Friday, November 16, 2007

Saudi gang-rape victim is jailed, appeals conviction, now sentenced to 200 lashes

While the Bush Administration media machine attempts to convince the American people that things are going great in Iraq and democracy is spreadin' round the world, Saudi Arabia — you know, home of the real 9/11 terrorists — continues in its archaic and inhumane treatment of women:
An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped.

According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.
The Bush Administration has long been willing to overlook transgressions by the Saudis. After all, there is a long and well-documented history between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family. So despite the fact that most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that six years later the Saudis continue to funnel millions to al Qaeda, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is repeatedly cited for human rights violations such as the woman mentioned above, the Bushes do HEART them some Saudi Arabia.

After all, blood is thicker than water, but oil is the thickest of them all ....

Friday video break

In case you forgot, Amy “The Human Trainwreck” Winehouse, really can sing! Here's hoping she gets her act together:

Your daily dose of outrage: British police "taser" man in coma ("He looked Egyptian ...")

From today's BBC comes another disturbing story of police abuse of Taser guns.
A man who had gone into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds was shot twice with a Taser gun by police who feared he may have been a security threat.

Mr Gaubert said he was on his way to meet friends when he suffered a fit on the bus and slipped into a coma which left him slumped on his seat clutching his rucksack.

Armed police were called to the bus depot in Headingley and when he failed to respond to their challenges he was shot with the Taser.

He said as this was happening, another officer was pointing a real gun at his head.

He was restrained and eventually came round in the police van.

He said it was only then that the officers realised it was a medical emergency, despite him wearing a medical tag round his neck to warn of his condition, and took him to hospital.

Mr Gaubert said he was told the police believed he looked "Egyptian".
I've written previously about what I think about Taser guns. I understand they have a purpose: as an alternative to deadly force. As in, if someone is waving a knife or a gun and is an immediate threat to themselves or to others. An unresponsive man slumped down in his bus seat does not fit this situation.

A rose (or blog) by any other name ...

As you can see, we're undergoing some major renovations here. New template, new look, and now today, a new name.

When I started this blog in May 2007, I had no idea whether anyone would actually read it. (And for a while there, no one did.) This blog was really just an exercise for me to improve my web skills more than anything else. However, I am so pleased that I've had such a positive response to this blog from a wide variety of readers. My posts have been linked on several other sites, and I've become a part of a bigger group of bloggers who write on many of the same issues that I care about and write about.

Although I thought Ramblings of a Madwoman was clever and original, a quick google finds several other blogs with the same or similar names. Some of these are diary-type blogs. Some are about kittens. Now, don't get me wrong — I HEART kittens! But if someone is looking for some snarky analysis of the latest activities of the Bush Administration and they end up at the kitten site, well, that's just wrong.

So I've been playing with new names for this blog to reflect what I write about and how I feel. Of the ones that were not already taken (doh!), Nailing Jello to the Wall seems the most memorable and apropos. In case you're not familiar with the phrase, BoingBoing has a nice explanation:
Given some jelly mixed according to standard procedures and a vertical wall, it is not possible to nail the former to the latter and have it stay there for any significant amount of time.
I welcome your feedback on any and all of these changes, as well as on anything I write about here. I appreciate that you've stopped by and taken the time to read this. It's a fun ride.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The scourge of heterosexuality

From The Huffington Post:

When sixth grade teacher Kelsey Peterson fled to Mexico with her 13 year old "lover" late last month, my heart told me it was time to speak out. But fear told me not to; in today's PC world, there's no sin so great as speaking the truth. Then, last night, I opened the paper to find that Norma Giannini, a 79 year old Roman Catholic nun had pleaded no contest to repeatedly sexually abusing two middle school boys.

But it's time that somebody spoke up for our children, and pulled them out of the clutches of these sick, perverted heterosexual women. Let the "straight" apologists say what they will, but the simple truth of the matter is that most child molesters are heterosexual. The only unusual aspect of these cases is that the perpetrators were female, while the vast majority of child sexual abusers are heterosexual males. And yet we still are asked to put our children in the hands of these heterosexual deviants each day we send them to school.

Well, I've had enough. We all know a pattern when we see one, and while we're doing our best not to bruise these perverts' feelings, our children are being inflicted with emotional scars that will last their entire lives. The scourge of heterosexuality is here, it's among us, and it's time to fight back.

Read more about these perverts, who are lurking at this very moment in your community, here.

Bush set to open military airspace to ease holiday travel. Is that really such a good idea?

O.K., color me cynical. But how can President Bush in good conscience keep telling us that “we are at war” (“Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war,”) and then turn around and announce that one of the ways to ease your Thanksgiving travel nightmare is by opening up the military airspace for use by commercial airlines?

(You may fill in your own thoughts here as to whether or not president Bush actually has a conscience ....)

Well, look for an announcement this afternoon from our dear leader, telling us of his plans. According to ABC News:
the plan involves opening up some military airspace to commercial flights — essentially creating additional highways in the sky.
Now, I empathize with everyone who has to travel by plane this time of year. I'm fortunate enough to have most of my family within driving distance, but I do travel by air enough during the summer tourist season that I have an appreciation for what it must be like this time of year. Really, I do.

But, again, I thought he said we're at war. And when you're at war, you sacrifice things (you know, like certain civil liberties, etc.). And so the act of opening up military airspace to commercial airlines smacks a little like playing to the people, to me. The Republican party is going down the tubes in all aspects of current life. What they need is a good old fashioned feel-good move by the Republican president. (Do I see Karl Rove hovering in the background of this move?)

Oh, but wait. According to the AP:

Congestion is not the only problem for air travelers.

A report made public Wednesday said government investigators smuggled liquid explosives and detonators past airport security, exposing a dangerous hole in the nation's ability to keep these forbidden items off of airplanes.

The investigators learned about the components to make an improvised explosive device and an improvised incendiary device on the Internet and purchased the parts at local stores, said the report by the Government Accountability Office. Investigators were able to purchase the components for the two devices for under $150, and they studied the published guidelines for screening to determine how to conceal the prohibited items as they went through checkpoint security.

At the end of the testing, investigators concluded that terrorists could use publicly available information and a few cheaply available supplies to damage an airplane and threaten passenger safety.

Loud sigh.

Wednesday Poetry Break: Finally!

I apologize for the lack of posting, and for the delay in your weekly Poetry Break. I had a big project at work yesterday and wasn't able to get this poem up for you. I wish that I had heard Garrison Keillor read this one yesterday when I was driving. You can listen to it today at The Writer's Almanac.

I feel this poem in my very bones this morning, having driven through the pouring rain on a very long commute to work.

Rain In Childhood

This was the feeling that the dark rain gave
on school days when the windows of the bus
dimmed with all our breath and we pressed close
in jostling slickers, knowing the pleasure of
being a body with other bodies, we children
a flotilla of little ducks, paddling together
on the wet ride to the schoolhouse door.
Once there, we peered outside appraisingly,
beyond the windows and the balustrades
to where the rain came down outrageously
and made the trees and signposts and the light
at the intersection swoop and toss
and fizz with gritty torrents to the curb.

That steamy, tar-damp smell of morning rain,
its secret smokiness upon our mouths,
surprised us with some sorrow of nostalgia.
Our past already had such distances!
Already in that fragrance we could sense
the end of childhood, where remembrance stands.

And when thunder pummeled the embrittled clouds —
concussive ricochets that made the teacher
hover with the chalk held in her hand —
we saw the lighting lace the school's facade
with instantaneous traceries and hairline fires,
like a road map glimpsed by flashlight in a car.

— Eric Ormsby

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Condi's legacy

Irony can be a beautiful thing. Imagine if by getting nothing done, you had a word created in your honor! Well, Dr. Ferragamo has done just that. Hat tip to Princess Sparkle Pony for posting this from the New York Times:

The long buildup to Annapolis, together with Ms. Rice’s many trips to the region, have given birth to a new verb in Israeli government circles: “lecondel,” meaning, to come and go for meetings that produce few results. The word is based on Ms. Rice’s first name.

George W. Bush will bankrupt this country

President Bush today vetoed a bipartisan education and health bill, at the same time approving an increase in the Pentagon's budget.

Thanks to Bush's greed for oil and vengeance for a supposed assassination attempt on his father by Saddam Hussein, (you didn't forget about that in all the rhetoric, did you?), our health care, education, and yes, security systems are a shambles. We lag behind all other Western nations in these areas, yet today Bush continues to lead this country down a path of destruction.

From the AP:
Since winning re-election, Bush has sought to cut the labor, health and education measure below the prior year level. But lawmakers have rejected the cuts. The budget that Bush presented in February sought almost $4 billion in cuts to this year's bill.

Huge procurement costs are driving the Pentagon budget ever upward. Once war costs are added in, the total defense budget will be significantly higher than during the typical Cold War year, even after adjusting for inflation.

Meanwhile, today's Washington Post reports that the real cost to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is more than $20,000:
President Bush's six-year invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq will end up costing Americans about $1.5 trillion, or nearly twice as much as the White House has actually spent to fight its wars, because of unseen costs like inflation, rising oil prices and expensive care for wounded veterans.
This will be the legacy of the Bush Administration when he is finished playing at being president. A nation that has lost the respect of the rest of the world, that is broke, uneducated, and unhealthy. And we'll still be paying $4 per gallon of gas, while Bush, Cheney, and all the rest of the oil mongerers sit on their ranches and count their money.

Shame on anyone who voted him into office.

Pooky comes out

No, not as a lesbian — I did that years ago. No, today I decided to post my image with my profile.

You may have noticed that I've changed the template here. I'm trying to create a blog that is both informative and visually pleasing for my visitors. As part of that, I thought I'd take the plunge and put my picture up here as part of the re-design.

I began this blog in May of this year as a way to improve my web development skills after taking a new job. I have certainly learned a lot technically, and have also found a wonderful community of bloggers. Sometimes blogging is like being at a rowdy after-dinner discussion. Wit and passion, (sometimes people are just so wrong! How can they not see my point of view!).

I've always enjoyed writing, but posting things for the world to read was a little intimidating at first, to say the least. As I've grown in confidence with my writing, I've been posting at other sites as well. In doing so, I have sometimes felt I was hiding behind a picture. The name, I don't mind. I mean really, Pooky Shoehorn is awesome! It means everything ... and nothing.

So perhaps at some point I'll get something nicer than a web cam image, but for now, here goes!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Support the Troops: Will we back up the bumper stickers?

The Nobel Peace Prize winning group Physicians for Social Responsibility has recently released a study estimating that healthcare for Iraq veterans could top $650 billion.

The study, entitled “Shock and Awe Hits Home,” estimates that the long-term financial burden to care for a new generation of veterans will far outstrip the amount of money spent on combat operations in Iraq.

From the Boston Globe:
"Providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans will cost far more than is generally being acknowledged," according to the study, overseen by Dr. Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Washington and a staff physician for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"As physicians and healthcare professionals, we are acutely aware of the actual price we are paying in human terms, and we are compelled to bring this to the attention of the Congress and the American people," the report added.

The estimate was derived by analyzing the current costs of treating debilitating health problems of troops in Iraq, including blast injuries to arms and legs from improvised explosive devices; the historically high instances of traumatic brain injuries; and post-traumatic stress disorder, which the VA believes affects at least one-third of soldiers serving there.

Sorry , Mr. President, there'll be no groping this time

Although it received little press, the Washington Post did make a footnote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought her husband with her on her recent visit to President Bush's Crawford ranch:
Joining Bush, the first lady and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bushes' Crawford, Tex., ranch this past weekend was Merkel's husband, Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor at Berlin's Humboldt University. That's a surprise only because Sauer seldom shows up in public by his wife's side and even skipped her inauguration two years ago as Germany's first female chancellor.
In case you forgot the grope heard felt 'round the world:

And here's how they looked at this most recent visit. I mean, I know the truck has a long bench, but could she get any further away from him?

Time for a little trash talkin'

No, this isn't a post about Campaign 2008. It's a post about, well, trash.

Saturday afternoon I was driving home from visiting my parents and listening to NPR. It's a little confusing to do that right now, because the local DC NPR station now has several channels in HD radio, and it seems that most of my favorite shows are on those channels. Hence, I started listening to a show I don't normally listen to, “Marketplace.”

This is how I found out about “Tess' Trash Challenge.” Basically, the challenge is to take responsibility for your trash for a week. As in, instead of throwing it in a trash can, you have to carry it around with you wherever you go. From the story:
For the most part, I've been able to recycle or compost most of my waste this week. We should have had a scale today, but I don't think there's one in the office. I can definitely say that I did not generate six pounds per day -- which is the national average. That would be 35 pounds or so to carry around and I'd be developing some nice guns.

I'm finding that the bulk of my "tossage" is happening at work. Our building's recycling program only allows office paper, glass bottles and aluminum cans. That's it. Quite frustrating. For example, that Starbucks cup that holds my grande extra-hot nonfat latte? Goes in the recycling bin at home. Goes in the garbage at work.
I'm not sure I'm ready to sign up for the challenge, but it certainly got me thinking. Even just visualizing carrying around my trash for a week is enough to make me stop and think when I'm about to throw something in the can. We switched over to cloth napkins a while ago, so we're good there, but we do occasionally use paper towels. And we're very good about recycling bottles and cans and paper, but what about all that extra packaging? You know, the little sheet of plastic from the box of tea? And, of course, there's the food scraps. We've tried composting, and maybe we will try again this spring. But living in the city makes it a very demanding practice, as our many little rodent friends would love to get at some corn cobs.

If you're interested, try out the challenge yourself (at the very least, try to imagine it, as I have). You can read more at Tess' Trash Challenge.

Rules of the Trash Challenge:

  • No kitty or doggie poo (it's a health risk)
  • No carrying into restaurants or malls where I could get kicked out
  • Really smelly stuff goes inside extra Ziplocs
  • If it's recyclable, you don't have to carry it around
  • Trash from work is included, as is trash from the rest of your household (i.e. if your honey tosses it at home, it goes with you...)