Friday, April 30, 2004

Just in time for your Loyalty Day celebrations!

Bush administration challenging limits on executive power

Now, I know what you're thinking - "Thank you, Mr. Bush, for agreeing not to exceed your constitutional authority and to share more of the decision-making process with Congress and maybe even some people who know what they're talking about."

Late in the Supreme Court arguments last week over the Bush administration's jailing of two citizens as suspected terrorists, the president's advocate stripped the legal veneer from his position and exposed the bold proposition underneath.

Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement told the justices that at some point, "you have to trust the executive to make the kind of quintessential military judgments that are involved." Trust that the government isn't detaining citizens without sufficient reason. Trust that the president won't exceed his constitutional authority.
Yes, master....we trust. We obey. Everything is A-Number-One-Okey-Dokey.

Pollution of the airwaves

Via Atrios, I learned yesterday that my local ABC affiliate (WXLV) would not air tonight's "Nightline" segment, in which Ted Koppel will read the names and show the pictures of those troops who have given their life serving in Iraq.

I fired off an e-mail, asking (respectfully & politely) why they didn't choose to so honor our troops?

Here's what I just got back -
Statement of Sinclair Broadcast Group

The ABC Television Network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30 edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel
reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.

While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of "Nightline" this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.

We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, we believe you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.
The reply I sent back wasn't polite or respectful.

The whole damned Iraq war is motivated by a purely political agenda - Dubya's re-selection, and the Sinclair Broadcast Group is nothing but another mouthpiece for the White House - Atrios has more today.

If a Sinclair station is stinking up your neighborhood, give them a buzz -

WXLV, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point NC 336-274-484
WEAR, Pensacola 850-456-3333
KDNL, St. Louis
WSYX, Columbus OH 614-481-6666
WLOS, Asheville NC 828-684-1340
WCHS, Charleston, Huntington W VA 304-346-5358
WGGB, Springfield MA (413) 733-4040

What are YOUR plans for Loyalty Day?

Tomorrow is Loyalty Day -
In 1947, amidst the anti-Communist Cold War hysteria, the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars renamed May 1st "Loyalty Day" and a joint session of Congress later made the pronouncement official. Loyalty Day was explicitly designed as a weapon against leftist labor tendencies, and specifically the American Communist Party, by encouraging citizens to reaffirm their commitment to the State. The right of citizens to join legal political parties of their own choosing without harassment was apparently not an American value to be celebrated on this holiday.
The Republicans have a few suggestions -
Loyalty Day (May 1): Loyalty Day is simply a day for all of us to show our loyalty to the nation. In addition to op-eds and a release, our member can call on all local governmental buildings to fly the American flag that day, as President Bush has asked all federal government buildings to do. Your member can also lead a class of young school children in the Pledge of Allegiance or address a school assembly on the importance of loyalty to the nation. This is also another good PSA opportunity, reminding all of your constituents to be aware of the day and to honor it in their own way. (thanks to Michael for the link)
Apparently, the North Koreans celebrate 'Loyalty Day' every day!
Many North Koreans died a "heroic death" after last week's train explosion by running into burning buildings to rescue portraits of leader Kim Jong-il and his father, the North's official media reported on Wednesday.

Portraits of Kim and his late father, national founder Kim Il-sung, are mandatory fixtures in every home, office and factory in the hardline communist state of 23 million. All adults are required to wear lapel pins bearing images of one or both Kims.
I certainly don't intend to rescue any pictures of Bush from burning buildings, but I think I will take the Republicans up on one of their suggestions - to honor it in my own way.

I'll make a donation to the Kerry campaign. Getting rid of George and his merry band is the best way I can imagine to demonstrate loyalty to the country.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

First Amendment Zoning New York

City Denies Anti-War Rally Permit
An anti-war group planning a massive demonstration at the start of the Republican National Convention in Manhattan has been denied a permit to rally in Central Park because the crowd would be too large.

The parks department denied the request by United for Peace and Justice organizers, who applied last June for a permit to rally in the park's Great Lawn after marching from 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue. The march permit request, submitted separately to the police department, is pending.

The anti-war group was preparing an appeal, which is part of the parks permit process, group leader Leslie Cagan said Wednesday.


The permit denial letter said the Aug. 29 event, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters, would exceed the 55-acre Great Lawn's capacity of 80,000 people. United for Peace and Justice indicated on its permit that it expected 250,000 demonstrators.

"In the view of the parks department, an event attended by 250,000 people would cause enormous damage to the lawn," the letter said.


In a separate development, a coalition of unions representing police officers and firefighters has requested permits to demonstrate during the convention. Union members claim they are underpaid compared with their counterparts in other cities and are underfunded for fighting terrorism -- complaints they plan to voice when the Republicans come to town.

No decision has been made on those permits, but "the rules of protest will apply to them like everybody else," Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"I don't know that I think protesting at the Republican convention is a very intelligent way of getting a better contract," he said.

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden
The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists told Congress that at the end of last year it had just four full-time employees dedicated to investigating Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's wealth while nearly two dozen were working on Cuban embargo violations.

In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said that between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism and collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations since 1994.
Because if the Cuban exile community doesn't vote Republican, the terrorists win?

Pentagon rule would bar contractors from carrying guns in Iraq
As the insurgency and violence in Iraq intensify, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the war-torn region: They can't carry guns.

At the same time, a top Defense Department official this week acknowledged publicly for the first time that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they didn't feel safe.
I wonder if that includes Paul Bremer's civilian security guards?

Granted, the civilian contractors aren't as well-trained as military personnel, but I wouldn't bet on people lining up to go into Iraq without at least a sidearm.

Strange logic - Civilian workers fleeing Iraq because they don't feel safe. Therefore, forbid them from carrying guns.

Maybe someone can teach them the Vulcan neck-pinch?

Which will certainly put the stretched-thin military in trouble, leaving the Pentagon scratching for replacements -
Besides security, the Pentagon is relying more on contractors to fill other traditional military roles, such as providing troops with food and housing, and training Iraqi police. National security analysts say the military is stretched thin and does not have enough troops to do all the jobs.

Part of the motivation is political, as well, said Mark Burgess of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information. Using contractors keeps down the casualty counts of U.S. troops, and there is usually less outcry after violence.
The ideal solution? Send in the (unarmed) Chickenhawk Brigade.

Okay, teach them the neck-pinch. And maybe how to use a slingshot.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

So much for the Bush man-on-Mars program

Sex, the final frontier: Nasa acts to ensure that astronauts don't follow their urges
Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on longer journeys," Dr Armstrong said, in a talk discussing the problems humanity may face in trying to reach the planets and, eventually, the stars..
What will the right-to-life folks say?

Divorce forces sale

Just in case you haven't seen it yet, or nobody has forwarded it to you, or maybe you don't have any friends to forward silly stuff to you -

Divorce forces sale

Thank you, Senator Lautenberg!
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Wednesday called Vice President Dick Cheney "the lead chickenhawk" against Sen. John Kerry and criticized other Republicans for questioning the Democratic presidential contender's military credentials.

But Sen. John McCain, a decorated war hero and former prisoner of war, scolded Lautenberg for attacking the Bush administration during the Iraq conflict and said it was time to "declare that the Vietnam War is over."

In a scathing speech on the Senate floor, Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, said that he did not think politicians should be judged by whether they had military service but added that "when those who didn't serve attack the heroism of those who did, I find it particularly offensive."
Lautenberg, incidentally, served in the Army Signal Corp in Europe during WWII.

Senator McCain is correct in one respect - it IS time to declare the Vietnam war over. It was well past time to declare it over back in 2000 - when the Bush campaign insinuated that McCain's captivity had unhinged his mind.

In his remarks, the 'unhinged' McCain said -
"At least could we declare that the Vietnam War is over and have a cease-fire and agree that both candidates -- the president of the United States and Sen. Kerry served honorably -- end of story? Now let's focus our attention on the conflict that's taking place in Iraq, that is taking American lives as I speak on this floor."
Noice the "we". McCain has got to be as disgusted with the White House crew as anyone.

Texas Woman, 97, Cuffed on Ticket Charge
A 97-year-old woman was handcuffed and taken to jail in a squad car for failing to pay a traffic ticket, but her son is questioning police officers' treatment of the former teacher.

Harriette "Dolly" Kelton had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a traffic ticket when Highland Park police stopped her last week for having an expired registration and inspection sticker.

Kelton, who has lived in the northern Dallas suburb for at least 60 years, is a former teacher at The Hockaday School. She was in police custody for about two hours before her attorney arrived and was released on her own recognizance.
I hope you caught the important word in there.....teacher.

Thank God the Highland Park police are vigilant in their pursuit of terrorists.

Conning the seniors again...and again...and again

This morning, I burned the iced tea.

Go ahead and laugh - I was busy with other stuff and let the water boil out of the pot; thereby ruining a perfectly good utensil and adding another 'doh!' moment to my life. It didn't exactly start my day off with a smile.

My mood didn't get any better when I read this -

White House Spends $18M on Medicare Ad
The Bush administration is spending $18 million on a new round of taxpayer-funded television advertising to promote the Medicare discount drug card, the Medicare administrator said Tuesday.
Do you think for one minute George Bush or any member of his family or administration is stupid enough to sign on to the new Medicare benefits?

(Maybe I should rephrase that.....)

They know it's lousy legislation and rips off seniors. But they're using our tax money to shill for what is basically a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies.

I've blogged this previously, but I'll repeat a brief outline of the prescription"benefits" (from Today's Seniors)-
***You must enroll separately for the new Plan D prescription drug benefit if you wish to participate, even if you are already enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.

***Medicare's new Part D prescription drug plan is voluntary ... you don't have to enroll. For many seniors, it might cost more than you could expect to receive in benefits, especially if you are healthy. Or, you might put off enrolling because you simply can't afford it.

***But, if you delay enrolling for more than 2 months after first becoming eligible, you will be penalized for the rest of your life! The penalty will permanently increase your premium 1% for every month you delay. For example, if you delay 10 months, you will pay 10% more than almost everyone else. If you delay 2 years, your premium will be about 25% more than other people pay.

***When you enroll in Part D, you will not be allowed to keep a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy that includes a benefit for prescription drugs. As a result, if you now have a Medicare Supplement insurance policy that does include a prescription drugs benefit (Plan H, I or J), you must make a choice no later than March 4, 2006 (or 63 days after you enroll in Part D, if that is a later date).
Another unseen evil here is that supplemental insurers may very well take the opportunity to decrease coverage and/or increase premiums to seniors who elect not to enroll.

Nor is the new prescription plan guaranteed to cover all drugs; including, perhaps, that heart medication that has helped your parent live a longer, better quality life.

But, hold! Our government would surely not use our taxes to advertise such a plan without laying out the exclusions! Right?

"You need a microscope to read the fine print that appears for a few seconds that reveals that you must pay an enrollment fee and that `exclusions apply,'" Lautenberg said. "The major `exclusion' could be the drug you need; the card may not offer any discount for many medications."

In addition, the ad text that Medicare posted on its Web site omits the language about exclusions. A Medicare official said it was just a clerical error.
Yeah, right.

Using tax dollars to trumpet this bit of nonsense takes just about as much chutzpah as deriding John Kerry's military service, and it's every bit as dishonest.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

U.S.-picked Iraqi leaders declare a new flag that breaks with Saddam and the rest of Arab world
...the overhaul of a national symbol raised some complaints particularly since it came from U.S.-appointed leaders. U.S. administrators previously tried to alter the Saddam-era flag by dropping the words ''Allahu akbar'' ''God is great'' but Iraqis refused to abide by the change
The new Iraqi flag, brought to you by the same crowd that will fight to the death to keep "under God" in the U.S. pledge of allegiance.

It never ends, does it?

Jerome at Bad Attitudes shoots down a couple of other Bush claims.

Claim #1 - Bush took a "History of American Oratory" course at Yale.
Claim #2 - Bush was on the varsity rugby team at Yale.


Soothing a troubled soul

I'm sure we're all concerned about Karen Hughes "troubled" state of mind when she contemplates John Kerry's military service. How can we help this poor, worried woman?

Never fear, dear lady - Kos to the rescue -

Her son doesn't graduate until Spring 2005, but he can enroll up to a year before his entry date. I did when I enlisted in the Army. And not only should he enlist, but he should do so for a combat arms slot. Not some wussy pencil-pushing gig, but a job that could see combat. Infantry, armor, engineer, airborne, artillery, special forces (like Pat Tillman), or pilot.

So how about it, Karen? Ready to put your son where your mouth is? And if not, why should other Americans put their sons and daughters through the meat grinder on behalf of your boss' botched war?

Let's go shopping

Here's $53 billion taxpayer dollars.

Given these two choices, which would you choose to bolster national security?

A. U.S. Missile Defense Plan
By the end of the year, close to 10 interceptors are expected to be on alert at two sites: Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. They will be linked to a specialized radar able to track inbound missiles over the Pacific Ocean.

But the interceptors face two upcoming tests of their ability to find and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, the first expected in late spring or early summer.

"If they both fail, we've got big problems," Kadish said. "We expect them to be successful."

B. Nuclear Security Fixes Urged
In the last year, the Energy Department has increased its assumptions about the size and firepower of terrorist teams that could assault its labs. Government officials now say that anyone bent on attack probably could use high-powered explosives to punch holes though reinforced concrete walls and then be able to penetrate razor wire fencing and defeat the most sophisticated electronic surveillance systems.

But the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, will report today that the threat posed by terrorists against the nation's weapons labs is estimated by intelligence agencies to be far more lethal than what the Energy Department has accepted in its most recent planning for security.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Is this all they've got?
Bush adviser Karen Hughes turned to what Kerry did after returning from the war. Hughes said Sunday she was offended by Kerry's anti-war activities in 1971 and accused him of not actually throwing back his medals when he and other veterans protested in Washington.

"He only pretended to throw his," Hughes said in a CNN interview. "Now, I can understand if, out of conscience, you take a principled stand, and you would decide that you were so opposed to this that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so -- I think that's very revealing."
How should Kerry respond?

Burka nails it.

Hughes blasts Kerry's Vietnam comments
Challenges Democrat to explain what he meant by 'atrocities'

Not content to liken pro-choice activists to supporters of terrorism, Karen ('Scourge of Austin') Hughes is raising questions regarding Kerry's military service and anti-war activities afterwards.

Bring it on, baby.

I still believe military service should not be a prerequisite for presidential office. There are any number of good, solid military advisors available to a president.

But apparently our current "war president" only listens to the voices in his own head and considers himself his best advisor.

If the Republicans want to make this campaign about which man is the best "war president" - bring it on, baby.

John Kerry actively served in a war zone, suffered wounds, commanded troops, was decorated for bravery, commended for outstanding leadership; then after completing truly honorable service, patriotically questioned the sanity of the war.

Sounds like a much better prospect for a "war president" than the sorry excuse we're stuck with now.


Sunday, April 25, 2004


From the Baltimore Chronicle , (via Blah3)
As a pilot who flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam, I can tell you that the best thing our government can do for its combat veterans is to quit making more of them. Peace is patriotic; a preemptive war is immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, a war crime, and TREASON.

With them in spirit

According to the White House -
Karen Hughes, an adviser to President Bush, appeared on CNN today to provide a counterpoint to the anti-Bush sentiment on the Mall. She praised the president on his "very strong record for women," saying he has employed more women in senior-level staff positions than any other presidential administration.

She also said that abortion-rights activists were moving against what she said was popular momentum, particularly since the terrorist attacks of 2001, in favor of anti-abortion policies.

"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

Question - reproductive rights



Saturday, April 24, 2004

The politics of personal irresponsibility

The Washington Post editorial today -
Mr. Bush is portrayed, for the most part, as an engaged commander in chief who decided soon after Sept. 11, 2001, that he must confront Saddam Hussein, but did not finally choose war until he had judged, more than a year later, that the diplomacy meant to avoid it had failed.
An editorial in our local paper (sorry, no link) takes it a step further and proclaims that because Bush made decisions, he is therefore a strong, decisive war leader.

Of course, it doesn't mention the decisions were lousy, or that he listened to the wrong people, ignored all others, and hasn't taken any responsibility for his bad choices.

Making bad decisions may make one "decisive", but all the good intentions in the world won't make them right.


Friday, April 23, 2004

More ammo in the universal health care arsenal

Plan would allow employers to cut benefits for retirees
Employers could reduce or eliminate their retirees' health benefits once the former workers qualify for Medicare, under a proposal from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
You really can't blame companies for wanted to get rid of this added expense. In fact, many companies don't even offer to continue after-retirement benefits in the first place.

I know quite a number of "retired" men and women who work full- or part-time solely to pay for health insurance and their medications. It's not the way a civilized country honors it's retired workers; we owe them better.

Gone fishin'

.....I wish.

It's a beautiful, mild day and the yardwork is piling up, but I have to go to work. On top of that, I can't win a Freecell game this morning to save my life.

I like this - Call in sick, save the boss money

All in favor, raise your hands.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Oh, my

Rampant Rhino Gets Amorous with Car
Sharka, a two-ton white rhino, got amorous with Dave Alsop's car when he stopped with three friends to take pictures of the animal mating with his partner Trixie at the West Midland Safari Park.

The 12-year-old rhino tried to mount the Renault Laguna from the side, denting the doors and ripping off the wing mirrors before Dave drove away with a puffing Sharka in pursuit.
Please don't tell Rick Santorum.

The last word on military records - Kerry vs. Bush

Thanks to Matt Drudge

....and it's not often you'll hear me say that.

Dead at Dover

Let's hope he isn't pressured to remove the pictures.

Via Kos, we learn that Tami Silicio (and her husband!) were fired for releasing one photo to the public.

I never doubted the military took every care to show great respect and honor to the bodies of the fallen.

It's past time the Bush administration did the same.

Edwards for VP?

Speculation on the VP race heats up a bit (Greg at News From the Sixth Borough looks into it in detail)

After suffering years of humiliation by having Jesse Helms as my state's senior senator, I've been privleged to call John Edwards by that title.

So, I'm not exactly a non-partisan voice in the veep debate, but I was interested to read Carlos Watson of CNN's "Inside Edge" -
But can Edwards help Kerry win? Many Democrats don't think Edwards can even carry his home state of North Carolina, which Bush won by double digits in 2000. Edwards' supporters point to his appeal among independents in Wisconsin and South Carolina.

Will he be chosen? He'll definitely be a top finalist, and if the economy emerges again as the central campaign issue, he's my odds-on choice.
Proud as I am of Edwards, I have to admit he probably couldn't win North Carolina.

Can you name a Democratic vice-presidential candidate who could?

The last I heard, North Carolina is considered a "pink" state - leaning Republican. We have a goodly-sized bloc of extremely pissed-off military voters (active, vet, and families) who are torn between their traditional allegiance to what they perceive as the "tough on defense" Republican party and their disgust with Our War President's mishandling of military affairs.

My prediction - many of them won't vote at all.

There is another large bloc of extremely pissed-off, laid-off, outsourced factory workers from the textile, furniture, and high tech industries that might switch their traditional Reagan-Democrat allegiance.

I wouldn't count on any vice-presidential candidate delivering North Carolina to John Kerry, or any other state, for that matter.

Edwards, however, ran a very credible primary campaign, showed himself to be a "natural" on the stump, and did very well when the votes were counted. Even if he couldn't deliver North Carolina, he would be a huge asset to Kerry elsewhere.

Having worked for and supported John Edwards in his Senate campaign, I know him as a very genuine and warm individual and a tireless, tough campaigner.

It may be my prejudice, but I think those qualities come through on TV, too. And, by the way - he's better looking in person, his wife is a treasure, and he has cute kids. What more could we want?

I hate snakes, including COBRA

Thankfully, after losing his job on March 31st Mr. Andante has now been gainfully employed for about two weeks. He's arguably the best in this area in his field, and his former employers are (undeniably) the most inept. Competitors know it, and lined up to hire him.

He chose to go with a company that will pay less (to start), but provides much better working conditions, sensible management, and normal working hours. A real treat after years of 12-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week (no overtime pay). There's more to life than money, and I'll happily make the needed budget cuts.

But the pay cut hurts in a number of ways. I hope the Kerry campaign wasn't counting on my monthly $25-$50 donations. Please consider taking up the slack from us by making a contribution through NTodd's blog.

Now we face the dreaded prospect of a gap in health insurance coverage. That part of our social safety net will be jerked out from under us for about one month later this summer before we can enroll with the new company's plan.

COBRA, you say! Ah, yes....the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health insurance provisions, which allow a (temporary) continuation of health insurance benefits at group rates.

Through his former employer, we can sign up for a month of COBRA coverage - at only six times the amount we paid monthly with the former employer. And I've done plenty of research - it's one of the cheapest alternatives available.

We could opt for a lower monthly payment....if we were willing to shoulder a $10,000 deductible. But with our luck - well, let's just say that's tempting fate.

Which is a very roundabout way of getting to Thomas Friedman of the NY Times.

Once upon a time, I looked forward with anticipation to reading Friedman's analysis of anything Middle East. His books on the subject ("From Beirut to Jerusalem", "The Lexus and the Olive Tree") are quite insightful.

Sadly, Tom was taken in by the neocons and their quest to reform the Middle East by beating plowshares into swords. I haven't paid much attention to him ever since.

He's been poking into the outsourcing dilemma recently, and came up with something on which we agree -
Several executives explained to me that they were opening new plants in Asia — not because of cheaper labor. Labor is a small component now in an automated high-tech manufacturing plant. It is because governments in these countries are so eager for employment and the transfer of technology to their young populations that they are offering huge tax holidays for U.S. manufacturers who will set up shop. Because most of these countries also offer some form of national health insurance, U.S. companies shed that huge open liability as well.
link (emphasis mine)

What the rest of the industrialized world has realized for a long time is that national health insurance benefits everyone, from the unemployed to Big Bidness. With their beady little eyes ever on the bottom line, American companies may finally be catching on.

I hope to live to see the day the uber-capitalists finally, FINALLY, with one voice admit that a universal health insurance program is actually good for business.

When the business world finally speaks, the politicians will listen...and maybe even act.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Selecting Hizzoner

From the Houston Chronicle -
Iraqi leaders choose mayor of Baghdad
Coalition administrator expected to give his OK

In a scene that coalition officials must have dreamed about for months, Iraqis lined up Sunday to cast their ballots for the next mayor of Baghdad -- sort of.

But rather than a general election open to all eligible residents of this city of 5 million, 49 local government representatives assembled in a heavily guarded municipal building to choose who'll lead them in tackling the problems that plague this fabled and unwieldy metropolis.

Outside, a dozen U.S. Army Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles kept a protective watch.

The final approval of his selection will be made by L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator of the coalition. However, officials said Bremer is expected to give his OK after a background check.

The Iraqi representatives, members of the Baghdad City Council and other local leaders, picked a resident of the United Arab Emirates, Alaa al-Tamimi, an Iraqi native who promises to return to his homeland and begin to address Baghdad's horrendous traffic, overflowing garbage and inadequate water and sewage systems.
According to Arabic News, al-Tamimi is "a very popular engineer who spent years in Abu Dhabi as an advisor for its planning administration".

From the looks of things, he'll need every bit of that engineering background. His "election" still needs the approval of Paul Bremer, which may seal his fate in Iraqi eyes.

Still, I suppose that's an improvement over having your president selected by an (unelected) Supreme Court.

Southern reflections

Taking a break from today's scheduled activity, which is sweating, huffing, puffing, and swearing over the bare patches in what we affectionately call our "lawn".

It's made worse by the fact that our little slice of the South has no dirt. I am completely serious - this hard-as-a-rock red clay is NOT dirt.

For your amusement, I present -

The Andante Method of Lawn Patching.

On the hottest day so far this season, attempt to rake up a couple of inches of red clay. Dynamite would probably work better; if you could manage to extract it, you could probably build a house out of it.

Throw the rake away in disgust, and crank up the tiller. Try not to cry as the tines just bounce around on top the clay. Go back to the rake, and attack vigorously.

When you have scratched down maybe 1/4 of an inch, decide it's enough. Throw some starter fertilizer around, then grass seed, and finally some topsoil. You have to buy topsoil, since there is no such thing native to this area.

Now that you're dirty, hot, sweaty, and nasty - it's time to move on to the next patch.

When your back is breaking, your breathing is becoming shallow, and the sunburn is starting to sting, it's time to enjoy a real, honest-to-goodness Southern treasure -

Southern Iced-by-Gawd Tea.

Every self-respecting Southern lady knows how to make delicious, refreshing iced tea from scratch. It's always served in clear glasses, which makes it possible for people to say "how DO you get the tea so clear?".

Here you go.....

Boil two cups of water.

While you're waiting for it to boil, pour four cups of cold water in a pitcher.

Add anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sugar. I prefer 3/4; suit yourself. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.

I have no clue how to substitute artifical sweetener; I think that's blasphemy, or at least a misdemeanor.

Count out ten single-sized tea bags. I use the store brand; suit your own pocketbook here. I can't tell much difference between brands.

When the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and steep the tea bags for ten minutes.

When the ten minutes are up, throw away the tea bags (very important), and dump the tea-liquid into the pitcher.

Add another two cups of cold water and stir.

Plop a bunch of ice cubes in a (clear) glass, pour tea over it, and enjoy the snap-crackle-pop for a minute or two.

Sit back and enjoy - and try not to think about the way Mr. Andante will probably run over the tender shoots of patched grass with the riding mower at the first opportunity.

Inquiring minds want to know

This is surreal -
Conservatives, talk radio hosts and some newspaper editorials have questioned the seriousness of his injuries and whether the Massachusetts senator was deserving of the three Purple Hearts, which resulted in his reassignment out of Vietnam.
In the interest of fair play, I think we should begin questioning the seriousness of the dental exam the War President suffered on January 6, 1973, and whether or not it resulted in his blowing off the remainder of his National Guard obligation.

With the withdrawal of John Edwards, Kerry became the presumptive Democratic candidate on March 3, 2004.

On Wednesday, April 21, 2004 the Kerry campaign said it would release all Kerry's military records - 49 days.

Our War President formally accepted the Republican party nomination on Firday, August 4, 2000, and has yet to release all his military records.

That's 1,356 days (and counting).

Pot? Kettle? Black?


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Supply routes recovering after convoy attacks in Iraq
The shortages became noticeable when soap and deodorant disappeared from American contract shop shelves, and salads and sweets became scarce at dining halls catering to the U.S.-led coalition. Around the same time, U.S. forces dipped into their ammunition and fuel reserves.
Well, that's some good news, at least.
"We're a-OK on fuel and a-OK on ammo again. We're starting to build our stocks up," a senior coalition military official said in a background briefing this week, trying to reassure reporters that supply routes are being re-established. He declined to specify when or for long they weren't a-OK.

Pressed, the official, who asked not to be named, used Pentagon jargon to describe how ammunition and fuel stocks had dipped below military planners' comfort levels: They'd gone from green to amber in recent days, he said, gingerly avoiding details that could offer valuable information to the enemy. That's still better than red or black, at which points military operations are significantly affected.
I'm no military historian, but aren't "red or black" something like Hitler and/or Napoleon and Moscow?

One year later, and we're still working on securing supply routes.

Taxing sin for the long haul

The proprietor of Juanita's (The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Shop, Inc.) rethinks the proposed Texas sin tax -
Last week, after writing about the Governor’s Sin Tax being a exceedingly dumb way to finance public education, I’ve had some second thoughts. I don’t mind admitting when I’ve made mistakes. That’s how you know that my column is not being ghostwritten by the President.
But there's sin, and then there's sin; it's just which political animal's sins you're talking about....


When Chuck Hagel talks draft, it's time to listen

"There's not an American ... that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future," Senator Chuck Hagel told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-occupation Iraq.

"Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face."

The Nebraska Republican added that a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata.
I agree with the last paragraph, but take extreme exception to the first two.

I think I understand pretty well what we're "engaged" in today - we were suckered into a war of choice, and are bogged down by those "prospects" for the future.

We should ask those citizens who banged the war drums to bear the responsibility - ask them to send their sons and daughters and loved ones into the quagmire.

The challenges "we" face? Those challenges were created by greedy, arrogant men who couldn't wait to vicariously enjoy their macho fantasies.

For those of you of draftable age - males 18-25; and heck, the girls should start paying attention, too - here are some useful links:

Selective Service
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
Center on Conscience and War
American Friends Service Committee Youth Program


Monday, April 19, 2004


ABC News, April 18, 2004 -Imminent Threat?
Report Suggests Terror Operatives ‘In Place,’ Possibly in America

ABC News, April 19, 2004 -Feds Might Ease Post-9/11 Airport Rule
Feds Might Ease Post-Sept. 11 Airport Security Rule for Checkpoints, Beginning With Pittsburgh

Nothing to worry about. Just go shopping.

Statins to the rescue?

If you live long enough, you'll know someone - probably a lot of someones - with Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 2 diabetes.

From the American College of Physicians comes the promising news that statins may be an effective treatment - or deterrent - for all of the above diseases.

Statins are generally prescribed for high cholesterol - Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol and Mevecor, for example.
Simply having diabetes makes a man two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than someone without the disease. Diabetes makes a woman's risk of a heart attack two to six times greater. Researchers say that's because a diabetic's blood is thicker and more prone to clot.

The new guidelines say diabetics should take cholesterol-lowering statins — even if their cholesterol levels are good — if they have any one of the following health problems: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, or a family history of heart disease.


"Statins do have an effect on cholesterol and cholesterol is in the brain," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of Alzheimer's research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "They [the drugs] may also have an effect on the protein called 'amyloid,' which is thought to be a major culprit in the development of Alzheimer's disease."

Statins have also shown early promise against autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The drugs are being studied in cancer prevention, too, with the results of large clinical trial due later this spring. (link)
Hmmm....just when I was thinking of trying to go off my statin prescription for high cholesterol. I think I just might stick with it.

Until restrictions on stem cell research are lifted, statins may provide the most hope.

First Lady from hell

Via Atrios -
At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, "As I was telling my husb—" and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, "As I was telling President Bush." (link)
I've often asked right-wingnuts why they hate Hillary with such relish.

Generally, the answer goes something like this - "she tried to poke her nose into policy, and we didn't elect her".


Those of you who voted for Condi, please raise your hand.

Blast from the past

From the 2000 presidential campaign -
"What I think the president ought to do, is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, 'We expect you to open your spigots,' " Mr. Bush said in New Hampshire in January 2000.
My goodness, George W. Bush, a man of his word? Using his family ties for the good of the American people?


Report: Saudis pledged oil price cut before U.S. vote

The only person George W. Bush is looking out for is himself and his election.

The Saudis don't cut oil prices out of the goodness of their hearts. What part of the United States economy or national security did Dubya trade in exchange?


Sunday, April 18, 2004

Mean boys

Perhaps you've seen ads for the movie "Mean Girls" (tag line - "Watch your back").

The plot outline, according to imdb.com -
Cady Heron (Lohan) is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels (Bennett), the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George (McAdams).
When I think of Colin Powell, as Maureen Dowd does in today's NY Times, I get "Mean Girl" vibes.

As Dowd says - "And W. felt competitive with his more popular top diplomat."

Our aging frat-boy, man-child president is exactly like a vindictive, popularity-absorbed teenage girl.

He's determined not only to be the "anti-Clinton", but the "anti-Poppy" as well. The gloomy Cheney and grouchy Rumsfeld present no threat to his personal popularity, but Colin Powell is a completely different story.

Coming out of Gulf War I, Powell was extremely popular with the public and was assiduously courted by both Republicans and Democrats. George W. Bush may owe his presidency to Powell's support.

So, what's a jealous president to do?

Discard Powell's advice, make his department as ineffective as possible, plop him in front of the United Nations General Assembly to make a case for war on false pretenses, and totally reject his department's Iraq post-war plan.

Fortunately for the Fortunate Son, this treatment fit in nicely with Rummy and Cheney's plans, too.

Unlike his boss, Colin Powell has worked hard, paid his dues, and made mostly good life choices....until his fateful decision to throw in his lot with George W. Bush.

But Powell himself has to shoulder an equal share of the blame for his loss of prestige and credibility. The time to resign honorably was when the "intelligence" he presented to the U.N. was proved to be bogus.

When you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas, and Powell must be wishing he had done a bit more research into the crowd he was getting mixed up with. Or thrown in his lot with the Democrats.

Either way, he'd still be spending time with his family, giving motivational speeches, signing books, and basking in the glow of his Gulf War popularity.

An "unassuming" man

Time Magazine has published its list of the 100 "World's Most Influential People," including President George W. Bush, which it called "a radical gambler."

Saying the Republican president will be judged by the Iraq war, columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote: "We do know that this unassuming man became a radical gambler with his fate and with humanity's."

That's a singularly bad choice of words to describe a man who assumes he is always right, assumes those who disagree with him are evil, assumes the world is his oyster, assumes others will cover-up and/or take the blame for his mistakes, and assumes no responsibility for anything, ever.

It still amazes me, that presented with the facts about the man-child and his life, there are people that can consider him "unassuming" and "folksy".

But then, I assume I have more sense than the other less-than-a-majority who voted for him.


Saturday, April 17, 2004

Blogosphere tilts a little further left

And it's a joyous day when we can add another lefty blogger to the fold!

Long-time commenter & buddy Greg has just started a blog - News From the Sixth Borough. As many of you know from his comments here and elsewhere, Greg is witty, insightful, deliciously snarky.

Please drop by and say "welcome"!

Headline dreaming

Another fine spring morning here, but once again I didn't get to read one of my dream headlines.

"President urges improvements in universal health care system"

Sorry, no link. It's all in my imagination.

It would be nice just to have universal health care here in the U.S. of A., but the Canadians and the rest of the industrialized world have beat us to the punch there.

Now Prime Minister Paul Martin has made some serious suggestions for improving the system.

The PM's suggestions include -

*Reduce hospital waiting lists
*Home care to take the stress off hospitals
*Primary care reform to allow non-physicians (such as nurse practitioners) to take up more of the load from family doctors
*Expand medical school enrolment
*Catastrophic drug coverage
*More federal money to the provinces for health, but only in exchange for serious medicare reforms.

My, my - we have the same problems, in addition to the ones caused by our pay-out-the-nose, for profit "system".

The Canadian system is far from perfect, but at least they're working on making it better.

The health care and pharmaceutical industries big-shots aren't about to give up their multi-million dollar salaries and profits for the greater benefit of society. And the politicians they support won't lift a finger to change the system, either.

When and if the fight to change the system ever comes, it will be vicious. By that time, I may be in a wheelchair, I may be in a nursing home, or I may be six-feet under; but I look forward to it.

Heck, I'd even look forward to coming back from the grave and haunting the creeps who have profitted from illness, pain, and misery.

Update: Excellent piece in Slate. Seems a good many manufacturers are finally getting it. Providing health care insurance cuts into their profits, so - gee, golly, whiz - maybe it would be cheaper to let the federal and state governments take it over.

Maybe I won't have to join the fight from the Great Liberal Gulag In The Sky?


Friday, April 16, 2004

You know things are bad when....

Last Elves Fired from Santa's HQ
The last three worker elves at Father Christmas's official headquarters in Finland's Arctic have been fired as Santa Park grapples with its finances.
Rumor has it that Bush ordered Rumsfeld to come up with a plan to invade Finland.

Taxing sin

There's problems all over the United States with public school funding, and the solutions range from wishful thinking to far out.

Stop by Juanita's for an in-depth analysis of Governor Rick Perry's plan for Texas.

Why Iraq? We're "changing the world"

Peter Hartcher of the Sidney Morning Herald asks the serious question, and comes up with the frightening answer.
This week George Bush came closer to telling the truth about the invasion of Iraq than at any time in his presidency.

It is extraordinary that, a year after invading a foreign country unprovoked, the US leader had still not answered straightforwardly the big question overhanging the whole enterprise - why?
Piece by piece, Hartcher demolishes the claims of "War on Terror" and "Al Queda", and "weapons of mass destruction"; and continues to the frightening conclusion - "Manifest Destiny".
Bush's real motive has been laid bare. Early in the march on Baghdad, he was reluctant to speak of it. But neither was it a secret. It was hiding in plain view. He spoke of it five times in one form or another in his press conference this week: "We're changing the world."

Since the end of the Cold War, a group of Republican ideologues has been developing a theory of and practice of hegemony. Labelled the neo-conservatives, or neo-cons for short, these people are the bearers of the doctrine of American exceptionalism, much as the author Herman Melville formulated it in 1850: "We are the peculiar chosen people - the Israel of our time. We bear the ark of the liberties of the world."

As soon as Bush was elected, he tasked the Pentagon with the work of rewriting the National Security Strategy, which a professor of military history at Yale University, John Lewis Gaddis, describes as perhaps "the most important reformulation of US grand strategy in over half a century".

The two key concepts it enshrines are pre-emption, and hegemony. The US will pre-empt threats to preserve hegemony. And hegemony is a nice way of saying preponderant and unchallengeable global domination. Iraq was destined to be the test bed for the new doctrine as the Bush Administration set out to recast the world in its own interests. Iraq was the ideal starting point for reasons that include its implications for oil supply and for the security of Israel. But they are details in the grand vision.

Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, observes that this is a period of great danger for the US, but also "of enormous opportunity ... a period akin to 1945 to 1947, when American leadership expanded the number of free and democratic states - Japan and Germany among the great powers - to create a new balance of power that favoured freedom".

September 11 was the perfect political opportunity to win political support for the new doctrine. As the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, quickly grasped, that day created "the kind of opportunities that World War II offered, to refashion the world".

It is an idealistic vision, the opposite of realism, and a powerful one. But because it refuses to submit to existing realities of world affairs, it is also a disruptive one. Because it seeks profoundly to change the status quo, it is a revolutionary doctrine.

Bush this week vowed to pursue his vision "to change the world." As he said: "It's important for those soldiers to know America stands with them, and we weep when they die." There will be much more weeping as Bush pursues his conception of America's manifest destiny.
"Manifest destiny" has been pursued many times, to tragic ends. But the neo-cons are so sure they can outwit history, they don't mind expending the lives of our military men and women, or destroying other societies to achieve their unrealistic dreams.

They are soul mates of the Soviet Union Communists; willing to raze society to create one in their own mind's image.

Ah, spring

It's a beautiful, North Carolina spring day here in Rightwing Heaven. Sunny, seventy degrees, pollen coating the cars and nasal passages, and the Kleenex Company making a huge fortune.

Speaking of huge fortunes, it's also spring in Afghanistan. The poppies are in full bloom, and the warlords who were recruited by the United States to help fight the Taliban are preparing to harvest a bumper crop for the heroin and opium trade.
"I think we have to broaden the definition of terrorist to include warlords," said Adam Bouloukos, deputy representative with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Kabul. "You have al-Qaida and the Taliban and then this whole range of other characters who are just as destructive because they are trying to undermine the political process and they are well-armed."
I've often said the problem with the Bush administration is that they see everything in black and white.
Some observers fear a repeat of what happened in the 1990s, when the United States walked away from Afghanistan after the Soviet Union withdrew its occupying army and the warlords' excesses contributed to the rise of the puritanical and repressive Taliban.
But like so many other issues, black versus white and good versus evil isn't the whole problem. It's ignoring the evil to attempt the good that gets us in the soup every time.

White House mulls new top intelligence post

Wonderful! May I suggest "President of the United States"?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who not only had some intelligence, but knew how to absorb, interpret, and act upon the intelligence briefings he's provided?

The problem of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing is an old one in Washington, especially among the various intelligence agencies. You can't just let any Tom, Dick, and CIA have access to sources. I honestly have no clue how to solve the problem.

But when you read "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"", and know that similar information has been bubbling around for quite some time - it's not the time to take a vacation.

It's time to call the heads of these agencies together, knock their heads together, and shake them down for anything they have.

THAT'S intelligence.

Happy Belated Jackie Robinson Day!

I would have extended my wishes yesterday, but for my strange problems with the 'net (see below - help!).

From this distance of years, it's hard to estimate the impact Jackie Robinson made on American society when he stepped onto the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, breaking baseball's color barrier.

Jackie entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. According to his Hall of Fame entry -
Jackie Robinson burst onto the scene in 1947, breaking Baseball's color barrier and bringing the Negro leagues' electrifying style of play to the majors. He quickly became Baseball's top drawing card and a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. With Robinson as the catalyst, the Dodgers won six pennants in his 10 seasons. He dominated games on the basepaths, stealing home 19 times while riling opposing pitchers with his daring baserunning style. Robinson was named National League MVP in 1949, leading the loop in hitting (.342) and steals (37), while knocking in 124 runs.
Jackie's record on the field is remarkable, but the operative phrase in the above passage is "a symbol of hope to millions of Americans".

Making the leap from the Negro League to the Major Leagues took a tremendous amount of courage. There were racial slurs, insults, and death threats to endure, but Jackie bore it all with great dignity; answering only with the swing of a bat, his blinding speed on the basepaths, and sparkling fielding.

The Jackie Robinson story reminds us that societal changes may come slowly and painfully, but the concept of equality and truth will win out every time

Today, The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides full scholarships to academically gifted students of color in financial need. Jackie's legacy of pride, dignity, and achievement lives on.

Beginning with this year, Major League Baseball will celebrate every April 15th as "Jackie Robinson Day", as fans the world over pay tribute to a great baseball player and a great man.

SOS to internet geniuses

I am experiencing internet weirdness.....when I type in the URL of this blog, I can only view posts as of April 14th.

When I go to another blog and click the link to Collective Sigh, everything is hunky-dory.

When I go to my daughter's computer (networked to this one via a hub and an attractive neon-blue cable strung throughout the house), type the Collective Sigh URL - and any other Blogspot URL - it comes up with an error message!

Any clues?


(after publishing this post, I opened another IE window, typed my URL - same thing; only posts through April 14. Getting to Collective Sigh from another blog's link, all is well. Is this an IE problem?)


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Colin Powell asks for Syrian help

Stand by to watch the neocon's heads explode.


Check out the Letters to the Editor in the April 13, 2004 edition of Stars and Stripes.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Want a good review of Bush's presser?

All you need to know, courtesy of the incomparable Tom Burka.

Transcript a waste of time

I've given up slogging through the transcript of Bush's embarrassing press conference.

This is better anyway.

A Busy Person's Guide to the Bush Press Conference

(Link fixed.....laughing too hard to pay attention)

Heavy social drinkers show brain damage - US study

Too easy, after last night's press conference.

No comment.

Girl in wreck survives 10 days on noodles, Gatorade

'It's amazing she was able to live that long'

No, it isn't. That's what I lived on when I was in college. And even though we pay $$$ for "board", that's pretty much what my daughter lives on now that SHE is in college.

Seriously, I'm glad the little girl had access to fluid and something edible, and the strength to hold on. She's adorable (see above link). Unfortunately, her mother died in the accident. Say a little prayer or hold a good thought for the child and her family.

Here's what we're up against

My daughter's roommate is a wonderful, outgoing young lady from the Northern Virginia area, and I shall be eternally grateful to her for making my child's first year in college a very positive time.

The two of them are rabid fans of "American Idol". I received the following e-mail just now -
Hi Mom -

Woke up to about a half inch of snow on the ground and its been snowing pretty heavily all day, though not sticking. Goofy weather.

Watch American Idol tonight! Should have come on last night but it was moved because of the dumb president. (My roommate) watched his speech, tried to make me watch it too, no thanks.

However, she did inform me afterwards what she had learned from it (note, she was being absolutely serious when she said this, and actually somehow believes this?!?!) - apparently, (my roommate) learned that if Kerry wins he will pull all troops out of Iraq and if that happens we're all going to die in a year.

First of all, I hope you'll observe I raised my daughter right.

Here's my response, which I kept as brief as possible since my daughter (though raised right, registered Democrat) starts to roll her eyes when I rant about politics -
Hi, Sweetie!

Perhaps (your roommate) could show you in the transcript where it says that?!

I'm sure that's what Bush thinks, too; but back in the REAL world - we have botched it up so bad, there will be troops - U.S. and/or U.N. - in Iraq for many years to come.

If Kerry wins, I'd say we have a better chance of 1) less hatred from the Muslim world, and 2) other nations cooperating with us to prevent future terrorist attacks. Tell (your roommate) she can take that to the bank.

Here's the words out of John Kerry's mouth -

"To maximize our chances for success, and to minimize the risk of failure, we must make full use of the assets we have. If our military commanders request more troops, we should deploy them. Progress is not possible in Iraq if people lack the security to go about the business of daily life."

(Your roommate) very likely felt & heard the impact when that plane hit the Pentagon, so I can't blame her for wanting to do anything and everything possible to avoid terrorist attacks in the future. But remind her that as long as there are disenfranchised, oppressed, angry people in the world - there will be terrorists. As you've heard me say before - you can't wage war against an abstract noun.

You can only do everything humanly possible to prevent it - which Bush has failed miserably to do - and try not to create any MORE terrorists. Bush is turning them out by the hundreds.



When I hear sh*t like that from kids, I know they're just parrotting their parents. My daughter doesn't always agree with me; if anything, she tends to be a bit more conservative. But I made damn sure she heard ALL sides of the issues, and learned to look at things rationally.

Mark my words, regardless of offensive, extremist policies; no matter how bad the economy gets, regardless of how much or little attention the administration gave to terrorism pre-9/11 - it's the Iraq war that will damn Bush to one-term hell.

I personally think Kerry is right to keep a somewhat low profile while the 9/11 Commission hearings are in the spotlight. Very little, if anything, from the hearings will hurt him; let Bush take the hits and shoot himself in the foot.

But once the attention dies down, he's got to make his case for a peaceful solution to the Mess in Messopotamia.

THAT is a noose Bush has put around his own neck..... hang him with it.

Getting Iraq "right"

A must read - via Josh Marshall, please read Our Last Real Chance, Fareed Zakaria's thoughtful, reasoned answer to "what now?" in Iraq..
It (the Bush administration) believed Iraq was going to vindicate these ideological positions. As events unfolded the administration proved stubbornly unwilling to look at facts on the ground, new evidence and the need for shifts in its basic approach. It was more important to prove that it was right than to get Iraq right.
All of Zakaria's ideas should be implemented before the June 30th handover, but I doubt even one of them would be acceptable to a Bush administration whose entire attention is bent on re-election.

More troops? Show Chalabi the door? Rely on help from the U.N.? Cut into American company profits? Invest in the credibility of a (gasp) Muslim cleric?

When Bush is kicked out of the White House, John Kerry will have to clean up the mess; at the very least, keep it from getting worse. If there's any semblance of a reasonable society left in Iraq come January 2005, these suggestions would be a good place to start.

Best of the worst

Andrew Sullivan, never very intelligent at the best of times, says -
"I've just watched the press conference later on C-SPAN. Not only was the transcript encouraging. I found the president clear, forceful, impassioned, determined, real. This was not an average performance. I found it Bush at his best. He needs to do it more."
Bush at his best.

May the Lord have mercy on our souls.

Blowing the bluff

Despite attending to all-important tasks such as cleaning the cat's litter box, I did manage see the last several agonizing minutes of Bush's press conference, have seen various excerpts, and slogged my way through most of the transcript.

I almost feel sorry for the guy.


Remember when you had to give oral book reports in elementary school? There was always a kid or two who didn't read the book, but tried to bluff his way through it. Most of them made a major hash of it.

One boy in my 6th grade class was a born natural. Give him the title, a brief description, and he'd produce an oral report that would convince anyone he wrote the book. I suspect he was separated at birth from Bill Clinton.

George Bush is not a natural. He knew the title, and someone gave him a brief description of - you know, what was going on in the world; someone provided him with notes. But it's plain he hasn't read the book.

I don't mind that he's not a policy wonk; what I do mind is that he isn't paying attention and doesn't care.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

End game

I think Kos has it right - the only "out" for Bush now is to blame the Iraqi mess on the Iraqis themselves.

Regretfully say the United States invaded Iraq with the best intentions in the world; to overthrow a tyrant, establish a democratic government, and spread freedom throughout the Middle East.

But darn those outlaw Iraqis, foreign thugs, and the ungrateful general population - they thwarted our every good intention. We'll just have to pick up all our toys, declare mission accomplished, and go home.

The only thing I'd add to the mix is that the bleeding-heart liberals didn't help a bit, carping about all that Iraqi collateral damage, the immense expense, and whining over our shattered relations with the rest of the world.

I have better things to do than listen to Bush try to cover his butt at tonight's press conference. But I'll be surprised if he doesn't fire some opening shots from the above scenario tonight.

Zapped by cheap and quick

I may or may not get to watch the 9/11 commission hearings today, as we're expecting either 1) severe thunderstorms and/or 2) electricians.

The bozos who wired our house originally must have been drunk at the time, and we've finally gotten a crew out to untangle the mess. They go from receptacle to receptacle, alternately laughing, cussing, or scratching their heads.

Very reassuring. They are amazed the joint didn't burn down years ago.

So, assuming there isn't an electrical storm going on, they'll remount all the receptacles and switches today.

Which all points to the great wisdom of doing a job correctly in the first place, with patience and not cutting corners to save future expense. And that "future expense" is truly expensive.

Sound familiar, as in waging war on the cheap?


Monday, April 12, 2004

A little slow on the uptake?

How does anyone report Bush's words with a straight face?
"There was nothing in this report to me that said, 'Oh, by the way, we've got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America'," Bush said.

Citing statements by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush said: "Now may be the time to revamp and reform our intelligence services."
As I've mentioned previously, the title of the PDB was "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US".

Not "anywhere else except the US", not "Mars", but here. Anyone over the age of four could appreciate the difference.

Now this is just a suggestion, but perhaps the time to revamp and reform the intelligence services might have been very shortly after 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 - when the second plane struck the World Trade Center.

Especially when the president doesn't know the meaning of "U.S."

It's been 944 days, George - what's taken so long?


Meet Juanita Jean Herownself, a jewel who was probably separated at birth from Molly Ivinis, and is hot on the case of Tom "Bugsy" DeLay.

When you're through enjoying her blow-by-blow description of Tom's appearance at the Rosenberg Civic Center last weekend to explain teacher retirement, check out her other posts.

Ashcroft's turn to lie, obfusticate, filibuster, and stall

....and about time. If the 9/11 commission manages to get any truth out of him, he'll catch plenty of heat.

From Salon -
Until now, Attorney General John Ashcroft has been a beneficiary of the intense attention paid to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The controversy surrounding Rice has taken the focus away from Ashcroft's own counterterrorism record -- a record of misplaced priorities, missed opportunities and mistakes. But, on Tuesday, Ashcroft will raise his right hand, take an oath and testify publicly before the 9/11 commission.
The ten questions -

1) If counterterrorism was a top priority for the Justice Department prior to 9/11, why did Ashcroft ignore the FBI's specific request in August 2001 for additional counterterrorism resources?

2) Why wasn't counterterrorism one of the seven strategic goals Ashcroft outlined in a May 2001 memo to his division heads?

3) Between Jan. 20 and Sept. 11, 2001, were the FBI field offices instructed to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists? If so, why hasn't Ashcroft been able to provide any evidence to the commission proving it?

4) After 9/11, why did Ashcroft slash almost $1 billion from an emergency FBI request to bolster counterterrorism efforts?

5) Beginning in the summer of 2001, Ashcroft stopped flying commercial airlines and traveled exclusively by private jet because of an FBI "threat assessment." What, exactly, did the threat assessment say? Why is the threat assessment still being withheld from the public?

6) Does Ashcroft regret the treatment of the 762 innocent foreign men detained by the federal government in the US for months after 9/11? Does Ashcroft think those men -- many of whom were subject to verbal and physical abuse and had their due process rights violated -- deserve an apology?

7) In Oct. 2001, Ashcroft appeared with President Bush at a press conference to unveil a list of 22 "most wanted terrorists." Thirty months later at least 20 of those individuals are still at large. Why is the war on terrorism lagging?

8) Why, in the days after 9/11, did Ashcroft, along with White House and State Department officials, allow two dozen members of the bin Laden and Saudi royal families to circumvent FAA restrictions forbidding flights and leave the country without full FBI questioning?

9) Condoleezza Rice testified that, during the summer of 2001, "there were 70 full field investigations underway of [al-Qaida] cells." Why didn't Ashcroft demand that the National Security Adviser organize daily meetings at the White House of the highest officials with national security responsibility, including himself, to force information from the bureaucracy to the top and locate the terrorist threat? Why did Ashcroft not raise the subject of those field investigations at the one Principals Meeting of national security officials that discussed terrorism (specifically, the Predator drone aircraft) before 9/11?

10) If there were structural impediments to information sharing among federal agencies prior to 9/11, why did you testify under oath before the Congress in May 2001 that the National Security Council was a "highly effective instrument" in coordinating federal agencies dealing with counterterrorism?

Excellent commentary, background info, and pertinent links here.

All are important, but I'm particularly interested in #5. Supposedly, Ashcroft was worried "because of personal threats on his life, not out of fears about terrorist hijackings."

Yeah, right.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

Lookin' around

Every time I've sat down to do a little blogging lately - which hasn't been very often - either Blogger is ker-bloggered, or my Roadrunner connection is burping. But I've not stopped lookin' around some of my favorite blogs -

Via American Footprint, from Meet the Press comes this reassuring exchange -
MR. RUSSERT: June 30: You’re going to turn the keys over to the Iraqis. Who do you turn them over to?

AMB. BREMER: Well, that’s a good question, and it’s an important part of the ongoing crisis we have here now. We’ve always said that there are two dimensions to dealing with the problems of Iraq. One, of course, is the military dimension, which we’re working on right now, but the other is to give a political perspective for the Iraqis to have more and more responsibility. We’ve been working on that for months. We are now working with the secretary-general of the U.N.’s special representative here, Mr. Brahimi, to figure out the best way to get a representative government in place before the end of June so it has a little practice and then turn over sovereignty to it on June 30. And I’m confident that working with him and with the Iraqi people, we, in fact, will get that. We’ll get a representative government in place before June 30.
The clock is ticking, Mr. Bremer. If you want to be a nice loyal Bushie and improve your chances of making a fortune when you leave government service, you'd better find somebody credible, and find him/her fast.


Via And Then... and AP -
In his first comments since Saturday's release of the presidential daily brief, Bush said the document contained "nothing about an attack on America." Bush said if there had been any specific intelligence pointing to threats of attacks on New York and Washington, "I would have moved mountains" to prevent it."
Did someone forget to read Dubya the title of the briefing - "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"? Or maybe Dubya doesn't realize "America" and "the US" are the same thing?


From Houston, via AP, we hear of the sorry spectacle of "Christians" from the Glassport Assembly of God (Glassport, PA) flogging an Easter bunny, breaking Easter eggs, actors portraying a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman - and calling it an Easter show "suitable for all ages".
Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasn't meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence.

"The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter bunny, it is about Jesus Christ," Bickerton said.
Geez, I can't wait for Christmas. I suggest an actor portraying Jesus should shoot Santa's sleigh down with an RPG, burn down the local Toys 'R' Us, and serve reindeer burgers to the kiddies.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Job application
The warning came in a secret briefing that Mr. Bush received at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6, 2001. A report by a joint Congressional committee last year alluded to a "closely held intelligence report" that month about the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda, and the official confirmed an account by The Associated Press on Friday saying that the report was in fact part of the president's briefing in Crawford.


The White House has said that nothing in it pointed specifically to the kind of attacks that actually took place a month later.

The Congressional report last year, citing efforts by Al Qaeda operatives beginning in 1997 to attack American soil, said that operatives appeared to have a support structure in the United States and that intelligence officials had "uncorroborated information" that Mr. bin Laden "wanted to hijack airplanes" to gain the release of imprisoned extremists. It also said that intelligence officials received information in May 2001, three months earlier, that indicated "a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives." (emphases mine).
From the information in bold letters, I deduce that Al Queda plans to attack the United States by hijacking airplanes and either threatening to blow them up mid-air or use them as missiles by deliberately crashing them into something.

Those "vague", "historical" threats were enough to put Ashcroft in a government chartered plane instead of commercial airlines.

From CBS News, July 26, 2001 -
"There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines," an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.
Perhaps it would have been, um, responsible for the authorities to beef up airport security and increase surveillance on known or suspected Al Queda operatives. Arrest them for jaywalking or something if they take one suspicious step.

How did I do? Can I get a job as a National Security Advisor?


Friday, April 09, 2004

Where are the useless Governing Council? Why isn't anyone condemning the killings in the south and in Falloojeh?! Why aren't they sitting down that fool Bremer and telling him that this is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong??? If one of them were half a man or even half a human, they would threaten to resign their posts if there isn't an immediate ceasefire… the people are enraged. This latest situation proves that they aren't Iraqi- they aren't here for the welfare of the Iraqi people.
And these are the people the Bush administration will hand the reins of government to on June 30?

Fiddling while Iraq burns

Our Part-Time, Party-Time President is off on vacation again.
Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal. On Sunday, he is to appear in public at nearby Fort Hood, the home base for seven soldiers recently killed in Baghdad.

[...] This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.
And of course it's also a good time for those photo-ops -
On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch's bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network's "Fishing with Roland Martin."

The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish. The crew was to bring its own boat for the shoot on the small pond.
In only slightly related news, Mr. Andante's job search goes well - in fact, he hasn't had to search at all; companies are contacting HIM. One of the offers in particular is attractive; an enjoyable challenge, fewer hours, better working conditions, fair benefits - but less pay for at least the first year.

This is when you say "I wish we had saved more over the years". With a healthy, rainy-day nest egg to tide us through, there would be no question about taking the job.

But with a handful of bills, a pitifully small savings account, retirement not so far away, and a daughter in college.....well, it has to be carefully thought over.

Andante's advice to all the young whipper-snappers out there....save your dough religiously, and start yesterday.

I have two part-time jobs already, but will probably start looking for a third - I don't want him taking a less desirable job just to pay bills. Preferably, I'd like a part-time job that requires little time, good pay, great benefits, and will last a couple of years.

Thanks to Dubya, I've got a great lead. I hereby throw my hat in the ring, and intend to become the next President of the United States.

Heck, I've balanced a checkbook (by the skin of my teeth) for more years than I care to tell. I've kept the peace between feuding relatives, and I haven't started any of the feuds. I've raised a child who neither drinks or uses drugs, and is often praised by little old ladies for her good manners. And I have a lifetime's experience cleaning up messes.

But I fantasize. I think there's something in the Patriot Act that prevents raging liberals from running.

Maybe it's time to re-run David Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard During George W. Bush's Vacation".

The list is from August 8, 2003, but the more things change, the more they remain the same.

10."This vacation is flying by -- only 33 days left"
9."Dang, Springer's a rerun"
8."These margaritas are weapons of mass destruction"
7."Whoever's in charge really screwed up the economy"
6."My God! Mars is coming right at us!"
5."Don't worry, George. In 17 months, you'll have the longest vacation of your life"
4."Better start making stuff up for the State of the Union Address"
3."I'm itching to declare another war"
2."Proceed with 'Operation Letterman.' Make it look like an accident"
1."Sitting around doing nothing reminds me of being president"


Thursday, April 08, 2004

A happy little story

So - here's the story as I understand it.

*Invade Iraq, topple Saddam, and draw all the bad guys to the area so we can swat them out of existence.

*Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and other assorted ethnic groups heave a huge sigh of relief, have a big group hug, and form a democratic, secular government and booming economy.

*Other Muslim countries, seeing the folly of their theocratic and dictatorial ways, remove their despotic leaders-for-life and mullahs and institute secular democracies.

*Oh - and Israel disappears.

*Everyone lives happily ever after.

Any corrections or additions?


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Spin this
An Associated Press reporter in Fallujah saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. Witnesses said a helicopter fired three missiles into the compound, destroying part of a wall surrounding the mosque but not damaging the main building.

The strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers, witnesses said. Temporary hospitals were set up in private homes to treat the wounded and prepare the dead for burial.
I'm not a great student of modern history, but aren't there some parallels here between the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the US war in Iraq?

I don't know if John Kerry and the Democrats have a better plan. But at this point, any other plan is worth a try.

The current "plan" - or lack of one - is costing American lives, money, credibility, and our collective soul.


Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Curses, foiled again

I see I missed out on winning a Pulitzer Prize again this year - but Leonard Pitts didn't.
''I'm going to Disney World,'' quipped Pitts, after thunderous newsroom applause erupted when his prize was confirmed.
Congratulations to one of the (few) columnists who bring some intelligence to our local paper. He's like a candle in the darkness around here.

Read some of his prize-winning columns here.

Al-Sadr supporters take over Najaf

Never fear - I'm sure our Fearless, Foresighted Leaders have a plan in place to deal diplomatically, tactfully, and peacefully with just such an event.


Anyone who didn't foresee this, raise your hand.


Monday, April 05, 2004

A quick note and suggestion

Busy, busy, busy with helping Mr. Andante in his job search. So far, it looks promising, but we're not counting any chickens before they hatch.

Interestingly, he's talked to several places that would put him to work tomorrow; but they don't offer health insurance. Nor do they pay enough to pay our existing bills AND private health insurance.

It would be interesting to know how many of those 308,000 jobs created in March are also "benefit-less".

In the meantime, I see that the White House vetting could delay 9/11 report until after election.

Is anyone surprised?

I do have one suggestion - get the same fellow that vetted Clarke's book to go over the 9/11 commission report. He okayed that sucker in three months, and wasn't too picky on that politically damaging information.


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