Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shake It For Kolob

Now this is genius.
Using a thick, fake Arabic accent, Yasimina (nee Barbara Ann Hoagland) bids them to join her for an impromptu lesson. I cringe. But if three decades of teaching shy local woman how to emulate cobras has taught the Utah-born woman anything, it's how to proselytize. The women rise in fear and trembling.

Barking exotic-sounding nonsense at her drummer, Yasamina demonstrates an undulation, a difficult move even for a practised dancer. A few women follow stiffly along; most remain frozen.

"All right," she sighs, nearly losing her accent, "Who ees ay sexy Rrepooblicahn?" The women exchange sideways glances, then mumble in unision: "Mitt Romney."

"Okay," says Yasamina, triumphant. "Ve do eet forr Meat. Meat Rrromney."

What is belly dancing doing in Utah, where the Mormon church bars "moves that are suggestive of sexual behavior," where many people don "armour of God," an undergarment they are not allowed to take off, where I am one of the few Arabs anyone has ever seen? Though its origins in the state are unclear, its appeal is strong. For a Latter-day Saint, belly dancing can be a form of rebellion. For non-LDS women, it's a way to make friends in a place where community outside of the church can be difficult to find.
Strangely, there are no belly dancers for any of the Democratic candidates, including the good-looking ones such as Barack Obama or John Edwards. But I'm sure that if Hillary gets elected, Bill will be happy to bring some along.

Bad King Corn

You can now add corn cobs to the ever-growing list of politically incorrect foods.
Public health reformers say American agribuisness has come to rely too much on its two biggest and most heavily-subsidized cash crops, corn and soybeans, which take up nearly 60 percent of America's cropland. Not surprisingly, products made from these two commodities have become ubiquitous in the American diet.

Commercial baking and cooking is the largest single use for soy oil, while high-frutctose corn syrup has surpassed cane and beet sugar as a sweetener in everything from sodas to baked goods.

(snip) The nation's corn growers make no apologies for their success. Nor are they inclined to accept blame for the nation's obesity problem.

"There's no difference between high-fructose corn syrup calories and sugar calories," said Ron Litterer, board president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Litterer's home town of Greene, Iowa, was the site for the King Corn documentary, for which he finds little use. Obesity is not about what farmers grow, but what, and how much, people eat, he says.

"It comes down to people's choices and what they consume," Litterer said. It's their diet, their lifestyle. It's not corn's fault. It's just not."
I'm afraid Mr. Litterer's protests will fall on deaf ears. Any good health nazi knows that it's always somebody else's fault besides the consumer's.

You're Only As Old As You Appeal

Ron Paul explains to pbs why an old white guy like him is so popular with the younger folks:
REP. RON PAUL: Young ideas, a fantastic idea about individual freedom and allowing people to do what they want and take care of their lives, their lives belong to them, and get the government off their backs, and offer them low taxes, and make sure I never mess around with the Internet. Don't tax the Internet, and don't regulate the Internet.

You know, freedom is a very popular idea, and young people love it, and they're open to ideas. And they like principled answers to our problems.

And older people seem to be stereotyped. You know, they get set in their ways, and they're not as open to the ideas of freedom, yet to me, freedom is a relatively new idea. It was an experiment, you know, with our country, but we've forgotten about it, and I'm reminding them about this great experiment of freedom, and they love it. And I am just so delighted when I see the young people coming.
The Republicans should take notice. There is a huge potential voting block out there that they're ignoring, and which they will lose to the Pied Pipers of the Democratic Party if they don't wise up.

Pumpkins, Nyet

It looks like the Russians are taking a page from our own fundamentalist playbook.
MOSCOW (Reuters)-Moscow schools have been ordered to ban students from celebrating the cult of the dead, better known as Halloween, despite the widespread popularity of the imported festival to Russia.

Halloween is being forced underground because it "includes religious elements, the cult of death, the mockery of death," a spokesman for the city's education department Alexander Gavrilov said on Wendesday.

"It's not an attempt to block the celebration of this holiday completely, just in schools and colleges," he added.
Who says they haven't learned anything from us?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

National Defense's European Vacation

It's a quagmire! a quagmire!
US forces may stay longer than planned in Europe if Defense Secretary Robert Gates agrees to a request from his top commancer there, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

Two of the four US combat brigades left in Europe were supposed to move to US bases over the next year, but General Bantz Craddock, the commander of US forces in Europe, has recommended postponing the move by about a year.

Gates "is inclined to embrace the concept of leaving two of them there for a time longer than originally anticipated," said Pentagon spokseman Bryan Whitman.

Craddock had recommended the slowdown in withdrawing the troops, saying more forces were needed for "security theater engagement," Whitman added.
You can thank Uncle Putin for this. Just when you thought we were out of the Cold War, they keep pulling us back in!

What Would A Hobbit Do?

Now this is funny, coming from a guy who spent time with Shirley MacLaine.
PHILADELPHIA-Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich questioned President Bush's mental health in light of comments he made about a nuclear Iran precipitating World War III.

"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," Kucinich, an Ohop congressman, said in an interview with The Phyladelphia Inquirer's editorial board on Tuesday. "There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact."

Kucinich, known for his liberal views, trails far behind the leading candidates in most Democratic polls. He was in Philadelphia for a debate at Drexel University.
Sorry, Dennis, but before we get to Bush's state of mind, we still have to figure yours out.

Alms For The Duration

As I noted below, Giuliani made a prediction, and darned if it isn't coming true.
WASHINGTON (AP)-Democrats are debating whether to approve $50 billion to $70 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, less than half of President Bush's $196 billion request but enough to keep the wars afloat for a few more months.

Such a move would satisfy party members who want to spare the Pentagon from a painful budget dance and show support for the troops as Congress considers its next major step on Iraq.

But it would also irritate scores of other Democrats who want to pay only to bring troops home and who say their leadership is not doing enough to end the war.
It sounds like there's an internal battle going on between the Blue Dog Democrats and the Old Hippie Democrats. Whichever side prevails will show what kind of a mood the party will be in to deal with the next president, whoever it is. I would not want to be in that person's shoes for all the leaded tea in China.

Flip-Flopping Is Their Middle Name

Giuliani makes a prediction:
LONDONDERRY, N.H. (AP)-Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said Monday that two of the Democratic candidates will change their minds again about the Iraq war and agree that it was the right decision.

Asked at a town-hall meeting to characterize the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq, Giuliani said they have done an admirable job.

"Do I think the mission overall in Iraq is the correct one, I think without a doubt it is," the former New York mayor said at Insight Technologies, which makes tactical weapons lights and laser systems for the military.

"And I think the Democrats are going to change their minds about it again," Giuliani said, noting that Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards voted as senators for the initial invasion.
They'll be for it before they are against it before they're for it again.

A Round Of Green

Now even drunken sots can be environmentally correct.
Now we heare that these UK pioneers of clean energy are helping green the greatest of all British institutions, the pub. Working with the major pub chain JD Wetherspoons, Solarcentury have provided their solar roofing tiles to the Kettleby Cross, a groundbreaking 'green pub' that also features a wind turbine (which looks from the picture to be the long-awaited Quite Revolution vertical axis turbine which we wrote about here), under floor cooling, and rainwater harvesting for flushing the toilets.
Meh, I'll be impressed when they can use those toilets (which will surely see great use) for extra energy. Who says drunks can't contribute to fighting climate change?

Punk'd Nation

Are we really this stupid?
The Federal Trade Commission today released a statistical survey of fraud in the United States that shows that 30.2 million adults-13.5 percent of the adult population-were victims of fraud during the year studied. More people-an estimated 4.8 million consumers-were victims of fraudulant weight-loss products than any of the other frauds covered by the survey.
I didn't know there were that many gullible people out there outside of the Democratic Party.

Steal This Election

At least they had good practice in case the Democrats want to hire them for future elections.
Three of seven defendants in the biggest voter-registration fraud scheme in Washington history have pleaded guilty and one has been sentenced, prosecutors said Monday.

The defendants were all temporary employees of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, when they allegedly filled out and submitted more than 1,800 fictitious voter-registration cards during a 2006 registration drive in King and Pierce counties.

No votes were cast in the names of the phony voters. Prosecutors said the defendants committed fraud in order to keep their jobs without actually registering voters.
I guess no dead voters were available...

Dead End High

Let's hear it for public education!
WASHINGTON-It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That dubious distinction applies to more than one in 10 high schools across America.

"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the researchere at Johns Hopkins University who defines such a school as a "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a deade ago but no less, either.
Well, look on the bright side, liberals: the Democrats will have another generation of welfare recipients to exploit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hot Steel

Yikes! Hopefully this was something that was caught in time.
TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 29 (Reuters)-Honduras authorities have found strong traces of radioactive material in a Hong Kong-bound shipping containeer containing steel debris from an Atlantic coast port, officials said on Monday.

During a security scan on Sunday, officials detected high readings of radioactivity emanating from the container at the Puerto Cortes port, 115 miles (185 km) north of Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa.

"We immediately declared an alert and have seized the container for inspection," Edwin Araque, the manager of Honduras' port authority, said on Monday.
Let's hope there's not any more of this stuff out there, shall we?

FDR Junior

Johnny E has plans, big plans.
John Edwards says if he's elected president, he'll institute a New Deal-like suite of programs to fight poverty and stem growing wealth disparity. To do it, he said, he'll ask many Americans to make sacrifices, like paying higher taxes.

Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, says the federal government should underwrite universal pre-kindergarten, create matching savings accounts for low-income people, mandate a minimum wage of $9.50 and provide a million new Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor. He also pledged to start a government-funded public higher education program called "College for Everyone."

"It is central to what I want to do as president to do something about economic inequality. I do not believe it is okay for the United States of America to have 37 million people living in poverty," he said in a meeting with Monitor reporters and editors this week. "And I think we need, desperately need, a president who will say that to America and call on Americans to show their character."
Apparently he's not satisfied with letting Hillary promise everything under the sun. And at this stage in the game, desperation is certainly his middle name.

Reform Or Die Trying

If at first you don't succeed, et cetera, et cetera.
The proposed amendment, sponsored by Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Tom Harkin of Iowa, would overturn Supreme Court decisions that limit Congress' power to regulate the funding of political campaigns. The sensators are right about one thing: The "reforms" they envision cannot be reconciled with the Constitution-particularly that passage about free speech and free association. So if their ambitions cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment, too bad for the First Amendment.

Their discontent dates back to the Watergate era, when Congress tried to cure corruption by putting tight limits on political contributions and expenditures. In their zeal, lawmakers paid no heed to critics who said the restrictions would impoverish public understanding by impeding communication.

But the critics were vindicated when the Supreme Court ruled that, under the First Amendment, candidates are free both to spend as much as they choose and to contribute unlimited amounts to their own campaigns. It also said citizens have the right to spend as much as they choose to spread their own views about candidates.
In other words, the Democrats want to steal John McCain's worst ideas and make them their own, and to heck with that pesky Constitution. Who says Democrats and Republicans can't agree on something?

Saggy Bottom Boys

I've got to admit, this is an angle I hadn't thought of before.
A new campaign by the city of Dallas targets the hip-hop style of wearing your pants low enough that your boxers are showin-and part of your posterior, too.

The campaign has a signature song, "Pull Your Pants Up," by Dooney Da'Priest, that links so-called saggin' with being gay. After the BPP blogged NPR's original report on the public service announcement, listeners objected to lyrics they consider homophobic.

(snip) In an interview with a local television station, Dooney explained that saggin' comes from jail, where he argued that showing your boxers has a very particular meaning. "You're letting another man know that you're available," Dooney said.
So all of these tough, homophobic rappers are self-hating gays? It would explain a lot.

No Thanks, National Health

At this rate, Michael Moore will be the only one who still likes British health care.
Record numbers of Britons are flying abroad for medical treatment to escape NHS waiting lists and the rising threat of hospital superbugs.

Thousands of "health tourists" are going as far as India, Malaysia and South Africa for major operations-such is their despair over the quality of health service.

The first survey of Britons opting for treatment overseas shows that fears of hospital infections and frustration with NHS waiting lists are fuelling the increasing trend.

More than 70,000 Britons will have treatment abroad this year-a figure that if forecast to rise to almost 200,000 by the end of the decade. Patients needing mahor heart surgery, hip operations and cataracts are using the internet to book operations to be carried out thousands of miles away.
But hey, at least the staph infections back home are still free.

Southern Fried Justice

By now I'm sure a lot of people have heard that common sense has finally come to Georgia.
ATLANTA-A young man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with another teenager was freed Friday by Georgia's highest court, which ruled that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Genarlow Wilson's case led to widespread protests of heavy handed justice. His supporters said race was one reason he received such a severe sentence, noting that he and the girl-both black-were only two years apart.

Wilson's supporters were jubilant.

"I never gave up hope in our judicial system, and I never gave up hope in all the prayers people sent out for us," said his mother, Juannessa Bennett.

Wilson, 21, offered advice to other teens: "They should be very hesitant before they join certain crowds and make certain decisions."
Yeah, like having sex in a part of the country where it's apparently still illegal.

Yo...Jacques?

Say it ain't so, Duke!
Hollywood now proposes that in a new live-action movie based in the G.I. Joe toy line, Joe's--well, "G.I."--identity needs to be replaced by membership in an "international force based in Brussels." The IGN Entertainment news site reports Paramount is considering replacing out "real American hero" with "Action Man," member of an "international operations team."

Paramount will simply turn Joe's name into an acronym.

The show biz newspaper Variety reports: "G.I. Joe is now a Brussels-based outfit that stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international co-ed force of operatives who use hi-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil organization headed by a double-crossing Scottish arms dealer."
Well, I'm sure Destro would be glad to know he's finally in charge. But somehow, I don't think "He'll fight for Brussels wherever there's trouble" has quite the same ring to it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Biggest Loser

"It's a quagmire!" At least for the bad guys.
On October 22nd, Osama bin Laden admitted that al Qaeda had lost its war in Iraq. In an audiotape speech titled "Message to the people of Iraq," bin Laden complains of disunity and poor use of resources. He admits that al Qaeda made mistakes, and that all Sunni Arabs must unite to defeat the foreigners and Shia Moslems. What bin Laden is most upset about is the large number of Sunni Arab terrorists who have switched sides in Iraq. This has actually been going on for a while. Tribal leaders and warlords in the west (Anbar province) have been turning on terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda, for several years. While bin Laden appeals for unity, he shows only a superficial appreciation of what is actually going on in Iraq.

Bin Laden doesn't discuss how the Americans defeated him. It was done with data. Years of collecting data on the bad guys paid off. Momth by month, the picture of the enemy became clearer. This was literally the case, with some of the intelligence software that created visual representations of what was known of the enemy, and how reliable it was. The picture was clear enough to maneuver key enemy factions into positions that make them easier to run down.

(snip) Bin Laden's latest audio recording brought forth a furious reaction from many of his followers. The main complaint was that only excerpts of the message were being reported on by the Arab media, and that if the entire message were put out there, the excerpts would not appear so damaging. The excerpts concentrated on bin Laden admitting mistakes, criticizing al Qaeda operations in Iraq and urging Islamic radicals to get their act together.
Poor Binny. All that plotting and fantasizing, and all he has to show for it is a dusty cave and a couple of goats for company.

The Long Arm Of The Kremlin

You knew this was coming sooner or later.
MOSCOW--After ignoring the Internet for years to focus on controlling traditional media such as television and newspapers, the Kremlin and its allies are turning their attention to cyberspace, which remains a haven for critical reporting and vibrant discussion in Russia's dwindling public sphere.

Allies of President Vladimir Putin are creating pro-government news and pop culture Web sites while purchasing some established online outlets known for indpendent journalism. They are nurturing a network of friendly bloggers ready to disseminate propoaganda on command. And there is talk of creating a new Russian computer network--one that would be separate from the Internet at large and, potentially, much easier for the authorities to control.

"The attractiveness of the Internet as a free platform for free people is already dimming," said Iosif Dzaloshinsky, a mass media expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
Considering that Putin seems intent on claiming ownership of everything else within his reach, I'm surprised he didn't go after the Internet sooner. But I guess building a new Soviet Empire takes time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Peter Paul And Hillary

Sour grapes, or something more?
WASHINGTON-One gift that Hillary Clinton is unlikely to enjoy on her 60th birthday Friday is the premiere of "Hillary Uncensored," a scathing documentary whose 13-minute trailer has been No. 1 on Google Video since Oct. 10, with more than 1.1 million views to date.

The film's first full-length showing is scheduled for Friday night at Harvard University, followed by viewings at universities through the weekend and a wrap Tuesday at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.

Among the allgegations summarized in the documentary:

-Bill and Hillary Clinton solicited cash from Peter F. Paul, an international lawyer and businessman, even after Hillary Clinton's campaign manager told The Washington Post she would not take money from him;

-FBI agents and U.S. attorneys colluded with the Clintons to keep Paul, who was convicted of cocaine possession and fraud, tangled up in the criminal courts for years;

-The Clintons later made sure Paul was kept in a Brazilian prison for 25 months, including 58 days in a maximum security cellblock nickamed the "Corridor of Death," while the Justice Department waited to extradite him;

-Hillary Clinton still hasn't filed reports to the FED enumerating Paul's excessive contributions to her 2000 Senate campaign.

Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign spares no kindness about its view of Paul, whose long arrest record, officials say, demonstrates his inherent deceit.

"Peter Paul is a professional liar who has four separate criminal convictions, two for fraud. His video repackages a series of seven-year-old false claims about Senator Clinton that have already been rejected by the California state courts, the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee," Clinton's campaign said in a statement to FOXNews.com
Maybe so, but if this guy is using smear tactics, it's only because he learned how to from the masters.

No More Working For The Weekend

This could actually be a good thing.
Shortly after winning a majority last year, Democrats triumphantly declared that they would put Congress back to work, promising an "end to the two-day workweek." And indeed, the House has clocked more time in Washington this year than in any other session since 1995, when Republicans, newly in control, sought to make a similar point.

But 10 months into the session, with their legislative agenda often in gridlock with the Bush administration and a big election year looming, the Democrats are now planning a lighter schedule when the 110th Congress begins its second year in mid-January.

The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told fellow Democrats this week that the House would not be in session next year on Fridays, except in June for work on appropriations bills.

Explaining that decision to reporters, Mr. Hoyer said, "I do intend to have more time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families."
Gee, it must be nice to be in a profession where you get to set your own work schedule. At least this way, they'll have less time each week to screw things up.

Hill Comes To Harlem

Hillary is working hard to become America's second black president.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose quest to become the first woman president is outpacing Barack Obama's bid to become the first African-American winner, took her campaign to the nation's best-known black neighborhood, and was hosted there by the nation's most powerful black politician.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) introduced the New York senator to a nearly full audience at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church shortly after noon, telling people sitting in the pews to turn to their neighbor and say, "We are making history."

Because black voters form the most reliable constituency in the Democratic Party, Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination suggests Clinton must find a way to appeal for black votes without appearing disrespectful of black aspirations for political influence.
Yes, because the Democratic Party has had such a stellar reputation for respecting black aspirations for much of its history, hasn't it?

The Inquisition Is Here To Stay

Sigh. I want to like Rudy the way I did when he stood his ground against the religious right. But then he reminds me of why McCain remains my strong second choice.
Rudolph W. Giuliani's statement on Wednesday that he was uncertain whether waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, was torture drew a sharp rebuke yesterday from Senator John McCain, who said that his faulure to call it torture reflected his inexperience.

"All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today," Mr. McCain, who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, said in a telephone interview.

Of presidential candidates like Mr. Giuliani, who say that they are unsure whether waterboarding is torture, Mr. McCain said: "They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture."
I'll say this about the Bush administration-they may have tried to legally redifine torture, but at least they knew what it was when they saw it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Khrushchev's Ghost

Fidel Castro may be at death's door, but the spirit of his biggest confrontation with the U.S. lives on.
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, on Friday compared US plans to build a missile defence shield near Russia's borders to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Mr Putin quickly qualified his remarks, made after a summit with European Union leaders in Portugal, by saying that US-Russian relations had moved on since the Cold War and that he and George W. Bush, the US president, had a good personal relationship.

But Mr Putin's deliberate evocation of one of history's most dangerous episodes did little to soothe the nerves of his European hosts who, like their US allies, are struggling to stabilise a relationship with Russia that has more points of friction than at any time since the Soviet Union's demise in 1991.
Since Uncle Putin is the one who seems intent on reviving the Cold War, he shouldn't be surprised if this time around we try to be better prepared.

I, Morlock

So does this mean that one of my descendents will wind up as somebody's dinner?
The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

100,000 years into the future, sexual selection could mean that two distinct breeds of human will have developed.

The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics, who says that the human race will have reached its physical peak by the year 3000.
Dim-witted goblin-like creatures? So the descendents of Dennis Kucinich will still be with us?

With Advisors Like These

Well, this ought to work.
WASHINGTON (Reuters)-Anxious not to repeat mistakes of past Middle East peace-making, Secretary of State Concoleezza Rice has turned to former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for tips ahead of her own conference this year.

Rice invited Carter, a vocal critic of Bush administration policies, to the State Department on Wednesday where the two discussed his Arab-Israeli peacemaking efforts in the 1970s, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday.

Their talks were "good and cordial," he said. They focused on the Middle East and not Carter's recent criticism of President George W. Bush's policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

A Soviet specialist, Rice also telephoned another former Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who tried, and ultimately failed, in his eight years in office to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.
I guess when you've run out of ideas on your own, you go back to the ones that failed, because even a failure is better than nothing.

FEMA Fubar

Fema-all the news that's fit to fake.
WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters)-The U.S. government's main disaster-response agency apologized on Friday for having its employees pose as reporters in a hastily called news conference on California's wildfires that no news organizations attended.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, still struggling to restore its image after the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, issued the apology after The Washington Post published details of the Tuesday briefing.

"We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgement," FEMA deputy administrator Harvey Johnson, who conducted the briefing, said in a statement. "Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received."
A fake press conference-sounds like something Bush would have tried...

Rantin' Rall Rides Again

Ted Rall is still at it.
It's bad enough that a majority of soldiers voted for Bush in 2004. Over and over since the war began, American troops have been seen on television applauding Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and others whose cynical recklessness have sent their buddies to their graves. Sailors cheered wildly when Bush staged his notorious "Mission Accomplished" photo op on an aircraft carrier. They swooned when he joined them for Thanksgiving dinner in Baghdad.

"The shocked and elated soldiers jumped to their feet, pumped their fists in the air, roared with delight, and grabbed their cameras to snap photographs," reported CNN about Bush's visit. A "standing ovation" followed. "It gave us a little extra oomph," said a member of the 1st Armored Division. "It really boosted my morale," said another. No one threw tomatoes. No one told him where he could stick his plastic turkey.
Um, maybe because they were respecting him as their commander-in-chief? There is much to dislike about Bush, but here you have this doodling diptsick basically calling our troops stupid. Again, we see just how much the left-wing haters really "Support" the troops.

The 51st State

Sometimes having an Empire is a good thing.
Mongolia yesterday became the first Asian country to qualify for President Bush's signature Millennium Challenge foreign-aid program, a move President Nambaryn Enkhbayar described in an interview as just the latest sign of warming economic and security ties between the two countries.

In another first, Mr. Bush hosted the signing ceremony at the White House, personally endorsing a five-year, $285 million aid package for the one-time communist state, the 15th negotiated under the Millennium Program.

(snip) Sandwiched between its giant neighbors China and Russia, sparsely populated Mongolia has been an unlikely U.S. foreign-policy success story since throwing off its centralized command economy in the early 1990s.

While maintaining ties to Moscow and Beijing, Mongolian leaders have adopted the United States as its "third neighbor," looking to boost trade and investment and enlisting as a full partner in the global war on terrorism. The country's parliamentary democracy has seen a series of peaceful transfers of power, although corruption and poor infrastructure remain major problems.
Now this just won't do. A developing country that doesn't hate America? Sean Penn needs to go over there and give those people a good talking-to.

The Huckster From Hope

Mike Huckabee=Bush Part 3.
Mr. Huckabee attributes his support to the fact he is a "hardworking, consistent conservative with some authenticity about those convictions." He is certainly qualified for national office, having served nearly 11 years as a chief executive. I have known and liked him for years; on the stump he often tells the story of how we first met outside his boarded-up office in the state Capitol, which had been sealed by Arkansas Democrats who refused to accept he had won a upset election for lieutenant governor in 1993. But I also know he is not the "consistent conservative" he now claims to be.

Nor am I alone. Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once "his No. 1 fan." She was bitterly disappointed with his record. "He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal," she says. "Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office."

Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles," she says. "Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative' are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee."
It sounds like Bush learned a lot from Mike Huckabee.

Viva La Race War

Welcome to Bosnia West.
A south Los Angeles Latino street gang targeted African-American gang rivals and other blacks in a campaign of neighborhood "cleansing," federal prosecutors say. Alleged leaders and foot soldiers in the Hispanic gang Florencia 13, also called F13, are being arraigned this week on charges stemming from a pair of federal indictments that allege that the gang kept a tight grip on its turf by shooting members of a rival gang-and sometimes random black civilians. The "most disturbing aspect" of the federal charges was that "innocent civilians...ended up being shot simply because of the color of their skin," U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien told reporters in announcing the indictments.

No one is sure what started the war between F13 and the black gang known as the East Coast Crips in the Florence-Firestone area of unincorporated L.A. County. Simple neighborhood demographic shifts played a role, as formerly black areas have become majority-Latino. The two gangs are also rivals in the lucrative drug trade. Much of the F13 indictments lay out a conspiracy alleging that gang members controlled drug houses where they sold large amounts of cocaine, crack and methamphetamine. Some say the killings began after the Crips pulled a large drug heist against F13 several years ago. Whatever the causes, L.A. Sherrif's Department statistics chart the war's violent toll: 80 gang-related shootings in the past three years, including 20 murders.
They're just doing the "cleansing" that American gangs don't want to...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One TRILLION Dollars

Dr. Evil would have approved.
WASHINGTON-The House's top Democratic tax writer outlined a $1 trillion plan Thursday to eliminate the alternative minimum tax and ease the tax burdens of most people by asking the rich and some companies to pay more.

"We have attempted to restore equity and fairness to the system," said Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He said his plan would mean net tax cuts to almost all families with incomes under $500,000.

Rangel, D-N.Y., said the more ambitious aspects of his proposal, which includes cutting the corporate tax rate and ending some business privisions, would take time "to be aired out." He said at a news conference he hoped the proposal might move forward by next spring.

Republican leaders did not need time to take a stand. House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio said the "mother of all tax hikes" would "doom our economy" and put people out of work. The second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, said his party would use the proposal to show Democratic support of tax increases. "Very seldom in politics do people give you this kind of gift," he said.

(snip) Rangel shrugged off such criticism. "We are not raising taxes," he said. "We are restructuring the rates of taxes." He said that under his plan, 91 million families would receive tax relief.
Uh huh. And what will happen to the incomes of those families if the businesses that hire their breadwinners are forced to pay their "fair share?" One man's restructuring is still another way of punishing people for being successful, and this is just a taste of what we can expect if Hillary gets elected.

Lynch Mob

Ouch. This has gotta hurt.
Merrill Lynch & Co. reported the biggest quarterly loss in its 93-year history after taking $8.4 billion of writedowns, almost double the firm's forecast three weeks ago.

The writedowns on subprime mortgages, asset-backed bonds and leveraged loans led to a third-quarter loss of $2.24 billion, or $2.82 a share, six times more than Merrill estimated on Oct. 5. Chief Executive Officer Stanley O'Neal said today that the New York-based firm may sell assets to shore up its balance sheet.

Merrill's stock fell the most in five years, its credit rating was cut and the perceived risk of default on the company's bonds rose after O'Neal said the firm misjudged the severity of the decline in debt markets since July. Investors who lauded the 56-year-old CEO for chasing higher returns as the biggest underwriter of securities backed by subprime loans now question his management. O'Neal said the firm increased the writedown after a more "conservative" analysis of its holdings.

"We're very disappointed," said Rose Grant, who helps manage about $2 billion at Eastern Investment Advisors in Boston, including Merrill shares. "I don't think Stan O'Neal will step down, but you do have to look at top management and wonder why they didn't know the extent of this loss."
Those who live by the subprime meltdown, die by the subprime meltdown.

And The Children Shall Fund Them

It really is for the children, after all.
Elrick Williams's toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year's presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13. Althogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

Such campaign donations from young children would almost certainly run afoul of campaign finance regulations, several campaign lawyers said. But as bundlers seek to raise higher and higher sums for presidential contenders this year, the number who are turning to checks from underage givers appears to be on the rise.

"It's not difficult for a banker or a trial lawyer or a hedge fund manager to come up with $2,300, and they're often left wanting to do more," said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "That's when they look across the dinner table at their children and see an opportunity."
Well, I guess there aren't enough dead voters out there, so the Democrats decided to go the other way for donations. It takes a village to raise a child-and find a source of campaign cash.

Courage, Hillary, Courage

Rudy Giuliani has James Dobson. Hillary Clinton has these folks.
A newly formed political action committee is aiming to stop Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary by calling into question her progressive credentials.

"We think there are other Democratic presidential candidates who are both more progressive and have a better chance of beating the Republicans than she does," said the president of Democratic Courage, Glenn Hurowitz.

He declined to top his hand on the group's case against Clinton, but said the PAC plans a paid media campaign in the early primary states to make its position clear.
Now this is going to be fun. How far to the left do you have to be in the Democratic Party to consider Hillary a conservative?

Woodstock McCaination

It was the best line of the debates (see below) and John McCain is taking full advantage of it.
The commercial, set to air on New Hampshire television Thursday, decries a proposal, since scrapped, to spend $1 million for a museum in Bethel, N.Y., site of the August 1969 rock festival. Clinton and her fellow New York senator, Chuck Schumer, had backed the plan.

The ad highlights McCain's criticism of excessive Washington spending, reminds voters of the Arizona senator's decorated war record and shows off his humor.

"A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum," McCain says in the ad, drawn from Sunday's debate on Fox News.

"Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event," he says as images of the crowd and dancing concertgoers are shown. Republican presidential rival Rudy Giuliani, his head thrown back, is shown laughing at the joke during the debate.
He may still not get the nomination (although his chances seem better than they were), but McCain shows why he can still come through, and why he should have won back in 2000.

Don't Spank The Monkeys

Darwin was right-monkeys can evolve, in this case into construction workers.
Kenyan officials are not sure how to handle a troop of rude monkeys that's been making lewd gestures at women, London's Daily Telegraph reports.

"Can the [tourism] minister deploy game rangers...to deal with the monkey menace?" pleaded local representative Paul Muite in Kenya's national parliament last month, to accompanying laughter. "These creatures have clearly shown that they have no respect for women."

Gichuki Kabukuru of the Kenya Wildlife Service told the Telegraph that monkeys and baboons commonly harass women, gesturing at them and touching their own private parts.

"Even in our camps," he explained, "when men are out on patrol and the monkeys see women and children, they will become very naughty and make lewd signs at them."
Eh, just give them plenty of beer, pizza, and pork rinds, sit them in front of a big-screen TV where they can watch football, and everything will be fine.

Firestorm, The Vacation

It's a far cry from Katrina and the Superdome.
A good 9,000 people ended up here, at Qualcomm Stadium, and if this was the endgame of a disaster, it would be a disaster that seemed possible only in the idyll of California.

There was a banh mi picnic in the parking lot, beef empanadas on the chow line, Caesar salads, cartons of fresh Starbucks House Blend, free magazines, toys for the kids, cots for grandma, pizza by the slice or, if you wished, the box. There was a man playing jazz guitar, a blues band, massages and acupuncture.

"It's better service than when you go to a restaurant," said Gary Potter of Rancho Penasquitos. "Every time you turn around, people are asking us if you need something-water, food, anything."

"They thought of everything," said Erin Kelley, his wife. She was particularly impressed by the massages being offered in the parking lot.
Who says a major disaster can't be fun for the whole family?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fall Into The Gap

Here's more evidence that Mukasey is a Gonzo clone.
When asked about this program, Mukasey referred repeatedly to the "gap between where FISA left off and where the Constitution permitted the president to act." He cited Carter administration Attorney General Griffin Bell's statement that FISA "does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution."

Did Mukasey mean that the Constitution authorized the president to ignore FISA's warrant requirements, as his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, argued? No matter how many times he was asked, Mukasey wouldn't say, instead retreating to the lame argument that Congress, without realizing it, amended FISA by authorizing the use of military force against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks.

Even as the administration continues to insist that the NSA's warrantless surveillance was legal, it is pressing Congress to give the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the program retroactive legal immunity. Immunity for what? For assisting the government with its perfectly lawful surveillance?
Why is this different from the Holy Land case? Because in that case the government so far seems to be doing it the right way. They've gathered evidence against the charity-legally-and are making their case in court. That's the way you're supposed to do things in a country where the rule of law really matters, not shady legal maneuvering and shaky arguments that wouldn't hold up in an actual court of law.

Holy Smoke Screen

Those folks who swear they aren't terrorists are going back on trial.
Federal prosecutors say they'll retry the case against leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, the nation's largest Muslim charity, which they accused of funneling more than $12 million to Hamas terrorists.

CAIR, an unidicted co-conspirator in the case, also cheered a similar outcome in a federal case against Muslim activist Sami al-Arian in Florida. As in the Holy Land case, jurors deadlocked on several terror counts. But prosecutors threatened a retrial and al_arian later pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

He was defended by the same lawyer defending one of the accused Holy Land leaders, Chassan Elashi, who happens to also be a founding member of CAIR.
Well, if his latest clients get convicted, I'll tell the lawyer I just don't CAIR if they go to the place where they have to hold onto their soap or not.

Bush's Millions

What's the problem with Bush's sudden redisovery of fiscal responsibility? It took too long for him to get there.
WASHINGTON-George W. Bush, despite all of his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

"He's a big government guy," said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

"He's a big spender," Keating said. "No question about it."

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending-or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare-shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush's first six years, Slivinski calculates.

That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.
Among the many other things I hope will go along with the Bush administration is "Compassionate conservatism." We just can't afford it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Livin' Large

Along with smokers, the overweight have become popular targets of the medically pure.
Listen to any public health official and you'd think obesity was a scientific slam dunk, but studies on the exact causes and effects of weight gain are highly ambiguous. One study of 25,000 men by The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, for example, found that a fit fatso is actually healthier than a sedentary skinny: over an eight year period even those technically classified as "obese" (a BMI of over 30) were less likely to die from heart attacks, strokes and cancer than inactive people of normal weight. And many of the studies released as "proof" of America's impending death by gristle fail to take into account confounding variables, like yo-yo dieting, a sedentary lifestyle and fat distribution on the body.

But even if the science were sound, public officials and anti-fat crusaders still confuse bad health with moral depravity. Paul Campos, a law professor at Colorado University and author of The Obesity Myth, claims that this "moral panic" sticks because it finds an "ideological resonance." On the right it appeals to an ascetic attitude; on the left it taps into anxieties about capitalist over-consumption and manipulative force-feeding by corporations.
Wow, if almost sounds as if the ideologues of the far left and the far right had a lot in common-they both want to control your life to point out how morally superior they are.

California Burnin'

You knew this was coming.
Officials said Tuesday the winds and high temperatures are expected to continue. But when the fires do stop, lawmakers likely will debate the cause of the fire.

"One reason why we have the fires in California is global warming," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday, stressing the need to pass the Democrats' comprehensive energy package.

Moments later, when asked by a reporter if he really believed global warming caused the fires, he appeared to back away from his comments, saying there are many factors that contributed to the disaster.
I could name a few factors that contributed to the disaster that is Harry Reid, too.

The Queen Abdicates

Oh, now she says so.
NEW YORK (AP)-If elected president in 2008, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton would consider giving up some of the executive powers President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have assumed since taking office.

In an interview published Tuesday in Guardian America, a Web site run by the London-based Guardian newspaper, Clinton denounced the Bush Administration's push to concentrate more power in the White House as a "power grab" not supported by the Constitution.

Asked if she would consider giving up some of those powers if she were president, Clinton replied, "Oh, absolutely...I mean, that has to be part of the review that I undertake when I get to the White House, and I intend to do that."
Funny how she didn't seem to feel that way five years ago. What a difference a campaign makes.

The Quiet Man

To rage or not to rage? That is the question facing Democratic voters.
As he invariably does when outlining his discontent with the status quo, the Illinois senator sounds firm. He sounds sincere. What he doesn't sound is angry.

That is either the great strength or the great weakness of his campaign. American politics is chronically awash in free-floating bile, some of it genuine and some of it manufactured. So voters may prefer a candidate who can summon up visible outrage at the slightest provocation, of which this race offers many alternatives.

If the venting of spleen is what Iowans want, an Obama event is not the place to find it. His gift-one of them, anyway is to be able to disparage his foes in unequivocal terms without sounding strident or hostile.
Therein lies the problem with primary voters-they want hostile while the rest of us want ideas and solutions. It would be nice to see a candidate from either side who could win them over with reason instead of rage.

Mr. Spaceman

Well, he is from another planet.
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has seen a UFO, writes Shirley MacLaine in her new book, "Sage-ing While Age-ing."

Kucinich, she writes on page143-144 of the book, "had a close sighting over my home in Graham, Washington, when I lived there. Dennis found his encounter extremely moving. The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him. It hovered, soundless, for ten minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind."

Representatives of Kucinich's presidential campaign and congressional office have not responded to calls and e-mail asking whether the Cleveland Democratic congressman in fact saw a UFO or if there is another explanation for MacLaine's recollection.
What the aliens were really doing was showing Kucinich to their kids ans daying, "See? That's what happens when an experiment goes wrong. Now maybe you'll understand why we told you not to mess around with human DNA."

Backseat Pooper

Now this is genius.
TOKYO (Reuters Life!)-If you're stuck in traffic when Mother Nature calls, Japan's Kaneko Sangyo Co. has developed the loo for you.

The manufacturer of plastic car accessories drew back the curtain on Tuesday on its new portable toilet for cars.

The toilet comes with a curtain large enough to conceal users and a plastic bag to collect waste.

"The commode will come in handy during major disasters such as earthquakes or when you are caught in a traffic jam," a company official told reporters, according to Kyodo News.
Yet another reason why capitalism rules.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hockeypucks For Brains

You can't make this stuff up.
It's not even real grass.

But in the midst of what may be the worst drought ever in North Carolina, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are watering the synthetic turfs used by their field hockey teams.

The International Hockey Federation insists.

The universities are not breaking any rules. But, like clockwork, as residents in Durham and Chapel Hill see their plants and lawns wither, the sprinkers go on at Duke's Williams Field.

Brad Schurr, a Chapel Hill contractor who does work in Durham, saw the sprinklers go on one afternoon recently at Duke and drove around the block to make sure he was not seeing things.

"Sprinklers aren't even the right term, they're like fire hoses," Schurr said. "I was like, 'What is that? What is that? I couldn't believe it."
Water for me, not for thee...

United We Jihad

Poor Binny. Things aren't going so well for him these days.
CAIRO, Egypt (AP)-Osama bin Laden called for Iraqi insurgents to unite and avoid divisive "extremism," speaking in an audiotape aired Monday and apparently intended to win over Sunnis oppsed to al-Qaida's branch in Iraq.

In the audiotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden said insurgents should admit "mistakes" and that he even advises himself not to be extreme in his leadership.

the tape appeared to be in response to moves by some Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq that have joined U.S. troops in fighting al-Qaida members, as well as other Sunni insurgent groups that-while still attacking Americans-have formed coalitions opposed to al-Qaida.
When even other anti-American insurgents are telling you to get lost, you have a problem. Pretty soon the only friends Binny will have left are a few goats in a cave-oh, wait.

It's Strictly Business

Gangsters in Italy? I am shocked.
ROME (AP)-Revenue from organized crome amounts to an estimated $127 billion annually in Italy, making it the largest segment of the economy, a lobby group for small busniesses said Monday.

The figure, representing about 7 percent of the country's gross domestic product, is made from illicit activities such as extortion, drug trafficking, loansharking and prostitution rings, the Confesercenti lobby said in a report.

Business lobbies have launched campaigns in recent years to increase awareness of the extent of organized crime in Italy, which they say limites investment in the country. Organized crome is particularly rooted in Sicily, Naples and the southern regions of Calabria and Puglia.
What makes the Mob different from legitimate CEOs? At least they're honest crooks.

Viva Lost Liberties

It must make Bush, reportedly a reknowned poker player, feel good to know that a place founded by gangsters is following his lead.
LAS VEGAS--This city, famous for being America's playground, has also become its decurity lab. Like nowhere else in the United States, Las Vegas has embraced the twin trends of data mining and high-tech surveillance, with arguably more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country. Even the city's cabs and monorail have cameras. As the U.S. government ramps up its efforts to forestall terrorist attacks, some privacy advocates view the city as a harbinger of things to come.

In secret rooms in casinos across Las Vegas, surveillance specialists are busy analyzing information about players and employees. Relying on thousands of cameras in nearly every cranny of the casinos, they evaluate suspicious behavior. They ping names against databases that share information with other casions, sometimes using facial-recognition software to validate a match. And in the marketing suites, casino staffers track players' every wager, every win or loss, the better to target high-rollers for special treatment and low-and middle-rollers for promotions.

"You could almost look at Vegas as the incubator of a whole host of surveillance technologies," said James X. Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. Those technologies, he said, have spread to other commercial venues: malls, stadiums, amusement parks.
Well, why shouldn't the government use Vegas as a model? After all, they already gamble with our money enough as it is...

The War On Hemp

Leave it to the Feds to use a sledgehammer to go after the wrong target.
The feds call industrial hemp (photo) a controlled substance-the same as marijuana, heroin and LSD-but it is in fact a harmless and renewable cash crop with thousands of applications that are good for the environment.

In one of several legal actions that cur to the core of the principle of states' rights in challenging the federal government's authority to prohibit states from legislating limited use of a compartively harmless substance like marijuana and a completely harmless substance like industrial hemp, North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson filed a lawsuit against the DEA.

The federal agency says that it's merely enforcing the law.

The farmers say comparing industrial hemp to marijuana is like comparing pop guns and M-16s. They've successfully petitioned the state legislature-of which Monson is a member-to authorize the farming of industrial hemp.
The difference between hemp and drugs-or, for that matter, giving patients medical marijuana and drug dealing-should be a major issue of this campaign. Forget about Iraq; this is the war that is killing our rights in this country.

Come Rapture With Us

Israel-it's like a theme park for fundamentalists.
JERUSALEM-Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have helped convince dozens of Iranian Jews to move to Israel in recent months, offering cash incentives and claiming that Iran's tiny Jewish community is in grave danger.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity that funnels millions of dollars in evangelical donations to Israel every year, is promising $10,000 to every Iranian Jew who comes to Israel, said the group's director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

The project is another example of the alliance between the Jewish state and evangelical American Christians, many of whom see the existence of Israel and the return of Jews to the Holy Land as a realization of biblical prophesy that will culminate with Christ's Second Coming.
I can hear their advertising slogan: "Come to the Holy Land! You Jews won't get into Heaven when He returns unless you convert, but help us bring about the Apocalypse anyway! You won't regret it!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hands-Free Lovin'

This is what America would look like if our Morality Police had their way.
Ahmad Roozbehani, the head of the moral security police, was quoted as saying by the agency that his forces would be targeting "inappropriate" behaviour by couples in public, be they married or not.

"If someone is walking down the street with their legitimate partner, police will not ask for identification from them but if an obvious offence occurs of a report is received we will confront this.

"This also applies to the behaviour even of married couples. They should not have inappropriate behaviour and draw attention to themselves."

He did not give further details on the kind of behaviour proscribed but any kind of intimate cuddling between couples in public, let alone kissing, is a social taboo in Iran.

Holding hands has become acceptable in the Islamic republic, so long as the partners are married. Theoretically, unmarried boys and girls should not hang out in public, although this is often flouted.
Hang out not in public, lest ye be hanged.

Peace, Love And McCain

Like he said, he was kind of busy when the Great Event happened. Heh.

It's Been Satirical

Is the current golden age of late-night satire coming to an end along with the Bush administration?
With 1.4 m viewers nightly, the Colbert-Stewart combo does not match the large, ageing viewership of the networks, but, as any marteteer knows, it's the quality of the demo-graphic that counts. The Daily Show hour manages to bring in more men in the 18-34 age bracket than almost anything else on television. If you go to any college campus in the country, it is the favourite show.

Its power in the marketplace is felt elsewhere, too. Last week, Colbert's book I Am America (And So Can You!) leapt instantly to the top of the sales charts, ahead of Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas and Alan Green-span. To cap it off, he declared his intention to run for president in his home state of South Carolona. He meant it. And even The New York Times had to cover the story.

This moment will pass, of course. One gets a sense that it may be peaking already. For satire to work well, it has to let off the collective steam of a nation. It needs a po-faced, Cheney-style establishment to mock. As the religion-drenched era of Republican hegemony wanes a little, the satirists begin to become part of the establishment themselves. Colbert's presidential run may be a step too far. Perhaps, in retrospect, these last, ragged months of the Bush administration will come to seem the high-water mark of the Colbert-Stewart tide. But it's been a joy while it lasted.
The one thing that Bush Republicans (as opposed to actual, conservative Republicans) have been good for is providing so much to make fun of, what with all their buffoonery, hypocrisy and pomposity. We may look back on these times with a kind of nostalgia, wondering why we got so worked up over these clowns while all we had to do was laugh.

Listen To The Ahnuld

He has a point, but will the party as a whole listen?
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, has urged Republican presidential candidates to capture the political centre ground ahead of next year's election by focusing on healthcare reform and education.

As the campaign has unfolded, leading candidates have drifted to the right to win support from social conservatives.

But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Schwarzenegger said the party's candidates were "missing out on something" because televised debates had been dominated by questions about gay marriage, abortion and immigration.

Mr Schwarzenegger said candidates should challenge the questions they were asked in the debates. "Someone has to say: 'We've talked enough about immigration, now I want to talk about healthcare reform'." The candidates had to "move the agenda," he said.
The problem with that is, so-called "Movement" conservatives tend to be the proverbial immovable object on the issues, and right now the GOP is so beholden to them that, like an addict who can't quit, dumping them now would probably kill or at least severely cripple the party. The Republicans forgot that if you abandon the center line, you can get trapped on one side or the other.

Your Money Is Their Money

See, this is the problem with the whole idea of "Sharing the wealth."
Robert Reich is forgetting about state and local taxes. It might be fair to have the rich pay half their income...but when you factor in other taxes, many of them do.

(snip) People talking about "fair shares" of tax income often forget to factor in state and local taxes, which, given the geographic income distribution in the country, often produces heavily skewed results.

Meanwhile, the wealth thing is ludicrous. $5 million is the value of a moderately successful family business that throws off a couple hundred grand in income a year. You're going to hand those people an extra $25,000 tax bill each year for the sin of being self-employed? This does not sound like a recipe for enhancing America's singularly dynamic economic performance.
Unfortunately, it is a recipe liberal Democrats use to win votes and liberal elitists use to try and make other people feel guilty for having money.

At Seventeen

It's nice to know the War On Sex is working out so well in Cracker Land.
The state of Georgia regards 28-year-old Wendy Whitaker as such a threat to public safety that it posts her photo and address on the Internet, bans her from living near schools, churches and playgrounds and forbids her from working with children.

What makes Whitaker such a terrible danger?

Eleven years ago, when she had just turned 17, Whitaker engaged in a single act of oral sex with a boy in her sophomore class on school property. That's it.

Though less than two years separated the couple-the boy was about to turn 16-Whitaker was arrested for sodomy, a charge to which she pleaded guilty and completed five years probation. However, that plea also means that Whitaker will serve a lifetime on the state's sex-offender registry, placing her in the same category as truly dangerous people such as rapists and child molesters. It also imposes severe-some might argue unconscionable-limits on where she can live and work.
If Jimmy Carter had "Lusted in his heart" today, he'd probably fall under these Draconian laws. Welcome to the New Morality.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What Rove Hath Wrought

If Giuliani is elected, let's hope he can undo some of the damage done by Bush.
The Bush administration's brand of international engagement, far from being an aberration, represents a turning point in the historical trajectory of U.S. foreign policy. It is a symptom, as much as a cause, of the unraveling of the liberal internationalist compact that guided the United States for much of the second half of the twentieth century.

The polarization of the United States has dealt a severe blow to the bipartisan compact between power and cooperation. Instead of adhering to the vital center, the country's elected officials, along with the public, are backing away from the liberal internationalist compact, supporting either U.S. power or international cooperation, but rarely both. ...Prominent voices from across the political spectrum have called for the restoration of a robust bipartisan center that can put U.S. grand strategy back on track. ...These exhortations are in vain. the halycon era of liberal internationalism is over; the bipartisan compact between power and partnership has been effectively dismantled.
Bush took what he learned from Karl Rove and applied it to his foreign policy. The problem is, the rest of the world is not America and the divisive strategy of Mr. Rove, while it might win elections, does not make for good diplomacy.

Dark Horse Race

Vice President Huckabee?
That speech he made on Saturday was electric. I was there. I saw the crowd. They ate it up. See more on Huckabee's speech here. But let's call a spade a speade. You have Evangelical leaders that are reluctant to back him because he's having a hard time raising money and putting what they see as a top notch organization in place. He needs that support. He's going to have to earn it. If social conservatives really want Huckabee so bad, then they'll need to put their money where their mouths are.

Having said all that, Huckabee is poised now to really take off. Why? Two words: Sam Brownback. With Brownback out of the race, many of the votes may go to Huckabee. That could translate into some marginally better poll numbers. Plus, Huckabee can claim victory here and go around the country saying that social conservatives have spoken and that he's the guy. Romney will make that same claim but don't tell me for a second that the onsite margin differential doesn't have some in the campaign concerned. Maybe because Huckabee is financially challenged, they're not too worried.

It's going to be interesting to watch the spin coming out of both the Huckabee and Romney camps. Each will claim victory. Each campaign will be right.
I'd like Huckabee better if he didn't come out with nannystating proclamations such as a national smoking ban. That aside, he could be a good asset to a Giuliani candidacy.

You Don't Mess With Bill

Everybody's favorite Bush basher meets even bigger Bush bashers.
LOS ANGELES (AP)-Bill Maher can add "security guard" to his job description alongside comedian and political commentator.

Maher on Friday night helped security remove a rowdy protester from the studio during his weekly HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher," and it was all captured on live television.

Maher was talking science during one of his weekly panel discussions when a proterster in his audience stood up, held up a smuggled-in sign reading "9/11 is a cover up fraud" and shouted comments to the same effect.

The host tried to shout down the audience member, who only became more agitated.

"Do we have some (expletive) security in this building," Maher yelled, "or do I have to come down there and kick his (expletive)?"
I don't know which part is funnier-Bill getting interrupted by people who are even more left-wing than he is, or the idea that he could kick anybody's expletive.

He's Out

Quick! Hide the children!
NEW YORK (AP)-Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.

After reading briefly from the final book, "Harry Potter and the Dathly Hallows," she took questions from audience members.

She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love."

"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.
I should have suspected something when he kept asking Harry how big his "Wand" was.

Take Me As I Am

Rudy says what needs to be said.
Instead of pandering to the group, Giuliani held his ground.

"We've got to find a way to be more inclusive," Giuliani said. "Christianity is all about inclusiveness. It's built around the most profound act of love in human history, isn't it?...I'm running for president of the United States because I believe I can bring us together. Strong leadership can help us find common solutions to our problems."

Giuliani drew laughter by saying he spends as little time in Washington as possible: "I'm afraid there's something in the air here."

"I'm not going to pretent that I can be all things to all people," he declared. "I'm just not like that."
Now THIS is the Giuliani I like, and hope to see more of. Take that, James Dobson.

"I'm Still Here, Guys"

Well, if he says so.
WASHINGTON-President Bush, weakened by record-low poll ratings, asserted he is still politically relevant and scolded the Democratic-led Congress on Wednesday for having "little to show for all the time that has gone by."

Trying to shape the political debate, Bush used a midmorning news conference to lecture lawmakers about their failure to complete action on any spending bulls to keep the government running or to send him legislation dealing with education, housing and other matters.

Saying he did not share any blame for Congress' failure to act, Bush said, "I think it is their fault that bills aren't moving."
A do-nothing Congress-isn't that actually a good thing?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Comrade Nannystate

You mean their socialist utopia doesn't have it already?
The central government has announced its goal of providing everyone in the country with basic healthcare by 2020. It's an ambitious goal for a nation that will have a population of 1.5 billion by then.

Making healthcare affordable and easily accesible is a top priority for many countries. But the task is much harder in China, the world's most populous nation.

Gao Qiang, Vice Minister of Health, said, "I think the goal of offering every Chinese basic healthcare is enormous. It will be an arduous task. We have to make sure every citizen, including the huge rural population, will be covered."
Well, I'm sure Hillary will be ready to give them advice.

No Coal For You

And so it begins.
TOPEKACiting concerns about global warming, Kansas' top regulator today denied a long-awaited permit to build a controversial coal plant in western Kansas.

"I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing," said Rod Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in a news release announcing the decision.

The decision is expected to please environmental groups who had fought the plant, arguing its carbon emissions would add to global warming and that a mix of wind farms and natural gas was a better alternative.
There's also something called nuclear energy that should be considered, but it's too evil. And energy technology gets set back another twenty or thirty years as the climate change crusade marches on.

There She Goes Again

Well, so much for that.
In the hours before a House panel approved the resolution Oct. 10, Pelosi was told in a tense meeting with Turkey's ambassador that the vote would endanger his country's alliance with the U.S. She had a warmer session with an Armenian cleric and representatives of Armenian-Americans, who have a large presence in her home state of California. In both, she made clear she intended to bring the resolution to a full House vote.

Since then, Pelosi, 67, has been in retreat. Her vow to bring the measure to a vote outraged Turkey, which recalled its ambassador and threatened to cut off the use of its military bases to resupply U.S. troops in Iraq. On Oct. 17, Pelosi said it "remains to be seen" whether the vote would occur after more than a dozen lawmakers pulled their names from the measure and some Democrats asked her to drop it.
Her colleagues may stupid, but they're not crazy. Better luck next time, Nancy.

"What's Wrong With Me?"

John Hawkins identifies what he sees as the biggest problems facing the GOP these days. Most of them are of their own making. Money quote:
Practicality vs. Purity: Yes, we want politicians to live up to our expectations and when they don't, they can expect consequences. On the other hand, if we refuse to vote for a Republican politician every time he does something we don't like, we're going to be responsible for putting Democrats in office who don't agree with us on anything. That's the dilemma conservatives always have to deal with: practicality vs. purity.

Unfortunately, the conservative movement has tilted too far towards expecting purity from Republicans in Congress--so much so in fact, that we've got conservatives threatening to form third parties if certain candidates are elected--even as different factions of the conservative movement beat up on each other on an almost daily basis. Like it or not, if we want to move the conservative agenda forward, we need Republicans in office to do it. Instead of sitting at home or forming third parties, we should follow the Club for Growth model, which involves supporting conservatives we do agree with--if necessary in primaries with other Republicans--rather than throwing tantrums and putting Democrats who oppose our agenda in office.
The main problem here is a small group of rabid social conservatives who were in the driver's seat when the Republican Party was in power, and now that the GOP is on the ropes they're throwing hissy fits because most people would rather support a Giuliani or a McCain than a Bush wannabe who would only marginalize the GOP and the conservative movement even further. One faction of the conservative movement (the biggest one, I believe) wants a return to realism. The Christian Socialists would rather continue to live in fantasy land.

A Bush By Any Other Name

Far-right conservatives who are terrified of Hillary should know that she has a lot more in common with Bush than they're willing to admit.
What about secrecy and executive power? It's difficult to see Hillary Clinton voluntarily handing back all of those extra-constitutional powers claimed by President Bush. Her husband's administration, for example, copiously invoked dubious "executive privelage" claims to keep from complying with congressional subpoenas and open records requests-claims the left now (correctly, in my view) regularly criticizes the Bush administration for invoking.

Hillary Clinton herself went to court to keep meetings of her Health Care Task Force secret from the public, something conservatives were quick to point out when leftists criticize Vice President Cheney's similar efforts to keep meetings of his Energy Task Force secret.

"I'm a strong believer in executive authority," Clinton said in a 2003 speech, recently quoted in The New Republic. "I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority."
Conservatives are quite right to point out Hillary's desire for power and what she would do with it. The problem is, they too often excuse the same thing in Bush, so they should be the last ones to complain if Hillary follows his lead.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We Got The Numbers

Those who see Berkeley as being entirely a People's Republic, take heart.
BERKELEY-Flag-waving demonstrators far outnumbered a group of peace advocates who were protesting a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center in downtown on Wednesday.

But groups on both sides of Shattuck Avenue slowed traffic and jammed sidewalks as they shouted back and forth at each other.

Police kept the two competing groups across the street from each other; there were no arrests.

One protester who was burning something was cited by police after he was warned by officers not to burn anything in public, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.
That this counterrevolutionary behavior happened in Berkeley, of all places, gives me hope that Caleefornia is not entirely beyond salvation.

Questions Time

Heh. Here are some things that probably should be asked of the candidates, but won't be.
1.) "Would you have sex with a man to stop a terrorist attack?"

2.) "If lowering taxes results in increased revenues then would lowering taxes to zero result in infinite revenues?"

3.) "If you had a time machine, would you travel back in time and abort Bin Laden?"

4.) "Would you torture and kill Jesus to ensure mankind's salvation? And how does that work?"
The question is, would Jesus vote for the guy who would torture him to save others?

Dead Patients Walking

Ah, the superiority of Britain's health care.
London and the South-East have the highest proportion of hospitals classed as unhygenic in the country.

Figures released today by the health standards regulator reveal that about a quarter of primary care trusts and acute units in London are failing to protect patients from superbugs.

St. George's Hospital in Tooting, Barnet & Chase Farm Hospital and the Whittington are among those named and shamed by the Healthcare Commission.

Their findings include dirty wards and inadequate sterilisation of equipment.
But hey, at least it's all free...

Don't Ask, Don't Sell

How rich is this?
The Army, Navy and Air Force unwittingly advertised for recruits on a website for gays, who are barred from military service if they are open about their sexual orientation.

When informed Tuesday by USA TODAY that they were advertising on GLEE.com, a networking website for gay professionals, recruiters expressed surprise and said they would remove the job listings.

"This is the first I've heard about it," said Maj. Michael Baptista, advertising branch chief for the Army National Guard, which will spend $6.5 million on Internet recruiting this year. "We didn't knowingly advertise on that particular website," which he said does not "meet the moral standards" of the military.
They were just looking for a few good men...

Reds In Space

Because if there's one thing outer space needs, it's Party hacks.
BEIJING (AP)-China might not have a permanent presence in space yet, but the country's rocket men are already thinking about setting up a Communist Party branch in the outer reaches.

Now 14-strong, the Chinese astronaut corps more than meets the party's minumum requirement of at least three members for a branch, the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

China's space communists would "carry out the regular activities of a Communist Party of China branch in space in the way we do on Earth," Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut to fly into space, was quoted by Xinhua as saying on the sidelines of the national party congress.
I assume this is for the benefit of any Martians who might want to overthrow their capitalist oppressors?

LAX Security

Homeland Insecurity, again:
WASHINGTON-Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid hunder their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.

At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons-including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco.
Government bureaucracy will literally be the death of us one of these days.

Immoral Oral

One of the Spaghetti Monster's Chosen Ones seems to have run into some trouble.
TULSA, Okla.-Oral Roberts University president Richard Roberts has asked the school's board of regents for a leave of absence amid accusations of lavish spending at donors' expense and illegal involvement in a political campaign.

On Wednesday, Roberts, 58, said he would continue in his rold as chairman and chief executive of Oral Roberts Ministries.

"I don't know how long this leave of absence will last, but I fully trust the members of the Board of Regents," Roberts said in a statement released by the university. "I pray and believe that in God's timing, and when the Board feels that it is appropriate, I will be back at my post as president."
Well, what's a little corruption compared to doing the Lord's work in going after them durn queers?

Cold Turkey

It's on.
Turkey's parliament has given permission for the government to launch military operations into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels.

The vote was taken in defiance of pressure from the US and Iraq, which have called on Turkey for restraint.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the motion does not mean a military operation is imminent.

But he said Turkey needed to be able to respond to a recent rise in bomb attacks blamed on PKK rebels from Iraq.
This could quickly turn into a major shitstorm, and we can all thank Nancy Pelosi for it.

Republocrat Blues

The two parties have at least one thing in common: they're both held in equally low regard.
"There is a real question among Americans now about how relevant this government is to them," pollster John Zogby said. "They tell us they want action on health care, education, the war and immigration, but they don't believe they are going to get it."

The dismal assessment of the Republican president and the Democratic-controlled Congress follows another month of inconclusive political battles over a future path in Iraq and the recent Bush veto of an expansion of the program providing insurance for poor children.

The bleak mood could present problems for both parties heading into the November 2008 election campaign, Zogby said.

"Voter turnout could still be high next year, but the mood has turned against incumbents and into a 'throw the bums out' mindset," Zogby said.
The problem with that is, you usually have to replace them with another set of bums.

We Make Our Money The Old-Fashioned Way

Guess what? Capitalism works.
Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."

(snip) The natural wealth in rich countries like the U.S. is a tiny proportion of their overall wealth-typically 1 percent to 3 percent-yet they derive more value from what they have. Cropland, pastures and forests are more valuable in rich countries because they can be combined with other capital like machinery and strong property rights to produce more value. Machinery, buildings, roads and so forth account for 17% of the rich countries' total wealth.

(snip) In fact, some countries are so badly run, that they actually have negative intangible capital. Through rampant corruption and failing school systems, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are destroying their intangible capital and ensuring that their people will be poorer in the future.
So it's not totally the fault of those imperialist Westerners that these countries (including Zimbabwe) are third-world basket cases? Some college professors are going to be sorely upset.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TB Or Not TB

Let's hear it for Homeland Insecurity!
A Mexican national infected with a highly contagious form of tuberculosis crossed the U.S. border 76 times and took multiple domestic flights in the last year, according to Customs and Border Protection interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency was warned by health officials on April 16 that the frequent traveler was infected, but it took the Homeland Security officials more than six weeks to issue a May 31 alert to warn its own border inspectors, according to Homeland Security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Homeland Security took one more week to tell its own Transportation Security Agency.
But remember, Bush has kept us safer.

Get Out What Vote?

It looks like some people have figured out that ticking off an American ally and possibly starting a war between Iraq and Turkey isn't such a great idea after all.
WASHINGTON (AP)-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the prospects of a vote on Armenian genocide were uncertain, after several members pulled their support amid fears it would cripple U.S. relations with Turkey.

"Whether it will come up or not, or what the action will be, remains to be seen," Pelosi told reporters.

The House proposal, which would label as genocide the killing of Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks, has inflamed U.S. tensions with Turkey, which says the death toll has been inflated and was the result of civil unrest, not genocide. Support for the nonbinding resolution deteriorated this week after Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador to Ankara and several lawmakers spoke out against it.
As screwed up as the Bush administration has been, when they started wars they at least did it for the right reasons.