Send Bush back to Crawford! (Whether they want him or not.)

Site temporarily out of service due to hosting company 'upgrade'. In the meantime, enjoy the many fine blogs listed on our blogroll, and help elect some Democrats. You can also visit us at our alternate haunts: Magpie at, well, Magpie, Mary at Left Coaster and American Street, and natasha on occasion at Open Source Politics.

Update, the second: It turns out that Movable Type may now be incapable of restoring archives from their own previous installations. I feel like saying something extremely nasty about that, but suspect it would be a bad idea in my current mood.


March 11, 2004

The dangers of casting the first stone.

As the GOP demands that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry apologize for calling Republicans 'the most crooked ... lying group I've ever seen,' they might do well to remember their own past.

Back in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich's political action committee came up with a lists of words that Republican candidates could use to describe themselves and their party, and another set to describe the Democrats. The use of this GOPAC vocabulary was a critical element in the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

decay... failure (fail)... collapse(ing)... deeper... crisis... urgent(cy)... destructive... destroy... sick... pathetic... lie... liberal... they/them... unionized bureaucracy... "compassion" is not enough... betray... consequences... limit(s)... shallow... traitors... sensationalists...

endanger... coercion... hypocrisy... radical... threaten... devour... waste... corruption... incompetent... permissive attitudes... destructive... impose... self-serving... greed... ideological... insecure... anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs... pessimistic... excuses... intolerant...

stagnation... welfare... corrupt... selfish... insensitive... status quo... mandate(s)... taxes... spend(ing)... shame... disgrace... punish (poor...)... bizarre... cynicism... cheat... steal... abuse of power... machine... bosses... obsolete... criminal rights... red tape... patronage

Given this history (and we assure you, we've only picked out one illustrative item), it seems just a bit disingenous for the Republicans to be crying foul over Kerry's remarks.

Posted by Magpie at 01:18 PM | Link

March 10, 2004

Marriage news roundup (2).


The Log Cabin Republicans have launched a US $1 million media campaign against the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. The ad uses footage from the 2000 election campaign of then-VP candidate Dick Cheney saying that same-sex marriage is a matter to be left to the states. The ad will be running in Washington, DC and seven swing states.

The Log Cabin Republicans is the largest group of gay and lesbian Republicans, claiming about 10,000 members. More details on its campaign against the FMS are here, and a link to the television ad is here [RealPlayer required].

(Washington Post)


The San Jose city council has voted to recognize the marriages of its gay and lesbian employees. The vote was 8-1.

"We believe it is right and just that employee benefits provided to spouses of city employees should be applied evenhandedly in accordance with our firm and successful commitment to ending bias and discrimination in the workplace," San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said in a memo to the city council.



The Maryland House of Delegates has voted down a bill that would have barred the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. State law already defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, so backers of the change were unable to convince most legislators that the new law was needed.

(Maryland Gazette Newspapers)


A bill to amend the Michigan constitution to bar same-sex marriages has failed in the state House. Backers of the amendment fell 8 votes short of the number needed to pass the marriage amendment and send it on to the state Senate. The House may vote again on the measure, but no date has been set. If the amendment fails to get out of the House, the American Family Association of Michigan says it will sponsor a petition drive to get the amendment on the next state ballot.

(Lansing [MI] State Journal)

Continue reading "Marriage news roundup (2)."
Posted by Magpie at 04:11 PM | Link

History lesson.

Columnist James Carroll warns about the dangers of waging culture wars, as the US religious right is wont to do. He suggests that Dubya's recent decision to support the Federal Marriage Amendment aligns the prez with forces that, rather than seeing same-sex marriage as a political question, see it as a matter of values that is not subject to debate, and on which no compromise is possible. In attempting to further his own political agenda and ensure his re-election, says Carroll, Dubya could be sending the country down a path to unintended and unwanted destinations.

When quasi-hysterical fearmongering replaces reasonable debate, dark forces can be set in motion that outrun anyone's intentions, and that is especially true when the question involves a segment of society that has long been subject to irrational bigotry. To define the wish of homosexuals for equal access to marriage rites and rights as a mortal threat to the social order, as Bush does, is to put gay people themselves in an unprecedented position of jeopardy. Bush and a conservative punditry, out of crude self-interest, are working hard to reverse the evolution of attitudes that has blurred the boundary between blue America and red. Bush wants that boundary bright. In an election year, it may work. But it is dangerous.

The phrase "culture war" comes from "Kulturkampf." That word was coined in the 1870s when Germany's George W. Bush, Otto von Bismarck, launched a "values" campaign as a way of shoring up his political power. Distracting from issues of war and economic stress, the "Kulturkampf" ran from 1871 to about 1887. Bismarck's strategy was to unite his base by inciting hatred of those who were not part of it.

His first target was the sizable Catholic minority in the new, mostly Protestant German state, but soon enough, especially after an economic depression in 1873, Jews were defined as the main threat to social order. This was a surprising turn because Jewish emancipation had been a feature of German culture as recently as the 1860s. By 1879, the anti-Jewish campaign was in full swing: It was in that year that the word "anti-Semitism" was coined, defining not a prejudice but a public virtue. The Kulturkampf was explicitly understood as a struggle against decadence, of which the liberal emancipated Jew became a symbol. What that culture war's self-anointed defenders of a moral order could not anticipate was what would happen when the new "virtue" of anti-Semitism was reinforced by the then burgeoning pseudo-science of the eugenics movement. Bismarck's defense of expressly German values was a precondition of Hitler's anti-Jewish genocide.

One need not predict equivalence between the eventual outcome of Bismarck's culture war and the threat of what Bush's could lead to. For our purposes, the thing to emphasize is that a leader's exploitation of subterranean fears and prejudices for the sake of political advantage is a dangerous ploy, even if done in the name of virtue. No, make that especially if done in the name of virtue.

Make sure to go read rest of the article.

Via Boston Globe.

Posted by Magpie at 02:49 PM | Link

Is Fargo, North Dakota hip?

That's what the LA Times says. Or, rather, that Fargo is aspiring to hip-ness.

Downtown development director Dave Anderson has focused his early marketing efforts on business travelers who come to Fargo by necessity. He's put menus from local restaurants in all hotel rooms in an effort to get guests out strolling downtown. If that works, he'll turn to persuading folks to come to Fargo by choice.

Musing about television, radio and print ads, Anderson has played around with several possible slogans. "Fargo. You know we're cold. We're also cool," he suggests. Or: "We're cold, but our downtown is hot."

[Fargo mayor Bruce] Furness likes the concepts. He also knows that, thanks to the Coen brothers, Fargo won't be an easy sell.

"People think we're up here on the bleak plains, snowed in eight months of the year. People want to think that way about Fargo," he said. With the sigh of a man resigned to rebuff, the mayor added: "I tell them the movie was not a documentary."

As someone who spent a decade living next door in Minnesota, we have to admit that the notion that anything in North Dakota is hip strikes us as very strange. But then, as a snotty West Coaster, the notion that Minnesota could be hip strikes us weird, too.

Posted by Magpie at 02:23 PM | Link

Women & political blogging: The continuing story.

Wow, are there some great posts being written on the subject of why women are woefully underrepresented in blogging in general, and in political blogging in particular. The impetus for all this discussion was a post at Campaign Desk that showed up on International Women's Day (March 8). (If you haven't read the post, you'll find it here.)

First, check out Boy Bloggers: Still on Top from Susan at Suburban Guerrilla.

* Let's go back to the start of the feminist movement in the 60s. Women embraced the notion of "the personal is political" and were ridiculed by the men of the leftist movement, who were focused on "important" issues, like the war and racism. Women bloggers still tend to put their politics in the context of the personal, and men react... not a whole lot differently than they did forty years ago.

* Men often prefer women to act a certain way - you know, sweet. Demure. Womanly. Discreet. (They don't expect them to advocate blowjobs in the Democratic Party platform, for instance.) They see women who don't conform to that standard as "ballbusters."

* No matter how far women have come, they're still "supposed" to defer to their "betters." Boy bloggers usually have an area of expertise: Legal, economic, military, etc. They expect to be treated like experts, even when they're speaking out of their subject area.

My area of expertise is journalism - which, as you can guess, covers a multitude of subjects. (Basically, it requires you to be a quick study on almost everything.) And I don't defer often; I acknowledge peers. Men tend to get annoyed by this.

Continue reading "Women & political blogging: The continuing story."
Posted by Magpie at 12:52 AM | Link

March 09, 2004

Oregon's legislative counsel says same-sex marriages are legal.

The chief counsel for the state legislature says that Oregon's constitution forbids state and local governments from treating gay and straight citizens differently. Because of this, says legislative counsel Greg Chaimov, offering a civil unions to lesbian and gay couples would not meet the requirements of the constitution: If heterosexual couples have the right to a state-recognized marriage, that right must also be given to same-sex couples.

Chaimov's opinion was requested by the leader of the Democratic caucus in the state senate. It does not have the force of law, but it does contribute to the increasing number of legal opinions supporting the decision of Multnomah County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. An opinion from the state attorney general is expected soon.

For a more detailed analysis of the legislative counsel's opinion, see this post at the Portland Communique.

Posted by Magpie at 10:54 PM | Link

Support for same-sex civil unions rising.

The clamor against same-sex marriage coming from the White House, GOP, and religious right apparently isn't working exactly as planned. While a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that opposition to lesbian/gay marriages has risen since last fall, support for same-sex civil unions is up substantially. And what's especially interesting is that the biggest growth in that support has come since San Francisco and Multnomah County (OR) have been allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry.

Poll numbers on civil unions

Posted by Magpie at 10:08 PM | Link

Maher Arar's wife to run for office in Canada.

CBC News is reporting that Monia Mazigh will be an NDP candidate in the next Canadian federal election. Mazigh is married to Maher Arar, the Canadian who was deported from the US to Syria for alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Mazigh came to public notice for running a year-long campaign to get her husband out of a Syrian prison, and then to get the Canadian government to investigate why he'd wound up in Syria to begin with. Mazigh has a doctorate in financial economics, but has no political experience.

It's been rumored for some time that Mazigh was considering a run for office:

Last month, [NDP leader Jack] Layton cancelled a planned news conference to announce Mazigh's candidacy because she had not decided if she would run.

[Former NDP leader Alexa] McDonough said at the time that Mazigh would be a welcome addition to the party.

"She's shown herself to be of incredible leadership quality, she's been an incredible advocate for human rights and civil liberties and, yes, I absolutely was proud to approach her to ask if she might give this consideration."

More: The Globe & Mail has more details:

Ms. Mazigh said she had been offered an Ottawa riding but would not go beyond that. She, her husband and two children live in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean. Her member of Parliament is Marlene Catterall, a Liberal who worked hard to win Mr. Arar's release.

Even though she has no political experience, Ms. Mazigh would be a marquee candidate for any political party. Her battle for her husband's freedom won her widespread sympathy and admiration.

Her husband's ordeal would influence her work if she were elected, Ms. Mazigh said. But she added her interests range beyond the Middle East or prisoners' rights.

Ms. Mazigh has a doctorate in finance and would be interested in pursuing economic issues, particularly as they pertain to families.

"I am still at the decision stage but I would like to participate in the democratic process and make things happen," she said at the time.

Note: The NDP (New Democratic Party) is the furthest left of Canada's three major national parties.

Posted by Magpie at 09:42 PM | Link

Open Thread

What's keeping you preoccupied these days? Inquiring minds, and all that.

Thoughts about last week's episode of 'Angel' welcome. Joss Whedon's storylines really grow on me, and the show has definitely improved in just about every dimension. Even though shows that improve are falling out of favor with the Powers That Be. What to do next year if there are no Whedon stories to break up the steady horror of cable news? They'd better not be teasing about the Firefly movie, and that's all I'm saying.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN’ SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn." - Joss Whedon

Posted by natasha at 05:51 AM | Link

In Review

Ampersand wishes us to know that, contrary to the views of bestselling authors who shall remain nameless, men and women are from the same planet. So there.

At Back to Iraq, Albritton describes the worsening mood of Iraqis after the bombing in Karbala as part of a steady trend.

Barefoot and Naked has collected the jobs and growth goods.

Body and Soul writes about the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib now that it's in American hands, Arnold's entry into publishing, and the possibility that Bush administration coup plotters are still interested in Venezuela.

Calpundit notes that John Kerry isn't exceptionally liberal, being almost solidly in the middle of the Democratic party. But I was pleased to discover through a link in his post that WA congressman Jim McDermott is in fact the most liberal member of congress, edging past even Kucinich.

Dave Cullen thinks there's no going back on gay marriage, and I hope he's right.

Corrente brings us a second conflict of interest for Scalia, bad human rights news from Uzbekistan, and information about the high price of privatizing military duties.

dKos: From the diaries, an interesting question about Aristide's resignation letter, and more thoughts on the possibility that Venezuela might be next. Kos says that the blog contribution of fact-checking their a**** 24/7 has created quite a pickle for the GOP, linking to Billmon's landmark WMD quote list and a recent dKos diary chronicle of Bush flip-flops.

Free Thoughts on Iran posts from a guest blogger from a western background who learned to live with hijab. Doesn't make me want to run out and buy a scarf, but very interesting.

Gallimaufry points to an anthropological study of marriage that found no good basis for declaring that the current incarnation of the nuclear family has been the norm for time immemorial.

Guardian columnist Gary Younge talks about the ouster of Haitian democracy, and Nick Cohen says that we should be just as keen to protect the young from advertising as we protect them from sex. (I personally think that young people need to be protected from advertising even more than they need to be protected from sex, though considering many of the media images they're exposed to, it practically amounts to the same thing.) Also, George Monbiot takes on the round-the-bend arguments agribusinesses are now using to bully the public into accepting GM foods. He debunks the argument that GM will solve hunger at length, but the argument that GM is a great boon to science with dispatch. Emphasis mine:

...Now forgive me if you've heard this before, but it seems to need repeating. GM crops are not science. They are technological products of science. To claim, as Tony Blair and several senior scientists have done, that those who oppose GM are "anti-science" is like claiming that those who oppose chemical weapons are anti-chemistry. Scientists are under no greater obligation to defend GM food than they are to defend the manufacture of Barbie dolls. ...

At Hullaballoo, the permalinks seem to be broken. I'd wanted to direct readers to a post about the growing popularity of the Prius, but you can scroll through this archive for it, and be rewarded with plenty of other good tidbits. Including a partial transcript of the Howard Stern show the day before he was fired.

Just a Bump in the Beltway has more on Haiti, some on Chalmers Johnson. If you know who Chalmers Johnson is, you'll rush over. If you don't, you should rush over and get acquainted, because the guy definitely knows where his towel is.

Magpie found a link to Candidate Bush vs. President Bush, the debate brought to you by the wizards at the Daily Show video editing department. If the DNC or any other liberal organization were looking for an ad, they should consider lifting it wholesale.

Ms. Magazine posts about global women's issues as well as literature from the axis of evil, as translated by Words Without Borders, a society sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. Though, if I'm not mistaken, the Treasury Department may have recently declared their activities illegal. Which is a shame, because it all sounded pretty interesting.

Finally, the funny stuff.

Read the whole diary of Kerry's running mate vetting process, by Notes on the Atrocities. Quick excerpts:

March 2, 2003
War looming; a few nuts in Portland and San Francisco protesting. Must compete with a war president. Contact DLC to find pro-war moderate with foreign policy experience. Lieberman leading polls. This is the year for an insider with experience. ...

August 12, 2003
Dean on cover of Time. Must run from the outside, the Democratic wing of Dems. Liberal is in. DLC still suggesting Zell Miller. What about Joe Trippi? Focus groups don't know what they want. Bush is targeting Hispanics. Bill Richardson? ...

Don't miss Courteous Miner's Howard Dean in Braveheart, in part:

John of Edwards: Invade? That's impossible.

Howard: Why? Why is that impossible? You're so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Bush's table that you've missed your God given right to something better. ...

And Wonkette found stories about the Gridiron dinner, which I'd been wanting to look for, but ultimately hadn't got around to. So enjoy, because this is funny stuff. Or what passes for it with politicians.

Posted by natasha at 03:59 AM | Link

You know how words can come back to haunt you.

Every one of us should make sure that these words haunt Dubya this election year:

Our budget is fiscally responsible. If enacted, it will reduced (sic) the deficit by an unprecedented amount over the next four years.

Dubya said 'em in his first news conference as president in 2001. Thanks to Josh Marshall for pointing them out.

Posted by Magpie at 03:58 AM | Link

Tom DeLay To Set Own Policy Goals

Republican House Leader, Tom DeLay (R-TX), will offer a separate legislative agenda to a private meeting of Republican lawmakers. Emphasis mine:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, criticized by some conservatives for toeing the White House line too often over the past three years, is about to announce his own legislative agenda.

"I have not discussed this with President Bush or anyone else in the White House, and have no desire to," Mr. DeLay told The Washington Times in an interview in his majority leader's office. "But if you don't set these conservative goals, you don't get conservative governance."

On Wednesday, Mr. DeLay will take the extraordinary step of introducing his own set of legislative and policy goals, for this year and beyond. ...

Sounds like a vote of 'no confidence' in Fearless Leaderman to me. Unless, of course, it's some sneaky Norquistian plan to make Bush look like a centrist. But who knows what goes on in the minds of Texas Republicans [pdf].

Posted by natasha at 03:13 AM | Link

Dubya's economic wishful thinking.

Economist/columnist Paul Krugman lays it out short and sweet.

Posted by Magpie at 02:44 AM | Link

Spaulding Gray Found Dead

I've always found listening to Spaulding Gray a very intense and meditative experience. So I find the news that he is dead, possibly by suicide a painful story. As the NYTimes's article says, he had spent many years fighting depression and then finally after he reached the age of 52 (the age his mother was when she killed herself) he found peace and some happiness in his life. All that was lost a couple of years ago when he survived a very bad car accident which crushed his hip and fractured his skull and sent him back into a deep depression. Unfortunately, it looks like this trial was too much for him and we've lost the fragile soul that shared his insight and human pain with us. May you rest in peace, Spaulding.

Posted by Mary at 12:53 AM | Link

Lawsuit Filed Over Black-Box Voting

Florida Congressman Robert Wexler has filed a lawsuit to force the state to provide printers with electronic voting machines:

...Wexler claims that it is unconstitutional for 52 counties in Florida to have a means to conduct a recount, while 15 other Florida counties with touch-screen voting machines have a paperless system not allowing for one.

Florida law unequivocally requires a manual recount in a close election. Despite the clear requirements of Florida law, the Department of State recently issued a proposed rule stating, "when a manual recount is ordered and touchscreen ballots are used no manual recount of undervotes and overvotes cast on a touchscreen system shall be conducted since these machines do not allow a voter to cast an overvote and since a review of undervotes cannot result in a determination of voter intent."

"Essentially, what the Secretary of State is saying is that touch-screen voting machines are infallible -- which would make them the first machines devised by mankind in the history of the world that will never make a mistake. ..."

FL Secretary of State Glenda Hood was on Lou Dobbs this evening saying that the lawsuit does a "disservice" to voters' belief in the integrity of the system. She went on to say that no vendors even offered companion printer technology, implying that the lawsuit was therefore frivolous. She said that such technology might be available in the future, but it was an unknown.

...I believe that Congressman Wexler is doing a great disservice to those voters who have that strong confidence in the system and know that their vote counts and know that our track record has been strong since 2002. ...But the fact of the matter is that today, there's no vendor that's presented any type of manufactured piece of equipment, a companion printer to go with those touch-screen machines for certification in the state of Florida. ...

However, according to, Brazil's electronic voting machines have been retrofitted with printers. Is Brazil ahead of us in voting technology?

Apparently, they are not. US based touch-screen voting system manufacturer Sequoia Voting Systems has put its optional printer system up for certification as of the first quarter of this year. Nevada has already insisted on retrofitting all their Sequoia machines with printers, and making at least one machine with a printer available at each voting location in areas where older machines can't be updated by September of 2004. From his statement on the decision last December:

..."As we moved through this process, several factors helped make my decision clear," Heller said. "Foremost were the findings of a report I requested from the Nevada Gaming Control Board to review the two systems preferred by the overwhelming majority of state County Clerks/Registrars of Voters: Sequoia and Diebold." The report, compiled by Electronic Services Division Chief Marc McDermott, stated in its summary:

I believe the Diebold electronic voting machine, operating on the software analyzed in a John Hopkins report and the SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) Risk Assessment Report, represents a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process. Conversely, based on available information with regard to the Sequoia Voting System, I believe the Sequoia electronic voting machine represents a much more secure option because of the increased security of the customer (voter) interface and by the fact that the Sequoia operating software has not been made available on the Internet.

When the Gaming Control Board's Electronic Services Division reports [pdf] to me that one system is superior to another, I'm going to place my confidence in that equipment," Heller said. "They are responsible for verifying the security and integrity of various electronic gaming machines throughout Nevada and, therefore, accountable for millions of dollars on a daily basis. My level of confidence in selecting Sequoia was greatly increased after receiving this report." ...

Now, while Diebold claims that their product makes paper unnecessary, that doesn't mean the option is unavailable in the US. Though it would seem that Florida's Secretary of State may not be listening to anyone else, Nevada's Secretary of State flatly rejected Diebold's bid in large part because it did not include the option to print ballot records. Bringing us back to the age-old question of which country the Republicans think they're living in.

Update: With the transcript released, I've added a link and direct quotes from the Lou Dobbs interview with Glenda Hood.

Posted by natasha at 12:39 AM | Link

March 08, 2004

WA Can Still Pass Equal Rights Bill

BREAKING NEWS 3/7/04, Courtesy of Discrimination Free Washington: The Civil Rights Bill can still pass...Please contact your Senator NOW!

We have just learned that the Civil Rights Bill could still pass this week, as part of a compromise between the House and the Senate.

Here's what we need to do NOW to help pass this critical legislation:

ALL of our senators need to hear that their constituents want them to pass the Civil Rights Bill, EHB 1809, but especially:

Esser (R-Bellevue, 48th district) Senate Floor Leader, who opposed the Bill's passage;
Finkbeiner (R-Eastside, 45th district) Majority Leader, who opposed the Bill's passage; Carlson (R-Vancouver, 49th district), who courageously broke ranks with his party and needs encouragement to continue to support the Bill's passage;
Deccio (R-Yakima, 14th district), who voted first to support, then subsequently voted so as to defeat the Bill's passage;
Hargrove (D-Hoquiam, 24th district), who opposed the Bill's passage; Tim Sheldon (D-Grays Harbor, 35th district) who opposed the Bill's passage, and
Winsley (R-Fircrest, 28th district), who also courageously broke ranks with her party, and voted to pass the Bill (please thank her also!).

Please mobilize your friends, family, coworkers and other allies who live in the districts above to contact their Senators again. Here are two easy ways to help ensure passage of the bill, this week:

Call the Washington State Legislative Hotline, 1-800-562-6000, to leave a message asking your Senator again to please support the passage of HB 1809. You don't have to know your district number or Senator's name to do this.

Email your Senator, asking her/him to again support the passage of HB 1809. Senators’ email addresses are located at:

This is a historic opportunity for Washingtonians to finally pass the Civil Rights Bill - which would provide protection for all people in our state from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, insurance, financial transactions and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Please take action NOW!

Continue reading "WA Can Still Pass Equal Rights Bill"
Posted by natasha at 11:22 PM | Link

Marriage news round-up.


A Multnomah County judge has refused to issue an injunction stopping the county from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Defense of Marriage Coalition had sued, claiming that the county violated Oregon's public meetings law by not holding public hearings before changing its policy on same-sex marriages. In his ruling, Judge Dale Koch said that he failed to see the 'clear and convincing' evidence that the Coalition would win its court case needed to justify an injunction. (AP)

More: Details of today's proceedings in Multnomah County court can be found in this post at Portland Communique.


As Natasha posted below, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has announced that the city will recognize same-sex marriages from other states when providing health and insurance benefits. The city council will also be debating an ordinance requiring city contractors to recognize married same-sex couples.

Also in Seattle, Northwest Women's Law Center and Lambda Legal are suing on behalf of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by King County. In the lawsuit, Lambda and the NWLC argue that Washington's law against same-sex marriages violates the state constitution’s guarantees of equality, liberty and privacy for all Washington citizens. (Seattle Times, Lambda Legal)

Continue reading "Marriage news round-up."
Posted by Magpie at 10:07 PM | Link

First Time on SEM!

So today, I got to use the scanning electron microscope (SEM) for the very first time. The sample has to be dry, and metal-plated or embedded in paraffin or epoxy resin. This is because the chamber is open to the filament that generates the electron stream; any moisture will burn it out almost instantly.

As it happened, the last person to use it (and the room is rarely checked, so there's no telling when it was) left a note on the console saying that the filament seemed to have burned out. They were correct. So the first day I got to learn how to change it out, and practiced on a second because the backup aperture assembly had also been left with a burned out filament and carbon residue that needed to be polished off.

What I saw today: Two spore grains on the surface of a dried fern leaf. We discovered that dried fern leaves retain almost no other obviously interesting characteristics, even though they appear well preserved.

We'll try again with lichens, which should keep better considering that their nature is to sit out long dry spells with little ill effect. If I get any good pictures, I'll post them, but it may be a while. If the dried lichens don't work, I'm going to have to learn the paraffin or epoxy embedding techniques to use on fresh specimens.

Posted by natasha at 08:14 PM | Link

Restoring Fertility After Cancer

Doctors have restored the fertility of a cancer patient by transplanting her own frozen ovarian tissue. The sample had been frozen six years earlier, and though the initial procedure did not result in pregnancy, it demonstrated that it could work in humans.

Embryos have been successfully created in sheep using the technique.

Posted by natasha at 07:46 PM | Link

You Marry 'Em, We'll Recognize 'Em

While Washington state is explicitly forbidden through a DOMA style law from issuing same sex marriage licenses, the City of Seattly will now recognize licenses granted in other states. City officials have come out in support of same sex marriage, and have expressed regret that the law clearly prohibits them from issuing licenses to gay couples.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels on Monday ordered the city government to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, even though Washington state law clearly prohibits same-sex marriage.

"Spouses of city employees in same-sex marriages will enjoy all of the health and insurance benefits that all opposite sex partners enjoy," Nickels said at a news conference.

...Same-sex couples in Seattle have already had equal rights to domestic partnership benefits for the past five years, but an application required extensive paperwork.

A proposed ordinance is also being presented to Seattle's city council to require businesses that contract with the city to extend equal rights to homosexual married couples.

Good for us. I was wondering when Seattle would get into the act.

Posted by natasha at 07:40 PM | Link

Why aren't there more women political bloggers?

If you look up at the top of TruthLaidBear's weblog traffic rankings, you won't see many blogs from women. In the top ten, for example, there's only one female blogger: Wonkette. Since we started reading blogs oh so many years ago — and especially since we started doing our own blog last March — we've noticed both the relatively small number of political blogs by women, and how those blogs frequently don't get the attention that their quality would merit.

CJR's Campaign Desk has noticed the same thing. One of their posts today makes some interesting observations about why there aren't more successful political blogs by women.

Blood, who has written a book about blogging, argues that for a weblog to attract a wide audience, it has to have a narrow focus, a formula that works against women bloggers.

"A lot of the women who have weblogs will post about a lot of different things," she says. "They generally won't focus only on politics. I think that writing style tends to strike people as more personal, even when it really isn't."

Calpundit's Kevin Drum, who until recently diverged once a week from his steady focus on politics to blog about his cats, has seen firsthand what happens when you stray too far from the formula.

"Sometimes I get these incredibly angry emails about the Friday cat blogging," he says. "It's a blog, you know? If you don't like something, you can scroll down to the next post. But some people get really upset about it. Blogs aren't like newspapers, where you'll see a lot of different content. People only want to read about what they're interested in, and that's it."

Ana Marie Cox, a.k.a. Wonkette, acknowledges that she would have had a hard time breaking into the upper echelons of the blogosphere without the backing of British publisher Nick Denton (Gawker, Gizmodo, Fleshbot), who Sreenivasan refers to as "the New York Times Company of the blogosphere." "I was running my own personal blog for a while, and I like to think it was pretty good, but it didn't get anywhere near the attention Wonkette! gets," says Cox. She argues that there would be more female political bloggers if more women were led to believe that their opinions matter. "Vestiges of hundreds of years of gender stereotypes are still with us," she says. "Women get a different message from men about how to express their opinions. Women are not as encouraged to shout out their opinion. At times they're actively discouraged."

Posted by Magpie at 04:45 PM | Link

Ooooooh, shiny!

Over a century's worth of Burpee Seed Company catalog covers.

1890s Burpee catalog covers

These are from 1892 and 1893.

Via Boing Boing.

Posted by Magpie at 02:53 PM | Link

What global warming?

The summer of 2003 was the hottest summer in Europe in 500 years.

Via BBC.

Posted by Magpie at 02:07 PM | Link

Bureaucracy News

NASA will begin holding contests instead of just accepting bids:

...The private X-Prize Foundation brought the tradition into the 21st century by offering a $10 million prize, which it expects to award this year, for the first repeatable, sub-orbital human space flight by an entrepreneur with no governmental ties.

On March 13, teams of autonomous vehicle innovators will compete for a $1 million purse in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge. The winning vehicle must complete the 300-mile course from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in the fastest time less than 10 hours--without external communication or human control.

...Instead of soliciting proposals for a grant or contract award, NASA will state its technical goals without prescriptions for achieving them. In each challenge, multiple teams will integrate, test and fly various approaches to a certain goal. "As multiple teams succeed or fail in going after a challenge, the competitive process will distinguish between those technologies that can be imagined and those that can be practically developed," Sponberg said.

The Senate has passed restrictions on federal offshore outsourcing.

The House passed a bill last week that stops the diversion of patent fees. Article discusses changes in fee structure for patent submission.

Posted by natasha at 01:29 PM | Link

What really happened during Dubya's time in the National Guard?

Tom Tomorrow reveals the story that's been hidden for decades.

Via Salon. [Paid sub or ad view required.]

Posted by Magpie at 04:34 AM | Link

Gonna Find Out Who's Naughty Or Nice

George W. Bush speaking at a campaign fundraiser in the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Wed., March 3rd, 2004. As seen on C-SPAN:

"There is no cave, or hole, deep enough to hide from American justice."

Big Brother and the vigilante Borg ride again. Which, to steal shamelessly from Dave Barry, would make an excellent name for a band.

Posted by natasha at 12:47 AM | Link

March 07, 2004

The earth moved.

Earlier this week, Multnomah County, Oregon, became one of the very few places in the United States where lesbian and gay citizens enjoy the right to get married. Since Wednesday morning, hundreds of same-sex couples have made the trek to the county office building in east Portland to get a marriage license. Each day so far, the line of people waiting to get a license has wrapped halfway around the block, with new couples joining as others finish their business with the county.

Friday morning, this magpie was standing in that line, in the rain, with her friends Sunny and Miriam, who had decided that it was about time to make their relationship legal. We were with them when they got their license and when they paid for it, and we drove them downtown to Keller Auditorium to get married. If we've ever been in the company of two happier people, we certainly can't remember when that was. (If you want to see them, we included a picture of the happy couple with this post at our other blog, Magpie.)

A message to Dubya

[Photo © 2004 by Magpie]

Since this magpie is a lesbian, the events this week in Portland have been of more than academic interest to us — even before two of our friends decided to get married. And after standing in line for hours at the county building in the company of hundreds of joyful lesbians and gay men, we are certain that something very powerful is happening here (and, we're sure, in San Francisco, New Paltz, and several Canadian provinces). Our big problem, though, has been in trying to find the words to describe why we've been so moved this week, and why we think recent events in Portland and elsewhere are changing the US permanently.

Continue reading "The earth moved."
Posted by Magpie at 04:22 AM | Link

March 06, 2004


I'm finally getting around to playing with the default MT template. Nothing too radical just yet, but what do you think?

The font is smaller (is it too small?), the colors a little different, and the link text was darkened up to stand out better. I may attempt something radical in the next week or so, like adding a third column or getting some kind of graphic device to put up top, but I haven't decided. I guess that as long as I don't add a fifth column, I'll be on the right side of the law ;)

Posted by natasha at 10:34 PM | Link

Class Warfare 'Victim' Warren Buffett Speaks Out

Republicans would have us believe that the estate tax and progressive taxation are a form of class warfare on the wealthy. Which makes it doubly notable when the world's second richest person, Warren Buffett, takes a strong public stand against corporate backslappers in his yearly letter to Berkshire Hathaway investors. Via Reuters:

..."I am on my soapbox now only because the blatant wrongdoing that has occurred has betrayed the trust of so many millions of shareholders," Buffett said. "Hundreds of industry insiders had to know what was going on, yet none publicly said a word. It took Eliot Spitzer, and the whistleblowers who aided him, to initiate a housecleaning. We urge fund directors to continue the job."

..."Overreaching by CEOs greatly accelerated in the 1990s as compensation packages gained by the most avaricious -- a title for which there was vigorous competition -- were promptly replicated elsewhere," he added.

Buffett has for years taken a $100,000 annual salary to run Berkshire, although with a net worth that Forbes magazine last month put at $42.9 billion, he can afford it.

Interesting that the objective reporter writing this article for us would imply that a $100k yearly salary was something that only an independently wealthy person could afford to take.

According to Forbes, Buffett is also keen to make the beseiged CEO class pay more taxes:

...Buffett said Berkshire's taxes rose more than eleven-fold to $3.3 billion from 1995 to 2003, as profits rose ten-fold to $8.15 billion.

During the same period, federal income taxes paid by all U.S. companies fell by 16 percent, to $132 billion. "We hope our taxes continue to rise in the future -- it will mean we are prospering -- but we also hope that the rest of corporate America antes up along with us," said Buffett...

..."Tax breaks for corporations -- and their investors, particularly large ones -- were a major part of the administration's 2002 and 2003 initiatives," Buffett said. "If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning."

...Last May, Buffett wrote a Washington Post opinion article criticizing a key element of Bush's tax package -- a cut in tax rates on corporate dividends. Buffett urged that any tax cuts should go to lower-income people or others "who both need and will spend the money gained." ...

Also, according to the Financial Times, he took a dim view of the state of the dollar:

...Mr Buffett also highlighted a number of risks to the US economy that add to last year's warnings on derivatives and corporate governance. In particular, he singled out the weak dollar as a cause for concern and revealed that Berkshire Hathaway had $12bn invested in foreign currencies to balance its exposure to the greenback.

"Prevailing exchange rates will not lead to a material letup in our trade deficit. So whether foreign investors like it or not they will continue to be flooded with dollars," said Mr Buffett. "The consequences of this are anybody's guess. They could, however, be troublesome - and reach, in fact, well beyond currency markets." ...

Apparently, having money doesn't have to put you out of touch with reality.

Posted by natasha at 07:17 PM | Link

Republican In NY

New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg comes out in support of gay marriage. Via Newsday:

..."On the word 'marriage,' the definition, I guess I've kind of gone back and forth in my mind," Bloomberg said. "I think the term marriage is what's polarizing people. In terms of the rights of two people when they get together, I think that should not be a function of their gender." ...

Well. The words of a man not looking to win any popularity contests at the Republican convention this September.

Posted by natasha at 06:53 PM | Link

The latest US job figures.

They're even worse than they appeared at first. The fact that only 21,000 jobs were created in February — instead of the 125,000 predicted, or the 300,000-plus needed to meet the administration's 2004 job target — all of the new jobs in February were government jobs. You got it: the private sector didn't create any jobs at all last month.

But there's more: The feds also revised the December and January figures. According to the new numbers, there were 23,000 fewer jobs created than had been reported earlier. Given that the previously reported increase for December was only 1,000 jobs, these new figures are particularly bad news.

If Dubya plans to win the election in November, it certainly looks like he won't be able to base that victory on the performance of the economy.

More: While we were writing that post, we somehow managed to miss the headline on this NY Times story:

Job Data Provides Ammunition for Two Sides in Presidential Race

How any reporter or editor with even half a brain could find any ambiguity in the new job figures totally escapes this magpie. (Thanks to Atrios and Josh Marshall for pointing to the headline.)

Posted by Magpie at 05:02 PM | Link

John Kerry's Democratic Radio Address

John Kerry delivered this week's Democratic Radio Address, transcript courtesy of Fox News. Kerry faced the national security issue head on, arguing that Bush has done a poor job of providing it. In part:

Continue reading "John Kerry's Democratic Radio Address"
Posted by natasha at 04:00 PM | Link

Teacher Suspended Over 'Passion'

A Washington D.C. school has been suspended for showing excerpts of 'Passion' to sixth graders. Not only is he accused of poor judgement, but there's the question of his possession of an unauthorized copy of a movie that has yet to be released on video.

Posted by natasha at 03:51 PM | Link

Bill Maher's "New Rules" on Same Sex Marriage

Transcript from show "Real Time: with Bill Maher." First aired Friday, March 5th. The views in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of this website, and may not be suitable for all readers. But we thought some of you might find them very entertaining ;)

New Rule: Politics is about compromises. Really stupid compromises.

That's how we got such laws as... Blacks are 3/5 of a person. Slaves are property, unless they make it to Ohio. Interning the Japanese, but not the Germans. Slaughtering the Indians, but letting the ones who survive run the Keno parlors. Porn, but not hardcore porn. Booze, and then no booze, and then booze again. But no pot. Except medical marijuana. Which is legal to possess, but illegal to obtain. And my favorite; you can't have stem cells, except the ones we already have.

Now in this spirit, I would like to offer a few compromise suggestions for the knotty issue we face today: same sex marriage.

Continue reading "Bill Maher's "New Rules" on Same Sex Marriage"
Posted by natasha at 03:39 PM | Link

Digital Happenings

Slashdot posting indicates that a draft trade agreement between the US and Australia could be damaging to public domain, free software, and fair use.

SearchEngineWatch reports on the new Yahoo! search engine, which will replace the Google index in Yahoo! search results.

Yahoo! currently has about 41% search market share through various outlets, and is planning to increase paid listing fees as it consolidates multiple inclusion systems.

This search engine share report explains what this will mean in terms of Google's search market reach. With Google supplying both AOL and Yahoo! with unpaid searches, they served up around 79% of all web searches. That will drop to 51% now that they will only be supplying AOL in addition to their site.

Microsoft is also beta testing its own search engine. The results they currently supply are a mix of paid inclusion listings from LookSmart and Overture, along with both paid inclusion and free Inktomi results.

Wired asks if Microsoft is behind SCO efforts to stamp out Linux, and the Seattle P-I's Microsoft blog has a news roundup on the issue.

Wired also notes that Congress is considering a bill that would allow database companies to own facts:

...Under the terms of the broadly written bill, a public-health website could be deemed in violation of the law for gathering a list of the latest health headlines and providing links to them on its home page.

Google would be in violation for trolling media databases and providing stories on its news page.

An encyclopedia site not only could own the historical facts contained in its online entries, but could do so long after the copyright on authorship of the written entries had expired. Unlike copyright, which expires 70 years after the death of a work's author, the Misappropriation Act doesn't designate an expiration date.

...Opponents of the bill include Yahoo, Google, the American Association of Libraries and a host of technology and financial-services companies such as Verizon, Bloomberg and Charles Schwab.

"All of the companies opposed to the bill produce some of the most massive databases in the world, yet they feel they already have adequate protections for them," [Joe Rubin, executive director of technology and e-commerce for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] said. "There really is no necessity whatsoever for this legislation."

I note with alarm that such a bill would almost certainly make the majority of my blog posts (and most postings by other poli-bloggers) illegal. At issue, a portion of the bill explicitly stating that there is no difference between a 'subset' (which could be any size) of the database and the full set of information. It sounds like it would be the messy end of blogging as we know it.

Contact your representative to oppose HR 3261, the "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act" today.

Update: link added on SCO-Linux issue.

Posted by natasha at 02:08 PM | Link

Science News

Archeologists say excavations in Iraq will continue to prove informative:

As security improves to allow excavation, evidence may emerge that advanced societies existed in the area much earlier than previously thought, said Dr. John Russell, professor of archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.

"A decade of research in Iraq could rewrite the books of archaeology, no question," Russell, who is currently serving as a senior adviser to Iraq's ministry of culture, told Reuters on Thursday at the opening of new conservation and restoration laboratory at Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad.

...In each year, he said, his team made discoveries that essentially pushed back the timeline for ancient civilization by a millennium. "It was just absolutely incredible, they were unprecedented discoveries. But Iraq is like that," he said.

GOP donor gets to drill in NM wilderness, insisting all the while that there's nothing fishy, whatever.

Former Senator and retired astronaut John Glenn attacks Bush's space proposal.

...The octogenarian space pioneer's most cutting comments were reserved for NASA's plans to gut the International Space Station of a once-ambitious research agenda, limiting science only to studies applicable to the moon and Mars program.

...He said cutting the research component of the space station program would save only about $2.5 million. ...

The other Mars rover also finding signs of water.

UK scientists don't want to let GMO crops in.

Pacific ocean leatherback turtles will be extinct within a decade if conservation measures aren't undertaken immediately, and poaching halted.

A species of African hornbill has been observed responding to the predator alarms of monkeys.

Posted by natasha at 12:27 PM | Link

What do those homosexuals want, anyway?

Way too much. If you doubt us, take a look at Laura Conaway's unreasonable set of expectations:

I want to be a full citizen, with this woman [her partner, Sarah], today. I want to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is necessary, go wherever I have to, for that to be so.

I want to be taxed equally. I want my Social Security benefits to go somewhere besides down the drain. I want the Fifth Amendment right not to testify against Sarah, and to protect our private correspondence from subpoena, the same as other spouses. Couples like us don't have that right. Surprised? Rosie O'Donnell and her wife were, when the lawyers came after them.

I want our politicians and religious leaders to stop going on television and suggesting that legalizing marriage for us would be like legalizing sex with dogs. My wife, in my arms? They are talking about my wife, in my arms. Do they know, do they care, how much that hurts? Where must we run to be safe from them?

I want my wife not to feel such pressure and fear that she curls up in bed at night and cries. On the night of Wednesday, February 25, a woman in Brooklyn lay crying because she can't understand why people would hate her so, why they'd have to denigrate a beautiful and private part of her life with the most heinous rhetoric. Think about that. My wife lay in tears because strangers are clamoring for the power to decide whether she belongs, whether the American promise should hold true for her — as if there were any question which way they'd vote.

What stands between us and them? A couple dozen senators, and some of those are on the fence. Where is our right to a meaningful marriage, to the honest pursuit of happiness? We want our justice and "domestic tranquility." Whose country is this, anymore? Someone tell me. I get the feeling it's no longer mine.

We highly recommend reading all of Conaway's piece.

Via Village Voice.

Posted by Magpie at 02:26 AM | Link

Salam Pax is fine.

Despite a worried post from his brother at Where Is Raed?, and a few subsequent days of silence, we're glad to report that Salam Pax is alive and well. He has a post on the week's events in Karbala here.

Posted by Magpie at 01:49 AM | Link

Healing the Vietnam Wounds

Tom Hayden, anti-war activist, progressive Californian politician and ex-husband of Jane Fonda, has a really excellent article in the Nation. It is am eloquent and convincing piece that disputes the lies told about his ex-wife and definitively shows why she is NOT a traitor to this country.

Erased from public memory is the fact that Fonda's purpose was to use her celebrity to put a spotlight on the possible bombing of Vietnam's system of dikes. Her charges were dismissed at the time by George H.W. Bush, then America's ambassador to the United Nations, who complained of a "carefully planned campaign by the North Vietnamese and their supporters to give worldwide circulation to this falsehood." But Fonda was right and Bush was lying, as revealed by the April-May 1972 White House transcripts of Richard Nixon talking to Henry Kissinger about "this shit-ass little country":

NIXON: We've got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack.... I'm thinking of the dikes.

KISSINGER: I agree with you.

NIXON: ...Will that drown people?

KISSINGER: About two hundred thousand people.

It was in order to try to avert this catastrophe that Fonda, whose popular "FTA" road show (either "Fun, Travel, Adventure" or "Fuck the Army") was blocked from access to military bases, gave interviews on Hanoi radio describing the human consequences of all-out bombing by B-52 pilots five miles above her. After her visit, the US bombing of the dike areas slowed down, "allowing the Vietnamese at last to repair damage and avert massive flooding," according to Mary Hershberger.

Hayden thinks that John Kerry with his history as Vietnam war hero turned anti-war crusader could finally provide the opening this country needs to heal the seeping wounds opened by Vietnam that have so divided our country. Errol Morris' documentary of Robert McNamara showed the destructiveness of believing those that would start a war based on lies and hubris. Because too many Americans never understood this, we find ourselves in another war justified by hubris and false assumptions that is proving to be as problematic as Vietnam. To heal this country, we must put the false lesson (the anti-war movement hobbled the military) to bed and replace it with the true lesson (wars are clumsy ways to force your will on the world, and should only be invoked if there are no other ways to protect yourself -- and a war based on lies, hubris and greed can consume the warmongers in its chaos). If this election can expose and clarify this distinction, it would be incredibly welcome news and a particular healing that John Kerry is uniquely capable to help bring about.

Posted by Mary at 01:03 AM | Link

Heard Tonight On FOX

Monica Crowley (?) was guest hosting for Sean Hannity tonight on Hannity & Colmes as they interviewed Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). Ms. Crowley made the following remarks:

"[in response to Rep. Cole] No wonder America's enemies want to see John Kerry elected!

[in response to Colmes]...Kim Jong Il is clearly supporting John Kerry."

That would be the Tom Cole who said the following, and repeated similar sentiments throughout the segment:

"If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election."

Congressman Robert Matsui (D-CA) has called for all Republicans to repudiate these comments, also saying that, "Congressman Cole should apologize to Senator Kerry and the millions of Americans whose patriotism he has impugned."

Posted by natasha at 12:10 AM | Link

March 05, 2004

The Grinches Who Stole Washington

So far anonymous poem posted in the comments at DFA, forwarded to a Dean email list:

The Whos down in Whoville liked people a lot,
But the Grinch in the White House most certainly did not.
He didn't arrive there by the will of the Whos,
But stole the election that he really did lose.
Vowed to "rule from the middle," then installed his regime.
(Did this really happen, or is it just a bad dream?)

He didn't listen to voters, just his friends he was pleasin'
Now, please don't ask why, who knows what's the reason.
It could be his heart wasn't working just right.
It could be, perhaps, that he wasn't too bright.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
Is that both brain and heart were two sizes too small.
In times of great turmoil, this was bad news,
To have a government that ignores its Whos.

But the Whos shrugged their shoulders, went on with their work,
Their duties as citizens so casually did shirk.
They shopped at the mall and watched their T.V.
They drove a gas guzzling big S.U.V.,
Oblivious to what was going on in D.C.,
Ignoring the threats to democracy.

Continue reading "The Grinches Who Stole Washington"
Posted by natasha at 04:15 PM | Link

UK Press


Labour turns away from US for social inspiration, looks to Sweden for ideas on national child care. Some very interesting points, including EU envy over high test scores, and a birth rate that's the only one in western europe to break the pattern of decline.

A columnist contemplates the awful possibility that British officials ignored serious legal questions about the war.


A beautiful image from Hubble.

German IMF head to step down, speculation rife about replacement.

Chinese premier lays out plan to help the rural poor and narrow the widening wealth gap in the country. He spoke before the yearly session of the National People's Congress, who are expected to make the fourth adjustment to the Chinese constitution since its adoption in 1954. Previous changes included the 1982 removal of life terms for party members. The new changes deal with human and property rights. (Who will be astonished if, as elsewhere, the property rights are more vigorously enforced?)

Hans Blix joins those who doubt the legality of the Iraq war. His criticisms may be waved off in the US, but they'll find an audience elsewhere in the world.


The African press is paying plenty of attention to Haiti.

A Canadian rights organization releases a report on female child soldiers around the world, many of whom are sexually abused and often become pregnant.

The Namibian government expects to begin land seizures very soon, but intends to offer fair compensation, and has resisted pressure to allow the sort of mob violence that swept Zimbabwe.

Egypt uses wiretaps and informants to persecute its gay community.

The father of a suicide bomber speaks out against violence, saying that he would never have approved of a suicide bombing. His son was the household's wage earner, and the IDF destroyed their home the night he killed himself and 10 others, leaving the family living in a tent among the rubble.

In Nepal, Chinese supported Maoist rebels mount a serious offensive, leaving dozens killed when they stormed a communication tower.

Sri Lankan Buddhist monks stand for parliamentary elections. The Tamil Tiger rebel group inside the country has recently split into two factions, possibly threatening ongoing peace negotiations.

Christians in India's Orissa province reconverted to Hinduism. Last year, according to a related story, Gujarat enacted a bill making it a criminal offense to convert away from Hinduism without permission. The bill was targeted at preventing Dalits from being lured away by the promise of escaping the caste system.

A British after school program has started teaching the Sindarin dialect of Elvish, as left by J.R.R. Tolkien. A few readers' comments follow the article, which you'll probably enjoy if you're interested enough to bother clicking through in the first place.

Posted by natasha at 04:30 AM | Link

House Approves Commercial Space Bill

As seen on C-SPAN, and reported on the website of the House Science Committee:

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 4, 2004 - The House of Representatives today approved legislation, sponsored by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), designed to promote the development of the emerging commercial human space flight industry. H.R. 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, would put in place a clear, balanced regulatory regime to promote the industry while ensuring public safety. The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate.

...Major provisions of the legislation are designed to:

  • eliminate any confusion about who should regulate flights of suborbital rockets carrying human beings by explicitly locating all commercial space flight authority under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST);

  • make it easier to launch new types of reusable suborbital rockets by allowing AST to issue experimental permits that can be granted more quickly and with fewer requirements than licenses;

  • extend government indemnification for the entire commercial space transportation industry (including licensed, non-experimental commercial human space launches) for a period of three years, but the bill will not grant indemnification for flights conducted under experimental permits, which will be more lightly regulated; and

  • require a study on how best to gradually eliminate indemnification for the commercial space transportation industry by 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Today's House passage represents the culmination of a long and thorough process beginning last July with a joint House-Senate hearing, a Space Subcommittee hearing last fall and a policy roundtable with experts in the commercial space transportation industry late last year. ...

This doesn't make up for other aspects of disastrous Republican space policy, but it's a start.

Posted by natasha at 02:47 AM | Link

Support Equal Rights in WA

Web-modified press release from Discrimination Free Washington follows, please act today, March 5th:

Please take action TODAY--Ask your Washington State Senator to support the passage of the Civil Rights Bill (EHB 1809).

The Civil Rights Bill prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, credit, insurance, public accommodations and commercial transactions on the basis of sexual orientation.

The last day for the bill to move out of committee is March 5th! Please contact your senator urging passage of HB 1809 NOW!

Here are four ways to TAKE ACTION NOW:

  • Call the Washington State Legislative Hotline, 1-800-562-6000, to leave a message asking your Senator to please support EHB 1809. (You don't have to know your district number or Senator's name to do this.)
  • Email your Senator. Find Senators’ email addresses here.
  • Send an email from the ACLU Action Center.
  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and other allies to do the same!

For more information about the need for this legislation in our state, go to the Discrimination Free Washington website.

Posted by natasha at 02:08 AM | Link

Younger Americans Comfortable With Big Corporations

This, according to a March 2nd Gallup poll whose results were forwarded to me via email.

People aged 18-29 were 54% likely to be 'very' or 'somewhat' satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations. In those aged 30-49 years, that figure was 39%, dropping to 35% among 50-64 year olds, and around 32% in those over 65.

Gallup economist Dennis Jacobe suggests several possibilities for the overall favorability among those under 29, in addition to the usual explanation that they might not have enough experience. In their lifetimes, dominant tech companies have been generally respected, the government no longer goes after monopolies like they did, and business schools don't pay much attention to antitrust laws anymore. And in personal terms, he suggests that job losses are more likely to impact more experienced members of the workforce, as well as the existence of a crop of young investors that made money during the last boom.

You could also add to that the fact that economic and business news is almost always narrated from the perspective of the business owner, and that youth culture glorifies the ultra-rich more than was common in the past.

But as a partial disagreement, most of the younger investors I knew during the boom lost their shirts. But I'm willing to suspect that when he speaks of 'young' investors that he includes anyone under 40 in his mental abstract. People under 30 don't invest much, but they probably are swayed by the idea that they could strike it rich through investing at some point in the future.

Anyone hoping for media sanity in the future shouldn't despair, though. Lou Dobbs may yet save the day.

Posted by natasha at 01:46 AM | Link

You're getting warmer. Much warmer.

Newsday reports that the federal grand jury investigating the Plame leak has issued a fistfull of subpoenas against the White House, including the record of calls made from Air Force One during the week before Plame's identity was revealed in a column by Robert Novak.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets. [...]

The subpoenas underscore indications that the initial stages of the investigation have focused largely on the White House staff members most involved in shaping the administration's message on Iraq, and appear to be based in part on specific information already gathered by investigators, attorneys said Thursday.

If you're coming late to the Plame leak story, this September 2003 post by Mark A.R. Kleiman at Open Source Politics will get you started.

Posted by Magpie at 01:12 AM | Link

Around the Blogs

Billmon wants everyone to join the popular front, and looks at Republicans' attempting to court the Hispanic vote.

Atrios wants people to contribute to these special election candidates in particular, and explains why they should donate to the Democratic party committees in general. He says we have to work to take back congress, and hold our ground in the senate, or it won't do much good to get a Democrat in the top job.

You can see the theme here? I'm not a big Kerry fan, but I don't think we can survive another four years of Bush too well. I'm not a big DNC fan, but the Democrats at least nominally deal with issues that will never see progress when Washington is in a Republican headlock. It's time to settle in for the marathon.

The Democratic party is anemic. Many became disaffected during the Clinton years, and local parties all over the country are mere husks. I'll never forget a 70 (?) year old woman at the DFA bloggers' breakfast in Iowa who said the people in her local Democratic party were worried that no one would be there to take over for them when they were gone. This situation is eminently correctable by anyone willing to meet a couple times a month with a bunch of Democrats, walk the odd precinct, and maybe do a little phonebanking. Get a move on.

Ampersand on how many women yearly die from unsafe abortions because there are no legal options, or in some cases even birth control, in their area.

Axis of Logic on how the mainstream media failed in Haiti.

Calpundit on lead in the DC water supply, and comments on the North Korea see-saw policy.

Confined Space on the targeting of an asbestos safety activist, and many more goodies for your scrolling pleasure.

Dave Johnson on those wacky, nuclear armed Straussian elitists.

dKos: Yes, somebody might be spying on you, which doesn't make you paranoid. Why Nader is just irresponsible at this point. A diarist notes that Lou Dobbs has become an unlikely champion for the working class, which has been pretty amazing to watch recently. Also, in further evidence of Bush's unseriousness, he's let Zarqawi go 3 times.

DNC: Kicking Ass, on the neglect of South America, how small business loses with Bush, and notes that Senate Democrats are speaking out against the FMA.

DSCC: From The Roots posts on open Senate races, and the strategy to get to 51.

The Guardian reported recently on the EU trade sanctions, and IT World makes the point that the already battered US tech sector could be hit hard.

Matt Gross on media myopia.

Nathan Newman talks about gay marriage in the context of polygamy, our phoney recovery, what judicial reviews can mean in Iran and other countries with Islamic law provisions, and a victory for NYC taxi drivers.

Orcinus on how we ignore to our peril recent incidents of white supremacy and terrorism at home.

Pandagon last week reviewed a get thyself to the kitchen screed by the usual conservative suspects, and lately, Ezra gets into a dust-up with Lileks over weak Kerry criticisms.

Political Wire points to a case study of the Trent Lott affair and the blogs, and points to reaction to the Bush ads.

On randomWalks, Dru Blood points out an article in the Black Commentator on racial discrimination in school funding.

Rap the Vote on the fight of students at a black college in a white rural county won the right to vote as residents.

Sisyphus finds some notable items around the blogosphere. Also, she pointed out a while ago that Monsanto wasn't upfront about the impact of GM plants, which just surprises the daylights out of me.

Tom Tomorrow on why the sunny face of outsourcing is bunk. Just below that, he alerts readers to the fact that the NYT pays good money for columns suggesting that it's pure Marxism to assert that the poor, get this... need jobs!

Wampum: MB reviews the durable goods report. Dwight points out that all these 'responsible adults' in the Bush administration have taken up the unified cry of don't blame me, finds three very good reads, and says that Kerry has nothing over Bush when it comes to waffling.

Yahoo! ran a report on striking South Koreans who were fired via IM. Let's hope that trend isn't catching.

Note: These especially long link roundup posts will now have comments turned off by default. This is because after they go into the archives and become food for trolls selling prescription drugs and porn, the trackback feature crashes the link to my MT server when I try re-saving them sans link spam and future commenting. So.

Posted by natasha at 12:38 AM | Link

Is This The FMA That Bush Wants?

Tristero tells us that the Christian right wants to have believers in the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) pray that Bush can codify the definition of marriage based on Biblical principals. And Tristero was happy to help:

Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying a definition of marriage based entirely upon Biblical principles:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5.)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13- 21)

D. Marriage between a believer and a nonbeliever shall be forbidden. (Gen24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the Constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut25:5-10)

Posted by Mary at 12:03 AM | Link

March 04, 2004

'I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush.'

Families of 9/11 victims are not happy about Dubya's campaign ads.

With Republicans holding their political convention in New York in late August, victims said they hope Bush does not make it worse by speaking at the site now known as Ground Zero, which many view as sacred.

"If he does, there will be a protest and it could get ugly," said [Bill] Doyle. [Doyle's son died at the World Trade Center.]

Several family members said their annoyance stemmed in part from Bush's refusal to testify publicly before the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"The Bush administration will not cooperate fully with the 9/11 commission and at the same time they are trying to invoke and own 9/11 and use it for his re-election," said Stephen Push from the Washington office of "Families September 11th." His wife died on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon that day.

[You can view Dubya's new campaign ads here.]

Via Reuters.

Posted by Magpie at 07:04 PM | Link

Remember: We'll all be old someday.

Seniors in the US increasingly find themselves in thrall to credit card debt, with the total debt for this age group increasing by 89 percent between the years 1992 and 2001. That's the overall finding of a study done by the public policy think tank Demos.

As the press release for the study shows, the Demos findings aren't going to make anyone look forward optimistically to their financial situation later in life:

The report’s findings put into stark relief the trouble ordinary older Americans are having at making ends meet in this economy. Over the last two decades, retirement wealth (pensions and social security) has fallen for all but the wealthiest seniors. Also, the value of savings-based sources of income – savings accounts, CDs and other conservative investments favored by seniors
– has steadily declined. By 2001, more than one-third of seniors were depending on Social Security for over 90% of their income.

Tamara Draut, co-author of the report and Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, explained: "As older Americans face shrinking income and savings, just one unexpected expense – an illness, hospitalization, or even a repair to an aging home – can start a vicious cycle of debt. Seniors are turning in droves to credit cards as a safety net, but high interest rates and fees are trapping many into a nearly inescapable web of debt."

Some specific findings from the report include:

Among seniors [ages 65 and older] with incomes under $50,000 (70 percent of seniors), about one in five families with credit card debt is in debt hardship — spending over 40 percent of their income on debt payments, including mortgage debt. [...]

The credit card debt of middle- to low-income transitioner families [ages 55 to 64] without health insurance increased by 169 percent, as opposed to by only 37 percent for like-income families with health insurance.

Lest you think that medical expenses were less significant for seniors than for the transitioner age group, Demos says that their data suggests that medical expenses are generating a significant portion of seniors' increased credit card debt. (But remember: a single-payer or government-run health care system would be communism!)

You can download the Demos report on senior debt as a PDF file if you go here.

Posted by Magpie at 06:13 PM | Link

Stolen Memos

The National Review Online has been given two more stolen Democratic memos that refer to the disposition of a Republican memo that was accidentally forwarded to a Democratic staffer by a Republican staffer.

Apparently in their minds, this erases the intentional theft of 4,700 documents.

Posted by natasha at 05:59 PM | Link

Gomorrah Is In Ashes

Over at the Right Christians, Allen finds a Republican legislator that opposes the FMA because of a childhood friend.

Allen also drew my attention to a Mark Kleiman post that uses the topic to examine why Jewish political groups in the US tend to advocate for the disenfranchised:

...A quick check with a concordance showed that the formula: "Do X, because you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord redeemed you" occurs five times in Deuteronomy, in each case following a commandment about dealing fairly with the vulnerable.

...It seems, if you think about it, a rather remarkable assertion to put at the very center of a celebratory feast. What other group, instead of boasting about being nobly born, makes a fuss about being descended from slaves, and then personalizes it so as to say that everyone present was a slave until redeemed?

But linked to the commandments in Deuteronomy, that phrase comes to mean: "We were slaves" and therefore must never, never, ever act like slaveowners. That makes sense of the empirical link between Judaism and liberalism. ...

A Pandagon post, which sparked an interesting discussion in the comments, looked at biblical homosexuality and a possible reason why there was a 'thou shalt not' included regarding it in the first place (though others were discussed, and you should go read the whole post):

...Context, context, context. This falls within the so-called “Holiness Codes”; the set of laws designed to create a higher standard of behavior distinguishing the Jews from the Canaanites, whose land they were acquiring. Other portions of this Code that are punishable by death are infidelity, cursing your parents, incest, bestiality and being a wizard. Being with a woman on her period results in being expelled and being with your family member’s mate will make you die childless. ...

A further point from Catsy in the comments:

While I'm no scholar, I've done a bit of research into this subject as a matter of personal interest. The verse most commonly cited--Leviticus 18:22--does not support a blanket condemnation of homsexuality as sin. The word commonly mistranslated as "abomination" is, in Hebrew, "to'ebah"--which means "ritually unclean/impure". It is, like much of Leviticus, a reference to ceremonial and ritual purity, and has no relation whatsoever to sin. Had the authors wished to invoke sin, they would have instead used the word "zimah". The two words are not synonyms, nor is there overlap. I believe PeskyFly comes the closest to the truth above: it was a stricture to prohibit Hebrews from participating in the rites of the temples in Egypt and Canaan, in which ritual homosexual sex was common. This, in turn, is consistent with the language used--"to'ebah", rather than "zimah"--suggesting that the concern was with ritual impurity rather than sin. ...

Note that in Leviticus 14:21, it says:

...Do not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

A considerable amount of perplexity has ensued over this commandment. Hardly anyone owns enough goats for this to be an issue, and boiling them in milk has fallen out of fashion. But it could be the case that this prohibition against a manner of boiling goats was meant in exactly the same spirit as the prohibition against homosexual relations.

The explanation I've always heard for the boiling was that it was the rite of a competing pagan religion. Anyone who's done even a cursory study (and having done barely more than that, I feel safe in that proclamation ;) of some of the ancient religious systems would know that homosexual sex was part of the rites of certain priesthoods.

This context based examination fits well with the rest of Ezra's argument that the other most obvious homosexual practices at the time of the writing of different parts of the bible were pederasty and homosexual rape. If you wonder where the consensual gay relationships were, it was an era where families picked people for their children to marry and pretty much everyone got married. (A state of affairs that lasted into the modern era, most famously, in the case of Oscar Wilde.)

No one would have thought it bizarre to be unhappy in an arranged marriage, and those with enough power or wealth to get away with it sought pleasure elsewhere. The Romans and Greeks were famous for the decadence of their aristocrats, which isn't strange if your only officially sanctioned sexual relationship was treated as a dutiful chore. Expectations of romantic love in marriage are kind of a modern addition to western culture, which isn't to say that it never happened, just that it wasn't typical.

And the existence of homosexuality in the military at the time wouldn't have recommended it to that portion of the public valuing any kind of virtue. Troops didn't always used to get paid on time and might spend the better part lives away from home. Rape, corruption, and looting weren't unusual, and prostitution around military barracks was as common then as now.

If the prevailing public context of homosexuality was prostitution, infidelity, and the use of force against the less powerful, it makes sense that someone would get knotted about it. This seems to be where the modern Christian Right is still coming from, and the public face they want homosexuality to retain. Certainly, Atrios found a passage that summed up part of the rabid fear of gays:

..."It's pure sexuality. It's almost like pure heroin. It's such a rush. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they'll take enormous risks, do anything." He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. "Marital sex tends toward the boring end," he points out. "Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does" So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

Anyone who hasn't been to a radical church would probably be amazed, actually, by how much time is spent discussing proper sexual practices. Not just from the pulpit, but in casual conversation and in sheperding conversations between church elders and those they're trying to mentor. As in the case of an elder who once thought it fitting to remark to me out of the blue when I was a teenager that a certain sexual practice was an offense to god. And my internal reaction was 1) eeewww, 2) why are you talking about this, 3) and of course, that I already knew that from previous church study discussions.

It was surprising having heard of the wilds of the world as a young person, to leave the church and discover that orgies and incorrigible seducers were in such short supply as to be too much effort to bother tracking down. The feverish fantasists of my childhood church would probably be shocked to know of the relative tedium I encountered instead. Homosexuality is just another piece of what they see as a culture where a decent person can't walk down the street without a besiegement of temptation.

But Catsy thinks this FMA stand ensures Bush's defeat in 2004, mainly because most people just aren't that extreme anymore. I'd have to agree, because I've yet to meet any non-fundamentalists that rank rampant seduction as a top peril in their daily lives.

The brave people who've been coming out for years now have given the gay community the public face of friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and responsible citizens. Now, widespread media coverage has added the picture of happy, ordinary people on their wedding day.

There are no Roman garrisons outside our cities. The rites of Cybele exist only in books. Pedophilia is recognized as a separate and abnormal psychology that doesn't relate to consensual adult relations. The poor hospitality of Sodom and Gomorrah has been long punished. It's time to move past hysteria to mutual respect.

Posted by natasha at 05:29 PM | Link

Authors Under Siege

According to today's Guardian, there's a push by book retailers to get rid of the suggested retail price on the inside covers of books. I'm fuzzy on the details, but it sounds like it would turn the publishing industry into the equivalent of the music industry - a few big names get promoted to the near exclusion of other voices, it becomes harder to break in, and we get less variety when we go book shopping.

The article says that among the people making the most noise about this currently are bestselling authors concerned about the future of literature. It goes on:

...It is understood that one big publisher is already trying to steal a march on its rivals by tempting its bestselling writers to accept new forms of payment. These are called net receipt deals or dealer pricing. Publishers would charge booksellers a net price for their books which would remain secret to the public.

Authors would lose the royalty system, now calculated on the RRPs of their books, and would expect to be poorer. ...

Phillip Pullman explains more in another Guardian editorial titled, Books are not eggs:

...But if there were no RRP, how could we tell? We wouldn't even know if the bookseller was charging more, rather than less. We don't buy the same book 50 times a year; there is nothing to compare it with except itself. That would be an inconvenience. What follows from it would be a disaster.

At the moment, an author's income depends on royalties, which are calculated as a percentage of the recommended retail price - say 8% on average. The royalty on a book with an RRP of 15 would be roughly 1.20, whether or not the bookseller decides to sell it for three pounds less. This system has worked reasonably well for many years, though not many writers make much money; a recent survey by the Society of Authors found that three-quarters of the members made less than 20,000 a year. The royalty system has a sort of clarity and fairness about it.

But if there wasn't an RRP anymore, royalties would have to be calculated on some other basis, and the most likely one is a percentage of net receipts, or the money that the publisher actually gets from the bookseller. In order to produce a roughly equivalent income, authors will have to receive something like 25% - and they are not in the least likely to get it. ...

And in addition, since 1979 any author's books have been backstocked for shorter periods, and remaindered faster. All this due to a tax dispute with a power tool company that went all the way to the Supreme Court:

...Prior to Thor Power Tool, companies would often write down the value of slow-moving inventory, even when its market value had not dropped.

Their reasoning went like this: "We have 100 widgets in inventory. Each widget cost us $2. That sets the inventory value at $200. However, at the rate we're selling them, we'll only sell 75 widgets before they become obsolete. So, the real value of this inventory is $150 (75 x $2), because 25 of the widgets have no value at all."

By writing down inventory, they increased COGS, and thus decreased taxable income.

The IRS did not like this, because lower taxable income means lower tax receipts. The IRS said, "Look, you still have 100 widgets. They cost you $2 apiece. The market value is over $2. Therefore, your inventory is worth $200. We will let you value it at $150 only if either (a) the market value of each widget drops to $1.50 or (b) you throw 25 of the widgets out. You can't have 75 worth $2 and 25 worth nothing. Period."

So they went to court.

The Supreme Court's Decision

"In (Thor Power Tool Company v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue)...the IRS negated Thor's practice of writing down the value of its spare parts inventory which it held to cover future warranty commitments. Thor contended that, although the sales price on the individual parts did not decline over the years, the probability of all the parts being sold decreased as time passed, and thus so did the net realizable value of the inventory as a whole. The IRS contended that a decline in inventory values for tax purposes must await actual decline in the sales price of the individual parts. The Supreme Court indicated that for tax purposes, the lower of cost or market method was to be applied on an individual item basis and that if no decline in sales price occurred, no loss should be permitted." (Intermediate Accounting, Kieso & Weygandt, 4th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 1983, pp. 392-393) ...

The article goes on to explain in more detail why this means that publishing companies and booksellers are less likely to keep much of a backlist already. So, with authors currently getting minimal income from backstock of their work, and the possibility that current work will have an even harder time breaking into the market, you can see the problem.

I have no idea what to do about it, only recently finding any of this out, myself. But it doesn't sound promising for bibliophiles.

Posted by natasha at 02:37 PM | Link
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