Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Another day, another fraud in the White House. This time the President invited some folks over for an honest discussion and expert advice on Iraq and Iran. One of the people on the guest list was a man who, just two weeks ago, published a fraudulent article claiming that Iran was issuing special badges to minority populations (Jews, gays, Christians, etc.) to be worn on their clothes (a la Nazis). After Bush and Cheney and their minions leave, that place is going to need a good fumigating. Remember, these are the folks that bitched about the state that Clinton's folks left the place - of course, that turned out to be an lie exaggeration.

I suggest that the White House repent and begin doing so by ordering Jesus Pans. Now everyone can see the Lord when they bite into their grilled cheese sandwiches. Previously, you had to take acid to get to that point. We need to develop a complimentary line of baking pans. I want an image of Jesus on my sticky buns.

Lillet Martini

Over the last couple of years, our house favorite for mixed drink has been a Delmonico No.1. The recipe:

3/4 shot gin
1/2 shot brandy
1/2 shot dry vermouth
1/2 shot sweet vermouth

Shaken with ice and poured into a chilled martini glass.

The co-signer began playing with the recipe one day. It has morphed into the following drink:

3/4 shot gin
1/2 shot brandy
1/2 shot dry vermouth
1/2 shot Lillet
peel of an orange or lemon for garnish

Lillet is a French aperitif from Bordeaux. It is sweet and slightly spicy. Normally, it is served chilled with a orange peel. It also makes a proper substitute for sweet vermouth in the Delmonico (which has been renamed in our house to honor it's inventor, the co-signer).

This past weekend when the cocktail hour was upon us, I decided to play a little more. What I've concocted turned out to be pretty darn tasty. It is a Lillet martini. The recipe for 2 is:

3 shots of gin
1.5 to 2 shots of Lillet
1 shot dry vermouth
garnish with strips of candied ginger

Shaken over ice and poured into a martini glass. It's refreshing. The sweetness of the Lillet is slightly tempered by the gin. The candied ginger is a must as it adds another level of spice to the mix.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Evening quickies

Gore calls Bush a right wing extremist. This is why a lot of people are talking about another Gore run for the presidency. When Gore stops beating around the Bush, so to speak, and decides to beat the Bush and use popular rhetoric, he's a much more likable person and a much better candidate. It's the same trait the people originally liked about John McCain (a person who many Democrats would have supported before he began washing all of the good will away this year by appealing to the basest of Republicans). Unfortunately, Gore doesn't often act this way on the campaign trail. When he does, however, his numbers rise and quickly. My opinion? Find your voice, Al. Use it extensively to support the eventual nominee.

It's official - Washington state Republicans are nuts. They just voted this weekend to include in their platform a repeal of the 14th amendment. Basically, they want to deny citizenship rights to babies born in the U.S. if said babies are the children of illegal immigrants. Watch Lou Dobbs tomorrow to see Washington state Democrats and Republicans debate the issue. Dobbs, of course, is also a nut when it comes to immigration.

We already knew Ohio Republicans are nuts. A report of a court ruling negating a domestic violence ruling because the couple was unmarried (even though they are straight). See, in order to combat gay marriage, Ohio politicians passed a law that made domestic violence available only to married couples. Because, you know, it's worse to be gay and together than to be straight and your face beaten in. (Actually, to be fair, the court ruling was correct; it's the law that is egregious).

Batwoman is going to be a lesbian in her latest incarnation. This, no doubt, will send Ohio Republicans into a frenzy. Expect to hear talk of banning comic books and possibly putting age ratings on them.

Usually White House employees wait for a few months before being caught in unethical situations, but not Karl Zinsmeister, formerly of American Enterprise magazine and now a policy person. His magazine has been unethical for years, so I guess the White House knew what they were getting.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks was named "a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, a designation that places it among the top computer security institutions in the country." This is the same prestigious institution that for eleven months, allowed it's servers to be hacked and exposed thousands (38,000+) of student's and faculty's personal data. The award was provided by the bumbling, incompetent idiots at the NSA and Fatherland Security.

Wait for it

It's coming and I'm certain of it. You can hear the rumblings in the distance. Their egos can't take it. All the blustering, all the hot air, all of the self righteous indignation won't allow them to face the facts. Polls are showing that Americans are now loathed by many peoples of the world. In Afghanistan this weekend a traffic accident involving American troops sparked the worst rioting since the days of the Taliban. Speaking of the Taliban, they're still around and are re-forming and have become a force to be reckoned with once again as they take on troops occupying Afghanistan. Of course, the news from Iraq hasn't changed in months - Americans and British troops continue to occupy that country amidst an insurgency that continues to grow while the country attempts to avoid a worsening civil war.

What will be the response from the true believers of the war? What will the ones who dare not admit catastrophic errors say to what is happening? As I said, you can hear the rumblings; you won't have to wait long. Expect this response: outrage at the ingrates. Yes, they will attack those that we allegedly went in to save as being ungrateful for our "help". They are already pointing out that the world for the Afghanis and Iraqis would have been far worse if we left Hussein and the Taliban in place. Next they will declare that these people that we've "helped" don't appreciate our assistance, probably due to their incredible ignorance.

Yes, the true believers, will play the blame the victims game. They will not speak of the errors committed along the way - not the big ones, at least. They will not accept responsibility for the policies that they have executed, the propaganda that they have spewed the brought our nations to this place of plummeting reputations. The true believers, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, do not accept personal responsibility - that is for others - the righteousness of their cause provides them with the freedom to ignore such droll concepts as consequences. True believers will never accept that their saber rattling may have made the world more dangerous, it certainly is for the troops serving overseas, and will have ultimately provided a respite for the Afghanis similar to the one that the Soviets provided in the 80s. True believers will not allow comparisons to the Crusades of old and therefore not appreciate the backlash that they have loaded.

No, true believers will simply state that their intentions were twisted and misunderstood. They will say that they attempted to help a people and a world, but that the world was too stupid to know what was being offered. True believers will then announce that it is time to get out, close our borders, ignore when the world comes a knockin' again, and make the world beg for our help next time - we might offer it then, maybe. True believers will ignore our lack of planning, our lack of focus, our cultural ignorance of the lands we ostensibly wanted to protect, our ignorance of historical precedent, our simplistic vision, Abu Ghraib, the massacres of civilians (time and again), destruction of means of support (poppy crops, for instance), and more. True believers will merely cry, "Idiots!" and take their ball home to pout.

Wait for's won't have to wait long...I promise. Maybe the Iranians will be smart enough to accept what we have to offer?


The Boston Globe reports that aides in Dick Cheney's office review all legislation before the President signs it. The reason? Protecting Presidential power and using the so-called "signing statements" (which have no legal basis and subvert the Constitution by suggesting that the executive branch can arbitrarily write legislation that undermines laws passed by Congress and does not seek Congressional approval) to seal that power.

Harper's Ken Silverstein takes an insider's look at the tenure of Porter Goss at the CIA. Snip:
“All Goss did [at the CIA] was add a few new seats and a few new layers,” said one recent retiree from the agency. “That was his idea of change.”
The Independent reports that the FCC is investigating the use of Video News Releases (VNRs) by television stations in the U.S. Otherwise known as propaganda, "VNRs" refers to the type of canned stories packaged as news used by stations without crediting the producers of the video. Often used by the U.S. government, these are also produced by corporations. In essence, it's a cheap way to fill content space on the air and acts as a free commercial for the enterprise that produced it. In a ten month period at least 77 stations were found to be using the faux news.

Former chairman of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, is the new Treasury Secretary. With the general consensus being that the U.S. economy is heading for troubled times in the next couple of years, I cannot imagine why, other than ego tripping, anyone would want the job.

Bad prosecution

The LA Times today has the harrowing tale of the Muslims from Lodi, California who were prosecuted as terrorists. Apparently, a reknowned FBI agent went to bat for the defense, risking his 36 years of good reputation within the force to save these guys. Read the whole thing - it's that important - and then ask yourself how you feel about where we've gone since September 11th, 2001. Snips:

Wedick was troubled by the inability of the agents to pin down the contours of one believable story. They didn't seem to know the terrain of Pakistan or the month of Ramadan. They didn't seem to fully appreciate that they were dealing with an immigrant kid from a lowly Pashtun tribe whose sixth-grade education and poor command of the English language—"Martyred? What does that mean, sir?"—demanded a more skeptical approach. And then there was the matter of the father's confession. Umer Hayat described visiting his son's camp and finding 1,000 men wearing black Ninja Turtle masks and performing "pole vaulting" exercises in huge basement rooms—100 miles from Balakot. The agents going back and forth between the two interrogations that night never attempted to reconcile the vast differences in the confessions.

The video ended and Wedick picked up the phone and called defense attorney Johnny L. Griffin. Whatever hesitation he had about taking on the FBI office that he, more than anyone, had put on the map—the office where his wife still worked as an agent—was now gone. "Johnny, it's the sorriest interrogation, the sorriest confession, I've ever seen."

...Outside the courtroom, Wedick wondered how the same government dismissing his credentials could have failed to produce a single piece of corroborating evidence in four years of sleuthing that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and unearthed a cherry packer and an ice cream vendor who drove around town playing "Pop Goes the Weasel." "To see the government's power from this side of the fence is a strange thing for me," he conceded. "What we're doing to these Muslims is the same thing we did to the Japanese in the 1940s. It's the same fear and the same overreaction. Instead of internment camps, we're sending them to prison."

...He saw one juror holding back tears and made a straight line for her apartment. She wouldn't let him in at first, talking through a crack. Two hours, four hours, finally she opened the door and told him what he suspected. She didn't believe Hamid was guilty. So intense was the pressure from fellow jurors to convict him that she had to check into the hospital. Throughout the trial, she said, the foreman kept making the gesture of a noose hanging. "Lynch the Muslim," she took it to mean. Wedick persuaded her to write it all down and sign it. Then he filed the affidavit with the federal court, hoping it might lead to a new trial.

Monday, May 29, 2006


The MPAA has been accused of hiring a hacker to illegally obtain files that would assist them in proving a company was knowingly breaking distribution laws. What's that about two wrongs don't make a right? The courts will decide.

A couple has been accused of, among other things, beating their children with their Bible.

According to Think Progress, despite his denials Dennis Hastert had very close ties with Jack Abramoff.

Read up on the massacre in Haditha by U.S. marines of Iraqi civilians and ask yourself how you feel about sending our troops in now.

TrueCrypt - encryption program, free and open source, with plausible deniability.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

From a former member of the NSA

Some damning words in this essay. Clip:

Ignoring FISA's rules concerning warrants is illegal. It also weakens national security, since the process of obtaining the warrants has an effect on quality control. To date, FBI agents have been sent out to do thousands of investigations based on this warrantless wiretapping. None of those investigations turned up a legitimate lead. I have spoken to about a dozen agents, and they all roll their eyes and indicate disgust with the man-years of wasted effort being put into physically examining NSA "leads."

This scattershot attempt at data mining drags FBI agents away from real investigations, while destroying the NSA’s credibility in the eyes of law enforcement and the public in general. That loss of credibility makes the NSA the agency that cried wolf -- and after so many false leads, should they provide something useful, the data will be looked at skeptically and perhaps given lower priority by law enforcement than it would otherwise have been given.

Worse, FBI agents working real and pressing investigations such as organized crime, child pornography and missing persons are being pulled away from their normal law enforcement duties to follow up on NSA leads. Nobody wants another 9/11, of course, but we experience real crimes on a daily basis that, over the course of even one year, cause far greater loss of life and damage than the 9/11 attacks did. There are children abused on a daily basis to facilitate online child pornography, yet I know of at least two agents who were pulled from their duties tracking down child abusers to investigate everyone who called the same pizza parlor as a person who received a call from a person who received an overseas call. There are plenty of similar examples.

We have snakes in our midst, yet we are chasing a mythical beast with completely unreliable evidence...

Unnerved at the prospect of one person holding that data? You should be. While I can personally attest to the fact that the vast majority of NSA employees are good and honest people, the NSA has more than its share of bitter, vindictive mid- and senior-level bureaucrats. I would not trust my personal information with these people, since I have personally seen them use internal information against their enemies.

Jack Cafferty video

The reaction of members of Congress regarding the FBI raid on William Jefferson's office has been ridiculous. I could understand the outrage if this same Congress had not already let the Executive Branch run all over the Legislative branch in pursuit of trampling citizen's rights. Further, the outrage could be understood if not for the fact that the Justice Department had followed procedure and issued a subpoena for documents and that subpoena was ignored for months. I do understand how people feel uneasy about the fact that Mr. Jefferson, a black Democrat from New Orleans, gets his office raided and not, say, Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, or any of the other crooks who have profited far more than Jefferson, but perhaps their offices actually responded to the subpoenas?

Anyhow, the whole thing is outrageous. The Democrats look as bad as the Republicans on this issue. They should kick Jefferson out of their party and strip him of committee assignments. Then they should stop whining about the raid. Yes, I do understand the Constitutional issues, but frankly, getting worked up about protecting the Constitutional rights of a body that has let this President trample my rights and, in fact, abetted him by passing the so-called Patriot Act, is difficult to do. Fuck 'em. Vote the muthas out - all of them.

The video below of Jack Cafferty of CNN sums up much of my thoughts:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Let them eat cake!

Last night, our friend, J, invited us to join other friends of hers to celebrate her 60th birthday. It was an honor and a delight to join the group of people in celebrating this lovely woman. J, as expected, had quite an array of people. From the Master Gardener, who also played chef, to former and current co-workers to her contacts via the Sufi community, there were many diverse and interesting conversations to be had. When it came time to sit for dinner, Shawn and I chose our places early though we were among the last to fill our plates. We found ourselves surrounded by progressives and leftists sharing political discussions. I relished this, but Shawn drifted off to another conversation taking place at the other end of the table.

J looked pleased with her evening. She was glowing and trying to spend time with everyone conversing and catching up. Her partner was jovial. He also tried to speak with everyone and he ran around taking pictures.

Everyone was asked to wear a name badge as a conversation starter. In addition to the name, the badge read "A friend from..." and the wearer filled it in. I wrote, "Life" which seemed to please/amuse J's partner but stumped others.

As part of our reply to the eVite, Shawn asked J if there was anything we could bring to her party. For the second time this year we were asked to bring cake for dessert. J suggested some sort of low glycemic level goat cheese cheese cake (she doesn't allow much cow dairy in her diet, nor much sugar). Our cheesecake pan leaks and the last one Shawn tried to make didn't turn out (I've never made one). We thought that this was a bit out of our league for the moment. After doing some searching around the Internet, Shawn came up with a recipe for a Ginger cake made with sorghum as the primary sweetener (we used Sucanat as well). We chose to put the cake(s) (plural as we made 2 to accomodate the 30 guests) into a Bundt pan (a rosette pattern) and to top the cake(s) with edible flowers. J's chef/gardener/friend supplied freshly whipped, organic cream and strawberries to top the pieces. We only have one Bundt pan so I baked the second cake yesterday afternoon before the party. I also put together a pear-maple and rosemary clafouti. Both desserts were big hits. J said that she wouldn't trust anyone else to do the desserts - very kind words indeed.

The funny/odd thing about this episode is that this is the second time this year that a friend has asked us to bake a cake for dessert for their birthday. Why is this funny/odd? For myself, I have not until this year made a cake in my adult life. Shawn's made a couple of cakes over the last couple of years, but also for birthdays. We never make a cake for ourselves and never have it around the house. Bravo to our friends for forcing us out of our comfort zone and making us be creative!

It was great seeing J again and sharing her birthday. Now that school is coming to an end for Shawn, I hope we'll see more of J and her partner. We had a great time last night.

Weird thing about phone/Internet tapping

There has been a thought that has been puzzling me for days with regards to the NSA/phone company wire tapping database. Proponents of the program often state that they look at the patterns of phone calls made by the 9/11 attackers and then search for similar patterns to attempt to thwart another attack. On the surface, this sounds like it might be an appropriate strategy.

However, if I were a terrorist organization, why would I use that same tactic twice? I mean, one could argue that if it was successful the first time, then one should try it again. That works well for groups that don't mind exposure, but for organizations that are trying to remain off of the radar screen such a tactic is suicide.

Consider how some hackers are caught. Some of them are emboldened enough that they use the same technique time and again, eventually leaving traces that could be detected and tracked. Others use the techniques exposed by hackers before them and get caught in the same type of net. Would the Unibomber have been as "successful" had he not used random timing and random mailing outlets? Heck, he'd still be at large if he hadn't have presented the code to his own unmasking and been turned in by his brother.

I think it's safe to assume that Al Qaeda is an intelligent enough organization not to rely on a single method of organizing. Proof of this was recently discovered by Pakistani authorities when they found that operatives in the British subway attacks used free email services to communicate. A terrorist would compose a message and then save it as a draft. His connection would then use the same username and password to log on and retrieve the draft message and, perhaps, reply in his own draft. No email was ever exchanged. Nothing passed through the servers that the NSA is monitoring. It's likely that Al Qaeda has changed tactics once again.

So, the NSA system is reactionary. Is it helpful? Is it too much money? What are the built-in privacy assurances and who guarantees those assurances ("who" meaning which publicly elected body, since I do not trust government to do it)? Would our resources be better directed at such things as human infiltration, port security, emergency preparedness (also reactionary, but with a clear and uncontested benefit), etc?


Mark Morford's column today, Can You Still Hate Wal-Mart? Yes, Mark, you can still hate them and for reasons you've already noted.

Ryuichi Sakamoto is protesting a new nuclear plant in Japan. You can download his benefit tunes here. I'm not a techno-phobe. If we had a way to properly dispense of the waste, I'd be all for nuclear energy. However, without that plan it seems to me to be unconscionable to support nuclear plants. It's just like our current deficits, only worse. Instead of passing along a problem to the next generation, we're passing along a problem to the next 1,000 generations.

The Seattle Times political reporter, Neil Postman, has a new blog. One of yesterday's posts contains snippets of an interview with a Democratic party pollster who says that the Dems should be counting on victories come November:
"We need to nationalize the elections. We need a tidal wave. They're going to localize it and try to disqualify our individual candidates. It's very clear what the struggle is."
There's some truth to this, however, IMO, challengers need to show a streak of independence from their party bosses. One of the raps against the current Congress is that they rubber stamp the President's actions. Use that as your unifying issue, then show some of your own independence by presenting your ideas that clash with the national Democratic party. Demonstrate you are a leader, contrast that against the Republican follower, and present it as a positive trait.

Police state tactics: Wisconsin Supreme Court approves of police force feeding laxatives to suspects in order to recover the swallowed drug evidence. Rather than just letting nature take it's course.

Police state tactics, local edition: Tennessee High School Principal files charges against school valedictorian who dares to speak at his own graduation. Nice civics lesson, there. Hat top to Tennessee Guerilla Women.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dolittle in babysitter scam

Representative John Doolittle, tied to the Jack Abramoff scandal and current member of the do-nothing Congress (only in session 97 days this term!), pays for his child's (aged 14) babysitter out of his PAC re-election committee. According to the Washington Post, since 2001 Doolittle's PAC has paid $5,881 towards babysitting fees for his daughter. This year alone the PAC has paid $975 of such fees.

Doolittle makes $165,200 year (for 97 days of work) while his wife has earned $100,000 this year thus far in commissions as a fundraiser for his campaign. Keep that in mind this election when you consider how you, members of your family, or friends cannot get tax payer subsidized daycare for children. If only you could set up a PAC and have donors fund it for you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


In one of the dumbest things I've heard coming from this government, all women of child bearing years are being asked to treat themselves as "pre-pregnant". Clip:

New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.

While most of these recommendations are well known to women who are pregnant or seeking to get pregnant, experts say it's important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.

1) I understand and appreciate the health message, but it's only aimed at women and only with the intent that women should/could have children. Remember, if you're a man it doesn't matter what you do (horse back riding, booze, marijuana, saunas, tight underwear, and warm weather have been shown to decrease sperm production), go ahead and enjoy life to it's fullest. And if you happen to be an infertile woman, live it up and let your sisters be damned.

2) Can we set up medical accounts for pre-abortions?

3) This method of addressing the issue really infantalizes women, but that's par for the course for this government.

More on National Guard troops on the border

It occurred to me that perhaps the reason one would put the troops there is to keep them fresh for Iran. Except with only 2 week deployments, I don't understand how they are to learn their jobs before being sent home. Also, this alleged problem (alleged, because I don't believe one exists) has been around since before Bush came to office. The original report from the 9/11 Commission recommended that this issue be addressed, but Republicans decided not to back the Commission's findings. So, why all of the attention now? Well, it's obvious that they hope to turn it into an election year security issue that will change the topic from Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and supply them with some positive momentum to build upon for the coming elections. Other issues our non-working, but well paid Congress will address in the coming months will include flag burning (when was the last flag burnt in protest in the U.S. that this is still an issue?) and gay marriage rights. They hope to use these as gotcha issues for Democrats that will get their base out and hope that people forget about incompetency, foreign policy blunders, war, and an economy which has been a drain on the average American. On top of that, they are planning on bringing a substantial number of troops home from Iraq - a political cut and run that they've planned on all along. Hey, I'm happy to see the troops home and wish it could be all of them, but this is a cynical political ploy that is getting more killed by the day until the President can pull the plug to make his polls look better for the election. That's been the plan from day one.

But let's get back to that idea of National Guard Troops for Border Patrol. Bill O'Reilly asked Michael Chertoff about this exact same thing in December of 2005 (expect to hear O'Reilly crowing about it today):
“Why don’t you put the National Guard on the border to back up the border patrol and stop the bleeding, and then start to increase the Border Patrol, the high-tech and all of that?” O’Reilly asked.

“Well, the National Guard is really, first of all, not trained for that mission,” Chertoff told O’Reilly. “I mean, the fact of the matter is the border is a special place. There are special challenges that are faced there.”

“I think it would be a horribly over-expensive and very difficult way to manage this problem,” Chertoff said. “Unless you would be prepared to leave those people in the National Guard day and night for month after month after month, you would eventually have to come to grips with the challenge in a more comprehensive way.”
From today's press conference TPM Muckraker provides this account with Fatherland Security's Michael Chertoff:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I've understood everything I've heard, you don't yet know what missions the 6,000 National Guardsmen will do, you don't know who is going to pay for them, you don't know what the rules of engagement will be for them, you don't know what size units there will be or how long -- whether they'll be two-week or six-month deployments, and you don't really know exactly which equipment they're going to have. So my question is, how long have you been working on this?

SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I guess that's what they call a loaded question. And I guess you haven't understood what we've said, so I'm going to try to make it really clear. . . I]t is true that, sitting here right now, I do not have in my head every single mission set. . .

ASSISTANT SECRETARY McHALE: . . . We don't know how many helicopters we're going to put up, but we know to a near certainty that we'll have helicopters. . . We don't know where we will place censors [sic] to detect illegal movement, but it's almost a certainty that we will have censors [sic]. . . We don't know how many barriers or roads we're going to build, but clearly, we will be putting new barriers in place, and clearly, we will be building new roads . . . So your question, sir, is a fair one.

QUESTION: What I'm really trying to understand, is this a well-thought-out plan, or is it something that's just been --


SECRETARY CHERTOFF: in quite exquisite detail. . .

GENERAL BLUM: This is clearly a well-thought-out plan[.]

So, let's see...5 months ago this was a horrible idea. Today, it's a well thought out plan, except that we don't know how much equipment, nor where it will all be placed. This sounds like another policy pulled - no doubt with hasmat suits - from Karl Rove's asshole. Questions: Why are we wasting resources on this? Assuming that this is a problem, is this the best use of resources? Why stretch the National Guard in this manner? Haven't we tried this before and the troops were recalled because they shot a Mexican teen in the back? (OK, that one's rhetorical because the answer is "yes") Where is Osama bin Laden and why haven't we captured him yet? Can we trust an administration that flubbed bin Laden's capture, flubbed the Weapons of Mass Destruction, screwed up royally on the post Iraq planning, could not and can not properly address the aftermath of Katrina nearly 9 months later, and could not deliver a proper system to benefit seniors in this country (not to mention No Child Left A Dime) to deliver on this promise?


Durex, the condom manufacturer has a new site: Dickorations for dressing up penises. The site features patterns that can be printed and cut out for dressing up the male member like the one above. Best yet are the "testimonials" on the site. There are only three of those, but I'll reprint one for you here so that you can get a feel for the quality of the thoughts:

From Sally Joe: "My boyfriend came home the other night all dressed up and with a bunch of flowers. He never does that, so I figured he'd screwed something up AS USUAL! LOL ;) Instead, he took off his pants and his penis was wearing a tuxedo. I was like, "Damn that's one handsome penis." Keep 'em coming, Dickorations!!!!"

Is this supposed to be appealing? Why can't they just decorate their penises the old fashioned way with tattoos and piercings and any number of devices?


Immigration is a net benefit to the country - legal or illegal. If I had it my way, labor would be allowed to cross borders as freely as businesses. Why would we afford rights and protections to abstract legal "persons" (corporations) that we do not afford average citizens? Naturally, I realize this goes on all of the time, but speaking from a standpoint of naiveté and idealism, I think the question is worthy of discussion.

What would happen if we let labor travel freely? At first, nothing. Later, we might see some chaos as government systems need to adapt to deal with tracking of benefits and so on, but it would all settle down in the long run. Why do we let governments and national pride interfere with the ability to make a good life for ourselves and our families? There's a lot of discussion in the world today about how "flat" the globe has become in light of communications and the Internet. Why not make it truly flat and allow labor to move freely? Seriously, why do we need to arcane restrictions designed to regulate flow of labor into countries? As soon as a market like the U.S. and Canada become saturated, other markets will open up to attract more workers? It'll all shake out eventually. After all, isn't this really the ideal for laissez faire devotees?

I propose that we try a little North American experiment. Within the NAFTA borders we should throw down the restrictions and allow labor and businesses to move freely. It would be nice if we had some unifying laws governing business and labor, but it's not really necessary. States in the U.S. have differing laws on many of these issues and it hasn't really hurt things. People will gravitate towards the laws the favor a balance (as people have gravitated towards California, for instance). Let's see how the experiment shakes out over a decade or so and, if it works as well as I think it will work, then let's expand and promote it.

Think of the savings. Businesses will find fewer restrictions and have an expanded labor pool. Labor will be able to move freely, courting the best jobs available and be able to return to their "home country" when they like without fear of reprisal, hence it's family friendly. We'd save money by no having to have as strict a border patrol on our Northern and Southern borders in the U.S. In return, I propose we work with Mexico to strengthen it's Southern border for the duration of the experiment. Businesses would have freer access to lower wage workers and, because there would no longer be such a thing as illegal Mexican workers, they can pay the taxes that we want them to pay. Businesses no longer have to fight court cases for hiring illegal Mexican immigrants.

The list could go on and on. But since we're not there yet, I suggest that the current hysterical wankers talking about "illegal immigration" tone it down a notch and read what the LA Times has to say about the immigrants and how they are allegedly tearing our country down. Some highlights:
UC Berkeley's David Card, who studied patterns in different U.S. cities, concludes that immigration has not lowered wages for American workers.

...New arrivals, by producing more goods and services, also keep prices down across the economy. Even Borjas — the favorite economist of immigration restrictionists — admits that the net gain to the U.S. from immigration is about $7 billion annually.

...Card finds that post-1965 immigrants, as recorded in U.S. census data, have a good record of assimilation. Second-generation children have, on average, higher education and wages than the children of natives. Of the 39 largest country-of-origin groups, the sons of 33 and the daughters of 32 of those groups have surpassed the educational levels of the children of natives.

This last point is an especially good one. A lot has been made about immigrants coming to our country and how they should learn "our" language. Setting aside the question of why this should be mandated in the first place, I point you to an article from American Prospect regarding immigration and learning American culture. Clip:
...a recent report on language assimilation by the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research in Albany, New York, found that the second generation is largely bilingual; 92 percent of the Hispanics speak English “well,” as do 96 percent of the Asians, though most also speak another language at home. The third generation generally speaks English only.
In other words, Hispanics and Asians are generally assimilating at the same rates as previous waves of immigrants to this country. The only news here is that for some reason many Americans haven't heard this news and start foaming at the mouth about the prospect of someone "illegally" crossing our borders (setting aside the irony of how their relatives got here and how some of the alleged "illegals" are descendants of people who naturally crossed borders at will).

A friend of mine, A1batross, suggested an even more radical notion during a recent conversation. He suggested that people be allowed to subscribe to nationality. We'd buy into nations just like magazines and hold onto our nationality until the subscription runs out and we have to renew to another nation. A large part of this was in jest, but there is something attractive about the idea as well. I mean, if as a world we're going to cling to the concept of nations for people while insist on a flat world for business, then why not offer the subscription model as a compromise? If we're not ready of a NAFTA free labor zone, then we're certainly not ready for this concept. Still, what sort of world do you really want and what is really important for it in the long run? Is the concept of nationality so fragile that it will explode through immigration? Hasn't the United States of America experiment already disproved that notion? Haven't countless other countries also disproved that notion (Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Cuba - anywhere with fairly high immigration)? What scares us so much that we'd abdicate rights that we afford companies?


Europe has it's own massive security scandal. Civil servants have sold the personal information of somewhere up to 100,000 persons. People worry about hackers and rightly so, but old fashioned methods of bribery are still effective and they always will be.

Iraqi Army units are fighting amongst themselves, but no worries - it's not a civil war yet.

Report from the Guardian on "desperate Republicans" (in the U.S.) chasing the black vote. Because the only reason Republicans would want black voters is if they were "desperate". *Sigh* Why can't our own media reach even this modest level of honesty? Clip:
'We have a lot of ground to make up, but we have a message that is resonating,' said Tara Wall, director of outreach communications for the national committee. 'We are now talking to people we have not been talking to before.'

By the way, I hear that Bush is planning on sending National Guard troops to the border. At least we finally have an explanation for the Iraq War. I mean, what better way to train troops on combat in desert conditions than to provide them with real life scenarios which I'm sure will be applicable in Arizona? Train the troops and send them on a junket at the same time! It's a win-win.

This animation video (mpg - 18 MB) by Winsor McCay from 1921 titled The Centaurs might not be safe for work since it features rather crudely drawn breasts and a baby centaur (implying sex). (hat tip to WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

Still Crazy After All These Years

From the Independent:

The proportion of British troops suffering post-conflict mental health problems is significantly lower than in the United States, where the numbers suffering psychological problems, according to varying studies, has been estimated at between 20 and 30 per cent.

The US forces have faced far more hostile action in Sunni areas, compared to the British- controlled Shia south. They also tend to be younger and more inexperienced, while their tours of duty are normally of a year's duration, rather than the standard six months for British forces.

While this should be of interest enough to Americans sending their daughters and sons overseas, along comes this report on MSNBC that widens this tragedy to an almost farcical end. Clip:
U.S. military troops with severe psychological problems have been sent to Iraq or kept in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness, a newspaper reported for Sunday editions...

Twenty-two U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year, accounting for nearly one in five of all non-combat deaths and was the highest suicide rate since the war started, the newspaper said...

The Army’s top mental health expert, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, acknowledged that some deployment practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.

“The challenge for us ... is that the Army has a mission to fight. And, as you know, recruiting has been a challenge,” she said. “And so we have to weigh the needs of the Army, the needs of the mission, with the soldiers’ personal needs.”

And we lecture others on human rights...torture in prisons, exporting prisoners to be tortured, illegal detentions, illegal and unwarranted spying on the domestic populace, sending mentally ill soldiers into long before America seeks humility and begins to understand it's deeply hypocritical stance?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pardon me while I Dowdle a bit on this blog

Mark Schmitt over at The Decemberist has a really interesting post analyzing Bush and his CIA follies. In it, Mr. Schmitt channels Maureen Dowd and attempts to look inside Bush's head about the decisions he's been making regarding that department:

We all take it for granted that Bush’s feelings about his father had something to do with the compulsion to invade Iraq. It could have been the genuine loyalty of a loving son -- Bush supposedly said of Saddam, "he tried to kill my father," sufficient proof that Saddam was evil. Or it could be a lot more complicated, such as a desire to prove to his withholding father, after decades as the inadequate older son, that he could accomplish something, something that had eluded the father himself. Or perhaps to stick it to the father for his perceived loss of nerve in not finishing the job. It’s all fodder for the psychobiographer in every one of us.

But why wouldn’t a similar analysis apply equally, or moreso, to the CIA? The elder Bush was director of the CIA when W was in his late twenties, roughly the period when he had the legendary confrontation with his father over his drinking and general loser-ness, and challenged the father to fight him, "mano a mano." The CIA building is named after his father. And I believe there is some reason to think that the elder Bush’s connection to the Agency predates his appointment as director (without buying the LaRouchite theory that places Bush 41 on the grassy knoll in Dallas). The CIA is a presence in the Bush family life in much the way that Yale is, another institution toward which Bush 43 holds a weird hostility -- and, of course, those two institutions are themselves linked.

I don’t have a very specific theory here, but it seems natural to wonder whether this almost inexplicable hostility to the CIA as an institution has some deeper roots in Bush’s complex relationship to his father.

Good stuff. I've been thinking about what's going on (I know - not much) in Bush's head today as well, albeit from a different angle. Bush 43 has positioned much of his presidency as correcting the mistakes of his father. His invasion of Iraq was probably done because he felt it was his father's mistake to not finish the job. His devotion to tax cuts for the wealthy is also a refutation of his father's more moderate fiscal policies (that actually contributed to getting the nation into a healthy economic state and paved the way for Clinton's policies that made the economy red hot and fairer). Bush 43 felt Bush 41 was too wishy washy and not decisive enough. Bush 43 felt that Bush 41 wasn't in touch with the average person so he goes out of his way to prove that his is in touch with average Americans. Bush 43 felt that Bush 41 was not tough enough in the handling of diplomacy.

So, I wonder, how does Bush 43 feel right about now? He's hung tight to virtually everything he felt his father screwed up. He's been tough on dangerous states, invaded Iraq, provided huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans while giving very little to the rest, beat a Congress into line, played nice with average Americans and won a second term. Yet, in that second term Bush 43 has seen the collapse of his war in Iraq into civil war, has average Americans experiencing a stagnant economy, has passed legislation that even Republican governors are decrying, has one of the most corrupt Congress' and possibly Executive branches in history, and has Americans giving him lower poll numbers than his father ever experienced for his efforts. In other words, he tried everything that he felt that his father screwed up and now he's a far bigger failure. How would you feel under such circumstances? Would you be desperate knowing that you had a mere 2 years to turn it around? If so, what would you do to turn it around?

Don't worry - I don't kid myself into thinking that Bush is someone so in touch with his soul that he actually ponders these issues. After all, he's the decider and he believes he is right regardless of fact. He believes things will turn around and that the good Lord is just testing him. Still, I don't think that he's completely out of touch with the polls. What do you think?

Idiots in waiting

The NY Times today runs an article on a theory put forth by some Democrats that the party would be in a better political position if it narrowly lost both houses of Congress. Martin Frost, a former Democratic representative from Texas says:
They don't have to worry about passing anything and it gives them freedom to be critics. There's a certain liberating aspect of being in the minority in the short term, but I don't recommend it in the long term.
Tony Coelho, a former Democratic House Whip(ped) says:
The most politically advantageous thing for the Democrats is to pick up 11, 12 seats in the House and 3 or 4 seats in the Senate but let the Republicans continue to be responsible for government. We are heading into this period of tremendous deficit, plus all the scandals, plus all the programs that have been cut. This way, they get blamed for everything.
To be fair, not all Democrats agree. In particular, Bill Clinton disagrees:
I don't buy the argument that we'd be better off if we almost got there and didn't win a majority in either house. I think when you suit up you've got to try to win, and I hope we will win because we will get better public policy and it'll be better for America.
Clinton's right. Listen fuckwads in the Democratic party - it's this type of wishy washy bullshit that turns a lot of people off to you fucks. You pay some goddamned lip service to wanting the job, bash the Republicans to hell and back (or let them build the tracks for the last train to Borgville) and then openly discuss the fact that you may not want the job after all?!!? Fuck you and the mother of a horse you rode in on. You don't deserve the damn job if you keep acting like this.

Mr. Coelho and Mr. Frost: let me provide you with a civics lesson. It's one that I've been preaching to Democrats since 1994 and they seem to forget it every year that there's a Presidential election, but I'll try it again in this off year since you shits don't seem to get the concept. Congress writes the laws. Certainly, the Executive branch carries out the laws and the Judicial branch rules when either the laws violate the Constitution or when the laws themselves are violated, but Congress creates the laws. Congress approves budgets. The Senate approves appointments, including those to the Judicial branch. Got it? Yes, the executive branch is nice to hold, particularly to have a figure head for the party, but it's not the seat of Constitutional power. Congress holds the real power and it's the real prize to win. While the executive branch can propose budgets and legislation, those are just that - proposals - and Congress can choose to take them up or present it's own. (Damn it, people, go back and read Newt Gingrich from the early to mid 90s and before. Yea, I think he's a bastard, too, but he understands the Constitution).

Have you idiots been out of power so long that you've forgotten how our system is supposed to work?!!? Granted, the Republicans have thrown these concepts out of the window in clear disregard of the Constitution, but that doesn't mean the system is beyond righting. If Democrats regain power, then they have a right to pass legislation that reigns in the Presidency. If Democrats regain power, then they have the opportunity to pass legislation that benefits the middle class and the poor and puts this nation's economy on better footing. If Democrats regain power, then they have the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership during hard times before the next Presidential election - making the case for the next Democratic candidate all the easier.

Sure, Bush can veto the legislation and, without a 2/3 majority in both Houses, the veto will stand. Seeing as the public currently doesn't care much for Bush's ideas, such vetoes won't bode well for Republican chances in 2008. (In fact, it would be a smart move on the Democrat's part to work with Republicans where possible to craft legislation to address some issues proving that unlike the Republican party, Democrats can not only work with the other party, they can do so for the benefit of the country.) Another problem for Bush is that he is a lame duck president anyhow, so his power, while formidable, is waning. Finally, if Democrats regain power, then they will have the power of investigation, which is a powerful tool to negotiate with and to blunt Presidential power.

Now, having said all of that, the Democratic party is definitely being overly optimistic. This is going to be a very tough election year. The manner in which gerrymandering wields power over the outcome of elections is not to be underestimated. Districts were drawn mostly by Republicans in the last cycle and Republican and moderate districts are going to be difficult battles. Remember what Tip O'Neill said: "All politics are local." In this scenario that means that while people may not like Bush, don't like the direction the country is heading, and certainly aren't happy with the Republican Party, they like their local Republicans. Sounds crazy, but they think the other Republicans are screwing things up; not their Republican.

In other words, a little less licking your chops over the latest poll numbers while on camera would be to your benefit. A lot more humility and focus on your positive ideas would do a world of good. Don't get sucked into the questions about your agenda when you get elected (say something like, "If the American people allow me to serve them in Congress, my goal will be to work to better their lives in a number of areas, including...") And for godsakes, quit talking about the glory of being losers!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday Quickies

From the Independent:
The US dollar has lost about 6 per cent in trade-weighted terms and 8 per cent against the euro and sterling. Yesterday it came within a whisker of falling through the $1.30 barrier against the single European currency and $1.90 against the pound.
Dollar continues the fall I wrote about last year with worry. Gold, silver, and copper continue to rise, as does oil. The problem? The dollar is losing it's place as a reliable investment return. Investors are moving to other markets. That portends tough economic times ahead in the U.S., particularly as we attempt to finance our debt. Watch out...the war has other long term consequences in addition to fomenting further terrorism and lost lives.

Fox News' John Gibson says white Americans should breed more lest the country be overrun by brown Hispanic children. The bigot has grown bold enough to step forward and nakedly declare his prejudice. Let's take pledges to only breed with other races and only if we can use invitro fertilization and have our children raised by gay couples. That'll probably give Gibson the heart attack he so richly deserves.

Who says this is the post-ironic age? Not I and apparently not the New York Times as they report that the person who took over as special prosecutor of Bill Clinton after Kenneth Starr left is now accused of stalking a former companion. Clinton's crime was lying to a grand jury about an affair. Where does stalking fall in the levels of sin?

Via Bruce Schneier comes this story of being caught in the Constitution free TSA zone:
To sum up, if you run afoul of the nation's "national security" apparatus, you're completely on your own. There are no firm rules, no case law, no real appeals processes, no normal array of Constitutional rights, no lawyers to help, and generally none of the other things that we as American citizens expect to be able to fall back on when we've been (justly or unjustly) identified by the government as wrong-doers.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Random Ten

I suppose this could be the happy dancing edition because someone wrote me about a problem with the IE uninstall and my solution worked. I'm pretty happy about that. It's nice to know that I was able to pass along a bit of information that someone else found useful. Of course, the mp3 player doesn't listen to me and it made a random selection that was decidedly not dancing music. It's still a nice selection. As I type this I'm listening to a ripped record titled Picking Up Girls Made Easy. Classic. It's making me laugh.

01) The Voice of Africa - Bob Keene
02) Serengeti Stroke - The Pan-Atlantics
03) Prelude to Happening - Quantic
04) Bongos, Bass 'n' Beat - Igo Kantor and William Loose
05) Moon and Cypress - Mose Allison
06) Cult Party - Les Baxter
07) Big Funk - Cabaret Voltaire
08) The Nips Are Getting Bigger - Mental As Anything
09) Barriers - Soft Cell
10) Brief and Breezy - The Aaron Bell Orchestra

Bonus tunes: The Dreaming Dead - Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alice Cooper

Got this via Boing Boing. I am a fan of Cooper's early material through sometime in the early 80s. I saw him perform live probably a dozen times. Years later I was dismayed to hear that he is a Republican and golfing buddy of Barry Goldwater. Of course, these days I have a great deal of respect for Goldwater because he stayed true to his conservative ideals which is something the current crop of crooks doesn't give a wit about. Anyhow, this YouTube video is brilliant and must be shared.

How to avoid investigations - two lessons

1) Say you're a big contractor by the name of, oh, Halliburton. Say someone like, oh, the UN, wants to see your records of $170 million in disputed charges. What do you do? How about ask someone like David Norquist, the Pentagon's comptroller to redact the records for the UN, then get the Pentagon to refuse to hand over the documents to your puppet Congress. How do you reward such service to your company? How about get your puppet Vice President to give Mr. Norquist a raise and new position: DHS Chief Financial Officer where, I'm sure, he'll reign in the spending of your new CIA director Hayden (who overspent some $2 billion as director of the NSA).

2) A much smoother operation occurred at the NSA, which I'm sure Hayden will educate Mr. Norquist on during early meetings at DHS: just deny security clearance to Justice Department investigators. Simple, effective and clean.

It's a beautiful world we live in.


Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is now the target of an investigation for possible ties to the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal. Some of the money shots:
"For goodness sake, why would they be doing that?" Lewis asked...

Cunningham's campaign slogan was: "A congressman we can be proud of."

...Wilkes and his companies have given Lewis at least $60,000 in campaign contributions over the years, making them among the lawmaker's largest contributors...

Jeff Shockey, a key Lewis staffer, went to work for Lowery as a lobbyist in 1999 and then returned to Lewis' staff last year. According to a source familiar with the investigation, Shockey received $600,000 in severance payments from Lowery's firm before returning to Lewis to become the deputy staff director for the House Appropriations Committee — with an annual salary of $170,000.
For goodness sakes, there's nothing to look at here, folks...move on. Yea, right. At the very least it's worth investigating.

War and Piece and Hit and Run are both reporting today on a USA Hurray story about NSA wiretapping of all domestic calls in the U.S. I'd link you to the original story, but for some reason my browsers are showing good taste and not opening the page. Here's the quote from Hit and Run:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

Of note, Qwest did not give into the NSA requests, telling them to go get a FISA warrant. As Laura Rozen of War and Piece writes:
Which of course, would have involved the NSA telling the FISA court what they were up to, which was apparently considered undesirable, for some reason. Here's a question. Since when did a big federal government spying on Americans with no accountability become a conservative aspiration?

And think of the many potential uses of this program. For instance, now special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald doesn't have to count on Mr. Rove's memory of anything. What's to keep the DOJ just allowing him to subpoena this NSA database to determine every phone call Mr. Rove ever made in the relevant time period from every possible phone?

Wonder why Cheney decided to lecture Russia on human rights this past week after the Bush administration has turned a blind eye to them for 6 years? According to the Guardian, it has to do with Turkey and energy supplies.

The Independent would like you to know that cloth diapers are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than disposable ones. Greens will tell you they've known this for years, but American parents never seem to get the memo. Hey, weren't you ever told that there were dirty consequences involved with sex?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


The Guardian has an interesting report on citizens in the UK and their expected pensions. Clip:

Fidelity found a big gap between the anticipated retirement income of those on final salary pension schemes, where pension payments are linked to a worker's earnings when they retire, and those on defined contribution schemes, where payouts depended on investment performance.

It said workers with final salary pensions were on course to receive the equivalent of 81% of their earnings on retirement, while those on other schemes were on track to replace just 38% of their final wage.

With more and more companies closing their final salary schemes and introducing defined contribution pensions, the gap between earnings and typical pension payments looks set to grow.

To translate for the U.S. audience, those with (allegedly) guaranteed pension plans like the one IBM used to offer are taking home considerably more in retirement than those who are enrolled in 401k plans. Now, go tell your financial adviser or your politicians that and they'll undoubtedly regale you with the wisdom of the market and the freedom of choice that 401ks offer the unwashed masses. In other words, they'll talk circles around the topic and explain that you are simply wrong. Time to call bullshit on the economic warfare being played out in our economy today with a redistribution of wealth to those who are the wealthiest in our society. The lies we've been told since I was young enough to remember them was that the middle class wealth was being mopped up by welfare queens and inner cities. The truth is that in those years massive amounts of that wealth has been gobbled up with the wealthiest 1% of our country and this has occurred under Republican and Democrat controls. Don't believe me? Look up the tax figures or go read a little David Cay Johnston. Or listen to him.

According to this Yahoo News story, oral and anal sex are increasing among teens. Perhaps not so coincidentally this was the time when we saw the rise in teen virginity pledges and abstinence education which turn out to be ineffective. Hat tip to Sex Is Funny for the Yahoo News story.

Kinky Friedman update

There is hope for this world. Clip:

This Thursday, Kinky will announce that his name will appear on the November ballot as he turns in tens of thousands of YOUR signatures to the Secretary of State.

How many signatures, you ask?

Check our web site this Thursday afternoon to find out. Or, if you can make your way to Austin, meet Kinky at High Noon for a rally and press conference on the steps of the Texas Secretary of State building in downtown Austin. The office is located on Brazos St. between 10th and 11th Streets.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More on religion

Fundies in India are calling for a protest of the Da Vinci Code movie...a starvation to death protest. The glib side of me says "Good, the world could use less fundamentalists." Actually, I really think that these people need some mental health treatment, but I feel that way about fundamentalists in general. Only, this group seems to want to kill themselves over a movie and that tells me that an intervention is needed.

Hopefully, someone from the Vatican will remind them that suicide is a sin. Maybe this guy will do it. He's the astronomer to the Vatican and he's got a refreshing take on science and religion. It's sad that I live in a world where his views could be classified as "refreshing" as opposed to common sense (which is bad enough to this atheist, but if they want to believe and don't expect me to live under their system, I'm fine with it). I've often maintained that the best way to combat the intelligent design nuts is for people of faith to speak up and shoot them down. The same can be said of liberal theologians versus fundamentalists and televangelists. The masses are not going to listen to atheists such as me on these issues. But people of faith have a more powerful and trustworthy voice for the masses and if they speak up, then change is possible.

A minority never succeeds on it's own, no matter what the merit. It takes the cooperation and acceptance of people in the majority for a struggle to succeed.


I've asked a couple of people about the attraction to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Typically, I stay away from such novels as most of them turn out to be poorly written and trite plots. My friends basically confirmed this for me and I was leaning towards not bothering with the book. When I was a teenager, I read Stephen King. King is a good writer for a mid to late teen. By the time I was in my 20s, however, I had moved on to more challenging literature. That's not to say that I'm a complete book snob (I'm not), but it's not my cup of tea. Hey, I read Sci Fi that isn't exactly literature, too. After reading this post, though, I'm really convinced that I'm not going to read Brown's top seller.

Hey, fetus fetishists, a new study says that the U.S. newborn survival rate ranks low. Thank god we have you pro-life people around as we really couldn't sink much further.

Hit and Run, the Reason magazine blog, has a good take on Democrats and their strategy to run on in this election cycle. Clip:
Once a decade or so, voters are willing to roll back the imperial presidency and empower the Congress to take the executive down to size. If the opposition party runs away from a fight over presidential power because they're scared to investigate it, that party deserves to lose.
Here, here!

Monday, May 08, 2006

CIA Hijinks

The NY Sun reports that John Negroponte, he of the 3 hour lunch followed by afternoons at the club, is ready to turn over large chunks of intelligence gathering to the Pentagon. Clip:

The proposed change would give the Pentagon unfettered authority to plan and conduct these operations without consulting an intelligence bureaucracy its civilian leaders have deemed hostile to the president's war policy.
Goss was fired because of his ties to the hooker scandal. But, guess what? According to TPM Muckraker, the new nominee also has ties to one of the lobbyists involved with the scandal. Is there anyone in Washington not up to their elbows in lube? Clip:

Hayden, President Bush's pick to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA, contracted with MZM Inc. for the services of Lt. Gen. James C. King, then a senior vice president of the company, the sources say. MZM was owned and operated by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with $1.4 million in money and gifts. Wade has also reportedly told investigators he helped arrange for prostitutes to entertain the disgraced lawmaker, and he continues to cooperate with a federal inquiry into the matter.

King has not been implicated in the growing scandal around Wade's illegal activities. However, federal records show he contributed to some of Wade's favored lawmakers, including $6000 to Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and $4000 to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).


I've done some house keeping on the blog today. The archives menu is now a drop down list, taking up much less room on the page. The Blogger header with search function is now only visible when hovering over the top of the page. Comments are now viewable on the same main archive page as the posts by just clicking the comments button. These are minor changes, but I like the way that they make the blog look a little cleaner.

The ACLU reports that the Department of Fatherland Security is breaking it's agreement with European countries on privacy concerns over EU citizens. The agreement was that the DFS would not share the data with any other entity and that it would destroy the data after a certain time period. DFS is sharing the data with another branch of government which, of course, is under no such arrangement with the EU. Once again, our government breaks the rules with impunity and arrogance. The inherent security issues involved in this data transfer are potentially huge. The more agencies that manage this private data, the more opportunity for abuse, misuse, or simple carelessness.

The Beatles lost the first round of their court battle with Apple over trademark infringement.

Bush has nominated a general to head the CIA. The president and his cronies have made the CIA the fall guys for their illegal war with Iraq. Porter Goss was sent in to shake things up and politicize the office by ridding it of people who might disagree with the current executive branch. But Goss is linked to the hooker scandal, so now comes the opportunity to try and merge the CIA deeply into the military espionage units and what person would be better suited for that job than a general whose previous accomplishments include sculpting illegal wiretapping policies?

Bush = Dumbest President Ever. As if we needed further proof, the Idiot and Thief says that a highlight since he took office was catching a fish. He didn't even have the wherewithall to say something like No Child Left A Dime.

In Washington State, we're having new standards considered for pharmacists handing out prescriptions. Recently, an abortion clinic filed a complaint with the state board because a pharmacist refused to provide a prescription for antibiotics that a was prescribed by the clinic. This is so ridiculous on many fronts. A) Why does a pharmacist think that his/her right trumps the patient's rights? B) Why would a pharmacist be allowed to prevent a legal prescription that may or may not be associated with a legal procedure? C) Why is a pharmacist allowed to practice medicine by countering a decision between a doctor and her patient? I could go on, but the point is that the board was originally going to clearly come down on the rights of patients by only letting pharmacists refuse prescriptions if they had another pharmacist on site to fulfill it. A measure introduced last week, however, would rule in favor of so-called pharmacist rights over the patient/doctor. The Stranger has been all over this story. Last week, they published on their blog about how we need to put pressure on both the board and get Christine Gregoire (our governor) involved. Below is the contact information as conveyed by a representative of Planned Parenthood:

Continue to e-mail and fax the Pharmacy Board and the Governor. Spread the word – get your friends involved.

Contact Governor Gregoire

What to say: Governor Gregoire, please do everything in your power to ensure that the Washington State Board of Pharmacy does not adopt a rule that interferes with a patient’s ability to receive her / his prescriptions.

Phone (360) 902-4111

Fax (360) 753-4110


Contact the Washington State Board of Pharmacy

What to say: The Washington State Board of Pharmacy should not adopt a rule that interferes with a patient’s ability to obtain the safe and legal medications that she/he needs.
Fax (360) 586-4359


Remember, the fundamentalist nuts don't want to stop at just abortion. They want to eliminate all forms of birth control.

Click this link to make a virtual donation from Seventh Generation to provide tampons and pads to a women's shelter in your state. 30 seconds - no registration.

The Dark and Moody Chicks

Michelle from The Dark and Moody Chicks blog and comic was kind enough to leave a comment to a post below. As with most people who leave links in their comments, I decided to check out her site. I like what I see. The comics, like the one above, are funny in a dry sort of way. Her posts reveal a bit about herself and her views on politics and society. She's got a good eye for how humor is presented and I like her observations on the political scene. Check out her page.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friday Random Ten - Late Edition

And because it's late, it looks like the music player is making me pay for it. Jeesh:

01) Richard Hayman - Afro
02) Pete Thomas - Apollo
03) So Many Dynamos - When We Were Machines
04) D-Mob - We Call It Acieed (The Matey Mix)
05) Robert Farnon - Moon Over Rio
06) Gert Wilden & Orchestra - Dirty Beat
07) Spiny Norman - (To All The Ladies) The Rollin' Starts Here
08) Poets of Rhythm - It Came Over Me
09) Alexander Robotnick - I Remember Kamchaka
10) Roy Ayers - The Golden Rod

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Freakonomics (hearts) Siberry

So do I. They know that she knows...
Even more cleverly, Siberry posts the average payment rate for each song as you pull your payment option from the drop-down menu—another reminder that, Hey, you’re more than welcome to steal this music but here’s how other people have acted in the recent past. Methinks Ms. Siberry grasps the power of incentives quite well. This allows for at least a couple of interesting things to happen: people can decide what to pay after they hear the music, and see how much it’s worth to them (it looks like people generally pay the most per song under this option); and it takes the variable-pricing scheme that economists love and puts it in the hands of the consumer, not the seller.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More on Limos and Representatives

Harper's has more on the limo service:
The limo company does business under at least four different names; in addition, the office addresses listed on its business filings regularly change. A number of those office addresses are actually at residential buildings or business suites, and calls to the listed phone numbers are taken by an answering service.

One of the names the company operates under is Ambassador Luxury Tours and Transportation (website at, which is listed as a vendor by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. The “Ambassador” website flags a special five-hour tour to Atlantic City and other resorts for $189. Dan Heneghan of the NJCCC said the company has not yet passed the level of business required for a formal license, so there's no information on file as to which casinos the company specifically does business with.

Meanwhile, we've learned that Shirlington had at least two other unreported federal contracts, one with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (for $519,823) and another with the Federal Highway Administration (for $142,000). That brings Shirlington's total take from five federal contracts to about $25 million.

TPM Muckraker sent a reporter over to Shirlington's listed office to see what it's like. It seems like they cleared out a week or two ago. That gives this story a murky quality to it which is just what a story about possible corrupt politicians, intelligence agents, defense contractors, hookers, and a limo company needs.

And just so I'm not accused of not being fair and balanced, let's also note that a new allegation has appeared in Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) corruption case. Apparently this pond scum was taking bribes for access to government contracts and to promote business in Africa. Jefferson is accused of taking a half million or so dollars in his case. Small change compared to the Dukester. I guess Republicans really are better at business.


XiTi is a French monitoring company. According to them, Firefox usage in half of the European countries monitored by the firm has broken the 20% mark. There's a map here. In other Firefox news, version has been released. Those who are already using the browser will receive the update seamlessly. Those who are not, should go here.

Secondhand smoke is often cited as a dangerous problem and a reason that smoking bans should be implemented. It's a very persuasive argument, but is it factual? The Independent reports that those making the argument are blowing smoke up our asses. I don't like smoking bans and never supported them. They are part of a puritanical temperance movement by those who would tell others how to live and make life as bland and boring as possible for the rest of us. FWIW, I don't smoke and never have. Think I'm over blowing the issue? The nut case who proposed the ban in Washington state now wants to make it a crime to smoke in the presence of children.

The Brits think that an Iraqi government may be ready to take the reigns of it's own security in 2 years, but that there will need to be significant foreign involvement to help defeat the militias for at least 10 years. No doubt the U.S. government will use this as an excuse to maintain those bases.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban is making some military gains in the south while U.S. troops pull out, being replaced by British and Canadian troops. This really needs to be stopped. I'm not in favor of our presence there, but we need a decisive defeat before we leave that country. In order to do that we're going to need to establish order and bolster the government's ability to maintain that order (squash fundamentalist rebellion). To hell with the poppies. Let's focus on the enemy.

Sweatshop conditions in Jordon. Who is buying the goods? Our friends at Wal-Mart and Target, of course. The cover? Inspectors from Wal-Mart confirmed some of the problems and are working with the manufacturer to address the issues. Typical bullshit. Fuck that. Pull your goddamned orders and take them elsewhere, even if it costs you a few cents per item more. Do so often enough and with integrity and these abusers will get the word out and things will change. But rather than show integrity, the firms send in inspectors which are just fig leafs for their profit above all agenda.

Talking Points Memo and TPM Muckraker have been working on reporting on the Limo-hooker scandal in Washington. It turns out that the limo company was in financial straits, so how did they earn a $21 million contract from Fatherland Security last year? Also, a defense contractor was on the board of the company for a number of years and he was introduced to another contractor (Brent Wilkes who was one of the people who bribed Duke Cunningham) by a former congressman, Bill Lowry (who lost his seat to Cunningham when their districts were merged). As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo writes:

Shirlington limo's owner Chris Baker has a long criminal record. He's tight with Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes and reportedly provided the transportation services for the parties Wilkes used to sauce up members of Congress and various intel folks as well as get them set up with hookers. Only, aside from squiring Duke Cunningham around with his daily prostitutes, Shirlington seemed like a really screwed up company. They're getting their buses repossessed, their DOT authority to take people across state lines yanked, and pretty much sued right and left. If Shirlington had taxis and you flagged one down to drive you a few blocks, you might tell them you weren't willing to take the risk. But the Department of Homeland Security, which has various law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities (and if you remember some general thing with protecting the homeland) decides Shirlington is the company it wants providing transportation for its senior-most appointees, the folks who run the place.

Anything sound fishy to you?

Sure does sound fishy to me! Over at TPM Muckraker, they have another story on Wilkes as reported in Roll Call. Since I don't subscribe to Roll Call, here's the text from their site - delicious:
In the irony-on-steroids category, guess who was defending his graduate thesis on Congressional ethics Monday? Cover your eyes and guess, then sit down for the answer.

It was Michael Scanlon. Yes, that Michael Scanlon, the one who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. His topic, as Scanlon himself confirmed, was an "evaluative history of the House ethics process."....

Our source says Scanlon got up and gave a roughly one-sentence introduction of his thesis before taking questions from the four faculty members and nine other students in the room. He says Scanlon talked about the House ethics committee and argued that the "system now is not broken, but functioning in the same manner it has since its creation."

Scanlon essentially argued that the House ethics process is "political in nature" and that Members were never expected to do a very good job at policing each other, the source says.

Asked why he was now getting his master's degree at such a precarious moment in his life (precarious being an understatement), [Scanlon] said he actually finished classes at [Johns Hopkins University] six years ago but never got around to arguing his thesis.

"It was just a loose end in my life," he said.

Bush sings National Anthem in Spanish

Think Progress has the report. It stems from the book American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips. They also have a report on the National Anthem being sung in Spanglish at Bush's first inauguration.

Dream - I'm Late

I dreamt of Alice in Wonderland last night. Bob Novak was the catepillar. Ann Coulter was the Queen. G.W. Bush was Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Karl Rover was the Mad Hatter and Tony Snow was the Rabbit. Had I slept longer, I would probably have found Cheney in the menagerie. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


The silence is deafening when it comes to coverage of Stephan Colbert's performance the other night. The main media outlets are not mentioning it at all. Truly, this is a sad reaction. You'd think that they were as mad as Bush. Then again, maybe they didn't get the joke.

The Rude Pundit on why New Orleans is fucked.

How do you like your national anthem? Think Progress reports on Congress commissioning a Spanish language version in 1919. There are four Spanish language versions on the State Department's website. (Showing how translation is an imperfect art). How about one for the bier garten? Or perhaps you prefer to sing one while you practice your Julia Child's recipes? Oh, heck, here's a few more. I'm looking for a link, but apparently our President, before he discovered National pandering politics, has been known to go to fund raisers and sing the anthem in Spanish himself.

Last week's top artists list

As recorded by For some reason I cannot log into my account. I sent them an email about it. I reset my password with them and logged in just fine on the rest page. Then, I navigated to my home page and...was not logged in. Their reply: "That's odd." Nothing since then. I have one other site that reacts this way - Cook's Illustrated. That site recognizes my login, where I can look at my account settings and so on, but if I search for a recipe then click the link to it, I'm sent to a log in page. After logging in, I'm sent back to the home page and it all ends up in a loop. Any thoughts? Neither site has been helpful.

In any case, the top two places on this chart are Paul Weller projects. That's probably fitting since last week his label announced that he'll be releasing his first electric live album as a solo artist in North America. It's going to be a double CD set of music recorded during the last tour. Exciting stuff for fans. Now, onto the chart:

1) Paul Weller
2) The Style Council
3) Bjork
4) John Coltrane (not part of the big 9 CD set I offered - all of those mp3s were deleted after uploading)
5) Blackalicious
6) Roy Ayers
7) Kate Bush
8) dZihan & Kamien
9) William S. Burroughs
10) Les Baxter

Monday, May 01, 2006

More quickies

Anna Nicole Smith won her battle in the U.S. Supreme Court. Great. Now we'll get to hear more reporting from nerdy correspondents trying to show how hip they are by analyzing her, um, case. Nothing against Ms. Smith. I'm actually interested in seeing how the Supremes explain their way around this one.

The Age in Australia is reporting on an interview with an ex-CIA employee to be aired on ABC tonight who claims that the Bush government allowed Zarqawi to escape. Allegedly, Bush didn't want to upset the French government. Bet he wasn't eating Freedom Fries.

According to the NY Times, the good news is that the public isn't buying the politicians pandering before the elections by offering $100 gas rebates. The bad news is that the Democrats, apparently missing the message, are wrestling with the Republicans to claim the title of the best panderers.

Also in the Times today, Google whines and lies about Microsoft's new browser. Sure, it does load in MSN as the default search engine. But, in my instance, when Yascrew toolbar is included, it loads the Yascrew search engine as well. I'll bet it does the same for the Google toolbar which, oddly enough, doesn't offer an MSN or Yascrew option. IE 7 beta 2 also makes it very easy to change the default search engine and, like Firefox, offers many search engine options (though not nearly as many as Firefox). Does "Do no evil" include lying, Google? Hey, I'm all for bashing MSN and I bash Microsoft's browser all of the time, but there's no need for a big boy like Google to cry wolf when the competition heats up and that's what is happening.


According to the Washington Times:
The troop training program that the United States began in 2003 to protect Iraq's oil and electrical lines is a failure and the Bush administration has dispatched a team to Baghdad to draft a new strategy, according to an inspector general report.
The report said the Bush administration and Iraq government poured $147 million into trying to create an Iraqi Oil Protection Force of 14,400 and an Iraqi Electric Power Security Service of 6,000 guards. But today, the electric security service no longer exists, and the oil force has shown only sporadic success.
To be fair, there is good news in the report that says that the Iraqi counterinsurgency force has improved. The report also notes that members of the U.S. led forces have not cooperated with the investigation of Task Force Shield. The Guardian has some background on that group:

Up to last month, Washington had invested more than $265m to improve the protection of energy infrastructure in Iraq.

Task Force Shield sought to cover 340 key installations, 4,000 miles of oil pipeline, and 8,000 miles of electrical transmission lines.

In a separate section, the report notes that a former contractor and former senior staffer in the now defunct US-led coalition government are facing jail sentences 30 to 40 years on corruption charges.The contractor will have to pay $3.6m in restitution and forfeit $3.6m in assets.

The Guardian report also notes the previously disclosed information about the contractor hired to build 175 health clinics throughout Iraq. The contractor has spent nearly 75% of it's allocated $186 million and completed 3 clinics. It expects to complete a total of 20 when it's done. Reports are that we've spent $31.6 billion in Iraq for the reconstruction or enough to provide every uninsured American $720 in health care for a year (and remember, that doesn't include the costs of troops and such which are estimated to run another $500 billion today and may top out at the $2 trillion mark).

RIP, John Kenneth Galbraith.

The BBC reports that Gnarls Barkley has hit number 1 on the album and singles chart. Way to go, Cee-lo and Dangermouse! Remember, Cee-lo Green is a soul machine. I've been a big fan for a while, now. Crazy is a killer song.