Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Weekend reading



Thursday, February 23, 2006

Absurdity . . . AGAIN

I have been listening to almost daily reports about the situation in New Orleans. But this one from the Guardian just takes the cake.

People in New Orleans can't even get medical care! It is like a 3rd world country down there and we just gave our last M*A*S*H Unit to Pakistan.

The Pentagon has something like a $400 billion budget allocation and they can't help provide medical field units to our own people? See, this is why I get angry over the military budget. I am sorry, but that is just too screwed up.


Oh, gag me.

South Dakota Senate passes abortion ban

Okay, that's bad enough. It's interesting to pass a law that you KNOW is contrary to the law of the land. But we had to see this coming after Alito's nomination. So it doesn't surprise me all that much.

What bothers me is the story itself! Some especially egregious quotes (my emphasis):

In its 1973 Roe decision, the Supreme Court struck down abortion bans across the country, legalizing the killing of the unborn in all 50 states.
Killing of the unborn? How slanted can you get? Okay, fine, but it gets worse:
The outcome of any case challenging Roe, Land said, will depend on how Justice Anthony Kennedy votes. Kennedy has affirmed Roe in the past but in 2000 voted in the minority with the court's conservative bloc to uphold Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion -- a procedure in which a partially delivered baby is killed when its brains are suctioned.
Oooh, that steams me. WAY too much misinformation about D&X (which I refuse to call a p-b a). Partially delivered baby: not true. These are usually done in the second or third trimester, generally well before the baby is to be delivered. Often, the baby is DEAD before the procedure, making the term "killing" wrong... forgetting the debate about when life begins.

Man. Get ready for the culture wars.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's Arabic for Stevedore?

I can sum up the issue swirling around the proposed takeover of US port operation by a Dubai-based company in one hypothetical exchange:

Rumsfeld: We all deal with the UAE on a regular basis. It's a country that's been involved in the global War on Terror.
Me: Which side?

Another exchange we might hear:

George Bush, 2/21/06: "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a [British] company." [NY Times]
Me: Isn't it a lot easier for Jihadists to inflitrate a Middle Eastern company where they already probably have blood ties and recruits? This is what you have to explain. According to today's NY Times: "Two of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks came from the United Arab Emirates and laundered some of their money through its banking system. It was also the main transshipment point for Abdul Qadeer Khan a Pakistani nuclear engineer who ran the world's largest nuclear proliferation ring from warehouses near the port, met Iranian officials there, and shipped centrifuge equipment, which can be used to enrich uranium, from there to Libya."

This is all fascinating. Politically, this is the Bush administration having a tin ear. Also, it's about the Republicans coming apart at the seams. Hastert (Speaker of House), Jim Boehner (newly elected House Majority leader), and Frist (Senate leader) all oppose this deal. Why didn't Bush immediately bring them on board with the sensible party line.? Why couldn't he?

The truth is, it probably doesn't matter which corporate holding company owns the operations, or where that headquarters is located. But then again, I don't really know that. How much will people from Dubai be personally involved in the security of US ports? The administration needs to explain this. Some people are saying "of course it does not matter," but they don't have the facts either, they are just assuming that this is the equivalent of Saudis buying Harrod's in London, or a larger stake in Ford. What if, in fact, the deal will result in a significant number of UAE citizens, or those purporting to be officials of the company, showing up with ID cards that let them go everywhere?

Dollars to donuts says this was a political payoff to company which supports Bush (probably has prominent Saudi investors) and nobody in the Bush administration thought beyond that.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tee hee


Update: Special bonus funny.


Friday, February 17, 2006

HSA, MSA, FSA, What?????

Bush is out touting his medical savings accounts (MSA) again. Sometimes they are referred to as Health Savings Accounts (HSA), although HSAs have fewer restrictions. There are also "Flexible Spending Accounts". These have a dark side. If you don't spend the money in the account, you lost it. Poof. Gone. So unless you have a planned medical expense, it probably isn't worth your time. How many "planned" expense could you really have? When your appendix ruptures, it ruptures.

Some point out that you can use MSAs to pay for routine medical expenses. If something major happens, you are covered by a high deductible insurance plan. The idea is that people will "compare" shop for health care. Well, when was the last time you walked into a doctor's office, and got a price list? I have visions of the future. Imagine a McDonald's-like arrangement. You walk in, a nurse/cashier in a white coat says, "Welcome to Doc-in-the-Box. What can we offer you today". Over your head is a lit up menu. Office visit $150 (or use our AHM (automatic Health Machine) for free! Blood test $20, radiation treatment $500 per session, colonoscopy - complimentary when you sign up for our customer rewards plan.

No one ever mentions the dark side of these accounts when I hear them spoken about. And considering that Bush hasn't put forth a plan, I decided to investigate. This brief but useful bit of info from the the Department of Labor .


Mardi Gras

So there has been quite a bit of controversy over Mardi Gras. Its proponents speak of bravery and hope. Its opponents say this is white folks spending money on a party rather than helping rebuild the places where black folks live.



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Is it news or not?

Normally I don't like to comment on things I don't think are news, such as Dick Cheney's "incident" over the weekend. But The Daily Show did such a tremendous treatment of it that it's worth mentioning them. And this post tries to copy the right-wing technique of taking every little bit of news and showing why it's important.

Meanwhile, though, the victim of the shooting just had a heart attack from birdshot lodged in his heart, so I am not sure it's funny anymore.


Stop Me Before I Govern Again

Paul Hackett, former marine and Iraq war vet, has dropped out of the US Senate race. It is clear that he was pressured by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, oddly after Reid persuaded him to get into the race in the first place. His sense of betrayal is palpable. In fact, one gets the strong sense he was pressured to run for the Ohio 2d Congressional district instead, but refused the deal.

The issue here is not one man or a short candidacy, but the absolute tin ear the Democratic leadership has for politics. The last thing Democrats need right now is to have Hackett publicly saying that he was betrayed by the Democratic leadership. So his candidacy, which was going to be a big plus nationwide (win or lose) by showing that there is real opposition to the war even from veterans, will now be a black stain that may turn off potential voters. Having encouraged him to enter the race, the sudden withdrawal of support is a truly terrible idea. And Sherrod Brown, the only candidate left? He is a 7-term congressman, sort of a standard political hack. He will narrowly lose, in a race that will no longer have broader national implications beyond adding a potential Democrat to the Senate. Except for one: Sherrod Brown is an avid opponent of free trade. That's what Dems need now: isolationism. Jeez.

Sure, there were some right-wingers who called Hackett "Howard Dean in Uniform," because he had a sharp tongue (recently calling the religious right "not much better than Bin Laden." Others would contend he was a "straight talker" with McCain's appeal. That debate is for another day. His near-victory in the 6th district Ohio race last summer proves his cross-over appeal to Republican voters as well as strength with independent voters. It also helped energize a set of national campaigns by Iraq war veterans as Democrats. This particular blogger was excited by the prospect of having the wuss factor off the Dems plate. Instead, this is nothing less than the Democrats' first political defeat of 2006. And, as usual, the Democrats have done it to themselves.


Joey Cheek Rocks

Joey Cheek is awesome. After winning Gold in the 500m speed skate, he told the press that he was donating his $25K from the Olympic committee to Right To Play in order to help refugees in Chad.

I liked Joey's statement because:
1) he told the press that while they wanted some Hallmark story, that wasn't going to give them one. Good for him. Americans over sentimentalize everything and it is sickening.
2) He acknowledged that what he does is enjoyable for him, but in reality is pretty "ridiculous" in the bigger scheme of things. This guy has perspective and grounding! That is to be admired.
3) Finally, he had the generosity to use his winnings to help someone else, the courage to challenge those who would sponsor him to contribute (Nike agreed to give $30K in product to children in Chad already) and the respect to tip his hat to Johann Olav Koss, his role model.

This is what the Olympics is about. And it is refreshing to know that some people understand that it isn't just abotu personal glory or the opportunity to get rich with sponsorships and promotions.


Why the Democrats Will Lose in 2006

This just in: Paul Hackett has dropped out of the Ohio Senate Race. The State Democratic party pressured him heavily to drop out in favor of seven-term Representative Sherrod Brown; they even went so far as to call donors and tell them not to give him any money. Senators Schumer and Reid also told him to drop out.

Their stated reasons: Brown had raised $2.37 million already (Hackett had less than $250,000) and Brown's name was supposedly "golden" in Ohio. So the Democratic Party has chosen to back a lackuster old Democratic hand, instead of a young, energetic, decorated Iraq war veteran with a strong civil rights stance. This is a short-sighted decision designed only to favor one of their own. Moronic. Color me "disillusioned."

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."


Monday, February 13, 2006

The War on Science: The Battle is Joined

Good news from the frontlines of the war on science: yesterday, hundreds of churches across the nation celebrated Darwin's 197th birthday! Mainstream Christian churches are finally starting to unite to dispel false creationist myths.

"Evolution Sunday" is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project--a document signed by over 10,000 clergy saying that evolution is a "foundational scientific truth" and to reject evolution is, "to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children... Among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator."

The NY Times quotes participant Rev. Patricia Templeton (St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia) as telling her worshippers, "A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all."


More cartoons.

Find more at


Wikipedia-The new Propoganda Front

OK, here is the latest from Beltwayland. Congressional aides have been caught editing Wikipedia entries in order to revmove unseemly comments about their Congresspeople or to add unseemly comments about the opposition. Apparently, Wikipedia editors caught on and blocked IP addresses from Congress.

We tend to reference Wikipedia a lot on this blog. This an important resource. But we may have to make sure we cross-check Wikipedia information.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

More Bush Lies about Education

Q Hi, I just want to get your comments about education. Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education, and I was just wondering how that's supposed to help our futures? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Education budget was cut -- say it again. What was cut?
Here's from the an appearance by Bush in Kansas, question by a citizen who got past the goons that keep out all non-fascist sycophants:

"Q Twelve point seven billion dollars was cut from education, and I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our --
THE PRESIDENT: At the federal level?
Q Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that -- I don't think we've actually -- for higher education? Student loans?
Q Yes, student loans.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We're not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better. Part of the reconciliation package, I think she's talking about. Yes, it's a reform of the program to make sure it functions better. It is -- in other words, we're not taking people off student loans, we're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. And so I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so.

In fact, Bush's new budget increased fees and loan rates. For example, interest rates on loans taken out by parents, now at 6.1%, will rise to 8.5%. The Bush budget lists over $12 billion in savings from the program. Guess where it comes from.

Well, here it is from the horse's mouth (well, from an end of the horse, at any rate):

"I guess the best way to summarize me is I came from Texas and I'm going back to Texas with the exact same values I had when I arrived in Washington, D.C. "
Jan 23, 2006.

1. Yes, those are the values of doing anything and saying anything to get power and money. The press will never call you on a lie, so just keep doing it.
2. You can't go back to Texas fast enough.

Bush must be impeached, to save our Constitution and our republic.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Gay Marriage in 2006

In Ohio, Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett are going to have a race for the Democratic nomination. Hackett is the former marine. He's also the one in favor of gay marriage. Sherrod Brown doesn't mention it at all on his website. Hackett writes: "Never once in my 43 years of life have I heard of anyone getting a divorce because their neighbors are gay. "

I suspect in many states there will be this sub rosa battle about gay rights in the Democratic primary, with words like moderate and liberal tossed around as code for silent (moderate) or in favor of gay marriage (liberal).

Interestingly, the incumbent Republican, Mike DeWine, who is very pro-choice anti-abortion rights, also does not mention gay rights one way or the other on his site. Seems like Republicans may also be worried about how that issue cuts with independent voters. Curiously, I have seen no recent polls on the subject.

Which way will this play in 2006? Will voters, particularly swing voters, really care?


The Real Threat

While we were all going on about cartoons, and making remarks about free speech rights being under threat, there were some more serious threats to free speech, expression and privacy. We ignored that Google agreed to block certain sites from popping up in searches in order to appease the Chinese government. In addition to that, Google agreed to keep records on its users in China. This week, it was revealed that in 2002
Yahoo! turned over evidence that got a Chinese dissident journalist arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Apparently, Shi Tao had e-mailed a government memo that asked/urged/warned newspapers to be careful about how they covered of the 15th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Yahoo! revealed the name of the originator of the e-mail. According to this morning's Marketplace Report Microsoft has done similar things China.

Next week, the House committee on International Relations is holding hearings on the ethnical responsibiolities of US businesses doing business in China, and I imagine other similarly situated countries.

This week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalas is doing a real "Canine -Equistrian extravaganza" for the Senate Intelligence committee. He is basically holding the Adminsitration line. And Bush wants us to believe that wire tapping prevented attacks on LA. However, as I have heard it told, it was really because of cooperation with East Asian (I am going to bet it was Indonesia or the Phillippines) governments.

All of this should worry us for a lot for reasons. The first is that when you start to etch away at privacy rights, you are also etching away are other freedoms such as speech and expression as well as freedom from illegal searched and seizures. That is where the real threat to our first amendment rights lies, not with the protestations of Arab regimes. The cases of Yahoo! and Google should serve as reminders that when we use the internet, records do exist and if push comes to shove, they can be used against us. Thus, do we have an expectation of privacy on the internet? So far, we seem to think so, unless we are at work where we all sign waivers agreeing that we can be monitored. However, considering the pattern of the Bush Administration's illegality, we can't have much confidence in our legal protections anymore.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lasting impact of the Muhammad cartoons?

Unfortunately, this will be it. A reinforced stereotype of an Islamic culture that seems to only know one way to react -- violently. Is it true? That's not my place to say. But I guarantee you that a lot more people feel that way now than did before.

This is the last I hope we ever speak of this business on this blog. But here are some final links:


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Accept defeat? Never!

These guys just don't take "no" for an answer, do they?

Bush buried detailed Social Security privatization proposals in his budget

Get ready for another fight.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Voting Chicago Style

This is old news by now, but RBR and I were talking about it and wanted to confirm its veracity. It appears, RBR, that Jon Stewart's report wasn't fake news. The Republicans had to redo the vote for Boehner see Daily Kos. The link to Roll Call is good, but requires a subscription to read. The irony is just too good.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Violence Against Innocent Danes and Norwegians

A Syrian mob stormed and burned both the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus there is no mention yet of whether any Danes or Norwegians were killed or injured. Given that the mob outside the now destroyed Danish embassy sat there at the sufference of the Syrian dictatorship, one is inclined to attribute some measure of responsibility to the Syrian state. I suspect the Syrian authorities incited the attack on the Danish embassy but tried to step and stop the subsequent attack on Norway's embassy - unsuccesfully.

The position put forward here by US West and Bob and mentioned in some comments on the Daily Kos website (the majority of those comments support the Danes!) is tantamount to giving the most radical and violent factions in the Middle East a de facto veto over the exercise of speech World Wide!

Furthermore, as to whether this is Danish provocation or Arab radicals looking for an excuse to pick a fight: Do we really think this is the first time a Western news source has published anything this offensive to Muslims or Arabs? I found this excellent website presenting depictions of Mohammed in both Muslim and Western art over the centuries. This shows that is far from universally held among the Muslims that depicting Mohammed is absolutely banned. Also some of these works depict far more offensive scenes than anything in the Danish satirical cartoons (especially the medieval Christian stuff but also some more recent things). What's more some of these have been presented recently (within the last few years) and in more high profile media (the "South Park" TV show). But no reaction. Why not? Because this time Arab leaders CHOSE to make this is a big issue for their own reasons.

Danes cannot be expected to anticipate when and how Muslim mullah-politicians will decide to incite violence over these things. Nor should they be accused of lacking "common sense" by those who would sell our rights so cheaply and easily!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gud Bevare Danmark! (God Save Denmark!)

Some time ago a newspaper in Aarhus, Denmark (Jyllands Posten) published a series of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a variety of amusing, artistic, and/or critical ways. You can see the cartoons at this website if you scroll down a bit.

You can guess at the reaction in the Muslim world. They went ape. Several of the more backward Muslim tyrannies (including Saudi Arabia) have withdrawn their diplomatic missions from Denmark over this. Jihadi groups are threatening to bomb not only the newspaper but Danish "targets" in general (Danish troops are currently posted in both Iraq and Afghanistan). Things have gotten so bad the Jyllands Posten is running this open letter to Muslims (link is to the English version).

Recently, French and German papers have come to the defense of the Danish paper's right to publish whatever cartoons they want. A majority of Danes think that no apology should be forthcoming! (nearly 80% against government apology, 62% against paper apologizing) I agree with them.

Jyllands Posten is one of two national daily papers in Denmark. The other is Politikken. Jyllands Posten is based in Aarhus which is the second largest city in Denmark and the largest city on the Jutland (Jylland) peninsula and the city in which I was an exchange student many years ago. I would be very upset indeed if some religious maniac blew up a bunch of my friends because the local paper published the hypothetical image of their idol.

It is so frustrating that in our globalized world, we are forced to deal with such backwards bigots as these Wahabists. I have to say that decreasing our dependence on oil (not just Middle Eastern oil) would be a great boon to humanity. It is oil that has made these people simultaneously so backward and yet wealthy enough to be relevant.



So, I was all set to write a post saying that, although I had disagreed with really, pretty much everything that Pres. Bush has done in office until this point, I admired the fact that he wanted us to get off of Mideast oil. In fact, I thought it was brilliant political strategy too -- beating the Democrats to the punch with this idea that was certain to be a staple of the Democratic party platform in 2006. Because even if you missed the speech, the message was sure hard to miss this morning:

But, it didn't take long for my pleasant dreamworld to cave in...

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

Maybe it's time to make a contribution to the Democratic party?


State of the Onion

So, Cindy Sheehan proved, once again, that liberals often have no media savvy. She was invited to the State of the Union by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and took her seat. However, she was forcibly removed by the police because she was wearing an anti-war t-shirt, and apparently "such displays" are not permitted in the House chamber. Land of the free, my ass. But if that's the rule, then the trick is to work with it. She should not have worn the t-shirt, but instead sat there. Believe me, the TV cameras would have found her. Had she broken into tears at the right moment, she would have completely upstaged the president. Instead, she chose to be arrested, missing her opportunity. Every time I see protesters with their oversized puppet shows and such, I realize how little media savvy they have. This isn't the 1960s - they won't make big public arrests and give good footage. You have to be more creative. If Cindy Sheehan had stayed in the chamber, and not given the cops the excuse to throw her out, it would have been front page news everywhere. Instead, just a blip. Too bad. Elections are won and lost on such things.