Monday, June 29, 2009

Martina Navratilova not ready for marriage equality for gays

Crying foul on Martina Navratilova
By Louis Bayard
June 29, 2009

The tennis star's legal woes remind us that even gay icons have some growing up to do about same-sex marriage...

[H]er current legal troubles remind us that even gay icons have some growing up to do when it comes to gay relationships. We cannot know whether all the assertions in Toni Layton’s lawsuit are true. We can say, however, with some certainty that the two women lived together as a couple, that they celebrated their relationship in a ceremony in New Hampshire, that they shared property and assets, and that Navratilova is much the wealthier of the two. If this were a no-fault heterosexual divorce, the law would unequivocally side with Layton, awarding her alimony and some division of property.

But the law, of course, still has different standards for same-sex relationships, and Layton has been forced to file a "domestic partnership" lawsuit in the deeply inhospitable legal climate of Florida, which has traditionally taken a dim view of alternative lifestyles. Barring a settlement, then, Navratilova stands to emerge from her most recent long-term relationship with little more than bad press and some whopping legal fees. If, that is, she can convince a court that her relationship with Layton doesn't rise to the contractual level of heterosexual marriage.

This stratagem is not new to her. In 1991, Navratilova’s ex-lover Judy Nelson sued her for $7.5 million in spousal benefits -- or, as the slavering tabloids used to call it, "galimony." To buttress her case, Nelson argued that the two women had engaged in not one but two marriage ceremonies and had filmed a video will together.

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Nelson also got vocal support from another Martina ex, Rita Mae Brown. In her memoir, "Rita Will," Brown writes that her sympathies shifted toward Nelson during a pretrial hearing in which Navratilova's lawyers argued (Brown's words) that "Martina and Judy had had a contract for sex," which "amounted to prostitution and therefore was against public policy." By demoting same-sex relationships to the level of a roll in the hay, Brown argued, Navratilova "could inflict colossal damage on every gay person in the United States."

Brown's motives in entering the case were suspect -- she had famously shot out the back window of Navratilova's BMW after a quarrel, and she herself enjoyed a brief liaison with Nelson -- but politically she was on target. The only way Navratilova could escape her financial (not to mention moral) obligations was to argue that her gay relationship did not carry the same legal standing as a straight relationship.

What was cynical then has become indefensible now. Martina Navratilova can no longer cast herself as an apostle for gay rights while using a homophobic legal code to deny her ex-partners alimony. This is more than bad behavior, it is bad precedent. And it comes at the worst possible time.

Very soon -- sooner than anyone could have guessed -- gay marriage will become the law in much of the land. A great deal has been written about whether straight America is ready; less has been written about whether gay America is ready. Not just to be held to the same contractual standards as heterosexual couples but to believe (after years of being told otherwise) that their relationships really are of equal standing. And to go on believing it when those relationships collapse.

In reporting on Toni Layton’s lawsuit, Britain’s Daily Mail used the following headline: "Martina Sued for Millions by 'Wife.'" I hope and expect that those archly condescending quotation marks will one day disappear, but it is the job of the gay community to make them go. If we want our relationships to be taken seriously, if we want the legal sanction of marriage, we must be ready to stand by our contracts and our obligations -- no matter how expensive or inconvenient it is and no matter what example is set by our culturally designated "heroes." Equality has its blessings. It also has its price.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson is dead

Michael Jackson Rushed to Los Angeles Hospital in Possible Cardiac Arrest

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital Thursday afternoon, police told FOX News...

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the legendary singer, 50, died Thursday afternoon

On Thursday afternoon, multiple reports claimed that shortly after noon Thursday, Jackson went into cardiac arrest and had to receive CPR in the ambulance. Joe Jackson, his father, told multiple news sources that his son is not doing well.

Paramedics responded to a 911 call at around 12:26 p.m. PDT, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was reportedly not breathing at the time of their arrival...

Jackson was born in Indiana in 1958. He rose to fame as part of the successful pop group The Jackson Five, formed with his brothers in 1967. The group went on to earn four number one hits in 1970 alone, and the 12-year-old Jackson became the undeniable breakout star of the group.

In 1972, Jackson enjoyed his first solo hit with the song “Ben.” Six years later, he made his film debut in “The Wiz,” where he renewed his friendship with producer Quincy Jones...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More right-wingers approving violence against those who disagree with them

Right-wing violence seems to be escalating in the US. First it was the killing of an abortion doctor, then murder at the Holocaust museum, and now this.

FBI Arrests Blogger for Allegedly Threatening Judges
By Andrew M. Harris
June 24, 2009

A New Jersey man described as an Internet radio talk show host and blogger was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill three U.S. Appeals Court judges in Chicago who earlier this month upheld a law banning handguns.

Hal Turner, 47, of North Bergen was arrested by U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at his home today, according to a statement issued by Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

In the days after the judges’ June 2 decision to uphold a lower court’s dismissal of a National Rifle Association lawsuit challenging the ban, Turner posted on his Web site their names, photographs, phone numbers and work addresses, together with a picture of the courthouse delineating stanchions he called “anti-truck bomb barriers,” according to Fitzgerald.

“Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed,” Turner allegedly said in one Web site posting, according to Fitzgerald.

“We take threats to federal judges very seriously. Period.” the prosecutor said.

The judges who issued the ruling were 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, as well as Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook.

Unanimous Decision

In their unanimous decision, written by Easterbrook, the judges had said that U.S. Supreme Court precedent, established last year in a high court ruling that struck down a similar ban enacted in Washington, precluded their invalidating the Chicago law.

“The Supreme Court has rebuffed requests to apply the Second Amendment to the states,” Easterbrook wrote, referencing the provision of the U.S. Constitution that the Supreme Court had recognized as conferring an individualized right to bear arms.

“These judges deserve to be made such an example of as to send a message to the entire judiciary: Obey the Constitution or die,” Turner reportedly wrote on his Internet site, according to a 10-page affidavit by FBI agent John Marsh, appended to the criminal complaint filed against Turner in Chicago federal court.

Double Murder

In 2005, the mother and husband of Chicago U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow were shot and killed in her home.

While her life previously had been threatened by since- jailed white supremacist Matthew Hale, who lost a case before her, the double-murder was later ascribed to another man unconnected with White, who whose medical malpractice lawsuit Lefkow had dismissed.

That man, Bart Ross, allegedly admitted to the killings in a note he penned before shooting himself in his car during a March 2005 traffic stop in a Milwaukee suburb.

Alluding to the Lefkow murders, Turner said in another posting, “Apparently the 7th U.S. Circuit Court didn’t get the hint after those killings. It appears another lesson is needed,” the Marsh affidavit said. ..

South Carolina's Sanford joins Republicans with adultery problems

Remind me: Which political party is "decadent" and "sick"?

Mark Sanford's zipper problem is yet more proof that Republican conservatives are just liberals in right-wing drag
By Joe Conason
June 26, 2009

Whenever the latest Republican politician is caught with his zipper undone, a predictable moment of introspection on the right inevitably ensues. Pundits, bloggers and perplexed citizens ruminate over the lessons they have learned, again and again, about human frailty, false piety and the temptations of flesh and power. They express concern for the damaged family and lament the fall of yet another promising young hypocrite. They resolve to restore the purity of their movement and always remember to remind us that this is all Bill Clinton's fault. What they never do is face up to an increasingly embarrassing fact about themselves and their leaders.

They're really just liberals in right-wing drag.

The proof is in the penance, or lack thereof, inflicted on the likes of Mark Sanford, John Ensign and David Vitter, to cite a few names from the top of a long, long list. For ideologues who value biblical morality and believe in the efficacy of punishment, modern conservatives are as tolerant of their famous sinners as the jaded libertines of the left. Even after confessing to the most flagrant and colorful fornication, the worst that a conservative must anticipate is a stern scolding, followed by warm assurances of God's forgiveness and a swift return to business as usual...

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina rose through the Republican ranks over the past decade, from congressman to governor to potential 2012 presidential candidate.

S.C. Governor Admits Extramarital Affair
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 24, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said this afternoon that he has been involved in an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina and "spent the last five days of my life crying" in that country, speaking at a rambling and emotional press conference that capped days of speculation about his whereabouts after he disappeared from the state capital for nearly a week.
This Story

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The Sleuth: One By One, Republicans Say Good-Bye to the Presidency
The Career of Gov. Mark Sanford
Online Media Notes: Searching for Mark Sanford
Q&A, Transcript: Gov. Mark Sanford Admits to Extramarital Affair, Resigns Post

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Sanford, who became a hero to fiscal conservatives in rejecting federal stimulus funds and has often been mentioned as a possible presidential prospect, said his trip to Argentina last week was to visit a woman with whom he struck up an e-mail relationship eight years ago. That correspondence led to a close friendship that went into "serious overdrive" when he saw her three times this past year, he said. His wife of nearly 20 years has known about the affair for five months and he is trying to reconcile with her, he said.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth in advice on one's life there and advice here. But here recently, over this last year, it developed into something much more than that."

He added: "And as a consequence, I hurt her, I hurt you all, I hurt my wife, I hurt my boys, I hurt friends. . . . I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize."

The nearly 20-minute press conference was an extraordinary turn in one of the more unusual political episodes of the year, which began when questions about Sanford's whereabouts started circulating early this week. He had left Columbia in a state-issued SUV Thursday, and his office said over the weekend that it knew his location, adding on Monday that he had simply gone off to "recharge after the stimulus battle." But the state's lieutenant governor expressed concern about whether staff members really did know where Sanford was. Sanford's wife told reporters Monday that she did not know his location, speculating that "he was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids."

On Monday evening, the governor's office said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But this morning, Sanford stepped off a plane from Buenos Aires at the Atlanta airport, before making his appearance at the press conference in Columbia.

The episode has ramifications for the national political landscape. Sanford had emerged as one of the most visible and forceful critics of President Obama's agenda, to the delight of conservatives nationwide and to the chagrin of many in his own state, who despaired over his rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding at a time when unemployment was surging in South Carolina. Forced to step down after his current term by term limits, he was seen as a likely contender for the 2012 nomination.

Instead, he now finds himself as the second prominent Republican ensnared in revelations of adultery this month. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) acknowledged last week that he had an affair with a former staff member. Ensign stepped down from his leadership position in the Senate; Sanford said today that he is stepping down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but did not address a shouted question about whether he would step down as governor. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will take over the governors' association post.

Sanford is known for his quirky personality, and he took an unconventional approach to his remarks today, beginning with a lengthy preamble about his love for hiking on the Appalachian Trail and the need for getting outside the "bubble." Later, he said that he had in fact suggested to his staff that he was headed to the Appalachian Trail...

Only then did he announce the "bottom line," that he had committed adultery. And he proceeded to elaborate in much detail about how the relationship developed with the woman, whom he did not name. He said that it was "ironic" that the relationship had started when he was counseling her to stay with her husband.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yelling at kids doesn't work, so why do so many parents do it?

Good Parents, Bad Results
8 ways science shows that Mom and Dad go wrong when disciplining their kids
US News and World Report
By Nancy Shute
Posted June 12, 2008

Does your 3-year-old throw a five-alarm tantrum every time you drop him off at day care? Does "you're so smart!" fail to inspire your 8-year-old to turn off Grand Theft Auto IV and tackle his math homework? Do the clothes remain glued to your teenager's bedroom floor, along with your antisocial teenager, no matter how much you nag or cajole? Being a parent has never been easy—just ask your own. But in this day of two-earner couples and single parents, when 9-year-olds have cellphones, 12-year-olds are binge drinking and having oral sex, and there is evidence that teens are more fearful and depressed than ever, the challenges of rearing competent and loving human beings are enough to make a parent seek help from Supernanny. Actually, there is something better: science.
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Researchers have spent decades studying what motivates children to behave and can now say exactly what discipline methods work and what don't: Call it "evidence-based parenting." Alas, many of parents' favorite strategies are scientifically proven to fail. "It's intuitive to scream at your child to change their behavior, even though the research is unequivocal that it won't work," says Alan Kazdin, a psychologist who directs the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. Other examples:

• Yelling and reasoning are equally ineffective; kids tune out both.

• Praise doesn't spoil a child; it's one of the most powerful tools that parents can use to influence a child's actions. But most parents squander praise by using it generically—"you're so smart" or "good job!"—or skimping.

• Spanking and other harsh punishments ("You're grounded for a month!") do stop bad behavior but only temporarily. Punishment works only if it's mild, and it is far outweighed by positive reinforcement of good behavior.

As yet, few of the bestselling books and videos that promise to turn surly brats into little buttercups make use of this knowledge. That may be because the research goes on in academia—at Yale, at Vermont's Behavior Therapy and Psychotherapy Center, and at the University of Washington's Parenting Clinic, for example. Surprisingly, many family therapists and parenting educators aren't up to speed on the research, either, so that parents who seek professional help won't necessarily get the most proven advice. Case in point: Just 16 programs designed for treating kids with disruptive behavior have been proven "well established" in randomized clinical trials, according to a review led by Sheila Eyberg at the University of Florida and published in the January Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Kazdin, who for years has pushed clinical psychologists to adopt evidence-based methods, published a book for parents earlier this year: The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. Other lab-tested tomes include Parenting the Strong-Willed Child by Rex Forehand and Nicholas Long and The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton.

These discipline programs are grounded in classical behavioral psychology—the positive reinforcement taught in Psych 101. Researchers have run randomized controlled trials on all the nuances of typical parent-child interactions and thus can say just how long a timeout should last to be effective or how to praise a 13-year-old so that he beams when he takes out the trash. Who knew that effectively praising a child in order to motivate her has three essential steps? They are: 1) Praise effusively, with the enthusiasm of a Powerball winner. 2) Say exactly what the child did right. 3) Finish with a touch or hug.

What else can parents learn from the science? Researchers say these are the biggest common boo-boos:

1. Parents fail at setting limits
It would be hard to find a parent who doesn't agree that setting and enforcing rules are an essential part of the job description. Yet faced with whining, pouting, and tantrums, many parents cave. "The limited time you have with your kids, you want to make it ideal for them," says Forehand, a professor of psychology at the University of Vermont whose evidence-based program is outlined in his book. "As a result, we end up overindulging our kids."

But, paradoxically, not having limits has been proven to make children more defiant and rebellious, because they feel unsafe and push to see if parents will respond. Research since the 1960s on parenting styles has found that a child whose mom and dad are permissive is more likely to have problems in school and abuse drugs and alcohol as teenagers. "Parents ask their 1-year-olds what they want for dinner now," says Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of Generation Me. "No one ever said that a generation or two ago." Using surveys dating back to the 1930s, Twenge has found significant increases in reported symptoms of depression and anxiety among today's children and teenagers, compared with earlier generations. Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Columbia University Teachers College, reported in 2003 that children who are showered with advantages are more likely to be depressed and anxious and to abuse drugs and alcohol than the norm. Luthar says that's probably because those children are under a lot of pressure to achieve at school and think that their parents value their achievements more than themselves. They also feel isolated from their parents...

Secret Journal of Prisoner of Tiananmen Square

Secret Journal Of Tiananmen-Era Official Released
All Things Considered, May 16, 2009
Listen Now

All Things Considered, May 16, 2009 · On May 19, 1989, a tearful Zhao Ziyang, one of the Communist Party's top officials, addressed student protesters in Tiananmen Square. That was the last the world would hear from him. After that speech, Zhao was put under house arrest, where he remained until his death in 2005.

But Zhao was recording his memoirs in secret, and next week they're being published as a book titled, Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Salamander can regrow spinal cord; has genetic map 10 x size of humans

From the gardens of Xochimilco:

Mexican salamander may yield clues for amputees
Jun 17, 2009
By Mica Rosenberg

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Scientists are genetically modifying a bizarre looking Mexican salamander, which according to ancient mythology is a transformed Aztec god, in the hope its ability to regenerate body parts will one day help human amputees.

Also known as "water monsters," the half-foot-long (15-cm-long) axolotl is nearly extinct in its only remaining habitat: the polluted vestiges of Aztec canals that snake though southern Mexico City, packed with colorful boats carrying tourists and mariachi musicians.

But the slimy animal crowned with frilly gills like a headdress, beady eyes and a goofy smile, is thriving in labs where it reproduces easily. It is a darling of researchers since it can regrow injured limbs, jaws, skin, organs and parts of its brain and spinal chord.

Some other animals have the capacity to regenerate, but only salamanders can regrow so many different parts over and over again throughout their lives.

The U.S. Department of Defense has given a $6.25 million research grant to scientists studying the little creature with the aim of eventually helping the more than 1,000 soldiers who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing extremities.

In a lab in Mexico City, where biology students map the shrinking habitat of the animal, an axolotl whose leg was recently bitten off by a tank mate was already budding a tiny replica, complete with little toes.

"Humans do repair tissue but they don't repair it perfectly whereas the axolotl under certain injury conditions can go into kind of a mode where they repeat the process of the embryo," said Elly Tanaka from the Center for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden, Germany.

Tanaka has succeeded in genetically engineering axolotls using a mutant type found in the wild with no skin pigment and inserting a green-glowing gene from a jellyfish into the salamander cells to help see the process of regeneration in action.

"The skin is clear so you can see the fluorescent protein inside the live animal," Tanaka said in a phone interview. The goal is to compare and contrast with the human healing process.

After amputation in salamanders, unlike in humans, blood vessels contract quickly and limit bleeding, skin cells work fast to cover the wound site and form what is called a "blastema," a collection of stemlike cells that will eventually become the new body part.

Working alongside scientists mapping the complex genome of the axolotl, which is 10 times larger than a human genome...

85% want healthcare reforms, but Republicans are opposed to cuts in insurance company profits

Wide support for government health plan: poll
Sun Jun 21, 2009

Americans strongly support fundamental changes to the healthcare system and a move to create a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Saturday.

The poll came amid mounting opposition to plans by the Obama administration and its allies in the Democratic-controlled Congress to push through the most sweeping restructuring of the U.S. healthcare system since the end of World War Two.

Republicans and some centrist Democrats oppose increasing the government's role in healthcare -- it already runs the Medicare and Medicaid systems for the elderly and indigent -- fearing it would require vast public funds and reduce the quality of care.

But the Times/CBS poll found 85 percent of respondents wanted major healthcare reforms and most would be willing to pay higher taxes to ensure everyone had health insurance. An estimated 46 million Americans currently have no coverage.

Seventy-two percent of those questioned said they backed a government-administered insurance plan similar to Medicare for those under 65 that would compete for customers with the private sector. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

President Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress have argued a publicly run healthcare insurance plan would increase competition and drive down the high cost of care at a time when the U.S. economy is mired in a deep recession...

Obama's healthcare push on rocky road in Congress
Jun 21, 2009
By Donna Smith

...Obama and his fellow Democrats, who control Congress, have enormous political capital invested in succeeding at providing affordable medical coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans, after decades of failed efforts by others, including the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

But opposition is building even as a group of senators tries this week to negotiate a proposal they hope will quiet critics and win bipartisan support.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said he was confident he could craft such a bill.

"We're working together and we're getting closer and closer to a deal every day," he said in a statement. "I'm as confident as ever we'll deliver a bipartisan health care reform bill to the President this year."

But Baucus is working with only few Republicans and there are no guarantees he will succeed.

"I'm certainly willing to try to do something and do it right, but we're a long way from that," Republican Senator Orrin Hatch told reporters.

Public drafting sessions by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee have been marked by partisan bickering over costs and the role of the government.

Democrats want a new government plan to compete with insurance companies and "keep them honest."

Republicans say that would drive insurers out of business and lead to a government-run healthcare system...

[Maura Larkins' note: Don't they really mean it would cut profits for insurance companies? Which is more important, the health of the nation, or the profits of unscrupulous insurance companies?]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Re Nevada Senator Ensign: "There is nothing wrong with holding yourself to high standard, even if you fail."

"There is nothing wrong with holding yourself to high standard, even if you fail."

Well, maybe not, but if you can't meet your own standards, you should probably quit demanding that others meet your standards.


Questions Surround GOP Senator's Affair
(June 18, 2009)

Sen. John Ensign has been quick to describe his dalliance with an aide in brief and simple terms... No questions will be answered, the married Nevada Republican said in his brief admission of infidelity.

But the first public statement from the woman once involved with the 51-year-old rising political star suggests more is brewing behind Ensign's neat account.

Cindy Hampton and her husband, a couple Ensign has described as "close friends," issued sharp remarks Wednesday through an attorney.

"It is unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private," Las Vegas lawyer Daniel Albregts said in the statement. "It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family. In time the Hamptons will be ready and willing to tell their side of the story."

...An Associated Press review of federal records showed that around the time of the affair, Cindy Hampton, 46, received a promotion and a pay raise at one political entity controlled by Ensign and a pay raise at a second. Her husband, Doug, was an employee in Ensign's Senate office, and a golfing buddy.

Since Ensign admitted the affair Tuesday at a hastily arranged news briefing in Las Vegas, he and his staff have refused to comment. It remains unclear what prompted the unexpected announcement.

The disclosure resurrected questions about a two-week period in 2002 when Ensign abruptly dropped from public view. A person familiar with that episode, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the senator told a close associate the absence followed an earlier affair...


Sen. Ensign's admission blurs conservative image
June 17, 2009

For much of his public career, Sen. John Ensign has appeared a model of the religious right. By this week, he had become just another politician diminished by scandal.

Rattled, humbled and alone at the podium, Ensign acknowledged to reporters an extramarital affair, the sort of moral failing he's criticized in the past.

The Nevada Republican once called on President Bill Clinton to resign, declaring "the truth must come out." In October 2007, he was sharply critical of former Sen. Larry Craig, of Idaho, calling the Republican's arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting "embarrassing for the Senate."

His own admission Tuesday came at a time when the two-term Nevada Republican was building his national profile and assuming leadership in his party. He had recently traveled to Iowa, fueling speculation about his White House ambitions.

...On Wednesday, he resigned from the policy committee.

For Nevadans, he was known as a polished pro-business Republican and well-spoken ally of the state's religious conservatives. He was a member of Promise Keepers, a men's Christian group that espoused devotion to family and marriage...

Ensign was adopted at age 15 by his mother's second husband, a Las Vegas casino mogul. He went on to veterinary school, ran an animal clinic and worked the family business as a casino executive before entering politics.

Ensign's political life was entwined with his religious beliefs. Once in Washington, he lived for a time with other Christian lawmakers who organized prayer breakfasts and Bible study. When in Las Vegas, he continued to attend an Evangelical church in Las Vegas with his wife, Darlene, who did not move to Washington with him.

Ensign has opposed abortion and gay marriage and backed school vouchers.

"He's been a very reliable ally and outspoken on marriage issues, on life issues," said Richard Ziser, a leading religious conservative in the state. "His religious beliefs were a very high identifier with conservatives."...

"Some will be more forgiving than others, of course," he said. "But I think his apology will be viewed as sincere. There is nothing wrong with holding yourself to high standard, even if you fail."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Does Cheney want America to be attacked again for political advantage?

Monday, June 15, 2009
Panetta Wonders If Cheney Wants Al Qaeda To Attack US To Prove Point

CIA Director Leon Panetta's remarks on former Vice President Dick Cheney made in a nearly 7,600-word interview with The New Yorker generated some media attention last night and this morning.

Calling them "tough words," ABC World News reported briefly that Panetta said of Cheney, who "has repeatedly, of course, criticized the Obama Administration's approach to terrorism," that "it's almost as if he is wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.'"

Panetta, the New Yorker (6/22, Mayer) reports, was responding to a speech the former vice president made at the American Enterprise Institute, where he accused the Administration of making "the American people less safe" by banning brutal CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects that had been sanctioned by the Bush Administration.

With "surprising candor," the magazine reports Panetta said, "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue. It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Was Prejean fired for being against gay marriage, or for writing emails like this one?

Carrie Prejean's email (from sent before she was fired to Miss California executive Keith Lewis:

"You do not cooperate with me, and you pick and chose the the things YOU want me to do. That is not happening anymore. Stop speaking for me. I have MY own voice. What are u gonna do fire me for volunteering for the special olympics hahaha ur crazy."

It looks like Prejean wasn't honoring her contract.

Prejean should stop blaming her firing on her opposition to gay marriage. Donald Trump bent over backwards to keep her even after nude pictures of her surfaced. Prejean apparently let that go to her head, and thought she could get away with anything.

Hate radio and domestic terrorists: how many more murders will we see?
Joan Walsh
Wednesday June 10, 2009
Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder?
(The above link includes a video.)

I was on "Hardball" today talking about the climate of extreme right-wing rhetoric today, and whether it had anything to do with Wednesday's tragic shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum, or the May 31 murder of Dr. George Tiller by an antiabortion crackpot.

I tried to choose my words carefully. Unless it's shown that either man had accomplices, we have to be clear that the men responsible for those murders are the ones who pulled the trigger. Still, it's hard not to think about the extreme right-wing rhetoric, especially about Barack Obama, and whether it could conceivably lead to more right-wing violence.

The range of crazy ideas about Obama is broad and wide: He's a secret Muslim, he's going to take our guns, he's even the anti-Christ! James von Brunn just happened to be a "birther," one of the nuts who believe that Obama wasn't born here, his birth certificate is fake, and he thus isn't eligible to be president. I thought it was strange and maybe a little ominous last summer when suddenly Obama was labeled a "socialist" and a "Marxist"; Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are arguably more liberal than Obama; why did he get tagged with that sinister, subversive, alien ideology? It seemed linked to the fact that he's just so … different from other politicians, so easy to marginalize and, frankly, demonize.

Then came Rush Limbaugh with his sexual fears about having to "bend over and grab the ankles" for a black president. Soon Limbaugh was saying he hoped Obama fails; last week he said Obama was more dangerous to our country than al-Qaida, our terrorist enemy who has killed thousands of Americans. Could that conceivably inflame someone marginal and isolated to act against a president who's more dangerous than terrorists?

If there's a through-line between any of these acts of terrorism and the right-wing rhetoric that abets it, of course, it's the one linking Bill O'Reilly to Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Tiller. O'Reilly more than demonized Tiller; night after night he called him a baby killer, compared him to the Nazis, and suggested that he must be stopped. Roeder stopped him, all right. If I were O'Reilly I'd feel terrible for putting a private figure in my public sights night after night, simply for doing his lawful job. But O'Reilly has no conscience, so he's proud of it...


And God bless Bermuda, too, for resettling Uighurs

Bermuda takes 4 Uighur detainees from Gitmo
June 11, 2009

Four Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay prison were freed Thursday and resettled in Bermuda, sparking complaints from China and Britain even as the Obama administration tried to iron out details for sending more detainees to the Pacific island of Palau.

The four were among 17 Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, picked up in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. They remained at the military detention center in Cuba even after the U.S. government had determined they weren't enemy combatants and should be released. Their fate was in limbo for months while courts and nations debated their future...

Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown said the men will be allowed to live in Bermuda, a British territory in the Atlantic, initially as refugees but they would be permitted to pursue citizenship and would have the right to work, travel and "potentially settle elsewhere." Brown said negotiations with Washington over settling the Uighurs began last month and he had no security concerns because the men had been cleared by U.S. courts. But Britain, which handles Bermuda's defense, security and foreign affairs expressed displeasure at the move...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

God bless Palau...for helping us find a place for the Uighurs

A while back a federal judge demanded that the Uighurs be freed from Guantanamo. Thanks to Palau, the Obama administration can obey the order.

'Paradise' for Guantanamo Uighurs
By Rob Reynolds, senior Washington correspondent

The Uighurs...have been held for seven years

The long and unhappy odyssey of the Guantanamo Uighurs, from China's Xinjiang province to Cuba via Afghanistan, is apparently about to end in a remote archipelago some call a Pacific island paradise.

The government of Palau, a nation of 20,000 people about two and a half times the size of the US capital, Washington DC, has announced it will accept up to 17 ethnic Uighur detainees following a request from the US.

Palau is better known for its coral reefs and lakes full of gently pulsating jellyfish than as a power player in international politics.

But Johnson Toribiong, the country's president, said he was "honoured and proud" to help the US out, and hoped the Uighurs will be able to restart their lives there.

The US has also pledged $200m in long-term development aid for Palau - but the US state department denies the money is a payoff.

In Washington, a Uighur community leader reacted happily.

"As long as the Uighurs don't get sent back to China I am delighted," said Rabiya Kadeer...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

How do you make a "good person"? North Korea has a system

North Korean labor camps a ghastly prospect for U.S. journalists

U.S. pair convicted by North Korea

If their sentence is carried out, Laura Ling and Euna Lee face possible torture and even death in North Korea's notorious gulag system, experts say.
By John M. Glionna and Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times
June 9, 2009

If no deal is reached, the two women face a grim future in a brutal prison system notorious for its lack of adequate food and medical supplies and its high death rate.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for San Francisco-based Current TV, were convicted by the nation's top Central Court of an unspecified "grave crime" against the hard-line regime after they were arrested in March along the Chinese-North Korean border while reporting a story on human trafficking.

In a terse statement Monday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency did not say where the women are to serve the time. North Koreans who receive similar sentences of "reform through labor" often face starvation and torture in a penal system many consider among the world's most repressive, said David Hawk, author of the 2004 study "The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps."

Amid an international outcry over the sentences, the White House said Monday that it was "engaged through all possible channels" in seeking the release of Ling, 32, and Lee, 36.

A top U.S. goal is to prevent the effort from being linked to the larger dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But the outcome of that effort is anything but certain, experts said.

"I think it very unlikely that the North Koreans would let them go without some serious extortion," said L. Gordon Flake, a Korea expert and president of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, a Washington think tank. "But giving in to that extortion would fundamentally undermine broader U.S. national security interests."

The question of linkage may be the most important to the fate of the women. U.S. officials fear that the North Koreans may attempt to make any reduction in the journalists' sentences dependent on what kind of punishment is imposed by the United Nations or by individual countries in response to Pyongyang's recent nuclear detonation and missile tests.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that while the administration was "deeply concerned" about the length of the sentences, America's differences with North Korea over Pyongyang's arms program are "separate and apart from what's happening to the two journalists."

However, if the U.S. refuses to mingle the two issues, analysts said, the eventual release of the two women could be delayed.

If the pair are held for a lengthy period, analysts believe they may be sent to a kyo-hwa-so, or "reeducation" reformatory, "that is the equivalent of a felony penitentiary in the U.S., as opposed to a county jail or misdemeanor facility," Hawk said.

"It's extremely hard labor under extremely brutal conditions," he said. "These places have very high rates of deaths in detention. The casualties from forced labor and inadequate food supplies are very high."

Many North Korean reeducation camps, he said, are affiliated with mines or textile factories where the long work shifts are often followed by self-criticism sessions and the forced memorization of North Korean communist policy doctrine.

The literal meaning of kyo-hwa-so is "a place to make a good person through education," said Hawk...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Arizona doctor was fired for being pro-choice

Feminist Daily News Wire
May 27, 2009

Arizona Doctor Wins Settlement in Discrimination Case

A settlement has been reached in a discrimination case filed by an Arizona doctor who alleged he had been fired as a result of his pro-choice position. Dr. Christopher Carey, who formerly led the Maricopa Medical Center�s ob-gyn residency program originally filed suit in 2005 and alleged that he was harassed and removed from his position because he publicly supported providing training on abortion procedures to interested residents. In the settlement, Carey was awarded $1.4 million.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Dr. Carey publicly opposed a move by county officials in 2003 who attempted to remove an abortion training program at the medical center and also protested when officials tried to transfer the program to a Catholic institution. The Maricopa Board of Supervisors proceeded to conduct baseless investigations against Carey, spread misinformation that damaged his reputation, and ultimately voted to remove him from his position in 2004.

After the settlement, Dr. Carey said "I am extremely pleased with the settlement, but it's important to remember that the shortage of abortion providers in this country is extensive. A resident's ability to obtain abortion training is crucial to ensuring women receive quality healthcare when they need it."