Monday, October 31, 2005

Ever Wonder Why There's No Bathroom in the Board Game Clue...

...when lot's of notable people in history died in the loo?

Treehouse of Horrors

RINO-Style.

Red Gold

The Hog Wild Three from Alaska have succeeded in pulling yet another huge coup in pork barrel martial arts. It looks like it's a rebuke to the Coburn Amendment, and one hell of one:

The Budget Reconciliation package (PDF) contains $71.4 billion in new savings but it also spends $32.4 billion. Portions of that new spending were intended to be Katrina relief funds, but it seems Alaskan interests have once again succeeded in redirecting funds (PDF) to the state which has become famous for its "Bridge to Nowhere."

In addition to providing money for Katrina states, the provision also changes the way Alaska receives federal assistance for its Medicaid services. By changing the federal funding matching percentage for Medicaid in Alaska, the provision will provide an additional $130 million in federal Medicaid funding for Alaska. This additional $130 million is a direct result of tampering with federal matching percentages that results in Alaska being relieved of Medicaid related fiscal burdens that all the other 50 states face.

So, even though dozens of other states will face the same fiscal pressures as Alaska over the next few years, only Alaska is set to receive additional money.


These fools are certainly great at mining the deficit for more money to their already over-subsidized state. It baffles me that anyone can refer to Democrats as the big spenders when examples like this exist in the Republican party. Every Democrat should carry around a pokcet-sized picture of Ted Stevens and whip it out every time someone accuses them of it. The fact that this is done over Alaska, and diverting Hurricane Katrina relief TO ALASKA is all the more disgusting. Strip-mining aid money and stealing it away from those who need it when you're already building a 100 million dollar plus bridge to benefit 50 people who don't really want it is flabbergasting. It is truly Red Gold: or what I shall call pork barrel money pulled while we're in deficit. Ted Stevens and Don Young are masters of it.

Look To the Conspiracy?

Already everyone is jumping at the Casey decision and how that defines Alito. . .but what about the Farmer decision? In Farmer Alito concurred that banning partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional. Volokh Conspiracy has the details.

A Thin Line

There is a thin line between genius and insanity. After Braveheart, most thought Mel Gibson was a genius. But when he directed and bankrolled Passion, many thought he had crossed the line. After Passion turned into a major success (although a controversial one), he seemed still to be in the genius category, although dangerously close to the edge. With the announcement of his new movie Apocalypto (another one done entirely in an ancient language), I will be very interested to find out if he has finally lost it, or if he thrills us again with something controversial and provoking.

Who Saved Us From Militant Islam?

France. With all the analogies to Crusades, the Middle Ages, and Colonialism, sometimes you have to actually look at what really happened in history.

Hat tip, Jawa Report.

Not So Cold War

Amongst all the news about Fitzmas, Miers, and now Alito, a lot of stuff is slipping through the cracks. One of the big ones is Iran, and the escalation of rhetoric and hostilities. When Ahmadinejad was "elected" President in Iran's most recent elections, Senor C was on the case immediately with the astute comment that this guy was one of the original Islamist terrorist. He had a reputation for being a hawkish anti-American thug, and he's living up to it well.

Ahmadinejad's comments that Israel should be "wiped off the map" set an international furor. Britain is calling on the EU to do something about it, but that's unlikely. In addition, Iran is continuing its obviously threatening nuclear program, and Al Qaeda roams free. But, more troubling, is an examination of the whole speech Ahmadinejad made, which is shown in all of its psychotic glory here. Let's remember, this is the President of a Foreign Power making these remarks, a Foreign Power that has a history of exporting terrorism and is now nearing the development of nuclear weapons.

We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e. the West] and the Islamic world, and this war has been going on for hundreds of years. ...

The issue of this [World without Zionism] conference is very valuable. In this very grave war, many people are trying to scatter grains of desperation and hopelessness regarding the struggle between the Islamic world and the front of the infidels ...

Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved...


If you think that's scary, read on and see what his Chief Strategist's plan is for making this happen. Make no mistake about it, everything Bush may have said/exaggerated/fabricated (depending on your political persuasion) in the run up to the war with Iraq is true of Iran right now.

It's a Boy!!

Congrats, Mr. & Mrs. Conservative Right!

A Great Lesson to Teach the Kids

Politicians and community activists are at it again: saving kids from those soulless money-grubbers in Hollywood who peddle violence, death, and foul-mouthed rap lyrics. Only this time, the activists are of a decidedly more left-leaning bent in a heavily Democratic city.

Yes, billboard advertisements for Get Rich or Die Trying, a 50 Cent movie of all things, have gotten activist panties in a collective wad. The posters, showing 50 holding a gun in his left hand and a mic in his right, say the activists, promote violence and gang affiliation.

Understandably, this has my boxers all up in a wad, and it's not because of "censorship" issues. No censorship occurred here because private entities replied to public and market pressure, not to a government crackdown per se. No, what my beef is with is preachy liberal goons who claim to act in the interests of children but act precisely against their interests by the example they set.

You can keep these posters, heck, you can keep the movie itself out of violent neighborhoods all you want, but in doing so you only help to exalt the "glorified" violence you hope to keep kids from emulating by making it forbidden fruit to go ballistic over. And we're assuming, for a moment, that the film glorifies violence rather than portrays its damaging and irreversible consequences.

It's more persuasive to avoid insulting a teenager's intelligence by instead engaging his/her mind into critical thinking about social problems like gang violence and about the power of media to glorify violence at the expense of our conscience and the advantage of their pocketbooks. At the end of the day you can keep a few eyes from seeing a poster or you can choose instead to use that poster and others like it to help young minds examine the world around them and make better educated choices. The former is a cheap fix which makes headlines, the latter is too common sensical for activists with narrow agendas to seriously pursue.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Backyard Brawl II

Proving that great newspaper copy usually does NOT come with experience, VA House of Delegate candidate Chris Craddock made some inflammatory statements about gays and Africans to a high school classroom down the street from where I used to reside. For those of you not in the know, Craddock was the only Republican candidate to defeat an incumbent member of his own party in this year's primaries. This was the ONLY loss by a sitting Republican delegate from Northern Virginia who voted in FAVOR of the $1.5 Billion tax increase in 2004 (the tax increase pushed by Democratic Governor Mark Warner to shore up state finances and bond ratings). It looks like western Fairfax County may end up with a bigot instead of a penny-pincher.

UPDATE: In Craddock's defense:

Craddock said he was "outraged" by the student comments and emphasized that, last year, his father-in-law donated his kidney "to a black woman in our church who's like family to us. And my wife's best friend married a Nigerian and is now living in South Africa with him. So to say I'm racist is ridiculous. I have black kids volunteering for me."


Didn't black people "volunteer" for the Confederate Army too? (I'm sorry, I can't help myself.)

Libby Indicted

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby has been indicted on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of giving a false statement, and two counts of perjury. I can't help but take a little satisfaction in this. For so long the current administration has acted with an arrogance that suggested that they were above the law and that ethics don't matter. In fact, we witnessed this during the primaries when the Bush team smeared Senator McCain. And we have been seeing it ever since. Finally they must face up to their sins.

But I also want to caution fellow Democrats from reveling in this and other Republican mishaps too much. Some of the problems are inherent to this administration. But some are common to groups in power. Whether or not it was about something important or whether it was worth an impeachment proceeding, President Clinton showed the same contempt for the law during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

This type of behavior should be denounced by both parties. I hope Democrats can realize it can happen to anyone (next time it might be someone in their party), and I hope Republicans can realize that it did happen to them and so they shouldn't rush to defend or dismiss the actions of those under indictment.

More Oil-for-Food Revelations

An atypical volume of news on a Friday only prevents this story from receiving the spotlight that it deserves. Talk about clogging the courts:

More than 2,400 businesses, including scores of international shell companies and major blue-chip European firms such as Siemens and DaimlerChrysler, paid nearly $1.8 billion in illegal kickbacks to the former Iraqi government through the U.N. oil-for-food program, according to a report by a U.N. committee investigating misconduct.

The 623-page report, which was presented Thursday by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, the head of the Independent Inquiry Committee, is the most detailed account of how Iraq persuaded almost half of its 4,500 trading partners in more than 60 countries to circumvent U.N. sanctions by secretly channeling kickbacks into Baghdad-controlled Jordanian banks.

The report also shows how French and Russian diplomats, business executives, U.N. officials and anti-sanctions advocates, including a former Vatican official, either solicited oil trade from Iraqi officials on behalf of companies or benefited financially from the program.

[snip]

Iraq used its oil wealth to influence some countries' policies at the United Nations, rewarding Russia $19 billion in oil contracts and France $4.4 billion in deals, according to the report. The report notes that numerous U.S. companies, prevented from directly entering the trade, established subsidiaries in France to do business in Iraq.

[snip]

The report challenges assumptions that most of the kickbacks involved illegal oil surcharges. It asserts that the vast majority of kickbacks were obtained through the sale of food, medicine and other humanitarian goods to Iraq. To illustrate the scheme, the report cites case studies showing how Iraq disguised its kickbacks through inflated "transportation fees" and "after sales services charges."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Illinois Cares For Its Kids

The State of Illinois is making history, folks! The Democratic-controlled Senate today approved Governor Blagojevich's plan to create a state-run, HMO-style insurance program for all uninsured Illinois children. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to approve the measure as well. In Blagojevich's "All Kids" plan, the insurance co-pays and premiums will be based on the participants' income, with the State contributing $45 million in the first year to the program.

My favorite part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article covering this monumental leap forward in the American welfare was this:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ambitious plan to provide medical insurance to all Illinois children won Senate approval Wednesday, over fervent opposition by Republicans who warned that it could make Illinois a magnet to uninsured families from throughout the Midwest.

Gosh, I see their point... I guess we'll just have to provide insurance for uninsured children in all 50 states!!!

And you thought Republicans were heartless...

Backyard Brawl

There's a developing brawl here in the DC area that's sucking Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates as well as bloggers into its wake. We all know, to Prince of Perksia's great delight, that Lt. Gov. Steele has thrown his hat in the ring for an 06 Maryland Senate Seat. In an effort to attack him, some local cutesy lefty who's big enough to have people run campaign ads on their site posted this, which is undoubtedly racist as hell, and just about one of the most despicable smears I've ever seen. It makes the Swift Boat Vets look like political Honor Guard. This NYC blogger called it as he saw it, and attacked the guy. The attack got picked up by Michelle Malkin.

Naturally, given this disgusting act, Tim Kaine pulled campaign ads from the wretched site. Which provoked all kinds of furor from these racist lefties, causing them to smear Kaine (their ally) as a coward. (What's that I smell? Desperation? No, it's a childish pissing contest, that's what!) The whistleblower retorted a simple response, picked up by Sullivan (who gets the hat tip and where I found out about this nonsense). Repeat after me folks: THIS IS WHY LIBERALS AND DEMOCRATS LOSE ELECTIONS. I can't express in words even why this sort of tactic is stupid, because it just comes the closest of any political message of giving me a reaction that transcends anger, grief, and depression and approaches what can only be called pure negativity.

I Wonder if Arec Bardwin and the FAGs Will Show Up

North Korea cordially invites you to a propaganda festival.

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- The lights dimmed at the May Day stadium and a rapt crowd of 150,000 fell silent at the start of a spectacle considered so important to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that it has merited a rare, if limited, opening to the outside world.

North Korea has creaked open its doors for Arirang, a festival that celebrates national pride and, this year, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Stalinist state's ruling Workers' Party. Performers, who numbered almost as many as the spectators, won furious applause for their coordinated displays of rhythmic gymnastics, flying acrobatics, traditional dancing and military taekwondo routines -- all synchronized to a massive video and laser light show.

[...]

North Korea has rolled out the red carpet this month in exceptional style. Tour operators, diplomats and analysts describe the gathering of foreigners as the largest since Kim inherited the leadership on the death of his father and North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, in 1994.

The guests have included hundreds of Americans, typically barred by the North Koreans. Among them have been New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former CBS News anchorman Dan Rather. The festival has brought official delegations from China, Russia and Cuba as well as ranking visitors from Mexico and a host of other nations. Thousands of South Korean tourists, usually forbidden to travel into the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, are also being embraced during October in this spruced-up city.

Moran Knows His Bullshit

Rep. Jim Moran is many things, a liberal Democrat, a blowhard, an alleged wife-beater, and a racist asshole (he nearly beat up a black kid a few years back, supposedly for messing with his car). One thing he is not, however, is a guy who buys steaming hot political bullshit:

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) expressed extreme displeasure over the withdrawal of Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination, saying he doesn't believe the White House's official explanation for the pullout.

"I think what this reflects is a weakness on the part of the president, a bunker mentality on the part of the White House," the Northern Virginia Democrat told 630 WMAL News.

Moran said Miers "could have been trusted to be a fair and conscientious jurist," and he believes the White House caved to pressure from conservative critics.

"Basically, in order to get the support of the far right wing base, they've got to follow their instructions," Moran said.

"I would have been happy with somebody that was simply to the right of center. Harriet Miers was to the right of center," he said. "Now, we're going to get somebody to the far right, and I don't think that serves the public interest."

Asked whether there was any truth to the official explanation for the withdrawal -- that the White House and Senate would have reached an impasse over Miers's documents during her tenure as White House counsel -- Moran said, "Oh, that's just bullsh*t."

Moran is letting out a fresh load himself with his inflated partisan rhetoric, of course, but he is right. The White House spin is painfully transparent, but that's neither here nor there. It happens all the time in politics regardless of party, and it's a non-story in and of itself. What matters now is Bush has a real chance to hit it out of the park with the replacement pick, unite his base, and turn the focus from Rove, Miers, DeLay, etc., towards the future of the Supreme Court.

Oh, that and whomever he picks is likely to be vociferously and foam-mouthedly opposed by radical left-wing interest groups like NARAL, and I think Bush stands a good chance of putting a solid, intellectual conservative jurist on the Court which would make Kate Michelman put on the sackcloth and ashes and buy stock in coat-hanger manufacturers.

Innovation Still Exists

Yes Virginia, there IS someone with a brain in state government.

"One of the most imaginative legislators in Virginia today is Chris Saxman, the Republican delegate from Staunton. Saxman has devoted more energy than almost anyone else in the General Assembly to devise creative ways to reduce state spending. His latest brainstorm: Encourage college students to graduate early rather than drag out their educations for five or six years at public expense.

The State Council on Higher Education projects enrollment demand for in-state students to increase by more than 56,000 students by 2012; Virginia's four-year institutions are expected to absorb 11 percent of that increase. State support covers roughly 68 percent of tuition and general fees for in-state students. Incredibly, there is no requirement for students to complete their educational requirements on time. Indeed, Saxman notes, it takes students five years on average to graduate. "By offering incentives to students to complete their undergraduate degrees in less than four years," he says, "we will help to free up space for incoming students."

Saxman's idea: Provide students with graduate school scholarships if they graduate in three years from public four-year colleges and universities. In return, scholarship recipients would obligated to remain and work in the Commonwealth for a minimum period or pay back the cost of graduate school tuition. He is particularly keen on encouraging doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and other professionals in short supply to stay in the state.

Phyllis Palmiero, former director of SCHEV and a member of the Joint Subcommittee Higher Education Funding likes the idea. "Many students come to college with a number of college credits, some equivalent to a full year, however, they do not have the incentive to finish their degree early," she says. "They prefer to remain with their class and ultimately enjoy their senior year. This is partly cultural and partly because there is no financial incentive to graduate early. Providing incentives or rewards for finishing early, such as graduate school scholarships, would certainly provide that incentive.""


Okay, guilty as charged. I had the ability to graduate early, but ultimately decided to "take it easy" for my final year in college. Had there been a financial incentive in place, I probably would have taken full advantage of it. This type of problem-solving is reminiscent of Mark Satin in his book/blog the "Radical Middle", by fusing popular causes among the Left (increasing access to higher education) with end-goals favored by the Right (cutting spending). Now if only we could encourage similar thinking amongst the rest of our representatives.

Miers Withdraws Nomination

Thanks to my Anonymous friend for alerting me to this.

Okay, I am going to withhold some of my relief on this. Part of me isn't sure the real reason behind Bush's pick of Miers. While the conventional wisdom is that Bush made this pick without input from Rove or Cheney, who were both busy with other issues including the grand jury investigation, I am not completely convinced.

A friend of mine said that Rove might have actually been behind this nomination, allowing someone to go forward who would get very little support, so that any opposition to the next nominee could be portrayed as obstructionism. And that next nominee will likely be a very far right ideologue, or as my friend said, Darth Vader.

Although the conventional wisdom appears to make more sense, that the Miers nomination debacle is the type of decision Bush is capable of making without input from his top advisors, I am afraid that this could yet another sign of Rove's brilliance.

Either way though, I am convinced that the Democrats will hate the next nominee - most likely Priscilla Owens or someone similar. So while I am glad someone unqualified has withdrawn her nomination, I am also afraid. Very afraid.

Are You A Feminist?

Over happy hour with friends last night, conversation quickly turned to dating (of course). And eventually, to the growing phenomenon of speed dating -- a new pre-mating ritual in which participants have anywhere from two to, I don't know, eight or so minutes to find out the crucial stats about each other and figure out whether they ever want to see the other person again.

So, let's say you only had five minutes to get the scoop on someone. What questions would you ask? Would you go for the garden variety stuff (where do you work? what do you like to do in your free time? where are you from originally?...), OR would you take the non-orthodox route and throw in some quirkier questions (what does your closet look like? what five songs would describe your last weekend? what's your favorite beer?...)?

And it is not all about their answers to your questions, either, but also about their reaction to your questions. Surprise? Boredom? Deer-in-the-headlights expression?

I have figured out my favorite Q. And not only would the answer matter, but the reaction which accompanied it:

Are you a feminist?

So? Are you?

Chicago Celebrates the End of Days

Folks, I am not one panic or proclaim wild and irrational theories, but it looks like the apocalypse will soon be on us. Of course I don’t know this for certain, but there have been signs. With the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox both ending over 80 years each without a World Series championship, there can be little doubt of the fate before us. I am just warning you now to be prepared, because if the Chicago Cubs win next year, you better be somewhere remote the next day – hiding as best you can from the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Alright, I am kidding. Yes, last night the 2005 baseball season ended as the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros in what was billed as a pitchers duel, but can really only be described as great pitching but terrible offense from Houston. Brandon Backe did everything he could to keep his team in the game, but the offense couldn’t get hits when it mattered – leaving a small village on the base paths last night (yes, I just quoted Major League – or maybe that was from Major League II?). I was lying in bed last night, stressed out and unable to sleep. But watching the Chicago White Sox celebrate put me at ease. To watch a team that started their quest last April, finally see all the hard work pay off, is a great thing. That moment is what team sports are all about. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees could win the American League MVP this year, but he is still without a championship. Barry Bonds, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, will likely retire without a championship – and if you ask him, all the awards and recognitions mean little without that. Today, the Chicago White Sox are the best team in baseball.

Okay, we have a champion, what about everything else? The Nationals finished above .500, something they should be very proud of. Early on they fed off the energy of being in a new city - a baseball city. They faded out after the all-star break, but experience will cure that problem. Look for them to compete again for the very competitive NL East Division title next year. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox found out that money can’t buy you a trip to the AL Championship – look for them both to refocus a little bit, although only the Red Sox have room for major changes. And unfortunately steroids did not go away (and with rumors of an American League outfielder, whose team was in the playoffs, testing positive for steroids, it will be with us this off-season as well). Hopefully though, MLB will continue to improve on its testing policy so the fans’ faith in the integrity of the game can continue to grow.

But now that baseball is over, I can no longer deny that summer is definitely over. Oh how I look forward to the spring.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is It Good For You?

An MIT economist thinks so. As much as I hate to rekindle this fire: read it and weep. But, I read this as little more than evidence that you can find a study and statistics to back whatever it is you want to believe.

A number of researchers have found striking correlations between religion and various measures of well being. For example, religious participation is correlated with lower levels of deviant behavior and better health. And, attending religious services weekly, rather than not at all, has the same effect on individuals' reported happiness as moving from the bottom to the top quartile of the income distribution.

Gruber concludes that being in an area with more co-religionists leads to better economic outcomes through the channel of increased religious participation. Although this paper does not investigate the mechanism through which religiosity creates these results, Gruber suggests four possibilities: that religious attendance increases the number of social interactions in a way peculiar to religious settings; that religious institutions provide financial and emotional "insurance" that help people mitigate their losses when setbacks occur; that attendance at religious schools may be an advantage; and, finally, that religious faith may simply improve well-being directly by enabling the faithful to be "less stressed out" by the problems of every day life.


Hat tip, Sullivan.

Dance, puppets!!!

Apparently, Japanese researchers at the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. have created the first Human Remote Control. No no, you read that right - you can actually control others with this lovely new device. I bet the conservative right is positively salivating over this puppy. Think of the money they could save by not using that special Kool-Aid!

It's somehow based on the magic of "galvanic vestibular stimulation," which sounds like something that happens to me after I eat Mexican food. It's actually a clever way of manipulating equilibrium in order to make your mindless slave walk in any way you wish; like an egyptian, for instance.

They try to make a case for using this kind of technology for amusement and non-violent warfare, which is as interesting as it is insane. Amusement I can see, since I'd probably spend the rest of my days forcing the elderly into epic, Mortal Kombat-esque battles with one another. Some might call that a hypocritical abuse of power;.

I call it ingenuity!

Gender Wars... or A Lack Thereof

TOKYO (AP) -- An advisory panel on Japan's monarchy will propose allowing women to ascend the throne, the chairman said Tuesday, in a boost to a measure that has broad support in Japan and could relieve pressure on the imperial family to produce a male heir.

It’s about fucking time!

I’m sorry, but what century is this? First of all, monarchies are so yesterday, darlings, (except, of course, in the Kingdom O’Phun)! Their only purpose is to put scandalous pictures on the pages of The Sun and provide Entertainment Tonight with time fillers between the newest Angelina-Brad and Jen-Vince sightings.

Second, the whole idea that “women cannot run countries” is so incredibly misogynist and antiquated it makes me want to scream! My absolutely favorite delusional argument against female leadership is the one about how women cannot make rational decisions during “that time of the month” so they should be kept away from the helm of power.

Um, right. Funny how women are able to be engineers, teachers, scientists, writers, mothers, construction workers, pilots, doctors, lawyers, professors, senators, nuclear physicists and so on and so on - and not bring their nations to absolute ruin during “that time of the month”!!!!! Considering that more than half of the world’s 6.5 billion human inhabitants are female, with about a quarter of the ones 12-and-older “cycling” every week – isn’t it a shocker we didn’t blow the whole place up yet?!!

Let us take a minute, and reflect on the greatest human tragedies – wars, pogroms, ethnic cleansings, assassinations, mass destructions – over the course of human history. Who was at the political helm at the time? Man, you say?!!! Noooooo…It cannot be!

Women can take Midol if things get rough, darlings, but unfortunately, there’s no panacea for testosterone-induced stupidity, group-think and violence.

Widening 66

Both Gubernatorial candidates are for it. Many area residents are clamoring for it. Studies were done under Mark Warner's Administration to look at how to do it. But should it be done? I hold a certain position on a certain Arlington County Commission (which will remain unnamed), and at our monthly meeting this week we were discussing legislative priorities to propose to our County's delegation to the Virginia General Assembly. Usually this is one of the more interesting meetings of the year, and many of the same topics came up: we want state tax incentives for people who invest in alternative energy sources for their homes, businesses, etc., Clean Smokestacks, more attention to the Chesapeake Bay, and other such things. Then the topic of widening I-66 came up when we received our yearly visit from a certain Arlington County Board member. This is a County Board resolution from earlier this year that pretty much summarizes all the relevant problems and history.

A sad fact was brought up during this meeting, and that is this: the cost of widening I-66 ONE LANE ONLY WESTBOUND would require 5 exceptions to safety regs (permanently no shoulders) and would cost on the order of 100-200 million dollars by an optimistic estimate. This would be adding lanes inside the beltway before Prince William as this project does, where basically there isn't much of a traffic problem anyway. That's one lane, in one direction. Much of the reason for this is the simple fact that land along 66 is practically worth more than platinum right now. Adding a lane eastbound would be even more costly. So, let's assume, that adding a lane on both sides, as Jerry Kilgore has proposed, would reasonably cost half a billion dollars. Still say you're not going to raise taxes, Jerry? Or are you just going to reneg on the promise you're making to win votes in Northern Virginia?

While widening 66 would maybe be nice, I personally believe that if they made it 20 lanes wide we'd still have traffic problems. And the cost is going to be explosive. And if there's one thing Virginians don't like, it's paying for anything with more taxes. Until this reaches such a state of emergency where people are willing to do that, or people are more willing to use mass transit, widening 66 is going to remain a pipe dream.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Man Behind the Man Behind the Man

The Plame Game continues to get more and more complicated, as Tom Maguire somehow manages to keep on top of things. Cheney is now implicated as the man who passed on to Scooter that Ms. Plame was a CIA agent. But what else? Were either of them aware this was classified info? If it was Tenet who told them, as some have suspected, maybe. Or maybe not! Has Scooter lied under oath to protect his both? Maybe, maybe not! David Corn has some thoughts on possible fallout too.

Almost everyone is puzzled what Fitzgerald's endgame will be now. Who is he going to indict, if anyone? Who has committed perjury? What does it mean for Bush's Presidency and is that why he chose to inform Dick Cheney of Harriet Miers' choice "from a distance" as it were? There are way many more questions than answers. Also, Fitzgerald's revisiting of the whole yellowcake issue and Joseph Wilson's claims thrown even more shadows over the end goal of whatever is going on.

Because there's no such thing. . .

As hating on Harriet Miers too much, here's the Reaction's latest Miers withdrawal watch. A roundup of all things against Harriet Miers, including a flaming sword into the heart of the most steadfast defender of all: Hugh Hewitt. This, though, says it all. The hostility toward this woman just grows by the day. I can now discern four distinct groups of people who hate Harriet Miers:

1) Liberals who hate Miers because she was nominated by Bush. They need no other reasons.

2) Activist Social Conservatives who hate Miers because they're not sure whether she will overturn Roe v. Wade or any number of other important decisions regarding prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments, or the death penalty for minors.

3) Intellectual Conservatives who hate Miers because they're not sure whether or not she'll challenge big government.

4) Moderates who hate Miers because they think she's unqualified.

Count me in Category 4). And of course there are mixtures of them. I myself can't discern even more than 2 groups (yellow-dog Bushies and Some Evangelicals) who support Miers nomination. It seems a whole menu of Miers-hating is starting to appear. Whether it's cronyism, incompetence, liberalism, or conservatism Miers is the ultimate political Rorschach test: you can find whatever it is you hate in her!

White Flight Club

What a bunch of hillbillies:

"Jamie and Stephan Lechner liked their house in Germantown well enough, but in recent years, they said, the neighborhood began to change in ways that made them feel less comfortable. There were some discipline problems in the school where Jamie taught. There was a shooting in a low-income area not too far from where they lived and other, smaller signs that made them think things were headed downward."

[snip]

"We had conflict," said Jamie Lechner, referring to her old Germantown neighborhood. "And we wanted to move away from that. . . . That's why we're here -- to be sheltered."

[snip]

Perilla, who does vote, moved to Dominion Valley from a house in Manassas, which is in the older, more developed part of the region, a diverse area where Mexican and Central American immigrants have settled and where neighborhoods of single-family homes might be adjacent to townhouses and apartments. Like the Lechners, she and her family moved in part because the old neighborhood was changing.

"It sounds awful," Perilla said, "but it was turning into a more working-class neighborhood. More pickups -- not that there's anything wrong with that. . . . There were problems we didn't want to deal with -- at least on a personal level."

The Lechners were of a similar mind. They liked the diversity of their Germantown neighborhood, they said, but they did not want to subject their children to what they perceived as racial conflicts and other problems they associated with nearby government-subsidized housing.

[snip]

"At a certain point, you want your kids to grow up in Mayberry," Jamie Lechner said. "And this is as close to Mayberry as we can get."


Honestly, if the colored and poor people scare you, that's all you have to say. I'd have more respect for these folks if they were up front about their preferences/biases/prejudices/etc. instead of beating around the bush. The 'Mayberry' line says it all.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Help Out Harriet

Start Your Engines

Pre-Season ACC Basketball poll. It sure looks like the Wahoos will have to wait another year, but beware of upsets.

Rank Team Points
1 Duke (87*) 1,044
2 Boston College 918
3 Wake Forest 791
4 North Carolina State 744
5 Maryland 707
6 North Carolina 573
7 Miami 540
8 Virginia Tech 451
9 Georgia Tech 380
10 Clemson 230
11 Florida State 216
12 Virginia 92

*Duke was voted No. 1 on all 87 ballots cast.

Robert Mugabe and Desperate Thuggery

Robert Mugabe sure is a rambunctious fellow. When he's not declaring Bush and Blair are equivalent to Hitler and Mussolini and that his country is a paragon of democracy, he's busy demolishing people's homes and starving them.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are now living like animals in the midst of rubble, crawling in and out of hovels less than 3ft high, fashioned from cardboard boxes and broken asbestos.

With no means of earning a living — and with aid agencies banned by the government from helping them — they are forced to forage in rubbish for rotten vegetables or prostitute themselves for the equivalent of 10p to feed their children. A doctor who managed to get in said tuberculosis was rife.

These are the victims of Operation Murambatsvina (drive out the filth), Mugabe’s so-called urban beautification campaign which, according to a damning report by the United Nations, left more than 700,000 homeless or without an income.

Yet last week the United Nations flew Zimbabwe’s president on an all-expenses-paid trip to Rome to celebrate World Food Day in defiance of European Union travel sanctions. Flanked by bodyguards, he proclaimed that there was no hunger in his country and blamed its problems on George W Bush and Tony Blair, branding them international terrorists and likening them to Hitler and Mussolini.


These poor "dust people" are unfortunate evidence of how much of a thug Robert Mugabe is. While his people starve to death, he gives highly applauded speeches to the UN on World Food Day about how bad Bush and Blair are. Some things just boggle the mind, and it really makes you wonder why people accord the UN so much credibility when it comes to human rights. Here's a more personal account of what happened while Mugabe was being applauded and high-fived for his hypocritical rhetoric.

While Mugabe was enjoying Rome, Zvikomborera explained how she is forced to live. Her children scour the rubbish dump of a supermarket for rotten potatoes and tomatoes out of which she cuts any good bits. The previous day, the two girls had shared one cup of rice. Zvikomborera had nothing.

Until two weeks ago they were getting food from a Buddhist organisation. Then the Department of Social Welfare summoned aid agencies, such as World Vision and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and banned them from distributing any more.

“They told us there is no such thing as urban displaced people in Zimbabwe and there is no hunger in Harare,” said one aid worker. “They just want these people to die.”

Like most of her fellow dust people, Zvikomborera is still astounded by what happened to her. “Before Murambatsvina we were poor but we were managing. My children were clean and went to school. I collected scrap wood from carpenters and industries and sold it for firewood.

“When the police and dogs came, we lost everything. In one hour they had smashed my home, bed, wardrobe. We have nothing left but a few clothes and pots and pans. I just cried and cried.

“Now we live here on the dust. We have no water. There is a tap at the bus station but they make us buy the water at Z$50,000 (£1.10) for 20 litres. Where can I get money now they have stopped us selling things? My children cannot go to school as I have no address and don’t know where I will be in two weeks. Everyone is sick and starving.”

The fact that Mugabe can commit this kind of brutality, and have Thabo Mbeki be his bagman in helping pave over his phony President-for-life elections that his opponent Tsvangirai called "daylight robbery" is beyond me. The more we complain about politics in the U.S., the more we have to be thankful we don't have this kind of tyrant in charge.

No Advisor Left Behind

It's official: Ben Bernanke is to replace Alan Greenspan. Where does he come from? Well, the President's Council of Economic Advisors! Is anyone surprised? I won't allege bald cronyism in this case, though. And anyone who does should be quickly smacked back with the fact that Bernanke has, at least, served on the Fed before and his specialty is in monetary macroeconomics. Read his vitals here. Seems like a standard choice. Here are also some smart remarks on current-accounts deficit and global savings gluts. Bernanke has been hip to some of the more troubling trends in international economics, especially with regard to U.S. currency, and he has unique theories on some of these problems. Given bad news about the topic earlier this week, he's also serious about fighting inflation and has thought a lot about how to do it.

He should probably do pretty well, but it doesn't look so great for him to be picked right from Bush's inner-circle of economic advisors with the Harriet Miers fiasco going on, even if he is probably one of the most well-qualified people for the job. Even so, definitely color me as being in support of the guy.

Really Want to Save Marriage?

There's a lot of attack about marriage being under assault. About wars on the traditional family. About the so-called "Radical Gay Agenda" seeking to destroy American culture. We all know that's a bunch of bulljive. There's only one real threat to marriage: celebrities. Kung Fu Monkey has the real policy answer to this: the Defense Against Celebrity Marriage Amendment. I'm already writing my state delegation.

Carnivale

RINOs on the march.

I Am Sofa King Retaw Dead

I was unaware that apparently the Apocalypse has happened, and the DC Metro Area has transformed into the brutal land depicted in Mad Max 2:

Ingaharra and Evans, both of whom lived in Prince George's, were not the most law-abiding of drivers, according to court records. Each had been cited for at least a half-dozen traffic offenses, records show -- never for aggressive driving specifically, but a few times each for speeding.

Evans, a field technician for Washington Gas, had been arrested twice in 1990 for allegedly carrying a gun illegally, authorities said. They said Ingaharra, who was unemployed, had been the subject of several criminal complaints that accused him of harassment and making threats.

The two were strangers when they dueled on Old Alexandria Ferry Road.

"They were arguing back and forth in their cars," said a law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the incident is being investigated. "When they got to the intersection, [Ingaharra] got out, started walking toward the other guy with his arms up, like, 'What do you want to do now?'

"Basically he was egging him on," the official said.

Evans's attorney, David Simpson, said in a brief interview that his client was afraid of Ingaharra. Simpson acknowledged what Evans did next: He pointed his Glock out the driver's window of the Mercedes and squeezed the trigger, again and again.


Yikes.

Budget Idiotarians Attack!

The aftermath of the Coburn Amendments has been telling, especially when it comes to the Last Frontier's always-entertaining Congressional Delegation. Here's the real doozy from the pages of El Wapo:

The amendment became a cause celebre on the left and the right, with watchdog and conservative groups reporting updates on their Web sites throughout the day. The Club for Growth alerted readers early yesterday on its Web log, or blog: "As of last night, the opposition is putting up a big fight. They sense this amendment, if successful, as establishing a precedent. A precedent where all pork is vulnerable and no lawmaker is safe."

Later in the day, the Heritage Foundation circulated a paper, "The Bridge to Nowhere: A National Embarrassment," and noted, "fiscally responsible members of Congress should be eager to zero out its funding." Even the Sierra Club backed the amendment, noting, "We must fix the nation's existing infrastructure first."

And, there is a curious twist to the story: Many residents of Alaska appear to support forfeiting the bridge money for hurricane relief. "This money, a gift from the people of Alaska, will represent more than just material aid; it will be a symbol for our beleaguered democracy," reads a typical letter to the Anchorage Daily News.

Young, who made sure his state was one of the top recipients in the highway bill, was asked by an Alaska reporter what he made of the public support for redirecting the bridge money. "They can kiss my ear! That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard," he replied.

Well, hmm. Isn't this interesting? Apparently Young (who by the way the Bridge to Nowhere would be named after, in case you didn't know about it) thinks something that has massive support amongst his own constituents is "the dumbest thing" he's "ever heard." That's pretty dumb. And pretty condescending. I think most of the dumbest things I've ever heard have come from Young's mouth. Bu there is a glimmer of hope!

Sen. Ted Stevens, the veteran Alaska Republican, was dramatic in his response. "I don't kid people," Stevens roared. "If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state . . . I will resign from this body."


If only! I guess by "discrimination" he means "decide not to spend more capita federal tax money than any other state on." Here's what I want to know: for all the noise the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist make about trying to scalp politicians who talk about or consider raising taxes and the way they bring primary challengers against them, why not these jokers? These people are doing more abuse of funds and tax money than anyone, they're the kind of politicians that give politics and government a bad name. Why not send a primary challenger against them? If they're serious about shrinking government then mounting a serious challenge to these fools would send a message. With the rising power of Porkbusters, it could take off.

Could Be Our Last Chance

The international community so far has been reluctant to do anything of substance to end the genocide (or atrocities if you want to use the word the UN favors) in Darfur. For the most part, the situation has lacked the urgency that would necessitate immediate action. Rape, murder and mass displacement at the hands of a rebel militia that the Sudanese government swears it isn’t supporting doesn’t seem to qualify as urgent. And it never helps when powerful members of the UN Security Council are willing to veto any resolutions dealing with the situation because of Sudan’s oil export. The US has also been reluctant to openly criticize the government in Khartoum because of it has cooperated in the GWOT.

The international community needs to wake up and pay attention to this situation NOW. Although a crisis with two million refugees sounds urgent enough, the situation is getting worse very fast. A news report from Reuters says that things are dangerously close to spiraling completely out of control. Peace negotiations between the rebel groups and the Sudanese army are making no progress and the current cease fires are deteriorating. On top of that, the African Union peace force does not have the resources to protect itself from kidnappings and killings, much less protect the people of Darfur.

Make no mistake, if we don’t intervene now, the whole country of Sudan could slip into civil war, potentially dragging the surrounding region into the conflict as well. If we wait until that happens, if we choose not to intervene until it is really really urgent, the cost in dollars and lives would grow exponentially. This could be our last chance to protect the people of Sudan, neighboring Chad, and the rest of central Africa. If we were waiting for urgency, we finally have it. There is no choice but to act now.

Swelling with Pride

Recently on the Restless Mania listserv we were talking about products of UVA, being the dubious or awesome. Names dropped included Katie Couric, George Allen, and Tina Fey. I won't tell you which columns those two belong in, you can figure it out. However, nothing has been more awesome to come out of UVA than this: the Kevin Bacon Game online.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Gatling Blog: This Is Fiscal Harassment, They Keep Touching My Assets Edition

Side to side. Lucidity to Lunacy. They have the right to put your life under surveillance. They have the right to lock us up. We don't obey them. It's the great meta-blogging activity known as Gatling Blog. Are they right-wing? Are they left-wing? See if you can tell!

Captain's Quarters thinks Miers qualifications are the least of Bush's worries, and the Texas Lottery Commissions scandals are much more dangerous. Bonus: Now with more Able Danger!

A Silent Cacopony offers an assessment of the current state of the U.S. military and the toll the past few years have taken, also from a personal vantage point.

Balloon Juice discovers Broccosprouts, thinks Rove has effectively fingered libby, and thinks the Coburn amendment is a defining moment for the Republican party.

Daily Pundit wants Term Limits on the Senate sooner rather than later and posits that Congress and the FDA have destroyed the American vaccine industry.

Demagogue explores the rant of Colin Powell's Chief of Staff and military veteran Lawrence Wilkerson and what it means for the Bush administration. Bonus: An interesting court case from Amsterdam on schools, headscarves, church and state, and Islam.

Ezra Klein also thinks the US vaccine industry's state is cause for concern, and has some verbal medicine for the infamous Kossack Armando.

The Anchoress takes on Patty Murray and thinks Patrick Fitzgerald's options are limited at this point.

David Corn tackles the Plame Game, new Terror Threats, and withdrawing from Iraq (all in one post!)

Pandagon spots a lot of pro-Bush editorials in local newspapers that are EERILY similar, a conservative group's attack on Ann Coulter in a documentary, and has a hearty belly-laugh over GOP.com's pathetic attempts to generate pro-Miers spin.

Rantingprofs examines terrorist fundraising strategies (hint: it involves ever escalating brutality), some info on the Pakistani quake relief effort, and criticizes the Times' revisiting of the bombing of Sudan.

Donklephant wonders about the banning of the Dalai Lama at a neuroscience conference, a new stem cell treatment, and whther SCOTUS should have term limits.

Subscriber Only TNR Article of the Day

BIG BUSINESS AND THE PATRIOT ACT.
Act Out
by Chip Pitts

"For years, it's been widely understood that the Republican majority rested on the union of two very different constituencies: social conservatives and big business. In the last two weeks, social conservatives have claimed headlines by voicing their displeasure with President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Now the administration is facing a quieter revolt from big business, and over an unlikely issue: the Patriot Act.

Two weeks ago, leading business organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Realtors, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the Financial Services Roundtable all expressed strong reservations regarding the law. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, they criticized the Act's notorious "library provision," which, despite its moniker, isn't limited to libraries. It allows the FBI to search any kind of business records and seize "any tangible thing" with only rubber-stamp approval from a secret foreign intelligence court. Renewal of the provision, which was slated to sunset at the end of this year, has already passed both the Senate and House; but, crucially, the Senate version would require investigators to produce evidence connecting the records sought to a person suspected of terrorism or espionage, whereas the House version would not. The Bush administration has said it prefers the House version. (In their note to Specter, business groups also criticized another provision of the Patriot Act that allows the use of administrative subpoenas or "national security letters" to demand records--without any court oversight at all. That provision, however, does not sunset and has therefore received scant review.)

It may be surprising to see business leaders lining up against an administration that has fought for so much of their agenda--from tax cuts to tort reform--and yet it isn't really surprising to see the business community sticking up for civil liberties. That's because, at a general level, the Patriot Act slows the machinery of the U.S. economy. Its requirements affect everything from buying a car to leasing a copier to opening a bank account, inconveniencing both businesses and consumers, and slowing productivity in the process. Business leaders have specific complaints about the Patriot Act as well. For one thing, they would prefer not to give up confidential information regarding customers, employees, and trade secrets, all of which are possibilities under the Act. For another, Patriot Act provisions trump any guarantees of privacy given to customers, meaning that the law could threaten the reputation of businesses that are forced to comply. Finally, in an era of globalization, many business leaders think it's important for the United States to set a positive example for the rest of the world by fostering a model business climate--one in which judicial independence is respected and government intrusion and bureaucratic red tape are kept to a minimum. Perhaps, then, it's no surprise that in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, financial service industry board members listed Patriot Act-compliance as their number-one concern--placing it above issues such as the housing bubble and off-shoring.

But why is this dissent from the business community emerging only now? After all, even before business leaders spoke out, the House and Senate had already approved separate versions of the renewed Patriot Act provisions; and a House-Senate conference is expected to finish reconciling differences between the two bills any day.

A key reason, according to Susan Hackett, general counsel of the American Association of Corporate Counsel, is that gag orders in the original Patriot Act slowed efforts to assemble information about the law's full economic impact by preventing individual businesses from revealing the details of subpoenas they had received under the law. But as the number of subpoenas grew and as federal courts questioned whether the gag orders violated the First and Fourth Amendments businesses began to step forward--and the law's burdensome impact became clear.

There were other factors, as well. Business leaders, perhaps hoping to avoid unnecessary conflict with an otherwise pro-business White House, may have been waiting to see whether civil liberties groups--more traditional opponents of the Bush administration--would carry water for them; now, with the bill soon to land on President Bush's desk, business leaders seem to have realized (perhaps too late) that they need to be part of this fight after all. Corporate executives may also have been expecting to exercise more influence behind the scenes than they were ultimately granted. "No one was really consulted before the House and Senate bills," Hackett says. And with Bush's popularity sinking, business leaders might have judged the political costs of publicly opposing the White House to be lower than they once were.

Whatever the reasons, the business community's stance is good news for those who think the Patriot Act is seriously flawed. Big business and President Bush have been allies for a long time, but big business is nothing if not practical. It knows what works for the bottom line and what doesn't. Even if its erstwhile friend in the White House has forgotten."

Shocking News

The Senate voted 86-13 against the Coburn Amendment. Of the thirteen who voted in favor, only one Donk. Can Congress spell 'pathetic'?

Allen (R-VA)
Burr (R-NC)
Coburn (R-OK)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagel (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
Sessions (R-AL)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)

From One Recovering Moonbat

Time for a little story about Senor C.

Private conversations amongst the contributors to this blog recently focused on the idea of political correctness as applicable to males, females and gender-word associations. How it spiraled into a completely off-the-wall conversation is not only characteristic of the contributors to this blog (in a positive sense mind you), it is also a perfect example of why I left academia. Okay, okay, I type that like I was on tenure track, but I get ahead of myself again. As a "faculty member" at my alma mater, I was fortunate enough to have worked in an office that I regarded highly as a student, the equivalent of the school's multicultural affairs office. As a student affairs professional, seeking to "support and challenge" primarily our Asian American students was my sole charge as their professional representative in my division. Now, it was your typical Left-leaning slate of activities, leadership training, mentoring, etc., specific to the Asian and Asian American undergraduates and graduates (You'd be surprised how much the United States has screwed Asian Americans over it's history. Civil Rights issues are not a White versus Black thing, like the axis of Sharpton-Jackson-Farrakhan often make it out to be). At the time, I considered it a dream come true and my stepping stone to a long career as a higher education professional.

Now for those of you familiar with my alma mater's structure, you would know a) the Asian American (and Hispanic affairs) division was relatively new, b) being in the South, the school was already the proud owner of years of racial strife, and c) the African American affairs division was a completely separate entity with years of established programs. Well, being the new kid on the block from an organziational standpoint, never sat too well with our Black counterparts. That being said, professional relationships were built and began strengthening over time, but for some reason, the tension between our offices never really resolved. This came as a surprise to me (and only me apparently), being the idealist that I WAS at the time. Well, it seemed like our colleagues at the African American affairs office were having a bad day, but the straw that broke THIS camel's back was the day our office was told "We won't work with you as long as you don't have any African American staff." I kid you not. One unbelievably ignorant statement later, and everything I had previously worked for as a loyal soldier of the Left went straight down the god-damned toilet. My realization that identity politics was futile over the long-term was a hard one for me to swallow, but as time goes on I've only found more and more evidence that these people (i.e. the Moonbats) are just so wrong-headed they don't even deserve to be in this country.

(Tip o' the Hat, Michelle)

Will Syria Behave?

This is some good news.

Yasser Sabawi al-Tikriti's appearance at a rally demanding the release of Saddam Hussein in the former dictator's home town Tuesday, turned into a costly mistake that Iraqi officials quickly seized on.
"Basically he was found, and caught red-handed giving money to the demonstrators, who he was trying to incite to violence,'' says Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser. "We believe he was a major fundraiser and a major supporter of the terrorists."

But there are indications that help in Mr. Sabawi's arrest came from an unexpected corner: Syria.

The country Iraqi officials and the Bush administration accuse of aiding Iraq's raging insurgency recently deported Sabawi to Iraq, according to an official at the Defense Ministry, who asked not to be named. This was first reported by the Associated Press, citing two anonymous sources.


Perhaps Condi's pressure on Syria is working. And this comes at a time when UN investigators are finishing a report that states Assad's Baathist regime did coordinate the assassination of Lebanese opposition leader Hariri (the event that precipitation eventual Syrian embarassment and withdrawal from Lebanon. Remember the Cedar Revolution?) For one, Syria's secular Baathist regimes seems to have woken up to the threat of the Islamist radicals it's been getting cozy with. That they are likely to return home from Iraq at some point and look to establish a new Caliphate right in their homeland.

The Downward Spiral

Grover Norquist is a man of many absurdities. He's been known to do many ridiculous things. He wore camo in the 80s everywhere and sported a large bumper sticker that said "I'd Rather Be Killing Commies." He has many many ties to Islamist radicals. He's called the Greatest Generation unAmerican because they passed entitlement programs. He has fantasies about strangling government in Bathtubs. He launders money to hand to Ralph Reed from Indian casinos. Much of this behavior has caused him to slowly fall out of favor with the right and to lose influence from his position at the paramount of the new, Republican K Street. His attempted assault on Republican VA legislators for raising taxes by defeating them in primaries failed in all cases but one, where his candidate was elected by a flood of DEMOCRATS (doesn't bode well for him in the primary).

But now he's committed one of the greatest sins of all in the eyes of far right-wing: talking to gay people. Great quote:

The Texas Eagle Forum called Norquist's presence at the gay Republican group's fundraiser "traitorous," adding, "If he was a serious economic conservative, Grover Norquist would not have accepted the invitation or the honorarium for speaking at a fund-raiser for a group bent on the destruction of traditional families."


What the fun does this have to do with economic conservatism? If anything, Grover actually gets points for this in my book (though he's still at about -5439 in my book). But in his position as a leader among the far right it seems likely to cost him dearly. The Republican coalition is becoming ever more fractured between the more libertarian and economic conservatives and social ones everyday. At least opposition to the Miers nomination has united them all for now. (Hat tip, Sullivan)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Guilty Man Can Rest Because He Knows He's Been Caught

An Insider Speaks

And it's hardly flattering to the White House.

UPDATE: Oops. The correct link. The original link (still available) provides details on the DOD's procurement of up armored Humvees, something I was researching at work.

Again

Damn it, people!

Condie Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, and “declined to rule out the use of military force in Iran or Syria.”

Because war is so fucking fun!

Mass Hysteria

Red Alert. Women are graduating college in droves.

If the impending takeover of the national levers of power by women wasn't bad enough (Seriously, I keeed0, now we've got women with a firm grip on the upside of college demographics. Why any educators, politicians and others are seemingly surprised is befuddling to me.

Are female college students graduating with majors traditionally favored by women?

Will the wage gap that feministas have been crying about for the past three decades finally go away?

Is the family, the basic building block of society, falling at the wayside as females with college educations choose career over family life?

Is it time for affirmative action for men?

If I had to take a stab at answering my own questions: Yes but decreasingly so; Of course not; Not anymore so than before; Maybe.

A Harriet Miers Do Over

Bridge To SOMEWHERE

Make Coburn Amendment go, NOW! If not for the sake of the people of Louisiana, then as a message to the Alaskan congressional contingent. SLAP!

Will It Hold Up?

The pornographer who allowed soldiers free access to porn in exchange for gory images of Iraqis has been arrested on 300 counts of obscenity in Florida. The twist? He was arrested in Florida by his local sheriff. . .When his servers and site are not based there. Here is what the Sheriff has to say:

"This might be the first [case we've dealt with] where the alleged server is out of the country," Judd said. "But it makes no difference, because if you fed that server or you could receive information off that server in this county, then it gives us jurisdiction. ... Technically I could charge someone in Kansas, if I received child pornography here, obtained a warrant and had him extradited from Kansas and tried here."

[snip]

Judd acknowledged that different communities have different standards. "I have heard descriptions vary from area to area in the country but obscene [in] our community standards goes beyond nude men and women ..., " Judd said. "When we've made cases, we have gone much further than what one judge refers to as 'normal, good old-fashioned sex.' ... We look for outrageous conduct that shocks the conscience of the community. That's all we bring before the court."


That's one powerful County Sheriff, isn't it? The Cyber Crime Law blogger has more if your interested in the law that's in place. This is a kind of case that is becoming more frequent nowadays, the clash between real-world bounded jurisdictions and the boundless web. While this man is despicable in the fact that he has traded essentially real-world snuff, does the Sheriff have a right to arrest him where he lives, even if his alleged crime, putting this stuff on the internet, is being carried out and operated from somewhere else? Or just because he posted it, even if he doesn't live there (since that's another argument the Sheriff implies). Just because it might be viewed by someone possibly in the county? Where does it all end?

This isn't the sort of thing most judges nowaday are hip to, and if they uphold this Sheriff's actions police everywhere will be empowered to arrest people for anything that appears on the internet regardless of where they live or where the internet server is based. In one sense, this puts a challenge to the old Supreme Court chesnut about pornography being based on "community standards." When the web creates one GIANT community, how do you apply that notion?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Race is On

No sense not publicizing this since I got it in an email that I and every other joe schmoe on the state GOP mailing list received. Lt. Governor Michael Steele is running for US Senate and announcing next Tuesday.

Of course, the email didn't say that, like all this pre-announcement announcements, that's how the game is played, but of course, it's all but official that Steele is going for the brass ring.

If I Were A Rich Girl...

It’s flu season, and I’m sporting a fever. Powerball fever, that is. Like many-a educated, aware-of-the-odds-against-me people, I know I won’t win. But, for the twenty-odd hours between my purchase of the three Powerball tickets in a Chinatown convenience store and the actual drawing, I can at least dream about the what if. What if I won the $340 million…

Tell you one thing, I’d do. Right off the bat, I’d buy return tickets to New Orleans to anyone who could not afford to buy one. I mean, if some folks couldn’t afford to leave the city before the hurricane hit, how could they afford to travel back now with most of their possessions gone and savings depleted? People with money are not the only ones who deserve to come home… are they?

I just checked out Greyhound rates from Houston, TX, to Baton Rouge, LA, and the going price for a one-way ticket is $42. So let’s say it costs $50 to get to the Big Easy. That’s 20,000 tickets for $1 million, or 0.3% of the Powerball winner's pre-tax booty.

Now, would that be considered a tax-deductible donation...?

Putin's War On Himself

Vladimir Putin has been consolidating power in Russia like a madman. I could list the ways, but it's easier just to link to Siberian Light on the matter. He's pretty close to become a Sub-Saharan or Egyptian style President-for-Life. One of the things that enabled him to win the Russian public's support in the beginning was his tough stance on Chechen terrorists. The brutal crackdowns that ensued were effective for a time, but now things have gotten more complicated. Putin's consolidation of power and heavy-hand are starting to expand the coalition of terrorists and rebels opposed to his government, and it's not made of just Chechens anymore.

In their haste to blame Chechen terrorists for a bold attack on government buildings in this faded resort town last week, Russian authorities initially failed to reveal one crucial detail: the gunmen were not Chechen.

Residents who encountered the 100 or so militants said they spoke with local accents, suggesting that the attack was home-grown in Kabardino-Balkaria, an impoverished Muslim region in southern Russia.

The eyewitness accounts are a disquieting reminder to the Kremlin that terrorism in Russia no longer originates only from the war-torn republic of Chechnya.

And if that message wasn’t clear, in a statement on a rebel Web site Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev — Russia’s most-wanted man — praised the “forces of Mujahideen” from Kabardino-Balkaria, and not from Chechnya, for the assault.


The violence referred to is probably one of the most disquieting incidents recently in a Russia where things are starting to get out of control. They're battle with separatist Chechens who just happen to have been jihadists has angered ALL the jihadists, who are joining the Chechens' fight. Putin's reactions, imposing stricter rule and tougher government action, isn't doing much to stop this mounting problem.

Russia is sinking underneath high unemployment, and Putin's increasingly centralized and corrupt Kremlin. The Kremlin's attempts to close mosques, forbid Muslims from prayer, and permit only pro-Kremlin imams to practice are only fanning the flames. The centralization of government power in Putin is also weakening the hold on the surrounding countryside, and isolating the Kremlin from the people and accountability. Hannah Arendt described authority as coming from hierarchy, a society built like a pyramid. In the case of the Tyrant, the middle levels of the pyramid are knocked out, with the tyrant suspended above it all on a platform of spears. Naturally, this is an unstable arrangement, and it's the one Putin is creating for himself.

Maybe Not the Best Idea

Speaking of development and disasters (but more of a financial nature), for some reason new home construction is still surging. A slowdown was expected, but we've seen no signs of it so far. And, when the Fed Chair is talking about hiking interest rates to combat inflation, you've got all the ingredients of a housing market bubble.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that construction of new homes and apartments rose by 3.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.11 million units, the fastest pace since last February.

Analysts had been forecasting that housing construction would decline by 1.7 percent in September, believing that increases in mortgage rates would finally start to cool the red-hot housing market.

Freddie Mac reported that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages hit 6.03 percent last week, the first time they have been above 6 percent since last March. Economists predict that those rates will continue to rise as the Federal Reserve keeps pushing interest rates higher to combat inflation pressures spawned by this year’s surge in energy prices.


Where are people getting the financing for this? Interest-only loans. Loans that are going to bankrupt people when the Fed starts its inflation-fighting crusade. It's a good think we've got bankruptcy reform! But this is only a symptom of a greater problem, that Americans are starting to really overextend themselves on debt. As most of the building is occurring in the South, and the focus is on apartments and single family homes, I'm guessing these people aren't buying their houses with cash but with debt. And as more funds go to interest on debt, we're going to see a lot of money suddenly get sucked out of the economy when the bill collectors come.

Wilma!

This hurricane season is turning out to be one for the centuries. Hurricane Wilma has now upgraded to Category 5 and is the strongest storm for the region ON RECORD. That's like being valedictorian of the magnet school.

In Florida, Monroe County officials have ordered visitors out of the Florida Keys starting at noon Wednesday, the first U.S. evacuations caused by Wilma. No timetable was given for residents to evacuate, but that was expected to be issued later Wednesday.

Officials had earlier said the evacuations wouldn't start until Thursday.

“This is our fourth storm but this one is really aggressive,” Irene Toner, director of emergency management for the county that encompasses the islands, told local radio. “This one we are taking seriously. The damage is going to be substantial.”

The Keys are a vulnerable chain of low-lying islands connected to mainland Florida by a single road.

[snip]

It was expected to dump up to 25 inches of rain in mountainous areas of Cuba through Friday, and up to up to 15 inches in the Caymans and Jamaica through Thursday. Up to 12 inches was possible from Honduras through the Yucatan peninsula, the U.S. weather service said.

Forecasts showed that after moving through the narrow Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico’s Cancun region the storm would then move into the Gulf.

With heavy rain, high winds, and rough seas already pounding coastal areas, flood-prone Honduras warned that Wilma posed “an imminent threat to life and property” and closed two seaports on its Caribbean coast. Neighboring Nicaragua also declared an alert. Authorities in the Cayman Islands had earlier called an alert.

Honduras and its neighbors already are recovering from flooding and mudslides caused earlier this month from storms related to Hurricane Stan. At least 796 people were killed, most of them in Guatemala, with many more still missing.


The pain is just not stopping. Hopefully this will convince people to stop gorging on coastal development, but more than likely we'll see it all reconstructed at great expense again and again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Unknown World War II Soldiers ID'd

And so rest in honored glory three American soldiers, heretofore known but to God.

May they rest in peace:

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 1056-05
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct 18, 2005
Media Contact: (703)697-5131
Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

Airmen Missing from World War II Identified


The remains of three U.S. servicemen, missing in action since 1941, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Augustus J. Allen, of Myrtle Springs, Texas, Staff Sgt. James D. Cartwright, of Los Angeles, Calif., and Cpl. Paul R. Stubbs, of Haverhill, Mass.

On June 8, 1941, Allen, Cartwright and Stubbs departed France Field, Panama in an O-47A aircraft, en route to Rio Hato, Panama. When the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination, a search was initiated by both air and ground forces, but with negative results.

In April 1999, a Panamanian citizen reported to Panamanian Civil Aeronautics (PCA) he had discovered aircraft wreckage while hunting in the mountains of Panama Province, Republic of Panama. After a PCA search and rescue team visited the site, the wreckage was reported to the Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command (JPAC). JPAC specialists surveyed the area in August 1999, and in February 2002 excavated the site where they recovered remains and crew-related artifacts. The crash site was along Allen's suspected flight path, and the aircraft was consistent with O-47A aircraft from the 39th Observation Squadron, their assigned unit. Additionally, the team recovered crew-related items at the site which helped confirm the identity of the airmen.

Scientists of JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab used mitochondrial DNA as one of the tools in the identification of the remains of Allen, Cartwright and Stubbs.

Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm, 78,000 are from World War II.

For additional information on the Department of Defense's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) Website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo, or call (703) 699-1169.

Takes One To Know One

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is really breathing some fire lately:

Im a stirring speech which laid bare the open and underhand destabilisation manoeuvres of the United States and Britain, President Mugabe yesterday strongly denounced the two countries for continuously meddling in the internal affairs of developing countries.

This came in the wake of a statement by the US Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Mr Tony Hall, who had criticised the United Nations food agency for inviting the President to the organisation's 60th anniversary commemorations.

Mr Hall was quoted in a number of newspapers here and on the Internet as saying the US was amazed that Cde Mugabe had been invited to speak at the FAO anniversary and that the President had "done so much to hurt the hungry" and had "absolutely turned his back on the poor".

Departing from his prepared speech, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe is a UN member and the world body's agencies such as FAO and is not an extension of the US.


Read the link for Mugabe's whole speech, in which he compares the U.S. and Britain to Hitler and Mussolini, champions his own country's democracy, discusses how the U.S. has crushed democracy abroad, and other such absurdities. We've blasted Zimbabwe before, here's Prince of Perksia on the subject, and here's some other incriminating stuff dug up by the Coalition For Darfur. I could go on and on and on finding evidence of this thug's legacy of brutality, but why bother? He's a President-for-Life leader of a sham, one-party tyranny that has kept his people poor, starved, and oppressed. He says Bush and Blair are like Hitler? Well, I guess he would know more than anyone because he seems to be schooled in the arts of fascist dictators better than almost any tinpot ruler out there.

Indict Rove?

Jacob Weisberg says why liberals shouldn't want to.

Hold the schadenfreude, blue-staters. Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive. Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they'll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press's right to find out, the government's ability to disclose, and the public's right to know.

At the heart of this misbegotten investigation is a flawed piece of legislation called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As Jack Shafer has written, this 1982 law is almost impossible to break because it requires that a government official unmask covert agents knowingly and with the intent of causing harm. The law was written narrowly to avoid infringing free speech or becoming an equivalent of Britain's Official Secrets Act. Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents. It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.

[snip]

Call witnesses back enough times and you can usually come up with something. Special prosecutors never give up, because saying no crime was committed, after investing years and tens of millions of public dollars, counts as abject failure. And if gleanings from the grand jury room are to be believed, Fitzgerald may go beyond the Ken Starr-style foolishness to bring more creative crap charges of his own devising.


As much as many (including myself) might like to see Rove's scalp, is it really worth the price? I'm starting to think no.

Wipeout

Holy Bejesus has Neal Boortz lost his mind. Or found it, as the case may be, depending on if these kinds of things were always rattling around in that nutjob skull. Obsidian Wings really dig him the grave he deserves, and I'm sure it's not going to be even nearly the beginning of the flack he catches for this.

Conservative Talk Radio. . .Such a fountain of enlightenment.

Drawing Lines

One of the biggest contributions to bitch ass partisan politics are district lines. Concentrating incumbent power by creating otherwise nonsensical districts is bull shit. My three year old niece and an Etch-A-Sketch could come up with lines better suited to the populace. It is in the this vein that I, sigh, applaud the efforts of Governor Schwarzenegger:
Separate ballot measures in California and Ohio to remove lawmakers from the drawing of legislative districts have been dogged by accusations that they are essentially partisan power grabs.

Now Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, hopes to counter those claims by throwing his weight behind the Ohio measure, even though no prominent Republican elected official in that state has done so and many Republican lawmakers there are raising money to defeat it.

Happy 30th Anniversary Mom and Dad

On a rainy October 18, 1975, in St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Maryland, my parents wed. It was a year and nine months after they first met on a blind date. Thirty years, three kids, one house, a few mortgages and a lot of headaches later, they're still in love.

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Congratulations, guys.

Hot Air

Inflation has officially arrived as a fundamentally real problem. All areas are being affected by the energy increase, and we're all going to feel the pain all the more as interest rates are ratched up to combat it. Inflation in the last month alone was up 1.9% (I'll repeat: just for one month). The core (excluding energy prices) jumped .3 percent. With a federal budget out of control, rising interest rates, spiraling inflaction. . .it's like the late 70s all over again!

Codifying Torture

The McCain Amendment is in big trouble in conference committee, and may end up warped to actually strengthen DoD and the CIA's ability to cross the line. Read how here. Less insane things have happened in conference committee, but few quite as vile.

The Old Slice and Dice

The Evil Tennessee Blog Fat Cat's Porkbusters campaign has really started to gain critical mass. The serious desire to reprioritize and control the federal budget after Hurricane Katrina is perhaps one of the most important political developments of the year (although the White House has done an excellent job of stealing attention from it with Harriet Miers.) Many have criticized Porkbusters as not being nearly extensive enough or falling short of its potential, including prolific voices like John Cole and Jeff Jarvis. So how could it be extended? Most people who know of the federal budget system and Congress know that it's going to take more than political pressure, but some degree of budgetary and institutional reform to bring us to the kind of Austerity packages we need. While the Porkbusters effort is a stepping stone, it can only go so far to tame the monster deficits that have developed under a President worse than LBJ for spending increases.

As usual, one of the blogosphere's lone wolves has put together a comprehensive reform package to address all the issues. It's Jon Henke over at QandO. Henke's approach targets three critical areas familiar to those with a background in public administration and public finance, and ones that make damned good sense: transparency, price mechanisms, and consequences. Of course, while you may disagree with Henke's call for a flat tax or a national sales tax, it makes sense to anyone that the public needs to, through the tax system, be aware of the price of public services. These are, as Henke points them out, the core issues at stake in ever controlling the federal budget and affecting the incentives currently in place. The problem with Henke's plan? It's too good, and we'll probably never see it at the federal level, but similar efforts have been practiced in state and local governments.

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

NEWSBREAK: God's an a-hole!

Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for TIMESONLINE, really shat in the religious right's cereal last month. She reported that, "Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide."

Quoting an article written by Gregory Paul and published in the Journal of Religion and Society, Ruth says that, even though deity-centered cultures (like the "god-blessed" United States of by-God America) like to believe themselves better (read, more morally just and true)than secular states, these nations show, "... higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion."

This actually makes a weird kind of sense. I'd like to call it "Preacher's Daughter Syndrome." It always seems to be the offspring of religious figureheads, the pious leity, or plain old jesus-freak nutjobs (the "ubereligious," if you will ... and you'd better!), that "lose it" and join the dark side of drugs, sex, rock & roll, and of course, cannibalism.

I think the same thing is true with our great nation. Because of all of these societal controls via religion, our society and those like it (i.e. bloated with religious saturation), are experiencing a good ol' fashioned backlash. Mm, just like grandma used to make.

There's too much pressure ON our society BY our society and we just can't take it anymore. Thusly do people feel the need to go out and wreak havoc like those minions that Pinhead created in those Hellraiser movies. You know, like the guy who could shoot CDs out of his chest and the other dude with the drill, and there was that girl with the chains?

Nothing?
Okay, bad example.

Look, if a society puts too much faith in something as ludicrous as religion as an integral part of governance (shut up, right-wingers, you know we do), its citizenry will rebel and, in a poof of irony, all hell will break loose. That's not exactly what Mrs. Gledhill was trying to report, nor is it precisely what Mr. Paul wrote ... but it is true, so help me God.

Now bring it.