News has leaked out from the folks at Muppet central (The Jim Henson Company) that the next Muppet feature film will sport a story line that attacks oil companies. According to CHUD.com, the story will center around all our favorite Muppets producing a show to raise money to save their old theater. They need the money, of course, because an “evil character” is trying to buy the building so that he might tear it down to “get at the oil underneath.”I can see the new PC Muppets now: Bert and Ernie sue to have their "Friendship" recognized as a marriage, Oscar is lauded as an environmental crusader for eating peoples' trash, and the Cookie Monster switches to an all-vegetarian diet.
Why is it we have to turn everything into an anti-capitalism, anti-oil hatefest?
Even more alarming is the fact that it seems that the writer/director team pegged to head the project will be Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, the team that recently gave us the very R rated “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” One wonders if the Muppets will go from kid friendly to edgie and R rated? (I must admit that I would doubt the owners of the Muppet property would do that to their long standing kid friendly product, though.)
Monday, March 31, 2008
Not even the Muppets are safe from enviro-propaganda, it seems:
There's nothing wrong with you. Really.
A virtual reality simulation of a journey on the London Underground has shown that paranoia is much more common among people who have no mental health problems than scientists had thought.Fox Mulder would be disappointed to find out he was normal all those years.
The research indicates that about a third of the general population often experience an exaggerated sense of persecution or threat.
The findings, by a team led by Daniel Freeman, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, are considered authentic because they are based on people’s responses to a laboratory experiment, and not on answers to questionnaires, which can be misleading. In the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr Freeman’s team recruited 200 volunteers who were broadly representative of the general public.
All the participants were given virtual reality headsets that simulated the experience inside a London Underground carriage during a four-minute journey between two stops.
The carriage featured computer-generated figures known as avatars, who could be seen breathing, looking around and sometimes meeting the participants’ gaze. One avatar read a newspaper, and another would smile occasionally if looked at.
Though all the characters were designed to be neutral, showing neither overt hostility nor friendliness, the volunteers interpreted the same characters in very different ways.
The most common reaction was to find the simulated fellow passengers friendly or neutral, but almost 40 per cent of the participants reported feeling paranoid at least once during their journey.
A woman said that she felt threatened sexually by a male avatar, and others said that they suspected fellow passengers of being pickpockets, or potential bombers.
Dr Freeman said the results suggest that paranoia was a quite normal emotion: “In the past, only those with a severe mental illness were thought to experience paranoid thoughts, but now we know that this is simply not the case.”
As with every other situation it's gotten involved in, the Bush administration is making Roosevelt and LBJ look like ameteurs.
March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan to overhaul U.S. market regulation would officially endow the Federal Reserve with the broader authority that it has already accrued in the past two weeks.Let me say what many others already have: Bush is the best Democratic president we've ever had.
The Fed, which engineered JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s purchase of Bear Stearns Cos. and became lender of last resort to the biggest bond dealers, will oversee ``market stability,'' under proposals that Paulson will unveil today. The Securities and Exchange Commission, traditionally the main regulator of Wall Street firms, will be merged with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a draft of the report.
``It would be Congress and the president essentially giving a blank check to a regulator over which they have very little power,'' said Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and a former CFTC official. Paulson's proposal will ``allow Wall Street to do whatever they want until a crisis occurs, at which point the Fed would intervene."
Well, this should help Obama if he wins the nomination.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of U.S. doctors now favor switching to a national health care plan and fewer than a third oppose the idea, according to a survey published on Monday.The first step towards nannystating is often done by the most sympathetic people in society. The rest is up to the government.
The survey suggests that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002 and as the country debates serious changes to the health care system.
Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, 59 percent said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, researchers reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The 2002 survey found that 49 percent of physicians supported national health insurance and 40 percent opposed it.
'Many claim to speak for physicians and represent their views. We asked doctors directly and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support national health insurance,' said Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.
Well, at least we're not alone.
The Swedish military has accused French soldiers of torturing civilians during the EU-led Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003, one of the bloc's first joint missions.Now, this does not excuse anything that happened at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. But it does show that we're not unique, just inexperienced. After all, we're new at the empire-building businss; the oh-so-superior French have had centuries to get it "Right."
Five years ago, the European Union sent some 1,500 soldiers to DR Congo as part of a UN mission to take action against the bandits marauding the north-eastern part of the country. The troops were there to protect the civilians.
Now the Swedish military is saying that French soldiers tortured Congolese civilians during the operation. The German government, which didn't send troops on the mission but provided logistical assistance, couldn't confirm the accusations.
'The Foreign Ministry is not aware of the report,' a ministry spokeswoman told DW-WORLD.DE. 'We will examine the issue.'
There may be blood in the streets. Then again, maybe not.
Yesterday the clamour for clarity spilled over Zimbabwe’s borders, with Britain and the US joining opposition parties and independent observers in their calls to release the results. “The people have spoken against the dictatorship,” Tendai Biti, the MDC general secretary, said in Harare. “We are anxiously waiting for the final results. We pray that there will not be reengineering of the people’s will.”It would indeed be ironic if people in Zimbabwe-not exactly known as a bastion of stability-had cooler heads over election results than Democrats do here in the U.S.A., where things are supposedly more civilized.
The Electoral Commission says that it will take two days for the results to be announced. Mr Biti is betting that it will take four. He said that he had been told by sources within the commission that the official result would present Mr Mugabe as having won 52 per cent of the presidential vote, giving him an absolute majority, and 111 parliamentary seats – enough for a parliamentary majority, too.
David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, called for the voice of Zimbabwe’s voters “to be heard without delay”. “The next few days are critical for the future of Zimbabwe,” he said.
There is a fear of an outbreak of the kind of violence that rocked Kenya after its disputed election, when both sides claimed victory despite the absence of any official count. But the country’s streets remained quiet as people clung to radios, listening for news. Soldiers were seen gathering outside the headquarters of Radio Zimbabwe.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Will Bob get sacked?
HARARE, ZIMBABWE -- The main opposition party and independent observers said today that President Robert Mugabe was suffering a resounding defeat as election results were tallied, but no official returns were released and capital was rife with speculation that they were being rigged.Another third world thug versus people power. Stay tuned.
Tension was high in the capital, Harare, with police deployed on most corners as the delay in announcing results from Saturday's balloting wore on. Usually, the first official results are released within hours of the polls' closing.
There were unconfirmed reports that key ministers and Mugabe loyalists lost their seats in parliament.
In a briefing to diplomats, independent election observers said that with 66% of the vote counted, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, had 55% of the vote. Mugabe, 84, had 36% and ruling party defector Simba Makoni had 9%, it said.
Tsvangirai's party said that with 12% of the polling stations reporting, he was winning 67%.
And while she may be going broke, Hillary's not going anywhere.
A day after Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean urged the candidates to end the race by July 1, Clinton defied that call by declaring that she will take her campaign all the way to the Aug. 25-28 convention if necessary, potentially setting up the prolonged and divisive contest that party leaders are increasingly anxious to avoid.Eat your heart out, Don Quixote.
'I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong,' Clinton said in an interview during a campaign stop here Saturday. 'I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for.
'We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us,' said the senator from New York. 'I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida.'
Asked if there was a scenario in which she would drop out before the last primaries on June 3, Clinton said no. 'I am committed to competing everywhere that there is an election,' she said.
It takes a campaign to teach fiscal responsibility:
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s cash-strapped presidential campaign has been putting off paying hundreds of bills for months — freeing up cash for critical media buys but also earning the campaign a reputation as something of a deadbeat in some small-business circles.Typical Dem behavior. Waste a ton of money and then expect others to pay for it.
A pair of Ohio companies owed more than $25,000 by Clinton for staging events for her campaign are warning others in the tight-knit event production community — and anyone else who will listen — to get their cash upfront when doing business with her. Her campaign, say representatives of the two companies, has stopped returning phone calls and e-mails seeking payment of outstanding invoices. One even got no response from a certified letter.
Their cautionary tales, combined with published reports about similar difficulties faced by a New Hampshire landlord, an Iowa office cleaner and a New York caterer, highlight a less-obvious impact of Clinton’s inability to keep up with the staggering fundraising pace set by her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton's campaign did not respond to recent, specific questions about its transactions with vendors. But Clinton spokesman Jay Carson pointed on Saturday to an earlier statement the campaign issued to Politico, asserting: 'The campaign pays its bills regularly and in the normal course of business, and pays all of its bills.'
It might be a cool idea, if you don't mind earthquakes.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, the Russian president, is to raise plans for a tunnel to link his country with America when he meets his US counterpart, George W Bush, next Sunday.They might call it an engineering feat, but we'll have the last laugh when they find out how much the tokens will cost...
The 64-mile tunnel would run under the Bering Strait between Chukotka, in the Russian far east, and Alaska; the cost is estimated at £33 billion.
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, has invested £80m in the world’s largest drill but has denied that it is linked with the development.
Proposals for such a tunnel were approved by Tsar Nicholas II in the early 20th century but were abandoned during the Soviet era. If finally built, the tunnel would allow rail connections between London and New York.
A Kremlin spokesman confirmed last week that Putin seeks to build “a real bridge” between Russia and America when he meets Bush at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The Blue divide is looking for its Lincoln:
Plans for Al Gore to take the Democratic presidential nomination as the saviour of a bitterly divided party are being actively discussed by senior figures and aides to the former vice-president.Oh, the Democratic Convention is going to be so much fun.
The bloody civil war between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has left many Democrats convinced that neither can deliver a knockout blow to the other and that both have been so damaged that they risk losing November's election to the Republican nominee, John McCain.
Former Gore aides now believe he could emerge as a compromise candidate acceptable to both camps at the party's convention in Denver during the last week of August.
Two former Gore campaign officials have told The Sunday Telegraph that a scenario first mapped out by members of Mr Gore's inner circle last May now has a sporting chance of coming true.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
More on the biofuel boondoggle:
several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.When it comes to saving people or saving Gaia, it appears environmentalists are equally inept at doing both. But at least it makes them feel better about themselves in the meantime.
Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency. Soaring corn prices have sparked tortilla riots in Mexico City, and skyrocketing flour prices have destabilized Pakistan, which wasn't exactly tranquil when flour was affordable.
Biofuels do slightly reduce dependence on imported oil, and the ethanol boom has created rural jobs while enriching some farmers and agribusinesses. But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon
Heh. You'd think they'd accept the money.
In a tight budget year, California wants every tax dollar it can lay its hands on. This year, those hands are reaching for marijuana.The state needs filthy luchre. But the Feds say you can't 'cause it's, you know, illegal. Score one for the Drug War, eh boys and girls?
More than a decade ago, California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes, making it legal under state law. However, federal law enforcers say marijuana use of any kind is illegal - and they are raiding clinics to prove their point. The state tax appeals board, which wants the sales taxes, is stuck in the middle.
'We're caught between a rock and a hard place,' said Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, which collects and distributes sales taxes on more than $553 billion worth of transactions each year in California on everything from corkscrews to Cadillacs. 'We do not want to serve as aiding or abetting the (federal Drug Enforcement Administration). But they (the dispensaries) are not exempt from the sales tax, so by law we have to enforce it,' Yee said.
Yee's district encompasses all of coastal California from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line and includes scores of marijuana dispensaries and thousands of medicinal users.
Estimates vary wildly on just how much taxable marijuana is out there. The state, facing $16 billion in red ink through the middle of next year, wants precise numbers. So far, it doesn't have them. State authorities are quick to point out that collecting marijuana taxes won't balance California's books - but every penny helps.
In spite of pleas from some who see him as the savior of their party, Al is staying out of the current bloodletting, for now.
WASHINGTON - The uber-arbiter is withholding judgment.I personally think it's smart for Al not to want any of this. He already had his chance to try and steal an election.
Democratic icon Al Gore said he won't step in as broker or peacemaker in the venomous nomination battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
'I think it's going to resolve itself. But we'll see,' Gore told The Associated Press, referring to the possibility of one candidate dropping out before the party convention in August.
Viewed by some as one of the few influential high priests of the party, Gore doesn't even have plans to make an endorsement - let alone play the role of referee.
Gore dismissed party worrywarts who say the Democratic infighting only helps Republican John McCain.
'What have we got, five months left?' he said when asked about his endorsement.
Bush is going bye-bye.
WASHINGTON — Winding down his presidency, George W. Bush is beginning his farewell tour on the world stage trailed by questions about how much clout he still wields.As he preapres to ride off into the sunset, here's hoping some of the more boneheaded parts of his presidency-spending like LBJ, for one-go with him, not to be passed on to the next administration.
Unpopular abroad, as he is at home, Bush nevertheless has been a commanding presence among world leaders for the past seven years. Now, with fewer than 300 days left in his term, other presidents and prime ministers are looking beyond Bush to see who will occupy his chair a year from now.
It's an open question whether Bush's foreign policy priorities will be embraced by his successor in the Oval Office. Other world leaders have to calculate how far they should step out on the ledge with a president whose days are numbered and whose legacy had been darkened by the long and costly war in Iraq.
Air Force One will roar out of Andrews Air Force Base on Monday to whisk Bush to the first in a long-planned series of global goodbye events. After a brief stop in Ukraine, Bush stops in Romania to attend his last summit with NATO leaders.
A few days later, Bush will land in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi for his probable final meeting with Vladimir Putin as Russian president; his successor takes over in May.
Amazingly, most Americans don't want the government to bail out people who made bad decisions:
Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans say that the federal government should not help out homeowners who borrowed more than they could afford. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 29% disagreed and believed that federal action is appropriate. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.There still seem to be many folks who still believe in personal accountability. Would that politicians felt the same way.
There is even stronger opposition to federal help for banks that made bad loans. By a 4-to-1 margin (61% to 15%) Americans reject that approach to resolving the current mortgage crisis.
Whether it’s bailing out the banks or helping homeowners, Democrats are more supportive of federal action. Still, most Democrats (53%) oppose federal help for banks that made bad loans. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans are opposed along with 64% of those not affiliated with either major party.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't watching you.
The Green Party`s post on Earth Hour is a bit creepy:Meet the new facists, same as the old facists.
I just had a last minute thought re tonight’s Earth Hour event.
Between 8 and 9 tonight, I’ll be doing what I usually do at that time:I’ll be out with my wife walking our two dogs 5km around our small town.
Tonight, however, I’ll be looking at my neighbours’ windows to see which ones are participating in Earth Hour. I’ll be noting those houses and when the election campaign comes, I’ll be knocking on those doors. I’ll be armed with the knowledge that these are environmentally aware and concerned people and they are prime targets for a GPC campaign. I may knock on some of those doors even before an election
…if you’re out for a walk tonight while your lights are out, take note of who else has their lights out.
I`ve always thought these guys were facists, but asking their supporters to peer through their neighbours’ windows?
If not a Queen, maybe a duchess?
Some Democrats terrified that their bloody primary campaign will doom them in November are floating a consolation prize for Hillary Clinton: governor of New York.A Queen-In-Waiting for the Empire State? They could do worse. Heck, they already have.
The travails of New York Gov. David Paterson have opened up a new potential career path for Clinton, according to well-informed Democratic Party insiders who refused to allow their names to be used when discussing contingencies. They want her to consider the option if she concludes after the April 22 Pennsylvania primary that she cannot overtake Barack Obama for the party's presidential nomination. Hillary Clinton, while fully committed to continuing her presidential campaign, was said to be open to discussing the idea, while Bill Clinton rejected it out of hand.
With former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani now reported by the New York Post to be weighing a race for governor, voters could see a Clinton-Giuliani matchup after all.
Under the scenario sketched out by the insiders, serving two years as governor would give Clinton the executive experience to become the prohibitive favorite for the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton believes that Barack Obama may well lose this year to John McCain, who would be 75 in 2012 and a possible one-term president. Clinton would arguably be better positioned to replace McCain in the White House as a governor than as a senator.
The Senate might not be as attractive a job for Clinton as it once was, given that she would be surrounded by Democratic colleagues she believed betrayed her by supporting Obama (among them: Sens. Edward Kennedy, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Chris Dodd and Bob Casey). If Obama is elected president, she would have to carry water for him in the Senate. If McCain wins, it would be more of the same for Clinton in opposition to a Republican president. Being governor of New York might be preferable even to being Senate majority leader—another scenario being floated about Clinton's future.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I guess the end will have to wait.
MOSCOW (AP) - Seven women who had holed up in a cave for months other members of a Russian cult awaiting the end of the world emerged Friday night and were being treated by emergency workers, regional officials said.I wonder what the Leader said that got them to come out? "You should see the place I'm in. They have nice soft rubber rooms, comfortable jackets with sleeves, and on weekends we have shuffleboard!"
More than two dozen others remained behind but were expected to come out as early as Saturday, the governor's office said.
About 35 members of the Christian cult entered the cave near the village of Nikolskoye, 400 miles southeast of Moscow, in early November to await the end of the world, which they expected in May. They threatened to detonate gas canisters if police tried to remove them by force.
The vice governor of the Penza region, Oleg Melnichenko, said in televised comments that the seven women came out voluntarily, carrying satchels with their belongings. He said the cult leader, the self- declared prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov, was brought from a local psychiatric hospital to help persuade the women to leave.
He said the women walked on their own nearly a mile to a prayer house, where emergency workers were talking with them, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
'There is no reason to urgently hospitalize any of them,' Melnichenko was quoted as saying.
It's a bad time to buy ad time in the MSM.
NEW YORK The newspaper industry has experienced the worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years.Mabe they should line up behind investment firms and ask for a bailout before it's too late.
According to new data released by the Newspaper Association of America, total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 -- the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950.
The drop-off points to an economic slowdown on top of the secular challenges faced by the industry. The second worst decline in advertising revenue occurred in 2001 when it fell 9.0%.
Total advertising revenue in 2007 -- including online revenue -- decreased 7.9% to $45.3 billion compared to the prior year.
There are signs that online revenue is beginning to slow as well. Internet ad revenue in 2007 grew 18.8% to $3.2 billion compared to 2006. In 2006, online ad revenue had soared 31.4% to $2.6 billion. In 2005, it jumped 31.4% to $2 billion.
One has to wonder what they were thinking.
In the past two weeks, the Federal Reserve, long the guardian of the nation's banks, has redefined its role to also become protector and overseer of Wall Street.Yes, they've said loud and clear that the traditional role of the markets, for good or ill, may be dead, and so might the idea of limited government. The Fed bailing out investment firms-this is conservative? One really has to wonder about the long-term implications of this.
With its March 14 decision to make a special loan to Bear Stearns and a decision two days later to become an emergency lender to all of the major investment firms, the central bank abandoned 75 years of precedent under which it offered direct backing only to traditional banks.
Inside the Fed and out, there is a realization that those moves amounted to crossing the Rubicon, setting the stage for deeper involvement in the little-regulated markets for capital that have come to dominate the financial world.
Leaders of the central bank had no master plan when they took those actions, no long-term strategy for taking on a more assertive role regulating Wall Street. They were focused on the immediate crisis in world financial markets. But they now recognize that a broader role may be the result of the unprecedented intervention and are being forced to consider whether it makes sense to expand the scope of their formal powers over the investment industry.
"This will redefine the Fed's role," said Charles Geisst, a Manhattan College finance professor who wrote a history of Wall Street. "We have to realize that central banking now takes into its orbit everything in the financial system in one way or another. Whether we like it or not, they've recreated the financial universe."
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The government is taking a cue from Jericho:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a full inventory of all nuclear weapons and related materials after the mistaken delivery of ballistic missile fuses to Taiwan, the Pentagon said Thursday.Something needs to be done here. Why worry about terrists when we can be our own worst enemy?
Gates told officials with the Air Force, Navy and Defense Logistics Agency to assess inventory control procedures for the materials and to submit a report within 60 days.
Earlier this week, Gates directed Navy Adm. Kirkland H. Donald to take charge of a full investigation of the delivery mistake in which four cone-shaped electrical fuses used in intercontinental ballistic missile warheads were shipped to the Taiwanese instead of the helicopter batteries they had ordered.
It was the second nuclear-related mistake involving the military that has been revealed in recent months. In August an Air Force B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and flown from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. At the time, the pilot and crew were unaware they had nuclear arms aboard.
The electrical fuses were delivered in fall 2006, but the military did not fully realize the gravity of the blunder until last week. The revelation sparked sharp protests from China and forced President Bush to acknowledge the error in a phone call Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Get that old mattress ready.
National bank shares fell Wednesday as analysts continued to slash their earnings estimates for the companies amid continued deterioration of the credit markets.Maybe I should start an apple-selling business on a street corner somewhere, just in case...
Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Meredith Whitney was the latest to cut her outlook on the sector, reducing earnings estimates for multiple banks, including Citigroup Inc., which she now expects to post a loss in 2008.
Whitney anticipates Citigroup will lose 15 cents per share. She previously estimated the bank would earn 75 cents per share. Though more pessimistic about Citigroup than other analysts, her cut in estimates reflects a recent broader trend by analysts cutting estimates on banks.
Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, on average, forecast Citigroup to earn $1.94 per share in 2008. A month ago, the average estimate was $2.91 per share.
Shares of Citigroup fell $1.16, or 5 percent, to $22.26 in morning trading.
Whitney said analysts are likely to continue to cut estimates for the sector because credit market indicators continue to look bleak. That means banks will likely take more write-downs when they report first-quarter financial results.
The financial services sector has already taken more than $160 billion in write-downs since the middle of 2007 tied to declining value of mortgage securities and other credit-related assets.
I guess this means we can all shut up now:
(CBS) Self-avowed 'P.R. agent for the planet' Al Gore says those who still doubt that global warming is caused by man - among them, Vice President Dick Cheney - are acting like the fringe groups who think the 1969 moon landing never really happened, or who once believed the world is flat.Al is describing people with a rigid ideology that borders on fanaticism. Was he looking into a mirror when he said this?
The former vice president and former presidential candidate talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl in an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Confronted by Stahl with the fact some prominent people, including the nation’s vice president, are not convinced that global warming is manmade, Gore responds: 'You're talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat,” says Gore. 'That demeans them a little bit, but it's not that far off,' he tells Stahl.
We'll get back to you on that:
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's foreign minister laid out a tough negotiating position on America's missile defense plans Thursday ahead of a visit by President Bush, saying the best solution would be for the U.S. to scrap the idea altogether.This is one area where I'm on Bush's side, although I hope Bush's food testers are ready in case we go ahead with this...
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian experts were studying the latest U.S. plans—intended to ease Russian concerns about the proposed missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic—but he reaffirmed Moscow's call for Washington to drop them.
'We are convinced that the best way to assuage Russia's concerns ... will be to abandon such plans and turn to a truly collective project,' Lavrov told reporters.
Earlier this month, the U.S. secretaries of state and defense visited Moscow with new proposals that would allow Russia to closely monitor the prospective missile defense sites.
Bad taste? Maybe. But indecency?
Fox Television said it won't pay its part of a $91,000 indecency fine levied recently by the Federal Communications Commission for a 2003 episode of a reality TV show that featured strippers and whipped cream.Of course it has to be about the children. We'll make society so safe for them the rest of us won't be able to go outside of our own homes.
Fox said in a statement that it won't pay the fine imposed against five of its stations because it believes the FCC's decision that the show in question was indecent was 'arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with precedent, and patently unconstitutional.' The network said it will appeal the FCC's decision and proposed fine on behalf of 13 stations -- Fox's own, several stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group and some owned by other smaller broadcasters -- that were targeted by the agency for airing the show.
Although the fine isn't very large, Fox's decision to oppose the agency suggests that the major broadcast networks including ABC and CBS aren't backing down from their fight against the FCC's indecency enforcement, which has been more aggressive since President Bush took office and resulted in more and larger fines. FCC officials have said the fines are appropriate and they're responding to an increased number of complaints about coarseness on the airwaves.
"We believe in enforcing indecency standards, especially when children are watching," said Mary Diamond, an FCC spokeswoman.
Good grief. The way things are going, Nancy Pelosi shouldn't worry about being pressured over superdelegates, because there might not be that many left.
Puerto Rican Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila (D), who is a superdelegate supporting Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president, was indicted on 19 counts Thursday stemming from financial dealings in three political campaigns.Maybe they should draw straws-if the straws don't get indicted first...
Acevedo reportedly denied the charges of illegal fundraising and election fraud, and The New York Times reported he will turn himself in to authorities
The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Acevedo becomes the third Democratic governor in recent days to find himself in an unwelcome spotlight.
John McCain wants to take us back to the age of reason:
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Republican John McCain on Wednesday called anew for the United States to work more collegially with democratic allies and live up to its duties as a world leader, drawing a sharp contrast to the past eight years under President Bush.Diplomacy. What a concept. See, this is the John McCain I like-the one who actually sounds like what a Republican leader used to sound like. Of course, we've had nearly seven years of tough talk and gunboat diplomacy, so it's hard to remember a time when presidents actually worked with our allies and didn't treat the entire world as a battlefield. The strategy of warfare may be different in this conflict, but some things like not being afraid to ask for help haven't.
'Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed,' the likely presidential nominee said in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. 'We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies,' McCain added.
Coming days after his trip to the Middle East and Europe, McCain's speech was intended to signal to leaders abroad - and voters at home - that he would end an era of what critics have called Bush's cowboy diplomacy. McCain never mentioned Bush's name, though he evoked former Democratic Presidents Truman and Kennedy.
It was, in effect, a fresh acknowledgment from the Arizona senator that the United States' standing on the world stage has been tarnished and that the country has an image problem under Bush.
'We know that we have work to do,' McCain told reporters later.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.I can understand why they never botherd to check out who as paying their way. That sort of info would not have looked good on a resume.
The three anti-war Democrats made the trip in October 2002, while the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. While traveling, they called for a diplomatic solution.
Prosecutors say that trip was arranged by Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a Michigan charity official, who was charged Wednesday with setting up the junket at the behest of Saddam's regime. Iraqi intelligence officials allegedly paid for the trip through an intermediary and rewarded Al-Hanooti with 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.
The lawmakers are not named in the indictment but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. None was charged and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said investigators 'have no information whatsoever' any of them knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.
'Obviously, we didn't know it at the time,' McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said Wednesday. 'The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went.'
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
So what do we do now?
There's no doubt that the surge has helped, but a band-aid is still a band-aid. The question is-will it matter ten or twenty years from now?
WASHINGTON (AP) - Behind the Pentagon's closed doors, U.S. military leaders told President Bush Wednesday they are worried about the Iraq war's mounting strain on troops and their families. But they indicated they'd go along with a brief halt in pulling out troops this summer.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff did say senior commanders in Iraq should make more frequent assessments of security conditions, an idea that appeared aimed at increasing pressure for more rapid troop reductions.
The chiefs' concern is that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon's ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world.
In the war zone itself, two more American soldiers were killed Wednesday in separate attacks in Baghdad, raising the U.S. death toll to at least 4,003, according to an Associated Press count. Volleys of rockets also slammed into Baghdad's Green Zone for the third day this week, and the U.S. Embassy said three Americans were seriously wounded. At least eight Iraqis were killed elsewhere in the capital by rounds that apparently fell short.
Wednesday's 90-minute Pentagon session, held in a secure conference room known as "the Tank," was arranged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to provide Bush an additional set of military views as he prepares to decide how to proceed in Iraq once his troop buildup, which began in 2007, runs its course by July.
"Armed with all that, the president must now decide the way ahead in Iraq," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. The discussion covered not only Iraq but Afghanistan, where violence has spiked, and broader military matters, said Morrell, who briefed reporters without giving details of the discussion. Some specifics were provided by defense officials, commenting on condition of anonymity in order to speak more freely.
It looks like the Mad Prophet of the Obama campaign hasn't hurt him, after all:
WASHINGTON -- The racially charged debate over Barack Obama's relationship with his longtime pastor hasn't much changed his close contest against Hillary Clinton, or hurt him against Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.Jerry Fallwell didn't hurt John McCain. I suspect in the long run the same will be true of Obama. Thugs like Sean Hannity will have to find another dead horse to beat to death.
Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC polls with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, called the latest poll a "myth-buster" that showed the pastor controversy is "not the beginning of the end for the Obama campaign."
But both Democrats, and especially New York's Sen. Clinton, are showing wounds from their prolonged and increasingly bitter nomination contest, which could weaken the ultimate nominee for the general-election showdown against Sen. McCain of Arizona. Even among women, who are the base of Sen. Clinton's support, she now is viewed negatively by more voters than positively for the first time in a Journal/NBC poll.
The latest survey has the Democratic rivals in a dead heat, each with 45% support from registered Democratic voters. That is a slight improvement for Sen. Obama, though a statistically insignificant one, from the last Journal/NBC poll two weeks ago, which had Sen. Clinton leading among Democratic voters, 47% to 43%.
While Sen. Clinton still leads among white Democrats, her edge shrank to eight points (49% to 41%) from 12 points in early March (51% to 39%). That seems to refute widespread speculation -- and fears among Sen. Obama's backers -- that he would lose white support for his bid to be the nation's first African-American president over the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago.
More wishful thinking on the part of those who want the Prophet of Doom to jump in.
History may record that there were three distinct windows of opportunity for Al Gore to play a decisive role in this year’s Democratic primary contest.It must be hard for them, pining for the good old days when they could just steal an election and get it over with.
The first was in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, on Feb. 5, when it seemed Barack Obama could do no wrong and a critical mass of establishment endorsements was piling up in his favor.
The second occurred this month when Florida and Michigan seemed to rule out re-votes, delivering a crushing blow to Hillary Clinton’s hopes of catching up in the popular vote.
And the third—and perhaps most irresistible—will arrive in June, after the voting is over, but before the Clinton campaign can launch a final, all-out push to make Mr. Obama the unelectable candidate.
“If Gore were to weigh in, he would have to do so before the superdelegates begin breaking for either Obama or Clinton,” said a former Gore adviser, after laying out the various scenarios that might prompt the former vice president to get involved. “The superdelegates constitute the last true contest in this race. And for many, Gore is someone they talk to, listen to, and whom a lot of them admire and respect. Having him make a closing argument for either candidate would carry significant weight with some of these last-man-standing voters.”
In the meantime: attrition. Race, gender, McCarthyism, the stained blue dress—attacks on veracity, character, readiness and electability are now the stuff of the bitter everyday exchanges between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Superdelegates, the officials and party leaders who may ultimately select the winner, are increasingly worried that the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the Democratic primary contest will make it impossible for the party to unify around a nominee.
Freedom of choice? What freedom of choice?
WASHINGTON (AP) - Twenty top Democratic donors who are supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for saying superdelegates should support the presidential candidate with the most pledged delegates.In other words, we made you, and we can break you. So sayeth the Queen's enuchs.
No matter what the outcome of the 10 remaining contests, it will be nearly impossible for Clinton to overcome rival Barack Obama's lead in pledged delegates, because they are awarded proportionally based on the outcome.
So it will be up to the nearly 800 superdelegates - party activists and elected officials who aren't bound by any vote - to put one of the two candidates over the mark of 2,024 delegates needed to win the nomination. Obama has 1,406 pledged delegates to Clinton's 1,249, according to The Associated Press count.
Pelosi, who has not endorsed either candidate as chair of the Democratic National Convention, said during a March 16 appearance on ABC's 'This Week' that it would be harmful to the party if superdelegates don't support the pledged delegate winner.
In their letter, Clinton's supporters said superdelegates 'must look to not one criterion but to the full panoply of factors that will help them assess who will be the party's strongest nominee in the general election.'
The letter also noted the donors 'have been strong supporters' of the House Democrats' fundraising arm. 'We therefore urge you to clarify your position on superdelegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the national convention in August.'
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
There's one country where the mullet is a protest symbol.
Some say it's a way to rebel against Iranian government and society, which frown on western culture, but for many young Iranian men, their nontraditional hairstyles are more about showing off their fashion sense.And Ima Dinnerjacket says there are no gays in Iran...
'All the men like to have long hair or stylish hair, and all of them know about fashion and all the time looking at Fashion TV,' one Iranian man told FOXNews.
Barbershops in Iran are told not to give western haircuts, and many have signs in their windows explaining this.
But some young Iranians in the capital, Tehran, say they trek to Turkey or Dubai to take hairdressing courses so they can learn how to create desired styles for each other.
Now this is what I call a dedicated voter.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan may lay claim to having the world’s most enthusiastic voter — a 65-year-old woman who walked 600 kilometres (380 miles) to cast her ballot.I wish other countries took democracy this seriously. Heck, I wish we took democracy this seriously.
The woman responded to an appeal from the country’s king to embrace democracy as Bhutan shifts from absolute royal rule to becoming a constitutional democracy in Monday’s election, the Bhutan Times reported.
People were allowed to vote only in the place of their birth and thousands headed to remote villages to take part in the country’s first parliamentary elections ending absolute rule by the Wangchuck dynasty.
Tshewang Dema said she preferred to walk because she suffered motion sickness after her first and only car journey four years ago, said the newspaper on the eve of the election.
“I didn’t want to lose my vote just because I couldn’t travel in a car,” Dema said.
So who brings the tire iron?
The delegate math is difficult for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, the official said. But it's not a question of CAN she achieve it. Of course she can, the official said.I know some people want to bring back the 90's with the Clintons running things again, but this is a bit much.
The question is -- what will Clinton have to do in order to achieve it?
What will she have to do to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in order to eke out her improbable victory?
She will have to 'break his back,' the official said. She will have to destroy Obama, make Obama completely unacceptable.
'Her securing the nomination is certainly possible - but it will require exercising the 'Tonya Harding option.'' the official said. 'Is that really what we Democrats want?'
Looking forward to your retirement in forty years? You might want to think again.
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Tuesday that America's Social Security program for the retired is 'financially unsustainable' and needs an urgent overhaul.Social Security was created at a time when 65 was considered being at death's door. But 65 is now the new 50, and who knows where we will be by 2040? Medical technology may have allowed us to live longer than we did in the 1930's, unfortunately Social Security is still stuck there.
Paulson, speaking after a government panel had completed its annual assessment of the Social Security and Medicare benefits programs, said waves of retiring Americans threaten to soon deplete available funds stockpiled in the two programs.
'As the baby boom generation moves into retirement, these programs face progressively larger financial challenges,' Paulson said.
The Treasury secretary said a growing number of retirees and the programs' rising costs could harm America's future prosperity if Social Security and Medicare are not overhauled and bolstered.
The needs of the Social Security program, which provides retirement benefits to all Americans as long as they have contributed to the program, are less acute, however, than Medicare.
Paulson said the Social Security program's cash flows are projected to turn negative in under 10 years and that a Social Security trust fund would likely be exhausted in 2041 without urgent reform.
The abuse can stay.
NEW YORK (AP) - A federal appeals court has rejected a law requiring airlines to provide food, water, clean toilets and fresh air to passengers trapped in a plane delayed on the ground.Well, maybe if some Congressmen or Senators get stranded and left for dead on the tarmac that will happen...
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that New York's new state law interferes with federal law governing the price, route or service of an air carrier. It was the first law in the nation of its kind.
The appeals court said the new law was laudable but only the federal government has the authority to enact such a regulation.
Wasn't this a Batman episode?
Surveillance video from inside a store that aired on CCTV showed the man walking up to a supermarket cashier and apparently mesmerizing her before stealing cash.Shoot, if this guy can do that robbing banks, he should go into politics.
The same man is believed to be responsible for robbing banks.
A bank teller said the man approached her, leaned over and told her to 'look into my eyes,' the report said. The next thing she noticed was her till was empty.
Another cashier handed over more than $1,200 after she said she became mesmerized by the man.
Monday, March 24, 2008
This has unintended consequences written all over it.
The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.There's a huge potential for abuse in this. How many innocent people could risk going to prison because they accidentally clicked on something? But hey, the gummint says it's for our own good, so nothing bad will happen if you're not a criminal, right?
Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.
The implications of the FBI's hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography--and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages. The bureau could register the "unlawfulimages.com" domain name and prosecute intentional visitors. And so on.
Remember this the next time you hear somebody say "It's for the Children!"
SAN DIEGO — In a highly unusual outbreak of measles here last month, 12 children fell ill; nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected, and the other three were too young to receive vaccines.Sorry, but your right to your own stupidity ends when said stupidity puts others at risk. Contrary to what some people might have you believe, libertarianism is not a blank check to do as you please no matter what the consequences.
The parents who objected to their children being inoculated are among a small but growing number of vaccine skeptics in California and other states who take advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children.
The exemptions have been growing since the early 1990s at a rate that many epidemiologists, public health officials and physicians find disturbing.
Children who are not vaccinated are unnecessarily susceptible to serious illnesses, they say, but also present a danger to children who have had their shots — the measles vaccine, for instance, is only 95 percent effective — and to those children too young to receive certain vaccines.
Measles, almost wholly eradicated in the United States through vaccines, can cause pneumonia and brain swelling, which in rare cases can lead to death. The measles outbreak here alarmed public health officials, sickened babies and sent one child to the hospital.
Every state allows medical exemptions, and most permit exemptions based on religious practices. But an increasing number of the vaccine skeptics belong to a different group — those who object to the inoculations because of their personal beliefs, often related to an unproven notion that vaccines are linked to autism and other disorders.
Twenty states, including California, Ohio and Texas, allow some kind of personal exemption, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.
“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak here. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis.
“When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.”
Ms. Carlson said she understood what was at stake. “I cannot deny that my child can put someone else at risk,” she said.
Of course he's one a'them durn queers, so we shouldn't listen to him, right?
Rep. Barney Frank is defending a bill he plans to file this week decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, saying the federal law unfairly targets those using medical marijuana in California.But when your government mugs you, it's in the name of protecting you from yourself.
Frank, who filed a bill to decriminalize marijuana as a member of the Massachusetts Legislature in the 1970s, said the decision whether to make possession of the drug illegal should be left up to the states.
He also said the federal government shouldn’t have a law on the books that is rarely enforced and which doesn’t make sense to large portions of the public.
'Do you really think people should be prosecuted for smoking marijuana? I don’t think most people agree with that. It’s one area where the public is ahead of the elected officials,' Frank said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'It does not appear to me to be a law that society is serious about.'
Frank said he was particularly troubled by federal law enforcement agencies targeting those using marijuana as a legal medical treatment under California law.
'I don’t think smoking marijuana should be a federal case,' he said. 'There’s no federal law against mugging.'
It's the end result of the supermodel era.
A website that encourages girls as young as 9 to embrace plastic surgery and extreme dieting in the search for the perfect figure was condemned as lethal by parents’ groups and healthcare experts yesterday.Britney Spears and supermodels. Such role models the kids have these days.
The Miss Bimbo internet game has attracted prepubescent girls who are told to buy their virtual characters breast enlargement surgery and to keep them “waif thin” with diet pills.
Healthcare professionals, a parents’ group and an organisation representing people suffering anorexia and bulimia criticised the website for sending a dangerous message to impressionable children.
In the month since it opened the site, which is aimed at girls aged from 9 to 16, has attracted 200,000 members. Players keep a constant watch on the weight, wardrobe, wealth and happiness of their character to create “the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world”. Competing against other children they earn “bimbo dollars” to buy plastic surgery, diet pills, facelifts, lingerie and fashionable nightclub outfits.
The website sparked controversy when it was introduced in France, where it attracted 1.2 million players.
Dee Dawson, the medical director of Rhodes Farm Clinic, which treats girls aged from 8 to 18 who suffer eating disorders, said: “This is as lethal as pro-anorexia websites. A lot of children will get caught up with the extremely damaging and appalling messages.”
Now I know where all those votes for Hillary came from.
Nearly one in 10 Ohioans now receives food stamps, the highest number in the state's history.Now, imagine what it would be like if this was going on across the country, only tenfold. That's what you would get with a Hillary presidency. Hopefully, we won't get the chance to find out.
Caseloads have almost doubled just since 2001, with 1.1 million residents now collecting benefits, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Low wages, unemployment and the rising cost of groceries, gasoline and other necessities are to blame for financial hardships facing many Ohio families.
Caseloads have been rising steadily in the past seven years, said Brian Harter, spokesman for the state agency which oversees the food-stamp program.
'Look at unemployment during this time,' he said.
Ohio's jobless rate is 5.3 percent, up from 4.4 percent in 2001.
'The economy and loss of manufacturing jobs are at the root of what's going on. But lately (it's) the rising cost of transportation and food -- people who were barely getting by, are not getting by,' said Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services.
'It has pressed folks to the edge to have to rely on food stamps.'
Hizzonor is in deep doo-doo:
DETROIT (AP) - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages contradicted his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.In other words, it's politics in Detroit as usual.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.
Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick had a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.
'Some have suggested that the issues in this case are personal or private,' Worthy said.
'The justice system has been severely mocked and the public trust trampled on. ... This case is about as far from being a private matter as one can get,' she said.
Well, if I worked for Hillary I'd drink too:
NASHUA, N.H. - A senior adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to plead guilty to drunken driving after the arresting officer was ordered to Iraq making a trial on a more serious charge impossible, police said Monday.Drinking, driving, and being the Queen's eunuch don't mix...
Under the plea, Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist and former White House adviser to President Clinton, will lose his right to drive for 16 months.
Now an unpaid adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign, Blumenthal, 59, was arrested Jan. 7, the day before the New Hampshire primary, and charged with aggravated drunken driving. Police said Blumenthal was traveling 70 mph in a 30 mph zone.
The case had been set for trial last week, but Blumenthal has agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of driving while intoxicated with enhanced penalties, Nashua police Capt. Peter Segal said.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Why is the GOP in such a quandary when it comes to foriegn policy? Because so many of them don't think like their predecessors.
Republicans have traditionally believed in competition as the best way to the best ideas to emerge. For the marketplace of ideas to thrive in foreign policy, GOP activists must avoid labeling some ideas as verboten. Realism served as a savvy foreign-policy guide for the administrations of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. The ideals of human rights and democracy promotion cannot and should not be jettisoned from U.S. foreign policy—but realist cautions about 'ideological overstretch' are ignored at their peril.Whatever the outcome of this election, hoepfully it will mean a lessening of the grip that neocon theorists have had over foreign policy, and the Republican Party can get back to espousing a policy that says the U.S. does not have to act alone, go to war with everyone we don't like and hope for the best afterwards, or sacrifice freedom in the name of safety. It would be nice if Republicans learned a little humility again.
China doesn't like it when the rest of the world starts paying attention to the way they deal with dissent.
CHENGDU, China (AP) - China lashed out Sunday at critics of its crackdown on Tibetan protesters, describing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as 'habitually bad tempered' while claiming the Western media serve those who want to smear the communist country.China is at a crossroads. On the verge of becoming the next superpower, the Olympics are an opportunity for them to put their best face forward and start liberalizing their society the way they've liberalized their economy. That would be the real victory for Tibet.
The barrage of complaints carried in official media - which included more broadsides against the Dalai Lama - came as the country sought to present its own version of the deadly anti-Chinese protests and their aftermath. The crackdown has been a public relations disaster for China ahead of the Beijing Olympics - a Thailand torchbearer withdrew Sunday in protest.
With foreign media banned and troops dispatched en masse to quell the most widespread demonstrations against Chinese rule in nearly five decades, independent information barely trickled out of the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other far-flung communities.
The People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party, placed the blame for the recent riots on Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama.
'The Dalai clique is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese government to make concessions to Tibet independence,' it said.
Obama says he's more than just the L word:
Obama, in an interview, said that 'a lot of these old labels don't apply anymore.'Technically he's right-the old labels, along ith old attitudes, are part of what's been holding the Democratic Party back. For months Obama hs been saying that he's the guy who can deliver his party from the ideological wilderness. If he wins the nomination as he currently seems set to, and overcome the Rev. Wright controversy, he may actually pull it off. We'll see.
He said he was a progressive and a pragmatist, eager to tackle the big issues like health care and convinced that the Democrats could rally independents and disaffected Republicans to their agenda.
Only then, he said, could the party achieve what it has so rarely won in modern presidential elections - a mandate to do big things.
'Senator Clinton's argument in this campaign has really been that you can't change the electoral map,' he said. 'That it's a static map and we are inalterably divided, so we've got to eke out a victory and then try to govern more competently than George Bush has.
'My argument is that if that's what we're settling for, after seven or eight years of disastrous policies on the part of the Bush administration, then we're not going to deliver on the big changes that are needed.'
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I guess somebody forgot to tell Al Gore.
Last Monday - on ABC Radio National, of all places - there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.Not necessarily. It was just conveniently ignored, like most of the real fact about climate change are.
Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth stillwarming?"
She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."
Duffy: "Is this a matter of any controversy?"
Marohasy: "Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued ... This is not what you'd expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you'd expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up ... So (it's) very unexpected, not something that's being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it's very significant."
Duffy: "It's not only that it's not discussed. We never hear it, do we? Whenever there's any sort of weather event that can be linked into the global warming orthodoxy, it's put on the front page. But a fact like that, which is that global warming stopped a decade ago, is virtually never reported, which is extraordinary."
Will wonders never cease?
US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi made one of the highest-ranking U.S. official visits ever to Dharamsala, India, the exile home of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Llama, today.Even a broken clock, et cetera. At least somebody's paying attention.
While standing next to the Dalai Llama, she denounced 'China's oppression of people in Tibet.'
'If freedom loving people don't speak out against China's oppression of people in Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak out against any oppressed people.'
This visit by 10 members of Congress to the Dalai Lama's home in exile was planned long before the current protests in Tibet began.
But Pelosi said, 'Little did we know, we would be coming at such a sad time. Perhaps it was our karma, perhaps it was our fate … it was our karma because we are here to help the people of Tibet.'
Friday, March 21, 2008
Sometimes technology goes too far.
There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on conserving water, but we all know that for most people self-regulation is damn near impossible. Enter designer Tommaso Colia and his Eco_Drop Shower. When the shower has decided that you have outstayed your welcome, concentric circles on the floor will rise&mdashmaking things too uncomfortable to continue. I don't know if this concept will ever see the light of day, but I vote for modifying it into a moving wall of spikes. Now that would be effective.Isn't this the sort of thing that's banned by the Geneva Convention?
Maybe Eliot Spitzer was in the wrong occupation:
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal immigration official who was recorded demanding sex from a young Colombian woman in exchange for a green card was arrested on corruption charges, prosecutors said Friday.On the other hand, maybe this moron should have gone into politics.
The woman, who is married to an American citizen, said she gave in to one demand for oral sex because she was afraid, but she also used a mobile phone hidden in her purse to record the December encounter and the conversation that preceded it.
Days later she went to a The New York Times to tell her story. She also called the district attorney's office.
'I want sex,' he said on the recording, according to the Times. 'One or two times. That's all. You get your green card. You won't have to see me anymore.'
Queens prosecutors said Isaac R. Baichu, an adjudication officer at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Garden City, threatened to hold up the woman's application and even deport her relatives if she didn't acquiesce.
Baichu was arrested March 11 after meeting with the woman again, this time with prosecutors listening in.
Considering this administration's track record, I'm surprised more people haven't joined this guy on the docket.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Prosecutors said Friday that they may obtain a new indictment next month against a former top CIA official accused of corruption, but that the core allegations will not change substantially.Dusty sounds like he was in the wrong line of work. He should have gone into politics.
Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo has pleaded not guilty to the current charges, which include 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Specifically, Foggo — who as executive director held the CIA's No. 3 rank before leaving in 2006 — is accused of accepting gifts from friend and defense contractor Brent Wilkes in return for help winning contracts.
Foggo was in court Friday for a status hearing, the first since his case was transferred to U.S. District Court in Alexandria from San Diego.
Foggo's lawyers had requested the change, and prosecutors agreed to the transfer last month after saying they had uncovered additional charges that could only be brought in Virginia.
During Friday's hearing, prosecutor Phillip Halpern said that if a new indictment is obtained, it will likely come in April. He said the new indictment would be 'essentially of the same nature,' though it may include new charges of conflict of interest and making false statements and 'the conspiracy might be a bit broader.'
'The majority of the charges won't be a surprise to the defense,' Halpern said.
Well, it only took three hundred years.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Three years ago, Debra Avery and her family were shocked to learn they were direct descendants of Mary Sanford, a wife and mother of five who was hanged in Connecticut in 1692 after being convicted of witchcraft.Considering the direction Christian fundamentalism is headed in this country, the time to prove one's innocence of witchcraft may be running out. I wish them luck.
On Thursday, they trekked to the state Capitol, in the same city where Sanford and several other convicted witches were executed, to ask state lawmakers to restore their relative's good name. Legislators are considering a resolution that states that those convicted and their descendants should be freed from the stigma of the witchcraft accusations.
Avery, a New Preston resident and an eighth-generation great-granddaughter of Mary Sanford, said it has become a personal mission.
'We talk an awful lot about Mary being with us. We talk about whether we are Mary exonerating ourselves,' she said. 'But Mary has become a big part of our life. We talk about her a lot. I think it's in the DNA.'
According to legislative research, it is believed that nine women and two men were convicted and hanged in the mid-1600s in Connecticut for witchcraft. Others were banished, indicted or fled the colony.
Two women were dropped into water to see if they possessed evil spirits. If they sank, they were innocent. But if they floated, they were guilty because the pure water cast out their evil spirit. One was acquitted while the other was given a reprieve by the General Assembly.
Others were also acquitted of the alleged crimes.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Here's another lefty idea that will go nowhere fast:
A Michigan congressman wants to put a 50-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline to try to cut back on Americans' consumption.The green things are in the pockets of liberal activists and politicians who keep selling these cons.
Polls show that a majority of Americans support policies that would reduce greenhouse gases. But when it comes to paying for it, it's a different story.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wants to help cut consumption with a gas tax but some don't agree with the idea, according to a new poll by the National Center for Public Policy Research.
The poll, scheduled to be released on Thursday, shows 48 percent don't support paying even a penny more, 28 percent would pay up to 50 cents more, 10 percent would pay more than 50 cents and 8 percent would pay more than a dollar.
'I don't want to pay more, I don't think anyone wants to,' said Karen Deacon, a motorist.
'I think that wouldn't make any sense,' said Frankie Hoe, a motorist. 'Ugh ... who's making the money from all this and where is that money going? Is it going to go green? I don't see any green things anywhere.'
Well, good for him.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican John McCain's campaign suspended a staffer who sent out a provocative video linking Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama to the comments of his spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.McCain takes the high road. I only wish certain talk-show hosts would be this honorable.
The staffer, a low-level aide named Soren Dayton, sent out a link Thursday to the YouTube video, titled 'Is Obama Wright?' on the social messaging Web site Twitter.
The campaign suspended him a few hours later, although it wouldn't say for how long.
'We have been very clear on the type of campaign we intend to run and this staffer acted in violation of our policy,' campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said. 'He has been reprimanded by campaign leadership and suspended from the campaign.'
It's like the Cold War, but with petroleum.
Two prominent members of the British Council’s alumni club have been charged with spying for foreign companies by Russia’s security service.I have a feeling Uncle Putin will not be pleased. I hope these guys have their meals checked for radioactive substances from now on.
Brothers Alexander and Ilya Zaslavsky are accused of collecting commercial secrets from a Russian oil company on behalf of foreign rivals in the energy market.
Alexander Zaslavsky is President of the British Alumni Club in Russia, a networking group under the patronage of the British Council that brings together thousands of Russians who have studied in Britain. The British Ambassador, Sir Anthony Brenton, is the club’s honorary president.
Ilya Zaslavsky, who graduated from Oxford University in 2004, is in charge of the club’s energy committee, made up of members involved in this field. He has also been employed at the Anglo-Russian oil giant TNK-BP since last September in the gas regulation department.
Would Jack Bauer have put up with this?
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will probe how blueprints for the new headquarters of an elite military counter-terrorism unit ended up in a pile of garbage, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said on Thursday.Just another day at the office, eh?
The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, housed inside an armed forces base in Trenton, Ontario, is designed to cope with the aftermath of an attack using weapons of mass destruction.
The 26 blueprints were contained in one of seven defense ministry files that a passer-by found on top of garbage bags on an Ottawa street. The other six files are still missing.
'We take this very seriously. So I want to hear first exactly what went on,' Day told reporters, saying he had ordered his officials to examine the incident.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
There's a roundup of opinions on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War over at the Best Magazine In The World. I have to say I agree with most of what they say.
Let me put it this way: Five years ago I wouldn't have. That's what Bush has squandered with the gamble in Iraq-by causing damage to our reputation as a country that will take years to repair, by getting us into a situation that it may well take us just as long to get out of, by trying to tie the war in Iraq in with some global holy war, by demonizing those who dared to disagree as enemies of the state, Bush and his diehard supporters have ensured that long-lasting damage has been done to conservatism, the Republican Party, and a country's institutions and principles.
Saddam is gone, and that's a good thing. But the damage done in the name of his removal will be felt for years to come.
Let me put it this way: Five years ago I wouldn't have. That's what Bush has squandered with the gamble in Iraq-by causing damage to our reputation as a country that will take years to repair, by getting us into a situation that it may well take us just as long to get out of, by trying to tie the war in Iraq in with some global holy war, by demonizing those who dared to disagree as enemies of the state, Bush and his diehard supporters have ensured that long-lasting damage has been done to conservatism, the Republican Party, and a country's institutions and principles.
Saddam is gone, and that's a good thing. But the damage done in the name of his removal will be felt for years to come.
Binny has declared a War On Toons.
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Osama bin Laden criticized the publication of drawings insulting to the Prophet Muhammad in a new audio message posted late Wednesday and warned Europeans of a strong reaction to come.So what does that mean? That Binny and his boys will get a spanking from their mamas if nobody takes him up on the latest cartoon jihad?
The message, which appeared on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaida statements in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing al-Sahab, showed a still image of bin Laden aiming with an AK-47.
The five-minute message issued a warning to Europeans but made no mention of the fifth anniversary Wednesday of the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.
'The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God,' said a voice believed to be bin Laden's, without specifying what action would be taken.
Stupidity knows no educational boundaries.
CHICAGO — An Illinois high school senior is threatening to file a discrimination lawsuit against his school district after he says a teacher told him he fit the stereotype of a terrorist and humiliated him in front of his peers.Well, maybe the teacher was just trying to keep Amurkan classrooms safe.
Maysam Amanishourbariki, 17, who was born in the United States and is of Iranian heritage, claims his Italian language teacher told him last semester that he fit the stereotype of a terrorist during an exchange in class over his clothing. He says two other students also called him a terrorist, which was reported to school officials.
'Everyone started to laugh,' Amanishourbariki told the Waukegan News-Sun. 'I just sat there. I was confused. I didn't know what to do. I was angry and upset.'
You know the expression, "Build a better mousetrap?" Well, somebody has built a better suicide machine.
An 81-year-old Australian man has shot himself dead with an elaborate suicide robot built using plans he downloaded from the Internet.I've heard of applying what you know, but this is ridiculous.
The Gold Coast man, who lived alone, left notes of his plans and thoughts as he struggled to come to terms with demands by interstate relatives that he move out his home and into care.
He spent hours searching the Internet for a way to kill himself, downloaded what he needed and then built a complex machine that would remotely fire a gun.
He set the device up in his driveway about 7 a.m. Wednesday, placed himself in front of it and set it in motion.
His notes explained that he chose the driveway as he knew there were tradesmen working next door who would find his body. The plan worked as the workmen heard the gunshots and ran to investigate.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Second Amendment lives!
WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans have a right to own guns, Supreme Court justices declared Tuesday in a historic and lively debate that could lead to the most significant interpretation of the Second Amendment since its ratification two centuries ago.Well, to liberals it's perfectly reasonable. Remember, to them some rights are more equal than others.
Governments have a right to regulate those firearms, a majority of justices seemed to agree. But there was less apparent agreement on the case they were arguing: whether Washington's ban on handguns goes too far.
The justices dug deeply into arguments on one of the Constitution's most hotly debated provisions as demonstrators shouted slogans outside. Guns are an American right, argued one side. 'Guns kill,' responded the other.
Inside the court, at the end of a session extended long past the normal one hour, a majority of justices appeared ready to say that Americans have a 'right to keep and bear arms' that goes beyond the amendment's reference to service in a militia.
Several justices were openly skeptical that the District of Columbia's 32-year-old handgun ban, perhaps the strictest in the nation, could survive under that reading of the Constitution.
'What is reasonable about a total ban on possession?' Chief Justice John Roberts asked.
So, does it really come down to a case of snobs versus slobs?
Beer drinkers appear more likely to vote for Sen. John McCain in November, while those who enjoy wine say they’re more likely to vote Democratic in the fall. Among registered voters who prefer beer to wine, McCain has a 53 percent-46 percent edge over Sen. Hillary Clinton while McCain winds up in a virtual tie with Sen. Barack Obama among beer drinkers. In the head-to-head match-ups with McCain, Sens. Obama and Clinton each win a majority among registered voters who prefer wine to beer.I don't mind a president who's seen as "One of the guys." I could even handle a wine sippin' Obama. But four to eight years of Hillary? Who'd want to be sober through that?
Overall, 28 percent of all Americans say they prefer beer to wine and 31 percent say they would rather have a glass of wine than a bottle of brew. (The rest claim that they never drink under any circumstances.)
The apparent political differences are really matters of gender and class – men are big beer drinkers while women prefer wine over beer, as do higher-income Americans and college graduates.
Monday, March 17, 2008
It's another ringing endorsement for the Useless Nations!
Some U.N. leaders said Monday they saw little reason so far for the United Nations to wade into the dispute over China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet, despite the Dalai Lama's call for an international inquiry led by the body.If I had a dime for every time the U.N. said it would get back to someone, I could have made enough to bail out Bear-Stearns.
No one raised the issue Monday at a Security Council meeting and lunch with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Afterward, however, Ban urged Chinese authorities to exercise 'restraint' in Tibet _ his strongest message on the violence to date _ and did not rule out a future U.N. role.
'I'm increasingly concerned about the tensions and reports of violence and loss of life in Tibet and elsewhere,' he told reporters outside the council's chambers. 'At this time I urge restraint on the part of the authorities, and call on all concerned to avoid further confrontation and violence. And I stress the importance of a peaceful resolution.'
Asked whether he sees a U.N. role toward Tibet, Ban answered: 'We will continuously monitor the situation; we'll get back to you.'
The infighting amongst the Democrats just keeps getting worse.
PORTLAND, Ore. — One of the largest crackdowns on cockfighting in Northwest history resulted in more than 50 arrests across Oregon and Washington over the weekend.Maybe I'm being unfair. A cockfight would seem civilized compared to the coming crackup at the Democratic Convention.
The illegal sport that pits fighting roosters against each other in battles to the death typically involves gambling and often is the site of drug deals.
Federal law prohibiting the blood sport has been beefed up to make it a felony under the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act that went into effect last May.
Federal agents joined state law enforcement officers across the two states to arrest 51 people on various charges, including racketeering and drug trafficking.
A federal grand jury issued 17 separate indictments that list 63 people in documents unsealed Monday. The two-year investigation, involving more than 500 federal agents and police, was dubbed 'Operation Red Rooster' in Oregon and 'Operation Tattered Wing' in Washington state.
'To my knowledge, this is the biggest in the Northwest,' said Jim Mendhenhall, special agent in charge of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Office of Inspector General.
Well, this didn't take long.
The thunderous applause was still ringing in his ears when the state's new governor, David Paterson, told the Daily News that he and his wife had extramarital affairs.Eliot Spitzer must be green with envy. They didn't have to pay for it.
In a stunning revelation, both Paterson, 53, and his wife, Michelle, 46, acknowledged in a joint interview they each had intimate relationships with others during a rocky period in their marriage several years ago.
In the course of several interviews in the past few days, Paterson said he maintained a relationship for two or three years with 'a woman other than my wife,' beginning in 1999.
As part of that relationship, Paterson said, he and the other woman sometimes stayed at an upper West Side hotel — the Days Inn at Broadway and W. 94th St.
He said members of his Albany legislative staff often used the same hotel when they visit the city.
Well just darn.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party.Sorry, Hill, not this time. Maybe you can try and hijack the next election.
While the decision by Florida Democrats left the state's 210 delegates in limbo, Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest on June 3. Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, The Associated Press learned.
Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Karen L. Thurman sent a letter announcing the decision.
'A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the party were to pay for it,' Thurman said. '... This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.'
Members of Florida's congressional delegation unanimously opposed the plan, and Barack Obama expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly.
The national party punished Michigan and Florida for moving up their primaries before Feb. 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the party's national convention this summer in Denver. All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states, and Obama was not even on the Michigan ballot.
Hillary Rodham Clinton won both primaries. As her race with Obama has tightened, she has argued the delegates should be seated or new primaries held.
Come what may, Shakespeare in the Bar will go on.
BABBITT, Minn. — A bar owner in Babbitt who was cited for hosting a 'theater night' to get around the statewide smoking ban says he'll fight the citation in court.As far as I'm concerned, anything that helps to promote the arts is a good thing. Light up, thespians!
Tom Marinaro proudly framed his citation — which his attorney says is the first one issued in connection with 'theater night' — and hung it on the wall at Tank's Bar.
Babbitt police gave Marinaro the $300 petty misdemeanor ticket on Friday. A patron who was smoking in the bar was also given a ticket.
Tank's Bar, like other bars in the state, has hosted 'theater night' to get around a law that bans smoking in workplaces, including taverns and restaurants. A loophole in the law allows actors and actresses to smoke as part of a theatrical production, so several bar owners have hosted performances so patrons can smoke indoors.
Marinaro's attorney, Mark Benjamin, said he'll argue that the theatrical production clause in the law is unconstitutionally vague.
Well expletive deleted me!
The US Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue of expletives on the airwaves, a move that may re-open the debate over broadcast indecency.Granted that TV has changed a lot over the past thirty years, but one basic option has remained the same: The right to change the channel.
The court is to hear an appeal by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC's policy of fining networks for 'fleeting expletives' or isolated utterances, is on hold following a legal challenge by Fox.
Analysts say the media environment has changed substantially since 1978 when the court last ruled on this issue.
The FCC toughened its stance on expletives after a 2003 broadcast by NBC of the Golden Globes award show when U2's lead singer Bono said that winning was 'fucking brilliant'.
The FCC concluded that the word had an inherent sexual connotation, its use violated rules governing decency and the broadcast of the expletive could have been avoided.