Monday, May 31, 2004

We're Back

Billmon is back and has been voraciously posting. Here's an excellent Memorial post.

I am back as well but have a couple of 'real world' deadlines. First, I have to finish designing an ad so I can make some money, pay the mortgage, buy groceries and other exciting things. The reservation deadline is the 3rd but I really have to have my entire ad completed so I know what 'size' to reserve. So posting may still be light tomorrow.

PEN PALS UPDATE: Terry sends his heartfelt thanks. The packages starting arriving last week and pens are now arriving by the "thousands"!

tommorrow, and tomorrow and ... later.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Fed Up - Just the Latest Example:Taxes, Like Water
We would adopt a 50-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax , the Patriot Tax (along with my wife's proposal: free public parking anywhere in America for any hybrid or other car getting more than 35 m.p.g.). A Patriot Tax would help pay for the Afghan and Iraq wars and help finance a Manhattan project to speed the development of a hydrogen economy, enabling the public to make a contribution to the war effort while lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

There is simply no way to stimulate a process of economic and political reform in the Arab-Muslim world without radically reducing their revenues from oil, thereby forcing these governments to reform their economies, and societies, to produce real jobs for their people. Is there anything dumber than the Bush campaign ads chastising John Kerry for once favoring a gasoline tax? Had we imposed a Patriot Tax a year ago, gasoline might still cost $2 a gallon today, but 50 cents of that would have gone to paying for American schools rather than Saudi madrassas.
Okay, this really doesn't have anything to do with Friedman's column, although I do like the free parking for fuel-efficient vehicles or incentive-type policies in general. However, what I am sick and tired of hearing about, year in and year out, typically from the 'left' -whether it's politicians, bloggers or individuals in conversation around the water cooler is ... raising taxes as an answer. We often hear that it is or was the brave thing to do -suggestions that politicians, like Walter Mondale, paid the price for attempting to do the right thing at the time. You know, as long as the pentagon has trillions of dollars that it cannot account for, and we are financing a rain forest in Iowa, raising taxes is not the courageous or correct thing to do, it's the lazy and expedient thing to do.

Scotty's Two-step

You think at some point in time he'd begin to become a little more proficient at this...
Press Briefing May 26, 2004:

Q: Scott, in the past, the President, has criticized John Kerry for saying that fighting terrorism was more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation than a military one. And now you're having this news conference with law enforcement officials trying to get information to help fight the war on terror. Isn't that hypocritical for the President to be criticizing John Kerry for what he's doing --

MR. McCLELLAN: Not all it. I don't think you've maybe been listening to what the President has been saying. He's saying that the war on terror is fought on many fronts, but the best way to win the war on terrorism is to take the fight to the enemy. And this is a war. This is a broad war against terrorism. September 11th changed the equation and taught us that we must confront threats before it is too late. And that's exactly what this President is doing. But the war on terrorism, the President has said from very early on, is fought on many fronts. It's fought on the law enforcement front; it's fought on the diplomatic front; it's fought on a number of different fronts -- the terrorist financing front, for another example.

Q: In March he said -- at a speech in California, he said -- quoting John Kerry, saying exactly that, 'the war on terror is far less of a military, far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation,' the President said he disagreed with that, and pointed to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, as an example.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And what's your question about that? That statement stands. Those who suggest that we are not at war on terrorism, that it is not a military operation --

Q: Why do you not have Secretary Ridge at the news conference?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- don't have an understanding of what we're facing in the 21st century."
Q: Just on today's announcement. Would you consider the effort to prevent terrorist attacks in this country part of the overall war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, part of a war on terrorism, preventing attacks from happening in the first place.

Q:Is it not true that by federal statute that that effort, within the borders of the continental United States, is primarily a law enforcement operation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Protecting the homeland? We're working on a number of different fronts. You learn information together, from your efforts overseas. You learn information from cracking down on terrorist financing.

Q: Is it not true that within the United States that efforts to prevent terrorism is, in fact, a law enforcement operation?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, the war on terrorism is fought on many different fronts. And it's also part of that war on terrorism, is making sure we're protecting the homeland. And that's the way I would describe it.
Translation: If John Kerry says that fighting a war on terror necessitates more intelligence and law enforcement activities than military operations, it's because he just doesn't understand what we face in the 21st century. He can't see the tremendous progress we're making on the war on terror with our military operations. Doesn't he know that it's estimated that al Qaeda has grown by as many as 18,000 members as a result of our actions. If John Kerry says it's a 'front' he's wrong and on homeland security a front may be a subfront if that's what we deem it to be. We won't acknowledge that either, but the war on terrorism is part of the war on terrorism and that's all we have to say, you're just not listening to what the pResident and I are saying.
Q: Scott, could I ask about the Amnesty report, which we talked about in the briefing earlier, and its contention that the U.S.-led war on terror has resulted in the worst attack on human rights and the rule of law in 50 years? Helen talked about Guantanamo and the decision not to apply the Geneva Accords there, but let me just specifically quote from the report. They blame this administration for "picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where." What is your response to that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my response is that the war on terrorism has resulted in the liberation of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the protection of their rights. People in those countries did not have the kinds of protections that we're used to in the United States. And now they do. So the war on terror has helped protect human rights for some 50 million people.

Q: So does that justify -- does that end, protecting those people, and obviously the American people, as well, justify the means of picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has been very clear in terms of applying international law to detainees -- if that's what you're referring to, which I suspect it is. He's made it very clear that whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply, that those detainees should be treated humanely. And you have to keep in mind that al Qaeda is not -- does not represent a nation. It is not a party to the Geneva Conventions. The United States is.

Q: They're human beings, aren't they?

MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly Iraq was. And the Geneva Convention applies in the Iraq. And in terms of the al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the President has made it very clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords. But we also have to remember, as we're talking about today, that we are at war on terrorism, and that it's important to talk to these individuals and gather as much information as we can to try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. These are individual at Guantanamo Bay who were involved, or want to help carry out attacks against the American people.

Q: So why don't you charge them and try them?

MR. McCLELLAN: And these are dangerous people. And despite that, the President has made it clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords.

Q: They also, by the way, accuse the administration of, in effect, giving a green light to places like Uzbekistan and elsewhere to basically shield under the war on terror for some pretty awful human rights abuses.

MR. McCLELLAN: The United States of America is a leading advocate of protecting human rights, and we will continue to be.
Translation: We're not only picking and choosing the bits of international law we will follow but we also pick and choose which humans have rights. Al Qaeda and other terrorists don't represent countries so, for all intents and purposes, you can't really consider them human. I'm also going to skirt the whole Guantanamo Bay thing so there's really no point in your continuing to mention it.
Q: The Washington Post reported at length about the superintendent of the Naval Academy ordering a revision in the 81-year-old song, "Navy Blue and Gold," that all references to men will be eliminated. And my question: Does the Commander-in-Chief believe it is fair to do this when the Academy continues to virtually shave the heads of all incoming male plebes, but none of the female plebes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President has --

Q: Does he think that's fair, as Commander-in-Chief?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President has confidence that our military leaders can address these issues appropriately.
Translation: Say, What? Or at least that would have been my response.

MoDo Gollum: Fair and Balanced -Or Just Schizophrenic?
An outraged president called yesterday for the immediate resignations of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Douglas Feith and Stephen Cambone.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the president in the White House. It was the shadow president, the one who won the popular vote.
John Kerry's advisers were surprised and annoyed to hear that Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki. They don't want voters to be reminded of the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party.

They would like Mr. Gore, who brought bad karma to Mr. Dean with his primary endorsement, to zip it and go away. But more and more Democrats think it is Mr. Kerry who should zip it and go away.
The Democrats are already excited to see the Republicans acting as fractious as they usually act.

The president did look a little rattled during his finger-in-the-dike speech at the Army War College on Monday night, as he promised to give the Iraqi people the gift of "a humane, well-supervised prison system." It was hard to tell if it was the subdued response of the military audience, the only group forbidden to criticize the commander in chief, or if it's beginning to sink in: this is one mess that no amount of power and privilege, or unending terror alerts, can get him out of. (Mr. Bush's speech about the Iraqi makeover, as he wore all that makeup, couldn't even pre-empt the more convincing makeovers on "The Swan" on Fox.)

Or maybe it was just the dread at knowing that the next morning he had to call Jacques Chirac and cry "oncle" on Iraq.

That's enough to give anybody mal de mer.

9th Circuit Smites Ashscroft
A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the only law in the nation authorizing doctors to help their terminally ill patients commit suicide. The decision, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said the Justice Department did not have the power to punish the doctors involved.

The majority used unusually pointed language to rebuke Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying he had overstepped his authority in trying to block enforcement of the state law, Oregon's Death With Dignity Act.

'The attorney general's unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers,' Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority, 'interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide and far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law.'

Five days into the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, with the superpowers on the brink of confrontation, President Nixon was too drunk to discuss the crisis with the British prime minister, according to newly released transcripts of telephone calls.

Henry Kissinger’s assessment of the president’s condition on the night of Oct. 11, 1973, is contained in more than 20,000 pages of transcripts of Kissinger’s phone calls as the president’s national security adviser and secretary of state — records whose privacy he had guarded for three decades. The National Archives released them Wednesday.

'He was loaded'
They show the powerful adviser trying to manage world crises even as Nixon’s presidency teetered from the Watergate scandal that would consume his administration in August 1974.

In October 1973, U.S.-Soviet tensions were peaking over the Arab-Israeli war, and British Prime Minister Edward Heath’s office called the White House just before 8 p.m. to ask to speak with Nixon.

“Can we tell them no?” Kissinger asked his assistant, Brent Scowcroft, who had told him of the urgent request. “When I talked to the president, he was loaded.”
More evidence that things don't stay buried forever. All we are asking is that we find out the truth about this administration's plans and actions regarding Iraq, pre-9/11, 9/11 and post-9/11 now instead of 30 years from now. While we're at it, let's take a look at Florida in 2000 as well.

Evolutionary Changes

Genetically, chimpanzees are 98.5 percent identical to humans. But the differences between the species are clearly profound, and geneticists have been laboring to find out how such subtle variations in DNA can be so important.
Fujiyama’s team found that just 1.44 percent of the DNA was different at the level of single letters of genetic code.
Fujiyama’s team found differences that may be more important than the single-letter changes.

“There is also an impressive number (68,000) of small to large stretches of DNA that have been either gained or lost (these are called ’insertions or deletions’, ’indels’ for short) in one species or the other,” the researchers wrote.

“These differences are sufficient to generate changes in most of the proteins: Indeed, 83 percent of the 231 coding sequences, including functionally important genes, show differences at the amino-acid sequence level,” they added.
There is nothing particularly novel about this discovery but it is a cute picture. It has been known since the 60's that DNA coding sequences lead to the production of proteins determined by the sequence of amino acids. Amino acids are determined by DNA 'triplet codons' (3 bases [A,C,T or G] in sequence) and that while changes in the 3rd position (called wobble) are generally tolerated, changes in the 1st or 2nd positions can result in dramatic changes in the amino acid and ultimately the protein produced. Interestingly however, is the fact that when Dubya's DNA was compared to chimp DNA, 99.99999999999999999999999999999% identity was revealed. No doubt an example of 'punctuated equilibrium'.

Damn Those French

When the French players come to Roland Garros for the French Open, it’s like the Catholics going to the Vatican. Andre Agassi found that out in the first round when he lost to an obscure French player and Andy Roddick got a cold bath in that logic in the second round when he was stunned by another unknown Frenchman, Olivier Mutis, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2.

In the opening round two Frenchmen set an admirable record -- Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement played a record six hours and 33 minutes.

Guess what record the American men set this year on the red clay?

The Open-era record (that’s a span of 36 years) for having no U.S. men advance to the third round of the French Open.

Down went Andre, down went Andy and even the gutsy Vince Spadea fell, knocked out in the first round by France’s Julien Jeanpierre.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Amnesty Reports, We Deny
According to the organisation, the doctrine of global security being put forward by the United States is 'divisive and dangerous'.

It further adds that this doctrine is placing international security at risk by creating global divisions, shielding governments from scrutiny and diverting attention from conflicts and other sources of insecurity.

This is the first time that Amnesty International has criticised the United States so directly.
Geesh - remember when we were the good guys?

Not Lost In Translation

Via South Knox Bubba:

'I'm here tonight to present a clear strategy for Iraq. It is a lot like our clear skies strategy for the environment. Hazy with a lot of smoke.'

'I am going to lay out a detailed plan for you. The details on which we don't have details make up most of the details of my plan. So in that respect it is a very detailed plan.'

'Our enemies are mean. They are killing our people. That this might occur in a war has taken us by surprise. We don't know who they are. But we will stay the course and defeat them, whoever they are.'

'We will turn over power to the Iraqi government on June 30th. This is not up for debate. It is critical to my re-election.'

'There has been violence before the handover of power. There will be more violence after the handover of power. Iraq is a very violent place. This is not our fault.' ...
Dubya's never sounded so good - go read the whole post.

Rumsfeldian&trade Apologies

First, the New York Times is too kind:
In doing so - reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.
The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature.
Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons").
We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.[Nitpicker emphasis]
The NYT also provides us with a a sampling of the faulty articles they printed about Iraq's weapons and the decisions that led us into Iraq. "A sampling" implies they are aware of others but for some reason elected not to be completely forthcoming. So, if I have it straight ... We're basically pretty great but, on occasion we let things slide a bit in our investigating and reporting. However, even though one reporter (spelled J-u-d-i-t-h M-i-l-l-e-r) was responsible for more than 60% of the cited articles we don't find any discernible pattern in our 'less than aggressive' reporting. Furthermore, no one will be resigning or otherwise losing their job(s) and we promise to continue to do something we have failed to do to date -that is, report aggressively and set the record straight. Maybe you could also restrict your "views" to the Opinion and Editorial pages, and leave them off of those pages on which you are suppose to be reporting events.

Next we have the FBI issuing a press release/apology:
Using standard protocols and methodologies, FBI fingerprint examiners determined that the latent fingerprint was of value for identification purposes. This print was subsequently linked to Brandon Mayfield. That association was independently analyzed and the results were confirmed by an outside experienced fingerprint expert.

Soon after the submitted fingerprint was associated with Mr. Mayfield, Spanish authorities alerted the FBI to additional information that cast doubt on our findings. As a result, the FBI sent two fingerprint examiners to Madrid, who compared the image the FBI had been provided to the image the Spanish authorities had.

Upon review it was determined that the FBI identification was based on an image of substandard quality, which was particularly problematic because of the remarkable number of points of similarity between Mr. Mayfield's prints and the print details in the images submitted to the FBI.[Nitpicker emphasis]
To which I respond, "Bullshit!" Digital images are routinely compared every day, by latent examiners all over the world. An examiner doesn't deem an image of "substandard quality" as "of value for identification". In their defense they offer that when all was said and done, there were still a "remarkable number of points of similarity" between the latent and Mr. Mayfield's prints. They neglect to tell us whether that remarkable number was, or was even close to the 15 points previously identified by them or whether it was closer to the 8 points of questionable similarity that caused the skepticism of the Spaniards. I'll state the obvious here ... When you have a poor quality image there is a greater chance that it will not match any individual (identifying marks may be obscured or missing) to a great degree rather than the reverse. A whorl is not go to become a loop, distinctive ridge endings (that coincidentally match in form and position those from a print(s) in the database) are not going to be created. I question that SOPs were followed, but if they were they clearly need to be changed. My experience with Quality Assurance at the FBI laboratory (albeit in a different scientific area) is that it is synonymous with paper generation, irrespective of the value of the documentation. Bottom line is, bullshit. This never even remotely resembled something that should have been reported as an identification and there's a lot more behind that fact that it was reported as such. Again, it's likely no one will lose their job or in any way be held accountable for this.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...Go Bob:
A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend.

Meanwhile, there's a war on. Yet another U.S. soldier was killed near Falluja yesterday. You remember Falluja. That's the rebellious city that the Marines gave up on and turned over to the control of officers from the very same Baathist army that we invaded Iraq to defeat.

It's impossible to think about Iraq without stumbling over these kinds of absurdities. How do you get a logical foothold on a war that was nurtured from the beginning on absurd premises? You can't. Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. The invasion of Iraq was not part of the war on terror. We had no business launching this war. Now we're left with the tragic absurdity of a clueless president riding his bicycle in Texas while Americans in Iraq are going up in flames.[Nitpicker emphasis]

Damn French

The sixth-seeded Agassi was stunned by the 23-year-old French player, who is ranked 271st in the world, and lost 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 6-3.

This was Haehnel’s debut in the main draw at Roland Garros and he was consistently too strong for the 34-year-old American, winning in just over two hours.

Come on, what's ...
Could the Democrats hold a convention in July and not nominate a presidential candidate ? That's the odd possibility raised by a suggestion floated late last week to delay John Kerry's official acceptance of the nomination until five weeks after the convention. The idea -which a Democratic source says was dreamed up by the Howard Dean campaign back when Dean thought he would be the nominee — is meant to avoid putting Kerry at a spending disadvantage to President Bush. Under campaign-finance rules, each candidate, upon receiving the nomination, gets a $75 million check from the government that has to last through the election. Because the Republican Convention is held five weeks after the Democrats', Bush would have five extra weeks to raise and spend before he's subject to the limits.
...the big deal? Are we now pretending either party's nominee is not a foregone conclusion? News Flash - the conventions are nothing but a big expensive party. Nominees are no longer selected there and when is the last time a party platform had any meaning? It's all about money, I mean what's electing the leader of the free world in comparison to bringing in major bucks for a convention - we have to have our priorities. Yet another ludicrous campaign finance rule - how 'bout we cancel both conventions.

In The BleachersPews
We're really just calling for God's will to be done in this election,' says spokeswoman Meagan Gillan. 'We want people to vote their values.' With an annual budget of $1.5 million, the Prayer Team says it will continue past November, even if God's plan includes a President John Kerry. 'If that's the case,' says Gillan, 'we'll just have to pray even harder.'
If there comes a time when agnostics/atheists wished there really was a god, that time is now. For if there is a god ...

Freedom of Speech: Shut Your Faces
Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The 'Slam Team' was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being 'un-American' because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its 'No child left behind' education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: 'Shut your faces.' What a wonderful lesson he gave those 3,000 students at the largest public high school in New Mexico. In his mind, only certain opinions are to be allowed.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Well, I bet those shy youngsters won't have any difficulty expressing their creativity now. Jeesh, we need to rid positions of power and influence of these cretins. It appears as though this is just a regular public high school, so what gives with the "military liaison"? I guess I shouldn't say 'regular' - after all, it is a Microsoft Center of Innovation. I suppose their next innovations will be solitary confinement, caning and book-burning.

Two For One

It's often interesting to see what 'search terms' may lead one to your blog but I don't think this vague search would be particularly constructive. One post per word on this blog alone.

Gun-toting Mormons
The state Attorney General's Office says the Utah Constitution contains no right to academic freedom for the state's public colleges and universities.
That means, assistant Attorney General Brent Burnett argued in a brief filed with the Utah Supreme Court, that the University of Utah cannot continue to defy the will of the Legislature and ban guns from its campus.
'Utah's Constitution does not contain a . . . right of academic freedom and tenure,' Burnett said in a brief filed Monday with the court.
The issue of guns on campus blew up in 2002 when the University of Utah filed a lawsuit seeking to uphold the school's nearly 30-year-old gun ban in the face of state law that appeared to limit schools' ability to prohibit legally concealed weapons.

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City ... a man killed a woman Monday morning as she arrived for work at a high school and then turned the gun on himself, police said.
Cuz you know, until you get guns out of the hands of criminals, you can't keep them from law-abiding citizens.

Just When I thought things Couldn't Get Any Worse

The bar is closed.

Although the listings in the blogroll are strictly in alphabetical order, Billmon is coincidentally also my favorite. I'm parched. I hope he'll re-open the bar at some point in the near future. For now, however, his place in the blogroll will remain.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Perjury Doesn't Matter
Prosecutors said they had discovered false statements made on the stand by Larry F. Stewart, a national ink expert who works at the Secret Service.

A government news release said prosecutors did not believe the charges called into question the 'integrity or validity' of the convictions of the home fashion mogul and broker Peter Bacanovic.

'We are quite confident that the false testimony will have no impact on the convictions ... for both factual and legal reasons,' U.S. Attorney David Kelley said at a news conference.
We'll have to see how this plays out but at the time, I found the verdicts for the two defendents (Martha and Peter) in this case to be incongruous (given it was a single trial with one jury). How could she be convicted of lying about her sell-off, if he was acquitted of the charge of falsifying the document? If he didn't falsify it, presumably there was a standing order, as she claimed, to sell at $60/share.

A Little iPod Parody

An i For An i

From BAGnewsNotes Via skippy the bush kangaroo

Actually it was posted by Karen, a guestblogger at bagnewsnotes. She also offers these as possible artistic interpretations:
What's it trying to say? Well, let's try some spin. How about: the iPod as an avatar for our materialistic culture, one of the things that fundamentalist Muslims hate and fear about us in the first place? Or: abused Iraqi prisoners became just another object to soldiers from an object-obsessed country? Or: the cord that links listener to music becomes the cord that will forever link Lynndie England to these men in her photos? Or even: this image is fast becoming an iCon of this war, as can be seen here at Proud Liberals?

Try some of your own. Whatever you decide -- ha, ha! Madja think!
She found the pic at Turbanhead.

One picture, so many links. As a Mac geek, I find the linking of violence and torture to Mac (iPod) to be almost sacrilegious, at the very least un-iMacian. On the other hand, Karen makes some valid observations.

Republican Party Moves to India
According to a new report, the Bush Administration has taken its strong support for outsourcing further than previously thought -- opting to move key political operations offshore. India's Hindustan Times reports that, during a 14 month period from 2002 to 2003 when the Republican Party was playing up patriotism, its fund-raising and vote-seeking campaign was performed in part by two call centers located in India1.

According to the report, the Republican National Committee shipped the India operation its voter database for 125 local staff to use to 'solicit political contributions ranging between $5 and $3,000 from thousands of registered Republican voters.' While the contract for running the campaigns was originally awarded to Washington-based Capital Communications Group, 'for cost and efficiencies gains, the company outsourced the work to HCL Technologies that in turn sent it offshore.'
Okay, the title of the post is a little misleading but you can't blame a gal for indulging in a little wishful thinking can you?


While survivors describe a wedding massacre generals refuse to apologise, saying 'bad people have parties too.'

Irrespective of what the final assessment of this incident reveals, can I just say ...the more I hear out of General Kimmitt's mouth, the less I like him as a spokesperson for our military, our nation.

I won't say I told you so but ...

From the Asia Times:
American businessman Nicholas Berg's body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.
I rest my case.

Degrees of Certainty

I don't recall if my first news of this was from a network news source or a major newspaper but I do recall that my first impression had been that it was the Spanish authorities that had identified a fingerprint, a possible link to the Madrid bombings, as having come from a U.S. citizen, Brandon Mayfield. I was puzzled when, this past Thursday, Mayfield had been released from custody after Spanish officials said fingerprints found on a plastic bag near the bombing site in Spain were not those of Mayfield, but of an Algerian suspect.

Now, examining early reports, I find that it was the FBI that had identified the latent print as having come from Mayfield:
Spanish police have been intrigued by the possibility of a U.S. connection to the Madrid bombings since FBI agents informed them more than three weeks ago that a fingerprint found on a plastic bag of detonators left by the bombers appeared to match Mayfield's.
This and other reports at the time decribed the fingerprint match (obtained as a result of an FBI national fingerprint database search) as an "absolutely incontrovertible" or "bingo" match. The fact that Mayfield was a lawyer (not exactly our most respected profession), a convert to Islam and had military experience, didn't help the case that this "match" could have occurred by chance. However, even at this early stage, Spanish authorities had expressed reservations about the FBI identification:
But senior Spanish law enforcement officials said their forensics experts remain unconvinced. Fingerprint identification depends on matching a certain number of criteria between prints as well as on the interpretation of data by experts, investigators said.

'The experts here in Spain ... still have doubts about the fingerprint,' the senior Spanish official said.
How could that be -the FBI claiming a definitive identification while Spanish authorities initially question the match and later identify another as the source of the evidence? How do we reconcile the two? It would have to do with the quality of the evidence and the examination of that evidence.

Initial reports described the evidence as a "perfectly formed" fingerprint. This poses a problem. If we begin with the premise that no two persons (including identical twins) have identical prints[I submit that sufficient evidence exists to demonstrate this is a valid assumption but for the sake of this argument, whether or not you agree, take this as a given], how can two separate individuals "match" the same fingerprint evidence? I for one, was relieved when the latent print was later described as a partial print. This meant the electronic database and latent print examiners were working with limited information with which to attempt an identification and also explained this:
The report said Spanish forensics experts found only eight points of similarity between the print and the one of Mayfield held in U.S. files because he is a former Army officer.

The FBI said it found 15 such points, El Pais said.
Aha!, 8 points for the Spaniards, 15 points for the Americans. I guess that would make the Americans about twice as confident about the identification, yes? How many 'points' are necessary to declare a match/identification? There in lies the problem. Standardization (or lack thereof).

Some European countries followed a 16-point standard, that was, recently, for the most part, abandoned (perhaps with good reason but we'll leave that discussion for another time) and the U.S. hasn't employed any quantitative standard since the seventies. So, the analysis is somewhat subjective.

The database is searched and the computer algorithm comes up with and scores/ranks potential 'matches'. An examiner then makes a side by side comparison of the latent and database print, scrutinizing the points of similarity until a conclusion has been reached whether the comparison represents an exclusion (the two prints came from separate sources), an identification (similarities identified have reached a threshhold that the examiner is convinced the two prints came from the same source) or the results are inconclusive (there is insufficient detail represented in the latent to either definitively exclude or include the known print as the source of the latent).

The number of points necessary to make an identification is dependent on the confidence of the examiner which is in turn dependent on their training, experience and the qualitative nature of the prints as well as their points of comparison. So, let's give some perspective to the 8 and 15 points of similarity identified by comparisons made in this case (I haven't see any source documenting the number of points associated with the latest identification made to the Algerian man by Spanish officials). For that, I will turn to what is a common practice by many labs in the verification of a DNA database match.

Offender DNA databases consist of DNA profiles obtained from individuals who have been convicted of various crimes (the crimes vary by state-to-state depending on statute). In some states the practice is to simultaneously collect a thumbprint and DNA sample from these offenders. Later, if a match is obtained between a crime scene sample and an offender DNA sample the match is often 'verified' both by the re-analysis of the offender DNA sample and a search of the fingerprint database with the print originally collected from the offender.

So, the goal is to verify identity by searching the fingerprint database with a thumbprint taken from the individual at one point in time (time of DNA collection) with that taken from the individual at another point in time (time of their arrest). The common result of such a search yields more than 50 points of similarity between these prints (although that number can be reduced if one or both of the prints is of poor quality). Two points can be taken away from this exercise. First, a match consisting of either 8 or 15 points is clearly one based on a comparison of a latent that is either a partial print, of poor quality, or both. Second, the quality of the fingerprints stored in the database is also a significant factor in the quality/strength of an identification.

So, what do we make of this current identification conundrum? Let's examine what we know. I guess technically, we don't know (unsurprisingly), based on the reporting, that the Spanish and American identifications were made to the same print. Although, given that Mayfield was released from custody following this information it is likely the case. However, that presupposes his timely release is necessarily related to this new information.

Let's take it to be true that the latent print that was previously identified as Mayfield's by the FBI, a match of which Spanish officials were skeptical, has now been identified as having come from some Algerian man. Presumably, since the Spaniards thought 8 points of similarity were previously insufficient for identification of this latent print, this new comparison has yielded similarities greater in quantity and/or quality (as there is no absolute 'quantitative' threshhold applied). Furthermore, we don't hear the FBI screaming "foul" and we can be fairly certain that they examined the new match before releasing Mayfield. But, but you [FBI] said it was his! Indeed. What happened?

A collective "shit!" was no doubt heard from latent examiners everywhere who are wondering the same thing. We come back to the point of subjective analysis and standards. It would appear that the FBI examiners (I say examiners because generally, a second examiner must concur with the identification before it is reported - I'm assuming that happened) were in error in their 8-point identification. So, did those 8 points reflect good quality solid data and, therefore indicate that the use of a minimal point standard should be re-examined and the threshhold clearly be set above 8 points?

Or were these examiners overreaching, overinterpreting the data? If so, was it the result of inexperience - the difficulty of this examination exceeding their expertise? One would expect, however, in a case of this magnitude, that more experienced examiners would have been assigned. Or was any overinterpretation due to bias? Perhaps the ranking given by the automated fingeprint identification system wasn't all that impressive but when they (or others) discovered information regarding the potential match, particularly his conversion to Islam, it was deemed beyond 'coincidental'. Perhaps, at that point, the putative match was 're-examined' to affect an identification. This is clearly a more serious problem because it cannot be addressed by merely adding a quantitative threshold standard for identification.

To most scientists, the standards currently in use by latent examiners and those proposed by the Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology are so vague as to be almost nonexistent. Yet while improvements in these standards are necessary most scientists, and certainly those with forensic experience, will allow that qualitative compensation can sometimes mitigate quantitative deficiency.

This case raises old questions but one thing is evident ... as these databases grow larger and the information is shared among more disparate groups, standardization of methodologies is a necessity. Adoption of some minimal, but absolute, criteria for identification is inevitable. As far as this particular case? Well, that's ...developing.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Classification Games: Can The Cat Be Put Back In The Bag?
The Justice Department has taken the unusual step of retroactively classifying information it gave to Congress nearly two years ago regarding a former F.B.I. translator who charged that the bureau had missed critical terrorist warnings, officials said Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the secrecy surrounding the translator, Sibel Edmonds, is essential to protecting information that could reveal intelligence-gathering operations. But some members of Congress and Congressional aides said they were troubled by the move, which comes as critics have accused the Bush administration of excessive secrecy.

'What the F.B.I. is up to here is ludicrous,' Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said in an interview. 'To classify something that's already been out in the public domain, what do you accomplish? It does harm to transparency in government, and it looks like an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.'s problems in translating intelligence.
"Any staffer who attended those briefings, or who learns about those briefings, should be aware that the F.B.I. now considers the information classified and should therefore avoid further dissemination,'' the Judiciary Committee memorandum said.

An F.B.I. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the decision to classify the material was made by the Justice Department, which oversees the bureau. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.
The Justice Department. Hmmmm, the department of which Ms. Edmonds, the FBI translator, was so critical. Okay, then. No problem, no conflict.

More Violations; More Denials
According to two top U.S. government sources, it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq’s prisons. A place where the normal rules of interrogation don’t apply, Delta Force’s BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists — but not the most wanted among Saddam’s lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards.

These sources say the prisoners there are hooded from the moment they are captured. They are kept in tiny dark cells. And in the BIF’s six interrogation rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner under water until he thinks he’s drowning, or smother them almost to suffocation.

In Washington Thursday evening, a senior Pentagon official denied allegations of prisoner abuse at Battlefield Interrogation Facilities operated by Delta Force in Iraq. And he said the tactics described in this report are not used in those facilities.
The "most egregious" ... I can only imagine.

Attempting to Keep the Faithful
pRresident Bush asked fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill on Thursday to 'keep the faith' as he sought to ease their jitters about Iraq and his lowest approval ratings ever.

Bush's approval ratings have slipped to the mid-to-low 40 percent range, the lowest of his presidency. No recent president has been re-elected with such numbers this close to the November elections.

'The color code alert level has moved from yellow to orange,' a senior Republican aide said. 'There isn't panic, but there is considerable concern.'
How appropriate:
House Republicans have become frustrated with some of their Republican colleagues in the Senate who they complain have failed to adequately stand up for Bush on TV talks shows.

'What's been causing a lot of heartburn is that some of these Senate Republicans who get on these talking head shows aren't 100 percent aligned with the president or his agenda,' said LaHood. 'We need House members on these shows.'
Yep, 100% aligned, that's the new definition of the Republican party. Parrot, parrot, I tell you ... no more no less. We need to get rid of all of these feckless faithful.

Chalabi Trumped
The raid on Ahmad Chalabi's headquarters in Baghdad on Thursday marks an ignominious fall for a man who helped make the U.S. case to topple Saddam Hussein but was seen as a duplicitous opportunist by U.S. diplomats and spies.
The Administration no longer needs Chalabi. Did he deceive Cheney, Wolfowitz, Tenet et al? Not hardly. It was no secret that Chalabi was, to put it politely, unreliable (that was known by the mid-nineties if not sooner). However, they knew he would tell a story they wanted put out there to support their little Iraqi invasion scheme. It was a symbiotic relationship with all parties knowing exactly what they were getting. Now that things are unraveling, Chalabi's time is up and they hope they can have their cake and eat it too. They've already laid the groundwork. The bad intelligence was the result of the CIA being mislead. They will now point to Chalabi as the source of the deliberate deception, though he deceived no one. The deception was perpetrated on the American people by this Administration. They've been teetering for quite some time and yet no one has pointed out that there are really only two options - either they're completely incompetent morons or they're liars. It's that simple. Either option argues they should be removed from power. Hell hath no fury like a prostitute scorned; Chalabi could prove to be a wild card.

Update: A little Chalabi history

Nancy's Drawing The Curtain
The emperor has no clothes,' Pelosi, D-California, told reporters on Thursday. 'When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back.'
"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."

Asked specifically if she was calling Bush incompetent, Pelosi replied:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."
Pelosi did not back down, even when asked if her comments would undermine Bush's abilities as commander in chief.

"His activities, his decisions, the results of his actions are what undermines his leadership, not my statement," Pelosi said. "My statements are just a statement of fact."
Finally, someone with the 'balls' to call it what it is and throw it back in their faces when they try to misdirect by claiming it's opposition that undermines his laughable abilities. Go Nancy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Perfectly Usefulless Diversion

Who couldn't find a use for a virtual stapler?
Via Pen-Elayne

Hey, depending on your mouse proficiency, you might be able to use it to send morse code.

Oh, Are You Still Here?
It remains unclear whether the CIA was wrong about Iraq's purported prewar mobile biological weapons laboratories, the White House said on Wednesday, disputing a comment by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Rest in peace, Colin. Don't let the 792 US military casualities or the thousands of Iraqi deaths weigh too heavily on you, though you likely had the power to prevent it all.

Rudy's 9/11 Glory Has Worn Thin
Outraged relatives of World Trade Center victims heckled former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Wednesday as their hopes that he would be grilled by the Sept. 11 commission faded in the face of gentle questioning and effusive praise from panel members.

'My son was murdered because of your incompetence!' shouted Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son died in the trade center. Seated three rows behind Giuliani, she jabbed her finger at the former mayor and waved a sign that read 'Fiction' as he gave the city's emergency response a glowing review.

Giuliani finished his testimony and abruptly left the auditorium minutes later, upsetting family members who said they received few answers. Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband, Richard, called it a 'lost opportunity.'

'This was not a time for Rudy Giuliani to talk about all the great things he did on 9/11,' she said. 'He can save that for his talking tours. He should have told us what went wrong and what we should do now.'
Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged has more on Guiliani's brilliance leading up to 9/11.

Still Givin' To Paul
The house of Representatives plans to take up a bill this week that would provide new tax breaks to families earning as much as $309,000, while doing next to nothing for those at the low end of the income scale. The bill, which could come up as early as today, is the most egregious part of a House tax-cutting spree that altogether would add more than $500 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

The House would not only make permanent the $1,000-per-child tax credit enacted as part of the 2001 tax cut but would dramatically increase the income limits for eligibility. Currently, married families with incomes of up to $110,000 receive the full credit; the bill would more than double the income ceiling, to $250,000. Under existing law, families with two children and incomes up to $149,000 receive a partial tax credit; the bill would make that partial credit available to families with two children and income of between $250,000 and $289,000; families with three children would be entitled to the partial credit up to an income of $309,000.
Yeah, it's kinda hard to get by on a mere 300 grand and then you add a kid or two ...impossible.

Nothing is Beneath Them
Like many of its predecessors, the Bush White House has used the machinery of government to promote the re-election of the president by awarding federal grants to strategically important states. But in a twist this election season, many administration officials are taking credit for spreading largess through programs that President Bush tried to eliminate or to cut sharply.

White House Is Trumpeting Programs It Tried to Cut: "For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.

The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination.
Likewise, John Kerry wants a $.50 tax on gas and voted against supporting our troops in Iraq. It never ends.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

'Context' From the Pill Popping Wing Nut
Via Media Matters for America

From the May 18 Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: [A] suicide bomber killed the rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council [Ezzedine Salim, on May 17]. Now, I’m sitting here and I’m sitting here, waiting. I am waiting for [Senator] Ted Kennedy to get up on the floor of the U.S. Senate and to demand that we could have prevented this. We could have prevented this suicide bombing if we would have just really gotten some decent intelligence from prisoners that we had incarcerated at Abu Ghraib prison. … I’m waiting for the unblinking [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi to be shocked that we have not done whatever necessary to find out more about these kinds of actions before they take place. And I’m going to wait for [CNN anchor] Wolf Blitz [sic] to line up [Senators] Carl Levin and Joe Biden and Pat Leahy to demand an inquiry -- how come it is that we don’t have decent enough intel to find out when these kind of events are going to happen.

In other words, where was the torture when we needed it? [laughter] Well? Where was the torture when we -- why did we stop short? Why did we stop short and not really get the information necessary from the people that we had. Not -- well, that one. You think this is a reach! You think this is a stretch? Come on, now. It’s an election year. And to get a Liberal in the White House, anything goes. It doesn’t matter if it’s hypocrisy, or not. If it -- if -- if -- if they think that it’ll get the White House, they’ll say it. They’ll do it.

I mean, don’t be surprised if George Soros puts up a few hundred million dollars for a torture institute at the new torture university to teach people how it’s really done, to show how Bush and Rumsfeld are inept.

Look, we’re facing an election. The Left will say anything -- anything -- to get a Democrat in the White House, as is -- as is evidenced.

You know, what I’m trying to do, actually, here is put this in some sort of context. Look at what we’re doing. We are still, at this moment, wringing our hands over these photos out of this prison. … The Democrats. The Left. They’re still wringing their hands over these prison photos -- all this abuse! All of this humiliation. Meanwhile, there’s a car bombing. The president of the Iraqi Provisional Authority is blown up into smithereens and we’re still worried about what we’re doing -- in the prison.

You know, we, folks -- you and I, the administration -- we’re focused on Iraqi freedom and all these other Democrats are focused on the Kerry inauguration, and that is about the best way to put all this in perspective.
You know, I was listening to the O'Franken factor for a while the other day when their 'dittohead' called the show. He was complaining and saying how he didn't like it that everyone on the left always criticized him and his ilk as being stupid. Al and Katherine were (I thought) too nice and said they didn't go along with that idea and didn't think most people on the left thought that way. I ask, when you listen to this kind of hateful and ludicrous garbage, what are we supposed to think of you? I hope George Soros puts some cash into suing this cretin. The fact that Rush and his fans support this administration should be reason enough for a presidential rotation but then we're not exactly shy on legitimate reasons for that are we?

No Legal Reason
Texas executed a mentally ill convicted double murderer on Tuesday, an hour after Gov. Rick Perry denied a rare clemency recommendation from the state's pardons and parole board.

Kelsey Patterson, a 50-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for the 1992 shootings of an east Texas oilman and his secretary.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday recommended in a 5-1 vote that Patterson's sentence be delayed or commuted to life in prison because of his mental illness. It was a rare decision in a state that prides itself on unforgiving justice and leads the nation in executions.

Perry denied the board's recommendation an hour before Patterson was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in downtown Huntsville, 75 miles north of Houston.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded individuals but has no such ban for the mentally ill.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Yeah, gov you wouldn't want to take a stand that it's cruel and unusual punishment and commute his sentence to life in an appropriate mental health facility. On the other hand you give the nation your criminally stupid and religiously insane showing us no mercy, so I guess Texas is at least consistent.

On second thought ...
Sonia Gandhi's Congress party is scrambling to form a government after she tearfully gave up her chance to become prime minister to protect the new administration from damaging attacks over her Italian birth.
And we thought having a Supreme Court select a pResident was an election oddity.

I sure hope Peter has got those pearly gates polished; Felix is on his way.

'night, Tony and thanks.
In a career starting in the 1940s,Randall worked in radio, on Broadway, in television and film, but he was best known for his 'Odd Couple' role, which earned him an Emmy in 1975 and became a perennial favorite in syndication.

On winning his Emmy for the just-canceled show, Randall gave one of the more memorable acceptance speeches, saying, 'I sure am glad I won. Now if I only had a job.'

Monday, May 17, 2004

I swiped this little Eric Idle ditty from Michael at Musing's musings, who in turn got it from Sid's Fishbowl.

Caution: Listener Discretion advised. It is an FCC song or rather one to P*#! off the FCC. One of the original seven dirty words is repeated often.

Billmon does a little breakdown dancing to the DOD's nondenial-denial of the latest allegations by both Sy Hersh and Newsweek regarding the pre-approval of Abu Ghraib interrogation methods by Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Bush.

Is it just me or is it getting warm in here?

Paul Vitello gives us a review of the "politics of prose", or is that the prose of politics? Here's a taste:
God: 1. n. A buddy of President Bush. Ex. "God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us ..." - Bush, speaking to a youth group in Los Angeles March 3. 2. The almighty, who has no exclusive party or religious affiliation.
And George and his buddy are really 'outraged' right now - see earlier post.

In case you're interested ...

is apparently what the 'world coming to an end' looks like.
Elated and in some cases incredulous at making history, gays and lesbians by the dozens exchanged vows and were pronounced 'partners for life' Monday as Massachusetts became the first state to let same-sex couples marry.

The nuptials ranged from quick city-hall ceremonies to ornate weddings in downtown Boston churches, complete with champagne and fancy cakes. Among the touches: matching orange bow ties, rainbow flags and confetti, the Boston Gay Men's Chorus singing 'Marry Us,' and a special rendition of 'Here Come the Brides.'

'When everybody wakes up tomorrow and sees nothing bad happened — it's the same world it was the day before, there are only more people that are equal to them — they're going to see there was nothing to fear," Sheldon Goldstein said after obtaining a marriage license.

Fewer than a half-dozen countries allow same-sex couples to marry.

Only a few protesters bothered to show up in Massachusetts, but some conservative leaders expressed outrage and President Bush renewed his call for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages nationwide.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Here we go the the 'outrage' again - they really need to take a break those glass houses they live in are a tad fragile.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Entertainment Tonight

Here's a catchy little tune and
a SOTU speech you may not have seen.

Hey, Joe?
Shut up - no one asked for your opinion.

Jeebus, there's that McCain thing again. We have some great Democratic candidates and while McCain may not be an ideal Republican from time to time, he'd make a lousy Democrat. For anyone who has followed him with any regularity, he's not that appealing either to Democrats or Independents. The man is little more than a whore with occasional bright spots. Yes, a decorated POW veteran too -perhaps that explains his occasional bouts of brilliance and conscience. Kerry ought to put a stop to this -it makes him look weak and desperate. Taking off from the discussion on MTP, he could say that McCain's chances of VP or Secretary of Defense would be about as likely as Biden's shot at Secretary of State.

Grasping at Straw Terrorists
President Bush on Friday blamed al Qaeda supporter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for beheading American Nicholas Berg and cited him as an example of Saddam Hussein's 'terrorist ties' before the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Bush's revival of accusations linking Saddam to terrorism comes as the president faces growing doubts among Americans over his Iraq policy.

At a fund-raising lunch in Bridgeton, Missouri, Bush said Zarqawi was an example of the threat posed by the ousted Iraqi leader. 'We knew he (Saddam) had terrorist ties. The person responsible for the Berg death, Zarqawi, was in and out of Baghdad prior to our arrival, for example,' Bush said.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Revival, crusade ... do we see a pattern here? Jeebus, this guy just doesn't give up ... what color is the sky on his planet?

If you had any doubts ...
about the respect afforded Colin Powell in this administration, this exchange with an assistant press secretary during a televised interview on Meet The Press should remove them.
Russert: Finally, Mr. Secretary, in February of 2003, you placed your enormous personal credibility before the United Nations and laid out a case against Saddam Hussein citing...

Powell: Not off.

Emily: No. They can't use it. They're editing it. They (unintelligible).

Powell: He's still asking me questions. Tim.

Emily: He was not...

Powell: Tim, I'm sorry, I lost you.

Russert: I'm right here, Mr. Secretary. I would hope they would put you back on camera. I don't know who did that.

Powell: We really...

Russert: I think that was one of your staff, Mr. Secretary. I don't think that's appropriate.

Powell: Emily, get out of the way.

Emily: OK.

Powell: Bring the camera back, please. I think we're back on, Tim. Go ahead with your last question.

Russert: Thank you very much, sir. In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called Curveball had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological and chemical weapons. How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?

Powell: I'm very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully; we looked at the sourcing in the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate. And so I'm deeply disappointed. But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation, it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment of the intelligence community. But it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.

Russert: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us again and sharing your views with us today.

Powell: Thanks, Tim.

Russert: And that was an unedited interview with the secretary of state taped earlier this morning from Jordan. We appreciate Secretary Powell's willingness to overrule his press aide's attempt to abruptly cut off our discussion as I began to ask my final question.
How pathetic is that? Emily Miller, an assistant press secretary has no qualms about interrupting the Secretary of State during a televised interview because he's getting asked an uncomfortable question - never mind that it also happens to be one he has already been asked on many occasions and is not likely to deviate from his prior script. Well, in some respects, I guess he is getting the respect he so richly deserves given his performance these past years. Sleepin' well at night Colin? 784 and counting ... the number of US casualities you likely could have prevented had you spoken up before the unnecessary Iraqi invasion. You know, back when you still had a reputation worth salvaging.

Eat My Dust
"I thought we were having a race, where'd everybody go?"
Now Smarty Jones is chasing Seattle Slew and Affirmed in earnest.

The chestnut colt from Philadelphia romped through the second leg of the Triple Crown yesterday to win the 129th Preakness by a record margin and take aim at immortality.

If Smarty Jones can take the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, he will become thoroughbred horse racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and the first to do it without a defeat since Seattle Slew in 1977.
If yesterday's run was any indication, this fella isn't 'chasing' any horse. Bet there's all sorts of brotherly love, extended to this hometown boy. Two down, one to go. I had the trifecta (too bad I didn't place a bet although I have the satisfaction fo beating the hubby who had Imperialism and Lion Heart in the 2nd and 3rd spots) - Rock Hard 10 is a mighty fine lookin' gent.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I've been meaning to link to for quite some time now to Sherman P. Wright who has the Dittohead Word of the Day so ... here's a taste:

Stem Cell Research  A Conservative initiative for Offshoring a promising new area of Science, since Drugs from Foreign Countries are cheaper.

Note: The links to the internal words, that also are defined, are intra-server links and aren't functional here.

Tom Burka, Opinions You Should Have, has the satire synthesizer working overtime this week go see:
Democrats Outraged By Outrage at Outrage
Harvard Business School To Honor Bush With New Degree
He's in great form as usual, go have a laugh.

For the Resurgence of a Human Rights Champion
A double-header - my other man Jimmy (Carter not Breslin - though I'm found of the latter as well) weighs in on our new human rights policies:
To ensure that additional human rights embarrassments will not befall the United States, we must examine well-known, high-level and broad-based U.S. policies that have lowered our nation's commitment to basic human rights.

Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, many traumatized and fearful U.S. citizens accepted Washington's new approach with confidence that our leaders would continue to honor international agreements and human rights standards.
These American decisions had an immediate global impact. In response to urgent requests from human rights defenders from many countries, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I agreed that it would be helpful to hear directly from a representative group. After the high commissioner's tragic death in Iraq last August, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Bertrand Ramcharan to serve as my co-chair, and in November 2003 the Carter Center brought together leaders of human rights and democracy movements from 41 nations.

We learned from these nonviolent activists that U.S. policies are giving license to abusive governments and even established democracies to stamp out legitimate dissent and reverse decades of progress toward freedom, with many leaders retreating from previous human rights commitments. Lawyers, professors, doctors and journalists told of being labeled as terrorists, often for merely criticizing a government policy or carrying out their daily work. Equally disturbing are reports that in some countries the U.S. government has pushed regressive counterterrorism laws, based on the USA Patriot Act, that undermine democratic principles and the rule of law. Some American policies are being challenged by Congress and the federal courts, but the reversal of such troubling policies is unlikely in countries where legislative and judicial checks and balances are not well developed.
In the interests of security and freedom, basic reforms are needed in the United States and elsewhere, including restrictions on governments' excessive surveillance powers; reassertion of the public's right to information; judicial and legislative review of detentions and other executive functions; and strict compliance with international standards of law and justice.

The United States must regain its status as the champion of freedom and human rights.
Thank you, Jimmy. Did I ever mention that I voted for him four times? The first time, I had the great good fortune to have come of age in time to vote for the first (and unfortunately last to date) presidential candidate that I was excited and proud to support. My other main man (Wes Clark) won't be on the ballot in November but that didn't stop me from voting for Jimmy the 3rd and 4th times either. So, maybe I'll write Wes in this time. Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist -I live in a state that will only vote in a Democrat for president if the rapture comes and wipes out all of the Republican candidates. We don't even have a challenger for the idiot in the US Senate seat that's up this year - yep, unopposed.

Broken Engagement
My man Wes writes of understanding what it takes to bring Democracy to the Middle East (Washington Monthly):
During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam's alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam's security forces aren't. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved 'only through Baghdad,' seems further away than ever.

Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This argument is still standing because not enough time has elapsed to test it definitively--though events in the year since Baghdad's fall do not inspire confidence. For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab world about the importance of democracy, there's another report of moderate Arabs feeling their position undercut by the backlash against our invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving up its WMD program), there's an instance of backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist parliamentarians).

Whether or not you agreed with the president's decision to invade Iraq--and I did not--there's no doubt that America has a right and a duty to take whatever actions are necessary, including military action, to protect ourselves from the clear security threats emanating from this deeply troubled part of the world. Authoritarian rule in these countries has clearly created fertile ground for terrorists, and so establishing democratic governance in the region must be seen as one of our most vital security goals. There is good reason, however, to question whether the president's strategy is advancing or hindering that goal.
President Bush's approach to Iraq and to the Middle East in general has been greatly influenced by a group of foreign-policy thinkers whose defining experience was as hawkish advisors to President Reagan and the first President Bush, and who in the last few years have made an explicit comparison between Middle Eastern regimes and the Soviet Union. These neoconservatives looked at the nest of problems caused by Middle East tyranny and argued that a morally unequivocal stance and tough military action could topple those regimes and transform the region as surely as they believed that Reagan's aggressive rhetoric and military posture brought down the Soviet Union. In a March 2002 interview on CNN, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main architects of the Iraq war, argued that the moral judgment that President Bush made "very clear, crystal clear in his State of the Union message" in which he laid out the Axis of Evil is "exactly the same kind of clarity, I think, that Ronald Reagan introduced in understanding the Soviet Union." In a speech last year, Defense Department advisor Richard Perle made the comparison even more explicit: "I have no doubt that [Bush] has the vision that Ronald Reagan had, and can envision, can contemplate change on a very large scale in Iraq and elsewhere across the region."

This dream of engineering events in the Middle East to follow those of the Soviet Union has led to an almost unprecedented geostrategic blunder. One crucial reason things went wrong, I believe, is that the neoconservatives misunderstood how and why the Soviet Union fell and what the West did to contribute to that fall. They radically overestimated the role of military assertiveness while underestimating the value of other, subtler measures. They then applied those theories to the Middle East, a region with very different political and cultural conditions. The truth is this: It took four decades of patient engagement to bring down the Iron Curtain, and 10 years of deft diplomacy to turn chaotic, post-Soviet states into stable, pro-Western democracies. To achieve the same in the Middle East will require similar engagement, patience, and luck.
"Moral clarity," President Bush said in his 2002 commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy, "was essential to our victory in the cold war. When leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents and exiles and rallied free nations to a great cause ... We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem." Never mind that the regime the administration was most intent on confronting was the one in the region that had perhaps the least to do with the events of September 11 or the immediate terrorist threat.

And the neoconservative goal was more ambitious than merely toppling dictators: By creating a democracy in Iraq, our success would, in the president's words, "send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran--that freedom can be the future of every nation," and Iraq's democracy would serve as a beacon that would ignite liberation movements and a "forward strategy of freedom" around the Middle East.

This rhetoric is undeniably inspiring. We should have pride in our history, confidence in our principles, and take security in the knowledge that we are at the epicenter of a 228-year revolution in the transformation of political systems. But recognizing the power of our values also means understanding their meaning. Freedom and dignity spring from within the human heart. They are not imposed. And inside the human heart is where the impetus for political change must be generated.

The neoconservative rhetoric glosses over this truth and much else. Even aside from the administration's obvious preference for confronting terrorism's alleged host states rather than the terrorists themselves, it was a huge leap to believe that establishing democracies by force of Western arms in old Soviet surrogate states like Syria and Iraq would really affect a terrorist movement drawing support from anti-Western sentiment in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Seeking to intervene and essentially impose a democracy on a country without real democratic traditions or the foundations of a pluralist society is not only risky, it is also inherently self-contradictory. All experience suggests that democracy doesn't grow like this. But we are where we are, and we must pull together to try to help this project succeed.
Any attempt to build democracy in the Islamic world must begin by taking into account Islam itself, the region's major source of culture, values, and law. There has been no "Protestant reformation" within the Muslim world. The teachings of the Koran tend to reflect an absolutism largely left behind in the West. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that he would not accept the emergence of a theocratic state within Iraq, he gave voice to a profound concern: that even in Iraq, one of the more secularized Arab states, the majority of people look to Islam for their values and beliefs. (Indeed, Saddam himself in his final years in power increasingly turned to religious rhetoric to shore up support among his impoverished people). Inevitably, any lasting constitution there must entail compromises that reflect popular values. Hopefully, a form of government can emerge that reflects Islamic notions of rights, responsibilities, and respect but that is also representative in nature, reflects popular sovereignty, and retains the capacity to make pragmatic decisions.
We must also recognize that to be successful, we're going to need our European allies. Europe is closer to the Middle East geographically and more enmeshed with it economically. It is home to millions of Middle Eastern immigrants, who are a natural bridge across the Mediterranean. It is not so strongly associated with Israel in the minds of Arabs as we are. And yet, its very proximity gives Europe at least as much incentive as we have to fight terrorism and work for a stable, democratic Middle East. This makes the Bush administration's belittling and alienating of Europe all the more perplexing.
We need to take the American face off this effort and work indirectly. But there are some American faces that can be enormously useful. Among our greatest assets during the Cold War were immigrants and refugees from the captive nations of the Soviet Union. Tapping their patriotism toward America and love of their homelands, we tasked them with communicating on our behalf with their repressed countrymen in ways both overt and covert, nursing hopes for freedom and helping to organize resistance. America's growing community of patriotic Muslim immigrants can play a similar role. They can help us establish broader, deeper relationships with Muslim countries through student and cultural exchange programs and organizational business development.

We can't know precisely how the desire for freedom among the peoples of the Middle East will grow and evolve into movements that result in stable democratic governments. Different countries may take different paths. Progress may come from a beneficent king, from enlightened mullahs, from a secular military, from a women's movement, from workers returning from years spent as immigrants in Western Europe, from privileged sons of oil barons raised on MTV, or from an increasingly educated urban intelligentsia, such as the nascent one in Iran. But if the events of the last year tell us anything, it is that democracy in the Middle East is unlikely to come at the point of our gun. And Ronald Reagan would have known better than to try. [Nitpicker emphasis]
I generally self-title my posts but I used the article's title on this one as, unfortunately, it works on two levels. That is, we won't be taking Wes Clark to the 'prom' will we? As with the man, there's much more to the article as well - so go read.

Rummy Escapes to Iraq
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew into the eye of an Iraqi storm on Thursday, dropping in unannounced at Abu Ghraib jail to tell troops a prisoner abuse scandal there would not wreck America's mission.
The evening news was speaking of this as a "surprise" trip - I don't know what's so surprising, criminals often return to the scene of the crime.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

It's a Robbery Thing or Why Bush Gets Away with So Much
From Truth in Politics ...This Is A Hold-Up
Since Bush took office a steady stream of our money has found its way, one way or another, into the hands of Big Business.

Enron executives, et al, sold their stock, then left the dregs for their investors.

Energy companies colluded to raise the price of what we spend for heat and electricity.

Health costs have risen as has Health Insurance. Prescriptions prices are rising so fast no one can keep up. The cost of a week in a hospital is equal to a four-year college degree.

Gas lines have returned. Haven't seen them since the 70s. Gas is expected to go up through the summer...coming down in time for the election, we're told.

Commodities like lumber, steel, are all going up. Housing prices are also rising.

Onions have become a gourmet food. Milk prices just jumped. A $5 lunch is a balogna sandwich and an apple.

The average college education is going for $200K - for a bachelor's degree. Pell Grants cover less than half of that.
And no one seems to be complaining...why is that?

Ever notice that during a bank robbery, no one complains. We're all too scared. The man has a gun. He'll be gone in a few months. We can all relax again.

Then we can call the cops, right?