Monday, January 31, 2005
Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.
Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.
Note to wingers from the reality-based community:
Any parent of an adolescent knows the best way to get them to do something is to forbid them from doing it, and vice-versa.
It's been that way since adolescents were invented, and no amount of denial will change it.
"State of Union speech could have war theme"
And the subheader -
"Past wartime presidents have framed it as enemy vs. us"
By the way, Junior - where is Osama, the supposed reason for this mess in Iraq and the rationale behind shredding the Constitution?
Archy has come up with a splendid idea – a Bad History Carnival. Read the concept, and judge for yourself.
Man, where to begin?
One could enumerate the countless ways the neocons have distorted or ignored history to advance their own twisted agenda, but I don’t have either the time or patience to get into THAT can of worms; not today.
I do welcome the opportunity to blast one of my favorite movies and ironically, a huge historical screw-up.
When Mel Gibson took on the project of bringing the story of William Wallace to the big screen, I cheered lustily – a lot of that “lust” had something to do with Gibson himself portraying Wallace.
For me, waiting for Braveheart was almost as painful as waiting for Lord of the Rings. Gibson assured the world the story would be historically accurate as possible.
That "as possible" part turned more into "anything goes". While the gist of the story is more-or-less correct, important details are either horribly wrong or omitted entirely.
Romanticizing the losing side is all well and good, especially when the losing side had a valid argument and their champion and his adherents showed great courage and bravery. But for Pete's sake, can we at least make the losing side's story more reasonable?
Speaking of Wallace’s adherents, Mr. Andante’s 22nd great-grandfather was Sir Nichol Rothirforde, of whom it is written -
It is believed that Sir Nichol was connected with Wallace through the Hallidays. Thomas Halliday was a nephew of Wallace, and a friend of Rothirforde. Previous to the Battle of Biggar, as narrated by Harry the Minstrel, Halliday brought his uncle a welcome contingent of three hundred "wee armed" warriors from Annandale, led by "twa gud sonnis, Wallas and Rudyrfurd " Among the chiefs who remained faithful to Wallace was "gud Rudyrfurd, chyftaynlik" with a lordly air, who with sixty followers held his ground against the English in Ettrick Forest.
Sir Nichol de Rothirforde held considerable land located in several different counties. His land of Doddington Mill in Northumberland was seized by the English King in 1296 as Sir Nichol was declared a rebel.
My own ancestry goes back to the villainous Edward I (“Longshanks”), Wallace’s nemesis; which all gives rise to the title of our family tree – “How The Mighty Have Fallen”.
I still love the beautiful musical score, the stunning cinematography, and gritty realism of Braveheart’s battles. It’s a story worth telling – and worth telling correctly.
There are so many screw-ups it’s hard to choose; but the most outrageous has got to be the idea of an affair between Princess Isabelle and Wallace and the idea that Wallace was the father of her first child.
It’s physically impossible, historically irresponsible, and just plain too stupid to go into.
So – am I by myself on this one?
What fantastical twist outraged you the most? The idea that 13th century Scotland was a backward, barbaric country?
In many ways, 13th century Scotland made 21st century America look like the Stone Age.
Or maybe the idea that Wallace – younger son of a landed Scottish knight – was a poor peasant farmer living in a sod hut?
Or the Battle of Stirling Bridge fought on an open field with no bridge in sight?
Or that Scottish warriors charged into battle wearing only sleeveless shirts revealing muscular arms and a kilt….ummmm, let’s allow that one – it’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.
Braveheart won a lot of awards, made a lot of money, and even influenced an election. But in many ways, it disgraced the history and culture of a great people.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Depending on the circumstances, he told the intelligence agency, some coercive methods could be legal, but he advised against others, the officials said.
Apparently, Bush loyalists are thick on the ground - it's just hard to find one that has, you know, any real moral values.
Our forecast for the day includes this -
This is a very dangerous winter weather situation. Travel in the warning area is not recommended from later this morning through Sunday afternoon. If you leave the safety of indoors... you are putting your life at risk. Accumulations of ice may result in widespread power outages. Preparations should be completed as soon as possible. Be sure you have enough fuel for alternate heating sources such as gas heaters and fireplaces. Make sure that any space heaters or candles are kept well away from flammable objects... and keep them out of the reach of children. Stock up on batteries and have flashlights handy. Be sure you have enough medicine and food that does not require cooking or refrigeration.
Can we all join hands and pray the electrical power doesn't go off? Fifteen minutes without electricity reduces me to a quivering mass of hysteria.
I know; I'm a wimp. But at least I'm a totally cool wimp.
Greg and Mustang Bobby point me to an on-line quiz - "Are You A Loser?", and I'm all set to proclaim, "I'm A Loser, Loud And Proud".
But guess what?
And I was so sure my "age category" (51-115 years) would damn me to everlasting loser-dom.
Must have something to do with my lack of tatoos.
Friday, January 28, 2005
It’s time for Mr. Andante’s annual checkup with the family doctor, and therefore time for the annual Fretting Over The Rectal Exam.
Alas, I am less than sympathetic to my Dearly Beloved’s concerns in that regard.
As I tell him every year, when the doctor sticks his hand up his butt and yanks out an eight pound mass of screaming baby, THEN I’ll sympathize.
In case you’re keeping score, here’s the list of recommended yearly tests -
Blood pressure measurement
Body Mass Index
Breast exam and mammogram
Bone mineral density test
In case you’re keeping score, here’s the list of health insurers that provide 100% coverage for all those tests:
Automated messages to constituents in dozens of districts accuse several Republicans in Congress of trying to jeopardize the retirement program
In a sign of the political dangers surrounding President Bush's plans for Social Security, a number of congressional Republicans said Thursday that their constituents had received anonymous, automated phone calls accusing the lawmakers of trying to damage the government retirement program by "privatizing" it.
House Republicans said the calls, which they labeled a "tele-scare campaign," had been made in more than a dozen congressional districts from Connecticut to Florida.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans were outraged.
"They won't even identify themselves," Greg Crist, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, said of the unknown backer of the phone campaign. "At the very least, they ought to fess up."
Republicans are running scared. Tighten the screws on the privatizers before they screw American citizens!
Krugman effectively and succinctly demolishes the latest Bush shot in the dark at Social Security as a bad deal for African-Americans:
...the deal African-Americans get from Social Security turns out, according to various calculations, to be either about the same as that for whites or somewhat better. Hispanics, by the way, clearly do better than either.
Bring it on.
E.J. Dionne on John Edwards' Gamble -
Democrats should speak with conviction about an issue that has always animated them: the alleviation of poverty. "I think it is a moral issue; it's something we should be willing to fight about and stand up for," he says.
Those who counsel caution, he says, would let calculation push Democrats away from their historical commitments. "They think it's associated with some political label," he says, carefully avoiding the L-word himself. "They think that a lot of people who live in poverty don't vote and don't participate and so they don't think there's a lot of political capital there."
But there are degrees or areas of poverty in many people's lives, even in people who consider themselves "middle class".
There's the poverty of retirement. How do you view your prospects of "golden years" if Social Security is jerked out from under you and your pension plan or other retirement funds have dried up?
There's the poverty of health care. Will a major illness or accident throw you into bankrupcy?
There's the poverty of higher education; for you, your children, or grandchildren. Is college tuition a nightmare that blocks you from the American dream?
Edwards, who is planning to set up a center to study ways to alleviate poverty, is enough of a politician to insist that he wants to advocate not only on behalf of the destitute but also for those just finding their footing on mobility's ladder. But he offers the unexpected claim that the very voters who have strayed from the Democrats would respond forcefully to the moral imperative of aiding the poor.
"The people who love their guns and love their faith, they care about this," Edwards says. "There is a deep abiding feeling of moral responsibility people have about those who are doing everything right and are still having a hard time."
If Edwards can speak to those of us who face broken rungs on that mobility ladder, he may be on to something.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Health insurance companies have been having their way with Americans for a long, long time - and laughing all the way to the bank.
I don't blame the Bush administration for it entirely - just Republicans in general.
So, I'm filling out an application for an extortionate individual policy with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and they want a very detailed listing of our medical history with any procedures performed, medication prescribed, and the outcome.
And I come to this questions:
Has anyone on this application ever had sinusitis?
I wrote "Who hasn't?"
If they reject us for that answer, I'll sue the bejeezus out of them.
You can take that frivolous lawsuit and shove it up your tort reform.
America's face to the world
The Peter Principle triumphs again.
She of too-many-screw-ups-to-count is elevated.
On the other hand, considering how irrelevant Foggy Bottom has become, perhaps this is the least harmful spot for the girl.
Here it is in a nutshell - giving proven incompetents the "benefit of the doubt", caving to phony wartime "patriotism", refusing to challenge the concept of the War On Terra, and lacking any sort of spine.
I have always liked Joe Lieberman; I'd love to have him as a next door neighbor, and in my opinion he is the legally elected vice-president of the United States.
But he's an embarrassment to the loyal opposition.
Lieberman Statement on Nomination of Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State - Jan 25, 2005
Mr. President: I have always believed that our responsibility to advise and consent does not mean that we have to agree with every opinion or every action that the nominee has ever taken, but that that nominee deserves the benefit of the doubt and that our responsibility is to determine whether the nominee is fit for the position for which the President has nominated him or her and whether the nominee, in our judgment, will serve in the national interest. And I conclude that Dr. Condoleezza Rice meets that standard, at least, and much more.
Secondly, this element of the context in which this nomination is put before us: we are at war. It is a war unlike any we have ever fought before. And here I speak of the world war with Islamic terrorism. It is joined on battlefield in places like Iraq, of course, but it is being fought in the shadows and corners against an enemy that is driven by a fanaticism and acts without regard to human life – others’ or their own.
I embrace the best tradition of American foreign policy that always has said that partisanship should end at the nation’s shores. And note that it doesn’t say policy differences should end. It doesn’t say ideological differences should end. It says partisanship should end at the nation’s shores, particularly so when our nation is engaged in a war – a global war on terrorism, a war in Iraq in which Americans have already lost their lives in the cause of freedom and in protection of our security.
The nomination of a Secretary of State in a second term of a president naturally is an opportunity, appropriately, for people to raise questions about the foreign policy of that Administration. But in the final analysis I hope it is also an opportunity around this very qualified nominee for us to come together and say to one another and to the world – both our enemies and our allies – that in the final analysis Americans will stand together, shoulder to shoulder, against terrorism – against the enemy – in pursuit of the freedom and liberty and opportunity that Dr. Rice spoke of in her opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and that President Bush spoke to in his Inaugural Address last week.
One of the great strengths that Condoleezza Rice will bring to the office of Secretary of State is that the world knows that she has the President’s trust and confidence and I respect the right of any of my colleagues to reach a different decision today and to oppose this nomination. But I hope and believe that the Senate today, across partisan lines, will resoundingly endorse this nomination and send the message to friend and foe alike that while we have our disagreements, ultimately what unites us around this very qualified nominee in this hour of war is much greater than what divides us.
In times like these it is important that the world not only knows that this Secretary of State has the ear of the President, but that she has – if you will allow me to put it this way – America’s heart. A heart that beats with the freedom and security and opportunity that we dream of for our own people and for the people of the world.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
The cheerleaders for Bush's privatized Social Security phase-out scheme obviously haven't had to scrimp and save for college tuition, only to see their funds eaten away by poor stock market performance.
My oldest nephew entered college in the fall of 2000 with a very healthy portfolio that was calculated to get him through four full years plus two for graduate school and enough left over to start his own business.
He started his junior year working part-time at McDonald's to make up the shortfall.
He graduated in May by the skin of his (financial) teeth. There's nothing left for graduate school or starting a business or even buying a new suit to wear to job interviews.
Can you get rich investing in the market? Sure.
Can you predict what your investments will be yielding when you retire? No way.
If you're unlucky enough to retire when the market is on the downswing, you'll be competing with financially strapped college students for those hamburger flipping jobs.
Monday, January 24, 2005
U.S. Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Contaminated; apparently with something like mouse-cooties. Follow the link for the science.
In August 2001, the Bush Administration set a new policy for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush declared that federal research funds could only be used on embryonic stem cell lines created before that date; at the time, several of the President’s scientific advisors believed that there were approximately 78 viable cell lines in existence and they would be sufficient for investigators to advance the embryonic stem cell field. President Bush argued that his new policy would prevent the creation and subsequent destruction of new embryos solely for the purpose of extracting stem cells. Moreover, in August 2001, researchers only had the technology to grow human embryonic stem cells using mouse “feeder cell” lines, therefore all the lines covered under the President’s policy are contaminated with mouse cells or mouse cell products. (link)
Add "several of the President's scientific advisors" to the long list of criminally incompetent jackasses who run this administration.
The United States has still only spent a small portion of the $18.4 billion (9.8 billion pounds) it set aside for rebuilding Iraq and is being forced to reallocate funding from some projects because of the poor security situation, a new government report shows.
According to a copy of the Bush administration's latest quarterly update to Congress on Iraq obtained by Reuters on Thursday, as of December 29 only $2.2 billion of the funds had actually been spent.
Bill Pullman (President): I don't understand, where does all this come from? How do you get funding for something like this?
Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson): You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?
Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using "reprogrammed" funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation.
Answer - War in Iraq
Question - How can Donald Rumsfeld and his merry bunch of lunatics get the money and power to pursue their own fantasies of world domination?
Sunday, January 23, 2005
...and doing more than a little screaming. I am seriously tired of cold temperatures, snow, ice, wind, and all the other wonders of winter.
Tired, too, of traveling....whether by air or road. Gotta deliver the kid back to college in the morning - the roads were impassable today - and I'm not looking forward to it.
I am most heartily sick and tired of right-wing, fundamentalist jackasses picking on cartoon characters to shove their agenda down our throats.
Especially when the cartoon character is one so innocuous as SpongeBob. Full disclosure - I've been a fan for years. It's one of those cartoons akin to Rocky and Bullwinkle or Rocko's Modern Life; the jokes often go completely over the kiddie's heads but they're hilarious to those of us with a semi-warped sense of humor.
Two goodbyes - Johnny Carson and Rose Mary Woods.
I vaguely remember Jack Paar, but Johnny was the Tonight Show host when the show was no longer past my bedtime. Good night, Johnny.
As to Rose Mary; as one who has done secretarial work much of my working life I respect the desire to protect the boss, but Rose Mary took it just a bit over the line when she "inadvertently erased part of a crucial Watergate tape".
"Inadvertently", my butt.
Nixon biographer Jonathan Aitken said the two hit it off immediately. Nixon, elected to the Senate in 1950, hired Woods as his secretary.
"She was intelligent, literate, clamlike in her discretion. Technically superb, she possessed the high-speed skills of shorthand and typing necessary to keep up with her boss's often frantic and always demanding schedule," Aitken wrote.
She denied she caused the full 181/2-minute gap, testifying later that she inadvertently erased four or five minutes. The phone rang while she was transcribing the tape, she said.
She accidentally hit the record button. A picture in which she demonstrated her action -- stretching one foot forward while reaching back to get the phone -- became one of the most famous images of the era.
When Rose Mary gets to Secretary Heaven or Hell (whichever prefers her) maybe she can give a more credible explanation.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Parade performers will have security escorts to the bathroom, and they've been ordered not to look directly at President Bush or make any sudden movements while passing the reviewing stand.
If there is a gracious God, may she allow me the opportunity before I leave this mortal plain.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Are you longing to go to an inaugural ball, but your ball gown is still at the cleaners? The tux is being altered? The diamonds are locked up in a bank vault?
The Collective Sigh society editor recommends the following alternatives -
The Billionaires For Bush Re-Coronation Inaugural Ball promises to be "Bigger, Larger, More Unchecked! All the Excess, Twice the Greed!"
The New Orleans Jazz Funeral For Democracy, while more block party than a ball, promises "Groups include military veterans, civil rights organizations, theater groups, regional peace coalitions, and gay rights activists" - you know; all the people Bush avoids.
Can't make it to those events? Pour a cold one and enjoy Bush's Inaugural Balls with Steve Bates.
When you get through laughing, click over to The Bush Dodge Ball and have some fun.
Back in the Stone Age, I used to fly the friendly skies rather often.
In those days, the pilots had distinguished touches of grey in their (full head of) hair, and wisdom slightly furrowed their lofty brows.
The stewardesses, as they were called back then, all looked like Miss America – from their perky caps to their slightly-below-the-knee skirts to the sensible heels on their shoes.
The flight crew on my flight to Dulles? When did they start recruiting these kids out of high school?
The pilot was a dead-ringer for “Goose” in Top Gun, and the co-pilot had a distinct Tom Cruise/fighter pilot swagger.
The flight into Dulles was delayed two hours because, as the stewardess (disguised as flight attendant) told me – the GOP high-rollers and their private or corporate jets had landing priority at Dulles.
As to the return flight….hey, we didn’t crash, so all is rosy.
It’s rosier now that I’ve made it home almost as fast as I could have driven the route, and it’ll be even rosier when the airline delivers my luggage. I hope they fix the mechanical problems on my first (cancelled) flight.
And I can now say I’ve sat in an airplane while it was being de-iced and watched snow plows clear the runways...a true exercise in mental discipline.
My daughter has never experienced the thrill of flying, and is intensely jealous.
How little she knows.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I'm leaving early Monday morning on a much-belated Christmas visit with my sister and her family up in Northern Virginia, inside the Beltway.
No, I'm not staying for the coronation festivites; we can't afford bail. I'll be back Wednesday morning.
I'll be putting a Christmas present from my mother to good use - a round trip flight ticket. I haven't flown anywhere in more years than I care to count, but I'm looking forward to it. It's a huge improvement on driving, especially if you go north via I-95 (otherwise known as The Great Eighteen-Wheeler Drag Strip).
Before I check out for a couple of days, I'll add my two cents to the "who should be DNC chairman?" question.
Any candidate who says this - "Republicans have a big tent; why can't we?" - should be automatically disqualified.
It's fine by me if Tim Roemer wants to be anti-choice. But anyone who believes the Republicans have a "big tent" is a one brick short of a load.
Social Security Agency Is Enlisted to Push Its Own Revision
Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.
More cost-cutting companies are hiring workers in other countries to do jobs formerly held by U.S. employees. But in a painful twist, some employers are asking the workers they're laying off to train their foreign replacements — having them dig their own unemployment graves.
Foreign replacements tend to be poor and cheaper to hire.
The folks who will benefit from "outsourcing" Social Security are buying a Ferrari with their bonus.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Is there some sort of theme song for Junior's upcoming coronation? If not, I've got a couple of suggestions.
How about one of the great songs from the Broadway musical "Wicked"?
When I see depressing creatures
With unprepossessing features
I remind them on their own behalf to think of
Celebrated heads of state or specially great communicators
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don't make me laugh!
They were popular!
Please - it's all about popular!
It's not about aptitude
It's the way you're viewed
So it's very shrewd to be
Very very popular like me!
(full lyrics here)
"No Good Deed"
Unlimited; the damage is unlimited
To everyone I've tried to help or tried to love
And, oh, Fiyero, you're the latest
Victim of my greatest achievement
In a long career of distress
Every time I could, I tried making good
And what I made was a mess!
No good deed goes unpunished
No act of charity goes unresented
No good deed goes unpunished
That's my new creed;
My road of good intentions
Led where such roads always lead
No good deed goes unpunished!
(full lyrics here)
Friday, January 14, 2005
Bush: 'Sometimes, words have consequences'
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," Bush said Thursday.
I didn't go to kindergarten - back in the Stone Age, there were no public kindergartens; only rich kids got the early start.
What was Junior's excuse?
By all accounts, this sad little man didn't stop drinking, partying, and start the mental-emotional maturing process until he was forty.
He may be fifty-eight years old chronologically, but on any other scale he's only eighteen.
I never thought I'd see the day the presidency was turned into a day care center.
You may have already gotten this in your inbox, but I think it's a pretty good idea and bears repeating & spreading around.
Not One Damn Dime Day" - Jan 20, 2005 (Mark your calendars now)
Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.
On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24 hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.
During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for nothing for 24 hours.
On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target...
Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).
For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down.
The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way.
Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis Have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan - a way to come home. There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing.
You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed.
For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.
Please share this with as many people as possible.
Ever since learning we'll lose our group health insurance, I've been in a deep funk. Yahoo's "Oddly Enough" news generally cheers me up a bit, so let's give it a try:
Judge Rejects School Board Evolution Stand
A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered a Georgia school district to remove stickers challenging the theory of evolution from its textbooks on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution.
I'm no legal eagle, by any means, but the "violated the U.S. Constitution" seems a little obscure, even though it's based on separation of church and state.
If there really has to be a disclaimer, why not include BOTH evolution and creationism?
Yeah, I know - the creationists would scream bloody murder.
Earn Easy Cash in Your Spare Time
Colombia on Wednesday invited the world's bounty hunters to scour its jungles and mountains and drag back rebel chiefs in return for cash rewards.
"It would be great if all the bounty hunters in the world came to capture those bandits. The money's there for them, and the rewards are good," Vice President Francisco Santos told reporters.
Remind me not to schedule a vacation in Columbia.
Yahoo! It's a Boy!
A Romanian couple named their son Yahoo as a sign of gratitude for meeting over the Internet, a Bucharest newspaper said Thursday.
Daily Libertatea said Cornelia and Nonu Dragoman, both from Transylvania, met and decided they were meant for each other following a three-month relationship over the net.
And finally, the pick of the day -
Clinic Asks Politicians to Donate Sperm
Politicians in one Australian state have been asked to lend a hand and become sperm donors to help arrest dwindling supplies at an in-vitro fertilization clinic.
The Monash IVF clinic has written to 25 parliamentarians aged under 45 in Victoria state asking them to set an example for the rest of the male population by becoming sperm donors.
"We hope that if some of the leading role models within our community become donors, others may follow suit," the Monash letter said.
Woman Pregnant with Wrong Sperm Gives Birth
A Connecticut woman who was artificially inseminated with the wrong sperm gave birth to a healthy baby boy, her attorney said on Wednesday.
Laura Howard last year sued an infertility clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after her doctor informed her that she had mistakenly been injected with sperm from a man who is not her fiance, lawyer Bruce Jacobs said.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Kos draws our attention to the growing problem of Army desertions
American Army soldiers are deserting and fleeing to Canada rather than fight in Iraq, rekindling memories of the thousands of draft-dodgers who flooded north to avoid service in Vietnam.
An estimated 5,500 men and women have deserted since the invasion of Iraq, reflecting Washington's growing problems with troop morale.
The Pentagon says that the level of desertion is no higher than usual and denies that it is having difficulty persuading troops to fight. The flight to Canada is, however, an embarrassment for the military, which is suffering from a recruiting shortfall for the National Guard and the Army Reserves.
No higher than usual, all is well, we're winning hearts and minds, LOOK OVER THERE! Gay marriage!
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I've often said universal health insurance is the way to go - every industrialized country on the planet (except the United States) agrees.
Universal health coverage is not only more beneficial to society, but cheaper for businesses.
Shouldering the health care insurance burden is particularly hard on small business -
Kaiser's Altman said small businesses are bearing the brunt of the increases, affecting their ability to hire workers or offer benefits. The survey found that 63 percent of small businesses offer medical insurance, down from 68 percent three years ago. Kaiser based its findings on responses between January and May from 1,925 firms with at least three employees.
It's less expensive, in the long run, for the employer to raise wages significantly and let employees purchase private policies.
Which is great if you're young, single, childless, and healthy. It's not even too bad if you can just meet two out of those.
But when you're married, have a child, and have any sort of medical history - who beyond the age of forty doesn't? - it's a disaster.
We'll be expected to pay about eight hundred dollars more per month for health care insurance, doesn't include dental, and that's before the company gets a look at our medical history. I'm betting it will rise to at least a thousand more per month.
I have severe doubts Mr. Andante's employer will be willing to raise his salary that high.
So - it's off to McDonald's or Hardee's or Wal Mart or wherever I can find a job. I already have two part-time jobs I love, so I'm hoping to add a third to my repertoire.
The American Dream ....working an extra job for health insurance.
The Blogger/Journalist/Commentator/Whatever Oath
I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).
Throughout their history, Quakers have refused to take oaths. Their belief is that one should tell the truth at all times. Taking an oath implies that there are two types of truthfulness: one for ordinary life and another for special occasions.
If someone wants to shower me with money, I won't object. But I won't alter or moderate or change my views against my conscience for any amount.
Jeb Bush: Link Medicaid to private insurers
Gov. Jeb Bush outlined a plan Tuesday to link Florida's Medicaid program to private insurance companies that would set limits on health coverage....and the private insurance companies say "KA-CHING"
Is there any program, any part of society these cretins DON'T want to privatize?
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Isn't that headline from today's Washington Post just a little like "Iraq Asks U.S. to Invade Their Country and Destroy Their Civilization"?
D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.
Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.
Let me suggest an alternative location - Preston, Idaho.
Sixty-eight percent of Idahoans voted for Bush, and the small southeastern Idaho county of Franklin went for him by ninety percent. These folks would no doubt be happy to host Dubya's parade.
The county seat of Franklin is Preston, population 4,791 (in 2002).
The clean, wide, tree-lined streets are just a sample of the "Pride in Preston." Snowmobile riding and races, fishing, hunting, camping, boating, river tubing, the famous Preston Night Rodeo, moto-cross races, car show, fair and more are all climaxed every year by the Idaho Festival of Lights celebration.
But that's not all -
Preston was originally called Worm Creek when it was settled in 1888 because the waterways in the area resembled worms as they curved and wound their way through the countryside.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Happy birthday to my widdle baby sister, who celebrates the big five-oh today.
And many happy returns; especially if the "returns" are anything like the razzing she gave me on that birthday.
Virginia delegate John Cosgrove, he who would make any miscarriage unreported beyond twelve hours a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine, has responded to his flood of e-mails and calls:
I am Delegate Cosgrove and I wish to respond to the allegations that have been made by those who have emailed and called my office. The intent of House Bill 1677 is to require the notification of authorities of a delivery of a baby that is dead and the mother has not been attended by a medical professional. This bill was requested by the Chesapeake Police Department in its legislative package due to instances of full term babies who were abandoned shortly after birth. These poor children died horrible deaths and all that the person responsible could be charged with is the improper disposal of a human body.
The requirement for twelve hours comes from the method that a coroner would use to determine if the child had been born alive or dead. After twelve hours, it becomes next to impossible to determine if the child was alive due to decomposition gasses that build up in the body.
My bill in no way intends that a woman who suffers a miscarriage should be charged for not notifying authorities. The bill in no way mentions miscarriages, only deliveries. After discussing the bill again with our legislative services lawyers, I will include language that will define the bill to apply only to those babies that are abandoned as stated above.
I would never inflict this type of emotional torture on a woman who has suffered such a traumatic event as a miscarriage, and I am confident that the General Assembly of Virginia would also not pass such a terrible imposition on a woman.
I hope that you will understand the original intent of this bill. This bill has nothing to do with abortion, contraception and especially miscarriages. If you were alarmed by this bill or by the websites, I am sorry. I hope that this will explain the concept and intent of this bill.
John A. Cosgrove
While it's true it never mentions "miscarriage", it mentions "abortion" eight times and "stillborn" or "stillbirth" zero times; nor does it mention "abandon" in any form of the word.
If his true intent was to penalize women who abandon their babies leading to a death or suffer an unreported stillbirth....why didn't the bill just say so?
So - you decide. Is Delegate Cosgrove a poor, misunderstood winger with a bad command of the English language - or did he get caught with his wingnut stripes showing?
It's early days yet, but I offer my sincere congratulations to the Palestinian people.
Without being bombed, invaded, or otherwise pressured by the Bush administration, they seem to have held a democratic election in the Middle East.
"There is a difficult mission ahead -- to build our state, to achieve security for our people, to provide a good life for our people, to give our prisoners freedom, our fugitives a life in dignity, to reach our goal of an independent state," (Mahmoud) Abbas said.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Howard Coble (NC-Neanderthal), big Bush supporter and toe-the-line-guy, has heard enough from unhappy constituents.
U.S. Rep. Coble says Iraq pullout should be considered
U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, a Greensboro Republican and close ally of President Bush, says the United States should consider pulling out of war-ravaged Iraq.
Coble is one of the first members of Congress to suggest a withdrawal publicly.
The 10-term congressman said in an interview with the News & Record of Greensboro that he's "fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we've lost another five or 10 of our young men and women in Iraq."
Support among Coble's 6th District constituents has also waned, his office said.
The dean of the state's congressional delegation said he arrived at his position only after many months of searching in vain for evidence that the Bush administration had a post-invasion strategy to deal with the transition to Iraqi self-government.
Coble, who has represented the 6th District since 1984, says he voted to give Bush sweeping war-making powers assuming the administration had a post-invasion strategy.
"If there was, I wish someone would tell me what it is or show it to me," he said. "I'd like to see it."
The congressman said he thought Bush was correct in attacking Iraq, and that he and most of his constituents still believe it was the right decision because "we've done a lot of good over there."
That includes capturing Saddam Hussein, "the international terrorist, the tyrant, the snake," he said.
But a troop withdrawal should be an option if the Iraqi government is unable or unwilling to "shoulder more of the heavy lifting" for its own security, Coble said.
There has been little or no indication that the Iraqi government can do that, he said.
"What we have are Iraqis killing Iraqis and American troops," Coble said. "All I'm saying is that a troop withdrawal ought to be an option. It ought to be placed on the table for consideration.
"I'm going to keep talking about this," he said.
Coble, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, said he may broach the idea to the panel.
The congressman from Greensboro said he is aware that few members of Congress have said openly that the country should consider withdrawing from Iraq. Republican Rep. James A. Leach of Iowa may be the only other GOP congressman to call for a pullout, he said.
From Athenae -
"We've ignored the contributions they could have made if we'd kept them in the fold and acted very ashamed of our losses like good little Republican-dominated submissives. We should have taken a real long look at Carter and McGovern and yes, Dukakis said hey, these guys stood up for our values and have things to say and we voted for them and we're happy about it so fuck you, okay, you cat-killing, tit-covering, gay-hating freaks?"
The Democrats have a formidable lineup of winners AND losers, who still have so much to offer the country.
If I could be granted one wish for the next chairman, it would be that he or she gather these leaders together and use their talents to move this country forward.
Especially with an oily snake like Newt considering a presidential run.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
For nearly 25 years, Mr. Andante worked for an employer that provided a half-way decent 401K program. Until some manager screwed up - I never understood exactly how - and it either lost money or wobbled around the break-even point for quite some time. During the "go-go Nineties", mind you.
Nevertheless, we were waiting until April when we can roll that smallish amount into his new employer's 401K plan.
But like many smaller companies, this new employer is having to retrench; lots of changes in the offing, including losing the 401K plan and a different health insurance plan (another story).
So - yikes - we have to go it alone with an IRA, preferably with a mutual fund since neither of us has any stock market savvy or the time for it. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.
Which makes the whole Social Security privatization scam doubly scary. If we screw up on the IRA - will Bush and his cronies leave us anything for all those FICA deductions?
I think so.
I think so, because this is a losing issue for the Republicans.
Dubya and his Man Date may think he can do whatever he pleases, but the only mandate Bush would have - had he campaigned on privatizing Social Security - would be a mandate to clear more brush in Crawford.
(I've started to wonder - after so much vacation time at Crawford, can there really be that much brush left? Or does someone come in behind him and plant it for him? When we have a Democratic administration again, I hope they'll look into the way Junior is scraping all the vegetation off the land and possibly creating an environmental hazard)
Junior can't wave his scepter and make something so; he will need support from Congress. It's a losing issue, and the good old boys and girls in the House and Senate have to face re-election.
Judging from the letters to the editor in our paper from people who can normally be expected to faithfully toe the Republican line, I'm guessing our Congress-critters will be getting an earful from unhappy people.
Conservatives may scream about the private sector, the God-given rights of big bidness, and "personal responsibility", but when it comes to their own particular trough, they demand the right to slop in it.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Bush Administration Withholds UNFPA Funds For Third Straight Year
Washington DC, July 16, 2004—For the third year in a row, the Bush administration today withheld $34 million that Congress had appropriated for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, in fiscal 2004, because of baseless allegations that the family planning agency is complicit in forced abortions in China.
In a statement, UNFPA called the decision “regrettable,” noting that the lost funds could have helped prevent up to 2 million unwanted pregnancies and nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths. "UNFPA has not, does not and will not ever condone or support coercive activities of any kind, anywhere," said UNFPA head Thoraya Obaid.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programmes. Since we began operations in 1969, the Fund has provided nearly $6 billion in assistance to developing countries.
UNFPA works with governments and non-governmental organizations in over 140 countries, at their request, and with the support of the international community. We support programmes that help women, men and young people:
*plan their families and avoid unwanted pregnancies
*undergo pregnancy and childbirth safely
*avoid sexually transmitted infections(STIs) - including HIV/AIDS
*combat violence against women.
UNFPA Appeals to Donors for $28 Million for Women and Youth Affected by Tsunami
Donate to UNFPA here.
UNITED NATIONS, New York– UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is requesting donors for approximately $28 million to help meet urgent health, hygiene and protection needs for women and youth in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, the three countries hardest hit by last week’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.
UNFPA has offices in all the countries affected by the disaster. The Fund has been working with partners from the start to assess immediate needs, supply life-saving medicines and supplies to enable pregnant women to deliver safely, and reestablish emergency obstetric care and other urgent health services. The Fund has also provided hygiene kits – including soap, washcloths and sanitary napkins – for tens of thousands of women and their families, many of whom lost everything but the clothes on their backs. UNFPA has already made $3 million available for immediate response in all affected countries, as well as additional funds for medicines, equipment and supplies.
Via Atrios, the proposed bill in Virginia that would criminalize unreported miscarriages reminds me of Ceausescu.
Remember Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator? Combined with all the assaults on decent sex education, abortion, and birth control and this Ceausescu-like proposal, is this really where we're headed?
I suffered several miscarriages, both early and late, before our daughter was born. We desperately wanted a child, and nothing was more heartbreaking. Normally, a miscarriage is reported to statistical bureaus by the physician. But a very early miscarriage could easily go unreported.
Now John Cosgrove (Wingnut-VA78) wants to make any miscarriage unreported beyond TWELVE HOURS a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine?
(Ceauscescu) began his campaign in 1966 with a decree that virtually made pregnancy a state policy. "The fetus is the property of the entire society," Ceausescu proclaimed. "Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity."
It was one of the late dictator's cruelest commands. At first Romania's birthrate nearly doubled. But poor nutrition and inadequate prenatal care endangered many pregnant women. The country's infant-mortality rate soard to 83 deaths in every 1,000 births (against a Western European average of less than 10 per thousand). About one in 10 babies was born underweight; newborns weighing 1,500 grams (3 pounds, 5 ounces) were classified as miscarriages and denied treatment. Unwanted survivors often ended up in orphanages. "The law only forbade abortion," says Dr. Alexander Floran Anca of Bucharest. "It did nothing to promote life."
Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as "state secrets," to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.
The government's enforcement techniques were as bad as the law. Women under the age of 45 were rounded up at their workplaces every one to three months and taken to clinics, where they were examined for signs of pregnancy, often in the presence of government agents -- dubbed the "menstrual police" by some Romanians. A pregnant woman who failed to "produce" a baby at the proper time could expect to be summoned for questioning. Women who miscarried were suspected of arranging an abortion. Some doctors resorted for forging statistics. "If a child died in our district, we lost 10 to 25 percent of our salary," says Dr. Geta Stanescu of Bucharest. "But it wasn't our fault: we had no medicine or milk, and the families were poor."
Abortion was legal in some cases: if a woman was over 40, if she already had four children, if her life was in danger -- or, in practice, if she had Communist Party connections. Otherwise, illegal abortions cost from two to four months' wages. If something went wrong, the legal consequences were enough to deter many women from seeking timely medical help. "Usually women were so terrified to come to the hospital that by the time we saw them it was too late," says Dr. Anca. "Often they died at home." No one knows how many women died from these back-alley abortions.
"Celibacy tax": A woman didn't have to be pregnant to come under scrutiny. In 1986 members of the Communist youth group were sent to quiz citizens about their sex lives. "How often do you have sexual intercourse?" the questionnaire read. "Why have you failed to conceive?" Women who did not have children, even if they could not, paid a "celibacy tax" of up to 10 percent of their monthly salaries.
The rebels who overthrew Ceausescu last month quickly rescinded the policy. "I would have killed Ceausescu for that law alone," says Maria Dulce from her bed at Bucharest's Municipal Hospital. The 29-year-old mother of two is recovering from a self-induced abortion. Here eyes are bruised with fatigue. She is among a half dozen women in the dingy hospital room. Dulce says she terminated her pregnancy because of the trauma associated with caring for her second child, an 18-month-old boy. "We had to buy milk on the black market," she says, "and we had to buy a heater just for the baby's room." She had to have an emergency hysterectomy only days before the uprising. "Now that it's possible for a woman to be a woman again I'm mutilated," Dulce says through tears. "And now there is a reason to have a child in this country."
- Karen Breslau, "Overplanned Parenthood: Ceausescu's cruel law", _Newsweek_,
Jan. 22, 1990, p. 35.
Update: I forwarded the link regarding this atrocious bill to my sister, who works in the Fairfax County, Virginia library system. She and about fifty other employees spent their afternoon clogging Cosgrove's voice & e-mail, and forwarding the link to their friends.
If you'd like to do a little voice mail & e-mail clogging, too -
Constituent Viewpoint: (800)-889-0229
Thursday, January 06, 2005
It's been a long day (week? year?), and I could use some weird news.
Toilet Brush Warning Wins Consumer Award
The sign on the toilet brush says it best: "Do not use for personal hygiene."
That admonition was the winner of an anti-lawsuit group's contest for the wackiest consumer warning label of the year.
The sponsor, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, says the goal is "to reveal how lawsuits, and concern about lawsuits, have created a need for common sense warnings on products."
The $500 first prize went to Ed Gyetvai, of Oldcastle, Ontario, who submitted the toilet-brush label. A $250 second prize went to Matt Johnson, of Naperville, Ill., for a label on a children's scooter that said, "This product moves when used."
A $100 third prize went to Ann Marie Taylor, of Camden, S.C., who submitted a warning from a digital thermometer that said, "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally."
"Warning labels are a sign of our lawsuit-plagued times," said group President Robert Dorigo Jones. "From the moment we raise our head in the morning off pillows that bear those famous Do Not Remove warnings, to when we drop back in bed at night, we are overwhelmed with warnings."
The warning labels will never eliminate every weird possibility, but there is such a thing as common sense.
Now you'll have to excuse me - I just bought a pack of bobby pins, and need to clean out my electric sockets.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Good news - Michael has landed safely in France!
Bad news - Dubya will be speaking this afternoon about the urgent - URGENT - need to limit frivolous medical liability lawsuits.
It is expected that his nose will grow one inch per sentence during the speech and will require plastic surgery to return it to it's normal hoggish configuration.
When the surgeon botches the surgery because he's drunk or high or incompetent, the surgery will move from "frivolous" status to a matter of national security.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Saudi triples aid for victims of Asian tsunamis
Saudi Arabia announced that it was increasing its aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster to 30 million dollars and would organize a telethon to raise more funds.
Given that the scale of the disaster and damage "has surpassed all expectations, royal orders have been issued to increase Saudi Arabia's aid to the victims from 10 million dollars to 30 million dollars," the official SPA news agency reported.
SPA reported earlier that King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, whose oil-rich country initially pledged 10 million dollars in emergency funds for the victims, had ordered a telethon to be staged by state television on Thursday.
The price of oil is up, and these guys are rolling in dough. If it weren't for foreign workers from the tsunami-devastated areas, the Saudis might have to *gasp* work for a living.
There are 8.8 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia, Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi al-Ghosaibi disclosed in May, a figure significantly higher than any that the government has previously reported. With an indigenous population of about 17 million, this means that there is almost one foreign resident for every two Saudi citizens.
The largest expatriate communities in Saudi Arabia include one million to 1.5 million people each from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and another 900,000 each from Egypt, Sudan and the Philippines. There are also 500,000 workers from Indonesia, and another 350,000 from Sri Lanka, the majority of whom are women.
Deborah Solomon interviewing Jeanne L. Phillips, chairwoman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee for the NY Times:
I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.
As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?
I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.
How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?
I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.
Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?
Honoring service is what our theme is about.
I wish Solomon had asked if any of the amputees will be invited to the ball - I hear there's plenty of them.
(Link via Wonkette
One phrase in Krugman's excellent column today (Stopping the Bum's Rush) woke me up faster than ten cups of coffee.
Privatizers say the trust fund doesn't count because it's invested in U.S. government bonds, which are "meaningless i.o.u.'s."
They aren't backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, as it says on the U.S. Treasury website?
Those countries financing our deficit will certainly be interested to hear it.
I'm certainly no financial genius or any sort of economist (except maybe the "home"-type), but I was always under the impression that Uncle Sam would be good for his I.O.U.'s.
My dad purchased one bond out of every paycheck he ever received from World War II onwards until his retirement, and continued purchasing them afterwards as gifts for his children and grandchildren.
Maybe it's time to cash them in while they're still worth more than the paper they're printed on.
Bonds aren't as glamorous an investment as go-go stocks, but they have provided stability and security for millions of people.
But to our current crop of masters, they are "meaningless i.o.u's"?
We're in deeper sh$t than even I imagined. Having blown off any moral authority, I suppose we might as well destroy our global financial credibility, too.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Why is it the only time Republicans remember the lessons of history is when they want to go to war?
The rallying call, of course, is "Neville Chamberlain!".
Like here, and here, and here, ad nauseum.
As usual, Bryan hits the nail on the head -
People forget that Herbert Hoover expected private charities to deal with the effects of the Great Depression. As we know now, they couldn't do it, so the government had to take up the slack. I don't mind trying new ideas, but I really resent ignorant people suggesting we try old ideas that we already know failed. Supply-side tax cuts didn't work for Ronald Reagan and they are not working for George W. Bush. How many times must they be tried before these idiots learn they are a failure?
It's conceivable that the privatizers were asleep during history class, or don't remember the Great Depression - but they were all alive and kicking during the 1990's when Argentina's experiment with privatization backfired.
Geez, I forgot - they were preoccupied with chasing Clinton out of office.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions; I mean, if you need to make improvements, why wait until January 1st?
But this year is a bit different - I've got to shed some extra pounds.
Firstly, it's not healthy. I already take a handful of expensive cholesterol medication, and my blood pressure is creeping up past the borderline.
Secondly, my clothes are bursting at the seams. I can't afford a new wardrobe.
Thirdly, I look and feel like a cow.
Don't get me wrong - I have no problem whatsoever with large people. If they are healthy, fit, and feel good about themselves - that's a good place to be, and I'm happy for them.
I have one sister-in-law who easily tips the scales at three hundred pounds, yet she is healthy as an ox, happy as a lark, and can outrun me. Anyone who nags her about her weight is automatically on my sh$t-list.
My problem is with ME....and I hope to change that problem.
So, I start a diet tomorrow.
The whole point of this post isn't actually about me or my diet...it's a sneaky, roundabout way of saying I can't start until tomorrow, and it's all my daughter's fault.
We're going out to eat this evening to celebrate her continuing string of STRAIGHT "A" COLLEGE REPORT CARDS.
In my book, that's worth a couple thousand calories.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
This list puts Dubya's original $15 million, then $35 million offer in perspective, doesn't it?
I would also observe that those Arab countries filthy rich in oil seem to be a little laggard when it comes to helping the world's largest population of Muslims.
(Country, US dollar amount in millions, as of Jan. 2, 2005 1:49 p.m. AEST)
African Union $0.10
New Zealand $3.60
Saudi Arabia $10.00
South Korea $5.00
World Bank $250.00