Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran Protest Movement Continues On


From various news accounts, it sounds like the protests in Iran are more widespread and larger than those in the past. Yesterday was a holy day in the country, but that didn't prevent Iranian officials from shooting protesters. The New York Times reported the following:
Police officers in Iran opened fire into crowds of protesters on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, witnesses and opposition Web sites said, in a day of chaotic street battles that threatened to deepen the country’s civil unrest. The protests, during the holiday commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, Shiite Islam’s holiest martyr, were the bloodiest and among the largest since the uprisings that followed the disputed presidential election last June, witnesses said.

There are even reports that the nephew of presidential candidate Mousavi was assassinated:
Mr. Moussavi was first run over by a sport utility vehicle outside his home, Mr. Makhmalbaf wrote on his Web site. Five men then emerged from the car, and one of them shot Mr. Moussavi. Government officials took the body late Sunday and warned the family not to hold a funeral.

Instead of cooling down after the summer elections, looks like the protests in Iran are continuing to heat up.

HP: Hatred and Prejudice?

A video demonstrating that face recognition cameras installed in HP laptops cannot detect black faces has had over one million views on YouTube.

The short movie, uploaded earlier this month, features "Black Desi" and his colleague "White Wanda". When Wanda, a white woman, is in front of the screen, the camera zooms to her face and moves as she moves. But when Desi, a black man, does the same, the camera does not respond by tracking him.

The clip is titled "HP computers are racist". According to an HP spokesman, "HP has been informed of a potential issue with the facial-tracking software included on some of its systems, which appears to occur when insufficient foreground lighting is available." Hmmm . . . so wouldn't this have come up during testing of the software? Or didn't HP bother to test their facial recognition software with African Americans . . . for some reason?



The Dude Is Back To Dishing The Dope

After an unexpected break to move into his new place and get ready for Christmas, The Daily Dude is back to ranting and raving over random things. So sorry to have missed the whole Tiger Woods fiasco-- blogging about all that would have been a blast . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This Is What's Called "Establishing A Pattern Of Behavior"

Sarah Palin dropped out of a 5k race on Thanksgiving Day in Kennewick, Washington. The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor quit the race because she wanted to avoid the crowds that were waiting for her at the end, according to The Tri-Cities Herald. If you'll remember, Palin also quit as governor of Alaska because she wanted to avoid the distraction of all the ethics investigations being filed against her.

Palin was 1 of about 3,000 registered participants in the Kennewick race. After Palin announced that she would be running the race on her Twitter feed, her expected presence drew a "mass of onlookers." Kind of makes you wonder what she will be quitting next . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tiger Attack: The Wife Did It

As Tiger Woods avoids an official police interview for a second straight day, TMZ is reporting an alternate version of the incident:
We're told Tiger had a conversation Friday -- with a non-law enforcement type -- detailing what went down before his Escalade hit a fire hydrant.

We're told he said his wife had confronted him about reports that he was seeing another woman. The argument got heated and, according to our source, she scratched his face up. We're told it was then Woods beat a hasty retreat for his SUV -- but according to our source, Woods says his wife followed behind with a golf club. As Tiger drove away, she struck the vehicle several times with the club.

We're told Woods became "distracted," thought the vehicle was stopped, and looked to see what had happened. At that point the SUV hit the fire hydrant and then hit a tree.

We're also told Woods had said during the conversation Friday he had been taking prescription pain medication for an injury, which could explain why he seemed somewhat out of it at the scene.

Calf Attack-- Aliens Did It

A creepy string of calf mutilations in southern Colorado has a rancher and sheriff's officials mystified. Four calves were found dead in a pasture just north of the New Mexico state line in recent weeks. The dead calves had their skins peeled back and organs cleared from the rib cage. One calf had its tongue removed.

There are absolutely no signs of human attackers, such as footprints or ATV tracks. And there are no indication of an animal attack by a coyote or mountain lion. Usually predators leave pools of blood or drag marks from carrying away the livestock.

Two officers from the Costilla County Sheriff's Office have investigated the mutilations but say they don't know what's killing the calves. "There's nothing really to go by," said Sanchez, who's ranched for nearly 50 years. "I can't figure it out."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office told The Pueblo Chieftain that investigators doubt a person butchered the calves because there is no blood at the scene. "I've butchered a cow before and I know what kind of a mess it leaves," Sgt. James Chavez said.

Some in the area believe the mutilations are the work of aliens. An area UFO chaser, Chuck Zukowski of Colorado Springs, has been to the Costilla County pasture to investigate. He told the paper there have been other unexplained calf mutilations in the area, including three in March. One of the other calves, found dead on a ranch near Trinidad, had its ears removed.

Rancher Manuel Sanchez is taking no chance-- he sold off his 32 remaining calves out of fear more would be mutilated.

Friday, November 27, 2009

For Google, Freedom Of Speech Only When It Won't Hurt The Bottom Line

Google has found itself in the middle of controversy as a result of a racially offensive picture of Michelle Obama that appeared when users searched for images of the U.S. first lady. The image appeared at the top of the Google Images results for "Michelle Obama".

A spokesman for Google, Scott Rubin, would initially not give details on how the image - which parked fury in the blogosphere - ended up as the top result for the wife of President Barack Obama. The picture first surfaced earlier this month, when it was removed because the site hosting it violated Google guidelines by spreading malware.

But the image then reappeared on another site, apparently untainted by malware, meaning Google was bound by its own rules not to meddle with the search, according to technology analysts. Instead, Google placed a notice over the picture titled "Offensive Search Results", saying: "Sometimes our search results can be offensive. We agree."

The shockingly doctored image of Obama immediately created a flurry of interest-- mainly negative-- and that sent the image shooting up Google's rankings.

A website's ranking in its search results relies heavily on computer algorithms, using thousands of factors to calculate a page's relevance to a given query. However, Google says it does not remove images simply because it receives complaints. "Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority," a spokesman said. "Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it." [Note from the Daily Dude: lofty principles, perhaps-- but in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, Google still continues to facilitate China's censorship of the internet for over a billion of it citizens.]

The White House has declined to comment.

Flipping Out Over Flipping Off

In a fucking awesome legal decision, a Pittsburgh court has awarded a man $50,000 for flipping off a cop.

It all started back in 2006 when Pittsburgh native Dave Hackbart was just trying to fucking parallel park. Then some other asshole driver pulled up and blocked him from backing into the spot. So Dave flips the guy off, naturally enough. Then some other asshole driver "objected to the gesture," so Dave flipped him off, too. Dave don't take shit from nobody.

Unfortunately, the second asshole driver was a fucking cop. Since cops think they're big shit, the pig gives Dave a citation for "disorderly conduct."-- and of course he's found guilty and fined, cause the courts and the cops are all in the shit together.

But Dave's not just your average sucker ready to bow down and get fucked by the cops. No sir-- he sued the whole god damn city of Pittsburgh, and, god damn it, wouldn't you know-- he fucking won $50,000. Let this be a lesson to every fucking cop everywhere, courtesy of Dave: Fuck you, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Dave, the hero of our story, will now get fucked by lawyers; of the $50,000 settlement, he will get $10,000; the rest goes for legal fees.

As Promised, Government Abuse Of DNA Collection

Remember back in the day when the English government decided to start collecting DNA from every person arrested for a crime? At the time, supporters of the controversial policy told critics that only actual criminals would end up having their DNA taken without probably cause.

But now comes a report from a retired British police official that officers in England and Wales have made arrests just to get people on to the DNA database. Police chiefs have denied the claim, which they called "plainly wrong". There are now about five million profiles in the British DNA database, a rise of 40% in two years.

The anonymous retired police superintendent, who is quoted in a government report entitled "Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear?", wrote to the advisory body expressing concerns that the way in which people were arrested appeared to have changed. He wrote: "It is now the norm to arrest offenders for everything if there is a power to do so. It matters not, of course, whether the arrest leads to no action, a caution or a charge, because the DNA is kept on the database anyway."

The HGC report also said some groups featured disproportionately on the database - with young black men "very highly over-represented".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Another Corporation Bows To Chinese Pressure To Facilitate Internet Censorhsip

Web browser Opera has closed a loophole which allowed Chinese users to access sites banned by the government. On previous versions of Opera, internet traffic was able to bypass the so-called Great Firewall of China, making the browser popular with Chinese users.

Last weekend, mobile users of the Opera Mini browser were asked to upgrade to a new version. The new version no longer allows access to sites such as Facebook.

Opera confirmed that it had started directing users of the international version of the mobile browser to the Chinese version. "The difference between the Chinese and the international version is that the former connects to compression servers within China.....benefits are higher speed, lower costs and an overall improved mobile web browsing experience," the firm said in a statement. Naturally, Opera refused to discuss the "background for this decision".

But there was plenty of speculation on the blogosphere. "Let me guess what has happened here. The Chinese government has put pressure on Opera to close down that free access. And like most companies, they complied," wrote blogger Carsten Ullrich.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WTF Is The Problem With These GOP Morons?

Attention conservative buttwipes-- 9/11 was a terrorist attack. It happened during George Bush's term. It happened a month after the Bush administration was warned specifically about such an attack.

LGBT's MIA For GMA?

American Idol finalist Adam Lambert was to sing today on ABC's Good Morning America, but the network said it was canceling the openly gay singer because "we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning."

The concert that GMA was referring to was the performance Lambert gave at the American Music Awards on Sunday, during which Lambert kissed a male keyboardist, fondled a dancer and had another dancer briefly stuff his face in Lambert's crotch. The performance prompted many complaints to ABC, and the network cut out the brief "oral sex simulation" for its West Coast broadcasts.

"Obviously, I respect their decision - they gotta do what they gotta do," Lambert said Tuesday in an interview with Ryan Seacrest. "It's too bad - I think there were a lot of fans who were excited to come see me. They probably had a lot of pressure coming at them from certain people who weren't happy about it," he said.

Shortly after ABC's cancellation, CBS quickly announced that Lambert would appear on "The Early Show" Wednesday morning both to perform and discuss the reaction to Sunday's appearance. Lambert is also appearing on David Letterman's "Late Show" Wednesday.

While women have often crossed the threshold regarding sexually provocative appearances on television (like Madonna kissing Britney Spears) Lambert's performance was perhaps the first time it has been done by an openly gay man. Keeping kicking down the doors, Adam . . .


UPDATE: CBS also exhibited some fairly lame behavior as well. In replaying the Lambert AMA footage on the Early Show, CBS blurred out the male-on-male kiss-- but amazingly, just seconds later, showed the Madonna-Spears kiss without blurring. Here's the entire segment:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rating Global Corruption

The 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has rated Somalia as the world's most corrupt country and New Zealand the least. The CPI is a project of Transparency International, a global non-profit, that analyzes business and expert surveys to measure "the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world."

According to the CPI, the top ten most corrupt (starting with the worst): Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma, Sudan, Iraq, Chad, Uzbekistan, Turmenistan, Iran, and Haiti. Prolonged conflict and social unrest is the highest common denominator among these countries. Corruption has run amuck in the absence of legitimate governing bodies and political stability.

Somalia and Sudan have each been embroiled in civil war for decades leading to genocide in the case of Sudan and earning the title of failed state for Somalia. Myanmar has been in a perpetual state of turmoil since the 1962 military coup. Rounding out the top five are Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries awash with U.S. military and money. Afghanistan has actually become more corrupt in the last year, going from fifth place to second, despite continued international pressure on President Karzai to crack down on corruption.

The least corrupt countries tend to be small and homogeneous with long-standing political structures. The most transparent/least corrupt countries (starting with the best): New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Iceland. No real surprises here. The United States ranks number nineteen, right after the United Kingdom. The primary concern cited in the U.S. surveys was, "lack of government oversight in relation to the financial sector." The CPI also stated that the "U.S. legislature is perceived to be the institution most affected by corruption."

Helen On Sarah

82-year-old blogger Helen Philpot posted an early Thanksgiving day message-- aside from her hilarious rules for her family to follow on Thanksgiving, she (as expected) had a few words on Sarah Palin:

This year I am thankful to have you as my family rather than a normal American family. I say that because Sarah Palin is fond of talking about her family being a normal American family.

Last time I checked everyone in my family knows where Africa is on a globe. Everyone goes to college after high school. We’ve had no teen pregnancies as of yet and no one has appeared in Playgirl. If the Palins are a normal American family, I guess my bunch of anti-American socialists are fine by me.

Read the full post here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The New Russia: Just Shut Up, Drink Your Vodka, And Keep Your Head Down

Russia has now turned into a "criminal state", according to the man who was once its leading foreign investor. Bill Browder, head of investment firm Hermitage Capital was reacting to the news that his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, had died in prison in Russia after being held for a year without charge. Browder says that Russian officials withheld medical treatment from his lawyer in a failed attempt to extract a phony confession.

While generating headlines as the head of Hermitage Capital, Bill Browder had campaigned against corruption at some of Russia's largest companies. In 2005, Browder was inexplicably banned from Russia as a threat to national security-- after allegations that his firms evaded tax. It is unclear how tax evasion constitutes a threat to national security under Russian law. Browder believes that he was targetd for being a threat to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Furthermore, Browder claims that his company was targeted by criminals in Russian law enforcement trying to seize millions of dollars worth of his assets. Browder says he was punished for being a threat to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Magnitsky was one of the lawyers hired by Browder to investigate whether fraud had been committed against his firms. Browder claims that when Russian police raided his office they took away corporate documents which they then used to steal his companies. "Sergei Magnitsky was one of the lawyers who discovered the whole crime, figured out who was responsible and then testified against the police officers and after he testified against the police officers the very same police officers had him arrested on spurious charges."

The circumstances surrounding Magnitsky's death has caused Bill Browder to question his attitude to Russia under Putin. "When Putin first showed up [he] said he was going to tame the oligarchs . . . I [didn't] realize that what he meant by taming the oligarchs was by sticking law enforcement people in their place," he says.

"Now you have a bunch of law enforcement people who are essentially organised criminals with unlimited power to ruin lives take property and do whatever they like and that's far worse than I have ever seen in Russia before. Russia is essentially a criminal state now."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kerry-- Oh So Very

John Kerry's daughter Alexandra was arrested in Los Angeles last week for driving under the influence of alcohol. She refused a field sobriety test, and by the time she reached the police station, she registered only .06-- below the California legal limit for DWI.

There aren't any further interesting details to the story, quite frankly-- I just wanted an excuse to post this picture of the lovely Kerry wearing a see-through dress in Europe several years ago.

If You Thought It Was Finally Safe To Upgrade From Windows XP, Think Again

A National Security Agency director bragged to a Senate subcommittee last week about his agency's close "cooperation" with Microsoft to "enhance" how Windows 7 guards a user's privacy. If that doesn't make you run down to the nearest Apple Store, I don't know what would!

The spooks at the NSA are notorious for their role in monitoring internet activity, and for their use of illegal warrantless wiretaps to monitor U.S. phone conversations. So computer users ought to be extremely worried to hear that the NSA has "partnerships" with Microsoft, which makes their operating systems; Intel, which makes their wireless chipsets; and McAfee, which makes their antivirus software.

Saying It Like It Is

They Weren't Kidding When They Said Dieting Could Save Your Life

Four people have been arrested in Peru on suspicion of killing dozens of people in order to sell their fat and tissue for cosmetic uses in Europe. According to the police, the liquidized product went for over $50,000 a gallon.

The gang targeted people on remote roads, luring them with fake job offers before killing them and extracting their fat. The group could be behind the disappearances of up to 60 people in Peru's Huanuco and Pasco regions. One of those arrested told police the ringleader had been killing people for their fat for more than three decades.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Revolting Indeed

This Loser Isn't Gone Yet?

From the AP:

South Carolina lawmakers plan to formally consider impeaching Gov. Mark Sanford for the first time next week, the chairman of the committee beginning that work said Friday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison told The Associated Press he is appointing an ad-hoc committee of four Republicans and three Democrats who will begin meeting Tuesday. He said he expects to have a resolution to impeach ready before Christmas for the full Judiciary Committee to consider.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Buttars Utters

Utah Senator Christ Buttars, explaining his opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt children:
"I meet with the gays here and there. They were in my house two weeks ago. I don’t mind gays. But I don’t want ‘em stuffing it down my throat all the time."

Life In The Privileged World Of Banking

Having inoculated its employees with H1N1 vaccine dosages usurped from pregnant women and children, Goldman Sachs has increased its vigilance against the contagious virus by banning employee contact with spare change.

An internal memo outlines steps staff should take to avoid becoming ill, starting with the eradication of the potentially infected currency that may have lodged itself under the seats of their automobiles. The hazardous materials are being collected and sent to Small Business for disposal.

The memo also advised employees to “resist the urge to open your own car door ; let your driver do it.”

The Bigger The Boobs, The Harder They Fall

In a preview of what might happen to a certain other darling of the GOP, the Daily Beast writes that Carrie Prejean may soon be dropped as a poster girl of the conservative right.

Despite being runner up in the Miss USA pageant, Prejean was unquestionably the pageant's big winner—her exchange with Perez Hilton (who asked her whether she supported gay marriage, made national news) and her loss quickly developed into a victim narrative. Immediately after the event, Hilton went on YouTube and called Prejean a “dumb bitch.”

Overnight, Prejean became a right wing phenomenon. In addition to appearing at a press conference for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a family values organization that’s opposed to same-sex marriage, she also recorded robocalls for the group. NOM also created an ad showcasing Prejean, which ran for months on NOM’s website.

Prejean then appeared on FOX to speak on the issue of “traditional marriage,” even though she wasn’t prepared for the most basic questions. “My thought on civil unions?” she stammered on air. “You know what, Greta? I don’t have the answers to everything. I’m not running for political office. I don’t have the answers to everything, you know, in the world out there.” (Note from the Daily Dude: shades of Sarah Palin?)

Over the next few months, the people from Miss Universe tried all sorts of things to neutralize the Prejean situation and allow everyone involved to save some face. But Prejean would have none of it, upping the ante at every opportunity. In the end, Miss California USA was forced to take away her title when Prejean became more interested in being the face of the conservative movement than fulfilling her official duties. NOM wasted no time putting out a statement on her behalf: “Hollywood hates Carrie. First they abuse her, then they try to get her to recant, then they threw mud, and now they are doing what they wanted to do from day one: Get rid of Carrie.”

Days before news of the first sex tape hit last week, Prejean was out promoting her new memoir on Larry King Live. King asked her why she’d agreed to drop her lawsuit against Miss USA. (Several sources close to the settlement say the existence of sex tapes played a role). Prejean called the question “inappropriate” so he went to a caller, at which point the former beauty queen pulled off her mike and threatened to walk off the show. The reason, she later said, was that King and her representatives had an agreement not to go to callers. This strategy played well with the Republican base—blame the media—but it doesn’t appear to be true. Both a spokesperson for the show and well-placed sources say there was no such agreement in place.

Within a few days of the sex tapes making headlines, reports came that Prejean had been wiped completely from NOM’s website. None of the puffy press releases could be found, and the ad they produced was also gone. "Seven million Californians voted for Prop 8. I have no doubt that quite a few of them are people who committed sexual sins of various kinds,” a NOM spokesman said publicly-- adding, “Carrie has never worked for the National Organization for Marriage.”

No surprise, actually-- with her transition to amateur pornographer, Prejean had become radioactive—the latest in a string of right-wing casting choices that looked smart at the onset, then went awry when it turned out the new mascot for the evangelical base wasn’t qualified (or ready) for the part she’d been asked to play.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paris No Longer The World Capital Of Fine Dining

Tokyo has leaped ahead of Paris as the city with the most Michelin three-star restaurants, confirming its status as the "world capital of gastronomy".

Tokyo now has 11 three-star restaurants compared with 10 for Paris, according to news reports of the latest edition of the Michelin guide to Tokyo. The Japanese capital also has more of the coveted stars in total than Paris - 261 shared by 197 restaurants. New York, by comparison, has four three-star restaurants.

The French, however, need not feel their cuisine has plunged completely into disrepute. France still has more three-star restaurants than anywhere else, with 25 compared with Japan's 18.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stone Cold Hatred

Islamists in southern Somalia have stoned a man to death for adultery but spared his pregnant girlfriend until she gives birth.

33-year-old Abas Hussein Abdirahman was killed in front of a crowd of some 300 people in the port town of Merka. An official from the al-Shabab group said the woman would be killed after she has had her baby. This is the third time Islamists have stoned a person to death for adultery in the past year.

"He was screaming and blood was pouring from his head during the stoning. After seven minutes he stopped moving," according to an eyewitness. After the woman is killed, her baby will be given to relatives to look after.

Meanwhile, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has accused al-Shabab of spoiling the image of Islam by killing people and harassing women. "Their actions have nothing to do with Islam," President Ahmed "They are forcing women to wear very heavy clothes, saying they want them to properly cover their bodies but we know they have economic interests in mind - they sell these kinds of clothes and want to force people to buy them."

Last month, two men were stoned to death in the same town after being accused of spying. Before that, a 13-year-old girl was stoned to death for adultery in the southern town of Kismayo. Human rights groups said she had been raped.

Islamist groups run much of southern Somalia, while the UN-backed government only control parts of the capital. The country has not had a functioning national government for 18 years.

Let's Give The Spanish A Hand

A Spanish region's new approach to sex education has provoked anger by suggesting children be taught "self-exploration and self-pleasure".

The government of Extremadura launched a campaign giving advice to teenagers on masturbation with the slogan "pleasure is in your own hands", which has angered Spain's Roman Catholics and conservative media.

"Extremadura should be pleased with itself," Pilar Rahola, a columnist in the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper, wrote. "It may have the most unemployed young people in Spain but they will be the best at masturbation."

But Laura Garrido, president of Extremadura's youth council, said the lessons would be valuable to adolescents, and were part of a much broader education than the mechanics of masturbating. "The lessons are based on the concepts of self esteem, confidence and male and female anatomy and physiology," she said.

Local media reported her as saying that press coverage of the lessons had been "manipulated and twisted". No pun intended, of course.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Dude Dishes On The Oprah-Palin Gabfest

Thought that the Palin interview on Oprah yesterday was fairly "puffy"-- but given Winfrey's ardent support of Obama, she wasn't really going to get away with being too hard on the ex-governor.

Nevertheless, it it seems to me that Oprah missed some very obvious follow-up questions:

-- Why Palin failed to alert her daughter ahead of time when the campaign released a statement about her pregnancy;

-- Why Palin expected the media to leave her kids out of election coverage when Palin continued to use them as "props" in campaign stops across the country. In contrast, Obama rarely allowed his daughters to make public appearances during the campaign.

-- Why Palin, who says she loves Levi Johnston and only wishes him the best, continues to respond to his public remarks in sarcastic and vitriolic ways.

And no-- I didn't buy Palin's bullshit about the Couric interview. She basically tried to lay off her flubbed answer on her reading habits to her annoyance at being asked about it. Palin indirectly accused Couric of being elitist in thinking the Alaskans don't have easy access to media and being able to keep up on current events.

Palin also tried to claim that she could better serve Alaskans by being out of the governor's office-- and Oprah failed to challenge her on how much she has actually spoken/campaigned on Alaska's issues since quitting (answer: little or none that I've read or heard about).

Sarah also leveled criticism at Levi Johnston, saying that he shouldn't be so busy courting media attention that he couldn't see his son. Pretty ironic coming from a mother who is on a multi-city media tour without her baby.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Treating People Like They Are Expendable

This site has some of the most haunting photos of China's rampant pollution and the horrifying effects it has on its local communities. Below is just a sampling of Lu Guang's award-winning photography:


Palin And Her Book Continue To Come Under Fire

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist David Brooks referred to Palin as "a joke" and labeled her a "potential talk show host". Another McCain aide who worked closely with Palin and who "liked her personally" described Palin's account of the campaign as "blatantly and absolutely inaccurate." McCain aides are shocked-- though not entirely surprised--by Palin's allegations. They caught enough of her act during the 60-plus days of her campaign sojourn to know that she plays "fast and loose with the truth."

Most notable (and credible) among critics of Palin's book, of course, is Steve Schmidt, who took over McCain's teetering campaign in July of 2008 and was a staunch advocate of Palin's selection as McCain's running mate. The veteran Republican operative has publicly said that Palin's allegations against the McCain campaign are "total fiction."

A former Bush operative widely respected for his managerial skills and focused demeanor, Schmidt is precisely the type of disciplined task master that Palin has bristled against all her life. The scattered Palin's biggest complaint about Schmidt: he's "business to the bone." (Note from the Daily Dude to Sarah Palin: political campaigns are serious business, sweet pea!)

Palin contends that Schmidt came to her midway through the campaign and confronted her about her consumption of so-called Atkins bars and told her that she needed to "get off that Atkins Diet." In fact, Schmidt and campaign manager Rick Davis had heard concerns from both staffers and the press that Palin was dieting to the point of impacting her performance on the campaign. Palin, according to senior staffers, was concerned about not looking heavy on camera and was thoroughly obsessive about her appearance and every little comment that was made about her looks.

Palin also contends that in the aftermath of her humiliating prank phone call by a comedian posing as French president Nicolas Sarkozy that Schmidt called Palin angrily screaming, "How can anyone be so stupid?!" According to two McCain sources, one of whom was on the bus with Palin at the time, the phone call never happened. "There was an email," he said, "but never a phone call. This is a pure fabrication."

Palin also contends that Schmidt used profanity in front of her young daughter Piper. Those who have worked closely with Schmidt are most outraged by this particular Palin assertion. "Steve is a great father to his young kids and totally respectful of children," said a long time associate "I never saw it happen. Not once. That charge is 'other worldly'."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rush To Judgment And Death In Iran

As if we needed yet another example of Iran's brutal treatment of human beings and disregard of its own laws-- come reports of the dubious conviction and rushed execution of Kurdish activist Ehsan Fattahian.

Fattahian was a member of Komalah, a Marxist opposition group that has been active against the central government in Tehran since the 1960s. He was arrested on July 20, 2008, in Kamyaran in Kurdistan and charged with "working with armed opposition groups." He was put on trial by the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj. Like most political trials in Iran, the entire proceedings were behind closed doors and without an independent jury, in direct violation of Article 168 of Iran's Constitution. He was also denied an attorney, another violation of law. Fattahian denied all charges against him.

The Revolutionary Court sentenced Fattahian to 10 years in prison. The Appeals Court overturned the initial verdict, but instead of reducing the sentence or ordering a new trial, the Court sentenced Fattahian to death (another violation of Iranian law).

All appeals made to the Islamic Republic by international organizations (as well as his family) not to execute the young man, were ignored. Fattahian never accepted the charges against him, even though there were reports that he had been tortured to confess. He was transferred to solitary confinement on November 10, and was not even allowed to see his family one last time before being executed, which, beside being cruel, is against Islamic tradition.

The circumstances surrounding Fattahian's execution are suspicious. Not only was his family not allowed to see him one last time before the execution, his body was never returned to his family, despite an official announcement to the contrary.

Human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, winner, has called the circumstances of Fattahian's execution and burial unusual. In an interview, Ebadi called the execution of Fattahian "rushed" and "unprecedented." She said she found it highly objectionable that his family was not allowed to meet with him before his execution. Ebadi said the haste to bury Fattahian was another reason for "further suspicion." It is very unusual that they [the government] want to execute someone in such a rush that they do not let his family meet him on his last night," she said. "This is a very unusual approach that raises more suspicion about the real cause of death."

Post Toast

The New York Post continues its gleeful (bigoted, perhaps) grudge against a former New Jersey governor. A recent article on Jim McGreevey's training to become an Episcopal priest has the following snarky lead: " 'Gay American' Jim McGreevey is spending his Sunday mornings with a new man -- Jesus."

The article, which notes that the ex-gov has "gone from turnpike rest stops to the church rostrum" has an accompanying photo of McGreevey on the job, captioned, "Holy Shift!". On top of that, the NYP continues to call McGreevey the "luv guv."

Studio Blackout

Universal Pictures is caught in the middle of controversy over its decision to change the marketing material for the new Vince Vaughn movie "Couples Retreat" for the film's UK release. The studio removed the black actors from both the poster's photo and their names from those actors listed on the poster.


The film, which features four couples who go on vacation together, costars Faizon Love as a divorced man who takes his new girlfriend along, played by Kali Hawk.

A Universal spokesman said the revised advertising aimed 'to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognizable in international markets'. The studio said it regretted causing offense and has abandoned plans to use the revised poster in other countries.

Whalin' On Palin

Sarah Palin quotes are starting to roll in from the upcoming "Going Rogue"

On getting punked into a fake phone call from the "President of France":
"It didn't surprise [me] too much that we'd be speaking with the French leader . . . He's got to be drunk, I thought. I didn't want to offend the president of France, but this was getting stupid. Right away [after the end of the call], the phones started ringing. One of the first calls was Schmidt, and the force of his screaming blew my hair back. "How can anyone be so stupid?! Why would the president of France call a vice presidential candidate a few days out?!"
On the disastrous Couric interview:
“I have had better interviews. I choked on a couple of responses, and in the harried pace of the campaign, I mistakenly let myself become annoyed and frustrated with many of her repetitive, biased questions."
On Hillary Clinton:
"Should Secretary Clinton and I ever sit down over a cup of coffee, I know that we will fundamentally disagree on many issues, but my hat is off to her hard work on the 2008 campaign trail."
On the McCain campaign's strategy of restricting media access to Palin:
"Aboard the campaign plane I was within twenty-five feet of reporters for hours on end. Headquarters’ strategy was that I should not go to the back of the aircraft and talk to the press. At first this was subtle, but as the campaign wore on, Tracey or Tucker would call headquarters to request permission, and someone in DC would respond, “No! Absolutely not- block her if she tries to go back.”
On her diet:
"I love meat. I eat pork chops, thick bacon burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou. I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals -- right next to the mashed potatoes."
On the material Saturday Night Live's writers gave her:
"I looked at the script. It wasn't all that funny. SNL writers had taken the campaign's 'Drill, baby drill" mantra and turned it into a risque double entendre about Todd and me. I thought, Nah. C'mon, New York talent, we can do better than that."

I'll pass along other choice excerpts as I come across them-- there's no need for any of us to waste money on this crap.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kansas City Chiefs Take A Stand Against Bigotry

This week the Kansas City Chiefs released controversial running back Larry Johnson on the same day he returned to the team after a two week suspension.

The move comes after Johnson belittled Coach Todd Haley in a Twitter meltdown where he called fans "fag", "faggot" and "Christopher Street boy", in addition to using gay slurs with reporters. Johnson was fined $315,000 for the incident. According to news reports, the NFL initially recommendation no suspension and only a $10,000 fine .

The two-time Pro Bowler Johnson was second on the team's all-time rushing list with 6,090 yards. After several violent episodes with women, numerous run-ins with Chiefs management and the gay baiting Twitter rant, more than 10,000 Kansas City fans petitioned the team not to allow Johnson to gain the 75 yards needed to break the team's all-time rushing record. The fans and decency won.

How Would You Feel If Someone Eavesdropped On You And Your Doctor?

If you hadn't thought about it much, you should know that electronic medical recordkeeping is on the horizon and the government is already making critical decisions on how those records are kept, shared and safeguarded. When I say medical records, I'm talking about physicians' notes and observations, patient recommendations, referrals, prescriptions etc.-- anything you and your doctor say to each other will eventually find its way into an electronic medical record.

Regulators are already in a tug-of-war with health care lobbyists over how these electronic records will be safeguarded. Some lawmakers, consumer groups and industry analysts argue that hospitals and insurance companies should be required to let patients know about any unauthorized disclosure of their health data. However, under a provisional rule released by HHS this week, a health care provider only would have to notify patients if the provider determines the breach "poses a significant risk of financial, reputational, or other harm to the individual.''

Officials from the hospital and insurance industries have long contended that it is unnecessary to notify patients of every routine error in handling data--saying that it not only would be costly but also would overwhelm consumers and make them less likely to notice when a real problem occurred.

But some do not believe the definition of harm should be left for the hospitals or insurers to interpret. "It's sort of like letting the fox guard the hen house," said Paul Cotton, a lobbyist for the AARP who works on health information technology issues.

California first advanced the idea that consumers should be told when their data is mishandled, passing a law in 2003 requiring notification whenever protected information got into unauthorized hands.

Few people took notice until 2005 when ChoicePoint, a Georgia-based data-collecting company, was forced to notify tens of thousands of Californians that their files had been accessed by unauthorized users who might have been identity thieves. No other state had a similar requirement, so initially ChoicePoint refused to notify people elsewhere, sparking outrage from many consumers and government officials.

Folks, you should contact your lawmakers and insist on the more stringent rule for privacy protection on your medical records-- you already know the consequences of letting corporate medicine decide what's best for you (vs. them).

Palin's Tall Tales

Palin's book doesn't even come out until next week-- but news outlets have obtained early copies and are already fact-checking it. Over at Huff Post, Geoffrey Dunn has the run-down on the first ten lies contained in the book:

1. The Cover Byline: Palin didn't write the book by herself; she had a ghostwriter. Most books with known ghostwriters list their co-author's name on the cover-- "Going Rogue" does not.

2. The Subtitle: An American Life. Aside from her infancy, Palin has really spent very little time outside of Alaska, and according to John McCain's campaign advisors, was shockingly unfamiliar with American geography and American history.

3. Going Rogue features Palin's obsession with Katie Couric and characterizes the CBS anchor as "badgering." Palin refused to prep for the Couric interview because she was more concerned about her popularity in Alaska than about what was best for the campaign. Was it really badgering to ask what books or periodicals Palin read? Palin further claims that Couric suffered from low self-esteem. In fact, according to those close to Palin, it's the former governor who suffers from low self-esteem and frequently projects that onto other women.

4. Palin asserts that there was a "jaded aura" around McCain's political advisors once she entered the campaign. In fact, McCain's aides bent over backwards to protect Palin and to try to get her up to speed on international affairs. In addition to not knowing whether or not Africa was a continent, according to sources in the McCain campaign, Palin also didn't understand the difference between England and Great Britain. And much, much more.

5. Palin contends to have been saddled with legal bills of more than $500K resulting from what she calls "frivolous" ethics complaints filed against her. The lion's share of those bills resulted from the ethics complaint she filed against herself in a legal maneuver to sidestep the Troopergate charges being brought against her by the bipartisan Alaska Legislative Council.

6. Palin rather astonishingly claims that she was saddled with legal fees associated with her vice-presidential vetting. A) She was not vetted; B) A McCain campaign advisor says this is "categorically untrue."

7. Palin states that she found out only "minutes" before John McCain's concession speech that she would not be allowed to make remarks of her own introducing McCain. In fact, she had been told at least three times that she would not be allowed to give the speech and kept lying about it in the hopes of creating some last-minute chaos that would allow her to assume the dais.

8. Palin asserts that her effort to award a license for a natural gas transmission line was turning a "pipe dream" into a pipeline. Although she claimed otherwise in her speech at the GOP convention, there is no pipeline. It remains a pipe dream.

9. Palin implies that the McCain campaign intentionally bungled the announcement of her daughter's pregnancy and refused to let her rewrite it. In fact, the McCain campaign allowed her to rework the draft, but the original version went out accidentally.

10. Palin complains that McCain's senior advisors, most notably Steve Schmidt, forced her to "stick with the script" they provided her. In fact, Schmidt & Co. were tasked with keeping Palin from lying and misleading people throughout the campaign, from her well-documented lies about the "Bridge to Nowhere" to her duplicities about her husband Todd's assocation with the Alaska Independence Party.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Twits For Twitter

I bet you didn't know that Big Ben, the London clock, has a Twitter account. Online, it says the same thing it has always said in real life. The account was opened as a statement on the banality of Twitter, but Big Ben now has over 13,000 followers . . . no surprise.

The Search For Designer Pussy

Women are undergoing surgery to create perfect genitalia amid a "shocking" lack of information on the potential risks of the procedure, according to a newly published study reported by the BBC. Surgeons however, say the report overplays the risks of an established procedure.

Researchers reviewed existing studies on cosmetic labial surgery (which generally involves reducing the amount of tissue that protrudes from the lips which cover the vagina) and found there had been little work to document any longer-term side effects.

Labioplasty, as it is known, costs about $5000 and is offered for a variety of reasons: some women complain that wearing tight clothes or riding a bike is uncomfortable, while others say they are embarrassed in front of a sexual partner.

But gynecologist Sarah Creighton and psychologist Lih-Mei Liao challenged the ethics of offering women surgery to address such insecurities, suggesting it was advertising for a "homogenised, pre-pubescent genital appearance" which created these anxieties in the first place. They also suggested that any pain apparently caused by protrusion may well have a psychological root - noting that male genitalia protrude far further without causing major discomfort.

Counseling and support could therefore be a preferable alternative to surgery, they argue. Either way, the Daily Dude recommends a hands-on approach to the problem.

Dobbs Out Of A Job

Just a few months ago, dipshit Lou Dobbs said the following:
"It's just killing the left wing in this country that they can't force CNN to fire me."

I don't who to give credit to, so I have only one thing to say-- Goodbye you xenophobic cretin!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pass The Buck, Troops Are Fucked

If the prospect of sending more troops to prop up a corrupt leader isn't bad enough, we now have something new to get outraged about-- the Taliban in Afghanistan are apparently getting a good chunk of their funding from U.S. taxpayers.

There are reports that the U.S. military's contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents in Afghanistan to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of military logistics that the U.S. government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. U.S. military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.

According to Vote Vets, here's how the chain works: The U.S. government pays trucking firms to move supplies around Afghanistan to its rural and far flung outposts. These trucking companies then pay private security contracting firms, operated by druglords, warlords, the Taliban and relatives of senior Afghan Administration officials, or consortiums of any or all of them, for safe passage to American installations. As one American trucking executive said, "The Army is basically paying the Taliban not to shoot at them. It is Department of Defense money."

Supreme Irony

Famed defender of the First Amendment, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is censoring a high-school newspaper article about his recent visit. Kennedy was invited to speak at a student assembly at a Manhattan prep school, and he agreed with the proviso that he have final approval of any article written on it by the student newspaper. To add insult to injury, Kennedy's office took so long with the edits that the article missed deadline and will have to be postponed to the next issue.

FBI Being Dragged Into Court Over Illegal "Renditions"

An American who was captured by Kenyan forces in January 2007 has filed suit, arguing that FBI agents involved in his interrogation and transfer to other countries violated his constitutional rights.

The suit is the first by a U.S. citizen seeking damages for the practice of "rendition," the extrajudicial transfer of suspects between countries. "U.S. officials repeatedly threatened Mr. Meshal with torture, forced disappearance, and execution in order to coerce him to confess to wrongdoing in which he had not engaged and to associations that he did not have," according to the lawsuit, which targets two FBI agents, identified as Chris Higgenbotham and Steve Hersem, and two unidentified U.S. officials who allegedly questioned Meshal in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Meshal traveled to Somalia in 2006 "to enrich his study of Islam." according to the lawsuit. When U.S.-backed forces launched an offensive on Magadishu, Meshal fled to neighboring Kenya, where he was picked up near the Somali border. He was held at the behest of U.S. officials, often in filthy and crowded cells, according to the lawsuit. He was repeatedly questioned by FBI agents who threatened to send him to Israel or Egypt unless he acknowledged ties to al-Qaeda, the lawsuit alleges. Meshal signed a document waiving counsel, but the lawsuit claims that the FBI told him doing so was the only way he would get home, effectively leaving him no choice.

When a Kenyan human rights group filed a habeas petition on behalf of Meshal, the American was secretly flown back to Somalia, where he was held for a number of days, before being taken to Ethiopia. He was also questioned repeatedly by U.S. agents in Ethiopia before finally being allowed to return to the United States on May 26, 2007.

Meshal, who is now back in his home state of New Jersey, has never been charged with a crime. A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment, citing the Justice Department's policy in civil litigation cases.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rio Suffers Massive Blackout


Much of Brazil was plunged into eerie darkness last night as a problem at a hydroelectric dam left millions without electricity for several hours.

Only car headlights, candles, and the odd power generator provided any source of illumination for millions of Brazilians. Other cities such as Sao Paulo were also left in blackness for more than two hours, while all of neighbouring Paraguay was also without power for half an hour. Rio's famed Copacabana beach was also left in darkness, with some diners heading down to some of the strip's restaurants for meals served by candle light.

Brazil's official Agencia Brasil news agency said Tuesday's outage started about 10:20 p.m. local time, snarling streets in Rio, where traffic that is normally chaotic turned riotous. Cars, taxis and buses sped through dark intersections, honking to make their presence known as they zoomed through. Pedestrians scampered across avenues, and tourists scurried back to a handful of luxury beach hotels, the only buildings with light. Many other tourists left their hotel rooms along Copacabana beach because of the lack of air conditioning and milled around on the unlit streets. A group of muggers took advantage of the darkness to rob people en masse near Rio's Maracana stadium, which will host the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies.

The outage adds to fears that Brazil - and Rio's - infrastructure will not be ready for the influx of people for the games. The outage was initially blamed on the large Itaipu dam, which straddles Brazil and Paraguay's borders and produces 17,000 megawatts of power. Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said outages hit nine of the 27 states in this country of more than 190 million people. There continues to be disagreement among experts as to exactly what triggered the outage.

The blackout came on the heels of a wave of gang fighting in Rio's favelas that led to violence fears for the Olympics. The blackout also came two days after CBS's '60 Minutes' news program reported that several past Brazilian power outages were caused by computer hackers.

Fox News Busted Using Fake Footage

Fox News has been called out by The Daily Show trying to boost crowd numbers of the poorly-attended Bachman rally last week. Check it out:

More Fallout From Bush's War

Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide (now called Xe Services) authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials created a deep rift inside the company. According to NYT sources, Vice Chairman Cofer Black learned of the plan while he was in Baghdad discussing compensation for families of the shooting victims with U.S. Embassy officials. Alarmed about the secret payments, Black cut short his talks and left Iraq. Soon after returning to the United States, he confronted Erik Prince, the company’s chairman and founder, who did not dispute that there was a bribery plan. Black resigned the following year.

If Blackwater/Xe Services is shown to have followed through with the payments, the company or its officials could face charges of obstruction of justice and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribes to foreign officials.

Paglia Watch

Due to the holiday, Camille's monthly column on Salon.com was posted a day early:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi scored a giant gain for feminism last weekend. In shoving her controversy-plagued healthcare reform bill to victory by a paper-thin margin, she conclusively demonstrated that a woman can be just as gritty, ruthless and arm-twisting in pursuing her agenda as anyone in the long line of fabled male speakers before her. Whether or not her bill survives in the Senate is immaterial: Pelosi's hard-won, trench-warfare win sets a new standard for U.S. women politicians and is certainly well beyond anything the posturing but ineffectual Hillary Clinton has ever achieved.

. . . . .

The administration has seemed to be drifting lately. Obama has dithered for months about a strategy for Afghanistan -- another rats' nest we should pull our troops out of overnight. Then there was the bizarre disproportion in Obama's flying to Denmark to flog a Chicago Olympics yet not having time to make it to Germany to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall -- which suggests a frivolous provincialism as well as ignorance of history among the president's principal advisors.

. . . . .

Madonna is [now] trying to resuscitate herself, body and mind, by taking transfusions from Brazil! The poverty-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro are her latest charity -- presumably because dusty, distant Malawi is too bare of the hordes of paparazzi required to record the latest feats of Our Lady Bountiful. How convenient that the best hotels of Ipanema are only minutes away from the Rio slums! Oh, that girl -- always thinking, ain't she?

Lawsuit Rocks Fox

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post is the target of some embarrassing and alarming allegations in a lawsuit filed by a fired employee, involving workplace sexual harassment, bigotry, discrimination and an alleged stated goal of the newspaper to “destroy” President Obama. The 38-page complaint filed by former employee Sandra Guzman claims she was fired in retaliation, after publicly condemning a racist cartoon published in the paper depicting President Obama as a dead chimpanzee.

Guzman likened the New York Post newsroom to a frat house, where racism and misogynistic behavior prevailed. The complaint also states that “Charles Hurt, the Post’s Washington D.C. Bureau Chief told Guzman that the Murdoch owned Post’s “goal is to destroy Barack Obama. We don’t want him to succeed.”

Senior Vice President for Programming Bill Shine recently admitted that Fox News had the goal of being “the voice of opposition” to the Obama administration. Murdoch also stated in a recent interview that he agrees with Glenn Beck that President Obama is a racist.

Some of the more salacious allegations in the suit are as follows:
On one occasion defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them ‘What do you think of this?’ On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked . . .

A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that ‘If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.’

On another occasion Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him.

Also according to the suit, “The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post…. Have all been black and/or women of color.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Palin Still Failin'

It's no wonder that Sarah Palin is banning all media coverage of her recent speaking engagements. Instead of growing in political stature or enhancing her statesmanship, "Cut and Run" Palin continues to make headlines for her moronic and naive tweets/comments. In a poorly received speech last Friday at a Wisconsion Right-to-Life fundraising event (where she made frequent use of the words "bogus" and "awesome" to describe otherwise weighty topics) she also went off-topic about the dollar coin.

Noting that there had been a lot of “change” of late, Palin recalled a recent conversation with a friend about how the phrase “In God We Trust” had been moved to the edge of the new coins.

“Who calls a shot like that?” she demanded. “Who makes a decision like that? It’s a disturbing trend.”

Uhhh, Sarah-- the phrase "In God We Trust" was moved to the edge of the dollar coin as a result of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005-- legislation introduced by a Republican Senator, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, and signed by George W. Bush.

How totally bogus is that? But totally awesome at the same time!

Redress For A Red Dress

In Brazil, famed for its tiny bikinis and carefree attitude, a university student has been expelled after violent protests by students outraged at the short outfit she wore on campus.

The Universidade Bandeirante said it had expelled the student, Geysi Villa Nova Arruda, 20, for "flagrant disrespect of ethical principles, academic dignity and morality." Her dress sparked student protests last month in the largely Roman Catholic country.

A video showed Arruda sitting in a classroom in a mid-thigh length red dress, then six military police officers protecting her as she left the campus wearing a white jacket. A line of students stood by chanting "whore." Another video showed a mob stopping and kicking her car and blocking her when she tried to escape on foot.



Brazilian bloggers have pointed out the irony of the hatred directed at Arruda by fellow students in a nation so obsessed with physical beauty. "Pure hypocrisy ... Once February and the Carnival comes round everyone will be naked and no one will find it abnormal," said one commenter on the O Globo news website.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Don't IRS Regulations Prohibit Tax-Exempt Organizations From Engaging In Politics?

Portland, Maine's Catholic Bishop Richard J. Malone was a visible and vocal leader in the recent campaign to repeal gay marriage in Maine. During a time when Catholic dioceses are being closed across the nation in order to fund settlements of sex abuse cases, the Portland diocese gave as much as $550,000 to the effort to deprive gays of their right to marry. A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter noted:
"It is a sad day, as the leaders of the Catholic church in Maine relish, in delight, that they have succeeded in keeping the homosexual families of Maine outside of the walls of society where they must beg to maintain their very existence, much like the lepers and blind in the Bible were kept outside the city walls in days of old," said Jack Dougherty of Eliot, Maine, a member of Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Portland attorney George Burns, who helped draft the Catholic statement on equality, said "The bishop won at a great price -- whether he cares about that price or not. He has divided his flock."

One Catholic, Pamella Starbird Beliveau of Lewiston, Maine, was removed as a lector and eucharistic minister after her pastor read an opinion piece she wrote for the local newspaper approving of same-sex marriage.

She told a rally outside the Portland cathedral Nov. 1, "I am sad but not surprised by what happened. … The Catholic church has every right to determine who can and cannot serve as ministers in the church. I respect that. We must keep our eyes focused on the issue and that is equality for our gay and lesbian citizens."

The article also quoted a Catholic advocacy group:
Catholics who are concerned that the current political campaign to repeal Maine's civil marriage equality law is at odds with fundamental principles of truth and charity, and with vital American traditions of separation of church and state. We believe that the church has a right and often the responsibility to speak out on moral and social issues, to present its views, to seek to educate its member and others. But we also believe that the church should continue to recognize that Catholics are free, indeed obligated to follow their own informed consciences on such issues.

I couldn't have said it any better myself.

In The Name Of The Father, Son And Public Transit

An Atlanta bus driver is on suspension following reports that he forced passengers to pray before allowing them to exit the bus.

Christopher James was one of those passengers. James initially thought something was wrong when he rang the bell to get off the bus and the door didn’t open. James said the bus driver asked him and three other passengers to join hands in prayer. James said the driver prayed with the group for about four minutes.

James’ cousin, who arrived at the bus stop to meet him, said she saw the men standing inside the bus, but didn’t realize they were praying. “I was like, ‘Why were y’all praying on the bus? He said the man would not let them off the bus,’” said Thembi Cresser.

Atlanta's MARTA transit agency suspended the bus driver for five days and told him not to proselytize to passengers.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Iranian Crackdowns On Protests And Foreign Press Continue


Three journalists, one of them foreign, were arrested at mass demonstrations last week in Tehran by a regime determined to suppress all independent sources of information.

Farhad Poulaid, an Iranian working for the French wire service AFP, was detained as he rode through central Tehran on a motorbike and nothing has been heard from him since. Nafiseh Zareh Kohan, an Iranian who writes for reformist publications, and 31-year-old Niels Krosgaard, a Danish journalism student, were also held, according to reports.

The arrests are part of a sustained crackdown on all independent media, foreign and domestic, in the five months since President Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed re-election triggered the most serious unrest in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history.

The international press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said: “At least a hundred journalists and cyberdissidents have been arrested since the election and 23 of them are still being held.” It said several journalists had been sentenced to as much as six years in prison after “Stalinist” show trials.

Western journalists are now barred from Iran, and some of the few who were based there before the election have been expelled. Maziar Bahari, a Canadian working for Newsweek, was held for 118 days before being released on bail and allowed to leave for London last month.

A Driving Force To Conquer Stupidity

A South Korean woman is celebrating after passing the written exam for a driving licence - on her 950th attempt. After four years of trying, 68-year-old Cha Sa-soon finally managed to secure the 60 out of 100 points needed to pass the test.

The grandmother has spent more than $4,200 on application fees for the test. Mrs. Cha must now pass the road test to get behind the wheel.

The written test for a Korean driver's license consists of 50 multiple-choice questions on road regulations and car maintenance. Mrs. Cha had been trying to pass it since April 13 2005. She wanted a license so that she could use a vehicle to sell vegetables and other goods, according to reports.

After her 775th attempt back in February, Mrs. Cha told reporters, "I believe you can achieve your goal if you persistently pursue it. So don't give up your dream, like me. Be strong and do your best."

Is it just me, or is anyone else asking whether someone too stupid to pass a driving test within 100 or so attempts should even be allowed on the road?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

They're Feeding Cows The Fowlest Shit Nowadays

After an eight-year layoff, it looks like the FDA is back in the business of actually protecting consumers (instead of looking out for corporate interests).

A coalition of food and consumer groups that includes Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the practice of feeding chicken feces and other poultry farm waste to cattle. McDonald's Corp., the nation's largest restaurant user of beef, also wants the FDA to prohibit the feeding of "poultry litter" to cattle. Using poultry litter increases the risk of cows becoming infected with mad cow disease,

Members of the coalition are threatening to file a lawsuit or to push for federal legislation establishing such a ban if the FDA doesn't act to do so in the coming months.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine For Greedy Pigs

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are trying to fend off criticism, saying that they purchased the swine flu vaccines for workers that are in high-risk groups. Frankly, I'm not buying that load of crap, and neither is the Service Employees International Union:

"It's bad enough that Wall Street crashed our economy. But purposely endangering the health of millions of Americans during a public health crisis crosses all lines of decency," the union said in a statement.

Maybe it's time for Kathleen Sebelius of HHS to catch up on the news in Canada:

Allowing the NHL's Calgary Flames players and families to get H1N1 flu shots early has cost an Alberta Health Services manager his job, Canadian officials said.


Update On The Michele Bachmann Freak Show

By the time Michele Bachmann's "Super Bowl of Freedom" was over, medics had administered government-run health care to at least five people in the crowd who were stricken as they denounced government-run health care. Then the majority of the crowd headed over to the socialist Metro system to go home . . .

Nutcase Bachmann Starting To Go (Way) Too Far

Right-wing congresswoman Michele Bachmann-- known primarily for championing the Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act and calling for the investigation of Anti-Americanism in Congress, was the featured speaker at a health care reform protest rally on Capital Hill yesterday.


In past protests, tea-baggers had infamously compared Obama to Hitler and Heath Ledger's Joker character-- but they keep upping the ante. Prominently featured at yesterday's rally was a sign that compared the "socialist health care" effort with the Holocaust-- and it featured a 1945 image of dead bodies from the Dachau death camp in Nazi Germany. Bachman is well-known for being a virtual mouthpiece for the fringe right, but associating herself with such hateful and disgusting tactics goes beyond the pale.


This isn't the first time the Minnesotan congresswoman has found herself amid controversy and/or facing ridicule. Bachman earlier this year also publicly criticized the AmeriCorps program as a socialist re-education camp for youths, unaware that her own son had taken a job with AmeriCorps.

Bachmann has also continually promoted violence in her public statements while in office. At a Colorado rally against health care reform she said, "This cannot pass. What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass."

In speaking out against Obama's cap and trade policies, she called on Minnesotans to be "armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back." She later said that according to Thomas Jefferson, "having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."

Go Ahead And Be A Grouch, Godammit

An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.

In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

MTV, Which No Longer Shows Music Videos, Now Preventing Fans From Seeing Concerts

A U2 performance celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the occasion by building a wall to keep fans out. The free concert was part of the MTV Europe Music Awards show.

"It's a shame that a barrier has been set up. It's stopping many Berliners from hearing the concert," local politician Frank Henkel said. "It would have been so much better if as many Berliners as possible could have taken part. 10,000 people is a lot, but U2 could have had an even bigger audience enjoying their music at this wonderful location."

The 10,000 tickets to the show were given away free online and snapped up within hours. Why U2 would erect a wall to prevent people from getting any glimpse of the free show puzzled and angered many fans.

"It's completely ridiculous that they are blocking the view," said Louis-Pierre Boily, a Canadian fan who travelled to Berlin despite failing to secure tickets for the show. I thought it's a free show, but MTV probably wants people to watch it on TV to get their ratings up."

U2 manager Paul McGuinness said Berliners thought it was "pretty ironic" that an event to mark the falling of the wall has resulted in another one being constructed.

As the controversy raged, MTV maintained a standard line of bullshit, saying the fence was necessary to "ensure the safety and security of the attendees at the event as well as residents and businesses in the area".

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Fallout From Bush's Illegal "Extraordinary Renditioning" Program

An Italian judge has convicted 23 Americans (all but one of them CIA agents) and two Italian secret agents for the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric. Three Americans and five Italians were acquitted by the court in Milan.

Abu Omar was the victim of the CIA's widely condemned program of "extraordinary renditions", where victims are kidnapped with due process of the law, shipped off to foreign countries and detained for long periods with access to lawyers or their home government.

Omar was snatched in broad daylight on a Milan street in February 2003 and flown to Germany, and then Cairo, where he was tortured and held for years until being released without charge.

The Americans were all tried in their absence as the Bush Administration refused to extradite them to Italy. The CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Lady, was given an eight-year term, while the other 22 Americans convicted - one of them a U.S. air force colonel - were sentenced to five years in prison. Lawyers for the 23 Americans said they would appeal against their convictions.

The two Italian agents, who were convicted as accomplices to kidnapping, were given three-year prison terms. The court also ruled that those convicted must pay $1.5 million in damages to Abu Omar and $750,000 to his wife.

CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the convictions.

Progressive Ideas Take Bud In Colorado

The Colorado ski town of Breckenridge went "green" this week, voting overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana.

The proposal passed overwhelmingly with over 70% voting in favor. Under the new law, adults over 21 would be allowed to have up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The measure is largely symbolic because pot possession remains a state crime for people without medical clearance.

Supporters said they wanted to send a message to local law enforcement to stop busting small-time pot smokers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Outrage In Venezuela: Caracas Residents To Go Without Running Water For 7 Hours Per Day

Residents of the Venezuelan capital face cuts in water service for as much as 48 hours per week, after the government imposed rationing to stem a 25 percent shortfall in the city's supply.

Officials said cuts in water service were to be staggered throughout Caracas through the duration of the current dry season, which is not expected to end until next May.

Weather forecasters blame the "El Nino" weather phenomenon, saying the periodic weather system has markedly reduced rainfall and created drought conditions. Others blame the shortage on poor government management of the country's water resources, while President Hugo Chavez faulted the excesses of capitalism.

"What will the rich fill their swimming pools with?" Chavez said recently. "With the water that is denied inhabitants in the poor neighborhoods," he said, blaming the lack of sufficient water on "capitalism -- a lack of feeling, a lack of humanity."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For Anyone Wondering Whether Joe Wilson Is Stupid, He Keeps Opening His Mouth And Eliminating Any Doubt

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) said today that President Obama has endangered American lives by not doing more to alleviate the nation's short supply of H1N1 vaccine:
"The current administration is solely responsible. They can't blame this on any prior administration," said Wilson. "This is the responsibility of the current administration. They've put the lives of Americans at risk."
In a vote on a supplementary appropriations bill last June, Wilson joined 95% of Republicans and voted against the bill, which contained special funding to combat H1N1 both domestically and internationally.

Joe Wilson-- fucking moron or hypocritical bastard? You decide.

New McDonald's Menu Item Made From 100% Rump Roast

Monday, November 2, 2009

GOP Now Supports Gang Rape-- Good Job, Guys!

It looks like the GOP is now supporting gang rape-- here's the story.

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained [by Halliburton/KBR] in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Franken said:
The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law ... And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. ... The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.

The following senators (all Republicans) voted against the amendment-- in effect, supporting gang rape: Alexander (R-TN), Barrasso (R-WY), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE), Kyl (R-AZ), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), and Wicker (R-MS)

Next thing you know, the GOP will try to figure out a way to exclude rape treatment from the health care bill-- because, you know that only slutty girls get raped (and they deserve it, right?).

Even More Examples Of Mexican Drug Atrocities

Rogelio Sanchez Jimenez, the kidnapped head of the department of motor vehicles in the northern Mexican state of Baja California was found dead last month, his mutilated body left hanging from a bridge in Tijuana.

Sanchez’s head was wrapped in adhesive tape, with his severed genitals stuck in his mouth, Efe confirmed at the scene. He had been kidnapped while driving with his daughters. Armed men in an SUV rammed Sanchez’s vehicle and then grabbed him when he stopped the car and got out.

Authorities in the southern state of Guerrero also discovered last month the bodies of 10 men who were all apparently killed by a single criminal organization identifying itself as “El jefe de jefes” (The Chief of Chiefs).

A total of six victims were found in Chilpancingo, the state capital, while the other four turned up at various spots in and around the Pacific resort town of Acapulco. All of the men were bound and gagged and each had been killed by a shot to the back of the head. One group of bodies was accompanied by a sign reading, “this will happen to all the kidnapping and extorting rats,” signed by “El jefe de jefes.”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Better Be Careful When You Turn Your Back On Someone

Despite the hooplah over his recent moves on federal hate crime and the HIV travel ban, Obama still continues to stab the gay movement in the back. From the Associated Press:
States that allow gay marriage can't force the federal government to provide benefits to those couples, the Obama administration argued Friday in court papers in a lawsuit by Massachusetts.

The Justice Department is at odds with Massachusetts — the first state to allow gay marriage — over a 1996 federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Massachusetts sued in July, saying that law is discriminatory and deprives gay couples in the state of some federal spousal benefits.

The Obama administration agrees the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is discriminatory and wants it repealed, but says it has an obligation to defend laws enacted by Congress while they are on the books and can be reasonably defended.

There are many, many, many examples of how Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr chose not to defend laws that they didn't agree with-- so it's bullshit that Obama has to take this position. Besides-- isn't Obama already refusing to enforce laws on medical marijuana and immigration?

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