All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

News News Who's Got the News

Around the world and almost up to date.

Department of Lenient Sentencing
An English creationist on vacation stabbed a Scotsman who believed in evolution rather than the bible after getting drunk. For some inexplicable reason he was only convicted of manslaughter, and then judge gave him a light sentence.

It's being billed as 'Creationist stabs Evolutionist'. As if being a rational human being, dealing with the world using facts and logic, makes you a special sub-class.


Source: The Australian

No More Farm Tilapia From the Grocery For Me
It turns out China produces 70% of the world's aquaculture, and they apply the same, ahem, lofty standards to their fish safety as they do their toys.

In other words, loaded with poison and heavy metal.

Oh well. It's better to pay a little more than end up with a toxin-fried brain.

Source: The New York Times

Which leads us nicely into..

Department of Monstrous Evil
It seems that twenty years ago in England, a tanker truck poured a water treatment chemical into the wrong tank at a small town's treatment plant. Instead of going into a reservoir to purify water, the highly caustic aluminum substance went right into the tap water. 30,000 people were exposed. Immediate symptoms included, and I swear I am not making this up, skin peeling off, hair bleaching, ulceration of the mouth and lips sealing shut. Residents were told the water, filled with caustic crap, was safe, and that the bad taste could be diluted with a little orange juice.

The result, concludes the hitherto unpublished police account, was "a massive and instant contamination of the water supply."

Worse was to follow. For days, the water authority insisted the water was safe.

Officials took nearly a week to identify the cause of the poisoned water and ten more to reveal it in a tiny advertisement in the local paper.

It wasn't just aluminum, however, and the incompetence of the government compounded itself with further stupidity.

The water was, indeed, deadly. It contained not only aluminium sulphate but other noxious substances, too. As the acidic liquid travelled from the plant into people's homes, it corroded the copper pipes and their soldered joints, made of zinc and lead.

"We were drinking a cocktail of metals and god knows what else," adds Mr Cross angrily.

"We were also advised to boil the water.

"This was even more dangerous advice because it concentrates the contaminants.

"They kept flushing the pipes out for months after the incident.

"This will have stirred up debris in the bends and only have lengthened the amount of time the water was coming through the taps with all sorts of metals in it."

Flash forward to today. Cancer rates are now terribly high, neurological problems abound, and the facts are just coming to light.

Why the coverup? Why the deception when it would only cause further harm?

Because the government, then run by the Conservatives (the Brit equivalent of our own Republican party) was looking to sell off the city water company. Privatization strikes again.

We have also been handed an explosive letter which reveals how officialdom set out to downplay the Camelford disaster and any wrong-doing by the water authority, which was about to be privatised by the Conservative government of the day.

The letter from a water official to Michael Howard, then Minister of State for Water and Planning, states that a police investigation into the poisoning incident was viewed as "very distracting".

It goes on to say that any subsequent prosecution of South West Water would also "be totally unhelpful to privatisation . . . and render the whole of the water industry unattractive to the City".

Stories like these can make a person long to believe in hell. There's no punishment on earth to fit a crime like that.

Source: The Daily Mail

Friday, December 14, 2007

Swords Will Fucking Cut You Wide Open

True story.

Very Educational

I have to say, I learned a lot from this documentary about the Catholic Church.

Here Comes Christmoween

Finally, a holiday for those of us on the 'Naughty' list.

If you're like me, the month of December is bar none the most agonizing four weeks of slog in the entire year. Everywhere you go you get bombarded with insipid carols, tone-deaf pop music, wishy-washy psuedo-religious spectacle and pomp. Simultaneously, in every paper, news broadcast, church, public gathering and random streetcorner you hear about how no one is honoring the 'True Spirit of Christmas'.

Whatever the hell that is.

I say it's high time there's a break in this month long madness for those of us who still retain enough of a grasp on reality to realize that 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' wasn't a good song the FIRST time you heard it, let alone the ten-thousandth; to understand that chopping down and drying out an already combustible pine tree then placing it in the center of your home decked in strings of cheap lighting made in China might NOT be the brightest idea in the world; that cramming the entire family in a car to drive cross-country to visit relatives you despise and eat food that isn't fit for the family dog because it's been prepared by white people without any remaining taste buds is SUB-moronic; people, in short, who haven't swallowed the Jonestown eggnog.

Thus I am proud to unveil Christmoween, for those people whose neurons are still firing despite the barrage of Salvation Army bell-ringing and the stench of an evergreen holocaust rising over the land.

The Legend of Christmoween
Many years ago, the forces of huggy-feely, church-going consumerism conspired to kill the original Santa Claus. Giving toys to poor kids wasn't nearly as profitable an image as that of the Coca-Cola swilling, cookie-eating fat man, after all, and charity cut into the bottom line for everyone (everyone that really mattered, anyway).

Fortunately, where there's a will, there's a way, and when life gives you a corpse, you can always raise it from the dead. Thus, through foul black magic, human sacrifice, and the immolation of thousands of copies of The Night Before Christmas on a fire stoked with Bill O'Reilly's latest fishwrapper, Zombie Santa was born. Well, brought back to life. It's more or less the same thing.

Operating out of a secret underground necropolis with a small army of likewise disinterred elves (who didn't get behind the new regime fast enough and found themselves in the cellars of the North Polar Ministry of Love), Zombie Santa ventures out on Christmoween to bring equal amounts of terror and joy to a world that's forgotten the dark times of the year, the meaning of a long cold winter, and the joy of devouring huge amounts of candy you got at ridiculous discounts the first week of November.

All hail Christmoween!

News of the Day

Because I know at least that my mother will snoop into this post. Have to keep up the supply of subversive material.

Department of Greedy Southern Baptists
It's been reported previously that Mike Huckabee, emerging Republican frontrunner, had continued the tradition of graft and living off your constituents that is a hallmark of the Southern bible-thump preacher. Now the Guardian has an article out detailing just how entitled this 'humble' individual feels he is.

A review of state records by the Guardian indicates that during his more than 10 years as governor, Huckabee received thousands of dollars in presents almost every year: gift certificates to sporting goods stores, clothing boutiques and Wal-Mart, a $3,695 pair of cowboy boots, a $500 belt and more.

But of course, he wasn't for sale or anything, was he.. oh.

Huckabee's chief source of largesse was Jennings Osborne, a Little Rock businessman who made his money in the medical testing business. In 1996, Huckabee's first year as governor, Osborne bought furniture for the governor's office and a fountain pen for the governor's use, and regularly sent flower arrangements. In subsequent years Osborne bought Huckabee gift certificates to department stores and clothing boutiques, 200 copies of a book Huckabee wrote, ties, flowers and air travel.

In 1999, he sent $200 flower arrangements to the governor's mansion every week, and bought pastries for the office staff, and $250 flower arrangements for Janet Huckabee on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and her birthday. He bought Huckabee more than $20,000 of clothing and spent $7,500 on a party for the governor's staff and security detail, Huckabee's statements of financial interest show.

In February of that year, Huckabee appointed Osborne to the War Memorial Stadium Commission, which oversees the football arena where the University of Arkansas Razorbacks play in Little Rock

I bet he lifted money from the collection plate too, the sleaze.


Source: The Guardian

Ye shall know them by their fruits
Another story has emerged of a second woman raped by a male co-worker at a KBR camp overseas, this time in Ramadi. She can't tell her story publicly because they've managed to force it into private arbitration.  At least someone is finally asking why the Army helped cover up these crimes.

In particular, Nelson expressed concern that in the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, the U.S. Army doctor who examined her turned over the rape examination kit, thought to contain useful evidence, to KBR officials. In the letter, Nelson also asked for an investigation to determine how many rape examinations were performed by U.S. military doctors in Iraq, and what was being done to ensure the cases were prosecuted.

It's truly sick, in this country, that you can muzzle a rape victim with a clause in their employment contract. But it seems you can.

Source: ABC News (The Blotter)

It's a rape scandal in America though, which means it's now time for a game of Blame the Victim! Our contestant today is of course KBR, who are looking to avoid the bad PR for the whole imprisonment and illegal confinement thing.

Even they admit that they worked with the Army to cover up this heinous crime, though.

On one key point, Halliburton/KBR and Jones agree: the Army doctor who administered a rape evidence kit to Jamie after her alleged assault handed the kit to Halliburton/KBR security personnel. Halliburton/KBR's account did not mention the fate of the rape kit. It noted the company "did not interfere with the State Department's criminal investigation."

Oh, but they say they gave her toiletries! That makes it all better.

The Department of Truth will Rectify This Story Shortly
So the infamous, ludicrously trumped up 'terror' trial of a handful of lunatics in Miami who thought it'd be fun to pretend to be Al-Queda members, and were subsequently entrapped by an FBI agent to make a pro-Bush headline, has fallen completely into ruin.

Of the seven men, one was acquitted and the rest got a mistrial. Yet another dog and pony show of the Bush administration has collapsed under its own weight.

Source: The Guardian

Peace on Earth, Or a Small Section Thereof
New Jersey has decided to join the rest of the civilized world and ban the death penalty.

No cheap shot New Jersey jokes here. The Washington Post states that economics may have played into this decision as much as ethics, because it's cheaper to incarcerate than kill a prisoner.

I don't care, at the moment. Finally something decent has happened in this country. It's time to take notice.

Source: The Washington Post

To paraphrase Keith Olbermann, and Edward R. Murrow before him, Good Morning, and Good Luck.

Toys for Tots

Toys and BEER!

So last night we went to a charity concert for Toys for Tots at the Bluebird here in Bloomington. You could make a donation but ideally you were supposed to bring a new, unwrapped toy.

The roommate and I brought a couple of shiny Spiderman 3 action figures; a Venom (with action web!) and a New Goblin (with Goblin Bomb attack!) respectively.

They apparently got quite a haul of toys by the end of the night, which is a good thing, obviously.

The show was sponsored by the indie radio station, WTTS, which had done another holiday charity show in Indy a few days before for another charity. They do seem to know how to put on a show, which is supposedly one of their specialties.   

They're the only damn rock station in Indiana that I know of worth listening to, for that matter.

There were three bands at this show: American Bang, Autovaughn, and VHS or Beta. American Bang was your typical bar-rock group and were the warmup act.

Autovaughn has been described as a sort of indie-punk band; I don't know if that's true, but they're definitely good, and utterly fantastic live. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone put more energy into a live performance. We picked up a copy of their cd and I'm listening to it at the moment, as a matter of fact.  (Don't be fooled by their ridiculously ugly My Space page.  They just need to hire a good web dev)

VHS or Beta was supposed to be the big act, and indeed a lot of people showed up for them. They just weren't that hot, to my mind, though. It was very sort of bland, electronic music, with some ridiculously long instrumental pieces in the middle of songs. Quite a few people left to offset those who had showed up just to do the raver dancing.

I'm not trying to diss them, they seem like very nice guys and they were doing this for a good cause. Just giving an honest opinion. They definitely tried hard and had a lot of the crowd with them all the way, so if that's your sort of thing, then they'd make a good show. It's just not mine.

Oh, and as for the BEER above the cut. The roommate and I each had a Guinness. I nursed it for about four hours. Then I DROVE HOME. GASP.

I've probably gotten higher blood alcohol from eating my homemade stroganoff (which uses quite a bit of wine).

The bar had a handy chart, actually, with your body mass on the x-axis, number of drinks on the y, and ranges showing how safe you'd be to drive and such. That is a neat chart. I'd like to own one.

Guinnness is pretty good, actually. It might just be that I've developed a taste for bitter stuff lately thanks to the grapefruit juice, but I could get behind an occasional beer of that sort.

Well, off to get on with the day's work. Hopefully some little boy or girl will be beating up a Spiderman action figure with one of our villains by the end of the month. Peter Parker must suffer, in all his incarnations, after all.

He's like Jesus that way.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

News of the Day

Because life goes on, no matter how much it sucks.

Department of Dana Peroxide
From the woman who had never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis:

The White House on Thursday slapped back at Nobel laureate Al Gore saying he was wrong to call the United States the obstable to success at the Bali climate change conference.

"I think he is incorrect," spokeswoman Dana Perino said of Gore's remarks in Bali when he said the United States was the main obstacle to a climate change deal.

No, Dana, you don't think. You never think.  That's the whole problem. Honestly, you should try it sometime.

Source: Raw Story

Fresh from the Ministry of Love
The people who brought you the Taser torture device have been working on a version that fires more like a shotgun, with no pesky wires and a longer range. Oh, and four times the duration of the agony.

With the new "extended range electronic projectile," or XREP, the Taser has been turned into a kind of self-contained shotgun shell and can be fired, wire-free, from a standard shotgun, which police typically have in their arsenal already.

The first electrode hooks on to the target, the second electrode falls and makes contact elsewhere on the body, completing the circuit and activating the shock. It can blast someone as far as 30 metres away, and, unlike the current stun guns, whose shock lasts five seconds, the XREP lasts 20 seconds...

Isn't that lovely. Now they can fire round after round of debilitating torture into crowds of people.

But what if you want to hit an entire group of people with your lightning weapon? Have no fear, the mad scientists have a solution!

Besides the XREP, the company has developed a device meant to keep someone from approaching a certain area – a tactic called "area denial." "What if you could drop everyone in a given area to the ground with the simple push of a button?" asks a dramatic promotional video for the "Shockwave."

Taser has turned its weapon into a connected series of six darts arranged in an arc. The company says the device can be extended in a chain or stacked "like Lego," depending on the needs of the user.

Won't it be nice when they can just floor the entire flag waving, banner holding bunch of peaceniks from a distance?

Source: The Star

The Department of Unbelievable Gluttony
My friend split this with his girlfriend. Amazingly enough, they're both still in stable condition. Though I'd put my name on the wait-list for a pancreas if I was him. (do they transplant pancreases?)

Join the Club Department
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to hold two top aides to President Bush in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate in its probe of fired federal prosecutors.

I've been holding them in contempt for years.

Of course, nothing will come of it.

As with many of Bush's battles with the Democratic-led Senate, the president may ultimately prevail since his fellow Republicans may be able to block the citations with a procedural hurdle.

Source: Raw Story

God Fucking Damn It

Terry Pratchett has announced that he has a form of early-onset Alzheimers. He hopes to complete at least two more books, but...

Goddamn it all to hell.

Vonnegut dies, Pratchett gets this monstrosity, but the smirking chimp goes on with his song and dance. Granted it looks like he's aged 25 years over his so-called Presidency, but still.

And that fucker Cheney? What does it take for that man to die? Six heart attacks by my count now. SIX. What. the. fuck.

On a purely selfish personal note, none of the planned books are in the Witches cycle, indeed the next two are not Discworld at all, so I'll probably never get the end story for Granny Weatherwax that I've been craving for a decade now. It might say something positive about an author, though, that their death, or severe, terminal illness, hits you in such a personal place that it feels like you, yourself, have been robbed of something material, the same feeling you might get from being mugged or burglarized.

I know of course Pratchett owes me nothing, and I hope nothing but the best for him... but days like this you could be forgiven for thinking the universe owes you a break. Owes him a break.  Of course, it never gives breaks.  It's a bleak, cold expanse of almost-nothingness and the only joy or meaning that could possibly exist is what we make for ourselves.

Pratchett made a lot of joy for me.  

This. Fucking. Sucks.

Source: The Register

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Women in Iraq

There has been a lot of news coverage devoted over the last few days to the ghoulish story of an employee of KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root), a former subsidiary of Halliburton (Dick Cheney's private empire), and her vicious gang rape and imprisonment by her fellow colleagues.

As horrible as this story is, it's only the latest in a raft of stories about the catastrophic decline of the rights of women in Iraq. For all the rhetoric about liberating the Iraqi people, all the blase Bush administration propaganda about 'rape rooms' under Saddam, the endless litany of human rights abuses recited during the war, after our WMD excuse fell through, what does it say about the grand military experiment by the greatest power in the world when we sit by and allow this slide into the dark ages to occur?

Nothing good, that's for sure.

First, it's worth noting that since the United States took power, of a sort, in Iraq, women have been under ever-increasing pressure from the theocratic thugs who are seizing the reins of government.

The government under Saddam was a mostly secular dictatorship. It had little interest, in particular, in abusing or oppressing women. I mean, it had a great deal of interest in abusing and oppressing, well, everyone. And a definite focus on genocide against certain ethnic groups (say, the Kurds, Mash Arabs, etc).

Despite what your Neo-Conservatives might claim, it does not diminish these terrible crimes to note that under Saddam, Iraqi women had it better than they do today. The United States shares no small part of the blame for this sad state of affairs.

As the Shiite theocratic parties take control, women are being subjected to a reign of terror. Notably starting in the Shiite stronghold of Basra, in Iraq's south, but having spread north as society crumbles, women are targeted for torture, mutilation and death. Their crimes? Wearing makeup. Not wearing a veil. Seeking basic human rights and dignity.

BASRA, Iraq, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Women in Iraq's southern city of Basra are living in fear. More than 40 have been killed and their bodies dumped in the streets in the past five months for behaviour deemed un-Islamic, the city's police chief says.

A warning scrawled in red on a wall threatens any woman who wears makeup or appears in public without an Islamic headscarf with dire punishment.

"Whoever disobeys will be punished. God is our witness that we have conveyed this message," it says.

Good to know they have God on their side; just like every other lunatic killer in the world.

Funny how God never tells people to get along and respect civil rights, huh.

A group of tribal Shi'ite leaders told Reuters in October that Shi'ite Islamist political parties were imposing strict Islamic rules in southern provinces and using their armed followers to create a state of fear.

The sheikhs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the conservative attitudes meant that only religious music was now allowed to be played in public places and dancing was forbidden, as was drinking alcohol.

You know the news is depressing when it reads like The Handmaid's Tale.

The United States meanwhile stands by and does nothing to stop this erosion of rights; hell, we even set the example, as with the recent KBR scandal.

The Kellogg Brown and Root scandal serves to illustrate both the complete lawlessness we have devised in Iraq and the low regard we hold, not just Iraqi women, but our own, when outside of the civilizing legal framework at home.  

The story is as simple as it is ghastly.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.

"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.

Her co-workers raped her; her company decided to imprison her and try to shut her up. They held her against her will in a box, a literal god damned box, for being a rape victim. Because it was bad PR.

In the end, it took a minor miracle to even get out of this abduction alive.

Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.

"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer.

Poe says his office contacted the State Department, which quickly dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Jones' camp, where they rescued her from the container.

That's right; we had to send the State Department to rescue a kidnapped rape victim from an American company. It sounds like the plot to bad movie, doesn

But this really happened.

Will the men who raped her face prosecution? Well, that's unlikely for two reasons. One is the fact that US military contractors in Iraq are exempt from Iraqi and US law, a legacy of Paul Bremer, Viceroy of Iraq.

The other is the fact that the Army ensured that the evidence of her rape would be conveniently disappeared.

Jones told that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.

They handed over the evidence of a crime. To the criminals.

Gee Mr. Corleone, could you hold on to this pistol for us? We'd be EVER so grateful!

Even as we allow our contractors to run rampant, we let our 'allies' in the Iraqi government disarm and segregate women, driving them out of professional work and literally leaving them helpless second-class citizens.

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi government has ordered all policewomen to hand in their guns for redistribution to men or face having their pay withheld, thwarting a U.S. initiative to bring women into the nation's police force.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, issued the order late last month, according to ministry documents, U.S. officials and several of the women. It affects all officers who have earned the title "policewoman" by graduating from the police academy. It does not apply to men in the same type of jobs.

Of course it doesn't.

We've spent 800 billion dollars on this experiment in government by explosion, and what do we get for it? A LESS democratic, more violent, more religiously hostile society? Gee, what a value.

Critics say the move is the latest sign of the religious and cultural conservatism that has taken hold in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's ouster ushered in a government dominated by Shiite Muslims. Now, that tendency is hampering efforts to bring stability to Iraq by driving women from the force, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who has led the effort to recruit female officers.

Even better of course is the fact that this will end up getting more of our soldiers killed.

Without policewomen, Phillips said, there will be no officers to give pat-down searches to female suspects, even though women have joined the ranks of suicide bombers in Iraq. Last week, a female bomber killed at least 16 people north of Baghdad, at least the fifth such attack in Iraq this year.

Oh good, we had too much security going on. 

It's not so hot for the Iraqi women either, naturally.

Another U.S. advisor noted that forcing out female officers will hamper investigation of crimes such as rape, which stigmatizes women in Iraq, because few victims feel comfortable reporting it to policemen.

This of course assumes that you want such crimes prosecuted in the first place.

What about the women who have taken our side and taken up arms, literally, to try and put their shattered country back together?

Well guess what. It's not good to be a US ally in the Middle East (Israel excepted of course) -- just ask the Kurds.

Policewomen say the decree also will leave them unable to protect themselves at work or off duty. Scores of police employees, both officers and administrative workers, have been killed by insurgents. Men and women have traditionally been allowed to carry their Glock pistols with them after hours for security.

"We are considered policewomen. We face kidnapping. We could be assassinated. If anyone knew where we worked, of course they would try to do something to us," said a 27-year-old interviewed Sunday.

"How can I be a policewoman without a weapon?" she asked incredulously as three female colleagues nodded in agreement.

Well, you're not supposed to be one. That's the point. You're supposed to stay at home, wear a veil, shut up and pop out kids. If you get out of line, there's a Mahdi militia man ready to teach you the error of your ways.

With a power drill.

Phillips, who works closely with Interior Ministry officials, said he got wind of the latest move to rein in female officers last month. When he questioned the plan, Phillips said, he was told by one ministry official: "Females are taken care of by men in this country. They are not out there being police officers."

Oh, they're getting taken care of, all right. That's the whole frikkin problem.

What does out esteemed occupying Army have to say about this?

Phillips, though, said U.S. officials have limited options.

"It's a sovereign nation. We turned over the running of their own police force to them," he said. "We don't have a veto."


I... wow... I think I need to go lay down. I'm about to blow a blood vessel here.

Sources: ABC News
                The LA Times

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stop or the Rainforest Gets It

In an amusing sign of things to come, perhaps, Ecuador is threatening to allow oil drilling in an incredibly valuable rainforest environment.... unless it gets a ransom of 350 million dollars. A year.

Seriously. They're holding a forest for ransom.

Source: USA Today

Monday, December 10, 2007

Return of the Gilded Age -- Fire Edition

Anyone out there seen Gangs of New York? Remember the fire-fighting scene? Well, with help from the Republicans, the anarchy and lawlessness of the private fire company is making an encore performance here in 'Merika.

A person could be forgiven for thinking that there is absolutely nothing that the lunatic fringe won't try and privatize. We have mercenaries doing the work of soldiers, we have outsourced public education to greedy startup companies with terrible standards, and now we're even trying to revive the failed experiment of the private fireman.

SAN DIEGO - After the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies started issuing plaques to show private fire brigades which homes to save--and which to let burn. Insurers organized their own firefighting companies. Not having a plaque didn’t mean your home went totally ignored, but it certainly didn’t help.

Today, a decline in public funding for firefighting services has sparked explosive growth in the private sector. The world’s largest insurance company – American Insurance Group – now has “Wildfire Protection Units” in 150 US zip codes. During the 2007 California wildfires, AIG’s firefighters saved homes in wealthy areas, while less fortunate neighbors were left with rubble. A trade group for private firefighters founded in 2000 now represents 10,000 private firemen.

It's just a step removed from the mafia, isn't it? How long until they'll start a fire if you don't pay?

But wait, you ask, surely this is just a service you can purchase on top of existing public firefighters. Surely nobody would try to get rid of, you know, the people who keep us all from dying in flames, right?

Wrong again.

The history of private firefighting is rife with controversy, and historians disagree on whether private firefighters have deliberately avoided protecting homes other than those insured. Last year, San Diego’s City Council approved a ballot initiative aimed at privatizing some city services. But critics contend privatization could lead to problems such as Philadelphia encountered, when fire hydrants froze due to lack of maintenance.

And what happens when the only firefighters in town are private, get two calls, and one is from a Super Platinum Deluxe Customer?

I bet you can guess.

Meanwhile the right grinds on, trying to destroy all vestiges of workers' rights, unionization, and basically decent government of any kind.

In 2005, a media strategist for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s told campaign donors of a plan to promote a `phenomenon of anger’ aimed at turning California voters against firefighters and other public employee union members to help pass ballot initiatives aimed at breaking up public unions and, perhaps, support privatization of firefighting and other public services.

Source: Raw Story
The Associated Press
The New York Times

News of the Day (Monday Commute Edition)

Driving down the highway, try not to read this news.

A motley collection today.

The State Security Apparatus Thanks You for Giving Up Your Sense of Humor

I haven't actually seen Superbad, but I know an element of the plot is that a character gets a fake id with the obviously fraudulent name 'McLovin' in order to purchase booze, what with being underage and all. The DVD release of Superbad includes a replica of this ID as one of those 'bonus' freebies that usually are pretty lame. Lamer than this at least.

The license is an obvious forgery, much as it was in the movie itself. It doesn't look anything like an actual Hawaii license, it has a lenticular picture for the driver's photo (showing the movie character and his erstwhile disguise when you tilt the id to different angles, etc). You would have to be blind to confuse it with ANY Hawaii ID, let alone one that applies to whoever would be using it, who would look like neither one of the two separate photos on the card.

Some people, however, think that if it happens in the movies, it can happen here.

We're very pleased that Wal-Mart has taken prompt, corrective measures to comply with the City's request to protect the integrity of our driver's license. It was foolish of the movie studio to include this prop in the DVD, particularly because it could be used by unscrupulous people to deceive others who are unfamiliar with our driver's license. For example, those who saw 'Superbad' know the underage teenager used his fake Hawaii license to buy liquor," Mayor Hannemann said in a statement.

Wow. Being mayor of Honolulu must require you to live with your head permanently up your ass. Amazing.

Source: The Consumerist (make sure to check out the photos of the fake ID and a real sample ID for educational purposes)

Drink Away the Pain Edition
Some lucky bastard with a lot of money bought a very, very old bottle of Macallan scotch for $54,000 dollars, or about 13 and a half euros at the going rate. (A joke, folks. It has to be at least 25).

That would be just the thing to kill off the lingering sense of Kafka-esque horror upon learning that the Democratic leadership did nothing to stop torture for five long years under the Bush administration. Alas, beyond my price range. I shall settle, perhaps, for videogame violence, my standard, and far cheaper, catharsis.

Department of Nidoking Might Want to Start Eating At Home

So a guy had a hard time getting an order properly made at a Burger King, and it seems they slipped an unwrapped, possibly used, condom into his burger because he was deemed too demanding by the surly wait staff. The manager laughed off his complaint about, you know, getting a condom in his burger.

Uggh. Yeah.

Source: The Rutland Herald

Mike Huckabee is the Craziest Motherfucker Alive
I mean, it's bad enough he pressured a pardon board to release a convicted rapist over the pleas of his victims, who warned him that the man would kill and rape again, because the woman he had raped and been convicted of raping was related to Bill Clinton, distantly, and so the whole trial just HAD to be a conspiracy.

Really, that's bad enough.

But it turns out that he also supported....... camps of some sort.... for people with HIV.

Highlighting the new scrutiny of Mr. Huckabee’s record, The Associated Press revealed yesterday that as a candidate for the United States Senate in 1992, Mr. Huckabee said in a response in a 229-question survey that he believed that AIDS patients should be isolated from the public and that homosexuality was an “aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” that posed a “dangerous public risk.”

Fears of AIDS spreading widely in the United States were common in the mid-1980s, as doctors struggled to learn about how the virus that causes the disease was transmitted. But by the time Mr. Huckabee answered the A.P. survey, it was well established that the virus could not be spread through casual contact.

Right up there with Margaret Thatcher, he is. Can't someone PLEASE, PLEASE find the inevitable stash of photos he's taken with little boys (he was a conservative minister after all) before the primaries are over? I'm already sick to death of this chump's smarmy voice.

Source: FireDogLake
Source: Jesus' General

Sunday, December 9, 2007

There. Is. No. God.

There will be a shojo X-Men manga series.

Just shoot me now. Please.

The first, X-Men, was described as a shōjo title — "X-Men meets Fruits Basket or Ouran High School Host Club" according to one panelist — features Xavier's Institute for Higher Learning as an all-boys' school, with the only female student being Kitty Pryde. The work will be aimed at a manga audience; while the characters will be based on famous X-Men heroes, the manga will not require any prior knowledge of the original X-Men comics. The manga is scripted by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, with art by Indonesia-based artist Anzu.

What's next, a Harlequin novel? Isn't the 30 Days of Night franchise enough punishment inflicted on us by the comic industry?

Source: Anime News Network


Not much to add to this. Apparently the Dem leadership has been aware of Bush's torture practices since 2002. Only one of the notified individuals, then ranking Dem on the House Intel Committee, Rep. Jane Harman, objected in any way.

She later lost that position in what was widely seen as a public spat with Pelosi, who did not object to torture. Technically Harman was supposed to rotate out of that job, but it's easy to see another motive for getting her out of Intel oversight before she could, you know, do something about the torture with the new Democratic majority. Pelosi had to make sure her own bloody hands stayed out of public view.

What a lovely world we live in.

Source: The Washington Post

Time Travel is Hazardous

So December 8th was Act Like a Time Traveler Day. I almost missed it, but one of the rooomate's crazy friends reminded me. We had to do something, but only had about an hour to improvise.

The solution? Pretend to be a dystopian future traveler, and run amok at Atomic Age. It was great, though I may have startled the poor Doctor, which is saying something. Long story short, the roommate acted as a lookout inside, while I waited for our squidy host to arrive. I managed to cook up a decent costume by applying wound makeup, lots of fake blood, dirt to look disheveled, and not shaving for the day.

When he had arrived, I ran up to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and did my best Michael Biehn.

"What's the date?"

He pauses, confused, looking around, then answers something like December 8th.


"20, err, 17"


Then of course I ran out to the car, changed my clothes, shaved my stubble off, put on my nice jacket, and sauntered in, as if to be oblivious to the events that had transpired.

Pretty standard I suppose, but still a lot of fun. Plus the Doctor has a new bloodstain on his jacket.