Monday, May 31, 2004

The G.I. Bill
From 1944 to 1949, nearly 9 million veterans received close to $4 billion from the G.I. bill's unemployment compensation program. The education and training provisions existed until 1956, providing benefits to nearly 10 million veterans. The Veterans' Administration offered insured loans until 1962, and they totaled more than $50 billion. The economic assistance provided by the G.I. bill and the Veterans' Administration accelerated the postwar demand for goods and services.
Expensive? Certainly.

But the country was repaid immeasurably by the G.I.'s who learned a trade, got a college degree, and made great advances in American science and technology.

Low-interest home mortgage loans financed by the federal government created a housing boom, which in turn provided further fuel to the economy.
Statistically, the law far exceeded anyone's expectations. It provided education vouchers to 8 million veterans. It doubled the ratio of homeowners from one in three before the war to two in three afterwards. And according to a 1986 government study, each dollar invested in the bill yielded 5 to 12 dollars in tax revenues. Over the years, the GI Bill has been called many things by historians and veterans alike - a Marshall Plan for America, a Magic Carpet to the Middle Class.

(PBS Newshour, Jim Lehrer)
Former Senator George McGovern, providing insight and commentary during the WWII Memorial dedication telecast, said "Maybe we need a new GI Bill".

Right on, Senator.

Happy Memorial Day

Spending a part of my day scanning old pictures and testing "Hello" software for uploading pictures to the blog.

The pictures that follow are from the day my father retired from the Army after a 25-year career.

Yet another Dad-retires-from-Army picture; on the reviewing stand at Ft. Myers, VA, preparing to review the troops. Posted by Hello

More retire-from-Army memories; Dad gets a certificate of appreciation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Taken somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pentagon, 1955. Posted by Hello

More Dad-retiring-from-Army memories; on the reviewing stand at Fort Myers, VA, 1955. Posted by Hello

Memorial Day means memories; this was taken in 1955 at the Pentagon, when my father retired from the Army. That's Dad on the left, Mom in the background, my godfather on the right - and yes, five-year-old Andante in the middle, inspecting various shiny retirement gifts. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Wimpy applause and a presidential brawl?
I was watching the WWII Memorial dedication until Dubya started speaking; like all good Americans should, I then switched the channel to a ball game.

There were tens of thousands of people at that ceremony; mostly WWII vets and their families.

Is it my imagination, wishful thinking, or can anyone confirm - when Bush was introduced, didn't there appear to be a lot of people standing there NOT applauding?

Kos has a post on a little shoving incident (?) that took place between the last legally elected President and Poppy.

I didn't see that one - but I'll put a twenty-spot on Hillary to take down Bar in less than two minutes.

Something you can ask your conservative friends to think about

A big, sloppy kiss and tip of the hat to Tinheart and his post Principles of Leadershit.

When I read things like that, I want to stand up and cheer. Go read it, right now.

Preznit Mighty War Chief's radio address -
Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly because we have known the costs of war. And in every generation, it is the best among us who are called to pay that price. Those who have paid those costs have given us every moment we live in freedom, and every living American is in their debt. We can never repay what they gave for this country. But on this holiday, we acknowledge the debt by showing our respect and gratitude.
"Gone to war reluctantly", my ass. Bush couldn't WAIT to start a war and parade around in a uniform he never earned and doesn't deserve.

And note the "it is the best among us who are called to pay that price."

George, you ain't anywhere near the best, and haven't even begun to pay.

But I guess it is tough, having all that blood on your hands. And maybe he missed a party or two when he couldn't get out of a drill weekend.

Lord willing and the creek don't rise, the price Bush is finally going to pay is defeat in November.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Love a WWII vet

Our precious World War II veterans are passing away at the rate of 1,000 per day.

My favorite WWII vet - my dad - died about four years ago. I still miss him desperately.

A year before he died, one of my daughter's eighth-grade teachers asked if anyone in the class had a relative who had served in WWII who might be willing to come talk to the class about their experiences.

My daughter "volunteered" her unassuming, humble, quiet Grandpa. To my immense surprise, he accepted.

He took the old black and white pictures he had taken in New Guinea and at the surrender in Tokyo Bay. He showed them his dress uniform, Bronze Star, various other decorations, dog tags, the watchband he made from metal scavenged from a downed Japanese "Betty", and regaled them with stories of malaria, Army food, and half-naked natives. Some of it probably true.

The kids loved it, and bombarded him with questions. He went back a second day, just to finish answering all their questions.

A year later, the kids had moved on to high school; but when he was in the hospital they sent him handmade "get well" cards and little gifts.

If you have any influence with a group's program selection, suggest having a World War II vet come and speak. Do it now, before they're all gone.

You can honor a member of "The Greatest Generation" - someone killed in World War II, someone who served in WWII, or a civilian who served on the home front by entering their name in the National World War II Memorial Registry.

You will need to register with your name, address, and e-mail address.

You'll need the following information on the honoree -
Full name
Status (killed in WWII, served in WWII, civilian on home front)
Branch of service
Your relationship to the honoree
Hometown and state from which the honoree entered service
A brief description of the honoree's service during the war


What WILL we tell Rick Santorum?

Man Commits Suicide After Sex with Hen

Bush Says He Has Cure for Illegible Prescriptions

I suppose we could ask, "Is our doctors learning?".

Good old Doc Bush's cure -
Bush touted a goal of storing most Americans' medical records in electronic form within 10 years, saying that would reduce paperwork costs and cut down on medical errors.

"Docs are still spending a lot of time writing things on paper. And sometimes it's difficult to read their handwriting," Bush told an audience at Vanderbilt University in the election battleground state of Tennessee."
That faux-folksy "docs" makes me grind my teeth, but so does the idea that my medical records would be available at the click of a mouse to any clerk at any health insurance company.

On the White House web site, we get a little more information about the proposal, including a couple of nods to "patient privacy".
"Adopting Health Information Standards to allow medical information to be stored and shared electronically while maintaining privacy"

"The use of health information technology will improve America's health care system and put the needs and privacy of the patient first"

"The President's proposed FY 2005 budget includes $100 million for demonstration projects that will help us test the effectiveness of health IT, paving the way for widespread adoption of health IT while assuring the privacy and security of the patient's medical information"
As it happens, I agree in principle with the proposal. Far too many people are killed or disabled because of our lousy paper-based system of record keeping, not to mention lost or misinterpreted records fouling up or slowing down treatment

But as long as the health insurance industry has a stranglehold on our heath care system, there is just too much potential for abuse.

I don't trust these goobers in the administration as far as I can throw them. And I want to know that my medical information would be at least as securely guarded as the preznit's National Guard service records.

Time's D-Day issue on-line

Recently, I posted a bit from Time magazine's article on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

It's on-line now, and worth more than a casual look.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Summertime, Dick Cheney and tomatoes

Yeah, I'd like to throw a few at him, but we're talking a different Dick Cheney here.

I don't care what the calendar says, or when the sun sets - when it's 91 degrees at eleven o'clock in the morning...it's summer.

One of summer's little joys, in addition to iced tea, is tomatoes.

I don't mean the "hothouse" kind; if I want those, I'll paint a ball of styrofoam red and save myself $2.69 a pound.

There is no possibility of a decent BLT sandwich with "hothouse" tomatoes, or even the kind that are picked way before their prime then shipped from a thousand miles away.

Only home-grown, sun-ripened tomatoes give that proper, juicy drippiness that ruins all your shirts and goes so well with hot weather.

The only decent tomatoes are the kind you grow in your own garden, or a generous friend gives from their garden. The kind that are nourished by rain, ripened by the sun, picked at their prime, and eaten within twenty-four hours.

In addition to death and taxes, there is one more certainty in life; if you plant tomatoes, you are in for either a long hot-dry spell, or a long cool-rainy spell. The weather in this part of the country is never "just right".

So we're having that blistering hot, bone dry weather, and I'm watering tomatoes twice a day - early morning, late evening.

And of all things - a 3-foot-long black snake has taken up residence in our backyard.

The first time I saw him, I was watering the tomatoes. I did what any respectable snake-hater would do, and turned the hose on him.

(I'm not being sexist here; I just refuse to entertain the notion that he is a she, and could reproduce in my backyard.)

He didn't seem to appreciate the baptism, but as he slithered away I pronounced his official name - Dick Cheney.

Undeterred, he slithers out of his secret, undisclosed location at the least expected times, scares the crap out of me, then disappears. It's always when I'm alone; therefore Mr. Andante thinks he's a figment of my imagination.

"Besides, he's just a vice-president black snake - he wouldn't cause any harm."

As I mowed the backyard today with our Fred Flintstone-vintage push mower, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

Sure enough, Dick Cheney was slithering just a few yards away, probably scared by the lawnmower noise.

Only fellow snake-haters can appreciate the next part; I screwed up my tiny reserve of courage and started chasing him with the lawn mower.

"Chasing" is quite an overstatement, as this lawn mower weighs a ton and never goes faster than the slowest walking-pace. In any case, I wouldn't hurt him; I would never intentionally do violence to a living creature; even that other Dick Cheney.

Besides, scaring him away is much less traumatic (for me and the snake) than what my friend did to her particular reptilian nemesis - she sucked him up in her vacuum cleaner.

But he started getting shorter - actually, he was pouring himself down a hole in the ground. Eureka! I'd found his undisclosed, secret location!

I positioned the lawn mower right over the hole while I rushed to obtain my weapon of choice....a cinder block to cover the hole.

Dick Cheney may have an escape hatch down there, and may yet pop out to frighten me in the future.

But like his namesake, I'm hoping a loud, angry roar, a dousing with cold water, and the front door slammed shut in his face will keep him underground for a good long time.

I'll just have to be vigilant, in case he tries to sneak in through the back door.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Stream of consciousness ranting

Maureen Dowd -
John Kerry's advisers were surprised and annoyed to hear that Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki. They don't want voters to be reminded of the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party.
My dear Maureen, speaking for the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party - bite me.

I'm sick and tired of Democrats having to apologize for being passionate about wanting what's best for the country.

....and I'm equally sick and tired of Democratic candidates trying to disguise their party affiliation.

On TV, we have Erskine Bowles, who has a good chance of winning the Senate seat John Edwards is vacating, calling himself an "independent-minded" candidate with proven experience in reaching out to the other side. It's a nice, positive ad, but not once does he utter the word "Democratic".

Maybe that's the best way for a Democrat to win in North Carolina, but damn it - just for once, I wish he'd say it - loud and proud.

In the meantime, Bill Cobey (Republican candidate for governor) drags senile sh*t Jesse Helms in front of the camera to yammer about being a good Republican, good Christian, and "principled conservative". Not a word about working with the other side of the aisle for the good of all, and not a word needed.

It's not the Republican way.


Check out The Real President's remarks here.

Food for thought -
How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.
Supposedly, Al Queda intends to hit us again, and hit us hard.

If we have another 9/11-event, what will the headlines say this time?

Another son of a former president
It was quite a sight. There was the oldest man in the D-day invasion, 56-year-old Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jt. (son of the former President) barking orders at Utah Beach. Although he had a heart condition, Roosevelt insisted that his presence and leadership would help boost troop morale. With German artillery exploding all around him, he paraded up and down Utah Beach, ordering U.S. tanks to secure the flanks and U.S. engineers to breach eight 50-yd. lanes through beach obstacles. He refused to wear a helmet, preferring to don a knit wool hat. "We have landed in the wrong place", shouted Roosevelt, who would receive the Medal of Honor for his valor that day. "But we will start the war from here."
(Time, May 31, 2004)

Time magazine is generally a rag, but anyone with an interest and appreciation for World War II history must get the May, 31 edition.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


I'm trapped in a small house with an American Idol-crazy teenager!

Here in Rightwing Heaven, we're just down the road from High Point, N.C. - hometown of one of the finalists.

It's All Fantasia, All The Time.



The George W. Bush Nation Building Plan
1. Wash (invade country)
2. Rinse (install leader)
3. Hang out to dry (ignore)
The Independent has learnt that an all-party group of MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee has returned from a visit to the country shocked and alarmed by what they witnessed. They warn that urgent action must be taken to save Afghanistan from plunging further into chaos because of Western neglect.

As President Bush and Tony Blair unveil their plans today for the future of Iraq through the draft of a new United Nations resolution, the MPs warn that the mistakes of Afghanistan could be repeated with similar tragic consequences in Iraq.

Eric Ilsley, a Labour member of the committee, said: "Afghanistan is a basket case. It's a forgotten country." Shortly after the conflict, Mr Blair pledged to the Afghan people: "This time we will not walk away from you", as the United States and Britain had been accused of doing following the mujahedin's war against the Soviet Union.

But MPs and international aid agencies say that is, in effect, what has happened. With the focus of Washington and London firmly on Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has been allowed to unravel. The remaining infrastructure is shattered, opium production is rocketing, and the Taliban and warlords are back in control of large areas.


Hamid Karzai, President of the interim Afghan government, praised the role of British troops in getting warlords to disarm in his meeting with the parliamentary delegation. Afghan officials say he is under pressure from the US to hold elections in September, prior to the American presidential elections in November, so that President George Bush can show how democracy has been successfully nurtured in the country.

However, the Afghan elections, originally scheduled for June, have already been postponed once due to the unsafe security situation. The UN reports that attacks by the Taliban have led to only 1.6 million out of the 10.5 million eligible electors being registered.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Chidgey added: "The UK troops are doing a wonderful job but we found only 30 looking after an area the size of Scotland. It's a disgrace. Allowing the Afghan operation to remain a forgotten theatre means warlords, funded by drugs profits, will continue to flourish."

Taliban attacks on aid workers has led to many humanitarian projects being abandoned.

High price of mobility

Fanni Terrette has an excellent blog (check it out), and a real eye-opener on the high price of gasoline.

Fanni reminds us vividly of one of the reasons - demand outstripping supply.
In the report, we read that "bicycles have gone from carrying more than 70 percent of travelers in Shanghai as recently as 1990 to from 15 to 17 percent now." Can you imagine? Within the space of only 13 years, there was a drop from 70 to as little as 15 percent of bicycle traffic, while the population grew.
The obsession with automobiles has gripped China, with a car becoming the symbol of status and mobility.

I wonder if those who calculate & prophesy the depletion of oil have teken that into consideration?

Voting with their feet

More fallout from Rumsfeld's "fighting on the cheap" strategy -
Top military managers insist that our all-volunteer Army isn’t stretched too thin from this country’s heavy and hazardous commitment to hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan and cooler places in another 131 countries around Planet Earth. They spout positive numbers like carnival hucksters, hyping enlistment and re-enlistment rates they keep insisting are at an all-time high.


Except that’s exactly 180 degrees out from what hundreds of soldiers have told me during the past few weeks.

It also doesn't square with the fact that the Army is currently extending 44,000 soldiers under stop-loss provisions – which, like a form of the draft, arbitrarily keep a soldier in service beyond the agreed-upon term of enlistment.

"Stop loss is not only a breach of contract, it’s a form of slavery,” railed a Special Forces (SF) senior noncommissioned officer. “There's a tidal wave of folks getting out. ... The number of senior SF NCOs leaving is amazing. Our battalion had three of five sergeant-majors retire, and our sister battalion had two of five. The number of master sergeants was well into double digits. I predict that the exodus will devastate the senior NCO corps at a time when experience and stability are most needed.”

Despite all the accentuate-the-positive spin coming out of the Pentagon, the anecdotal reports I’ve received – especially from Reserve and National Guard folks – agree with the SF sergeant and point to a mass exodus that will reach the hemorrhage point by mid-2005.


An Apache pilot in Korea says, “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Army is going to be losing a lot of people as soon as they get the chance to vote with their feet.”

I’m sure the brass have all the paperwork to back up their propaganda campaign. But as far as the old saw that “figures don't lie” goes, I’ve been around long enough to know that liars figure and soldiers know the truth. So I’ll go with the soldiers.

Unless so-called Army short tours in the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan become manageable based on the number of troops available – right now the Army is trying to do the work of 14 divisions with 10 under-strength, active-duty divisions – we’ll see a mass exodus from the Green Machine and the inevitable return of the draft.

Col. David H. Hackworth (USA Ret.)

Leaking classified info

Gotta love this 5/1/2004 Letter to the Editor of the Modesto Bee -
This letter should serve as a notice to all letter writers, editorial writers and anyone else prone to public comment about President Bush. Referring to him as an "idiot," "imbecile" or such derogatory terms may result in your imprisonment for a total of 20 years -- five years for libel and 15 years for disclosure of classified information.
Thanks to Folkbum for the link.
Train wreck

Interesting details in the CBS poll, especially "direction of the country".

Wrong track

Now - 65%
4/2004 - 55%
4/2003 - 36%
11/1994 - 65%
The last time the percentage that said the country was on the wrong track was as high as it is now was in November 1994, as Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades.

The Joliet Jake Defense

The Bush administration's refusal to accept responsibility and blame-passing has been triggering something deep within my memory, and tonight it hit me....
Jake: Oh please don't kill us! Please, please don't kill us. You know I love ya baby, I wouldn't leave ya. It wasn't my fault.

Mysterious lady: You miserable slug. You think you can talk you're way out of this? You betrayed me.

Jake: No I didn't. Honest. I ran outta gas. I had a flat tyre. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from outta town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locust's. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!


Monday, May 24, 2004


I definitely agree with Jesse over at Pandagon -this is the dumbest article ever to appear at NRO, which is saying quite a lot.

Shorter version? Bush is a jock, and Kerry isn't; therefore, Bush is more fit to be preznit.

The sad excuse for an article cites Bush's "14.5 percent body fat" and "45 beat per minute resting pulse rate".

Don't quote me, but I have it on absolute, iron-clad authority that these numbers - and others - are cooked.

And let's not forget - Kerry proved his physical fitness where it counted...in Vietnam.

Just a few bad apples

Former Soldier Claims He Was Beaten During Training Exercise In Cuba
In an exclusive interview with LEX 18's Leigh Searcy, a central Kentucky soldier says he was told to pose as the enemy for a training exercise at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2003 - and it nearly cost him his life.


In January 2003, Baker was a member of the 438th Military Police company in Operation Enduring Freedom at Guantanamo Bay, where he says he was "given a direct order by an officer in the U.S. Army" to play the role of a detainee for a training exercise.


Baker claims that he was ordered to put on one of the orange jumpsuits worn by the detainees. "At first I was reluctant, but he said 'you'll be fine...put this on.' And I did," said Baker.

Baker says what took place next happened at the hands of four U.S. soldiers - soldiers he believes didn't know he was one of them - has changed his life forever.

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down," said Baker. "Then he - the same individual - reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breath. When I couldn't breath, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.'"

But, Baker says, the beating didn't stop. "That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me," he said. "Somehow I got enough air, I muttered out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier, I'm a U.S. soldier.'"

Baker says it wasn't until one of the soldiers noticed what Baker was wearing did the exercise stop. "He saw that I had BDU's and boots on."

Nearly 15 months after that day, and countless medical treatments at Walter Reed Hospital, Baker is now medically retired from the military, but still suffers.

"I sustained an injury to my brain a traumatic brain injury which has caused me to have a seizure disorder I deal with daily," said Baker.

Baker's traumatic brain injury is outlined in a military document in his possession, which says the injury "was due to soldier playing role as a detainee who was uncooperative."

In light of recent revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Baker felt the need to come forward with his story.

"I feel like I've been betrayed by my own troops because I would never have done to any detainee what had been transpired in my life what happened to me," said Baker. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else, what I'm living with daily."

Dubya to speak from U.S. Army War College

...and I refuse to listen unless someone from the U.S. Army War College reads the report to him, including the part that reads -
"[The] global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

The report, by visiting professor Jeffrey Record, who is on the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point." It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Please feel free to augment the report with pictures, as the preznit is not known for his long attention span.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

Rumsfeld bans camera phones

MOBILE phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.

Thinking about applying for that high-paid trucker job in Iraq?

Think again.

Trucks made to drive without cargo in dangerous areas of Iraq -
Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.

Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called "sailboat fuel."


Shane "Nitro" Ratliff of Ruby, S.C., who quit working for KBR in February, recalled a harrowing trip in December.

As he was hauling an empty truck to Baghdad International Airport, Iraqis threw spikes under his tires and a brick, a cement-like clot of sand and gasoline through his windshield, scattering shards of glass all over him and into his eyes.

"We didn't have no weapons; I had two rocks and a can of ravioli to fight with," Ratliff said.

Ratliff caught up with his fleeing convoy in his damaged truck and made it to the airport safely. He figured he'd pick up a load there, but he was told to return with another empty trailer.
Point One - Two civilian truck drivers have been killed.

Point Two - Fuel prices are sky high, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Point Three - The soldiers who guard these empty convoys just might be more useful elsewhere.

Point Four - This is a perfect example of why privatizing a war is a crappy idea.

Stupidity, hubris, or fear?

From the Hindustan Times -
The political split in the US over outsourcing notwithstanding, till very recently the fund-raising and vote-seeking campaign for the Republican Party was done partly out of India. And this was handled by two call centres located in our own friendly neighbourhood in Noida and Gurgaon.


According to the deal details, at any point in time, 75 agents worked on a $9.25 per hour per person billing rate, and contacted at least 20,000 voters through an automatic dialer.
Like cockroaches when the lights are turned on, the Republicans scurried to scuttle this deal when it came to light.

Heck, I know at least a half-dozen laid-off workers who still think Bush is the best thing since sliced bread, and would give their eye-teeth for $9.25 an hour.

But with that $200 million war chest, I guess money is no object. Wouldn't you they could get volunteers to man the phones?


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Threats from beyond the grave

From Meet the Press, May 16, 2004
Russert: But, Mr. Secretary, if the Iraqis opt for an Islamic theocracy, which could easily become a haven for terrorists, how then do we explain to the 782 who died or the nearly over 4,000 who were wounded or injured that this was worth the fight?

Powell: I don't think that's going to be the case. I think that those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom for the Iraqi people will see that the Iraqi people are interested in creating a democracy.
Jeebus, an Army of the Dead?

I've already seen that movie, thanks.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Behind and in front of prison bars

Carl (Sofarsogoo) at Unpopular Ideas gives us some interesting insights into life behind prison bars and those who guard the prisoners.

Dang; wish I could write like that.

Head for the hills, the National Anthem Project is upon us
The National Association for Music Education is launching the National Anthem Project to renew national awareness of American traditions, promote the significance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and re-teach America to sing the National Anthem through a three-year national consumer education campaign.
Just a personal opinion, but the number of singers I've heard who can actually harness and triumph over the Star Spangled Banner could fit inside a tuba.

We don't need a re-teaching; what we need is a new national anthem. Or at least some sort of competency requirement for those who make solo attempts.

But I never get on board the "new national anthem" bandwagon - I'm afraid "Proud To Be An American" will be chosen, and I wouldn't want that on my conscience.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" works well in group efforts, such as choruses or bands.The best rendition of the national anthem I've ever heard was by the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus at an Atlanta Braves game.

Instrumentalists can do a good job, too (see Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock).

First Lady Laura Bush is the honorary chair of The National Anthem Project, so I don't suppose the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus will be helping us all re-learn the anthem.

And I'm just a bit leery of that "promote the significance of The Star Spangled Banner" part, since it's basically a tribute to Shock 'n' Awe. Or surviving through it.

I really have no clue how to sing the third and fourth verse; the words don't seem to fit with the music (go ahead and try it; I'll cover my ears)-
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the Star-Spangled Banner, in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust.”
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I suspect that last verse is the real point of "renewing our awareness", as it covers both "conquer we must" and "God", which should make all the wingers happy.

The National Anthem Project is expected to kick off in September 2004 and will include major singing celebrations throughout the country–at schools, professional sporting events and other local venues. The program to get America singing will culminate with the a record-setting performance of the National Anthem–hosted in Washington, DC in 2006 with simulcasts of local performances from “National Anthem Cities” across the country.
Thanks for the advance warning.

Multiple choice

a) Army scoffs at allegations of marriage massacre
Senior U.S. military officers said yesterday an air strike in Iraq was a carefully planned and executed attack on a known group of insurgents, but Iraqis insisted that scores of innocent wedding guests, including children, had been slaughtered.
b) Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologise
She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an attack on a sleeping village is at odds with the American claim that they came under fire while targeting a suspected foreign fighter safe house.
c) None of the above

d) Both of the above

I'm answering "d".

From the Guardian account (see "a" above for link) -
Among the dead were 27 members of the extended Rakat family, their wedding guests and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony, among them Hussein al-Ali from Ramadi, one of the most popular singers in western Iraq.
When a celebrity - a wedding singer is killed, it's a little hard to pass it all off as nonsense.

Accountability? Responsibility?

Et tu, Google?

From The Raw Story -
Google kills ad critical of Bush, lets pro-Bush ads continue running

"Now I know how Howard Stern feels," said co-creator Jerry Vasilatos. "What's ironic is that Google Adwords allows ad campaigns for products and items supportive of President Bush as can be attested by other sponsored links which appear when you search out the same keywords they deem unacceptable for our use."

Birds of a feather

Via Josh Marshall -
From President Bush's commencement speech at LSU:

"On the job, and elsewhere in life, choose your friends carefully. The company you keep has a way of rubbing off on you. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing."
....and who better to lecture on the influence of bad company than the worst president since _____ (fill in the blank)?

Few hopes when older workers lose jobs

Let's say you're 45 to 60 years old, employed in a non-union factory which pays a barely decent wage.

You have pretty good health care insurance through the company, which sure comes in handy for those frequent blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, and pays a portion of your prescription expense.

The retirement package is poor-to-mediocre, but maybe between the little bit you put into it plus Social Security and Medicare, it looks like you'll be able to eat, pay utilities, and buy your medicine once you retire. You have resolved not to think about any catastrophic emergencies.

You can't put as much into the retirement fund as the financial experts suggest, because you are raising three children. On top of the expense of caring for them, all three want to go to college. Because you've spent your working life toiling on the floor of a factory, you know higher education is important, and you're determined to see your children have a better life.

Then your job is "outsourced", or the company goes under.

You get another job, right? What if there are no other jobs available in your area?

Commute? Have you seen gas prices lately?

Retrain for another career? There are no other jobs, remember?

The following article is a couple of months old, but increasingly relevant today, especially as the economy "improves".

Take a look at life in Martinsville, Virginia - and remember, their situation is shared by hundreds of communities all over the country.

Job retraining offers limited hope in hard-hit textile, furniture belt
Regina Warren, 44, who was laid off in a 1999 plant closing, is all but resigned to a life of lower expectations.

"It may take me years to get to the point where I was when I fell down," she said. In fact, she added, "I don't think we'll ever really get back."


The nation has shed 3 million manufacturing jobs in the past four years, thrusting trade into the spotlight in the presidential campaign. Democrats attack President Bush over his record in office. Bush promises that his tax cuts will lead to new jobs. But in Martinsville, (Virginia) all that seems theoretical. Reality is that thousands of jobs have left, and few new ones are on the horizon.
"Job retraining" is a nice, easy sound bite, but the fact is - jobs have disappeared, and the few that have been created are often lower paid with fewer or no benefits.
"There's training being offered," said Thomas Harned, the economic development director for Martinsville, "but training for what?"
Sometimes, the community colleges themselves can offer employment -
Former textile worker Warren, a part-time office assistant at the college, sits behind a desk making appointments for students who want to meet with career counselors.

She earns $9 an hour and clocks just 30 hours a week with no benefits. When she sewed sweatshirts, she made $12 to $13 hourly during the best years, and supplemented her income with overtime work.

Warren is a product of federally funded retraining. She enrolled at Patrick Henry in 2000 to learn office skills. Her family gave up summer vacations and cashed in $4,000 in savings bonds to pay bills, money that had been set aside for their son's college education.

Warren earned a two-year degree in business-oriented computer skills, but couldn't find a job when she graduated. She worked at a supermarket, earning $6 an hour. Eventually, the community college hired her as an office assistant.

Even today, the Warrens can't afford to fix the water pipes that leak into their basement. Instead, they turned off a valve, shutting off the outside water supply.
But remember - in our little scenario laid out at the beginning, you're nearing retirement.
But the results of retraining are limited. It tides workers over and prepares them for new jobs - but it doesn't provide jobs.

Only about 10 percent of qualified workers retrain. Some find other jobs; others think they're too old to go back to school.

"I'm 59 years old; what do I want to go to school for?" said former textile worker Robert Nichols, who lives in nearby Bassett, home of Bassett Furniture Industries. "And there ain't no jobs available around here anyway."

Calvin Gravely, who was laid off with 2,300 others when VF Imagewear shuttered in 2001, thinks the government should do more to help those hurt by free trade.
Added this to the poison-potion - community colleges are bursting at the seams with increased enrollment and decreased funding.

Should government do more? Should people give up on the "American Dream" because American business can be conducted cheaper in other countries?

Should there be massive public works projects, similar to the FDR's "New Deal" era? While we wait for the economy to bounce (or crawl) back, what is the government and/or corporate responsibility for the cast-off workers?

(cross-posted at Etalkinghead)


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Run for prez, or get out of the way

Inside dope on everyone's favorite Theocrat, Roy Moore
Iraq isn't at all like Vietnam

"Iraq" has only four letters, "Vietnam" seven!

They speak a totally different language!

Instead of jungle conditions, our troops face desert conditions!

During the Vietnam era, thousands enlisted rather than wait to be drafted; enlisting enabled them to choose duty in Japan, Germany or anywhere other than Vietnam.

Oh, wait -
Thousands of recent U.S. Army veterans nationwide were told to choose by Monday a new assignment in the Army Reserve or National Guard -- meaning a potential return to active duty -- or the military would decide for them. The Army now says the order was a mistake.

The consequence of the error appears to be a sharp increase in enlistments in Oregon and elsewhere by reservists who feared being assigned a unit without their consent. They face possible deployment to the Middle East.

I have no doubt we'll soon be seeing the headline - "Bush administration: Jump in re-enlistment numbers confirms resolve to "stay the course" in Iraq."

A modern American masterpiece

Via Ezra at Pandagon -

With trembling fingers by Hal Crowther

Totally devastating.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The stem cell bank is open for business

But not in the United States, former world leader in scientific and technological research.

The world's first stem cell bank has opened its doors. The UK centre, which will grow and store stem cells for use in medical research, receives its first deposits today.


"Stem-cell research offers real promise for the treatment of currently incurable diseases," says Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, which has co-funded the project with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "The bank will ensure that researchers can explore the enormous potential of this exciting science for the future benefit of patients," says Blakemore.

Scientists hope that stem cells will yield new therapies for a range of conditions, including diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. But much work is needed to understand the signals that guide the metamorphosis of the cells.
By Act of Parliament(Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990), strict ethical guidelines have been imposed for collection, storage, and research; including prohibition against human cloning, and a "conscientious objection" clause -
38.—(1) No person who has a conscientious objection to participating in any activity governed by this Act shall be under any duty, however arising, to do so.
Fortunately, the British are still speaking to us (so far), and our scientists will be able to share in this endeavor.

Unless Bush is re-selected in November.

Is anyone minding the store?

Not only is nobody minding the store, but the employees are making off with the merchandise.

Via Jerome at Bad Attitudes from Newsday -
Biologist guilty of falsifying DNA reports

A former biologist in the FBI laboratory pleaded guilty yesterday to submitting falsified DNA analysis reports in more than 100 cases.

Jacqueline A. Blake, 40, of Upper Marlboro, Md., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to a single count of making false statements on the official government reports she prepared. Blake faces a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Blake admitted that from August 1999 to June 2002, she wrote and submitted more than 100 reports containing false statements about her DNA analysis work. In particular, she falsely certified that she had performed certain control tests designed to ensure the reliability of the DNA analysis.
Something tells me these weren't for paternity tests.

How many people have been convicted on false DNA results? Are there any on death row? Have any been executed?

Local news from Redneck Heaven
Republican Convention denies gay group booth
The (North Carolina) state Republican Party is denying a request from a group of gay party activists who want to open a booth at this weekend's state convention in Greensboro. A group that calls itself Log Cabin Republicans applied a month ago to set up a table at the convention. The party denied the request saying the group's mission does not match the state party's values. The ban has angered gay Republicans who say it is an example of the party engaging in cultural warfare. The Republican State Convention begins Friday at the Koury Convention Center.
Translation: No gays allowed. Leave money at door. Vote Republican in November.

Something evil this way comes

Via Atrios and the Star-Telegram -
Unitarian group denied tax status

Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Denison Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization -- at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization "does not have one system of belief."
Jesus H. Christ/Allah/Buddha/whatever. I have no words to describe my disgust.

Many, many denominations and faiths allow - encourage diversity of interpretation. As a Quaker I should know; Quakers are a "non-creedal" religion, too.

Personally, I believe tax-exempt status on the basis of religion is a crock, and wouldn't mind if it were revoked for all.

But singling out one group - of whom she probably knows zilch - is ridiculous.

For M'Lady Strayhorn's benefit - "We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves."

Sounds like a mighty fine belief system to me.

Gossip is that Strayhorn is contemplating a switch to the Democratic Party and a run for Governor. Removing tax-exempt status for the Unitarian Universalists isn't exactly the best way to pave the way.

Keep in mind Strayhorn is Scottie McClellan's mamma, making him a true S.O.B.

Cheap gas

No such thing at the moment, but you can check GasBuddy for the lowest prices in your area. Not all areas of the country covered, of course.

Good luck. I'm scared to venture out to see what the nearest gas station prices are today.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Veepstakes

CNN's Veepstakes is completed, and the winner is ....


John Edwards.

The two finalists were John Edwards and Wesley Clark, and I happen to like both of them equally. In fact, I didn't enter a vote in the final round because I couldn't make up my mind.

Edwards has that great, engaging personality and down-home eloquence that appeals to voters all over the country - a good contrast with the more reserved John Kerry.

And yet, Wesley Clark has that stellar, 34-year military career under his belt, complete with combat experience and proven diplomatic credentials.

It all falls down to this - where will the campaign be when it comes time to select the candidate?

If the economy is to be the overriding issue - Edwards.

If foreign policy, T.W.A.T. (The War On Terror), and homeland security is the major concern - Clark.

Kerry may surprise with a totally different choice.

But isn't it nice to have such a great field to chose from?


As I noted here, Kos here, and Atrios here, the Army is actively updated their Individual Ready Reserve lists.

As my daughter approached high school graduation last year, she received numerous calls and mail from recruiters.

We expected that; what we didn't expect was for the calls and mail to start again this year - a year after graduation.

The Army called two days ago, the Air Force yesterday, and she got an invitation to become an Army Of One in the mail today.



It averages about $1.89 per gallon for regular in this area, which might not be an arm or leg but is at least an index finger or big toe.

What are you paying?
Best. Commencement. Address. Ever.

Jon Stewart, The College of William & Mary

Many thanks to Michael for pointing me to the best commencement address ever. And believe me - I've dozed through enough commencement speeches to know quality when I see it.

Not only typically Stewart-funny, but very insightful.

A must-read.

Tony Randall, R.I.P.


Bye, Felix.
We are Yazid

From his unique perspective, Juan Cole not only provides detailed news on Iraq that you won't read elsewhere, but invaluable information on Islam and the ancient traditions and customs of the Shiites.
The Umayyad Caliph who sent military forces against Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet, and had him and his family and his party slaughtered, was named Yazid. The story of Yazid killing Husain is the central theological and ritual basis of Shiite Islam. It is like the passion of the Christ for devout Christians. And just as you wouldn't want to be identified as Judas by believing Christians, so the last thing you would want if you were among Shiites would be to be seen as in some way like Yazid.

For many Iraqi Shiites, the United States has become Yazid. And that is not something a colonial power can easily recover from. It will get worse. If the US is responsible or perceived as responsible for Muqtada's death, Muqtada will achieve iconic status as a martyr, as like Imam Husain, and his legend will inspire some portion of Shiites to fight the US to the death. Nor are Muqtada's partisans afraid of martyrdom. Achieving death at the hands of the new Yazid brings them and their families honor. And, for these poor slum boys, life anyway hasn't been that great. They know death; they are not afraid of it.

It was always my nightmare that the US Army would come to fight Shiites in Karbala and Najaf near the shrines. They seemed pretty canny about the dangers until about March of this year. And then all of a sudden, they risked being Yazid. I conclude that this does not come from the US officer corps. I conclude that it comes from the desk of George W. Bush. We don't have any officers in Iraq stupid enough to want to be Yazid. But we have civilian politicians who know nothing about Iraq who gave them an order to get Muqtada at all costs. Why that was so urgent is still not obvious, but, like everything in this war, it will be revealed to be a plot.
I don't know about a plot; Juan Cole doesn't don the tinfoil hat, but it may be that Muqtada is just a threat to Dubya's testosterone level.


Monday, May 17, 2004


Congratulations to all the happy couples who were finally able to make honest men or women out of each other!

The day isn't over yet, but so far my own (heterosexual) marriage is just fine, nor has fire and brimstone rained down from the sky.

And I hear there were a few of the Phelps "God Hates Fags" crowd out, including one with a sign that read "Thank God for 9/11".

Shouldn't someone tell Ashcroft about that?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Support poop power!

Via Fourth Man at NFZ comes this fascinating discovery of the millennia - Poop Power -
After 25 years of persistent work, Marin County rancher Albert Straus has figured out a way to run his dairy farm, organic creamery and electric car from the manure generated by his herd of 270 cows.

Cheered on by a small gathering of engineers, environmentalists and fellow farmers, Straus stepped into a utility shed Thursday, switched on a 75- kilowatt generator, then stepped outside to snip the ribbon spanning a spanking-new electrical panel.

On the panel, an electricity meter began running backward, indicating that power originating from a nearby poop-filled lagoon near the town of Marshall was feeding into PG&E's electric power grid.

"Well," said Straus, with an understated shrug, "that was exciting."

But for Straus, as well as for many of the spectators, switching on the farm's new $280,000 methane digester system was not just a personal milestone -- it signaled an environmental breakthrough for the state's dairy industry.

While the technology for farm-based methane production has been around for two decades, economics and resistance from the utility industry have prevented all but a handful of California farmers from transforming their animal waste into energy.
As someone who comes from an "agriculturally intensive" part of the country, I find this quite exciting.

One recurring problem in North Carolina (and elsewhere, I'm sure) is pollution from hog farm waste. I'll willingly chip in a few extra bucks of state taxes to have those waste lagoons harnessed into something useful.

Three strikes and you're...aw, have another two or three

Frequent astute commenter Bryan has mentioned this before, and here's the story -
Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:

[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
Go read the whole thing.

Personally, I figure they would have come up with plenty of other excuses.

Anti-abortion mother made a saint
Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumor in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term.

In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.

"May our era rediscover, by the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, the pure, chaste and fertile beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine calling," he said.
With all due respect to the Catholic church, I totally fail to see the logic here.

What about "maternal love" and "family values"?

When Gianna Beretta Molla died, she deliberately - repeat, deliberately created four orphans - her infant and three other children approximately aged 3, 4, and 5 years old and put her family through hell.

What of these surviving children's lives? Are not they important, too? Did the Vatican step in to help raise them? Help with their homework? Take them to the doctor? Send them to college?

When I want the advice of celibate old bachelors on how to conceive, bear, raise, and educate a child - I'll ask them. Until then - bug off.

Let women choose according to the dictates of their conscience, the best interests of their family, and their doctor's advice.

On second thought, perhaps the choice of Gianna Beretta Molla for sainthood is not such a bad idea - St. Gianna of the Brokenhearted Families? St. Gianna of Orphans? A shining example of how a woman's choices affect more than herself.

Calling the ball, and other observations

I took a break yesterday, not only from blogging, but from the computer altogether. It doesn't happen often, and it's not that I didn't read any news that interested me.

Instead, I spent a lazy day with The Tube, which also doesn't happen often.

I watched a great documentary on the Discovery Channel about the career of Hannibal; the most brilliant military tactician of (possibly) all time. His guiding principles? Know your enemy, and use the terrain to advantage.

If there's anything to reincarnation, I guess his soul is sitting out this generation. Or nobody is listening to him.

Then I watched the Preakness, and hit the Exacta. I didn't have the ways or means to actually place money on it, but it's sort of nice to know I was right.

You can't help but pull for Smarty Jones, and his exciting win yesterday reminded me of Secretariat's 31-length triumph in the Belmont.

Rock Hard Ten, my choice to place, is a big, rangy, gorgeous animal that I predict will set the racing world on fire in another year. He just needs to grow into his body and gain some racing experience.

And besides, his name reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows - "Third Rock From the Sun". So much for my nose for horseflesh.

I wish I'd taken the bet I was offered a little over a year ago - by this time, Iraq would be peaceful, all those nasty WMD's would be destroyed, and we'd all be awash in oil. I have developed a very good nose for Bushit.

Next up was my beloved Atlanta Braves vs. Milwaukee. Two of my favorite players charged full-tilt after a pop fly, and slammed into each other, causing grievous injury to poor Marcus Giles, great second baseman and definitely easy on the eyes. Neither player was calling the ball.

In my younger, more active days, I played softball with my company team in an Industrial League. Somehow, I got stuck in center-right field, instead of on the bench where I belonged.

The coach drilled "calling the ball" into our heads, and I quickly became famous for standing there and hollering "It's YOURS! It's YOURS!" whenever the ball came in my general direction.

Do you get the feeling that Dubya is another "It's YOURS!" player? If he hollers anything at all?


Friday, May 14, 2004

Sliding straight to hell

Earlier today, I posted a bit about nice cool air being pumped into the venue where Our War Leader was speaking, while students watching his "presidential visit" (translation - photo op/campaign stop) sat crunched together in a hot high school gym.

Coincidentally, while the Miserable Failure was stumping for votes in the cool air, Riverbend gives us a hint of conditions in Iraqi schools:
We're all donating money to the school in the area so they can remain hooked up to the local power generator during the day while the kids are being tested. You can see them in the streets and trapped behind car windows looking flushed and wilted. We're all praying that they'll be able to finish the year without anything drastic happening (well, relatively drastic).
Read her latest post; if even half of what she says is correct, the real horrors have only begun.
Assad gets it

Syrian President Bashar Assad may be a big wheel in the Axis of Evil, but he speaks without forked tongue -
"We are going to change," Syrian President Bashar Assad said. "The first thing I proposed as president was change. But our political life is based on certain tribal and political customs. They don't go back just tens of years; they go back thousands of years. It's not so easy to change. ... We are still at the beginning of this process. We have a long road ahead of us."
Neither will Iraq morph into NeoCon Heaven overnight, or on June 30, 2004, or for years - and for their sake, I hope never.

One of the chief insanities of this whole Iraq mess is the total ignorance of history, culture, and customs. Assad may not be a paragon of democratic virtues, but he could teach the Bush administration volumes about his part of the world.

....if they weren't too arrogant to listen.

Bush Tells Wis. Graduates to Help Others

Because, as we all know, the preznit and his administration have no intention of doing anything for anyone but themselves.
President Bush implored college graduates Friday to offer a helping hand to down-and-out Americans, showcasing the kinder, gentler side of his agenda at a time when images of wartime brutality are pouring out of Iraq.

"Many of us find that there is much more to life than getting and keeping," Bush said at the Concordia University of Wisconsin's commencement. America "rejects the ethic of sink or swim," he said.
Most observers agreed the preznit said it with a straight face.

I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard someone - not just wingers - say, "Our jails have air conditioning, but the school's don't!" I've said it myself, and think it's a very good point. In warm climates, certainly, BOTH should have air-conditioning.

So Dubya is doing a photo op/campaign appearance at a school in West Virginia, blathering about the No Child Left Behind business -
On his second visit to West Virginia in the past two months, President Bush faced an audience in a hot, crowded high school gym that, in addition to his cheering supporters, included voters who say they're ready for a change in the nation's leadership.

During an appearance once again labeled a "presidential visit" and not a campaign stop, Bush talked to a crowd Thursday at Parkersburg South High School about his No Child Left Behind act and the development of college preparatory programs in public schools.


Brum said that on Thursday one only had to look around the school to see how the expensive No Child Left Behind requirements are affecting students.

"We've got 1,200 students sitting over there in an un-air conditioned auditorium watching this (on television) with fans blowing on them to keep cool," she said. "Here, we've pumped in air conditioning for the President. I resent that. We need to first make sure there's money to provide students with an adequate learning environment."

(via Atrios, from the Charleston Daily Mail)
If he hasn't broken a sweat over Iraq, he's not human. A little time spent in a sweltering high school gym would be a piece of cake.

Dodgeball, anyone?

Typing "do not Google upskirt photo" one thousand times

Because I got an eye-full when I did it.

All I really wanted was an article like Congress targets cell phone camera peeping Toms

Ladies, you can solve the problem by adopting the Andante Defense - wear blue jeans 99% of waking hours.

Perverts, you can outwit Congress and adopt the Giggly Preschooler Method -

Or the Giggling Honor Guard On Windy Day Tactic -

Further pictures (not taken with a camera phone) - for strictly educational purposes, of course, can be found here.

But it's only fair to warn you; Ashcroft is watching.


Greg at News From the Sixth Borough surely knows I'm terrified of snakes, yet publishes a truly horrific picture on his blog.

Must retaliate.

Snakehead's Latest Lair: The Potomac ; Anglers Asked to Help in Hunt

Yeah, right. Let me just get out my waders and net.

Other disgusting, dangerous critters spotted along the Potomac -

The world is indeed a dangerous place.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Our national nightmare is over

Powell says "nothing has gone wrong" in Iraq

Thank God....I knew the last four years was just a bad dream!

Now that I'm awake, I think I'll send President Gore a few more dollars for his re-election campaign.

We can't risk letting those neo-con bozos getting a foothold in the halls of power. You wouldn't believe the trouble they can cause.
Hot on the case of the terrorists

No surprise here -
U.S. Takes Greenpeace to Court in Unusual Trial

Greenpeace, charged with the obscure crime of "sailor mongering" that was last prosecuted 114 years ago, goes on trial on Monday in the first U.S. criminal prosecution of an advocacy group for civil disobedience.

The environmental group is accused of sailor mongering because it boarded a freighter in April 2002 that was carrying illegally felled Amazon mahogany to Miami. It says the prosecution is revenge for its criticism of the environmental policies of President Bush, whom it calls the "Toxic Texan."
Update: "Sailor mongering?" -
Sailor mongering was rife in the 19th century when brothels sent prostitutes laden with booze onto ships as they made their way to harbor. The idea was to get the sailors so drunk they could be whisked to shore and held in bondage, and a law was passed against it in 1872. It has only been used in a court of law twice, the last time in 1890.
No doubt Ashcroft's DoJ is well-versed on all laws touching prostitution. It's just a happy coincidence that they can snag "environmental terrorists" with it.


Was Berg already dead when he was beheaded?

I hope so.
U.S. will leave Iraq if asked


Riverbend - Just Go

Army updating Individual Ready Reserve
The IRR reservists are usually soldiers who have left active-duty or active reserve service but still have time left on their obligation to serve. They agree to keep themselves ready to be called up in an emergency but are not required to do the periodic training other reservists must perform.
Would a certain Miserable Failure qualify?

I guess not; though it would be ultimate kismet, huh?
And the beat goes on

Another government falls to a left-leaning challenger - India.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Hostage beheaded in Iraq

Dreadful; absolutely dreadful.
The White House condemned the killing, which it said reinforced its insistence that US abuses of prisoners paled in comparison with the crimes of its enemies.
Also dreadful; absolutely dreadful.

Lower your own damned bar, Bush. The American people and the world deserve better.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Remember Lieutenant-General William "Jerry" Boykin?
Boykin has appeared in uniform in churches around the country over the past two years proclaiming, among other things, that the enemy in the "war on terrorism" is "a guy named Satan" and that the god worshipped by Muslims is "an idol".
Are you surprised to know that he's popped up in connection with the Abu Ghraib scandal?
behind Rumsfeld's apologies lies an attempt to cover up a controversial character hired by him to pin down the "interrogation" process: Lieutenant-General William "Jerry" Boykin, a Christian fundamentalist and no lover of Muslims.


Boykin is the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence under Stephen Cambone, a personal friend of Rumsfeld and one who has the defense secretary's ears. The presence of Cambone as Boykin's boss has previously helped Rumsfeld avoid questions surrounding alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even of Muslim prisoners in general.


Boykin's job in the Pentagon makes his Christian fundamentalist background especially sensitive: he is charged with speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat teams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders. It can easily be speculated that it is this urgency to obtain intelligence, and an uncompromising religious outlook backed by a "beast-man" mentality, that has led to the lower echelons in the US military to adopt Saddam Hussein-like brutalities. It is quite possible that now that the lid on the excesses in Iraq has been lifted, more reports will surface.
Onward, Christian soldiers......

Church of Fools

There's at least one of those on every corner down here in Rightwing Heaven, but if you'll click the link in the title you'll find an "online 3D church", sponsored by the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Shockwave is required to enter the "church", but there are other goodies on the site worth checking out.

Enjoy the "Mystery Worshipper", "Bless That Pet" caption contest, "Captain's Log", and "Gory, Gory, Hallelujah".

I especially liked "And Then There Were Eleven" -
It was a tough choice, but after receiving more than 2,000 entries in our 11th Commandment competition, here are the winners -

Thou shalt not worship false pop idols
Thou shalt not kill in the name of any god
Thou shalt not confuse text with love
Thou shalt not consume thine own body weight in fudge
Thou shalt not be negative
The runners-up are pretty good, too; as are a few "thou shalts".


Syria hit with sanctions for links to terrorists, weapons program
President Bush slapped tough economic sanctions on Syria Tuesday as punishment for the country's ties to terrorists, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its attempts to undermine the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq.
Sounds like Syria may have hit the trifecta, and be eligible for the Grand Prize - an all-expenses paid, US taxpayer-financed "liberation".

But - gee, golly-whiz, where would Dubya and Rummy get the troops? Perhaps the good folks at the Selective Service might have a few ideas?

Yet another strong voice on the left

Please join me in offering a (belated) welcome to Carl at Unpopular Ideas to the blogoshere!

If you've hung around here or various other pinko-commie-librul blogs, you've seen his astute comments as "Sofarsogoo".

I particularly enjoyed An Appreciation of the French , Incest at a Discreet Remove , Seriously Now, and - well, everything. Go say hello...shoo, shoo, shoo!
"Bring it on!"

What Dubya wants, Dubya gets - Video 'shows US man beheaded'
An eye for an eye

Much of the rightwing response to the abuses of Iraqi prisoners - indeed, a good deal of our "get tough" laws - stem from Exodus 21:24 -
"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,"
But a little reading around that verse and a brief overview of ancient history renders a very different interpretation.

From "An Eye for an Eye - Get-Tough Laws Under Biblical Scrutiny" (by Paul M. Bischke)
In ancient Palestine, offenses against one's honor were met with an escalating response. If someone stole one of your sheep, the manly thing to do was to go and kill five of his cows. If some careless bozo trampled a row of your corn with his ox-cart, you might go and set fire to his field. In other words, "teach 'em a lesson."

The eye-for-an-eye ethic put a lid on this escalating violence, insisting that punishment or restitution be proportional to the actual, demonstrable harm done, and that it not be determined by the rage of the party offended. For example, Leviticus 24:18 says, "And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast." The eye-for-an-eye principle placed rational limits on retribution and punishment -- a true step of moral progress.
The spiral of violence, "honor killings", and mandatory severe punishment still persists in many places throughout the world. Including the United States of America.
The "eye for an eye" principle forbids us from visiting excessive severity upon an individual in order to `send a message' to the larger society. Primitive societies administered such symbolic punishments freely. The Romans "made examples" of criminals to deter crime -- hence their use of public crucifixion. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, however, takes the flesh-and-blood individual very, very seriously. Whenever a society treats a living person as an abstract symbol or as the embodiment of some larger generalized evil, Christianity cries foul.
Or at least, the "Judeo-Christian tradition" should cry foul. This important moral principle has been hijacked throughout the ages by barbarians in civilized clothing.

Unfortunately, many of our loudest moral windbags have been oddly silent on the Abu Ghraib scandal, yet continue to be the driving force behind severe "symbolic" punishments and justify killing and atrocity by calling for more killing and atrocity.

John Moody (Senior Vice President, News Editorial of Fox News) says
Without showing the charred bodies of Americans dangling in ignominy, or the lopped off-arms of justice Saddam-style, how can we judge the pictures we are now clucking over?
We can very easily judge by asking ourselves - "is this right?" Any person, people, or country that aspires to take the moral high ground - and presumes to preach it to others - must act on the basis of right versus wrong; regardless of "justification".

Moody sums up the question posed by all those who seek to "justify" abuses -
Do we expect American soldiers to be morally superior to the people who are trying to kill them, and at the same time win a war in which there are no rules of conduct for one side?
The short answer? Yes.


Monday, May 10, 2004

More 'blowing off steam'

From the Asia Times
The Indian government has asked the United States for information on reports that Indian nationals were being forced to work for contractors in Iraq with little rest and low pay and held "against their will". The Ministry of External Affairs asked the US Embassy in New Delhi for details on the number of Indians working in Iraq, a ministry spokesman said. The ministry "expressed its concern regarding the disturbing reports about the conditions in which some Indian nationals are being forced to work for contractors active in Iraq", a statement said. The embassy was asked about news reports "that Indians who wished to leave were unable to do so, and were being compelled to continue to remain in Iraq against their will", the statement said.
Slave labor?

Stay tuned, as the Bush administration spreads the joys of Amerikan values all over the world.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Ding, dong, the wicked witch has her own ballot rejected

Heh, heh....

NATO Balking at Iraq Mission
From the LA Times
Amid rising violence and public opposition to the occupation, allies want to delay a major commitment until after the U.S. election.

The Bush administration's hopes for a major NATO military presence in Iraq this year appear doomed, interviews with allied defense officials and diplomats show.

The Western military alliance had expected to announce at a June summit that it would accept a role in the country, perhaps by leading the international division now patrolling south-central Iraq. But amid continuing bloodshed and strong public opposition to the occupation in many nations, allies want to delay any major commitment until after the U.S. presidential election in November, officials say.


One U.S. hope had rested with NATO. Within the alliance, there seemed to be "a sense of inevitability about the mission" as recently as a few weeks ago, said one NATO official. "But it's just not there anymore…. Any enthusiasm there was has drained away."
Well, that seems pretty plain.

If Bush is re-selected, NATO will continue to sit on it's hands. If Kerry is elected, NATO may be more willing to cooperate.

Still looking for a reason to vote for Kerry? Given the amount of money and blood we've been squandering in Iraq, that seems like a good enough reason to me.

Missing voices

The voices condemning Iraqi prisoner abuses are growing minute by minute.

I've been busy today, being honored for my motherhood, so I may have missed something.

But has anyone heard from Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? James Dobson? Bill Bennett? The Christian Coaltion? Anyone from the "Religious Wrong"?

Where are our Moral Custodians during this scandal?

Inquiring minds want to know - What Would Jesus Do?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

One of those countries

I'm recuperating nicely from all the recent muscle aches and pains. Some "gentle walking" today - actually, walking behind a lawnmower - and a soak in an Epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide bath has done wonders.

But emotionally - I feel terribly depressed about the stories of abuse and torture from Iraqi prisons.

I hope you make a regular practice of reading Riverbend's Baghdad Burning. If not, click the link and bookmark it this instant.

I've been thinking today about her post of April 11, 2004 - One of Those Countries, written shortly after a spate of foreign civilians were taken hostage -
The hostage situations are a mess. I watch television and it feels like I'm watching another country. All I can think is, "We've become one of *those* countries..." You know- the ones where hostages are taken on a daily basis and governments warn their civilians of visiting or entering the country. It's especially sad because even during those long years during the blockade and in between wars and bombings, there were never any attacks on foreigners. Iraqis are hospitable, friendly people who always used to treat foreigners with care... now, everyone is treated like a potential enemy.
Like it or not, we've become one of "those" countries.

After World War II, many Germans said of the Holocaust - "we didn't know". I've read this quite often, and thought, "they just didn't want to know", or "yeah, right". Now I know what it feels like to be a citizen of one of "those" countries.

There were rumors of abuses, but I didn't pay much attention to them. The Arab press has tended to be hysterical at times - I put the rumors down to more wolf-crying.

And surely - surely - the United States of America wasn't one of those countries.

Where do we go from here?

The Iraqis - not to mention virtually every Muslim in the world - will not be in a hurry to "forgive" us. No amount of electricity, water, oil, schools, hospitals, or money raining from the skies will wipe out the memory of the pictures plastering every newspaper in the world.

There are calls for Rumsfeld to resign, or for Bush to fire him; either would be a positive gesture to a culture where symbols are important. Tearing down Abu Ghraib prison would be another good signal. Re-selecting Bush would be the worst possible symbol.

Only a new administration can even begin to restore faith in the United States; not only to the rest of the world, but to it's own citizens.


Friday, May 07, 2004

The source of the evil

The Iraqi prisoner abuses didn't just spring out of nowhere. Lack of proper supervision and training obviously played a large role.

But what about the atmosphere, the aura, the culture - whatever you want to call it?

Via Josh Marshall, , a former British officer just returned from Iraq spells it out -
"The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11".
Dear God in heaven - if Iraqi prisoners were treated this way, what goes on in the prisons of Afghanistan and Gitmo?

"Bring it on", "wanted dead or alive" - the macho posturing from the Bush administration is ultimately responsible for this catastrophe.

Woes of a couch potato

As usual, my mind says "thirty" but my body says "ninety". Never mind what my birth certificate says.

It has been cruelly demonstrated to me that I need to, shall we say - improve my physical condition.

On Wednesday, I went up to the beautiful North Carolina mountains to help first-and-only-born child move her possessions back home for the summer.

Her room is on the fourth floor of the dorm (no elevator), and you have to go up a flight of steps just to get to the first floor.

The dear child had already packed her car with most of her belongings. The only things left were a small refrigerator, microwave, 19-inch TV, laptop computer, a box of last-minute stuff, a very heavy suitcase, and a broom.

In a rush of what little testosterone is allotted me, I carried down the refrigerator. Then I carried down the television.

Then I pretty much collapsed.

I recuperated long enough to trudge back up to get the broom - it's not the first time I wished I could hop on a broom and fly.

The trip back home was pretty much a blur....the only thing I remember is how lovely the mountains were; the new-budding trees are a thousand different shades of green, punctuated by snowy white dogwoods and bright redbuds.

I also remember being extraordinarily grateful for cruise control.

So, now I'm in agony. My leg muscles feel like Jello, and have an odd tendency to give out on me at the darnedest times.

I've soaked in a hot tub with Epsom salts, and am single-handedly keeping the Sportscreme people in business. I've done a little gentle walking, but carried a walking stick, just in case.

My dear, wonderful medical acupuncturist gave me his best advice - get in better shape.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it - help!

Number one - what else can I do to deal with this pain and speed recovery?

Number two - any suggestions for a brief, gradual physical fitness plan happily considered.

The good news......next semester, her room will be on the first floor.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Due to technical difficulties....
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 4, 2004

Postponement of Release of “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004”

The release of “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004” scheduled for May 5, 2004 has been postponed for technical reasons that have held up completion of the report. We will announce a new date for the release of the report once it reaches the final stage of printing.


Released on May 4, 2004
All things considered, probably a pretty good idea.


From Salon -
Claiming ignorance is a standard defense for the administration in justifying why it did not act sooner and more aggressively to address the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers asked CBS to hold the 60 Minutes II story that first widely exposed the alleged torture at Abu Ghraib and launched the haunting images worldwide -- three weeks before the story ran. Yet Myers claimed as recently as Sunday that he didn't yet read the Army's report on Abu Ghraib, which was completed in February. "It's working its way to me. I haven't seen it," he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. Someone else who hasn't yet read the full report: Donald Rumsfeld.
Claiming ignorance as the standard defense seems to be the leitmotiv running through this entire administration.

Just as troublesome - the only apology I've heard so far has come from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, just recently placed in command the US prison system in Iraq.

Oh, there's plenty of "not my fault", "not the American way", etc.

But an outright apology seems to be the evil of which no one speaks.


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