Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ahh the Beautiful South -- such a shining example of tolerance and Christian love....

Slur Painted On Gay Fla. Couple's Home, Then Torched
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 29, 2005 3:00 pm ET

(Orlando, Florida) Police in Polk County, in central Florida, are searching for the person who torched the home of a gay couple after spray painting "Die Fag" on the front steps.

Paul Day and Christopher Robertson returned home from shopping to find their mobile home in ruins.

The couple said that it is the latest in a series of attacks - mostly verbal abuse by a group of teens and young adults hurled at them when they checked their mail.

Police say that a number of items appear to have been stolen from the home. An arson investigation is underway and a spokesperson for the Lakeland Fire Department said it appears the fire had been set in several areas of the trailer.

But, neighbors at the Kings Manor Mobile Home Park where the units sit side by side in rows claim they saw nothing.

Day and Robertson had recently done extensive renovations of the mobile home. The fire has devastated them both emotionally and financially.

The couple, in their mid 20s, have lived in the Orlando area most of their lives and say that homophobia appears to be on the rise.

State statistics confirm that. In 2003, the most recent year for which data has been released, 20 percent of all hate crimes were against gays and lesbians.

This summer has seen a number of arson attacks across the country attributed to homophobia.

Last week a gay club in Brownsville, Texas was gutted by arson. The week before, fire destroyed the only gay club in Fayetteville, Arkansas in what police there also are calling arson.

On July 9, fire damaged a gay-positive church in Middlebrook, Virginia. Police said the arsonist had scrawled a message on the exterior of St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ saying that UCC members were sinners.

The United Church of Christ endorsed a resolution days earlier endorsing same-sex marriage. The resolution was not binding on the denomination's 1.3 million members.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Canada Becomes 1st New World Country To Legalize Gay marriage
by Ben Thompson Ottawa Bureau

Posted: July 20, 2005 12:30 am ET
Updated 11:00 am ET

(Ottawa) With the stroke of a vice-regal pen Canada becomes the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

The federal government's gay marriage legislation passed its final hurdle shortly before midnight following a raucous, emotional debate in the Senate. (story)

The final word in the debate came from Ione Christensen, the 71-year-old Liberal senator from the Yukon. To a hushed chamber Chistensen read an e-mail from a constituent.

"You have no idea what a difference it makes to the human spirit to know that you are treated equally under the law,'' the e-mail said.

With that, members of the upper chamber were called in for a three-minute vote that came after about three years of political and legal battles.

The Senate voted 47-21 to pass the bill that allows civil marriage for same-sex couples. Three senators abstained. There are currently 95 sitting senators and 10 vacancies in the appointed upper house.

When the vote was tallied the chamber erupted in a loud cheer.

"I'm so proud to be Canadian," Laurie Aaron, executive director of Canadians for Equal Marriage told

"This is a country where quality, inclusion and mutual respect are so important."

The legislation sailed through the House of Commons on June 28.

The law goes into effect Wednesday afternoon when it receives royal assent. It affects the four regions of Canada where same-sex marriage has not already been declared legal by courts.

"Same-sex, same rights,'' said Liberal Senator Jim Munson following the vote.

Conservatives in the chamber had attempted to using stalling tactics to delay passage until fall hoping it could then be put off until an election is called in the winter. The Liberals, however, refused to budge. After a threat of invoking cloture - the process of cutting off debate - the measure was put to a vote.

Tories are still threatening to derail gay marriage. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has said he would bring in legislation to repeal gay marriage an convert those already performed to civil unions.

While opposition to same-sex marriage worked for US President George Bush in last November's election two recent polls shows the approach appears to be having an opposite effect in Canada.

One poll shows the Liberals have bounced back and hold a 10 percentage point lead over the Conservatives. If an election were held today the numbers would give the Liberals a majority government

The other survey shows that Canadians have become comfortable with same-sex marriage. The Globe & Mail/CTV poll shows that 55 percent of Canadians surveyed say the next government should let same-sex legislation stand. Only 39 percent said they would like to see an attempt made to repeal it.

Same-sex marriage already is legal in 8 of Canada's 10 provinces and one of the three territories.

The government of Prince Edward Island, one of the two provinces impacted by the new law, has already said that it will amend dozens of laws affecting families to conform to the new definition of marriage.

Alberta, the other province, had fought the legislation but now says it will not challenge the federal law. The conservative province, however says it will bring in legislation to allow civil servants and marriage commissioners who oppose gay marriage to refuse to perform the ceremonies.

The law makes Canada the fourth country - after Holland, Belgium and Spain, and the first in the Americas - to legalize same-sex marriage.

Senate passes same-sex legislation
Last Updated Wed, 20 Jul 2005 13:31:50 EDT
CBC News
Legislation giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry will become law after it receives royal assent as early as Wednesday.

In a late-night vote on Tuesday, the Senate approved the Liberal government's controversial Bill C-38 by a 46-22 vote. Three senators abstained.

The historic vote comes after gay and lesbian couples launched lawsuits in different provinces demanding the right to marry.

Courts in seven provinces agreed that the traditional definition of marriage violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Liberal government responded to the first of those rulings – in Ontario in 2003 – by introducing legislation which was adopted last month in the House of Commons.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said he will bring back the same-sex debate if he's elected prime minister.

The bill will become law when it receives royal assent as early as Wednesday.

Once signed by the Governor General, Canada will follow the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain as countries legalizing gay marriage.

Tory motion rejected

Senators rejected a Conservative motion stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people.

"It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.

B.C. Senator Gerry St. Germain, an outspoken critic of the bill, fears judges are determining policies that should be decided by conscience.

"If we don't stop this ... I know what the next steps are. Euthanasia. Decriminalization of marijuana," said St. Germain.

But Senator Nancy Ruth, who voted for the bill, danced in the red chamber moments before the vote.

"There are some reasons to dance tonight and the whole country should be dancing," she said.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I Cannot Yet Skin A Deer
Are you prepared for the Big Collapse? Peak Oil? Rural life? Can you pickle meat and eat bark?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, July 15, 2005

Rare is the opportunity to use authentic, down 'n' dirty rural survival skills in the city. It's true.

You don't need to know, for example, how to skin a deer or pickle your own asparagus or nurture an understanding of which kind of deadwood is best for cookin' pig snouts over the fire pit, or how to shingle your roof with rocks and clay, or how to dig really large holes in the backyard for long-term storage of winter wheat and dead chickens and hoary annoying relatives.

City-bred skills and intuitions are, to be sure, unique. But there will apparently be very little call, after the Bush-branded apocalypse rains down, for knowledge of which seat in the café gets the best Wi-Fi signal or where to find the finest burrito after midnight in the Mission when you are post-coitally blissed and in need of refueling.

Very little call, after the Big Ungodly Crash, for knowledge of where to get the most amazing cheap dim sum, how much the large bottle of Astroglide costs at the local Good Vibrations, or which tiny parking spaces in my girlfriend's neighborhood I can sneak into for emergency booty calls without her uptight neighbors calling Bob's Towing.

This all comes to mind as I realize, with increasing sense of dread and alarm and a weird sense of fatalistic ennui, that if any of the dire prognostications for the world soon comes to pass, if the oil crisis strikes as violently as predicted and/or if the eviscerated U.S. economy spirals us into a new and violent Great Depression 2.0 and/or if BushCo does indeed succeed in bringing the wrath of an angry spiteful homophobic God down upon the swarming gay-lovin' tofu-sucking heathen masses, I might not be as well prepared as I'd like.

I am not at all ready for the big return to the agrarian life, as predicted by the most dire Peak Oil prognosticators. I am not at all ready to have the devastated cities plowed under, so that we may plant crops in the ravaged landscape in a desperate attempt to survive the onslaught of a world without home pizza delivery and without drive-thru dry cleaning and without instant and immediate access to supermarkets with their 47 kinds of pasta and 138 different brands of vodka, not to mention the meaty edible flesh of nearly any animal I wish to custom order from the Williams-Sonoma catalog and have FedExed to me within 24 hours in pretty decorated tins. Mmm, prosciutto.

I have no immediate escape route. I do not have land nearby, in the woods, protected by razor wire and laser fencing and large angry dogs. I do not have some place that has enormous underground tanks of propane and oil and grains and canned tomatoes and frozen elk meat and mountains of small-gauge ammunition and stores of camouflage underwear.

I do not know how to dig a water well. I do not know how to install a septic pump. I know not the best month in which to plant potatoes and corn and peas and opium poppies. I cannot knit blankets or sweaters, much less some nice handmade cozies to protect my Pyrex-glass dildo collection.

I currently own no power tools, save for a single small Black & Decker rechargeable drill which I use, of course, not for building a family shelter out of rusty car hoods and not for remodeling my nonexistent garage so it can support a family of 10 and not for cobbling together a chicken coop from scrap wood and baling wire and mesh, but rather, for hanging bitchin' shelving cubes from West Elm.

Oh, make no mistake, the city offers its own dangers and there are plenty of urban survival skills mandatory for navigating the urban jungle, such as learning how to deftly avoid eye contact with ranting homeless people and how to appear tough and muscular when you walk by those small gangs of slouchy angry hooded dudes who look at you like you're the fish and they're the dynamite.

I know how to calmly pray for a parking space a mile before arrival and which sushi joint has the freshest uni and which coffee shop makes the finest soy mocha. I know when Macy's designer stuff goes on double-markdown and who you have to know to get wholesale designer furniture and which yoga teacher has the best kirtan, and how to get a large leather chair up two flights of narrow Victorian stairs and the best place to have sex in Golden Gate Park.

But alas, this is not nearly enough.

I will, when the devolution comes and oil is $200 a barrel and we are at war with China and the dollar is worth about three cents on the euro, be relying on the talents and largesse of others. I have, for example, a wonderful brother-in-law with his own ranch-compound up near Spokane, well stocked with guns and canned goods and copious hiding spaces, and it is remote and rural and ready to be turned into a guarded inbreeding complex just after BushCo finally mistakes his electric toothbrush for the "nukular" button and hastens the end of the world as we know it, just as the evangelicals are right now pleading.

I have a girlfriend whose sister is a well-trained organic farmer, able to grow an entire meal for 25 in a shoebox, well versed in mulch and compost toilets and soil types and what sort of mushrooms you can and cannot eat when you're out scavenging for scraps among the torched babies and the smoking carcasses and the giant robotic cockroaches.

But I am merely a hanger-on. I am not trained. This much must be admitted: When it comes to Armageddon prep, the red states have us city folk beat. Sure-sure, cities are the cultural and social and economic engines of the nation; sure we have all the Ph.D.s and all the artistic talents and all the book-learnin' and progressive ideas and cool European cars and the good wine and the better sex and the polysyllabic words.

But when the economy collapses and the End is Nigh, well, most of us shall fall by the roadside, begging for scraps from the angry evangelical Idaho potato farmer in the beat-up pickup with the little flags stuck on the bumper, and he shall chortle and spit tobacco through his nine teeth and turn up the James Dobson Christian Family Hour on the AM and drive off toward the mushroom cloud, whistling.

The red states will finally rule the world. They will survive. They know how. They can eat squirrel brains. They can pickle things, including various animal parts. They have been known to marry each other. They can subsist on bad beer and cow pies and stuff they find growing in the rusty tailpipes of old farm equipment. They know how to perform home surgery using only a rusty butter knife and bathroom caulk. They eat mice.

But then again, should this all come to pass and the oil crisis strikes and the economy nose-dives and the cities crumble and our iPod batteries fail and international commerce implodes and we're all rushing back to the farmland to hump hay and steal each others' wives and ogle sheep and rediscover a life that is, all over again, nasty, brutish, and short, well, maybe I will no longer care.

Maybe then it will finally be time to throw in the karmic towel, drink the special Kool-Aid, and let the meek inherit the Earth while the rest of us go to the stars. After all, while I'd actually love to learn to work an organic farm or build a cabin from scratch or learn to distinguish species of trees by examining their leaves and then having sex under their branches, it's just not much fun anymore when we're all out of music and wine and coffee and the entire nation becomes, well, Oklahoma. I mean, what kind of joy is that? And where will I park my Audi?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

See? It's only the beginning of the end....

Sea life in peril -- plankton vanishing Usual seasonal influx of cold water isn't happening
Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oceanic plankton have largely disappeared from the waters off Northern California, Oregon and Washington, mystifying scientists, stressing fisheries and causing widespread seabird mortality.
The phenomenon could have long-term implications if it continues: a general decline in near-shore oceanic life, with far fewer fish, birds and marine mammals. No one is certain how long the condition will last. But even a short duration could severely affect seabird populations because of drastically reduced nesting success, scientists say.
The plankton disappearance is caused by a slackening of what is known as "upwelling:" the seasonal movement of cold, nutrient-rich offshore water into areas near shore.
This cold water sustains vast quantities of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are the basis of the marine food web. During periods of vigorous upwelling and consequent plankton "blooms," everything from salmon to blue whales fattens and thrives on the continental shelf of the West Coast.
The larger fish and baleen whales eat mostly krill: free-floating, shrimp- like crustaceans ranging from one to two inches, the upper size limit of the zooplankton realm.
When the water is cold, krill swarm off the Northern California coast by the tens of thousands of tons. Now that they are largely absent, fisheries and wildlife are feeling the effects.
In perhaps the most ominous development, seabird nesting has dropped significantly on the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, the largest Pacific Coast seabird rookery south of Alaska.
Bill Sydeman, the director of marine ecology for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, a science and conservation organization that maintains a research station on the Farallones, said the collapse of the nesting season is unprecedented in the three decades the group has monitored the islands.
Cassin's auklets -- a relatively rare seabird that feeds almost extensively on krill -- have been particularly hard hit, Sydeman said.
"Normally they breed in March," Sydeman said. "They got started late this year, and by May they had virtually disappeared. We expect zero nesting success for them this year, or close to it. We've never seen anything like it."
Sydeman said other seabirds are also showing the effects of the reduced marine productivity.
"We have little or no nesting of pelagic cormorants (at the Farallones), and Brandt's cormorants are nesting at reduced numbers," he said. "Double- crested cormorant nesting is down by 50 percent (in the Bay Area)."
Upwelling cessation is typically caused by El Niño events -- warm water intrusions from the equatorial Pacific. But what is happening off the coast right now is not a true El Niño, Sydeman said.
"We really don't have a clear idea of what it is," Sydeman said, noting that standard El Niños can be tracked as they progress from the equator to temperate waters, something that hasn't occurred in the current case.
"Some are calling it an El Niño Norte; others think it's some sort of anomalous intrusion of warm offshore blue water onto the continental shelf," he said.
A recent study indicated the phenomenon may be long term, and linked to global warming.
Last week, Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- the federal agency dealing with Canada's marine and inland waters -- released a report saying 2004's spring and summer ocean surface temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and off British Columbia were the warmest in 50 years.
The study concluded the record high temperatures were caused by abnormally warm weather in Alaska and western Canada, as well as "general warming of global lands and oceans."
Some pulses of upwelling occurred off Northern California in June, Sydeman said, but they're unlikely to significantly increase marine productivity.
"Upwelling has slackened along all the West Coast, except for a little bit of recent activity off Northern California," Sydeman said. "At this point, it's too little and too late. Things aren't going to turn around. For krill predators in this system, it's a very serious situation."
Juvenile rockfish numbers are also way down.
"We annually survey (juvenile rockfish) from San Diego to Cape Mendocino, and this is the lowest catch we've recorded in the 23 years we've been doing it," said Stephen Ralston, a supervising research biologist at the Santa Cruz office for the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency that oversees fisheries in federal waters.
Like krill, young rockfish are a significant food source for seabirds, large fish and marine mammals; they are also essential to maintaining healthy stocks of mature rockfish, esteemed by commercial fishermen and sport anglers.
Off the coast of Oregon, abnormally warm marine water is continuing unabated, affecting local birds and salmon.
"Things are pretty grim up here," said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service office in Newport, Ore.
Peterson said a major die-off of double-crested cormorants recently occurred in Oregon, and juvenile salmon numbers have dropped precipitously. Both events, he said, are likely due to the warm water.
"We do salmon surveys every spring and summer," he said. "Normally, we catch several hundred salmon in the spring. This year we caught eight. And we usually get several thousand fish in the summer. This year, it was 80."
Peterson said the water temperature off Oregon in late June is normally 10 degrees Celsius (about 50 Fahrenheit), "and this year it's 16 degrees (about 61 F). Our (upper layer of warm water) is normally 15 meters thick, and this year it's 30 meters. Krill numbers are down, and the plankton we are seeing are as unusual as can be -- warm water species that you'd find off San Diego or Monterey."
Peterson said it is unlikely Oregon waters will cool significantly this summer.
"It takes an enormous amount of (offshore wind) energy to push that much warm water offshore, which is what we would need to see for significant upwelling," he said. "I don't see that happening anytime soon."
Near San Francisco, salmon have switched from krill to bait fish, and appear to be holding their own -- at least for now.
"The fishing is terrific," said Roger Thomas, the president of the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association and the owner of the recreational angling boat the Salty Lady.
"It's true there's not much krill, but there're lots of anchovies and sardines," Thomas said, "and the salmon are filling up on those."
Thomas acknowledged that the bait fish wouldn't benefit many coastal and offshore birds.
"Sardines are too big for the auklets, and even for other species like common murres," he said. "They rely on smaller prey species."
In fact, say scientists, krill are the keystone forage species for almost everything that swims off Northern California.
"It's the krill that drive the food web dynamics off this coast," said Ellie Cohen, the executive director of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. "Their absence has tremendous implications for everything out there, right up to the humpback and blue whales. We don't know if this is a result of global warming or some natural cycling, but without the krill, you could be looking at a food web collapse."