Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Celebrating a Christmas Truce

In the spirit of the season, a feel good article that should give hope to peacemakers. Found this at Progressive Dems who crossposted it at the Nation.
On November 11 of this year--the 80th anniversary of that 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when World War I ended--there was dedicated in Frélinghien, France, a memorial to the most remarkable event not merely of that particular conflict but perhaps of all conflicts.

The memorial recalls a soccer game played on Christmas Day, 1914, between men from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the 134th Saxon Infantry Regiment.

The Saxons regiment won the game 2-1.

Then, the two teams partook of plum pudding proffered by the Welshmen and a barrel of beer rolled onto the field by the Saxons. They sang a few carols and hung candles from a bush in the rough fashion of a Christmas tree.

It was "a quite social party," one soldier wrote home to his family.

This was no ordinary holiday party, however.

It was, the soldier suggested, "the most memorable Christmas I've ever spent."

Those who know their military history will recognize that what was remarkable about the game was that it involved soldiers in the service of the British king and German kaiser who, only hours before, had been battling one another--and who, in short order, would be battling once again.

They were participants in an event that was almost lost to history--the Christmas Truce of 1914.

The British and German governments denied that the truce even took place.

War historians neglected this chapter in the story of "the war to end all wars."

But those who participated in the truce remembered it.

Men like Alfred Anderson, who died in 2005 at the very ripe old age of 109.

In his last years, as rumors of the truce attracted the attention of new generations of historians and journalists, Anderson found finally that his recollection of that Christmas Truce of 1914--a brief respite from the carnage of World War I that saw soldiers of both sides in the conflict lay down their arms, climb out of their trenches and celebrate together along the 500-mile Western Front.

Anderson was the last surviving old soldier known to have participated in what he would refer to in his later years as "a short peace in a terrible war."

That peace, which was initiated not by presidents or prime ministers, but by the soldiers themselves, serves to this day as a reminder that war is seldom so necessary--nor so unstoppable--as politicians would have us believe.

So it comes as no surprise that the Christmas Truce of 1914 is a bit of history that many in power have neglected over the past 90 years.

But Anderson's long survival, and his clear memory, made it impossible to write this chapter out of history.

On December 25, 1914, Anderson was an 18-year-old soldier serving with 5th Battalion, Black Watch, of the British Army, one of the first to engage in the bloody trench warfare that was the ugliest manifestation of a war that claimed 31 million lives. But on that day, there was no violence.

Rather, Anderson recalled in an interview on the 90th anniversary of the truce, "there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas,' even though nobody felt merry."

The calls of "Merry Christmas" from the Brits were answered by Germans singing: "Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht."

The Brits responded by singing "Silent Night" in English. Then, from the trenches opposite them, climbed a German soldier who held a small tree lit with candles and shouted in broken English, "Merry Christmas. We not shoot. You not shoot."

Thus, began the Christmas Truce. Soldiers of both armies--more than a million in all--climbed from the trenches along the Western Front to exchange cigarettes and military badges. They even played soccer, using the helmets they had taken off as goalposts. And they did not rush to again take up arms. Along some stretches of the Front, the truce lasted into January of 1915.

Finally, distant commanders forced the fighting to begin anew.

Thus, it has ever been with war. As George McGovern, the decorated World War II veteran who would become one of America's greatest champions of peace, "old men (are always) thinking up wars for young men to die in."

But Anderson remembered, well beyond the century of two world wars and too many lesser conflicts, that the young men of opposing armies often have more in common with one another than they do with the old men who send them into battle.

Once, on a Christmas Day that ought not be forgotten, young men decided to make a short peace in a terrible war.

Ninety years on, Alfred Anderson and his comrades in the Christmas Truce of 1914 have a memorial.

Like most memorials erected along what was the western front, it recalls warriors.

But this is a monument to peace.

It invites us to recall the courage of those who chose, however briefly, to see the humanity in one another, and to lay down the arms of one of the most brutal wars this planet has ever seen, offers hope this weekend, as Christians mark the birth of the Nazarene who was called Prince of Peace. Perhaps, someday, we will make a Christmas truce that lasts not merely through the hours of good cheer on this Holiday but the whole year long.



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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bear With Me

I just had to reprint this brief photo essay that I just got in my inbox from Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy. I doubt he'll put it up on his own blog, so I feel OK in stealing it from him.
Polar Bear: I Come in Peace
Stuart Brown describes Norbert Rosing's striking images of
a wild polar bear coming upon tethered sled-dogs
in the wilds of Canada's Hudson Bay.


The photographer was sure that he was going to see the end of his dogs
when the polar bear wandered in, but ...






The Polar Bear returned every night that week
to play with the dogs.

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men (and Polar Bears.)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

A Big Lump of Coal From Conservative Santa

How would you like your preparations for Christmas to be interrupted by something like this?
Ho Ho Ho-rrendous.

From CNN:
A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area. Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said. The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.
[...]
TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
It's interesting to note the disparity over just how serious this is depending on who's doing the talking.
Some of the goop spilled into the tributary, but preliminary water quality tests show that the drinking water at a nearby treatment plant meets standards.

"I don't want to drink it. It doesn't look healthy to me," Jody Miles, who fishes in the Clinch River, told CNN affiliate WBIR. "Do you reckon they can bring all this life back that's going to die from all this mess?"

Still, there is the potential for more sludge to enter the water supply through waste runoff. "We're taking steps to stabilize runoff from this incident," Francis said. Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that "in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can't call it toxic."

One environmental attorney called that statement "irresponsible." The ash that gives sludge its thick, pudding-like consistency in this case is known as fly ash, which results from the combustion of coal. Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic and benzine, said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Uh huh. You can't call it toxic 'until an analysis comes in.' 'Preliminary' tests show the water meets standards. Well I would guess that, 'in terms of toxicity,' you can't call it safe either. A good secondary test might be to offer a couple of glasses to Mr. Francis and see if he's willing to drink it himself.

And before I leave this topic, I'd just like to say that this is once again NOT something that the cons can come back on with their old "who could have foreseen?" meme. Not only was this predictable, but it's happened before.
The most recent sludge dam breach was in Martin County, Kentucky, in 2000, which the EPA called the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Southeast. When the sludge dam breached, more than 300 million gallons of toxic sludge (about 30 times the amount of oil released in the Exxon Valdez oil spill) poured into tributaries of the Big Sandy River, killing virtually all aquatic life for 70 miles downstream of the spill.
[...]
At present, there are 45 impoundments in West Virginia alone that are considered at high risk for failure, and 32 are at moderate risk. In addition, most local communities are dependent on groundwater, which could be fouled by mining waste.


In other news: Did you see all the coverage of the aftermath in Bethesda Maryland of a burst water main - that led to dramatic helicopter rescues of several people from their cars when the road they were on suddenly turned into a raging river? Of course you did. The thing of it is, most of the news outlets reported the story much like someone who slows down to gawk at the carnage in the aftermath of a multi-vehicle pileup.

Shame on them. But that's the the standard we've come to expect from the Lamestream Media. Their reportage is generally shallow and vapid, and doubly so when to dig deeper would involve criticism of their corporate masters, or an examination of the failings of conservative thinking.

Not so with Rachel Maddow's report. Rachel quite properly takes a wider view of this incident. First she ties it in with the toxic sludge story, then branches out to include a steam pipe bursting in NYC and the collapse in Minneapolis of an interstate bridge across the Mississipi. The failure of the levees that resulted in Katrina going from disaster to calamity is also cited as attributable to one common theme: ignoring the creation and maintenance of INFRASTRUCTURE.

(Segment from Rachel's show, Dec. 23, 2008)

Rachel thinks infrastructure is a sexy issue. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it is certainly a vital issue.
Our country had a lot of infrastructure investment in the 1930s and in the 1950s, and we were due for an infrastructure upgrade in about 1980 and that's when a widely beloved president proposed turning back most of the federal aid highway program and all transit programs to the states.
(Clip of Saint Ronnie the Bad Actor):
"In this present crisis government is not the solution to our problem. Government IS the problem."
That was the philosophy, "no infrastructure spending for you.
So Rachel places the blame for these disasters where it belongs - with the small government philosophy of conservative Republicans. They love to privatize things, reduce taxes, and shrink government, in the infamous words of Grover Norquist, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Leaving the people of Bethesda Maryland drowning on River Street, the people of Kingston Tennessee drowning in a sea of toxic sludge, and the people of New Orleans without homes for the foreseeable future, many of them forever. Heckuva job, Saint Ronnie and your successors.

Other policies that conservatives like and have pushed especially hard for during the Bush crime spree of the last eight years magnify the misery resulting from leaving everything up to the corporate sector. The obvious one is deregulation, and let's examine how that ties in with privatization when conservatives try to push their philosophies. The less obvious is the push for tort reform.

Deregulation and privatization were just made for each other. Here's how the cons-ervatives want it to work. "We'll turn over responsibility for some given function to private enterprise while simultaneously relaxing (or even eliminating) the performance standards expected. The result should be the appearance of greater efficiency. Proving that we were right all along."

The problem is that the privateers don't do the same job that the government once did, because they are neither required nor expected to. Look at the great job KBR did with such things as wiring barracks buildings and providing drinking water to troops in Iraq. All because no standards were being enforced, and KBR took the most profitable and least ethical approach to the problem. I won't even go into how many construction projects were contracted for in Iraq but never completed, or the billions that just went missing without ever even being attached to any contracts at all.

Tort reform under Bush has, according to Wikipedia, focused on "limiting the number of claims, and capping the awards of damages." That is to say limiting claims against corporations, and capping the damages paid out, thus reducing costs and increasing profits. If a corporation goes up against an individual in court they will still have the full force of the law on their side.

Over time the words Tax and Spend have become a mantra of all that is wrong with liberal thinking in the conservative lexicon. But they have proven that if you don't tax, but spend anyway (as they ALWAYS do - big deficits were run under Reagan, Bush Senior and HUGE deficits by Bush the Lesser) you will run the government into massive debt, and the interest payments will baloon into a major budget item.

They've also proven that whatever spending they do is always tainted with corruption, like the bridge to nowhere that Ted Stevens and Sarah Palin both pushed so hard for. Thank Gawd that they were unsuccessful in that effort, but sadly most such pork-barrel projects go through, cost a lot of money and do no discernable good. 'Cause the Republican Santa is no better and possibly worse than the Republican Jesus.

Let's hope that the adults will be in charge in the new year, and that they will do a better job. At least they aren't held back from doing the right thing by a history of entrenched ideology. An ideology that has clearly become utterly discredited by reality. But then reality testing has never been a conservative strong point.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Afghanistan Surge Planned

US increases Afghan troop pledge
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff says up to 30,000 extra troops could be sent to Afghanistan in 2009, almost doubling the US presence
[...]
On Friday, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates ordered the deployment of a combat aviation brigade by spring.

There are currently 31,000 US troops in the country, 14,000 of whom are part of the 51,000-strong Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

Speaking to reporters after a visit to the Afghan capital, [J-CoS chairman] Adm Mike Mullen revealed that the US military planned to as much as double its presence by the middle of next year in order to fight the growing Taliban insurgency.
Wait a sec. Lame Duck pResident George Warmonger Bush claimed that the Taliban were destroyed as early as 2003, and has repeated the claim numerous times since. Maybe he brought them back to accomodate the millions of patriotic 'country first' Republicans who feel that leaving Iraq by 2011 may not give them sufficient chance to die heroically in the service of their country. It reminds me of the old Vietnam-era song by Country Joe and the Fish (bowdlerized somewhat.)
Mothers and fathers throughout the land/
Send your children to Afghanistan/
...Be the first one on the block to have your boy come home in a box.
And it's 1, 2, 3, What are we fighting for?
Good question. What are we fighting for? Looking for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan is about as likely to produce results as looking for WMDs under the couch in the Oval Office. "Stabilizing the region" and "spreading democracy and freedom" are obvious canards. So what's left other than protecting the heroin trade?

Frankly I don't like the fact that Barack Obama's going along with this strategy. It's not change I can believe in. Nor do I hold out much hope that all the newly elected Democrats in the House and Senate are going to spend their political capital on trying to put an end to what is obviously a futile exercise in big stick foreign policy. I'm ready to concede that the next four years are going to be not much better than the last eight.

Sad, but true.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

This Explains a Lot

From BBC News: Baby born with 'foot in brain'
US surgeons operating on a brain tumour in a baby boy found a tiny foot inside his head.

Doctors operated on three-day old Sam Esquibel after finding what looked like a microscopic tumour on an MRI scan.

But while removing the growth, they also found a nearly perfect foot and the partial formation of another foot, a hand and a thigh.

The growth may have been a case of "foetus in foetu" in which a twin begins to form within its sibling.

However, the team at Memorial Hospital for Children in Colorado Springs said such cases very rarely occur in the brain.

It may also have been a type of congenital brain tumour.

Although extremely rare this is not the first time that such a congenital defect has happened in America. In the first instance the infant was born July 6, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut. Doctors at the time were unable to perform the delicate surgery to remove the foot. Sadly the foot has now grown to a size 10 (how ironic is that?) leaving little room inside the skull for any brain. Even more sadly the first infant went on to become President of the United States of America.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cheney Confessed on Purpose

During Dick Cheney's interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl, the vice president admitted to authorizing waterboarding. Cheney said that he supported the process of getting it cleared. He called waterboarding, "a remarkably successful effort", and said, "I think the results speak for themselves."

Actually, the results don't speak at all. We have no idea what information waterboarded detainees have provided. If Cheney can come forward and admit that he committed a war crime without fear of prosecution, then he can damn sure tell us if tortured detainees gave us information that saved American lives.

As for the gravity of Cheney's admission, Rachel Maddow breaks it down:

Nice use of Ron Suskind by Rachel in this segment.

Over at the HP, David Latt says that Cheney's admission is a signal to Bush for a pardon.
There are those who see the vice president's admission as part of a strategy to force the president to pardon him and all those named in the Senate Report: Rumsfeld, Meyers, and Rice. If Bush doesn't pardon them, they will certainly be pursued by those in the new administration who will not let-bygones-be-bygone.

Since Bush has been famously reticent to grant pardons both as governor and president, then Cheney's ABC interview with Jonathan Karl is a way of provoking Bush to act while he still can. If Cheney is pardoned then he'll have it both ways: maintaining that what was done was legal and being protected from prosecution.
Latt is onto something. Cheney didn't accidentally confess.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

McCain Campaign Still Making Mistakes

You'd think that more than a month after the election the McCain campaign would be finished at least with making glaring mistakes. You would be wrong.

You may recall this story from PC World posted a couple of weeks ago:
What do you do when you lose a presidential election by a sizeable margin? Sell everything associated with your prolonged failure, that's what! The McCain-Palin campaign is selling leftover equipment -- including some sweet tech -- at bargain basement prices at McCain's Arlington, Virginia headquarters.

An e-mail sent to McCain-Palin campaign staff -- subsequently released to The Washington Post -- reads:
"Starting Monday December 8, 2008 the prices will be slashed to 36% of the original price for furniture, office supplies, blackberries, and many campaign computers. This is a great opportunity to own a piece of history, finish your Christmas shopping, or simply replace your old laptop."
I don't know about you, but owning a "piece of history" shouldn't be on par with replacing "your old laptop."

Among the tech goodies for sale are:

- A Dell Latitude D620 laptop for $417.00.
- A Dell Latitude D820 laptop for $570.00.
- Brother multifunction printer for $189.00.
- RIM Blackberry 8700c for $30.00.
- Folding chairs for $3.60 each.
- A 55-cup steel coffee urn for $77.00.
- A power strip for $1.
- Ethernet cables for $1 a pound.

Wowwie! Those are some primo deals. But I'm holding out for the Blackberry that McCain invented, or the computer used by Palin to discover that Africa is not, in fact, a country.
So how did that work out? Fast forward to a few days ago, and this story. From ChannelWeb:
Oops! McCain Camp Sells Loaded BlackBerry

An Arlington, Va.-based Fox 5 investigative team this week said they bought a Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry from the McCain-Palin camp containing a plethora of confidential campaign information including phone numbers, emails and other information.

According to the reporters' take, the campaign was selling off used office inventory at bargain prices at its headquarters, including phones, computers and other equipment. Among the hot items, several $20 BlackBerry smart phones with dead batteries and no chargers included. The reporters bought a couple.

"When we charged them up in the newsroom, we found one of the $20 BlackBerry phones contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night," Fox 5 investigative reporters Tisha Thompson and Rick Yarborough wrote in their account.

The pair was able to trace the BlackBerry back to a "Citizens for McCain" staffer, a group of Democrats that put their support behind the Republican presidential nominee. According to the reporters, the emails offered an inside glimpse into how grassroots operations work and included a host of scheduling questions and please (sic) for support.

Many of the numbers the campaign failed to wipe, or permanently delete, from the device were private cell phone numbers for campaign leaders, politicians, lobbyists and journalists, the report said. Failing to remove information from a device before selling it could result in a serious breach of security.

Selling an unwiped BlackBerry is not really a flub expected from McCain, considering one of his advisors once credited McCain with inventing the smart phone.

The pair decided to call some of the numbers.

"Somebody made a mistake," one owner told them. "People's numbers and addresses were supposed to be erased."

Another noted: "They should've wiped that stuff out," later adding "Given the way the campaign was run, this is not a surprise."
Maybe McCain didn't invent the smart phone after all. Seems to me that the phone, like any piece of high-tech equipment, is only as smart as the person using it. McCain deserved to lose, and the nation dodged a bullet when it elected Barack Obama. It continue to be the case that no matter how disappointing the Democrats are, the Republicans are much, much worse.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoe Throwing Hero Brutally Beaten

From the BBC:
The brother of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush has said that the reporter has been beaten in custody.

Muntadar al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC. Mr Zaidi threw his shoes at Mr Bush at a news conference, calling him "a dog".

The head of Iraq's journalists' union told the BBC that officials told him Mr Zaidi was being treated well.
[...]
Mr Zaidi told our correspondent that despite offers from many lawyers his brother has not been given access to a legal representative since being arrested by forces under the command of Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but my definition of being treated well does not result in a broken hand, broken ribs, internal bleeding and an eye injury. Nor does this brutal response jibe with Bush's own protestations that 1) it wasn't that big a deal and 2) that it was somehow an example of the new freedoms that Iraqis enjoy thanks to the heroic efforts of US troops. And we already know too well that Bush's definition of freedom includes being locked up in a cell indefinitely and denied legal representation.

As the same BBC article shows, Mr. Zaidi is now regarded more as a hero than a criminal - which hardly bodes well for Bush's attempts to pass the whole thing off as insignificant. Reaction to the incident only underlines how misguided it is to brutalize someone who now has a reputation as a hero in the Middle East.
Our correspondent says that the previously little-known journalist from the private Cairo-based al-Baghdadia TV has become a hero to many, not just in Iraq but across the Arab world, for what many saw as a fitting send-off for a deeply unpopular US president.
[...]
The shoes themselves are said to have attracted bids from around the Arab world. According to unconfirmed newspaper reports, the former coach of the Iraqi national football team, Adnan Hamad, has offered $100,000 (£65,000) for the shoes, while a Saudi citizen has apparently offered $10m (£6.5m).

The daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Aicha, said her charity would honour the reporter with a medal of courage, saying his action was a "victory for human rights". The charity called on the media to support Mr Zaidi and put pressure on the Iraqi government to free him.
Does anybody remember back when Bush was trying to sell this war to the American people, the UN and an array of countries who might join the coalition of the willing? One of the talking points was how the general Arab and Muslim world would embrace American intervention in the region and move towards a more stable and US-friendly footing. How's that working out for you Mr. Bush?


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Open Thread

Can we get a BWA HA HA for this item from the BBC?
Shoes thrown at Bush on Iraq trip


" A surprise visit by US President George Bush to Iraq has been overshadowed by an incident in which two shoes were thrown at him during a news conference.

An Iraqi journalist was wrestled to the floor by security guards after he called Mr Bush "a dog" and threw his footwear, just missing the president.

The soles of shoes are considered the ultimate insult in Arab culture.

[...]

His previously unannounced visit came a day after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told US troops the Iraq mission was in its "endgame".

In the middle of the news conference with Mr Maliki, a reporter stood up and shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," before hurtling his shoes at Mr Bush, narrowly missing him.

"All I can report is a size 10," Mr Bush said according to the Associated Press news agency "
heh heh
heh heh heh
Laugh My Frickin' Ass Off!!

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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UPDATE: (from the BBC again)
Thousands of Iraqis have demanded the release of a local TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.

Crowds gathered in Baghdad's Sadr City district, calling for "hero" Muntadar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf.

Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, also called for the release of their journalist.
This just keeps getting better and better. The only thing is Bush is such a delusional psychopath that the insult will roll off of him like water off a lame duck's back.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gates Signals Endless War in Afghanistan

Canada should consider extension of Afghanistan mission,
Gates suggests

From CBC.ca:
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates hinted on Thursday that Canada should extend its military mission in Afghanistan past the 2011 scheduled end date.

Gates, who arrived at Canada's main base in Kandahar on Thursday, was asked by a reporter whether Canada should continue its mission

"The countries that have partnered with the United States and Afghanistan here in [regional command] south have made an extraordinary commitment and proportionately none have worked harder or sacrificed more than the Canadians," said Gates, who arrived at Canada's main base in Kandahar on Thursday.

"They have been outstanding partners for us and all I can tell you is has been the case for a very long time, the longer we can have Canadian soldiers as our partners the better it is."
Canada has been a coalition partner in the occupation of Afghanistan since 2001. I think the original idea of going in there was to catch Osama Bin Laden, but mission creep has turned the project into something else entirely. OBL is now in Pakistan if he even exists. One other thing - almost as soon as we got there an American pilot high on speed killed four Canadian soldiers by dropping a bomb on them. Then the US pulled a large number of troops out of Afghanistan and redeployed them to Iraq, making the remaining allied troops' mission much much more difficult.

Most Canadians have no idea why we're even in Afghanistan anymore, and anybody who's looked at the mission would conclude that we've been played by our trigger-happy imperialist southern neighbours. Like Iraq there doesn't seem to be any exit strategy, nor even any conditions defined under which the mission (if, without objectives, you can even use that word anymore) can be concluded.

I think it's fair to ask a few questions. First off I'd like to ask General Gates - if this 'mission' should be extended, why? And for how long exactly? By 2011 we'll have been there for a full decade, with little or nothing to show for it other than the fact that we've driven the Al Qaeda training camps further up into the mountains on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. On the downside we've provided ready-made propaganda to the other side so that those camps will be full of eager new recruits far into the foreseeable future. Heckuva job if you ask me.

I have questions for Canada's leaders too. Whoever they may turn out to be. Do we really want to be perceived by the rest of the world as being the lapdogs of American imperialist ambitions? This strikes me as being an extension not only of the war, but of the long french kiss that Stephen Harper has been applying to George W. Bush's ass for his entire term in office. By the end of January Bush will be gone, and Harper may have left the Prime Minister's Office as well. Is this a legacy we want to keep alive?

I wish I had questions about Barack Obama's intentions in Afghanistan. Sadly, he's made himself clear on that score.
CBC's David Common said Gates comments should not be considered a formal request, but that they are significant because the defence secretary is staying on in that role under Barack Obama's administration. As well, the president-elect has said getting more troops to Afghanistan is a priority.

Gates also told reporters that the Pentagon will move three brigades into Afghanistan by next summer,. the most specific he's been on when he'd begin meeting the requests of ground commanders asking for 20,000 troops.

The extra troops are expected to be deployed to Kabul to secure the capital before moving to Kandahar, considered the epicentre of violence and where most of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers in the region are based.
Should this request ever be formalized, I'm hoping Canada has the good sense to answer, "HELL, NO!!" And I say that as someone who initially supported the idea of going into Afghanistan, ousting the Taliban and pursuing the perpetrators of 9-11. Turns out that like everything else Bush the Lesser has done in the last eight years, the Afghanistan mission was a boondoggle based on a lie.

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UPDATE: Here's a news story from today's New York Times that adds another compelling reason to get the hell out of Afghanistan ASAP.

U.S. Forces Kill 6 Afghan Police Officers by Mistake
KABUL, Afghanistan

United States forces killed six Afghan police officers and one civilian on Wednesday during an assault on the hide-out of a suspected Taliban commander, the authorities said, in what an American military spokesman called a “tragic case of mistaken identity.” Thirteen Afghan officers were also wounded in the episode.

A statement issued jointly by the American and the Afghan military commands said a contingent of police officers fired on United States forces after the Americans had successfully overrun the hide-out, killing the suspected Taliban commander and detaining another man. The Americans had already entered the hide-out, a building in Qalat, the capital of the southern province of Zabul, when they came under attack by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from a compound nearby.

Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful. The Americans, concerned about women and children hiding in the building they had taken, returned fire using small arms and aircraft. After the firefight, the Americans discovered they had been shooting at Afghan police officers. But the deputy police chief of Qalat said the police officers had been in a police station when they came under American fire, which destroyed the station.
Friendly Fire = the most tragic of all oxymorons. This kind of stuff stops happening the day we leave.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rescued From the Memory Hole

Once again, three cheers for Keith Olbermann. This time the laurels are awarded for his piece comparing George W. Bush's 'legacy talking points' with reality. It should be presented with reference to this infamous quote from a Ron Suskind article in the NYT, from October 17, 2004, the quote attributed by Suskind to an unnamed Bush aide. (Source: Wikipedia)
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Those of us, including Olbermann, who inhabit the reality-based community don't think it works that way, but the Bush-bots persist in their delusions. K.O. schools them all, in what I think is one of his best segments ever.

"Rewriting History"

Oh, and by the way - Richard M. Nixon really was a crook despite all of his efforts to portray himself otherwise. This attempt at legacy tweaking is destined to fail just like everything else the Worst President Ever has tried his hand at. I mean really, how many Texas Rangers fans believe today that trading Sammy Sosa was a good move?

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Instant Update/Further Reading: This is a great piece from BBC News looking back on Britain's attempted occupation of Iraq back in the 1920s - an utter failure that could well be compared to the current mess there.
As the insurgency spread, the letters from the British diplomat in Baghdad grew bleaker. "We are in the thick of violent agitation and we feel anxious… the underlying thought is out with the infidel."

And then: "The country between Diwaniyah and Samawah is abandoned to disorder. We haven't troops enough to tackle it at present."

A month later: "There's no getting out of the conclusion that we have made an immense failure here."

In fact, this insurgency was in 1920, the uprising against the British occupation of what was then still Mesopotamia. The diplomat was Gertrude Bell, an energetic and passionate Arab expert who literally drew Iraq's borders.
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The Governor's IPod

Monday Night, Walkin' on Sunshine


Tuesday Morning, "What a Fool I've Been"


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Friday, December 05, 2008

How Can We Miss You

When You Won't Go Away?

This is just sick. Mary Beth Buchanan, whom I've previously dubbed the Queen Bee-Yotch of the Loyal Bushies, has stated that she intends to stay on as US Attorney in the Obama administration, despite being the worst partisan in the most partisan DoJ of all time.

The story, from Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly,
When the U.S. Attorney purge scandal was at its height, some federal prosecutors became famous for getting fired for purely political reasons. Other U.S. Attorneys became notorious for being loyal Bushies who seemingly used their offices to advance the Republicans' agenda.

Take Mary Beth Buchanan, for example, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh since 2001. Buchanan has been accused, repeatedly, of being one of the more blatantly partisan prosecutors in the country, and using her post to launch politically-motivated investigations. With Bush's second term nearly over, many have been looking forward to Buchanan stepping down, as all U.S. Attorneys do when the White House changes hands.

But therein lies the twist. As Faiz noted this morning, Buchanan wants to stay right where she is.

Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

"It doesn't serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time," she said yesterday. [....]

More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney's office.

"I am open to considering further service to the United States," Ms. Buchanan said.

Well, that's certainly generous of her to offer, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Obama administration will replace her very quickly if she refuses to step down.
And there's more, from the 11 O'clock News:

She’s been described by colleagues as the quintessential loyal Bushie. “She is very focused to the department first of all,” said one assistant U.S. attorney, who asked not to be named. “She’s not independent, and I don’t think she wants to be.”

During her tenure, Buchanan has been criticized for bringing politically-motivated investigations and charges against politicians in Western Pennsylvania, none more famous than the public corruption case against a local high-profile Democrat Dr. Cyril H. Wecht. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh told Congress that the Wecht prosecution is “not the type of case normally constituting a federal ‘corruption’ case brought against a local official.” (and let US not mention the Collar bomb "investigation")

Buchanan hired Monica Goodling, and she hand-picked a Pittsburgh attorney to serve as the U.S. prosecutor in Alaska, going over the heads of Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski. She also had a peripheral role in the U.S. attorney scandal:

She did talk with [Gonzales chief of staff Kyle] Sampson about some of the prosecutors who were ultimately fired, including Carol Lam, U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California…

But the most involvement Ms. Buchanan seemed to have in the firings, according to the report, was in meeting with former U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan of the Northern District of California.

Buchanan “has been criticized because her office has brought a number of high-profile cases against Democrats during her tenure, but rarely targeted members of her own party.” And now Buchanan wants to volunteer her services to President-elect Obama.

Here's a suggestion: Mary Beth, offer your services to defend Bush. He'll need all the help he can get.
Here's a stronger suggestion, for Barack Obama: Keep this woman on as US Attorney for more than 48 hours after your inauguration and you might as well announce your intention to become the electorate's nightmare - George Dubya Bush's third term. Keep her on longer than a week and she'll probably try to prosecute you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dan Hicks Performs "I Scare Myself"

(Because I couldn't find How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?)


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Saturday, November 29, 2008

‘Buy Nothing Day’ - Absurd, Empty, Symbolic Salve

Surely you've heard of Buy Nothing Day, the consumption protest conceived of by Adbusters, a glossy waste of paper dedicated to making you spend $8.00 an issue to feel really guilty. But like so many American-made protests, 'Buy Nothing Day' is just a symbolic substitute for real attitude change about consumption.

Instead, how about all agree that we consume too much, buy too much, waste too much, and dedicate ourselves to a Buy Smart Year. In a buy smart year we might decide, for example, to put off the purchase of a new MacBook till the second generation comes out—not only saving a chunk-o-change, but extending the life of a existing product and allowing us to avoid the notoriously buggy first generation of Apple-anything.

In a buy smart year, we'll decide to save up a bunch of necessary purchases and buy them all on Black Friday. Why would we do that? Well for one thing, Black Friday is when you get the mad discounts. So get out there and save yourself a bit of cash while at the same time saving gas by doing all your shopping on one trip.

In a buy smart year, we'll buy just one box of Ziploc freezer bags and make it last the whole year. We'll turn 'pizza night' into 'make something from whatever is in the fridge night'. We'll stop worrying so much about gas mileage and buy a used car instead of a new car. We'll commit to walking to every destination that is within a mile of our homes.

Finally...in buying smart for a whole year, we'll permanently change our habits and attitudes about consumption and make an empty gesture like 'Buy Nothing Day' irrelevant.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Bush Legacy

60 More Days of Awkward Moments Like This?
If he wasn't a career criminal and mass murderer, I'd almost feel sorry for him. Even so it feels a little unseemly of CNN to be so openly mocking him. I mean geez, he is still officially the Preznit. (He said as he gleefully piled on himself.)

To be fair, they could all be treating him like that because at dinner when he asked for the pepper all the interpreters misheard and translated it to "I'm a leper." Or he could be avoiding shaking hands because he sprained his wrist and nobody wants to aggravate his injury.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Go Rush Go

I never thought I'd ever say this, but you GO, RUSH LIMBAUGH!!

Good Riddance, GOP Moderates.
(WARNING - this is an actual link to the actual Rush Limbaugh site. Seriously, you don't want to go there.)

Here is an excerpt for those who understandably would never actually visit Rush's site. NOTE: This is the transcript of a program that ran Oct. 24, before the election.
They have just admitted that Republican Party "big tent" philosophy didn't work. It was their philosophy; it was their idea. These are the people, once they steered the party to where it is, they are the ones that abandoned it. We have noticed. Sarah Palin, by the way. Fred Barnes has a column at the next issue of the Weekly Standard about her future. Let me just give you one little pull quote from this. He asks her what her role in the Republican Party's future is going to be. She says, "I don't know what kind of role the Republican Party would want me to play." Well, make her the head of the party, for one thing! That might be a good idea. "In the past I've not been one to be considered for anything by the hierarchy of the party, certainly not in my state. In some sense, I ran against them in my party," and she's doing it again now!

She's running against her own party. Then she said this: "I would love to promote the party ideals if we're going to live out the ideals, and maybe allow other American voters to understand what the principles of the party are. We've gotta be assured we have enough people in the party who will live out those ideals as not just rhetoric, otherwise I'd be wasting my time. There are a lot of things I would and should be doing." So what she's saying is: "I'm not going to be a Republican if they're not going to be Republicans. I'm not going to beat my head against the wall. If we're going to have just a bunch of flourishing rhetoric people, if we're not going to have people in the party who actually live it and believe it, I'm not going to be part of it.

This is Sarah Palin to Fred Barnes; and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the rebuilding of the conservative movement -- even if there is no direct leader in charge of making it happen, it will happen by default because it's going to have to. Even if McCain wins, Colin Powell going to come running back? Is Bill Weld going to come running back? Hell, yes, they will! Hell, yes, they'll come running back. They'll do everything they can to stay in the circle of power. Of course they'll come running back. All these people are out for self-interest. That's what Sarah Palin is saying. She's not in it for self-interest. The party had better be what the party is or I don't have any future in it.

We're going to rebuild it even if McCain wins. We're going to have to. These people, these moderates who wanted the big tent, they have taken the party exactly where they said they wanted it to be -- and when it got there, these little cowards jumped the ship! I have lost all respect for these people. And, folks, when I said at the beginning of this that I wanted to turn around and pat myself on the back, it's because I (and so many like me) knew this exact thing was going to happen and tried to warn people about it during the primaries and so forth. I am not happy it's happened except for one reason. We flushed 'em out. We found out they're not really Republicans and they're by no means conservatives, and now they're gone. Now the trick is to keep 'em out.
IF - you exclude everyone in America that doesn't buy into your far-right cigar-chomping bullshit.

AND IF - you convince enough of the more influential Republicans to join you in your disdain for the center, the center-right, the moderates, the reasonable - IOW most of the public.

THEN - you will doom your party to decades of political obscurity and increasing isolation. Your best hope for survival will be to all move to Utah, then secede from the union.

So by all means GO FOR IT RUSH. I'm sure the results will be very entertaining. Not that Mr. Limbaugh is alone in the opinion that the Republican party has to move even further to the right. More on that here and here. Some, indeed many of these wingnuts would have advised the Titanic's captain to turn around and ram the iceberg again, only harder. After all the ship is unsinkable, right?

And, while we're on the subject of Reight-wing talk radio anyway...

RFK Jr. - "How the US News Media Fails Us"

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pink Floyd University - "On The Turning Away"

Have you ever been beaten senseless, just for being who you are?

I have. It's not a wonderful experience.

This picture is of David Graham, who at the time two years ago in 2006, was 26. He was a favorite to win the Australian version of the TV show "Big Brother" and tearfully outed himself on that program. And yep, he totally paid for it. With the beating of his life.

This is the physical version of the political version of what just happened in California with the passing of Proposition H8. In my opinion, what happened was that thugs jumped into the political process in the form of the Mormons, who mugged gay people of their previous ability and right to marry in that state.

This is the first time I can think of that rights were actually TAKEN AWAY in proposed legislation. The struggle for any groups rights have met defeat to actually gain the right sought, but never taken away to my knowledge. If someone knows of another case where that would be true, please speak up and let me know. I''d truly be interested in trying to compare the situations.

Now, let me get to why this is a Pink Floyd University Post. A snip from the lyrics of "On The Turning Away":


Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away

Which I believe is the point that RFK was really pounding during his run for the presidency. And it's fun for me that someone else has a bent that puts politics and Pink Floyd together:


Just change "negro" to "gay" and "Viet Nam" to Iraq/Afghanistan". Voila, today's realpolitik, plus!

I frankly do not think, as many folks have written on blogs or newspapers, or said on cable and other outlets, that it is the fault of African Americans that Prop H8 passed in California. I agree with Kathryn Kolbert of "People For The American Way," who wrote:

As a mother who has raised two children in a 30-year relationship with another woman, I fully understand the depth of hurt and anger at voters’ rejection of our families’ equality. But responding to that hurt by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.

Before we give Religious Right leaders more reasons to rejoice by deepening the divisions they have worked so hard to create between African Americans and the broader progressive community, let’s be clear about who is responsible for gay couples in California losing the right to get married, and let’s think strategically about a way forward that broadens and strengthens support for equality.

Others have taken on the challenge of looking at the basic numbers and concluded that it is simply false to suggest that Prop 8 would have been defeated if African Americans had been more supportive. The amendment seems to have passed by more than half a million votes, and the number of black voters, even with turnout boosted by the presidential race, couldn’t have made up that difference. That’s an important fact, but when African American supporters of equality are being called racist epithets at protests about Prop 8, the numbers almost seem beside the point.

Republicans and white churchgoers, among many other groups, voted for Prop. 8 at higher rates than African Americans. There are few African Americans in the inland counties that all voted overwhelmingly to strip marriage equality out of the California constitution. So why single out African Americans? Who’s really to blame? The Religious Right. Let’s start here:

Conservative evangelical leaders who are unremittingly hostile to the rights of gay people and who put Prop. 8 on the ballot and bombarded pastors, churchgoers, and the public with lies about gay people wanting to destroy their religious liberty and come for their children — even suggesting that Christians would be thrown in jail if Prop 8 passed.

Mormon Church leaders who turned Prop. 8 into a national religious crusade against gay couples, badgered Mormons nationwide to give heavily to the campaign, and recruited thousands of footsoldiers for door-to-door canvassing (special kudos to the courageous Mormons who challenged the Church leadership)

Conservative Catholic leaders who betrayed Catholic teaching about human dignity by enthusiastically joining forces with campaign organizers who portrayed supporters of gay equality as evil and satanic. “Yes on Prop 8” leaders whose view of the campaign as a battle between good and evil led to an “ends justifies the means” campaign that included grossly distorted ads, mailings, and robocalls directed at African Americans and falsely portrayed Barack Obama as a Prop 8 supporter.

There will be plenty of post-game analysis of the No on 8 campaign’s choices and strategies, and that’s not the purpose of this memo. But it is clear that the Yes on 8 campaign had a far more aggressive and systematic outreach to African American religious leaders and voters. If we either take black voters for granted because they are “supposed to” be liberal, or we write them out of our campaign strategies because we label them inherently homophobic, we cannot turn around and make them the scapegoat for our failings.

[Emphases and links added]


I really don't think that writing out black voters for any of the reasons Kathryn stated is the way to go. Nor do I think that labeling them homophobic is they way to go either, but having said that, the black men and hispanic men that I have had for friends and lovers in the past have often bemoaned the distance that's been created in their families for their own acceptance, and in my opinion, that gulf has at least been the same, or a little greater for those men I've known. There's plenty enough homophobia to go around, and it doesn't need a particular racial home as far as I'm concerned.

Homophobia just needs to go away.

Really, don't want a gay marriage? Don't have one.

Last reminder from The Wise Pink Ones:
Its a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that were all alone
In the dream of the proud

If you ask me, The Church Of Pink Floyd [so to say] would really be far more church-y than the Mormons and any other church folk who ran with the "Yes on 8" crowd.

Mary Magdalene was a whore if you believe the book. When I was gay bashed the first time in in 1979 [I was homeless and a easy target frankly], it was a prostitute and a transvestite who scooped me up and took me in and healed me, and then steeled me to the tough road ahead that was going to be in Phoenix at that time. That education was painful, but enduring.

At the end of the day, the day keeps on changing. I'm pretty OK with it that the battles for equality continue, as long as they actually do continue. And battle it is with the Mormons in particular and the Religious Right in general. After all, I have the whores and trans on my side.

I think that me, whores and trans are actually far more respectable at that same end of the day. After all, we're not the ones who are doing the "Turning Away."

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tell the President-Elect: Ban Torture

We believe that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear; that it degrades everyone involved -- policy- makers, perpetrators, and victims; and that it contradicts our nation's most cherished values. We believe that nothing less than the soul of our nation is at stake in our decisions and actions with respect to the use of torture.

- Linda Gustitus, President, and Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
These past eight years we have become a nation ruled by the whims of a spoiled rotten child, playing God with the lives of innocents. With the simple stroke of a pen, President-Elect Obama could right a horrible wrong, moving us back to a nation that respects the rule of law. The National Relgious Campaign Against Torture has called for today, November 12, as a National Day of Witness for a Presidential Ban on Torture.


Please urge newly-elected President Obama to issue an executive order by endorsing the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order to Ban Torture.

You can read the Declaration here.
And you can endorse the Declaration here.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Rhetorical Device in Need of Repair

All Over the Maps

OK, I'm getting sick of this. So much so that I'm going to exercise my blogger's prerogative to call BULL-shit!

Check out the map to the right, published today as an accompaniment to this article by Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. This is Chris's prediction of the outcome of tomorrow's vote, and YEAH!!, Barack Obama wins. But do you notice anything at all funny about it? Open Chris's article in a new window for a better view, and a chance to check out the map's interactive features.

Now look at this map from Electoral vote.com and compare the two. Do you see the bizarre assumption that Chris has made? Never mind the fact that the map above has McCain winning Hawaii despite a 41% lead in Obama's favor (polling is 68 to 27.) We'll chalk that up to a mistake, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it an honest mistake. Especially not in light of the following.

The assumption that Chris Cillizza and every other Lamestream Media 'analyst' I've seen makes is that states will only flip from blue to red on election day. Chris isn't too egregious about this compared to the rest of the yakking class, with only Ohio and North Carolina going to McCain against the flow of polling data, with the following explanation:
Our final map splits the two states that decided the last two presidential elections -- Florida and Ohio -- between Obama and McCain.

In the final analysis we put Florida in Obama's column -- based on the massive voter registration and turnout operation built by the Democrat in the state -- and gave Ohio to McCain due to a belief that Obama's ability to grow the electorate in a state so closely targeted in 2004 is far more limited than in other places.

The truth is that the outcome in both states is almost unknowable as both sides acknowledge how close the contest is. The same goes for Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Nevada -- all states President Bush carried with varying levels of ease in 2004.
The truth is that the latest polls show Obama ahead by 5% in Ohio, and 4% in Florida. His lead in North Carolina is only 2%, so I guess Mr. Cillizza doesn't feel any need to explain the outcome favoring McCain there. But wait a minute - McCain's lead in Missouri and North Dakota is a razor-thin 1%. And he's only leading by 2% in Indiana, and 4% in Montana, Georgia and McCain's home state of Arizona. But you will never hear even a suggestion from the LaMe that any of those states are going to go to Obama.

If you really want to see egregious bias , go to CNN and watch John King play with his high tech interactive election map*. King, who does an even worse job than Wolf Blitzer at concealing his pro-Republican bias, can be seen ten times a day acting out his wildest dreams and changing states like Pennsylvania (where Obama has an 8-point lead) from blue to red with just a touch of the screen. That's not called analysis, John, it's called wishful thinking. From the point of view of a news consumer, your playing with this toy is barely more illuminating than Fred Armisens parody on Saturday Night Live.
(Fred Armisen segment is about 2:00 in)

~~~~~~~~~~~
By the way, does John King remind you more of the buffoonish Ted Baxter character on the old Mary Tyler Moore show, or would you compare him to Murphy Brown's equally buffoonish Miller Redfield? I find the presence of someone like John King on CNN to be a rather sad case of life imitating art. The people deserve better from their 24/7 news outlets. And I for one long for the day when newsmen were chosen for their journalistic integrity rather than their looks.

* (Contrary to blog speculation, King did not call off his wedding to CNN colleague Dana Bash in order to move in with the map. They were wed in May.)
~~~~~~~~~~~
Back on topic, it's time to let the Lamestream Media know that we are well aware of what they're trying to do with this slanted reporting. In showing this race to be much closer than it really is they hope to keep alive the 'horse race' metaphor that pumps up their ratings. Which is not good journalism but is at least a relatively innocuous motive. What is less acceptable is that they are subtly hoping to affect the outcome and give the McCain effort a boost. But what would be TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE would be that they are trying to set things up to make yet another stolen election look like a reasonable and correct result, caused by people (and we'd have to be talking about millions of people) all changing their minds at the last moment. That would in fact be approaching treason.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

An Immodest Proposal

Here's an idea. If Obama wins this election, he should end the practice of subsidizing the red states with taxes collected in blue states. Reverse it even.

(Click for larger image)
Source: democratic action team.org

This would be so appropriate to the ideological beliefs of those voters who have supported the Republicans for decades. Since they don't believe that the less well off should be getting anything from the high income earners, and all.

So take Mississipi, who get $2.02 in federal dollars for every dollar they send to Washington, and switch them with New Jersey, who only get 61¢. Just to get the point across New Mexico, currently getting the most at $2.03, can keep that as a reward for going blue and Nevada can swap their 65¢ for Alaska's $1.84. We'll leave Louisiana alone since they're still dealing with the effects of Katrina, and swap Colorado (81¢) with W. Va. ($1.76.)

I think the Obama government should be really open and upfront about this, so the people of Idaho know that the reason they have big potholes in their highways is that they've signaled with their votes that they don't like the feds spending money on them. How can anybody complain about unfairness when the system has already been unfair under the Repugnicants, only in the other direction? In fact the red states should thank the Democrats for giving them the honor of leading the nation in fiscal responsibility.

The only problems I see are complications in developing a formula for states like Maine that vote Democratic on the presidential ticket, but still send two Repuke senators to Washington. Considerations would also have to be made for who the governor and the state legislature are, but that could all be worked out over a working lunch of pizza and beer.

If you like this idea maybe we could work on my next one - a plan to rescind the tax exempt status of every religious organization in the country. Ooooh, and a special surtax on creationist museums. And a special clause in that law that designates FOX "news" as a creationist museum, that's the ticket!

With any luck you might even get some of the most backwards states to secede. Which might put them even closer to the stone age than they already are, but it would be good for the rest of the country, you betcha.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Going Viral - Partial Transcript

Sarah Palin Gets Punked by "The President of France."
Just listening the second time I can't believe how she just plowed through the conversation no matter how ridiculous 'the President of France' got. This is my favorite part:
'Sarkozy': "You know my wife Carla would love to meet you, even though she was a bit jealous that I was supposed to speak to you today."

Palin: "Well give her a big hug from me."

'Sarkozy': "You know my wife is a popular singer, and a former top model, and she is so hot in bed. She even wrote a song for you"

Palin: "Oh my goodness, I didn't know that."

'Sarkozy': "Yes, in French it's called “Mettre du rouge a levre sur un cochon,” or if you prefer in English, Joe the Plumber (sings)"

Palin: "Maybe she understands some of the unfair criticism, but I betcha she is such a hard worker too, and she realizes you just plow through that criticism."

'Sarkozy': "I just want to be sure I don't quite understand the phenomenon, Joe the Plumber. That's not your husband, right?"

Palin: "That's not my husband, but he's a normal American who just works hard and doesn't want government to take his money."

'Sarkozy': "Yes, yes I understand, we have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France - It's called Marcel, the guy with bread under his armpits, Oui."

Palin: "Right. That's what it's all about, it's the middle class and government needing to work for them. You're a very good example for us here."

'Sarkozy': Uh, I seen a bit about NBC, even FOX "news" wasn't an ally as much as usual.

Palin: Yeah, that's what we're up against.

'Sarkozy': I must say Governor Palin, I loved the documentary they made on your life. You know us loves Nailin' Palin.

Palin: Oh, good thank you. Yes.

'Sarkozy': That was really edgy.

Palin: Oh, good.

'Sarkozy': I really loved you. And I must say something else, governor. You've been pranked by The Masked Avengers. We're two comedians from Montreal.
Note: "Mettre du rouge a levre sur un cochon" means 'putting lipstick on a pig' or alternately 'on a slut.'

What more can you say about Palin's epic introduction to the world of foreign affairs?

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Economic Impacts of Socialized Medicine

Hola, Unrulies, from sunny Deer Park, Tejas, where Obama's likely to lose by several percentage points. Fortunately that does not matter to our chances of having a thoughtful, reflective President for the next four to eight years - we currently should have enough electoral votes to give McCain Pennsylvania and still win in 89% of possible scenarios (see 538.com for the full analysis). And now on to the great red fear of this election, socialism.

European social democracies have not managed to repeal the laws of economics, regardless of how they try. Some of their greatest failures are due to trying. In the medical field, the United States produces more new drugs (marginally more effective or slightly fewer side effects than their ancestors) because in Europe under socialism (gasp), the doctors don't always prescribe the latest-and-greatest drug. They may try an older drug or a supplement first, so the value of the intellectual property, the patent, is much less than here for new drugs. But let's look at a great Texas myth, that doctors will go broke if we socialize the medical system.

According to Republican mythology, the law of supply and demand will somehow be suspended under a socialized medical system. Consider, a doctor studies for eight years then does two years of grueling internship before being released to finance his first Jaguar and begin paying down all that debt. That means, should new rules of how much a doctor is paid go into effect tomorrow, it will be ten years before the market for doctors (and their fees) can react in a meaningful manner. Here's where the Republicans forget all that free-market bullshit in favor of their talking points.

Insuring everyone would increase the number of medical consumers by about 47,000,000 in the United States. The supply of doctors would not change for some time. So demand increases for medical services, supply does not. Now what, Econ 101 graduates, does that do to the price of medical services? It increases them. Now let's imagine the Government steps in and puts price controls into place. What happens then? Doctors leave the medical profession to go work on oil rigs, to become Blackwater security goons in Iraq or to become ski instructors. The supply of services goes down while demand goes up. Soon the situation becomes untenable, the Government has to increase fees and med schools begin filling up. So in either case, doctors actually end up making more simply because demand for their services has increased. In one case, they have to go through some hard times but in the end, they're making more than today due to simple supply and demand.

Easy to forget that when it doesn't match your faith. Again, as I read somewhere earlier this week, any time a Republican talks about free markets, you should laugh heartily.

p.s. I forgot to mention that doctors already have price controls inflicted upon them but not by the Government. Insurance companies through their "in-network" fee schedules, control the price of services. Don't know about you but I'd far rather have some neutral bureaucrat somewhere controlling prices than some profit-driven insurance company employee.

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