Sunday, November 30, 2003

More Attacks but Better Outcome as U.S Repels Simultaneous Attacks in Iraq

U.S. troops repelled simultaneous attacks in the northern city of Samarra, killing 46 Iraqis, wounding at least 18 and capturing 8. Five American soldiers and a civilian were wounded.
Two U.S. logistical convoys were moving into Samarra when they were attacked with roadside bombs, small arms fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The attacks — one on the east side of the city, the other on the west — were simultaneous, MacDonald said.

After setting up a barricade along the route of one of the convoys, the attackers opened fire from rooftops and alleyways, MacDonald said.

He said U.S. soldiers returned fire from several locations at each ambush, using small arms, 120mm tank rounds and 25mm canon fire from Bradley fighting vehicles. The U.S. fire destroyed three buildings the attackers were using, he said.

None of the wounded Americans suffered life-threatening injuries, MacDonald said. Two sustained only minor injuries, while the other three were evacuated to a hospital, along with the wounded civilian.


"We have been very aggressive in our convoy operations to ensure the maximum force protection is with each convoy," he said. "But it does send a clear message that if you attempt to attack one of our convoys, we're going to use our firepower to stop that attack."

In a separate attack about an hour later, another convoy of U.S. military engineers was attacked by four men with automatic rifles. The soldiers returned fire, wounding all four men, MacDonald said. He said soldiers found Kalashnikov rifles and grenade launchers in their car, a black BMW.
Excellent job done by the convoys of the 4th Infantry and Military Engineers in mitigating these attacks.

Nations Prepare for World AIDS Day

A U.S. delegation was sent to hard-hit Afric to urge its leaders to increase awareness about the deadly virus.
The United Nations reported last week that 2003 saw more deaths and infections from HIV and AIDS than ever before, with more than 3 million people killed and another 5 million infected. That brought the total number of people living with the virus to 34 million to 46 million.

UNAIDS, the U.N. agency that coordinates global efforts to fight the disease, said the epidemic was rampant in sub-Saharan Africa and that a new wave of the disease was threatening China, Indonesia and Russia because of transmissions through drug use and unsafe sex.

To try to raise awareness on the African continent, an 80-member U.S. delegation headed by Health and Human Services (news - web sites) Secretary Tommy Thompson started a tour of sub-Saharan Africa on Sunday to asses projects and determine what needs to be done to increase treatment and prevent the spread of the virus.

"This is a terribly serious problem," Thompson said at the Frankfurt airport before heading to Africa. "It is time for all of us, especially from America, to do our part to prevent it."
Actually, it's well past time. We dropped the ball on this one; it's encouraging to see we appear to be picking it up. Who would have thought that decades after its appearance, we'd be seeing record numbers of AIDS infections instead of its irradication.

Now I give you Mr. obtuse Thomas Friedman in another NY times Op-Ed entitled: The Chant Not Heard

I stood on the sidewalk in London the other day and watched thousands of antiwar, anti-George Bush, anti-Tony Blair protesters pass by. They chanted every antiwar slogan you could imagine and many you couldn't print. It was entertaining-but also depressing, because it was so disconnected from the day's other news.
Just a few hours earlier, terrorists in Istanbul had blown up a British-owned bank and the British consulate, killing or wounding scores of British and Turkish civilians. Yet nowhere could I find a single sign in London reading, "Osama, How Many Innocents Did You Kill Today?" or "Baathists — Hands Off the U.N. and the Red Cross in Iraq." Hey, I would have settled for "Bush and Blair Equal Bin Laden and Saddam" — something, anything, that acknowledged that the threats to global peace today weren't just coming from the White House and Downing Street.

Sorry, but there is something morally obtuse about holding an antiwar rally on a day when your own people have been murdered — and not even mentioning it or those who perpetrated it. Watching this scene, I couldn't help but wonder whether George Bush had made the liberal left crazy. It can't see anything else in the world today, other than the Bush-Blair original sin of launching the Iraq war, without U.N. approval or proof of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Morally obtuse? The only obtuse thing in evidence is Mr. Friedman's failure to comprehend that aside from their opposition to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, many of these protesters believe that the concentration of efforts in Iraq (and the concomittant reduction of troops prematurely in Afghanistan) have detracted from the 'war on terror'. Hence connecting Iraq and al Queda, albeit through a vastly different connection than the Administration continues to intimate. There was widespread support for the Afghanistan invasion and even the Administration's strongest critics offered kudos for that operation. However, the common appraisal has failed to recognize that in the Administration's rush to 'take action', that it's Afghanistan operation suffered from the same deficient planning as in Iraq. I recall early reports of how Taliban operatives were allowed to go free because no provisions had been made for the taking of prisoners. Imagine, you're seeking out an enemy that perpetrated the most vile attack on the U.S. in modern American history and you haven't adequately prepared to capture that enemy. If that's not poor planning ...Perhaps with more time, more planning and more troops, maybe bin Laden would have been caught, maybe we would have had a more crippling global effect on Al Queda. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll never know.

Mr. Obtuse further opines "why the left needs to get beyond its opposition to the war" and why the sign he most hungered to see was, "Thanks, Mr. Bush. We'll take it from here."

Thanks, Mr. Bush? The protestors might have gone along with "Get the hell out of there, Mr. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush. We'll take it from here." If you wish to read more of this man's drivel, be my guest.

Maureen Dowd Puts Her Finger On It -The Unbearable Lightness of Memory

They are pretty. Pretty and soothing. Soothing and smooth. Smooth and light. Light and watery.
The eight designs for a memorial at ground zero, gleaming with hanging candles and translucent tubes and reflecting pools and the smiling faces of those killed on 9/11, aim to transcend. And they succeed.

They transcend terror. They have the banality of no evil. They represent the triumph of atmosphere over atrocity, mood over meaning. The designs are more concerned with the play of light on water than the play of darkness on life.

They have taken the heaviest event in modern American history and made the lightest memorials.


"The designs are horribly, horribly bland," mourned Eric Gibson in The Wall Street Journal.

The ugliness of Al Qaeda's vicious blow to America is obscured by these prettified designs, which look oddly like spas or fancy malls or aromatherapy centers. It's easy to visualize toned women with yoga mats strolling through these New Age pavilions filled with waterfalls and floating trees and sunken gardens and suspended votives. Mass murder dulled by architectural Musak.

The designs are reflections of our psychobabble culture, exuding that horrible and impossible concept, closure. Our grief and anger have been sentimentalized and stripped of a larger historical and moral purpose.

Even the names of the models sound like books by Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson: "Garden of Lights," "Inversion of Light," "Votives in Suspension," "Suspending Memory," "Reflecting Absence," "Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud." All ambient light and transient emotion — nothing raw or harsh or rough on which the heart and mind can collide.

The spontaneous memorials that sprang up right after 9/11, both near ground zero and at police and fire stations around the city, had more power and raw passion. What's missing from the designs is some trace of what actually happened on this ground. Why not return that twisted metal skeleton cross to the site, the one that made the World Trade Center ruins such a chilling and indelible memory for the thousands of Americans who flocked to ground zero in the months after the attack?

That's what makes other memorials, like Pearl Harbor's sunken Arizona, which still emits oil bubbles almost 62 years later, and the rebuilt Berlin church that retained its bombed spire, so emotionally affecting. They remain witnesses to the evils of modern history.

The fussy 9/11 designs also lack the power of narrative. With its black marble gravitas, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial tells the anguished story of how America got sucked in deeper and deeper, with the death toll rising along with the memorial's V-shape design.

Like the White House, these designs turn away from examining what went wrong and offer no instruction. How were we so vulnerable to attack? Who are our terrorist foes? Why do they hate us? The Holocaust museum in Washington shows that you do not have to choose between reflection and instruction; it offers both.

There's no darkness in these designs, literally or metaphorically. They have taken death and finality out of this pulverized graveyard.


The memorial cannot be sunshine-and-light therapy to make current generations feel they have moved beyond grief and shock. It must be witness and guide to future generations so they can understand the darkness of what scarred this earth.
I recall examining the finalists online and thinking how pretty most were, but failing to vote in the online poll because none evoked emotion; none contained salient features of a memorial as Ms. Dowd so eloquently points out in this NY Times Op-Ed piece.

Clark Says Thanksgiving Visit Doesn't Make up for Failed Strategy in Iraq
Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark on Sunday praised President Bush for spending Thanksgiving with U.S. troops in Iraq but said the surprise trip did not make up for "a failed strategy" there.

The retired four-star general, who has criticized Bush for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, told CNN the president did "absolutely the right thing" by sharing his Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday with U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.

"But I'll tell you this ... a visit, a photo op, or whatever it was to Baghdad, does not make up for a failed strategy," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Clark added: "What our soldiers really need is not a one-hour or two-hour morale boost visit from the president. They need a strategy for success. That's what this administration hasn't given them."


Clark, the former NATO commander, said it was not necessary for the United States to go to war with Iraq against the wishes of the United Nations and that while focused on Iraq, the United States was losing the war on terror.

"We've taken a two-year diversion from full, wholehearted pursuit of the war on terror. Osama bin Laden is still sitting in the mountains of western Pakistan. He's got a sanctuary there," said Clark, referring to the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The General clearly hasn't been listening to the anchors and pundits this weekend if he thinks the PR stunt doesn't make up for a failed strategy.

[emphasis added]
The Irony of Nature: Blowfish Farms?

A tiny Canadian company wants to use poison from a fish -- a substance more toxic than cyanide -- to help cancer patients suppress pain or to wean heroin addicts off their habit.

The new drug is derived from a blowfish poison -- a substance so dangerous that a mere trace can paralyze a person within minutes.

The blowfish is known to gourmets as the source of the sometimes deadly Japanese fugu delicacy, a dish that can be prepared only by trained and licensed chefs, because the slip of a knife can poison the food, causing the diner to drop to the ground convulsing and gasping for air.

It has been described as the culinary version of Russian roulette.

But the drug derived from the poison, tetrodotoxin, has already passed two phases of clinical tests, and doctors conducting early surveys say it eased pain in terminally ill cancer patients, where no other pain medication had worked.


Researchers injected patients with several micrograms of Tectin -- a quantity so small it can't be seen with the naked eye -- twice a day for four days, and found that nearly 70 percent experienced a reduction in pain.

Pain relief began around the third day of treatment, and often lasted after the final injection. In some cases, the relief extended beyond 15 days, the study showed.

Tectin, a sodium channel blocker, stops nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

The company says Tectin differs from other painkillers in that it doesn't have the same side effects as morphine and its derivatives, doesn't interact with other medicines and is not addictive. It is up to 3,200 times stronger than morphine.

The success of the early Tectin tests is a small coup for a company that has set its sights on the $38 billion North American painkiller market, some 10 percent of which comes from managing cancer pain.

Wex says that each puffer fish can provide about 600 doses of the drug from within its liver, kidneys and reproductive organs, so there is no shortage of the toxin.


But researchers and analysts are not yet touting Tectin as a drug to rival morphine. Wex still has to take its drug through crucial phase III trials, where it ramps up its test numbers to at least 400 patients.

The drug also faces an image problem.

"Because it's associated with death, it got a bad rap," said Sellers.

And although the scientific community may acknowledge the properties and benefits of the compound, it is less accepting of a drug derived from nature.

"There is a resistance from the medical community to accept treatments from the natural world," said Rob Peets, an analyst with Golden Capital Securities. "If this was a chemical product it would have been snapped up a long time ago."
If the preliminary promise of this drug holds up, it will be a big boon to the small Canadian company (whose stock has already increased 150%) as well as to many patients. If not, we can always 'blame Canada'.
104 Deaths for the Month of November

Two more American soldiers were killed and one wounded, bringing the total number of coalition forces killed in Iraq this month to 104. These deaths include 79 US soldiers and 25 other allied troops.

That's not including civilian deaths.
Also Sunday, gunmen shot and killed two South Korean electricians and wounded two others as they drove in a passenger car, apparently to a power transmission plant they were working at in Tikrit, South Korea (news - web sites)'s foreign ministry said. The workers' company was hired by a U.S. firm to lay power lines.

A Colombian civilian working as a contractor for the U.S. military was killed in an ambush on a convoy Saturday, the military said.


A military statement said the U.S. troops were killed when a task force from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was hit Saturday by rocket-propelled grenades and automatic fire east of the border town of Husaybah, 180 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Also Sunday, the U.S. military for the first time acknowledged that the single deadliest incident of the war — the collision of two Black Hawk helicopters in Mosul on Nov. 15 — may have been caused by enemy action. Until now, the military had not speculated publicly on the cause of the collision in which 17 soldiers died.

In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the attack showed that the enemy was switching the focus of attacks from coalition troops to what he described as "soft targets, Iraqi targets, rather than military targets."

"It's an easier way for the enemy to achieve what he wants to achieve," he said. "We've said for several weeks that this is a clever, adaptive enemy."
[emphasis added]

Isn't it so much easier to give credit to the cleverness of our enemies than it is to question our own 'intelligence' or strategies? Apparently.

Dogged Dan on Affiliate-Support Tour

At 72, Dan Rather, who isn't yet ready to yield his anchor chair -takes it to the people like a politician looking for their vote.
At 72, Mr. Rather is eight years older than Walter Cronkite was when he left the CBS anchor desk, and nine years older than Mr. Brokaw is now. Though his hold on one of the most prominent jobs in journalism remains safe for the immediate future, the phone call that Mr. Rather so obviously dreads — the one telling him it is time to step aside — could well come next year, several people inside the network say. In the meantime, Mr. Rather continues to work tirelessly to stave off the inevitable changing of the guard among the network news anchors.

In the last 12 months, among visits to nearly a dozen CBS-owned stations and affiliates, like the trip to KTVT in Dallas on Nov. 21, he has shuttled repeatedly to the Middle East on assignment (five trips to Iraq alone) and filed more than two dozen reports for his second job, on "60 Minutes II."

He worked his contacts skillfully to land an interview with Saddam Hussein preceding the war in Iraq, becoming the only United States journalist to do so. Now, he is pursuing an audience with an equally elusive quarry, Kim Jong Il, the reclusive leader of North Korea.


In the bottom-line calculus of television news — ratings and profits — the answer is not particularly encouraging. Mr. Rather's newscast is not just third, but a distant third. For example, for the week of Nov. 17, Mr. Rather drew an average of 8.1 million viewers nightly, according to Nielsen Media Research. Mr. Brokaw drew 11 million viewers and Mr. Jennings 10.5 million.

Despite his whirlwind of activity, Mr. Rather understands that his future — at least in American living rooms every weekday evening — is ultimately out of his hands, and instead in those of Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News. "I have no illusions," Mr. Rather said. "The second he thinks there's somebody who can do it better, I'll be out of there, and I ought to be."

Mr. Heyward, a former executive producer of "The Evening News" who first worked with Mr. Rather more than two decades ago, said he did not want to comment on the future.

"We have announced no timetable for a transition," Mr Heyward said in an interview. "When that day comes, and we're not speculating on when that will be, I'm confident Dan and I will work on that together."

"Dan is going to be at CBS News for many years to come," he said. "No matter what, he would make a transition to some combination of `60 Minutes' and `60 Minutes II.' "

For all the emotions in play, including the contention by some on the right that Mr. Rather is too liberal, any move to replace him could ultimately be a business decision, aimed at capturing more viewers in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic. (Each of the network broadcasts is still estimated to generate $100 million or more in annual advertising revenue.)
[my emphasis]

Yes, in this day, we want to ensure if there's any bias, that it is in the 'right' direction. Check out the accompanying photo - did Dan bleach his hair?

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Bad Day in Iraq for Foreign Agents and Diplomats

In two separate attacks seven Spanish intelligence officers and two Japanese diplomats were killed.
One Spanish agent escaped the assault in Mahmudiyah, 18 miles south of Baghdad. Journalists arrived on the scene and said a small crowd chanted praise for ousted president Saddam Hussein and some even kicked at the bodies.

The two attacks came a little more than two weeks after 19 Italians were killed in a suicide bombing appeared aimed at undercutting the cohesion of the U.S.-led coalition, which includes more than 30 countries. The insurgents are also focusing on separating U.S. forces from Iraqi allies by attacking police and local officials.

Television footage of the aftermath of the Spanish ambush showed several bodies along a highway as cars, their headlights on, drove by at dusk. People milled around, and a youth — apparently aware he was being filmed — kicked his foot in the air over a body. An older youth rested his foot on a corpse, an arm raised in triumph.

"We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, oh Saddam," some in the group chanted in Arabic, witnesses said.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a reporter for The Washington Post, spoke with several witnesses in the crowd. Based on what they said, he described it as a "sophisticated, coordinated attack."


Meanwhile, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said two Japanese diplomats were killed Saturday after their car was ambushed near the Iraqi city of Tikrit. The two were en route to an aid conference in the city. Officials said that they didn't have any other details.

The deaths were the first of Japanese since the U.S.-led invasion. Japanese officials said that there would be no change to Japan's plans to dispatch troops to support the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq.

In Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said some U.S.-trained Iraqi police and civilian informants appear to have conducted attacks on coalition targets.
[my emphasis]

The number of attacks may have decreased since the increased offensive commenced two weeks ago but not the severity or sophistication of these attacks as those who view these as desperate attacks and signs of progress would have us believe
EXTRA EXTRA Fox News IS Fair and Balanced for Once

Fox reports (via AP) that while an army division commanded by General Wesley Clark supplied some of the military equipment used in the standoff in Waco, Texas a decade ago, Clark's involvement was indirect and fleeting according to his former commanding officer.
Clark's campaign flatly denies any planning role by Clark in Waco. And an investigation by a Justice Department special counsel, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth (search), R-Mo., bears out that assertion. Danforth found no improper actions by anyone in the U.S. military regarding Waco and concluded that the fiery end to the siege resulted from the Davidians setting fires inside the building compound where they were holed up.

Federal law restricts the role of the military in civilian law enforcement operations and "we weren't involved in the planning or execution of the Waco operation in any way, shape, form or fashion," says retired Army Lt. Gen. Horace Grady "Pete" Taylor, who ran the Fort Hood (search) military base 60 miles from the site of the Waco siege.

Waco "was a civilian operation that the military provided some support to" and "any decisions about where the support came from were my decisions, not General Clark's," Taylor said this week.

"Clark's totally innocent in this regardless of what anybody thinks about him," says Taylor, Clark's former commander. "He played no direct role in this activity nor did any of us."
This is what General Wes Clark and his campaign staff have maintained all along. This is sweet coming from the same source that tried to (unsuccessfully) twist the General's stand that Iraq has been a side show that has distracted from the war on terrorism into a slight of the men and women fighting in Iraq.

Friday, November 28, 2003

BBC Director Greg Dyke Attacks US War Coverage
Mr. Dyke, who was given a broadcasting excellence award, said news channels needed to challenge governments.
Novel concept.
"News organisations should be in the business of balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other," he said.

He said coverage of the war showed the difference between the US and the UK.

He said the need for balance was "something which seemed to get lost in American reporting during the war".


In his speech, Mr Dyke quoted research that showed that of 840 commentators aired on US TV, only four were opposed to the war.
Surely he must be mistaken, what with our liberally-biased media and all.
"Telling people what they want to hear is not doing them any favours. It may not be comfortable to challenge governments or even popular opinion, but it's what we are here to do."

Mr Dyke said TV channels had a "responsibility to broadcast a range of voices".

The fact the BBC's own news services - BBC World and News 24 - had "doubled" their audiences in the US in the last year showed there was an audience for more impartial news, he said.

"Our online services have experienced enormous growth too and have regularly received e-mails back from people here in the US saying 'Thank you for trying to explain events, thank you for being impartial'."

Cal Makes a Nice Save at Home
A naked man who was shot in the back showed up at the home of retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken on Thanksgiving night and pleaded for help, police said.

Ripken said he called 911, though police did not identify him by name.


The wounded man, Brian Robins, 20, of Baltimore, was found on Ripken's porch around 9 p.m. Thursday. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital and was released early Friday, officials said.

Robins told police that he was kidnapped Thursday by three men who held him captive for nine hours, forced him into the trunk of their car, then ordered him to strip and run, Vinson said. Robins said he was shot as he ran away, according to police.


"This was obviously an unusual and upsetting situation for me and my family, but I did what any other person would do given the circumstances," Ripken said in a statement. "I called the police, and they responded immediately and it is now in their hands."
I miss Cal
Speaking of Security ...

Microsoft is investigating a report of seven new security holes in Internet Explorer. The holes were discovered by a Chinese researcher.
Two holes are critical and could allow an attacker to run a program that would delete files, crash the machine or take control of it from a remote location, said Russ Cooper of TruSecure Corp. who edits the NTBugTraq e-mail list.

Cooper said, however, he was not yet concerned about the security holes because of the inactivity. "There just aren't any new attacks being made" on Internet Explorer, he said.
Okay, then. Have I mentioned how much I love my OS X ;-)
Thankfully November is almost over...

The soldier from the 101st Airborne who was killed in a mortar attack was one of over 60 U.S. troops killed in hostile action in November. This is more than in any other month since the end of major combat in Iraq on May 1.
The Spirit of Lucky Lindy

DNA analysis confirms secret 2nd family
in Germany.
Fans of the pioneering American aviator Charles Lindbergh have had to swallow a few uncomfortable facts about their hero over the years, such as his sympathy for the Nazis, his campaigning against the involvement of the United States in the Second World War and his anti-Semitism.

Now comes a new, seemingly incontrovertible bit of awkward news: DNA evidence confirming that Mr Lindbergh, who made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, had a secret, second family in Germany with a Munich hatmaker, Brigitte Hesshaimer. Anton Schwenk, a spokesman for the family, announced yesterday that DNA tests, conducted by the LMU Institute in Munich, had established a 99.9 per cent likelihood that the most famous US airman of the 20th century was the father of Dyrk Hesshaimer, David Hesshaimer and Astrid Bouteuil.


The three children of Ms Hesshaimer stood out in the relatively conservative atmosphere of post-war Bavaria because their mother was a single parent. They have strong memories of a tall, greying American who would drop in once or twice a year, cook big breakfasts of sausages and pancakes and tell tales of his travels around the world.

Ms Bouteuil explained in a series of interviews over the summer that she and her brothers knew this man was their father, but were otherwise clueless about his identity. It was only after Mr Lindbergh's death in 1974 that they began to realise who he was.

In the early 1980s Ms Bouteuil found a stash of 100 love letters to her mother, signed with the initial "C", along with a magazine article about Mr Lindbergh. The letters were stuffed into a black bin bag and sealed with a red ribbon.

At that point Ms Bouteuil confronted her mother, who acknowledged Mr Lindbergh was the father, but begged her children not to make the fact public while she was still alive. Ms Hesshaimer died in 2001, at the age of 74.


It helps that the German family is interested only in setting the historical record straight. It is not asking for money ­ Lindbergh apparently provided generously for them as they were growing up ­ and deliberately waited until after the death of their mother before making the issue public.


Now that the secret is out, it has led to a media feeding-frenzy, especially in Germany. The news magazine Focus reported in the summer that Mr Lindbergh may have also had an affair with Ms Hesshaimer's sister, Marietta, fathering her two sons, who were brought up in Switzerland.

Marietta Hesshaimer, who is still alive, has refused to have anything to do with the investigation. She and her two children have refused to undergo DNA testing.

None of this takes away from Mr Lindbergh's reputation as the quintessential expression of American derring-do in the early days of aviation.He braved the skies repeatedly in planes nicknamed "flying coffins" and having a series of narrow escapes in the test flights leading up to his legendary crossing from Long Island, New York, to Le Bourget, near Paris, on 21 May 1927.

But it does put a considerable dent in Mr Lindbergh's image as a wholesome family man. He and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, had six children together during a 45-year marriage.
What can you say...
Another Serial Sniper?

Police link 2 shootings on 5-mile stretch of Ohio freeway; can't rule out ties to 8 others. Gail Knisley of Ohio was fatally wounded by a gunshot while driving along I-270 near Columbus. This was one of at least ten incidents occurring in the past seven weeks; ballistics testing linked this shooting to one of the other nine reported incidents.
pResident's Selectively Stealth Mission

I would really like to think this was more than just PR propaganda to negate the Mission Accomplished faux pas, but ... I don't.

Perhaps if it had been GWB's idea, but ... it wasn't.

Perhaps if a simple statement [sans photo op] was released after the fact, but ... that's not what happened [admittedly that would be asking a lot].

Instead we got the usual filtered message by an administration that censors the press and restricts access when unfavorable reports may be issued and rewards its disciples. Was anyone surprised that Fox, but not CNN, was at Bush's Thanksgiving surprise?.

So, call me a cynic but I believe this gesture was as hollow as the *heart that likely conceived it, and the head through which it was perpetrated.

*[yes, I know, the line is that it was Card's idea - I don't buy that either]

It would appear the Iraqis are a tad skeptical/cynical as well.

The issue of whether or not the action itself was a good one or the right thing to do can be considered separately from the motivation(s); good things can be done for all the wrong reasons. This can only be determined by the men and women serving in Iraq [and Afghanistan, don't forget Afghanistan]. If it helped more than it hurt, it was a good thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Busy, Busy, Busy

May not be back 'til Friday but ...

Bombs Away
General Abizaid states that attacks on US troops have been reduced by half since we started bombing the hell out of the place intensified US military strikes.

Imagine. On the downside, assaults on Iraqis have surged. I wonder if they're enjoying their freedom yet.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Operation Enduring Freedom: 185 and Counting

As the Crowd beats dead US troops this weekend in an attack reminiscent of that in Somalia, it doesn't appear that Iron Hammer is hampering the growing insurgency.

Isn't English a marvelous language though. Take a root word like endure, add a little 3-letter suffix and marvel at the transformation in meaning. It remains to be seen how much more of 'this Operation' the administration will endure [I know, they said they're in it until it's finished and we should trust that] but we hold out hope that, the administration itself, will not be enduring.
Lamenting the Withering State of Democratic Institutions

John Podesta of the Center for American Progress notes that while editorials decry this deterioration in Russia (most recently with the incarceration of Russian Oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky), the "relentless attacks on our own governing intuitions by a radical, reckless congressional leadership" are underreported.

This heightened level of partisan politics was also the topic of a November 18th post on Nitpicker (Separate But Not Equal: The Government of Exclusion or New Congressional Politics).

Just last Saturday, after the House voted to reject the Medicare bill, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) held open a roll call vote, scheduled to last 15 minutes, for an unprecedented three hours, from 3 to 6 a.m. During that time Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) and others strongarmed bleary-eyed Republicans who had voted against the bill, demanding they switch their vote. As night became morning, Delay wore his opposition down, votes switched, and the bill passed by a narrow margin.

The handling of the Medicare vote in the House is only the most recent example of a larger pattern. Over the last few years, conservative leaders hell-bent on consolidating power have taken every political and legislative opportunity to push an ideological agenda ? never letting a commitment to democratic principles or bi-partisanship get in the way of a chance to score political points. The result is an environment where compromise is precluded, reconciliation is elusive, sound public policy is a rarity and democratic traditions are routinely cast-aside.

Conservatives have also been a polarizing force in the political process. White House Political Director Karl Rove and Majority Leader Delay have aggressively pursued a national strategy to use control over state legislatures to consolidate congressional power through the redistricting process. In Texas, conservative state senators were encouraged to ram through a redistricting plan which, even proponents admit, was drawn for purely partisan purposes. When some state senators fled Texas in order to prevent the plan ? which would dramatically dilute the voting strength of minority voters ? from becoming law, Majority Leader Delay launched a frantic effort to enlist the Justice Department to track the fleeing senators down and arrest them. When the Justice Department refused, Delay enlisted the Department of Homeland Security, which should be spending time tracking down terrorists, to track down the absent state senators.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that independent voters are growing tired of the policy consequences of conservatives? my-way-or-the-highway approach ? on issues such as national security, finance, Medicare and corporate malfeasance. This represents an opportunity for progressives, no matter what their party affiliation, to form a new working majority and get our country back on the right path. To do so will require progressives to reverse the current trend of polarization, reach out to broad range of the political spectrum and present a forward-looking, inclusive agenda to the American people.
Let's avail ourselves of that opportunity.

The News That's Not Really News
In what many would deem was a foregone conclusion, the Virginia jury has recommended the dealth penalty for the Washington-area sniper, John Muhammad.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Spam unlimited

As Congress moves to impose limits on unwanted commercial e-mails through the establishment of federal protections, I just have one question ...

Can they do something about the 15 pounds of junk mail that gets delivered to me by the US Postal service each week?

In reality, the spam issue is more a concern for internet service providers and e-mail server operations than it is for any individual. Since I have an e-mail program in which I can set efficient 'rules' for screening, I am blissfully ignorant of the volume of ads for larger anatomical parts, life-enhancing drugs and advice on how to make my millions on the internet. However, the volume of ads, credit card applications and promotional materials I receive in the mail is another matter. It is unlikely that Congress will step in here, however, as the bulk of standard mail delivery is exactly that, bulk mail. So ...

I advocate a ban on unsolicited bulk mail and the outlawing of coupons [as well as those ridiculous 'preferred' cards of Albertsons' that reduce the price of a few select items to what you'd normally find at other grocery stores], they're bad for both the environment and my disposition.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Constitutional Survival. First it was the Patriot Act, Now ...

General Franks Doubts Constitution will survive WMD Attack. If the US is hit with a WMD that results in large casualty numbers, the General believes that the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.

Not exactly the encouraging sentiment we'd like to hear from a high-ranking government official. Expect this stated opinion to be muted in the very near future, if not by the general himself, then certainly by a member of The Administration. However, one has to admit based on past history (e.g., Japanese-American internment) as well as recent actions such as the Patriot Act or the routine squelching of dissent by the current administration -the man has a point.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

But then again, maybe that's the point. This is what could happen if you some don't support our war on terror. Maybe this is just an interlude in the continuing theme this administration plans to take into the 2004 election campaign.

In another revelation, with regard to the 9/11 attacks, Franks states within hours of the attacks he was given orders to prepare to root out the Taliban in Afghanistan and to capture bin Laden.

Wait a minute ... In the continuing saga of who (in the Administration) knew what and when did they know it, Franks' remarks suggest, what many already believe, the Administration has good reasons for denying unfettered access to the independent 9/11 commission. It's called a cover-up.

Game Over?: Iraq and the Administration's Failed Corporate Paradigm

Admittedly, there isn't much new here but you have to like a guy that uses phrases like sclerotic corridors of bureacracy as does Orville Schell in No Exit Strategy? a well-written examination of the corporate mindset that resulted in the current state of affairs in the "latest offshore enterprise in Iraq."
A poorly thought-through war justified by a kaleidoscope of changing explanations and fought in a place we know little about is hardly different from a badly executed merger or corporate acquisition where both companies, ill-wed, are badly damaged. The difference is that such damage to countries affects so many more people.
Like many of us, Mr. Schell fears that although failure forced the administration to consider alternative excuses stategies (such as the early "gift" of sovereignty to Iraqis), any hopeful options may have vanquished.

In keeping with his corporate analogy, he thinks this "administration risks suffering a version of collapse that may one day look not so different from that of Enron, WorldCom or Tyco."

Where do I get tickets?
When Art Imitates Life
"It's the trouble with these times, Lotty. We don't know who to trust. But an Attorney General who thinks that calico cats are a sign of the devil doesn't inspire me with greater confidence than I have in my own judgment."
The quote is from V.I Warshawski, the protagonist in several novels by Chicago's Sara Paretsky. The judgment is in the determination of whether or not an Egyptian boy is a terrorist. In this column, Ms. Paretsky discusses how her growing fears of our government's recent actions crept into Blacklist, her latest novel, in which Warshawski comes up against the patriot act.
When I began writing Blacklist in the summer of 2001, I had decided to use the publishing industry as the backdrop for my novel. Part of the trigger for the novel was the claim by some neo-cons that Joseph McCarthy was an American hero who had been unfairly hounded by the left. I have friends and family whose lives McCarthy and the Dies Committee made miserable and I was alarmed by this effort to rewrite a sordid chapter in our history.

As I got into the book, the events of the present began scaring me even more than the past. Beyond my immediate fear of terrorism, I saw *the ways in which the administration, ably assisted by Fox and CNN, shut off any meaningful dissent. What would happen to me, I worried, if my opposition to everything my government is now doing – from outlawing abortion and contraception, to destroying drinkable water – was defined as terrorism? What would I do if they arrested me on some trumped-up charge, such as looking at foreign language pages on the Internet? Even now, the government is holding at least two U.S. citizens without charging them, and without allowing them any access to a lawyer.

*Whew - it isn't just me. I guess we should take some comfort in the fact that the book was published.

You can get Blacklist here.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Come stay at the Sheraton Baghdad, or visit Istanbul - the world is your oyster since it's so much safer since George took (and I mean took) office.

General Wesley Clark speaks four languages; George Bush, the miserable failure, struggles with one.
I'm in ...

Rick Santorum

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Sorry Abe [Lincoln]- but I think I will.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Big mea culpa, for earlier posts with run-on italics - just one of those days.
Afghanistan Aid Workers Cry For Help
[from Asia Times by Jim Lobe]
WASHINGTON - Aid workers are increasingly being targeted in the ongoing "war on terrorism" between United States-led forces and Islamic radicals, as the killing of a United Nations refugee worker Sunday in Afghanistan demonstrates.

Bettina Goislard, a French citizen, was gunned down while riding in a car of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the provincial city of Ghazni, located about 70 miles south of Kabul along the highway to Kandahar, when two men on a motorcycle opened fire on the vehicle, killing her and injuring her driver.

The attackers were arrested, and Afghan authorities identified them as supporters of the Taliban, who have re-established a presence in much of the southeastern part of the country, close to the border with Pakistan.
Wait a minute … Afghanistan? The Taliban? Weren't those Missions Accomplished?

Read the remainder of the article here.
Chad 2.0

[excerpt from MotherJones]

Computer voting was supposed to revolutionize elections. But has it just updated old problems
Tech experts say voting-terminal technology lags years behind the state of the art in both encryption and design. Not only are the machines susceptible to the kinds of voting mishaps--undervotes, misvotes--that produced Bush v. Gore, but they also may be vulnerable to hackers bent on stealing an election.

Voting companies claim that scenarios involving serious fraud are theoretical and nearly impossible to pull off: Few people have access to the source code or the machines. But the call of "trust us, we're experts" took a blow this summer when the Cleveland Plain Dealer outted Diebold chief executive Walden O'Dell as a major GOP operative. In addition to hosting a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at his Columbus, Ohio, home, ODell sent out solicitations boasting that he's "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Is that the same as, My brother has guaranteed me that I have Florida?
More from MotherJones

The Making of the Corporate Judiciary: How Big Business is Quietly Funding a Judicial Revolution in the Nation's Courts by Michael Scherer
Like many of President Bush's lower-court nominees, William H. Pryor Jr. has had a hand in just about every legal social theory that drives Senate Democrats to outrage. As the attorney general of Alabama, he pushed for the execution of the mentally retarded, compared homosexuality to bestiality, defended the posting of Bible quotes at the courthouse door, and advocated rescinding a portion of the Voting Rights Act. He called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history."
Remember this young, angelic-looking nominee who was treated so gently by Senate Republicans and refused to answer most of the questions posed by Democrats? His extremely right-wing agenda was just the tip of the iceberg.
But it also obscured the most important factor in Pryor's swift rise from Mobile, Alabama, to the national stage: his longtime courting of corporate America. "The business community must be engaged heavily in the election process as it affects legal and judicial offices," Pryor told business leaders in 1999, after refusing to join other attorneys general in lawsuits against the tobacco and gun industries. To facilitate that engagement, Pryor created a controversial group called the Republican Attorneys General Association, which skirted campaign-finance laws by allowing corporations to give unlimited checks anonymously to support the campaigns of Pryor and other "conservative and free market oriented Attorneys General."

With such activism, Pryor positioned himself in the vanguard of a stealth campaign by American business to change the way that state and federal law is interpreted. Since 1998, major corporations -- Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and the insurance giant AIG, to name a few -- have spent more than $100 million through front groups to remake courts that have long been a refuge for wronged consumers and employees. By targeting incumbent judges, they have tilted state supreme courts to pro-business majorities and ousted aggressive attorneys general. At the same time, corporate lobbyists have blitzed state legislators with tort-reform proposals, overseeing the passage of new laws in 24 states over the past year alone.

Now, with a sympathetic ear in the White House, corporate America is taking its legal agenda to the federal bench with a behind-the-scenes campaign of high-powered lobbying and interest-group advertising. Pryor is just one of the corporate stars. Several of President Bush's nominees to federal appeals and district courts -- and even White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who now selects federal nominees for the president -- owe their careers to the support of the insurance, retail, and energy industries that got them elected on the state level.
The question is, why did Democrats filibuster only 4 of Bush's judicial nominees?
Crime and The Ultimate Punishment

This is Scott Turow's latest book, a piece of nonfiction recounting the evolution of his position on the death penalty. He has come to believe that it can never be made fair and accurate enough to warrant its use. In this excerpt from an interview with Terry McNally, Mr. Turrow explains how since the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous crimes and since emotions run high in those instances, that these may be the cases most prone to errors in investigations, prosecutions and convictions.
McNally: I think at this point the number is at least 108 freed by DNA evidence. You actually think it's easier to make certain errors in the cases where it's most serious. Why?

Turow: Because if you talk about the worst of the worst, the most hideous crimes – John Wayne Gacey in Illinois who killed 33 young men, serial murder, or Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people at the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City – these are the crimes that create the greatest anxiety and passion in the community. It's because of those anxieties that law enforcement wants to settle them. Still, it's very easy for police and prosecutors to try to force their evidence to fit the wrong foot.

It's also very easy for juries confronted with a monstrous crime to essentially take the approach: "I'm not letting this guy go unless somebody proves to me he didn't do it." Even though that is exactly contradictory to what we're supposed to do in our system.

McNally: So both prosecutors and juries would like a conviction.

Turow: Right, everybody wants to feel that the world has been put back to order. It's a natural human impulse, it's not corrupted. The police want to protect us, prosecutors want to protect us, but...

I'm not proposing by the way, that most of the people in death row in the United States are innocent. I don't think that that's remotely true. The point, though, is that this is a system designed to be nearly fault-free. And guess what? It's not.
'nough said.
On a Related Note …John Allen Mohammad Found Guilty

Mohammad was the first person to be convicted under Virginia's new terrorism law. The verdict was reached in less than seven hours of deliberation and he was found guilty of four counts: murder, terrorism, conspiracy and illegal use of a weapon.

Virginia is second only to Texas in its use of the death penalty. For that reason, and Turrow's reasoning above, that will be the likely sentence.
… And speaking of ...The Truth About the Green River Killer

Gary Ridgeway, aka The Green River Killer, raped, strangled, murdered and discarded 48 females over the course of 20 years; many of his victims were under the age of 22.

[excerpts from Silja J. A. Talvi, Alternet]
Ridgway was a married man and a father, a white guy from Auburn, Washington who held the same job for 30 years – and who got away with killing one female after another for over 20 years.
Now why do I think that didn't fit the FBI profile?
Detective work, diligence, and a decision on the part of the King County Prosecutor to spare Ridgway the death sentence in exchange for information are all being hailed as a job well done. Ridgway will never kill again.

But the question remains: Why was he allowed to kill, again and again, when so much evidence had already pointed in his direction two decades ago?

The answer, in great part, lies in Ridgway's own admission of who he preyed upon.

"I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex," Ridgway said in his confessional statement. "I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."

Attitudes toward prostitutes – their very dehumanization – underlies the Green River Killer case, and yet prostitutes are the aspect of this story that has been least discussed.

Would Ridgway have been stopped in his tracks 20 or fifteen years ago if his female victims had had different class backgrounds, had not participated in the street economy, been more "innocent" in the eyes of the law?

What about today?
Not So Lost Boy in Neverland

While Michael Jackson shoots a music video in Las Vegas, The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputies execute a search at his ranch as a result of a molestation allegation of a 12-year old boy.

Poor Michael, I bet their going to try and turn this into something sexual again.

Let It Be, Let It Be, Let it Be, Let It Be, there will be an answer …

Let It Be …Naked (sans orchestration) is released and David Segal thinks the tunes sound better in the buff.

Excuse me, I have to go see a man about a CD ;-)

[note: it's a WP link so you may have to tell them a little about your sex gender, geography and birth before viewing the review.]

The Sting: Lessons Learned, or Not

Larry Miller of the Daily Standard ponders why it is that we love movie criminals and notes the real live ones are not cute or cuddly.

A nice distraction [excerpts]

EVERYONE'S SEEN "The Sting," because it's a great movie. Well, I guess not everyone, but you know what I mean. And it's still a great movie. Newman and Redford are wonderful (I've always wished the two of them had made more together), and the rest of the cast is as good as it gets: Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan, Charles Durning, Harold Gould, Ray Walston, Dana Elcar, and many others. The great George Roy Hill directed--he passed on not too long ago--and David S. Ward wrote the script.

As you know, "The Sting" is about con men, and they're all cute and cuddly and funny. Heroic, too. The cops, on the other hand, are vicious and corrupt, the FBI is manipulative and conniving, and the murderously vindictive "mark" is a banker. But that doesn't seem to matter, does it? Why do we love movie criminals so much? Why is crime so entertaining?

THIS IS IN MY HEAD FOR A REASON. I met a real con man last week, the day after I saw "The Sting." Not on a screen, not at a party, not in a meeting. At my home; at my front door. I wasn't doing research, either. He was trying to con me. They're not cute or cuddly; they're sociopaths with no feelings for others whatsoever, and they smell a score on you like vampires smell living blood. (Movies again: Strange.) And if they thought they could end your life with no threat to themselves and take everything you have, they would do it with no more thought than stepping on a cockroach.

Read the remainder here if you're so inclined.
A step in the right direction -- the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Though the state has not yet allowed any couples to marry as a result of the ruling, this decision is similar to the one which led to civil unions for same-sex couples in Vermont.

According to Chief Justice Margaret Marshall:
"Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. It brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial and social benefits. In return, it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations."


According to this New York Times article and this page of the AARP website, the AARP is now "formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons." Apparently, they are now known only by their acronym. Is this an attempt to make the AARP message hipper for a new generation of retirees, or do we have a KFC effect going on?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Separate But Not Equal: the Government of Exclusion or New Congressional Politics

According to the Pew Research Center the current electorate is evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans and Independents/Other. Starting with that premise, regardless of which of the two major parties a congressional member represents, it is likely when proposing 'partisan' legislation, that two-thirds of the electorate would be in opposition. One might think this would cause Senators and Representatives to pause for reflection before engaging in such divisive practices. In fact, if the current legislative session is any indication, the Republicans have 'escalated' partisan politics to a new low, the politics of party exclusion.

First, in an unprecedented move, the Republican Whitehouse places Limits on Queries From Democrats forcing Democratic members to go through Republican committee chairs with their requests for information.

Granted, Senate or House Republicans did not initiate this action but neither did they offer any objections.

Second, the House and Senate Republicans agree on an energy bill, a bill that that was negotiated, behind close doors without any Democratic participation.

Without going into the Neanderthal nature of this legislation, suffice it to say two-thirds of the electorate would very likely be opposed to it. Let me reiterate, zero participation of Democrats but they did have a 48-hour window for review of the 1700 page document -who could ask for more?

Third, the Republican-controlled house cut all Democratic projects from the
Health-Education Bill
. Generally, the House portion for home-district projects (often referred to as pork), ~450 million dollars in this bill, would be split 60:40.

The validity of pork (of any political persuasion) aside, I can see the local/regional headlines of the 2004 congressional races advertising what the Republicans brought 'home' or conversely, what the Democrats failed to bring 'home. Retaliation for voting against legislation is unconscionable.

Fourth, Senate Republicans, upset that the vote for 2% of Bush's judicial nominees was filibustered by Democrats, STAGED an over 40-hour debate in protest.

For a re-cap, that's only 4 of Bush's 172 nominees. What is meant by "staging" the debate? Well, besides coordinating efforts with Fair and Balanced Always Irrelevant Fox News, they exploited children by having them pose behind a lecturn beneath a sign reading "Fair Up or Down Vote" all for maximum visual effect. But hey, at 1:30 AM Senator Lindsey Graham consoled the youngsters, "you can tell your grandkids about this" just prior to turning on the Democrats, "There's never a good time to hijack the Constitution for partisan politics."

Mmmm …really?

Two additional actions this week, one by The Administration and one by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist illustrate how the current Republican Regime wants to control both the input and output of information.

On Wednesday, an online poll at the senator's web site posed the question: Should the president's nominees to the federal bench be allowed an up or down vote on confirmation as specified in the Constitution? However, when the 'No Votes' exceeded 60% (clearly not the desired result), the poll question changed. On the third iteration, the question changed to effectively reverse the meaning of a yes or no vote and the poll quickly disappeared when the 'Yes vote' had a lead. Later, a Poll merely allowed the names of judicial nominees as choices with the voter to decide, in absence of a 'none of the above' choice, which nominees should receive a vote. Senator Frist's spokesperson, Bob Stevenson denied that the poll had been changed to ensure a particular result.

Okay, that's your story, you stick to it.

Thursday on CNN's NewsNight a correspondent spoke of the creation of a defacto news operation in Iraq, produced by the Bush Administration and overseen by Ambassador Bremer to effectively eliminate the major networks as middlemen. Interestingly, the transcripts of this show are no longer on the web site, however, the same information can be found here.

An election is coming, the pResident wouldn't want the voters exposed to any bad news. He's just looking out for our best interests.

Our system of checks and balances seems to have failed us as of late. From the anointment of a pResident by our judiciary to the failure of Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) to keep a deceitful and zealous administration in check; the system has failed. And what of the media we rely on as a failsafe mechanism, where have they been? The art of reporting news (versus creating or commentating on) and investigative journalism appear to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

The divisive and exclusionary politics practiced by this Republican Administration and Congress goes well beyond mere partisan politics. It is very clear that, collectively, these Republicans are not interested in governing, they want to 'rule'. To be sure there are individual exceptions, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for instance. However, while he (and others) may refrain from engaging in such dissonant behavior, they do little to squelch the mob mentality and malevolence of their colleagues. In the words of Edmond Burke, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
Microsoft abused its dominance in personal computers through Windows.
The European Union executive is expected to decide by the end of June 2004, but if Microsoft objects it could start a lengthy appeal to the EU's top court in Luxembourg.

The Commission has proposed that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Media Player audio-visual software built in, so that rivals would be on a level playing field. In particular, it focused on rivals RealNetworks RealPlayer and Apple QuickTime.

Say it isn't so.
Kerry Rejects Public Funds -Decides to Personally Subsidize His Campaign

Senator Kerry blames Dean for changing the rules of the race when he opted out of public financing and says of his following suit, "…I'm not going to fight with one hand tied behind my back. I don't believe in unilateral disarmament."

Say what you will of Howard Dean (personally, what I'd say is that of the eligible candidates, I'd place him only above Bush) but he has at least worked hard to gain support of voters and that support as well as his financing, is a grass roots effort for which he should be applauded. To Kerry, I'd say check with Steve Forbes and Mark Dayton, each of whom poured personal millions into their own campaign efforts. Ask them how that strategy worked out for them.
Can't Be in Two Places at Once
Does anyone else think that, for being 'the man' in Iraq, Paul Bremer seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in Washington, D.C.? Although it's consistent with the practices of his Commander in Chief, George Bush, the miserable failure who should be in D.C. but spends his time fund-raising, for an election in which he has no primary opponent, cooling his heels on the 'ranch' in Crawford, or traveling to London on a PR tour.

This is not to say that things would be better were Mr. Bush paying attention to the country's interests/problems but you'd think, as pResident, he could at least feign interest.

Motor Weekend
While running around this weekend I was struck by the number of really unattractive new GM vehicles on the road. The vehicles I saw included Cadillac's SRX sports utility vehicle, the XLR sports car and their STS sedan; for Chevy it was the Monte Carlo and my beloved Silverado truck. One exception was the Saturn L300, which was improved in appearance by the loss of its over-sized Plymouth-Neon-like rear end.

If this is due to a new crop of design engineers -I think it's time to rotate crops.
Hi to my host, Nitpicker Terry, and hi to my co-bloggers, Amanda and CJ. I will be hanging out here a bit also, attempting to contribute interesting items.

President Bush has apparently demanded the British goverment provide diplomatic, prosecutorial immunity for special agents and his personal detail if they should accidentally shoot and kill protestors during his visit. This is among other demands for his upcoming visit to London, including the demand that the tube system be closed, the use of USAF planes to overfly the city, and the shipping in and use of battlefield equipment to use against potential rioters. The British government has turned down the requests of the President's staff.

guess he's a little concerned about public opinion now, huh?

Friday, November 14, 2003

Just when you thought the consumer culture couldn't get any weirder, a new study shows a surprising number of US parents naming their children after their favorite trademarks. They're not even being paid for the advertising space.
I'm Amanda. I'll be jumping in here occasionally, too.

After yesterday's ousting of Roy Moore in Alabama, you'd think we would be done with Ten Commandments monuments, at least for a little while. In Alabama, maybe, but in Texas, no.

"The Ten Commandments are undoubtedly a sacred religious text, but they are also a foundational document in the development of Western legal codes and culture," [Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott said in a news release issued Thursday. "The Texas monument has stood for over 40 years, and the court's decision affirms that the monument is entirely consistent with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution."

The ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court states that, when taken on the whole with other aspects of the state's heritage, culture and legal codes, the monument does not suggest that the state is seeking to impose a religious belief on its residents, Abbott said.

I'm looking for the "thou shalt have no other gods before me" laws.
As the US supreme court decides jurors must make the determination in death penalty cases, state governments grapple with decisions on the practice of capital punishment and deathrow inmates are released after postconviction DNA testing, who would have thought that Turkey would be first to abolish the death penalty. In Baku Today:
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Schieder and the Secretary General of the Organisation, Walter Schwimmer, today welcomed Turkey's formal deposition of the ratification instruments for Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty in peacetime, as a milestone on Europe's path towards a death penalty-free continent.
"This is a step of huge political significance, confirming the historic decision taken by the Turkish parliament earlier this year to abolish the death penalty. It is a logical follow-up to a series of important legal changes that have brought several key aspects of Turkish legislation into line with Council of Europe standards. I am confident that these *will have an impact on Turkey's EU accession chances," Peter Schieder said.

"We're all the more pleased with this momentous decision as Turkey joined the Organisation at a time when the formal abolition of the death penalty was not yet a sine qua non condition for membership (1). It brings Europe closer to total abolition of the death penalty, which is one of our Organisation's priorities," said Walter Schwimmer.
*Yeah, there is that.
Why Children Should Be Equal
Is an article by Adam Swift in response to criticism from readers regarding his proposal to abolish independent schools in an effort to improve education in Britain. It appears in The Telegraph.
(link via Private Schools, Equality, and Liberty at Crooked Timber)

Swift debunks the usual arguments put forth in defense of private schools and holds to the premise that "private schools are unfair, in that they conflict with equality of opportunity". Excerpts:
It's unfair that a child's prospects in life should depend on her social background, on her parent's willingness and ability to pay for an education better than others are getting. Principled defences of private schools will, I imagine, concede that , but claim that other values are more important.

Some critics appealed to the right of parents to spend their hard-earned money as they wished. It's true that my proposal would interfere with people's freedom to do what they like with their money. But people have no right to that freedom. Freedom of religion, of expression, of sexuality: these are real rights. They protect fundamental human interests - things so important that we all have a duty to respect them even if we'd rather not. Is the freedom to spend your money on an expensive education for your child in that category? No.

Many see me as pursuing the politics of envy. Resenting the fact that educational good things are available to some but not others, I want, perversely, to level down for the sake of equality. But this misses the point. Schools aren't like cars. Your having a better car than me does nothing to make my car less worth having - except through feelings of envy. But your child's having a better education than mine really does make my child's education less valuable for her.

Like it or not, much of the value of education is competitive - what matters is not how good yours is absolutely, but how good it is relative to other people's.

What about the objection from excellence? Surely high academic standards are very important, and only the private sector has the resources and facilities to cultivate intellectual excellence? Well, excellence does matter, but I think we can have enough of it without prohibitively expensive private schooling.
We have similar issues with our educational system and while not advocating the abolition of private schools, the proposed 'voucher system' will work about as well as the 'No Child Left Behind' act.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bush says he welcomes protests in London
"I don't expect everybody in the world to agree with the positions I've taken."

Everybody? I still cannot believe the arrogance of this buffoon.
(AP) Washington:
Demonstrations against the Iraq war drew hundreds of thousands of people to central London earlier this year, and the Stop the War coalition said it hopes 60,000 people will join an anti-Bush march through the city on Nov. 20.
Sure he welcomes protestors but he'd prefer they stay in an exclusion zone.
Organisers of the various protests planned for Mr Bush's three-day visit are now in negotiations with police, after reports that a march down Whitehall to Parliament Square would be banned at the insistence of the White House.
Bush embarks on what Claire Cozens ( Television) describes as a British PR Blitz with interviews that will likely be sympathetic to his cause.
George Bush has embarked on a charm offensive ahead of his controversial visit to London, lining up interviews with the BBC's David Frost and the new Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland.

Mr Bush will meet Frost this week for an interview to be shown on Sunday, ahead of his arrival next Tuesday.

Newland has also flown out to Washington to meet Mr Bush for the Telegraph, one of Britain's most pro-war newspapers, although it is not known whether the paper will carry a full set-piece interview with the US president.

The two interviews are likely to have been chosen carefully. Frost is not known for his confrontational style of interviewing, and the Telegraph is instinctively more pro-American than some of its rivals.
It's good to know he welcomes those that don't agree with him.

Alabama's Court of the Judiciary Strikes a Blow to the Religious Right

In a unanimous vote, the nine-member panel voted to oust Chief Justice Roy Moore for his refusal to obey a federal order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state courthouse in August.

This action may give the illusion that the separation of church and state is still recognized but perhaps AG Ashcroft and the Supremes will once again help their brethen out. Expect Mr Moore, who has the support of many fanatics fans in 'bama, to be resurrected as their next Governor.
Colin Powell is Just Being a Good Little Subordinate

Powell stated in a Washington Post interview "I think any good subordinate lies on behalf of accommodates himself to the wishes of his superior and, in effect, you determine how to best serve that individual". Yet, he suggests he would
Never resign on policy, however much he might disagree with President George W. Bush.
Why would we think Secretary Powell would resign over a small matter of policy disagreement when he obviously has little trouble lying to the UN on behalf of The Administration?

In Secretary Powell's Remarks to UN Security Council on March 7, 2003 regarding WMDs:
We meet today, it seems to me, with one question, and one very, very important question before us: Has the Iraqi regime made the fundamental strategic and political decision to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and to rid itself of all of its weapons of mass destruction, all of the infrastructure for the development of weapons of mass destruction? It's a question of intent on the part of the Iraqi leadership.
(my emphasis)

Although we know now, it was never about WMDs. {sarcasm}
The intent of the Iraqi regime to keep from turning over all of its weapons of mass destruction seems to me has not changed, and not to cooperate with the international community in the manner intended by 1441.
Maybe the Iraqis' couldn't find them either

Two years before his comments to the Security Council, he made these remarks in NY with Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa (February 24, 2001):
We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq, and these are policies that we are going to keep in place, but we are always willing to review them to make sure that they are being carried out in a way that does not affect the Iraqi people but does affect the Iraqi regime's ambitions and the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we had a good conversation on this issue.
So, I guess Saddam must have been really busy with WMDs from February 2001 to March 20003; you think we'd have some evidence of that.

Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino gets Cheyne's script

As the death toll from the bombing at an Italian paramilitary base In Nasiriyah rose to 31, the defense minister blamed the attack on Saddam Hussein loyalists and al-Qaida terrorists.

French President Jacques Chirac may get last laugh as George Bush, the miserable failure, moves to speed up establishment of an Iraqi government. For months, before poll numbers dipped unacceptably the Administration insisted it was necessary for an Iraqi constitution to be in place, and elections held, before there could be a return to sovereignty. In related news, the price of freedom fries took a nosedive.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Trent Lott not a racist?

It sure seems weird, then, that he would say that his party's trying to get qualified "men, women and minorities" into judgeships. Um, aren't minorities included in the category of men and women? Or is Senator Lott using some different standard?
On a Lighter Note ...

Science Times turns 25! The first issue appeared on November 14, 1978. In this celebratory issue, the NY times poses "25 of the most provocative questions facing science".

The Times is quick to point out that, as always, the answers are subject to change.

1) Does Science Matter? (new questions, new problems but, in a word, yes)

2) Is War Our Biological Destiny (or was Plato correct that only the dead have seen the end of War - it at least appears that we haven't)

3) Will Humans ever visit Mars? (more likely questions are when, how, who first & for how much?)

4) How Does the Brain work (the next frontier; at this juncture the more we learn the less we understand)

5) What is Gravity, Really? (revisiting this law - new theories)

6) Will We Ever Find Atlantis? (fantasy that lives on because its existence can't be disproved? -hmm)

7) What Should We Eat? (less than we do currently)

8) When Will the Next Ice Age Begin? (don't worry; not in our lifetime - ~80,000 years to go)

9) What Happened Before the Big Bang? (string theory v. loop quantum gravity)

10) Could We Live Forever? (life-expectancies of 130 by 2050? Define "live")

11) Are Men Necessary? (sexual dimorphism confers advantage - we're stuck)

12) Are Women Necessary? (eggs in lab from female or male - will females be irrelevant?)

13) What Is The Next Plague? (natural or bioterrorism?)

14) Can Robots Become Conscious? (first we need to figure out what consciousness is)

15) Why Do We Sleep? (Do we need REM stage for brain development)

16) Are Animals Smarter Than We Think? (some maybe yes, some maybe no)

17) Can Science Prove The Existence of God? (or disprove for that matter)

18) Is Evolution Truly Random? (tell-tale experiment not possible)

19) How Did Life Begin? (what came first - RNA or DNA)

20) Can Drugs Make Us Happier? Smarter? (define 'happy', 'smart')

21) Should We Improve Our Genome? (sex as recreation, science for reproduction- ethics?)

22) How Much Nature Is Enough? (loss inevitable, what's acceptable)

23) What Is the Most Important Problem in Math Today? (Riemann hypothesis - formula to find prime numbers)

24) Where Are Those Aliens? (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - hey isn't that the George W Bush miserable failure line for WMDs)

25) Do Paranormal Phenomena Exist? (not so you'd notice)

Art Carney actor, veteran

Art Carney died at 85. All this time I thought his limp has an affectation of the Ed Norton character (Senior Supervisor of Subterranean Sanitation); turns out he was wounded on D-Day. Sweet Dreams Mr. Carney.
Return to Reality

I'm not known for my high opinion of the average american electorate. I believe most eligible voters fall into one of three categories: 1) ignorant, 2) lazy or 3) both -ignorant and lazy. This perception is only one of many reasons I shall not be running for elective office. My experience while handing out campaign literature upon my return to civilization(?) Monday evening has not caused me to reassess my position.

" say he's running as a Democrat?"

Yes, that's correct he's a Democratic candidate for President.

"Well then I don't need to know anything about him, I'm a Republican."


"It doesn't matter to us, I just got orders and we're going to Italy for 3 years".

(Yes, so why should we care who's President in our absence - those absentee ballots are such a pain)

Substitute politics for science ...

"For any man to abdicate an interest in science, is to walk with open eyes toward slavery."
Jacob Bronowski, Historian

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Speaking of soul

This is an excerpt from the transcript of General Wesley Clark on the Washington Post's Live Online Conversations with the Candidates:

Los Angeles, Calif.: Most Politicians either ignore or attack funding for the arts. If elected president, would you use the weight of your office to increase the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts to $250 million and direct that more funds be given to individuals, rather than just institutions?

Wesley K. Clark: I believe that the arts are very important to the future of our America,. A country has a soul and we have to continually find and examine our own. Arts help us do this. .So, I believe in restoring funding for the NEA. I haven't fixed any given level, except that I want to raise the prominence of the arts in our daily lives, and I want to reopen the idea of giving grants to individuals. We just have to create the right mechanism to find merit and promise.
note: transcript excerpt was copied without correction(s)

The full transcript of the General's 'chat' as well as links to those of the other democratic hopefuls can be found here.

To date, General Clark has alternately been ignored or given undeserved negative attention by the media. This excerpt with his unscripted response to a question that would not likely have been anticipated, gives us a glimpse into this man's soul.

Wesley Clark is one of a kind in the field of nine and not just because he's a retired four-star general and a Rhodes scholar; although one has to admit those are enviable credentials in and of themselves. He was top in his class at West Point and his masters from Oxford is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He suffered the early loss of his father, extensive wounds in Viet Nam and premature transfer from his position as NATO Supreme Allied Commander. He has served as a military commentator on CNN, managing director of a financial services corporation and founded a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization to foster dialogue about America's future. He's also a father and has been married for 36 years. It is the breadth of these experiences that have shaped this man and set him apart from the other Democratic candidates. This is one candidate that is worth examination. The following links afford an opportunity to assess the man based on his own words ...

Download video from

Senate Hearings on Policy in Iraq (CSPAN 9/23/02)

Iowa Town Hall Meeting on October 6, 2003.

Audio on

The Exchange with Laura Knoy on New Hampshire Public Radio November 5, 2003.
Soul ...

It was Thoreau who said, "He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul's estate." I was truly enjoying my leisure for a few days; incommunicado above 8,000 feet is good for the soul.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Sitting on the edge, feet dangling, she takes a deep breath. The air in the blogosphere is refreshing but how will she find the water...the plunge. I'll be sittin' in here at Nitpicker; be gentle. CJ

Now from the George Bush, Miserable Failure, Front ...

Six more, from the 101st Airborne Air Assault Division, were killed when a Black Hawk was shot down near Tikrit. Another soldier was killed and six were wounded in Mosul after another rocket-propelled grenade attack. That's 382 and counting since the search for WMDs and the effort to spread democracy commenced in Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Meanwhile, from the Nine in Line ...

Dean decides that Dubya's idea of campaign financing isn't such a bad idea after all.

In a July 30th press conference, Dubya chortles, "Just Watch" when asked by a reporter, Michael Allen, " ... with no opponent, how can you spend $170 million or more on your primary campaign?" We expect that Dubya would miss the implied justifyi n this question but, presumably, Dean is opposed to such tactics used in the purchasing of an election. But that was then as Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes...

Last spring, Dean pledged to accept public financing, and he said he'd make an issue of it if any of his rivals opted out. "I think most Democrats believe in campaign finance reform," he said. But not, as it turns out, Howard Dean.

Someone should tell him that was the hippocratic, not the hypocritic, oath.

Ya Gotta Love It

It's one thing for Dubya to think that an open forum is one in which people can come and listen to what he has to say but now the White House is putting Limits on Queries From Democrats.

This is evidently the result of their irritation with "pesky" questions posed by congressional Democrats on how much was spent on the Mission Accomplished banner (you know, the one from crew members of the USS Abraham Lincoln). The e-mail notification from Timothy Campen of the WH Office of Administration asked that all requests be coordinated through committee members (spelled R-e-p-u-b-l-i-c-a-n-s). A WH spokesperson, Ashley Snee, is quoted as saying, "There have been staff-level discussions about ways to better coordinate requests from Congress (I bet), it was not the intent to suggest minority members should not ask questions without the consent of the majority." Of course not, the Democrats might be in the majority again at some point (soon, please). However, substitute Democratic for minority and Republican for majority and that's an entirely different matter.

As an aside, many wish the Democrats had been a tad more forceful with their pesky questions since January 2001. Unfortunately, they've been about as assertive as Dubya's advance staff has been ingenious.

Kiernan at Crooked Timber rightly states that "no one can be told what the Meatrix is. So, see for yourself and get a free vegetarian starter kit while you're there.

Roe v Who?

Do you think these guys would still be smiling if women made decisions regarding their reproductive rights?