2011: An Extraordinary Year For Gay Rights
This year was an extraordinary one for many things — especially gay rights. In September, the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly. And just this month, two female sailors became the first to share the Navy tradition of a "first kiss."
This summer, New York became the sixth and largest state yet — along with Washington, D.C. — to allow same-sex marriage. Phyllis Siegel, 76, and her partner of 23 years, 84-year-old Connie Kopelov, became the first same-sex couple in New York City to be legally married.
Siegel tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rebecca Sheir that saying "I do" was different from hearing it.
"I've heard those words before — [from] relatives, friends — but they never meant as much to me as that day," Siegel says. "What I did was feel a swelling inside of me. As corny as that sounds, that's what I felt."
It was Sunday, July 24, and each women wore white pants and a blue shirt — blue being the color of fidelity. Siegel says marriage has created a special bond.
"We call each other 'wife' and just laugh because it's so nice," Siegel says. But, she adds, they're like any other couple.
"We have our little spats, and then we make up, we tease each other," Siegel says. "It's just great. It's on a different level, I can tell you that. I can't define it anymore than that."
She says the biggest thing she was thinking at the moment she and Connie kissed for the first time as a married couple was how much she loved Connie.
"I didn't plan the kiss on the cheek and lightly on the lips," Siegel tells Sheir. "I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but I wanted it to mean something ... Talking to you is making me feel it again, and I'm becoming a little breathless." more
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Happy new year ladies; know your worth, know your place.
I thought about posting a photograph, but I didn't want to despoil my blog with images of men who are just as loathsome and vile as their Arab or Persian counterparts. You may Google image 'sikrikim' should you so wish.
It will yet be the proud boast of women that they never contributed a line to the Bible. - George W. Foote
Orthodox Judaism treats women like filthy little things
If a man and a woman are drowning in a river, first they'll save the man, 'who is obligated to perform more commandments,' whereas a woman's 'wisdom is only in the spindle.' In fact, 'words of Torah should be burned rather than being given to women.'
By Yossi Sarid
If you would like to know the source from which your brothers derive their brazen behavior, go over to the study hall and open a page of Talmud. It's true that the Torah has 70 faces, but the trend of these faces is clear: The source of the pollution is in halakha (Jewish law ) itself. What is happening in Beit Shemesh and its satellites is not "contrary to halakha," it is mandated by halakha. And the rest will be told to the grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters.
Anyone ignoramus knows that the Torah's "ways are ways of pleasantness," that "the honor of a king's daughter is within," and that "proper behavior comes before the Torah," but it's worth knowing more. It's worth knowing that a woman is unfit to be a judge, and is also unfit to give testimony. She is unfit for any public position with authority. "Thou shalt appoint a king over thee" - a king and not a queen.
A daughter, commanded the sages, must not be taught Torah, because "the mind of woman is not suited to be taught, but [only] to words of nonsense." Women are light-minded and have little knowledge.
And if a man and a woman are drowning in a river, first they'll save the man, "who is obligated to perform more commandments," whereas a woman's "wisdom is only in the spindle." In fact, "words of Torah should be burned rather than being given to women."
A man must say three blessings every day during morning prayers: He thanks God "that He didn't make me a gentile, that He didn't make me a woman, that He didn't make me an ignoramus." And it's not proper to speak to a woman too much, since "all her conversation is nothing but words of adultery," and whoever talks to her too much "causes evil to himself and will end up inheriting hell." And let's not even talk about the fate of someone "who looks even at a woman's little finger."
The extremists who spit at women, who call themselves Sikarikim, learned their lesson 101 times and learned it well: A husband would do well not to let his wife go outside, into the street, and should restrict her outings "to once or twice a month, as necessary, since a woman has no beauty except by sitting in the corner of her house."
Because inside the house - very deep inside - her glorious honor awaits her: "Every woman washes her husband's face and feet and pours him a cup and prepares his bed and stands and serves her husband. And any woman who refrains from doing any of these tasks that she is obligated to perform - is forced to do them." Some recommend forcing her with a whip or by starvation "until she gives in."
And needless to say, she is at her husband's disposal whenever he is overcome by a desire "to satisfy his urges with her." And if she continues to rebel, he always has the right "to divorce her without her consent."
And there are many similar halakhot, only a few of which we have collected here. Nor have we cited everything in the name of the ones who said them, for lack of space. The readers are invited to find the references on Shabbat - and to browse around - on their own; this is a good opportunity for study. We will direct your attention to Tractate Shabbat, which does a good job of summing up halakha's attitude toward women: "a sack full of excrement" with a bleeding hole.
Some people will seek to console themselves: It's true that this is the halakha both m'doraita (from the Torah ) and m'drabanan (from the rabbis ), but that is not what is taught nowadays. But it suffices to listen to the sermon the sage Rabbi Ohvadia Yosef delivered five years ago, based on the well-known halakhic work "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch": "A man must take care not to walk between two women or between two dogs or two pigs, and men should also not allow a woman or a dog or a pig to walk between them."
Treating women as impure and filthy begins with halakha and continues with actions. As long as the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties - Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union, none of which have any women in the Knesset - are not disqualified, their nakedness will continue to sing out and the nakedness of the land will be revealed. Haaretz
Previous: Watch Headbanging Jewish Extremists In Action Against Little Girls
Not only are they despicable, they are insane.
The world holds two classes of men - intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence. Abu Ala Al-Ma’arri
Friday, December 30, 2011
And when you listen to that nice Mr Paul talk about Jesus, you realise he's fucking insane.
Major Ron Paul Supporter Favors Death Penalty for Gays
Paul's endorsement from a pastor who wants the death penalty for gays exposes his links to radical Christian Reconstructionists.
By Adele M. Stan
December 29, 2011
At first it seemed like the moment of triumph for the Ron Paul for President campaign. The Texas congressman had won the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a prominent right-wing Nebraska pastor, just as momentum built toward a possible big win for Paul in next week's GOP caucuses in neighboring Iowa, where evangelicals comprise a majority of voters.
The campaign issued a press release on Wednesday, lauding Kayser and trumpeting his endorsement, citing "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." Then came word of Kayser's "Christian belief" in applying the death penalty for gay male sex, and the Paulites got busy scrubbing their press release from the campaign Web site. (The text of the release and a screen shot can be seen on the Web site Outside the Beltway.)
What reporters Pema Levy and Benjy Sarlin of TPM uncovered when they scrolled through Kayser's writings on his Web site, Biblical Blueprints, were not simply the rantings of a random fringe preacher, but a "blueprint" for the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, which seeks to make manifest biblical law as the law of the land. That would include the death penalty not only for the practice of sex between men, but also for adultery and insubordination by children.
Coming on the heels of recent revelations by a former aide that Ron Paul would not use the bathroom in a gay man's home or shake the hand of a gay supporter, and the homophobic and racist utterances attributed to him in a series of newsletters published under his name in the 1980s and '90s, news of Kayser's death-to-the-gays theology was hardly a boon to the campaign.
In one of the many pamphlets authored by Kayser, the TPM reporters unearthed this from a tract on the biblical validity of the death penalty:
It is not just the sinfulness of homosexuality that is known, but also the justice of the death penalty for homosexuality. In verse 32 Paul says, "Who knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
The mere threat of the death penalty for the sin of gay sex, Kayser wrote elsewhere, can be "restorative" to those so threatened. When questioned by reporters Sarlin and Levy, Kayser confirmed his beliefs.
Paul's Long History with Christian Reconstructionists
The campaign can scrub its embrace of the Christian Reconstructionist preacher, but it can't scrub Ron Paul's long ties to the Reconstructionist movement, from which the more broadly accepted dominionist strain in right-wing evangelical Christianity flows. As we reported, when Ron Paul exited the GOP presidential race in 2008, he chose to endorse neither Sen. John McCain, Ariz., the Republican nominee, nor former Rep. Bob Barr, Ga., the Libertarian Party nominee. No, Ron Paul threw his support to Pastor Chuck Baldwin, who ran on the ballot of the Constitution Party, sort of the political arm of the Christian Reconstructionists. (Baldwin parts company with Reconstructionists on his idea of how the end-times will go down, but is otherwise well-aligned with the Reconstructionist agenda.)
Founded in 1992 by Howard Phillips, a follower of Christian Reconstructionism founder Rousas John Rushdoony, the Constitution Party offers this in the preamble to the party platform:
The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.
Hard-core Christian Reconstructionists like Kayser and Phillips (who is also a founder of the modern religious right and a close ally of Ron Paul) aren't easy to come by, despite the profound but often undetected influence of Reconstructionist thought on right-wing evangelical churches. One area of difference between Reconstructionists and more garden-variety evangelicals is toward Israel and the vision of the end-times. The more common position among evangelicals is premillennialist, meaning that Israel must be constituted as a nation before Jesus will return to rule the righteous. As we reported last August, Reconstructionists adhere to the view expressed by Ron Paul at a "Pastor's Forum" at Chuck Baldwin's Pensacola, Fla., church -- that Christians are the new "chosen people," and the righteous must rule for 1,000 years before Jesus will return. More, full story with links.
It wasn't the first image in this series of four that caught my eye and my admiration the way it did, I had to search out that one and the two others. Indeed it was the second one in the group that was first brought to my notice, and that for me, epitomised every thing that makes a photo iconic.
A lone slip of a girl silently protesting, surrounded by the burly troopers of the American Police State. That alone would have been plenty; but the cable ties! Oh what a gift to any photograph of this genre, you couldn't ask for more.
Little wonder her father is proud of her, as I would be too.
Frankie Hughes, fourteen years old, bless you girl, bless you indeed.
Update: Could someone please leave me a linkback to to the facebook site that is running this story. I would be interested in public opinion. Thank you.
Fourteen Year-Old Girl Among Dozen 'Occupy the Caucus' Protesters in Iowa
By Brett Smiley
Police arrested a dozen Occupy the Caucus protesters who blocked the doors to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, including 14-year-old Frankie Hughes who wore tape over her mouth and a sandwich sign that identified her as “a child whose voice is not heard." This isn't the girl's first rodeo with police, either. She said she's been arrested three or four times before, once at the State Capitol, according to the Times.
In this case, Frankie joined protesters who voiced concerns about Obama's ties to Wall Street, among other things. She was released to her father who said “I’m actually proud of her for standing up the way she did.” Better a serial protester than a problem child. NYmag.com
In fact, I have just given Frankie Hughes her own tag, something tells me this isn't going to be the last we shall hear about this remarkable girl.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Fairewinds' chief engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses whether the accidents at Fukushima were a meltdown, a melt-through, or a China Syndrome. Whatever the accidents are named, thousands of tons of water contaminated with plutonium, uranium, and other very toxic radioactive isotopes are flooding the site, the surrounding water table, and the ocean.
Arnie Gundersen appears on EcoReview to speak about the impact that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will have on the world's oceans. Fairewinds
I wouldn't put it past the US to even snatch the man, and who in this country would say boo, if they did just that? We have witnessed very recently what kind of backbone this country displays when dealing with its masters. The Wail or the Telegraph
And there is no little danger in the details:
...The Army is seeking to establish a precedent with the Manning case that will effectively militarize the Internet and media because “terrorists” may learn about US government secrets. Under such conditions, whistleblowers who divulge covert activities of the US government, as well as journalists who report them, could be accused of aiding terrorists, detained by the military or tried for espionage.
Manning prosecution lays basis for terror charge against WikiLeaks founder Assange
By Naomi Spencer
December 26, 2011
In pre-trial proceedings against Army Private Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland this week, the Army’s lead prosecutor presented evidence purportedly linking Manning directly to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and alleged that by publishing documents leaked by Manning, WikiLeaks and Assange had aided terrorists, including Al Qaeda.
The proceedings concluded Thursday after less than a week of hearings. Manning is charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including evidence of US war crimes, to WikiLeaks.
The closing arguments of Captain Ashden Fein make clear that the United States government is seeking to use its prosecution of Manning, a 24-year-old soldier and former intelligence analyst, to lay the basis for extraditing Assange to the US and either prosecuting him as a terrorist or locking him away indefinitely in a military prison without any recourse to the courts or due process.
The attempt of the prosecution in the Manning case to make an amalgam between Manning, Assange and Al Qaeda is particularly ominous given the passage last week of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes authorization for the US president to order the indefinite military detention without trial of anyone, citizen or non-citizen, whom the president names as a terrorist.
Assange is currently in Britain, appealing to Britain’s Supreme Court an extradition order to Sweden on the basis of trumped-up sex charges. If extradited to Sweden, Assange will likely face extradition to the US.
By alleging as well that Manning aided Al Qaeda, the prosecution is escalating a strategy aimed at coercing Manning to implicate Assange. Without having even been formally charged, Manning was held in solitary confinement for months on end and subjected to forced nakedness and sleep deprivation among other forms of torture.
The central purpose of his treatment from the time he was detained 19 months ago has been to “strong-arm” the young man into a plea bargain in which he is called to testify against Assange.
The presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, will issue a recommendation by January 16 as to whether Manning will face court martial.
He faces 22 charges under the Espionage Act, including “aiding the enemy,” which carries a maximum sentence of death. Prosecutors have stated that the military will instead pursue a sentence of life in prison, although under court martial Manning may still be subject to capital punishment.
The military prosecutor, Captain Fein, told the court that Manning had been “trained and trusted to use multiple intelligence systems.” Fein continued: “He used that training to defy that trust. He abused our trust. Ultimately, he aided the enemies of the United States by indirectly giving them intelligence through WikiLeaks.”
Fein exhibited excerpts of an alleged Internet chat between Manning and Assange. In the alleged exchange, Assange assists Manning in obtaining a password to access classified material.
Baher Azmy, an attorney for Assange with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the government’s evidence is not verifiable. “We have no access to and cannot review or see the government’s evidence,” he told the Washington Post. “We do not know if it is reliable.”
The prosecution also played a video purportedly showing a member of Al Qaeda urging militants to study WikiLeaks material. “The solution for Jihadis is to head to the free Internet,” the narrator declares.
“Manning was a trained analyst,” Fein said. “He knew Al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States. He knew they collected information from the Internet. He knowingly gave information through WikiLeaks to them.”
“Manning gave the enemy of the United States unfettered access to classified documents,” Fein concluded.
Through such an argument, the military and the Obama administration are seeking to define WikiLeaks as an organization that aids terrorism. The Army is seeking to establish a precedent with the Manning case that will effectively militarize the Internet and media because “terrorists” may learn about US government secrets. Under such conditions, whistleblowers who divulge covert activities of the US government, as well as journalists who report them, could be accused of aiding terrorists, detained by the military or tried for espionage.
In response to this aggressive and anti-democratic argument, Manning’s lawyers did not counterpose a political defense based on an opposition to war crimes, censorship, or the attack on democratic rights. Instead, in his closing argument, Manning’s civilian attorney David Coombs focused on having charges against the private reduced to three counts carrying a total of 30 years in military prison.
Much of Coombs’ closing statement concentrated on pointing out lax security at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in Baghdad, where Manning worked. He asserted that the military itself was responsible for instances where Manning and fellow soldiers committed chargeable offenses, including using unauthorized software and bypassing security. “It was a lawless unit when it came to information assurance,” Coombs said. “They did not follow rules, they did not follow standards.”
Coombs also argued that because Manning was forced to hide his sexual orientation under military discipline, he suffered from a gender identity disorder that expressed itself in emotional outbursts against his colleagues and the creation of an online female alter-ego.
The Army knew of his psychological distress but did nothing, the defense asserted, even after Manning himself wrote a letter to a sergeant in his unit about his troubles. “Everyone is concerned about me,” Manning had written. “Everyone is afraid of me and I’m sorry… I joined the military hoping the problem would go away and it did for a while.” Manning’s anguish was by all accounts ignored, even after a superior officer suggested the private required regular psychiatric consultation.
Describing Manning as “young and idealistic” with a “strong moral compass,” Coombs said, “History will ultimately judge my client.”
“The government overcharged in this case in order to strong-arm a plea from my client,” he added.
After the close of proceedings Thursday afternoon, the Guardian interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, who was among a group of supporters outside the gates of Fort Meade. In 1973, Ellsberg was cleared of espionage charges for being the whistleblower behind the leak of the Pentagon Papers, exposing US crimes in Vietnam.
“This process should not have had to take place,” Ellsberg said. “And the proceedings in this case should be ended in the same way that my trial was ended nearly 40 years ago” when the judge concluded that the government’s misconduct in the case went so far as to “offend a sense of justice.”
Ellsberg noted that President Obama had exerted “improper command influence” when he told reporters earlier this year that Manning “broke the law.”
Ellsberg warned, “What the defense lawyer today suggested is to get a plea bargain that would incriminate Assange.”
Also present at Fort Meade was Jennifer Robinson, a legal advisor who has assisted Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Robinson told the Guardian December 21 that the proceedings were more restricted on reporting than those involving Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Robinson spoke against the Justice Department’s vendetta against Assange. “This has confirmed what we knew already, that the US is still very serious about pursuing Julian Asssange and it only confirms our fears about extradition to the US are warranted.” wsws.org
Bradley Manning: Traitor or Hero?
By Marjorie Cohn
December 26, 2011
The end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq coincided with Bradley Manning’s military hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial for exposing U.S. war crimes by leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents to Wikileaks. In fact, there is a connection between the leaks and U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.
When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a “success” and “an extraordinary achievement.” He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn’t say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn’t cite the Bush administration’s “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq,” drawn up months before 9/11, about which Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that actual plans “were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” including the loss of American and Iraqi lives, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”
The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded - with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion that could have prevented the economic disaster at home.
The price of the Iraq war also includes thousands of men who have been subjected to torture and abuse in places like Abu Ghraib prison. It includes the 2005 Haditha Massacre, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians execution-style. It includes the Fallujah Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at least 60% of them women and children. It includes other war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.
The price of that war includes two men killed by the Army’s Lethal Warriors in Al Doura, Iraq, with no evidence that they were insurgents or posed a threat. One man’s brains were removed from his head and another man’s face was skinned after he was killed by Lethal Warriors. U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow Lethal Warriors in Al Doura. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which have been released by Pulse TV and Maverick Media in the new video by Cindy Piester, “On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows.” [ http://vimeo.com/33755968 ]. CBS reported obtaining an Army document from the Criminal Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation into these war crimes allegations. The Army's conclusion was that the "offense of War Crimes did not occur."
One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is the “Collateral Murder” video which depicts U.S. forces in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children. People trying to rescue the wounded were also fired upon and killed. A U.S. tank drove over one body, cutting the man in half.
The actions of American soldiers shown in that video amount to war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit targeting civilians, preventing the rescue of the wounded, and defacing dead bodies.
Obama proudly took credit for ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. But he had tried for months to extend it beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline his predecessor negotiated with the Iraqi government. Negotiations between Obama and the Iraqi government broke down when Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil immunity to U.S. troops.
It was after seeing evidence of war crimes such as those depicted in “Collateral Murder” and the “Iraq War Logs,” also allegedly leaked by Manning, that the Iraqis refused to immunize U.S. forces from prosecution for their future crimes. When I spoke with Tariq Aqrawi, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, at a recent international human rights film festival in Vienna, he told me that if they granted immunity to Americans, they would have to do the same for other countries as well.
Manning faces more than 30 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which carry the death penalty. After a seven day hearing, during which the prosecution presented evidence that Manning leaked cables and documents, there was no evidence that leaked information imperiled national security or that Manning intended to aid the enemy with his actions.
On the contrary, in an online chat attributed to Manning, he wrote, “If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”
He went on to say, “God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.“
Manning has been held for 19 months in military custody. During the first nine months, he was kept in solitary confinement, which is considered torture as it can lead to hallucinations, catatonia and suicide. He was humiliated by being stripped naked and paraded before other inmates.
The U.S. government considers Manning one of America’s most dangerous traitors. Months ago, Obama spoke of Manning as if he had been proved guilty, saying, “he broke the law.” But Manning has not been tried, and is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death penalty.
Besides helping to end the Iraq war, the leaked cables helped spark the Arab Spring. When people in Tunisia read cables revealing corruption by the ruling family there, they took to the streets.
If Manning did what he is accused of doing, he should not be tried as a criminal. He should be hailed as a national hero, much like Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers helped to expose the government’s lies and end the Vietnam War. ICH
GoDaddy accused of interfering with anti-SOPA exodus
by Declan McCullagh
December 26, 2011
An effort by GoDaddy customers to boycott the domain registrar over its support for Hollywood-backed copyright legislation has sparked allegations of foul play.
NameCheap, whose chief executive last week likened the Stop Online Piracy Act to "detonating a nuclear bomb" on the Internet, said today that GoDaddy has intentionally thrown up technical barriers to prevent its customers from leaving. It lost over 70,000 domains last week.
NameCheap has seized on a dispute over the Stop Online Piracy Act as a way to lure new customers.
NameCheap has seized on a dispute over the Stop Online Piracy Act as a way to lure new customers.
It's not alone: at least half a dozen GoDaddy rivals have seized on their competitor's pro-SOPA lobbying to lure its customers away. NameCheap dubbed December 29 "move your domain" day, offering below-cost transfers with the coupon "SOPASUCKS" plus a $1 donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Other registrars such as Dreamhost, HostGator, and Hover.com, and Name.com have offered similar SOPA-related promotions.
"GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete Whois information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process" in violation of rules established by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, NameCheap wrote in a blog post today. By this afternoon, the company said that GoDaddy had "finally unblocked our queries" and that transfers should now "go smoothly."
For its part, GoDaddy, which has reportedly called customers to ask them to return, denies any wrongdoing. In a statement sent to CNET this afternoon, the company said:
Namecheap refused to say who at GoDaddy was contacted or when. Instead, chief executive Richard Kirkendall sent CNET a prepared statement saying "all we know on our side is that GoDaddy was preventing us from conducting normal business with our clients, and in turn causing harm to our reputation and at the same time overloading our support channels."
"We were quite confident after significant analysis that this issue was not on our end, and after the issue had persisted for more than 24 hours with no response from the other party, we made a blog post clarifying what we felt was causing the issue," the statement said. In a separate forum post, a Namecheap community manager said, without providing any additional information, the company tried "reaching out to GoDaddy" but received "no response."
Criticism of GoDaddy coalesced around a protest thread on Reddit and was aided by Jimmy Wales' announcement last week that "Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy." It inspired GoDaddyBoycott.org, which urged Internet users and companies to "boycott GoDaddy until they send a letter to Congress taking back any and all support of the House and Senate versions of the Internet censorship bill, both SOPA and PIPA." The Protect IP Act, or PIPA, is the Senate version of SOPA.
On December 23, GoDaddy partially caved, announcing that it was no longer backing SOPA, but stopping short of saying it will oppose the legislation. And not until today did it post a clarification saying GoDaddy "does not support" Protect IP, either. (The GoDaddyBoycott.org site, which hasn't been updated, continues to say that GoDaddy endorses the Senate bill.)
A GoDaddy representative did not respond to a question from CNET this afternoon asking whether the company now opposes SOPA and Protect IP.
SOPA, of course, represents the latest effort from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies to counter what they view as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially offshore sites such as ThePirateBay.org.
It would allow the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines, Internet providers, and other companies forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish, a kind of Internet death penalty. It's opposed (PDF) by many Internet companies and Internet users. (See CNET's FAQ on SOPA.)
Accusations of hypocrisy help any boycott, and, as TechDirt helpfully noted, GoDaddy condemns intellectual property theft while encouraging customers to buy domains "that are perfect for infringing sites." If you try to buy the domain Chanel.com, for instance, you'll get offered "RealChanel.com" as an option.
Prior to its current public relations debacle, GoDaddy had been an enthusiastic supporter of expanding copyright law to deal with "parasite" Web sites. In testimony (PDF) before a House of Representatives hearing this spring, GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones endorsed Domain Name System (DNS) blocking as a way to prevent Americans from accessing suspected piratical Web sites.
Jones said that DNS blocking is an "effective strategy for disabling access to illegal" Web sites. It can "be done by the registrar (which provides the authoritative DNS response), or, in cases where the registrar is unable or unwilling to comply, by the registry (which provides the Root zone file records -- the database -- for the entire TLD)," she said. Cnet story with links
Fukushima Probe Focus on Regulator in Multiple Response Failure
Dec. 27 2011
When engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura took the job of heading the independent investigation into the Fukushima disaster, he said he was looking for lessons rather than culprits. He may have changed his mind.
In a 507-page report published yesterday after a six-month investigation, Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japan's atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.
NISA officials left the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake and when ordered to return by the government provided little assistance to Tokyo Electric Power Co. staff struggling to gain control of three melting reactors, according to the report.
“Monitoring the plant's status was the most important action at that time, so to evacuate was very questionable,” the report by Hatamura's 10-member team concluded. The committee found “no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice.” Even though NISA's manual said to stay at the plant, their manager gave the officials permission to evacuate, according to the report, which doesn't name the manager.
The preliminary conclusions by Hatamura, who specializes in studies of industrial accidents caused by design flaws and human error, includes a slew of planning failures, breakdown in communication and operational mistakes by Tokyo Electric and the government before and after the earthquake and tsunami.
While the utility supplied the electricity that kept homes, factories and offices running in metropolitan Tokyo, the world's biggest city, lack of preparation for power failure in the Fukushima station left workers reduced to flashlights at the 864-acre plant site, the size of about 490 soccer fields.
Batteries in cell phones at the Fukushima plant started running out on March 11 and with the failure of mains power couldn't be recharged, preventing communication with the on-site emergency headquarters, according to the report.
Because the utility known as Tepco hadn't considered a tsunami overwhelming the Fukushima plant, no preparation was made for “simultaneous and multiple losses of power” causing station blackout, the document says. The blackout caused the failure of all personal handyphone system units in the plant, seriously disrupting communications among staff.
Communications became so fractured that plant manager Masao Yoshida, stationed in the emergency bunker, didn't know what some workers were doing. The high pressure coolant injection system at the No. 3 reactor was stopped by a worker without authority from plant managers, according to the report. The reactor was one of the three that melted down.
In Tokyo, the central government's response was muddled by miscommunication between two teams working on different floors of the same building, the report said.
The report also criticized the government for failing to use its system for monitoring the spread of radiation in calculating evacuation areas. While the monitoring tool lacked sufficient data for an accurate assessment because of communication failures, its predictive functions should have been used, the report said.
The government also erred in keeping data on the spread of radiation from the public. “Information on urgent matters was delayed, press releases were withheld, and explanations were kept ambiguous,” the report concluded.
The report by Hatamura, professor emeritus at University of Tokyo, serves as a time line for the chaos that ensued when the record magnitude-9 earthquake knocked out power and buckled roads before the tsunami flooded backup generators. Radiation fallout from the reactors forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people. The government has yet to say how many can return and when.
Jun Oshima, a spokesman for Tepco, declined to comment on the report as the utility is checking the contents, he said.
Hotlines between the central control room and the reactor buildings worked following the quake, while workers outside the buildings could use a total of nine transceivers, spokesman Masato Yamaguchi said yesterday. The company added 29 transceivers on March 13 and 80 more on March 15, Yamaguchi said.
Failed Procedures More
China jails dissident Chen Xi for 10 years
26 December 2011
A Chinese court has handed down a 10-year jail sentence to Chen Xi, the second dissident in four days to be convicted of inciting subversion through online essays.
Another democracy campaigner, Chen Wei, was sentenced to nine years on 23 December. The two men are not related.
It is one of the heaviest sentences for inciting subversion since the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years on Christmas Day 2009.
Arrests and detentions have gathered pace this year as the Communist party reacted to online calls for protests like those that have toppled dictators across the Middle East. The calls, however, have drawn little response and no large-scale protests have taken place in China. more
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Christianity deserves better worshippers
Too many are like Cameron, part-time Christians of convenience who use religion as a weapon
26 December 2011
When politicians grab and wave the chalice of religion, they tarnish its beauty and purpose, turning its gold to nickel. Or let me put it another way. They sully and invade the privacy of faith and misuse God for propaganda and political games. The master of this dark art was the Ayatollah Khomeini, who swept into power in Iran in 1979. His political takeover was disguised as religious salvation and we know what happened next.
Saudi Arabia is the most loathsome, extreme theocratic state. In India, the Hindu fundamentalist BJP party has successfully sold itself to countless supporters and the apartheid regime in South Africa cited the Bible to justify its racism. Nearer home, Tony Blair called upon his Catholic deity to vouch for his motives when accused of lying about Iraq. The Pope gave him special blessings. These are the more dramatic examples of politicking with God. Just as common and corrosive is the everyday manipulation of religion by politicians.
Recently, David Cameron did just that. The state should be secular, religiously neutral. Yet our PM, once a spin doctor, appropriated divinity efficiently and timed his message precisely. He chose this season of peace and goodwill to rouse muscular, Anglican jingoism, partly to pick a fight again with "multiculturalism" but mostly, I think, to cleanse the many sins of his government. This is a Christian country, with Christian values, he decreed, and "we should not be afraid to say so". Only it isn't. When you consider our domestic and foreign policy or how people behave, Britain cannot be called Christian. And I wish it was. Truly I do, even though I am a Muslim. For at its best, Christianity is one of the world's most humane and tender of religions and deserves a better class of worshipper than many of those who lay claim to it. blah blah
Identical twin boys, one transgendered, become brother and sister
The twin boys were identical in every way but one. Wyatt was a girl to the core, and now lives as one, with the help of a brave, loving family and a path-breaking doctor’s care.
By Bella English
December 11, 2011|
Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but from the start each had a distinct personality.
Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.
Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.
Once, when Wyatt appeared in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said: “You don’t want to wear that.’’
“Yes, I do,’’ Wyatt replied.
“Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’
That early declaration marked, as much as any one moment could, the beginning of a journey that few have taken, one the Maineses themselves couldn’t have imagined until it was theirs. The process of remaking a family of identical twin boys into a family with one boy and one girl has been heartbreaking and harrowing and, in the end, inspiring - a lesson in the courage of a child, a child who led them, and in the transformational power of love.
Wayne and Kelly Maines have struggled to know whether they are doing the right things for their children, especially for Wyatt, who now goes by the name Nicole. Was he merely expressing a softer side of his personality, or was he really what he kept saying: a girl in a boy’s body? Was he exhibiting early signs that he might be gay?Was it even possible, at such a young age, to determine what exactly was going on?
Until recently, there was little help for children in such situations.But now a groundbreaking clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston - one of the few of its kind in the world - helps families deal with the issues, both emotional and medical, that arise from having a transgender child - one who doesn’t identify with the gender he or she was born into.
The Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic can, using hormone therapies, halt puberty in transgender children, blocking the development of secondary sexual characteristics - a beard, say, or breasts - that can make the eventual transition to the other gender more difficult, painful, and costly.
Founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Norman Spack and urologist David Diamond, the clinic - known as GeMS and modeled on a Dutch program - is the first pediatric academic program in the Western Hemisphere that evaluates and treats pubescent transgenders. A handful of other pediatric centers in the United States are developing similar programs, some started by former staffers at GeMS.
It was in that clinic, under Spack’s care, that Nicole and her family finally began to have hope for her future. boston.com
Monday, December 26, 2011
In The Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful We Are Going to Stone This Woman to Death
We thought about giving her the same treatment as the last one, but carrying all those stones into Evin prison was such a ball-ache, and let's face it, stoning a woman to death in a room just doesn't come anywhere near close as a public one does, on the rule by terror scale. (See post previous to this)
I don't think I need to say much more, between this and the two previous posts, I think I make my feelings for these creatures, their religion, and their barbarity, plain enough.
Iran says woman's stoning case might change to hanging
Sun Dec 25, 2011
TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery could be hanged instead, the students news agency ISNA reported.
A court sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to be stoned in 2006 but the sentence was suspended last year after an international outcry. However, under a judicial review being carried out she still could be hanged.
"There is no rush ... our Islamic experts are reviewing Ashtiani's sentence to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging," said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, head of judiciary in the East Azerbaijan province.
Ashtiani's husband was murdered in 2005, after which an Iranian court convicted the mother of two of having an "illicit relationship" with two men. For this, she was given a stoning sentence in 2006.
Amnesty International says she received 99 lashes as her sentence but she was subsequently convicted of "adultery while being married," which the human rights group says she denied.
Ashtiani, arrested in 2006, is already serving 10 years for being an accessory to her husband's murder in a prison in the East Azerbaijan.
A local judiciary official said last year that the stoning of Ashtiani had been suspended due to "humanitarian reservations," but did not rule out possibility of her execution.
"The sentence of Ashtiani will be carried out as soon as our experts announce their view," the official said.
Under Islamic law in force in Iran since the 1979 revolution, adultery may be punished by death by stoning and crimes such as murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by hanging.
The European Union called Ashtiani's stoning sentence "barbaric." The Vatican pleaded for clemency and Brazil offered her asylum. The case further strained Tehran's relations with the West, already at odds over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Two reporters for German newspaper Bild am Sonntag were detained in Iran in October last year when they were interviewing Ashtiani's son without official permission, highlighting the sensitivity of the case. The two were released in February.
Iranian authorities dismiss allegations of rights abuses, saying they are following Islamic law.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, argued in December that stoning should not be classified as a method of execution but rather a method of punishment which is actually more "lenient" because half of the people survive, the U.N. quoted him as saying. Reuters
As Amnesty International calls for an end to child executions in Iran I wonder to what avail their pleas.
Little I shouldn't wonder, the regime in Iran is addicted, it feeds it's addiction with the life's blood of it's victims, no horror is too great to feed it's insatiable appetite for cruelty, pain and misery.
It is a beast that has no place on this earth, but it is a special beast, it is a thinking beast, it thinks enough that it will not stop it's evil but try to hide it from the world by carrying out it's unspeakable barbarity behind the walls of a prison, behind the walls of a prison shut away in a room they stoned a woman to death.
They are disgusting creatures.
According to this senior member of IRI’s judiciary, “stonings are carried out precisely in accordance with Islamic traditions, but they are not executed the way they once were. And they are less frequent than they used to be. Nonetheless, they are still carried out in Tehran. For example, last year, a 32 year old woman named Masomeh who had been charged with having relations outside her marriage, was stoned in a room in Evin prison. Members of the judiciary repeatedly denounced newspaper reports that Masomeh had been stoned to death, even though they were fully aware that she had been exectued by stoning in Evin prison.” more
More from Iran.
Currently, there are eight women sentenced to death by stoning and 32 facing execution by other means, five of them are below the age of 20.
According to a source familiar with Fatemeh's conditions in Tehran's Evin prison, the judge who sentenced Fatemeh to death has taken it upon himself to personally visit Fatemeh in jail to inform her that she will soon be hanged.
Executions and barbarity Iran Focus
In most everything I have researched I have yet to find much, if anything, to refute her claim.
It must be noted that the lady that made this claim is a strong, serious professional, (head Sister of an intensive care unit) and was in fact married to an Iranian and lived in Iran between Nineteen Seventy Four and Nineteen Eighty Five.
It might be of interest also to note, given that this period included the taking of the embassy hostages, that she was unaware that the hostage situation was ongoing or even existed.
My intention in writing on this subject is to try to bring to attention the unenviable situation that is the lot of women who live under Sharia law/ Code and Islam. Though the two are different entities, they are but one. Sharia law is the law of Islam.
The Iranian revolution celebrated its twenty-sixth anniversary this week and I am of years sufficient to remember it well.
Well I remember it, but more importantly I remember the “Cultural Revolution” and the ensuing bloodbath and the slaughter of thousands who’s crimes included the capital crime of apostasy (the rejection of Islam) to “Enemy of the revolution,” the former being written in Sharia law and the latter we can take as a euphemism for educated, and as history has shown exacted a no lesser punishment.
Not surprisingly one group that was targeted in the subsequent purges were some twenty thousand teachers, who by virtue of being educated were all seen as enemies of the revolution, or were else arrested on some hitherto unknown crime.
It was perhaps at this point that the seed for this article was first sown.The moment has never left me as I laid witness to the evening news showing some poor tearful woman being led away to her death, her only crime being that she was a teacher, and no doubt her crime compounded by nothing more than that she was female.
As well you can imagine, it was with no little dismay that I first viewed the photograph that heads this article.
To snuff out that precious life and show the world the contempt these men of Islam feel for this wretched girl. Their contempt and cruelty hung in the public square, as she herself is, hung like some worthless piece of meat as a testimony to their injustice, their barbarity and this thing they dare call the religion of peace.
Disbelief to turn to anger, anger to turn to rage, rage to fury, and yes fury to turn to hatred. A hatred I might add that is cemented in me, cemented for all time. To hate with such a passion is far from good, for it can destroy a man, it weakens him so, it leaves him tired and spent, for hatred is a fierce consumer of energy and energy is something I have little enough to spare.
But in writing of this travesty I must put such hatred aside, for I must not let such feelings obscure the intent of this piece, which is to write about the short tragic life of Atefeh Sahaaleh and perhaps then bring to your attention the plights of other women and girls who are forced to endure the barbarities and consequences of living under this religion that calls its self Islam.Make no mistake in thinking that evil men are misinterpreting Sharia law to further there own ends, there is no need to misinterpret. Sharia law is an evil upon this earth and evil men do it’s bidding.
Before I continue let me make this statement; I make no apologies for where I draw the material from or links I provide for the purpose of writing this article. Everybody has his or her own agenda, mine here is to try in my own small way to expose what is happening in Iran today.
My attention was first drawn to the plight, though post mortem, of Atefeh when I read the transcript of a FrontPage Symposium discussing her case and that of other women in modern day Iran.
But before we examine the transcript a few points to bear in mind that are brought to light in the video.
The age of consent in Iran for a girl is nine years of age, and as such she is responsible in law. (fifteen for a Male)
Atefah received her first jail sentence and one hundred lashes at the age of thirteen for “Crimes against chastity”
She subsequently received two more jail terms for the same offence.
And her fourth and final arrest was based upon an anonymous petition whose only signatures were those of two members of the “Moral police” who’s overtures Atefah had rebuffed on the evening of her release from her first jail term.
(From the video) Iranian lawyer Shadi Sadr said (31mins 35secs) “It normally takes six months for an appeal to be heard, this took place within twenty days and a decision was handed down on the same day. Something is very odd in this case but I can’t put my finger on it.”
It is here that I draw your attention to Haji Rezaii who, as is the way of the Iranian judicial system, gathers the evidence and acts as both prosecutor and judge. And once having tried, found guilty and then passed the death sentence on Atefah took it upon himself to present Atefah’s case to the court of appeals.
This then from the first page, the highlights are mine and in this first paragraph are designed to draw attention to questions alluded to by Shadi Sadr (above) as she asked in the BBC documentary.
She (Atefah)defended herself at the so-called trial ) She told the religious judge, Haji Rezaii, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption not the victims. I've also heard charges(which I had suspected would be the story) that the Mullah judge, Haji Rezai, who was also the proud executioner, had in fact wanted her for himself as a "temporary wife" and because either she or her parents had refused him, he had become enraged and had turned against her and falsified her age as 22, so that he could execute her.
Update: I can't keep up with clips being removed. I'm sure you can find the complete thing on Youtube if you're interested.
Caution. At 26mins 55secs, duration 45secs, there are brief scenes from an actual stoning and a hanging. If you do watch, perhaps I might suggest you watch the actions of the mob rather than the fate of the victims.
Fortunately in the case of the former the video is of very poor quality.
The full transcript of the symposium is here, I urge you to read it in it’s entirety for it sheds light on many things, not least the psyche of the Iranian male and the misogynist society of Iran.
The Execution Of A Teenage Girl. BBC 49 mins.
2 3 4 5 6
Atefeh Sahaaleh Born Neka 1988 Murdered Neka 2004 Rest In Peace Next time, temporary marriages, stoning and other injustices. *What ever you do, don't leave a comment telling me that Iranians are not a race, I am well aware of that.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
And fair play to Bayshore Recycling Corp (BRC) and Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security (MOMPS) for making this possible. Good on you.
Sea Shepherd Intercepts the Japanese Whaling Fleet with Drones
Japanese Security Ships Move In On the Steve Irwin
December 24, 2011
The Sea Shepherd crew has intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet on Christmas Day, a thousand miles north of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Sea Shepherd ship, Steve Irwin, deployed a drone to successfully locate and photograph the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru on December 24th. Once the pursuit began, three Japanese harpoon/security ships moved in on the Steve Irwin to shield the Nisshin Maru to allow it to escape.
This time however the Japanese tactic of tailing the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker will not work because the drones, one on the Steve Irwin and the other on the Bob Barker, can track and follow the Nisshin Maru and can relay the positions back to the Sea Shepherd ships.
“We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets for this campaign,” said Captain Paul Watson on board the Steve Irwin.
The drone named Nicole Montecalvo was donated to the Steve Irwin by Bayshore Recycling of New Jersey, and Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security, also of New Jersey.
Captain Watson having received reports from fishermen when the Japanese ship passed through the Lombok Strait waited south of the strait at a distance of 500 miles off the southwest coast of Western Australia. Sea Shepherd caught the whalers at 37 degrees South, far above the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. More and photo's.
Quotes of the Week: From Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson to a toilet roll from the Sun
Piers Morgan on the Leveson Inquiry: “It's almost like a rock star having an album brought out from his back catalogue with all his worst-ever hits”.
Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times on the Daily Mail : "It has no sense of remorse or humility. It’s fuelled by hatred. It hates people who are successful. It hates people who are not. It hates people who are fat just as much as it hates people who are thin. It hates everybody. But for some reason it seems especially to hate me."
Kelvin MacKenzie in the Daily Mail:"High Streets cannot go back to the good old days — online and out-of-town shopping have seen to that. It’s the same story with local papers and corner shops — people increasingly don’t want them. And as every business person knows, the customer is always right."themediabriefing.com
The Independent in a leader on the Leveson Inquiry: "One conclusion might be that the Leveson Inquiry is doing the right thing, even if it was set up for the wrong reason. But this would be to make the best of what is, at root, a bad job. The question must be faced squarely: is it right that this inquiry, which could transform regulation of the British press, should proceed at all, now it is clear that it was built on a misapprehension?"
Steven Nott on his Hackergate blog after being described as 'one sandwich sort of a picnic' by Piers Morgan at the Leveson Inquiry: "Defamatory comments from former editors like Piers Morgan insulting a member of the public, doesn't bode well for the press not to be regulated"
Michael Wolff, Rupert Murdoch 's biographer, on Twitter : "Leveson reform could well produce US-style newspapers in UK. Of course US-style newspapers have all gone (or will shortly go) bankrupt."
Grey Cardigan on Twitter in Press Gazette: "No-one is safe from the faux outrage of the liberal Lefties who can blow a minor gaffe up out of all proportion. They are like the villagers storming Frankenstein’s castle, only they’re armed with hashtags and pixels instead of blazing torches and pitchforks."
Private Eye reports the contents of a note from Sun managing editor Richard Caseby to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger , sent along with a toilet roll after the paper wrongly accused the Sun of doorstepping a member of the Leveson Inquiry team: “I hear Marina Hyde ’s turd landed on your desk. Well you can use this to wipe her arse.”
Wearing cream and gold vestments by Armani, red patent pumps by Prada, hat by Funny and carrying a Fabergé gold cross, the Pope, speaking from the Basilica in Saint Peters, had this to say about Christmas.
"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."
Blessed are the religious.
Prison Nation regrets.
"Jiizas - di buk we Luuk rait bout im".
Friday, December 23, 2011
The Christmas War on Atheism: What's the Religious Right Whining About When It's Really Non-Believers Who Are Under Attack?Yes
Right-wing Christians are waging a war on non-believers' right not to have religion shoved down their throats.
By Alex DiBranco
December 22, 2011
It’s that time of year when, if you tune into Fox News or right-wing talk radio, you’re sure to hear the phrase “war on Christmas” repeated ad infinitum. Perhaps you’ve also seen Rick Perry’s new war on Christmas ad, which gives the added gift of rabid homophobia, while absurdly accusing President Barack Obama of leading a war on religion.
But in reality, this year, like most years, it's right-wing Christians who are waging a war on the right of non-believers to avoid having religion shoved down their throats.
Say “Merry Christmas” -- or Else
“I was working at Target the year  Target was supposedly prohibiting employees from saying Merry Christmas,” Kathy Johnson of American Atheists told AlterNet. As a volunteer wrapping packages, she was told employees were welcome to use whatever greeting they preferred, whether that was “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings,” or, yes, “Merry Christmas.”
That the claim was false didn’t stop the right-wing American Family Association (AFA) from mounting a campaign claiming that “Target Stores have decided to ban ‘Merry Christmas’ in their stores starting this holiday season.” AFA compiles an annual list of companies it views as waging a “war on Christmas.” Target earned a place in 2005 for these unfounded accusations.
For AFA, it’s not enough simply to talk about Christmas -- you can talk only about Christmas. When the Gap aired the jingle “Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, Go Solstice” in 2009, the AFA fumed that it would mention a holiday of “witchcraft.” An article by AFA director of issues Analysis Bryan Fischer made the strange argument that the Gap’s inclusive advertising followed in the footsteps of “atheist Nazis” who started the war on Christmas. In response to the AFA’s online campaign and a boycott, Target added references to Christmas in its ads.
Ruth Marcus put it well in the Washington Post, declaring that the Religious Right “reached its most imposition-of-Sharia-law-like level of intolerance in the campaign to cow stores into saying Christmas.” With a quick search of the company’s Web site, Marcus found “39,197 match(es) for 'Christmas' at Target.”
Let’s get real: Target clearly wasn’t waging a war on Christmas. If anything, right-wing Christians were waging a war on atheism, secularism and tolerance of other faiths, and fighting for special treatment: prominent advertisement of Christianity and Christianity only. But, because Christians make up a majority of the country and enough are swayed by Religious Right rhetoric, they have the power to cow companies like Target.
Meanwhile, Kathy Johnson was harassed by aggressive Christian customers who, when she chose to say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," would “slam their stuff down on the counter and say ‘I think you mean Merry Christmas.’”
Over the years, Johnson says, American Atheists has received “lots and lots of reports of store employees being harassed by so-called Christians for either trying to be inclusive or expressing their own personal preferences.” Johnson was not aware, on the other hand, of any case in which a store was actually guilty of banishing “Christmas” from employees’ vocabulary.
“I'm an atheist, and I love the holiday season,” Johnson said. “It's just sad to see these people, it's almost as if they have something invested in being a persecuted minority ... and if they can't be one, they'll make up circumstances where they are. And they do it every year and make themselves miserable in the process." Go to page two
No Justice for 62-Year-Old Man, Pepper Sprayed to Death by Florida Police
Nick Christie, 62, was arrested near Tampa for public intoxication about two and a half years ago. Concerned about Christie's recent erratic behavior, his wife had asked police to take her drunk husband to the hospital -- where he could take his medication -- rather than haul him off to jail. But Lee County Sheriff's Office police had another idea: They took Christie down to the station where they stripped him naked, covered his face with a spit mask, and paper sprayed him, until he died.
Fox 13 in Tampa reports:
The District 21 Medical Examiner ruled his death was a homicide because he had been restrained and sprayed with pepper sprayed by law enforcement officers. But to this day, nobody has ever been charged with a crime, and the Lee County State Attorney cleared the sheriff's office of any wrong doing.
It's been more than two and a half years and his wife still can't accept what happened.
"I was shocked. This was something out of a horror movie," says Joyce Christie. She said her husband was depressed and was showing signs of erratic behavior a few days before leaving for Florida.
She called authorities and pleaded with them to take her husband to a hospital and be given his medications. Instead, he was taken to jail for disorderly intoxication.
Her lawsuit alleges he was pepper sprayed 10 times over a 48-hour period, at times while in a restraint chair.
Monshay Gibbs was a deputy trainee at the jail at the time. In a video deposition, she testified that she thought the way Nick Christie was treated was excessive.
"He had a spit mask on and was naked," she said on the video while under oath. Gibbs testified that Christie pleaded with guards to take off the spit mask because he couldn't breathe.
He later died at the hospital. His heart failed from the shock of the pepper spray. The Lee County Sheriffs Office declined to comment on our story because of Joyce Christie's wrongful death lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial the middle of next year.
Kamran Logham, who helped to develop pepper spray, said after the excessive use of the chemical agent on Occupy protesters that pepper spray is only appropriate if a person is physically threatening a cop or another person. A photo obtained by Fox clearly shows Christie was strapped to a chair. AlterNet
Naoto Matsumura lights a cigarette, which he considers relatively good for his health.
"I would get sick if I stopped smoking; I have a lot to worry about.
Said he, living in probably the most radioactively toxic place on earth. He must be of the Doctor Shunichi Yamashita school of thinking
But not totally barking.
"It's now impossible for me to meet with Japan's mainstream media," he explains. "If I say bad things about Tepco, and the government, they won't run it because Tepco is their sponsor."
And then I kind of warmed to the fellow. How could I not, when a chap comes out with such a pearl as this?
One tabloid magazine, Friday, did run a two-page feature on Matsumura, with bizarre photos of him feeding an ostrich — which it quipped in bad taste was "the official mascot of Tepco."
Out of which was born a flash of inspiration, hence the new TEPCO logos.
And although you may think I'm taking the piss, which of course I am, I don't deny the man in the slightest, his right to live in any way he chooses. It's just not a lifestyle that I could honestly recommend.
I do need to post an update from Fukushima, there is important news coming out of there. I shall look to it presently.
But in the meantime, a light hearted approach to a far from light hearted situation. We may as well laugh about it as not, whatever our approach, the situation on the ground will remain the same.
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
Who said that? Oh do be quiet!
Lone Holdout's First Nuclear Winter Looms in Tohoku by Christopher Johnson
December 21, 2011 Japan Times
MIHARU VILLAGE, Fukushima Prefecture — As bitter winds blow around cesium and other radioactive particles spewed from the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's reactors, Naoto Matsumura lights a cigarette, which he considers relatively good for his health.
In the zone: Naoto Matsumura, who believes he is the only person still living in the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant. (Christopher Johnson Photo) "I would get sick if I stopped smoking; I have a lot to worry about," says Matsumura, 52, who reckons he is the only person still living within a 20-km radius of the world's worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
According to reports from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency published in August, following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, and subsequent explosions at three reactors about 13 km from Matsumura's door, the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) has released 168 times more radiation than the atomic bombs that razed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Living without electricity or enough money to fill his generators with gas, even as the mercury is already dipping below zero, Matsumura wonders if his neighbor's supply of charcoal will be enough to keep him warm through the frigid winter in his corner of the once-thriving town of Tomioka that used to be home to 16,000 people.
He's worried, too, that the hundreds of animals he's been feeding since the area's other residents were evacuated in haste on March 12 — some 400 cows, 60 pigs, 30 fowl, 10 dogs, more than 100 cats, and an ostrich — won't survive to see another spring.
"They need help from humans," he says while lighting another of the 20-odd cigarettes he admits to smoking a day. "My supplies to feed them will be gone by the end of December. They need food, and buildings for shelter from the winter. I'm the only one taking care of everything. The government should do it, but I'm doing it."
As we stand in a rice field outside the exclusion zone about 40 km due west of the ongoing meltdowns, Matsumura tells me that he comes from an ancestral line of samurai, and he was raised by a "spartan" father to work hard and think for himself.
A lifelong farmer, he's lived alone since separating from his wife 10 years ago. When his worried children, aged 23 and 21, called from their homes in distant Saitama Prefecture after the explosions in March, Matsumura says he told them: "Don't worry. If the whole world dies from this nuclear disaster, I'm still not going to die. I'm not going to leave here."
Indeed, this silver-haired, soft-spoken man of the land who has enjoyed playing golf in Saipan and the Philippines, says he now views himself as a lone maverick in a toxic desert — one hunted by an invisible enemy called "radioactivity" eating away at living things now and into the future. As the other animals perish around him, he wonders when it will be his turn.
All Matsumura's friends have left, and they no longer ask him to bring their stuff to them in the temporary shelters they must now inhabit. The automatic vending machines, which used to light up the country roads, no longer work.
After sunset, he is surrounded by miles of total darkness devoid of human movement. He has no television or Internet, only a cellphone that loses charge all too quickly. He stokes up a charcoal fire in his house, tucks himself into a futon, and goes to sleep by 7 p.m. — haunted by nightmares of what could be happening inside his body.
Waking with the rising sun, he eats another can of food, and takes his dogs for a 20-minute walk among barren fields. He spends daylight hours cleaning grave sites and tending to animals withering around him in their stalls, sheds and barns. Meanwhile, cows and pigs and other animals set free by their fleeing owners in March now fend for themselves in wild, radiation-contaminated nature.
Even nine months after everybody else fled on March 12, Matsumura says he is still shocked by the scenes of cruel death he encounters daily: the bones of cows that starved tied up or in confined spaces after they'd eaten all their fodder; a locked cage full of 20 shrivelled canaries denied by their keeper's panic even a chance to fly away free.
"People don't want to see dead animals. They would be shocked if they saw it for themselves. I see it every day," this animal-lover says quietly with real feeling.
His efforts to publicize the plight of the animals haven't worked, he says. He tells how he once showed a low-level government official around nearby Tomioka town — formerly famous for having one of the longest cherry-blossom tunnels in Japan — and told him they should at least take away carcasses. But even though Tepco brings in thousands of workers to stabilize the reactors, he says the official told him: "Sorry, Mr. Matsumura, we can't do anything inside the 20-km evacuation zone."
On April 21, more than a month after the ongoing disaster began, Matsumura joined a protest outside Tepco's headquarters in Tokyo. "I told them, 'Take care of the pets and farm animals, it's your responsibility.' But they only said, 'We are studying it.' They still haven't taken action," he reported.
In September, he showed two lower-level Tepco officials around Tomioka. During their conversation together, he says, "I told them to tell the top people about what they saw. Maybe they told them, but the top guys pretend they don't know anything," he said, pausing to light a cigarette. "They don't have human hearts. They only think about money."
Though he's not alone in lambasting Tepco, Matsumura's rage is more intense than most. He blames Tepco for "killing" his 100-year-old aunt, who he says died from exhaustion after being moved from several hospitals between Tomioka and finally Aizu-Wakamatsu in western Fukushima Prefecture.
"Many people died like that because of Tepco," he declares. "It's a terrible company. They have more power than the national parliament, because they control the supply of electricity, and they have power over the media through advertising."
He says Tepco, which will need massive taxpayer funding to stay afloat, has only paid nuclear refugees ¥1 million each in compensation (about $12,000).
Yet the company, which claims to be on schedule with its plan to achieve a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors by the new year, saw fit to present itself in a positive light when, on Nov. 12, it invited 35 journalists (including four from overseas) for a first media view of its wrecked nuclear plant.
"I think it's remarkable that we've come this far," Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told those on the tour. "The situation at the beginning was extremely severe. At least we can say we have overcome the worst."
Such hints of hubris, however, sit uneasily with the established facts.
In November, the esteemed journal Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences carried the results of an international research study led by Teppei Yasunari of the Universities Space Research Association in Maryland. This found that radioactive cesium had "strongly contaminated" the soils in "large areas" of eastern and northeastern Japan, including Fukushima Prefecture, while western Japan had been relatively sheltered by mountain ranges. (To view this report, visit www.pnas.org/content/108/49/19530.)
Since the release of those findings, the Tokyo government has recently banned the sale of rice from large swaths of Fukushima Prefecture after high levels of cesium were found in crops from Onami, about 65 km northwest of the nuclear power plants.
Though Matsumura, who doesn't have a geiger counter, says he somehow thinks radiation levels are decreasing, he believes it's not safe for former residents to return to Tomioka. And he's adamant that children shouldn't eat rice from eastern Fukushima Prefecture, though he does himself.
Parking his white Suzuki truck near Koriyama City train station outside the evacuation zone, he says that his plight and that of the animals in his locality is not widely known in Japan — largely, he riles, because TV companies have ignored him or repeatedly canceled segments about him.
"It's now impossible for me to meet with Japan's mainstream media," he explains. "If I say bad things about Tepco, and the government, they won't run it because Tepco is their sponsor."
One tabloid magazine, Friday, did run a two-page feature on Matsumura, with bizarre photos of him feeding an ostrich — which it quipped in bad taste was "the official mascot of Tepco."
So, as he believes himself to have been ostracized in his native Japan, Matsumura has made a few trips to Tokyo to beg foreign journalists to tell the truth about Fukushima. To reach him inside the no-entry evacuation zone, one such from Italy walked along railway tracks for 20 km under cover of darkness to evade police patrols. Searching for him, as their meeting was prearranged, Matsumura says he could hear the man's footsteps in a pitch-black railway tunnel. "When he was about 10 meters away, I called out ghost noises — and he was dumbstruck with fear. He later told me he'd thought his heart was about to explode."
Another visit Matsumura received recently was on a Sunday afternoon in November. The farmer tells how an ambulance suddenly showed up at his door. "I was a bit unnerved that they'd come into my house, and I didn't know who'd sent them," he said, adding that "they checked my body and my health, but they didn't find anything bad in particular."
He gets most passionate talking about the abandoned animals and about nuclear energy. "The whole world should stop using this bad form of energy. Anything we build with our hands can break someday," he says. "Governments should stop lying to us. Everybody in Fukushima — everybody — doesn't believe the news about the nuclear situation."
As he prepares to leave me at the station and return to his home in the no-go zone before night falls, he says that Tomioka, like other towns in the evacuation zone, will disappear unless drastic action is taken immediately.
As he put it: "Only senior citizens are saying they want to move back, not the younger people. Eventually, in 20 years, all these elders will pass away, and there won't be any younger generation to maintain the circle of life. Nobody will be left."
But for now, he says, he's going to stay. "I am not bored or depressed, because I'm used to being alone. I know I am doing the right thing. My own doctor says I'm a 'champion of radiation.'" Common Dreams
Hat tip to Maren, who is fast becoming my unofficial spotter for such items as this. Though the lady is double Dutch and meself single English, culturally and philosophically, I don't think we are miles apart. Europeans first I guess, individual nationalities second, in our world view.