Thursday, June 30, 2005

Many thanks to Spain for legalizing gay marriage

The 350-seat Congress of Deputies, by a vote of 187-147 with four abstentions, approved the measure to give homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, including the right to adopt children.

After the tally was announced, activists watching from the spectator section of the ornate chamber cried, cheered, hugged each other, waved to lawmakers and blew them kisses.

Oscar-winning Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, who is gay, said 21st century families don't have to reflect the traditional Catholic model. "I don't like marriage. I am not going to get married," he said. "But it is important for this to be called marriage so people know that it is the same thing for everyone."

"It is necessary to oppose these unfair laws through all legitimate means," a [Spanish Bishops Conference] statement said, alluding to its hint last month that town hall officials who oppose gay marriage should refuse to preside over such ceremonies.

Some 80 percent of Spaniards consider themselves Catholic. However, polls say nearly half the country's Catholics rarely go to Mass, and a third say they are simply not religious.

Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy said Zapatero has deeply divided Spain and should have sought a consensus in parliament that recognized same-sex unions but didn't call them marriages. Rajoy said if the vast majority of countries don't accept gay marriage, there must be a reason.

Excerpts from "Spain 3rd Nation to Legalize Gay Marriage"
by Mar Roman, Associated Press Writer

Friday, June 24, 2005

An email to Congressman Schiff regarding controversial recruitment and DADT

Congressman Schiff,

In view of the controversial tactics the military employs to increase the number of recruits, as reported in this article on, please consider pushing for elimination of the don't-ask-don't-tell ban on gays in the military.

ABC News reported on 7 April 2005 that Army Sgt. Robert Stout, a decorated officer, "is believed to be the first gay soldier wounded in Iraq to publicly discuss his sexuality."

(AP photo)
Stout, 23, says he would re-enlist in the military if it wasn't for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which permits gay men and women to serve in the armed forces if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves and abstain from homosexual activity.
The ABC News article reported that in 2004, 653 soldiers were discharged under the DADT policy. If all of those soldiers served honorably otherwise, we have lost 653 good soldiers at a time when the military is scrambling to find more.
A recent congressional study on the impact of "don't ask, don't tell" said that hundreds of highly skilled troops, including many translators, have left the armed forces because of the rule.
The DADT policy was an evolutionary step that was necessary in 1993, but in the twelve years since then, we as a society have moved past the need for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The reason for war? A "successful" presidency

On 20 June 2005, Russ Baker's article "Why George Went to War" appeared on the Guerilla News Network site I followed a link to the article because I really have been wanting to know the motivation behind the early plans to invade Iraq that the Downing Street Memo illustrates. My own altruistic theory for the President's motivation to oust Saddam was that he wanted to finish the mission that his father had begun but had been unable to complete. I even pictured Bush Sr. saying to his son something like "Please go back and finish the work. The people of Iraq deserve it." I could understand a loyal son being motivated to perform a task that would repair and enhance his father's standing in the panorama of history. I could understand that. I thought the motivation was a little too narrowly confined to one family to commit an entire nation to war, but I understood it as a nonetheless noble motivation.

("Always a 'however' there is, hmmm?," as Yoda might say.) However, Bush's motivation is stated simply in Baker's article:

“No president could be considered truly successful without one military ‘win’ under his belt.”

Too much information. Way too much.

So, how credible is Russ Baker? From
Russ Baker is an award-winning independent journalist who has been published in the New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, The Telegraph (UK), the Sydney Morning-Herald, and Der Spiegel, among many others.
Okay, so who is
GNN was co-founded by Stephen Marshall and Josh Shore in the summer of 2000. The partners first joined forces at MTV...when they finally realized that the mainstream networks would never allow their hi-impact brand of television content and design to reach prime-time. (More)
Okay, so maybe this is a reasonably credible source. I noticed that Baker's article updates his GNN article from 27 October 2004 in which he interviewed Houston Chronicle journalist Mickey Herskowitz, the original ghostwriter for Bush's autobiography A Charge to Keep in 1999, so I clicked the link to the original article and right away read this:
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade…if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
So much for my thinking altruistic thoughts about the President. Not only did he not care about enhancing his father's legacy, he distanced himself from him by saying "I can do better than he did."

Unbelievably, Bush led us into war simply because he wanted to win at the game of presidential chess, an extremely complex version of chess that rich men play. It's in the same league as polo, which is a version of hockey for those who can afford a string of polo ponies.

Presidential chess. And as of today, 1,723 American pawns have been removed from the chessboard.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

They found WMD in Iraq! The U.S. military had them.

I don't know about this blogging business. I think maybe I'm a little too in touch now with the real world, after reading on Charles Norman Todd's blog Freiheit und Wissen (German for "freedom and knowledge") that the U.S. has used weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. No, they didn't drop the Bomb on Iraq, but they have used depleted uranium, white phosphorus ammunitions and a reformulated napalm made from jet fuel instead of gasoline.
Did I really need to know that? Well, yeah, for the greater good, it's useful when such information trickles down to my level. But did I need to know that the U.S. lied to the British about the use of napalm, as reported in The Independent yesterday? I'm already disturbed about the duplicity exposed by the Downing Street Memo (exposed to me, anyway, even if everyone else knew about the duplicity), and now I learn about more duplicity. Whose idea was this glasnost anyway? I think I'd prefer to be numb and happy.

Oddly enough, the use of the napalm-like MK-77 firebomb was reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune on August 5, 2003. (I read the article on Global The article explains

During the war, Pentagon spokesmen disputed reports that napalm was being used, saying the Pentagon's stockpile had been destroyed two years ago.

Apparently the spokesmen were drawing a distinction between the terms "firebomb" and "napalm." If reporters had asked about firebombs, officials said yesterday they would have confirmed their use.

Yesterday's article in The Independent states that the U.S. confirmed to Adam Ingram, Britain's Defense Minister, in January 2005 that MK-77s had not been used. Did the American military officials not know about the Union-Tribune article in 2003? Were they betting that no one would remember it?

More did-I-need-to-know-that: Todd writes on Freiheit und Wissen that "such incendiaries [depleted uranium, white phosphorus ammunitions, and napalm] have been prohibited by the 1980 Protocol III of the Geneva Convention—a protocol which the U.S. has refused to ratify to this day, despite general international agreement."

I recalled the line "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" from the Coppola film Apocalypse Now and did a search for "napalm smells like." Aside from the numerous results stating that napalm smells like "victory," one person in an online forum said it smelled "fruity" and another in a blog comment wrote that it "smells like vanilla-caramel scented gasoline."

The Union-Tribune article quoted Col. James Alles, who commanded Marine Air Group 11 during the war, as saying "The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect." Was he just ironically referencing the movie? Or do they—

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rep. Conyer's public forum undermined by dirty tricks

The most telling piece of information in the AP article "Democrats Urge Inquiry on Bush, Iraq" is this sentence:

The Democratic congressmen were relegated to a tiny room in the bottom of the Capitol and the Republicans who run the House scheduled 11 major votes to coincide with the afternoon event.
Eleven major votes? Wouldn't that actually indicate the importance of the event? Of course Scott McClellan played down the event by saying that Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates." But something as potentially administration-shaking as this is brushed away as nothing more than "old debates"?

This just smells like Karl Rove.

But it's all just going to blow over, isn't it? Not because it's insignificant, not because no crime was committed, but because the machinery in place is so organized and motivated that everyone involved is well protected.

It makes me want to love Big Brother. Is it thirteen o'clock yet? Red is the new blue.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

An email to my Congressman in response to the Downing Street documents (Updated)

Congressman Adam Schiff
326 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington DC 20515

Dear Congressman Schiff:

You responded to my email message on June 8 by forwarding to me an email copy of a letter from Senator Diane Fienstein regarding her position on the intelligence that led us to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

I'm sorry but, no, this response was not appropriate because 1) you did not write it yourself and have your staff email it to everyone who had written to you specifically and 2) Senator Feinstein's position, which I assume is also your position, is that an honest failure of intelligence led to the invasion of Iraq, and we have since learned that this was not the case. The intelligence concerning the WMD was "fixed" and that fixing was subsequently, and continues to be, covered up.

When there was a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters to repair nonfunctioning wiretaps that had been placed there during a previous break-in, it was covered up. That cover-up led to an investigation. When a President conducted an extramarital affair with an intern, it was covered up. That cover-up led to an investigation. When an Administration collusively altered intelligence and misled Congress and the voters about the need to go to war, it was covered up. And that cover-up not only did not lead to an investigation, it bestowed on a President the legacy of "Wartime President"?

I feel that the actions both you (introducing three WMD amendments to the State Dept. Authorization Bill) and Senator Feinstein (voting for the Intelligence Reform Bill) have taken, while in themselves good, are a hopelessly inadequate response to a situation of this magnitude. As a result of the covered up break-in, no one to my knowledge was killed. As a result of the covered up extramarital affair, no one was killed. As a result of the covered up intelligence-fixing, as reported on CNN's War In Iraq site:

There have been 1,878 coalition troop deaths, 1,694 Americans, 89 Britons, 10 Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 25 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of June 12, 2005.
Because of your unwillingness to represent those voters in the 29th District of California who want this matter to be investigated, it occurs to me to cast my vote for another candidate when you are up for reelection next year.

Please give serious consideration to calling for an investigation into this cover-up.

Thank you.


An excerpt from Congressman Schiff's email reply on June 17:

The possibility that the President and his advisors deliberately misled Congress and the American public is deeply disturbing and is a subject worthy of investigation. Congress must take its Constitutional obligation of oversight more seriously, and I join in calling on my colleagues in the majority, who has the power to call hearings and subpoena witnesses, to ensure that these allegations are investigated thoroughly.

The discovery of the “Downing Street Memo”and the failure to discover WMD calls into question the quality of the intelligence and the representations made by the Administration. We know enough already to conclude that much of our intelligence was seriously flawed. In fact, the Administration has already admitted that the President relied upon faulty intelligence when he claimed during the State of the Union that Iraq had attempted to obtain nuclear material from certain sources in
Africa. It is imperative that a vigorous investigation be conducted to determine whether intelligence reports were overstated, misrepresented or politicized. This investigation must be a top national priority.

Last session, I cosponsored legislation with several of my colleagues to establish an independent commission to examine the intelligence leading to war in Iraq. The goal of the commission would be to examine executive branch efforts to collect, assess, and interpret intelligence regarding the threat posed by Iraq. In addition, the commission would review the claims made by executive branch officials about these threats. Modeled after the September 11th Commission, the Iraq Commission would consist of a 10-member nonpartisan panel with powers to hold hearings, obtain documents and testimony, and issue subpoenas if necessary.

In authorizing the President to use force, Congress made the most important decision it can make, and did so on the basis of our intelligence. If we have a serious flaw in our intelligence gathering process, or if that intelligence has been manipulated in any way, we need to know it if we are to avoid another September 11th. Moreover, if we are to maintain the full trust and cooperation of other nations, we must forcefully and candidly address this issue.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Blame it on Jimmah!

My email to Hugo Zoom:

Why, why didn't I take the blue pill?? I'm overusing the Matrix analogy only because it fits so closely to what I've observed about my own perception of life in the U.S. When I watch and listen to a conservative, it really does seem like he's still got the spike in his neck. Of course, the paradox is that that's exactly how he views me, that I haven't awakened yet to the lies and half-truths of the liberal charlatans and abandoned all of that for the party of the real people and the real values. And that conservative is as settled and integrated into his perception as we are into ours.

Have I mentioned that the polarity really bothers me? ...Heh. ("You've mentioned it once or twice.") If I understand the situation correctly, the extreme polarity now is a result of the increase in influence of the Christian fundamentalists over the past couple of decades. And I blame that on Jimmy Carter. I remember reading in Time, back when he was President, that he taught a Sunday School class, if not every week then frequently, at a church in D.C. A Bible-totin' president. Before him were Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower...I don't think anyone associated any of them with Bible study and Sunday School. So I'm thinking that Carter's bringing the atmosphere of fundamentalism to the White House emboldened the Christian right, which led to the Reagan era and the Christian Coalition et al. It's all Jimmah's fault!!

As much as I admire him and acknowledge his intelligence, I just wish things had, um, worked out differently.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A cattle prod for an oxymoron

It’s not “you” and “them.” It’s all “us.”

My comment on "Dean v. Mehlman: a contrast in attitude" at GayPatriot:

"To be sure, there has always been mean-spirited rhetoric in American politics." Thank you, thank you for not saying "in the Democrats' politics."

"They know that nasty rhetoric alone is not enough to win elections." No, dirty tricks are essential. Do you remember that Karl Rove's first foray into political activism involved using stationery stolen from the office of a Democratic candidate?

You're right that Dean is being hateful and is wrongly badmouthing his opponents. The debate should never descend into name-calling and stereotyping. The issues are too important.

But I understand where his anger comes from: NeoCon-fatigue. It dates back to DeLay single-mindedly dedicating himself to removing Clinton from office and the subsequent consolidation of the influence of the far right wing from being "crazies in the basement" (wasn't that Bush Sr.'s description?) to being the leading conservative force. By now, *lots* of people are really weary from the unrelenting pressure to move the U.S. toward theocracy.

Dean's mistake is in not directing his anger toward just the extremists and not the party as a whole. There are moderate Republicans who are quite willing to work with Democrats to forge compromises, because that's how governments work, but Dean is simply badmouthing the whole party. I think if you would ask him specifically, you would find he is quite willing to work with moderate Republicans.

By the way, Dan, are you chubby? Just curious.

"One reason the GOP has continued to win elections...putting forward a positive vision for our nation's future." No, the GOP wins elections because of greater numbers and because of the organizational unit at the grass-roots level, otherwise known as the church. And because of some really clever campaign strategies.

"As long as Ken Mehlman...continues to offer a positive vision...and Dean continues his campaign of name-calling, our party can expect to do ever better...Democrats will become even angrier..." Dan, this isn't a football game. You are so "our side" and "their side." But the more polarized the country becomes, the more compelled I feel to describe myself as an independent. The country isn't a giant football game, it's a giant forum where we debate important issues. Every voter has a responsibility to think independently and not to entrench into a team mentality.

I know you're a guy who likes his team to win a game. I understand that. But please keep your love of sports separate from your interest in politics.

It's not "you" and "them." It's all "us."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fiat blogging

Hugo Zoom has encouraged me to try Fiat blogging as an alternative to the current trend of cat blogging among many bloggers at the end of the week. I was in the middle of composing a post about Cheney, Halliburton and Nigeria and thought Why not? Bad news will wait. And so, below is one of three pictures of Fiats he emailed me, this one being my favorite.

Isn't it cute as a button?

Whenever I do a search for "fiatblog" to see if anyone links to my blog, I get this result:, an article on an Italian news site. The sentence in the article that includes the search term is
In questa categoria si può annoverare ad esempio l’originale blog aziendale di Bob Lutz, vice presidente della General Motors: chissà se un giorno anche John Elkann, vicepresidente del principale gruppo automobilistico italiano, aprirà un suo FIATblog
which Google translates as
In this category it can be numbered as an example originates it them blog business of Bob Lutz, vice-president of the General Motors: goodness knows if a day also John Elkann, vice president of the main Italian automotive group, opens a its FIATblog.
Uh, the article seems to be discussing at length the corporate reaction to blogs written by employees.

Whenever I search for "fiat blog," I get, which seems to be a short-lived blog focusing on Fiat news. The first of its two articles discusses GM pulling out of a deal to buy Fiat in January 2005. Which explains the mention of Bob Lutz and General Motors in the above reference.

Anyway, isn't a fiat similar to a fatwa?

And whatever happened about Cheney, Halliburton and Nigeria?