM | Comments (0)

Ill Tidings for Xmas

NBC sent me an email today announcing their *exclusive* guest this Sunday. Guess who it is? No, it's even worse than Katty Kay. It's Dr. Phil. Why should political junkies be forced to watch the Mr. Obvious Advice / Preach What You Don't Practice Man? Why, because it's the day after Xmas of course!

Perhaps I should go back to an old habit and get to those Dec 26 sales wicked early...after all, I do need to find a long coat.

Randomly, a good friend felt bad for me today because I have nowhere to go for Christmas. When I pointed out that I'm Jewish and used to not having plans (other than to go to the movies) on Other People's Religious Holiday, she realized how silly she was being. In one respect, she's right - Friday (an official holiday at my office) and Saturday will be lonely days for me. Oh well. Guess I'll find a good book to read...

Posted by cj at 8:00 PM | Comments (0)

Social Security

I should probably find some info on the origins of Social Security. My understanding (read memory of history class) is that SS began as a response to the CRASH of the stock exchange. I'm really unclear why so many people put so much faith into that big guessing game / legal gambling system. You don't have to be a socialist to be wary of the stock exchange. You simply have to be poor. Personally, I doubt I'll ever make enough money to be able to own a significant amount of stock in any company, nor would I ever want to. Right now, I don't even make enough money to pay my bills; forget about saving any of it.

Right. So, I look at SS as guaranteed income when I retire. Just the way I expect most employers to offer a true pension: guaranteed money not tied to the stock exchange or employee participation in a savings plan. I can't do anything about forcing private employers to provide pensions (other than encourage people to join unions), but I have a voice in how SS works. Here's the thing: if there's a problem with funding SS, that should be worked on. Personal Savings Accounts cost trillions of dollars and aren't a cure for the future funding problem. They also put people's money in jeopardy since there's no frickin guarantee your money will be there if you put it in the stock exchange. I know from familial experience: my rents put their money in an aggressive mutual fund because they were behind the eight ball on saving for retiring and the recent serious slide in the market cut out a huge chunk of their retirement fund. They're both over 60 and I don't know when they'll be able to retire.

In conclusion, my stance on SS:
1. It should be guaranteed and completely separate from private business. My tax money should not be used to line the pockets of any Wall Street fat cat.
2. Pushing money out of the current system and into accounts where the money is poured into the stock market will NOT fix the impending discrepancy between the amount of money SS brings in and the amount it doles out.
3. It's all well and good for an upper middle class white guy to tell me that SS was never intended to be a person's sole income during retirement. Exactly what are you planning on doing with the thousands (millions?) of grandmas and grandpas who are penniless without SS? Throw them in jail? Euthanize them because they're no longer pulling their weight? What is this, a brave new world?

Posted by cj at 6:16 PM | Comments (0)

How'd You Find Me?

Seriously. Other than my boyfriend and the boy, I really don't know who's reading this blog or why. I also don't understand why people don't respond to posts with the comment link to that post.

Shout out to mi chavo and Hyoun. If I could place a big cheesy grinning smiley face here like the one you can see in AIM, I would.

Posted by cj at 6:14 PM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2004

Shrub's Social Security Evading in Print

I recognized yesterday that Shrub's refusal to answer a Social Security question head on was News. So did Dana Milbank at WaPo and Edwin Chen at LAT, both of whom attended the "news conference."

Dana Milbank on Shrub's answers:

President Bush, an old F-102 pilot, showed at yesterday's news conference that he has not forgotten his evasive maneuvers.

As he fielded questions on everything from Iranian nukes to presidential personnel, the often blunt and plainspoken president employed the full range of artful dodges. ...

For all the bobbing and weaving, yesterday's news conference hinted at an emerging new style for Bush. In his first 45 months in office, he had 15 full-fledged news conferences, fewer than any other postwar president. Bush, a stickler for discipline, didn't want to make unintended news, or to be embarrassed by an unexpected question, as when he was asked what his biggest mistake had been. But since his reelection, Bush has had two news conferences in as many months.

Ain't the Prez grand?

Actually, although he has a terrible way with words, he actually has a decent stance on immigration (for a Republican). From Edwin Chen:

On immigration, the president displayed no inclination to retreat from his desire to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States as guest workers — despite mounting opposition from conservative Republicans in Congress.

"First, we want our Border Patrol agents chasing crooks and thieves and drug runners and terrorists, not good-hearted people who are coming here to work," he said.

"And therefore, it makes sense to allow the good-hearted people who are coming here to do jobs that Americans won't do a legal way to do so."

Gee, I guess now I should be proud Shrub's prez.
On second thought - nah.

Posted by cj at 4:48 PM | Comments (1)

Something You Already Knew

From the WSJ World-Wide News Box:

A minimum-wage job is enough to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment in only four counties in the U.S., an advocacy group says.
Yeehaw. A lil economic cheer for your Christmas stocking.

Posted by cj at 1:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Comment Warning

I don't know how to explain myself properly, but I'll try. If you write a comment that is completely off subject and I deem the only point of your post is to point readers to your commercial website, I will delete your post. I'm all for free speech, but I didn't create this site as a free ad space.

Ultimately, this is my soap box. You should get your own.

On the other hand, your comments will not be purged simply because our opinions differ. Only if I consider you a troll.

Posted by cj at 4:43 PM | Comments (1)

Public Debate Not a Necessary Part of Bush Social Security Plan

See, there's no need for Bush to disclose the details of his plan to destroy Social Security, because ultimately any change will be written by Congress. At least, that's his logic according to CQ Midday Update:

President Bush today again declined to disclose any details of his proposal to create private accounts as part of Social Security, saying he will provide such information to Congress at a later date. At a televised news conference, Bush deflected a question about the benefit cuts, increase in retirement age or other painful steps that may be necessary to restore the long-term solvency of Social Security. "I'll propose a solution at the appropriate time," Bush said. "But the law will be written in the halls of Congress. And I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress." The president said "the first step in this process is for members of Congress to realize we have a problem." But Senate Democrats, in a two-page "perspective" released this morning, said "Social Security faces challenges, but is not in crisis." They said Bush's proposed private accounts would do nothing to address the system's solvency.
Were you surprised that a president who doesn't bother to have press conferences or show up to work would deem you unworthy of knowing the details of his plan to ruin retirement?

Posted by cj at 4:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2004

If You've Given the ACLU $20 Bucks Recently, This is Old News

Last year, when I was unemployed and desperately looking for work, I applied for a job at the Southern California office of the ACLU. I figured it would be helpful if I was a member, so I also plunked down 20 bucks for membership (and received a free t-shirt in the mail for my effort). I also was deluged with pleas for money from every Tom, Dick, and Harry nonprofit in the country. It was the most ridiculous waste of mail I have ever witnessed. Turns out, someone is finally noticing the hypocrisy of ACLU mining my personal data and giving away my contact info to the highest bidder.

The NYT reports that the ACLU Board of Directors is in turmoil over this practice and the NY attorney general is looking into whether the ACLU's actions violates its own privacy guarantees.

Posted by cj at 1:35 PM | Comments (0)

San Quentin to Expand (Probably)

The NYT reports that California is about to spend $220 million to build a bigger death row adjacent to the current one at San Quentin. There are 641 condemned inmates currently there, and only 10 people have been killed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.

The expansion of death row is being met by opposition from folks in Marin County who point out that moving the prison to cheaper land would free up a beautiful piece of San Francisco Bay real estate, worth as much as $750 million.

For further information on why the death penalty is inhumane, please see Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's comprehensive issue page.

Posted by cj at 1:22 PM | Comments (0)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

The LAT reports that conservative Christians think it is tyranny of the minority for store keepers to say "Happy Holidays" in December rather than "Merry Christmas." Lemme 'splain; no, there is to much; lemme sum up: your festive season is rammed down the throats of every non-Christian in this country. Frankly, the only thing poor non-Christians like about December is (a)decreased workload and (b)end of the year bonuses. Making plans for Dec 25 is not high on our to-do list. If you cared about the "peace to all" aspect of your holiday, I'd have a lil more sympathy. But quite frankly, I appreciate not being wished a merry Christmas.

Now, does that mean I don't think you should celebrate your religious holiday? Of course not. I bought mi chavo Christmas presents and even bought Christmas wrapping paper to wrap them in. But give me a break. A few retailers recognizing diversity of beliefs should not be boycotted, they should be celebrated.

Here are some quality quotes from the nutcase wing of Christianity:

Our position is: If they want the gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child," said Wooden, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.

Conservative Americans feel ready to push back against "the secularists or the humanists or the elitists" who dominate popular culture, said the Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which is based in Raleigh.

"It's a cultural war. We are in the thick of it," Creech said. "It's not so much an attack on us. It's an attack on Christ." ...

"I think the Christians are out of the closet," Coggins said.

Ed Jones, president of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Assn., agreed. This Christmas, he is more conscious than ever of "a conspiracy of leftist-leaning people that want to bring down traditional values in our country," he said.

Let me be clear: I don't mind getting a seasonal card that says "Merry Christmas" if you include a "Happy Hanukah" for me. And if you don't know me well enough to know to write a nod to my beliefs, you prolly shouldn't be giving me a card. I also don't mind the fact that Christians are truly excited about their holiday and it's a big deal for them and they like to decorate their homes, etc. Feel free to practice your religion. Just recognize that saying "Happy Holidays" still excludes nonreligious folks and doesn't in any way diminish your ability to celebrate the birth of Christ. Personally, I hope more Christians go back to their Bibles and read about the prophet I respect, who is also know as the Prince of Peace. Building a culture of peace instead of feeding the military industrial complex would be a great way to celebrate Christmas.

Posted by cj at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2004

LA Top Cops Might Be Next BS Dept Secty

First, my bias: I abhor the name "Homeland Security." I think it reeks of jingoism and as a former poli sci student, I understand the problems with nationalism. I also think domestic security is inherently linked to the intelligence community and that the two ideas should be linked into one department. The whole reason the FBI and CIA were left out of this bogus department is because Shrub didn't think he could actually reform those parts of the problem.

Right. So it seems like the outgoing Head of BS, Tom Ridge, believes the top cops of my native land deserve to be tapped to replace him. The grand Police Chief, William Bratton, (brought in when the LA Mayor got sick of the last chief), used to work in NY and has been married five times. (Not clear why that last bit is important, but someone at the NY Daily News did.) Another cadidate is I've Been Sherriff Longer Than Many Residents Have Lived in L.A., Lee Baca. In the city of LA, his department doesn't do squat, but I suppose their duties have risen with the population increase in horrid, dusty towns like Lancaster.

The internal favorite in this horse race is Robert Bonner, customs commissoner and former head of the DEA (also formerly a judge in L.A.).

Full Deets at NY Daily News from News Wire Services.

Posted by cj at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

Spot The Pork: Is A Million Enough to Say Happy Independence Day?

The latest unsurprising budget news from CQ Midday Update:

Ah, the omnibus -- the gift that keeps on giving. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., slipped a provision into the 2,900-page spending bill directing $1 million to the Norwegian American Foundation to honor the 100th anniversary of Norway's peaceful independence from Sweden in 1905. The head of the Seattle-based foundation didn't know the funding had been secured until Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained publicly about it, the paper said. Sabo said it is "common for nations to commemorate the anniversaries of their friends and historic allies." Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek first learned of the money from an e-mail about McCain's protest, the Star Tribune said. "The embassy has not lobbied for this, by no means," Vollebaek said. "We do not interfere with the budget processes of other countries. But we are very grateful to Congressman Sabo."
Nevermind the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the uneducated in the US. Let's use our hard earned tax money to celebrate the peaceful history of Norway!

Posted by cj at 1:28 PM | Comments (1)

Plundering Iraq Uses Up Too Much Power / Influence

The Baltimore Sun has a great editorial explaining that our imperial ambitions in Iraq sapped up all available military and stretch us too thin to be of use to stop a true humanitarian crisis in Sudan. (Free registration required.)

It's rather dispicable. I get angry knowing that the only time The Today Show mentions Darfur is to hock bears, where a portion of the proceeds go to Save the Children, the leading NGO working in Sudan (whose supply truck was attack last week, killing two people). As important as it is to know what NGO is working in Sudan, wouldn't it be more useful to do news stories on the situation? To care about the world a little more during a morning news broadcast instead of yacking to every cast member of the latest movie or rehashing the death of one pregnant women ad naseum? (Recognizing that every human life is sacred, shouldn't more air time be spent preventing death from starvation and genocide rather than rehashing the horror of one person's death?)

Posted by cj at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

Remember the Women and Children of Darfur

I've posted a lot about the women of Darfur who are being systematically raped by janjaweed militia and sometimes cast out by their villages because of the rape or subsequent pregnancy. The BBC has another article about the horrific state of society in Darfur, where villagers curse children and mothers suckle babies with dry breasts (both generations suffer from malnutrition on the verge of starvation).

Posted by cj at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

DNC Chair Horserace

Alas, it appears that Dean is the front runner. I'm disappointed because (a)he's not that liberal, (b)he's not that interesting, (c)he uses leftie passion to his own benefit and (d)he doesn't have a winning track record. Can you tell I was never a Deaniac?

Other people (lots of other people) agree with me.
One of them is Bob Novak at the Chicago Sun Times.

Posted by cj at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2004

Even Conservatives Wanna Dump Rumsfeld

I'll admit it. I have a slightly warmer than ice cold place in my heart for Don Rumsfeld. Wherefor you ask? Simple - he's the only Famous For DC Type I ever saw on the street while living in DC. And he even talked to the peeps I was with. (For the record, I was at the annual dinner of Women's Information Network, a Democratic, pro-choice, younger women's networking group. We were moving from the keynote address location to smaller dinner parties across the city and he was walking towards the Capitol with his wife.)

At any rate, the fact that I was fascinated with how short he is and how gracious he was to the "enemy," doesn't change the fact that I hate his war and think he's an incompetent leader. Apparently, even the extremely conservative founder and editor of the Weekly Standard agrees with me.

Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld. ...

All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?

Amen. As a famous WILPF poster proclaims, It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

Posted by cj at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

Inuit to Sue US For Killing Them Via Global Warming

Here's the deal: Inuits, people who live on islands, and people who live in high altitudes like the Himalayas realize that global warming is threatening their existence. It will cause small islands to be sumberged in water from melting polar ice caps; it will drown the seals Inuits depend on for their way of life; and it will alter the geography of mountains throughout the world.

In a desperate attempt to force the USG to recognize its obligation to the human race, the Inuit will file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the US for threatening their existence by doing nothing to stop global warming.

Some fascinating deets available in this NYT article by Andrew Revkin.

Posted by cj at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

The Death Penalty

The Today Show was all aflutter this mornin re the death penalty recommendation for Scott Peterson. I've got political issues with the way the case has played out - I believe pregnant women are people whose deaths deserve justice. I do not believe in charging people with the murder of "unborn children." To me, that's the first step towards making abortion illegal.

At any rate, it's difficult for me to form an opinion on the sentence. I am opposed to the death penalty for moral reasons: I do not believe human beings have the right to kill other human beings, period. On the other hand, I have no sympathy for Peterson. I think he's guilty as sin. It's difficult for me to consider going into full activist mode for a convicted killer. Know what I mean?

Posted by cj at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

Digitized Books Will Soon Be Available for Free

The NYT lead today with news that Google inked a deal with major research libraries to scan their books and make em available online. Older books that aren't copyright protected will be available in their entirety and people will be able to view a few pages of newer, copyrighted books. Can you imagine not having to pay for a copy of Shakespeare for your college lit course? In the future, I see colleges full of students wasting printer ink, printing out entire books. At Harvard, I think they have an honor system - you're supposed to pay a certain nominal fee per page printed. At my alma mater, printing is free in the labs, and you pay a nominal fee when printing in your dorm computer lab.

People often say digitized information means the end of its commercial counterpart. (See Napster, digital music, and cd sales.) In reality, nothing beats something you can hold in your hands. Case in point: the 9-11 Commission Report was available for free download from the government and various news outlets. Neverthless, people forked over ten bucks to buy a paper copy at their local bookstore.

Posted by cj at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

behind the name of the blog

Been wondering why I named this blog Chicken Foot Stew?
It's actually sorta interesting (I think).

Here's the deal - when someone offered to buy me a domain, I wanted something catchier than Serpentine Dancing Queen, the name of this blog's previous incarnation. I decided to try to name it after a historical feminist and found the Jewish Women's Archive. In their Women of Valor presentation, I found Barbara Myerhoff, a pioneer anthropologist who collected oral history from a Jewish retirement center in Venice, California. Here is the Chicken Foot Stew story:

"Being so rooted in their Judaism helped the old people in their struggles and celebrations. They were sufficiently comfortable with it to improvise upon it and adapt it freely as needed, for small requirements and large. Basha exemplified this when she described her dinner preparations. She ate alone in her tiny room. Over an electric hot plate, she cooked her chicken foot stew (chicken feet were free at the supermarket). Before eating, she spread a white linen handkerchief over the oilcloth covering the table, saying:

"This my mother taught me to do. No matter how poor, we would eat off clean white linen, and say the prayers before touching anything to the mouth. And so I do it still. Whenever I sit down, I eat with God, my mother, and all the Jews who are doing these same things even if I can't see them."

"Such a meal is a feast, superior to fine fare hastily eaten, without ceremony, attention, or significance. Because of such things, I came to see the Center elderly as in possession of the philosophers' stone- that universally sought, ever-elusive treasure, harboring the secret that would teach us how to transmute base metals into pure gold. The stone, like the bluebird's feather of happiness, is said to be overlooked precisely because it is so close to us, hidden in the dust at our feet."

So, Chicken Foot Stew is a nod to my heritage and a version of the philosphers' stone.

Plus it sounds cool, no?

Posted by cj at 5:05 PM | Comments (0)

Pinochet Indicted and His Bank Accounts Investigated

Thank goodness there are still some good judges left in the world. Judge Juan Guzman indicted Chilean dictator Pinochet and put him under house arrest for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them. In other news, a US Senate investigative committee found $8 million stashed in Riggs Bank.

The AP article on Pinochet's house arrest in the NY Post.

The long NYT Sunday article on Pinochet and Riggs Bank.

Posted by cj at 4:21 PM | Comments (0)

depressing tale of elder abuse

Sunday's NYT front pages a Nominate Me for a Pulitzer Piece on elder abuse. It is a heart breaking tale about two sisters who are used and abused by their crack head nephew. People who are close to addicts sometimes take a long, long time before getting away from the addict. And most people simply can't stay away from the charismatic nature of users. Read about Lillian and Julia - it'll make you wonder if (a)children are really needed to help you in your twilight years and (b)what you would do if your aunts were being abused and (c)how they could possibly still allow Frank in their lives.

Posted by cj at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 8, 2004

No Police in Mosul

Apparently, it's not necessary to create a police force these days for towns with a small population...of 1.2 million people.

In the northern city of Mosul, insurgents bombed two churches, although there were no fatalities. The first bomb struck a Chaldean church about 5 p.m. It was followed by another blast 15 minutes later across town that struck an Armenian church.

Residents realized a car near one of the churches was rigged with explosives before it detonated.

"We did not know what to do," said Sami Dahhan, 24. "There are no police to go to. People started throwing stones at the car to try to detonate it, but they couldn't. The car just exploded when the timer went off."

From WaPo

Posted by cj at 2:39 PM | Comments (1)

December 7, 2004

US Senate Authorizes Aid for Sudanese Refugees

Finally, someone in the USG is doing something about Sudan. Not enough, but maybe this will lead to something bigger.

The Senate cleared legislation today that would authorize aid for victims of government-sponsored attacks in the Darfur region of Sudan and press the United Nations and U.S. allies to impose sanctions on officials in Khartoum. The bill (S 2781), sent to the White House by voice vote, would authorize $300 million in aid, $200 million of which would be immediately available for humanitarian assistance in the Darfur region and eastern Chad, mainly for aid groups working in the region. The other $100 million would be available after conclusion of a peace agreement that has been in the works for months. Sudan's government and southern rebels signed a pledge at the United Nations on Nov. 19 to end Africa's longest civil war by Dec. 31. The bill also includes language added by the House that urges President Bush to impose sanctions on Sudanese officials involved with the alleged genocide in Darfur and freeze the assets of businesses controlled by the government or the National Congress Party.
From CQ Midday Update

Posted by cj at 1:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 6, 2004

US Needs to Send More Aid to Africa

In a biting and brief commentary, Yale medical student Kohar Jones indicts the US for not providing enough money to combat AIDS in Africa. Instead, mothers are forced to prostitute themselves - making them vulnerable to being infected with HIV - to earn the money needed to feed their children.

Read "The Power to Say No to AIDS" in WaPo.

Posted by cj at 8:42 PM | Comments (0)