If You Got the Money, Honey, Bush Has the Time

Things Bush doesn’t have time to do:

1. Ask Karl Rove if he blew Valerie Plame’s CIA cover

2. Meet with Cindy Sheehan

3. Attend a single funeral for any of the fallen in the Iraq war

Things Bush has all the time in the world to do:

1. Entertain big-buck supporters on the ranch

St. Petersburg Times reporter Adam Smith’s blog noted that Bush and Karl Rove provided a leisurely barbecue lunch in Crawford to a group of Florida “Regents” flown in for the occasion. Regents are those who gave at least $25,000 to the Republican Party during the 2004 election.

Thanks to Florida Politics for calling this to our attention.

Arnold Proven Smarter Than the Rest of Us

This is huge. Science confirms what women have long suspected.

According to the print edition of The Week,

Researchers at Cornell University tested the effect of insecurity on men’s attitudes by giving a survey on gender identity to about 50 men. The men were then told that an analysis of the survey showed that they exhibited “weak” male characteristics – indeed, that their attitudes were effeminate. The researchers then surveyed the men’s attitudes toward politics, homosexuals, and car purchases, comparing them with a group of men whose masculinity had not been questioned. The threatened men were more likely to support the war in Iraq, more likely to oppose gay marriage and denounce gays, and more likely to express a desire to buy an SUV… “Masculinity-threatened men also reported feeling more ashamed, guilty, upset, and hostile,” says lead researcher Robb Willer.

So Arnold was really on to something with that “girlie men” remark.

In case you were wondering:

Women, the study found, did not change their attitudes when they were told their attitudes were masculine.

Gops Stole the Vote – Ho-Hum, Oh, You Liberals, Quit Whining

“Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots [from the 2000 election]; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably [Katherine] Harris’s “felon purge,” which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

“But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration’s legitimacy…

“We aren’t going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future? Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we’ve seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation. ”

Paul Krugman

Nightmare Scenario for Florida: Sen. Jeb

Florida Republicans fall into two camps: 1) Anybody But Katherine Harris, and 2) Jeez, O.K., Katherine Harris.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune said MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough, recruited by Elizabeth Dole, is:

…the latest on a growing list of candidates who have been asked to run instead of Harris. Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, Florida Senate President Tom Lee, Sarasota businessman Vern Buchanan, Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher are among those on the list.

Harris — whose political baggage most famously includes throwing the 2000 presidential election to Bush — has been euphemistically called, “too polarizing” by GOP leaders. What they don’t say is that her history of shady finances and her well-known zippy side — including accusing the press of doctoring her image to make it appear she wore heavier makeup and inviting Kabbalah mystics to try to cure citrus canker — don’t exactly qualify her as “carry-on” either.

But the scariest prospect is the one being bandied about the Sunshine State now. Harris herself has let it be known that the only person for whom she would step aside is the one, the only (please, Jesus), the King of Snide himself, Jeb Bush.

With only 17 months until Florida is free of him, the horrifying idea that Jeb could be our next senator is painfully easy to imagine. Like his brother, despite piss-poor management and a record of failure at every turn, Jeb remains popular. He talks the talk, in perfect English (something his brother can only envy), Spanish/Cuban/Puerto Rican, and most Caribbean Creole tongues as well. People say he has charisma (although I haven�t noticed). In short, he could go the Ted Kennedy route standing on his head.

Scarborough is saying he “leans against” running. Harris has said only Jeb could end her candidacy. Republicans continue to hope for a miracle. The rest of us can only pray that Harris stays in, and that a record of fair, decent, energetic, honest public service is enough to win re-election for the slow-talking and sedate Bill Nelson. If not, Washington is about to learn a whole new definition of the word, “nasty.”

Kanye West Speaks Out Against Homophobia in HipHop

As a middle-aged gay Hiphop fan (oops – forgot to add white), it is heartening to learn that a top new artist has spoken out about the homophobia that is rampant in R&B and rap. Kanye West, whose first disk, “College Dropout,” was among the smartest and most original debuts in recent memory, is the first big star in Hiphop to have the guts to call homophobia for what it is: bigotry.

I saw the story in the LA Times this morning but start here at Pam’s House Blend:

Kanye West says “gay” has become an antonym to hip-hop — and that it needs to be stopped. [He says he came to terms with his own homophobia] when he learned one of his cousins was gay. “It was kind of like a turning point when I was like, `Yo, this is my cousin. I love him and I’ve been discriminating against gays.'”

West says hip-hop was always about “speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people.” He adds that in slang, gay is “the opposite, the exact opposite word of hip-hop.” Kanye’s message: “Not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates. And I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, `Yo, stop it.'”

Pam adds:

Gay people, especially queer folks of color, need to come out. It’s the only way to effect change, and it’s the last thing the AmTaliban wants us to do — they want all of us back in the closet, tightly padlocked, in an “ex-gay” camp, or six feet under.

The MTV special “All Eyes on Kanye West” aired last night, but knowing MTV it’ll show again and again – so check it out.

Let’s Zap Iraqis with Rumsfeld’s Ray Gun

The scene: a street in Fallujah crowded with angry civilians and lurking insurgents. A Humvee stops a quarter-mile away. A Marine aims what looks like a television radar dish receiver at the crowd. Suddenly, people start screaming and running away in panic. The Humvee proceeds into the now-empty street, thanks to the Active Denial System.

According to Kelly Hearn, writing on AlterNet, that scenario could start being played out in 2006, when the first ADSs are deployed in Iraq.

The Active Denial System is a Pentagon-funded, $51 million crowd control device that rides atop a Humvee, looks like a TV dish, and shoots energy waves 1/64 of an inch deep into human skin. It dispenses brief but intolerable bursts of pain, sending bad guys fleeing but supposedly leaving no lasting damage. (During a Pentagon press briefing in 2001, this reporter felt a zap from an ADS prototype on his fingertip and can attest to the brief but fleeting sensation that a hot light bulb was pressing against the skin). ADS works outside the range of small arms fire.

Of course, as with any gubmint-developed (by Raytheon Corp., appropriately enough) secret weapon, there are many questions about the short- and long-term health effects of ADS.

What millimeter waves (MMW) do to the body depends on the dose. And about that, Davison and other experts have questions, lots of them. How do operators control the dose that an individual receives? What is the safety margin, rather, the difference in exposure time between it being an effective weapon and it being harmful? Does the weapon cut out after a certain time to prevent overexposure? What about people targeted at different distances? How do operators avoid unintentionally overexposing people at short ranges when aiming at long range? And what of individual differences in health, age, and sensitivity to MMW?

More alarming still is the fact that the devices are being developed for use on Americans by local police forces.

As key scientific questions go unanswered, a version of the Active Denial System is being developed by the Justice Department for use by U.S. police departments. The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, has issued a half-million dollar grant to Raytheon Corporation for a “Solid-State Active Denial System Demonstration Program,” according to the NIJ website. Alan Fischer, a Raytheon spokesperson, said the company is “working on a number of active denial projects, with various ranges. ADS may some day be miniaturized down to a hand-held device that could be carried in a purse or pocket and used for personal protection instead of something like Mace. The potential for this technology is huge.”

Rumsfeld’s Ray Gun — dispersing demonstrators from Fallujah to Philadelphia.

Gubmint PR Blogger Might Say Something Interesting — Someday

A new blog among the 30,000 to 40,000 that allegedly appear daily worldwide has entered the (ho-hum) fray. Ragan Communications, a disseminator of corporate communications how-to publications, conferences and other self-help stuff for professional communicators (read: corporate mouthpieces) has sponsored Deep Background, supposedly written by a high-placed government PR person who seeks to remain anonymous.

A quick gander through the site revealed a lack of anything remotely interesting or insightful. Although it is creating some buzz in some media, the site content is too self-referential and too superficial to justify the time it takes to read it. Typical of Ragan products, the blog promises much but delivers little. Maybe that will change over time as the anonymous blogger gets his bearings and figures out exactly why the heck he’s doing this. Or not.

Perhaps it’s better to leave Deep Background deep in the background. Stick with Pensito Review, gentle reader, for cool political and cultural insights, snarky satire and occasional outbursts of heavy stuff.

World Health Organization Issues Avian Flu Update

Excerpt from WHO’s latest risk assessment for the H5N1 bird flu virus:

Implications for human health
The poultry outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan are caused by a virus that has repeatedly demonstrated its ability, in outbreaks in Hong Kong in 1997, in Hong Kong in 2003, and in south-east Asia since early 2004, to cross the species barrier to infect humans, causing severe disease with high fatality. A similar risk of human cases exists in areas newly affected with H5N1 disease in poultry.

Experience in south-east Asia indicates that human cases of infection are rare, and that the virus does not transmit easily from poultry to humans. To date, the majority of human cases have occurred in rural areas. Most, but not all, human cases have been linked to direct exposure to dead or diseased poultry, notably during slaughtering, defeathering, and food preparation. No cases have been confirmed in poultry workers or cullers. No cases have been linked to the consumption of properly cooked poultry meat
or eggs.

Factors relating to poultry densities and farming systems seen in different countries may also influence the risk that human cases will occur. During a 2003 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, caused by the H7N7 strain, in the Netherlands, more than 80 cases of conjunctivitis were detected in poultry workers, cullers, and their close contacts, and one veterinarian died. That event, which was contained following the destruction of around 30 million poultry, underscores the need for newly affected countries to follow FAO/OIE/WHO recommended precautions when undertaking control measures in affected farms.

Pandemic risk assessment
The possible spread of H5N1 avian influenza to poultry in additional countries cannot be ruled out. WHO recommends heightened surveillance for outbreaks in poultry and die-offs in migratory birds, and rapid
introduction of containment measures, as recommended by FAO and OIE. Heightened vigilance for cases of respiratory disease in persons with a history of exposure to infected poultry is also recommended in countries with known poultry outbreaks. The provision of clinical specimens and viruses, from humans and animals, to WHO and OIE/FAO reference laboratories allows studies that contribute to the assessment of pandemic risk and helps ensure that work towards vaccine development stays on course.

The expanding geographical presence of the virus is of concern, as it creates further opportunities for human exposure. Each additional human case increases opportunities for the virus to improve its transmissibility, through either adaptive mutation or reassortment. The emergence of an H5N1
strain that is readily transmitted among humans would mark the start of a pandemic.

GOP Ohio Governor Avoids Jail Term in Corruption Case


Ohio Republican Gov. Bob Taft, the great-grandson of a U.S. president, on Thursday admitted violating ethics laws for not disclosing golf outings and other gifts and was fined $4,000, but avoided jail time.

“I accept full responsibility for this mistake. I am very sorry,” Taft said in a statement in Franklin County Municipal Court after pleading no contest to four criminal misdemeanor ethics violations. That plea allowed Judge Mark Froehlich to find him guilty.

He could have faced up to six months in jail on each of the four counts, but a plea agreement reached with prosecutors that Taft signed in court limited his punishment to the fine.