Saturday, January 21, 2006

What Is It With These NeoCons.....

That they think diplomacy and foreign relations are a schoolyard fight?
US wrong to sniff blood in bin Laden tape: analysts

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent Fri Jan 20, 3:49 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House officials listening to Osama bin Laden's latest tape heard a weakened man on the run, but other U.S. officials and analysts heard a dangerous leader rallying his troops, mocking the United States and possibly setting up another attack.

The audiotape -- the first one from the al Qaeda leader since December 2004 -- said the militant network was preparing attacks in the United States but was open to a truce with Americans, linked to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

As soon as the tape aired on Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said it proved al Qaeda leaders were fugitives under the gun and Vice President Dick Cheney said bin Laden appeared to be in deep hiding with difficulties getting messages out.

But some counterterrorism officials and analysts say this assessment from the White House is off the mark and fails to examine the benefits a savvy operator like bin Laden may derive from showing he is alive and focused on a U.S. attack.
I mean, they're practically taunting him, and you can draw a direct line between this attitude of McClellan and Cheney and Bush's infamous "Bring it on," to which Osama and Al-Zarqawi replied, "Oh, it's brought, beeyatch!"

One might point out the self-referential irony of Mr. "Undisclosed Location" Cheney mocking bin Laden for needing to go into deep cover, however, if anyone knows about being "under the gun," surely it's McClellan.

This entire South Asian debacle is very reminiscent of boys playing with toy soldiers, complete with the mouth noises, "Perkow! Blooosh! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah.....nnnnnnnrrrrrrrowKABOOM!" and for all the bluster and bravado, Osama bin Laden comes off as the more dignified and intelligent warrior.

This is one area that I should think the Bush administration would WANT the bin Laden tapes to be aired in their entirety with translation, because let's face facts: the parts they DON'T describe on TV or in the papers are probably the parts that bin Laden reveals his diabolical insanity, and maybe we ought to see the administration's reaction in context. Perhaps then he won't be such an enormous embarassment to us.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Seven Votes????

NYC Transit Workers Reject New Contract

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer
14 minutes ago

NEW YORK - The city's 33,000 union transit workers narrowly rejected their proposed contract Friday, one month to the day after starting a crippling three-day strike that stranded 7 million bus and subway riders.

The workers, by a seven-vote margin out of more than 22,000 votes cast, rejected union President Roger Toussaint's call for ratification and followed the lead of a dissident group urging rejection.

The voting ended at noon Friday, and Toussaint announced the unexpected result a few hours later.

Toussaint blamed "downright lies" by opponents of the proposed three-year contract and said the union's leadership was ready to "go back to the drawing board" with negotiators as soon as possible. He left without taking questions about the possibility of another strike.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the city's mass transit system, had no immediate comment.
In addition to those issues, remember Pataki had threatened to renege on the agreed-upon reimbursement of $110 million that was legitimately owed to back pension payments that were taken illegally.

There was a small but vocal minority that was protesting this contract, as well, calling it a "secret deal" between Toussaint and the MTA, but it was generally held this was a nuisance more than an effective opposition.

Apparently not.
The workers say they are against paying for healthcare and were not told of what they call a "secret" side deal concerning pensions. John Mooney, a TWU Local 100 executive board member spoke near Union Square:

[Mooney]: If this pension refund goes through the MTA board...goes through the MTA...transit workers will lose half their money towards taxes.

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"Liberal" New York, Redux

Race split in schools gets Klein attention


Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said yesterday New York's public schools are more segregated than those in other parts of the country because they mirror the racial divide in the city's neighborhoods.
"Throughout the country, there are patterns of racial segregation," Klein said between Martin Luther King Day events.

"My solution is for every kid, wherever he or she is, whatever race, whatever background, to make sure they get a good quality education.

"One of the things I think is really important is that our schools are improving for all kids."

Klein's comments followed a recent study by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project that found more black and Latino children in segregated schools in New York than in any other state except California.

Study author Gary Orfield said the problem is more severe in New York City than statewide.

"New York has always been extremely segregated," Orfield said.

"It's been sort of written off. People say they can't do anything about it so they don't really try."

Orfield suggested New York's school choice programs - which allow students to attend schools outside their neighborhood - be used as a vehicle for integration.

"They should be actively trying to create integrated schools, drawing in new residents and keeping the old ones," he said.

Time for pols to have a plan

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. must be spinning in his grave. While local celebrations of the civil rights leader's birthday went off smoothly this week, there was barely a peep mentioned about New York's status as home to some of America's most racially segregated cities, counties and school systems.
As my Daily News colleague Erin Einhorn reported, a Harvard study found that New York has more black and Latino kids in segregated public schools than any other state except California.

Our racially divided schools mirror New York's deeply segregated neighborhoods.

The problem was on display at the Rev. Al Sharpton's annual King Day celebration in Harlem. While Sen. Hillary Clinton's remarks comparing Congress with a plantation made national news, a far more important matter - largely ignored by the press - was raised by Bertha Lewis of the activist group ACORN.

As Lewis pointedly reminded listeners, Nassau County remains one of the most segregated communities in America. ACORN is suing the county government and the village of Garden City in federal court over longstanding policies that keep Garden City overwhelmingly white and neighboring Hempstead mostly black.

According to the ACORN lawsuit and a major study by a Long Island civil rights organization called Erase Racism, Nassau officials have maintained a policy over decades of systematically steering subsidized housing to a small number of minority communities.

Lewis' comments put Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi on the spot. Suozzi supports a plan to transfer 25 acres of underused county land to Garden City for development - a plan being criticized by ACORN because it does not include subsidies or zoning amendments to make sure housing built there will be affordable to working-class or poor people.

Suozzi, who says the Garden City location is "not an appropriate place for an affordable housing project," says the county can raise more money by getting top dollar for the land and using the funds to subsidize affordable housing elsewhere in Nassau. That's the same logic that has kept Nassau segregated for generations.

Suozzi, who is likely running for governor against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, should push housing policies that would end the segregation. (Full disclosure: My wife is an aide to Spitzer, but my opposition to segregation predates her employment.)

Both Suozzi and Spitzer, and everyone else running for office, must answer to the public for what they plan to do to help desegregate New York.

According to the Census Bureau, New York ranked as America's third-most segregated metropolitan area in 2000, after Detroit and Milwaukee.

Far too many people approach New York's frayed race relations with a combination of exhaustion, indifference and cynical apathy. "New York has always been extremely segregated," is how Gary Orfield, author of the Harvard study, put it. "It's been sort of written off. People say they can't do anything about it so they don't really try."

New York's political class, including the media, bears a heavy burden of responsibility for this state of affairs. Rare is the politician brave enough to acknowledge frankly that our communities are divided by race, and that this segregation runs counter to the vision of a united country that most of us want to see.

Rarer still is the pol willing to ask New Yorkers to do what King asked of America: Pay some dues and take some chances to heal the racial rift.

When we do so, it will be the most fitting of all tributes to Martin Luther King Jr.
Bet YOU never imagined New York STATE, much less New York City, was more segregated than 48 other states...

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Bush Explains Medicare Drug Bill -- Verbatim Quote

From a press conference in Tampa on the afternoon of 4 February 2005

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: 'I don't really understand. How is the new plan going to fix the problem?'

Verbatim response: PRESIDENT BUSH:
'Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those
different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are
calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help
on the red.'

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Lessons About The Presidency In The 20th Century

FDR proved that the Presidency can be a lifetime job.

Truman proved that anybody can be elected President.

Ike proved that we didn't really need a President.

Kennedy proved that being President can be dangerous.

LBJ proved that having a President can be dangerous.

Nixon proved that a criminal can still be President.

Ford proved that you don't have to be elected to become President.

Carter proved that you can be elected President by the incumbent's mistake.

Reagan proved that such mistakes don't always go unpunished, even wrongfully.

Bush 41 proved that the Presidency can slip through your fingers.

Clinton proved that the Presidency can stick to your fingers.

Bush 43 proved that you can fool enough of the people if you try hard enough.

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Hm. No Negotiating With Terrorists, Huh?

US on bin Laden tape: No negotiations
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States dismissed on Thursday a conditional truce offered in a tape attributed to Osama bin Laden and said it "does not negotiate with terrorists."

Vice President Dick Cheney said the offer from the al Qaeda leader appeared to be a ploy but that it was too early to draw conclusions.

The audiotape, aired by Arab television station Al Jazeera, also warned al Qaeda was preparing new attacks inside the United States.

"Clearly the al Qaeda leaders and other terrorists are on the run, they're under a lot of pressure. We do not negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

"The terrorists started this war and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing. We continue to pursue all those who seek to do harm to the American people," he said.
Let's take a closer look at that, shall we?

Who can forget this chart-topper?
[Our goal] is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.
Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.
So Iran is identified as a terrorist state, if not THE terrorist state, and we don't negotiate with terrorists.

And yet....
"Negotiations remain the best option, as sanctions will muddy the waters," the China Daily said in an editorial, saying Iran must return to negotiations with the European Union.

The EU trio scrapped the talks last week after Iran removed IAEA seals on uranium enrichment equipment and resumed a suspended nuclear research program. U.S. and EU officials say there can be no more talks unless Tehran reverses these steps.
Right. No negotiations with terrorists. Ever. Those damned sanctimonius, law-abiding Republicans...

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Rush Limbaugh Spotted In London

Whale spotted in central London

A large whale has been spotted in the River Thames in central London by boaters and sightseers.
The mammal, thought to be a 17ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale, was seen swimming past the Houses of Parliament.

"I saw it blow, it was a spout of water which sparkled in the air," said Tom Howard-Vyne, who works at the London Eye, on the other side of the river.

The whale is believed to have travelled upstream passing the Thames Barrier on Thursday night or early on Friday.
The "blow" part was the clue that it was merely Rush on a sightseeing boat, apparently leaving Daryn back home...
Are Rush Limbaugh and Daryn Kagan on the rocks?

It was almost two years ago that Lowdown exclusively revealed the surprising romance between the right-wing talk-radio star and the publicly apolitical CNN anchor.

That was when the two showed up together at a small private dinner at Patsy's for Vice President Cheney during the Republican Convention. The rest of the media jumped on the story, and there was even speculation that Limbaugh, who was separated from third wife Marta, would be getting married to Kagan once his divorce came through.

But Kagan's colleagues at CNN have been buzzing about the absence of an engagement ring, and now I hear that the high-profile pair is going through a rough patch.

"Politically, they were not a good fit," reports a Lowdown spy. "She broke it off. She is heartbroken. He is playing golf."

"This is news to her," claimed a friend of the couple. "They love each other very much and have no plans to break up."

A confidant of Limbaugh, who's at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Desert, Calif., had no comment.

Ditto Kagan.

Watch Live Coverage Here

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

How Conservatives Argue

An object lesson, forwarded to me by one of the ten smartest men in America (and a liberal):

Liberal: The USA has fifty states.

Conservative: No, it doesn’t.

Liberal: Yes, it does. The USA has fifty states.

Conservative: What about Guam? What about that Guam, huh? Or the
Virgin Islands?

Liberal: Those are territories, not states. The USA has fifty states.

Conservative: Oh, so you’re saying those don’t count?

Liberal: Yes.

Conservative: Oh, so the people there don’t count? They’re not good
enough, huh? I thought you liberals wanted everybody to be counted.

Liberal: No, I said the territories don’t count as states. The USA
has fifty states.

Conservative: You’re really something, you know that? You liberals
are always going on about how all of us conservatives are racists,
how we don’t care about anybody but people who look like us. But you
don’t even want to count the blacks who live in Guam as Americans.

Liberal: First of all, I never said all conservatives are racists.

Conservative: Yes, you did.

Liberal: No, I didn’t.

Conservative: Michael Moore says it.

Liberal: I’ve never heard him say that.

Conservative: Yes, he does! He most definitely does!

Liberal: Look, I don’t know what he says. That’s beside the point.
And the people in Guam “count,” whatever that means. I don’t even
know who lives in Guam; I don’t know the first thing about Guam. I’m
just saying Guam isn’t a state ­ it’s a territory. The USA has fifty

Conservative: What about Puerto Rico?

Liberal: What?

Conservative: What about Puerto Rico, huh? You love all those
Mexicans coming across the border stealing our jobs ­ you must LOVE
Puerto Rico, right?

Liberal: I’ve never been to Puerto Rico.

Conservative: Well, I have, and those kind of people would be pretty
offended to hear liberals like you saying they aren’t real Americans!

Liberal: I didn’t say that!

Conservative: You said they didn’t count!

Liberal: I didn’t say that either! No, wait, just wait… (takes deep
breath). I only said the USA has fifty states. Puerto Rico isn’t a
state ­ it’s a commonwealth.

Conservative: And they don’t speak English!

Liberal: Well, many Puerto Ricans do.

Conservative: How do you know that? I’ve been there ­ you haven’t!

Liberal: All right, OK, fine, whatever. But the USA has fifty states.

Conservative: Well, I say Puerto Rico counts.

Liberal: Fine, but not as a state.

Conservative: Well, that’s YOUR opinion.

Liberal: It’s not my opinion ­ it’s a fact.

Conservative: Says you!

Liberal: No, not just “says me.” It’s a fact. Look it up.

Conservative: I don’t have time.

Liberal: You don’t have time to find out if the USA has fifty states?

Conservative: Listen, you may have time to sit around all day surfing
on your liberal websites, downloading Michael Moore, but I’ve got
things to do.

Liberal: Like reading about blacks in Guam and Mexicans in Puerto Rico?

Conservative: See, that’s why you guys always lose. I’m trying to
have a nice conversation, and you just keep up with the insults!

Liberal: Listen, I didn’t mean to insult you.

Conservative: Oh, yes you did!

Liberal: No, look, I’m sorry, OK? I didn’t mean to insult you.
Honestly. It’s just that… well, the USA has fifty states. That’s a
fact. And I’m just trying to state a fact, and you’re getting very
defensive, and…

Conservative: Oh, so now I’m defensive.

Liberal: Well…

Conservative: You just said you weren’t going to insult me!

Liberal: Look, I’m just trying to say the USA has fifty states!

Conservative: According to YOUR sources!

Liberal: MY sources?! What are you talking about? Look it up!

Conservative: I told you, I don’t have time to spend all day cruising
the internet, looking up geography questions! Maybe if you were
busier at your job, trying to live the American Dream, you wouldn’t
have time for all this hate!

Liberal: I work hard at my job!

Conservative: Then why are you spending all day downloading Michael

Liberal: I don’t spend all day downloading Michael Moore! I don’t
even know what you mean by that! All I’m saying is that the USA has
fifty states!

Conservative: Again, according to YOU!

Liberal: Not just me! Here, here’s the World Book Encyclopedia. Look
it up ­ it’s fifty states!

Conservative: Oh, sure, the World Book! Yeah, like I’m going to
believe the World Book!

Liberal: What?

Conservative: Come on, it’s a liberal rag!

Liberal: (Long, teeth-gnashing pause) Look, just look up “United
States of America.” Ten bucks it says, “the USA has fifty states.”

Conservative: Ten bucks, huh?

Liberal: Yeah, ten bucks. (pause) Wait, that’s the “M” volume.

Conservative: I know.

Liberal: You need to look under “U” for “United States.”

Conservative: I’m not looking for “United States.” I’m looking for
“Moore, Michael.”

Liberal: What?!

Conservative: And when I find a big glowing article about him, you’re
going to owe me ten bucks!

Liberal: Why would I owe you ten bucks?!

Conservative: You bet me ten bucks that the World Book Encyclopedia
isn’t liberal.

Liberal: No I didn’t!

Conservative: Yes, you did! You bet me ten bucks that I couldn’t find
a liberal article in the World Book. So when I find Michael Moore’s
picture, you owe me ten bucks!

Liberal: Oh, my lord…

Conservative: AHA!

Liberal: Listen, you idiot, just because you found Michael Moore’s
picture in the World Book doesn’t mean that I owe you ten bucks! It
doesn’t mean the World Book is a liberal encyclopedia! And it
certainly doesn’t mean the USA doesn’t have fifty states!!

Conservative: Oh, no? Look at this!

Liberal: (pause) “Massachusetts”?

Conservative: Bingo!

Liberal: What the hell does Massachusetts have to do with anything?

Conservative: The COMMONWEALTH of Massachusetts!

Liberal: So?

Conservative: So you said Puerto Rico is a commonwealth!

Liberal: Oh, no…

Conservative: You ADMITTED Puerto Rico was a commonwealth! Admit it,
you said it!

Liberal: Oh, man…

Conservative: So if Massachusetts is a commonwealth, and Puerto Rico
is a commonwealth, then they BOTH must be states! HA!

Liberal: OK, look…

Conservative: You owe me twenty bucks!

Liberal: What?

Conservative: Come one, pay up! Twenty bucks, let’s go!

Liberal: I don’t owe you twenty bucks!

Conservative: And I’m not even counting Pennsylvania!

Liberal: Pennsylvania?

Conservative: That’s a commonwealth, too!

Liberal: It’s a commonwealth, but…

Conservative: And Washington!

Liberal: All right, look, I lived in Seattle ­ Washington is NOT a

Conservative: Seattle’s not even a state ­ it’s a city!

Liberal: Yes, it’s a city, in Washington State! Washington’s a state!

Conservative: I’m talking about Washington D.C.

Liberal: What?

Conservative: Washington D.C. It’s a city.

Liberal: I know what it is!

Conservative: Well, you liberals are always going on about “Statehood
for Washington!” Which, you admit, is already a state!

Liberal: Washington D.C. is not a state!

Conservative: Washington State is!

Liberal: You just said Washington D.C.!

Conservative: And you said it should be a state!

Liberal: I never said that! I mean, it should be… but I never…look…

Conservative: Should Washington be a state?

Liberal: Well…

Conservative: Simple question.

Liberal: Washington State?

Conservative: Yes or No?

Liberal: Washington State or Washington D.C.?

Conservative: Right.

(Long pause)

Conservative: He snorts cocaine.

(Long, painful pause)

Liberal: (slowly) This is Washington D.C. you’re talking about.

Conservative: Yeah. The mayor snorts cocaine.

Liberal: Actually, he’s no longer the mayor…

Conservative: I don’t think a state should have a governor who’s used

Liberal: He’s not the governor; Washington’s not a…

Conservative: Except maybe California.

Liberal: OK, OK, stop for a moment…

Conservative: I mean, that was a long time ago…

Liberal: Listen, listen…

Conservative: I don’t see Michael Moore making any movies about
cocaine in Washington State, do you?

Liberal: Please, STOP!


Liberal: Look, I’m just trying to make a simple point here…

Conservative: What about…

Liberal: STOP!!!

(long pause)

Liberal: I’m just trying to make a SIMPLE point here. It’s not a big
deal ­ it’s just a fact. The USA has fifty states. That’s all! Yes,
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, but it isn’t counted among the fifty
states. Yes, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are commonwealths too. So
are Virginia and, I think, Kentucky. I don’t know about Kentucky for
sure, and you know what ­ it doesn’t matter! They’re considered
states, OK? They’re states. Washington D.C. isn’t one, even though I
wish it was. Guam isn’t one. There are only fifty. Fifty states.
Fifty stars on the flag ­ fifty states. That’s all. Fifty.

(long pause)

Conservative: Rush is so right about you people.

Liberal: Huh?

Conservative: Rush. He gets it. You people are the worst.

Liberal: I don’t…

Conservative: Here I am, trying to have an honest political
discussion, and all you can do is bring up this liberal claptrap! You
call people like Rush racists, but you don’t want to count Mexicans
as Americans. You insult the Governor of California every chance you
get. You get all your information from encyclopedias and Michael
Moore. You want free cocaine in Washington, and you want Seattle to
become a commonwealth, and you won’t pay me my fifty dollars even
after I proved that blacks run Guam! And then, worst of all, you
insult our flag and our troops!!! You disgust me!

Liberal: Good-bye.

Conservative: See, there you liberals go again! Sneaking off to
download porn from Kentucky! I’m not forgetting you owe me 100 dollars!


Conservative: That’s it, cut and run!

(long pause)

Conservative: Why do you hate America?

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Cat Fight!!!!

Laura takes verbal swipe at Clinton


January 19, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Laura Bush raised a ruckus in the genteel first ladies' club yesterday by labeling Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments about GOP leaders as "ridiculous."

On Monday, New York's junior senator said during a Martin Luther King Day appearance in Harlem that GOP leaders run the House "like a plantation." Almost as an afterthought, Clinton predicted that Laura Bush's husband, George W. Bush, would go down in history as one of the worst presidents.

"I think it's ridiculous," Laura Bush said of the plantation comment during a discussion with reporters on the flight back from her Africa trip. "It's a ridiculous comment, that's what I think."

The first lady - a fierce defender of her husband's honor - broke an unwritten rule that bars presidents' wives from throwing down publicly on each other, said one well-placed Clinton supporter. The two first ladies have seemed cordial to each other during public appearances together.

"That's not very first-lady-like," said the supporter.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines refused to respond directly to Laura Bush's swipe, repeating his contention that the House leadership "has stifled real and substantive debate."
But what's even funnier is the New York GOP's response:
Clinton's camp brushed off a demand by former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, a Republican mulling a Senate run, that Clinton should apologize. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) made a similar suggestion yesterday on CNN, but stepped back from that comment when contacted by a Newsday reporter.

Sen. Barak Obama, an Illinois Democrat, rushed to Clinton's defense yesterday, saying the plantation statement was an accurate reflection of "the consolidation of power by the Republican Congress and the White House," adding, "if you are the ordinary voter, you don't have access."
"Ineffectual," springs to mind, that they trotted out a minor player in a minor role in a minor party. Sort of reminds of professional wrestling, where the manager, some seedy scrawny little pencil neck, tries to distract the champion by jumping up and down at ringside calling names. Even Peter King was forced to swallow his words, as you can see.

Still, the thought of Laura and Hillary squaring off in a jello wrestling match is....repulsive, frankly.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

UPDATE on Avian Flu: China Takes The Lead On Bird Flu

Funds promised to fight bird flu

By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - International donors pledged $1.9 billion on Wednesday for a global fund to combat bird flu, while Iraq tested a dead teenage girl for the virus.

The funding promised at the end of an international conference in Beijing was well in excess of an initial target set by the World Bank to raise at least $1.2 billion.

Conference host China reported that a 35-year-old woman in the southwest of the country had died of bird flu. The woman, a poultry slaughterer, would be the country's sixth human death from the virus if the case is confirmed.

The World Bank has estimated that a pandemic lasting a year could cost the global economy up to $800 billion. Across the globe, millions could die if the H5N1 avian flu virus mutates just enough to pass easily among people.

"This is not charity. This is not just solidarity. This is self-defense," EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told a news conference in Beijing.

Of the $1.9 billion pledged, about $900 million would be in the form of loans, and the rest in grants, he added.
The US pledged over $300 million, the EU $250 million.

Europe saw its first deaths last week, as Turkey reported four children dead in an outbreak of 21 cases in the country. Coming on the heels of the reported outbreak in Romania, we can see that eastern and southern Europe will be a place to keep an eye on in February, traditionally the worst month for flu outbreaks. Similarly, Iraq reported a possible death from the virus.

But what's scary about the Iraqi death is that it didn't occur on a farm, but near a lake known as a refuge for migratory birds from Turkey, lending credence to the theory that Africa and South Asia will be another target of the virus, unlike past avian flu pandemics.

(Cross-posted to: Avian Flu Help)

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"Liberal" New York

Homeowners won't back down from vandalism
Despite racist graffiti on new North Valley Stream home, family vows to stand ground, move in


January 18, 2006

The racist graffiti spray painted on Roy Burke's new North Valley Stream home hasn't deterred him from living there at all. In fact, Burke, who is black, wants to move into the four-bedroom house with his family more than ever.

"This has given me a stronger conviction to move [there]," said Burke, 43, a mortgage consultant. "Especially because of the fact they did it on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. These people are trying to tell me I'm not good enough for the neighborhood. That's not going to happen. It makes me want to move in even more."

Between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday, someone painted black swastikas, "KKK" and the message "Move Out --," a racist expletive, on the garage door of Burke's Frances Drive home, Nassau police said.

This is the second time racist graffiti has gone up in the neighborhood since October 2003. The last time occurred at a black man's house about three blocks from Burke's.

Investigators believe the two are linked, Burke said police told him.
This isn't Alabama. This isn't Mississippi. This is a so-called "blue state" and is doubly shameful for that reason alone.

Nassau County has seen, over the past twenty years, a large influx of middle- and upper-middle class minority residents, lured by the promise of good schools, safe neighborhoods, and a tract of land with a yard.

The same reasons white people moved out to Long Island starting 50 years ago, with one big difference: those folks were moving out to escape "them". These folks are escaping people as well, but as I posted the other day, it's not about race anymore.

It's about economic class. And while New York City has seen a miraculous rebirth in the past thirty years, from the days when Gerald Ford would tell us to drop dead, rather than assist us out of probably bankruptcy, that rebirth was very tenuous in certain sectors: blue collar workers saw their textile jobs flee south, and then overseas; service sector jobs barely cover transportation to and from them; lower-middle class office workers, the secretaries, the bookkeepers, saw automation and downsizing rip those jobs away.

Leaving behind a class of people desperate to make a living, sometimes with two incomes, sometimes with one supporting children, the other parent dissolving into the rain of economic uncertainty like a snowman. To pay their taxes. To afford a doctor. To be able to feed a family.

And some made it, like the Burkes.

Now, the ones who are making it are running smack dab into the backlash of the folks who left in the first wave: the bigots who claim to be liberal, and yet have raised their kids (for that's who is doing all this) to hate people who are different, who have different cultures and different beliefs.

Shame on them. Shame on them all.

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Bush Joke

The old priest lay dying in the hospital. For years he had faithfully served the people of the nation's capital. He motioned for one of his aides to come near.

"Yes father" said the aide.

"I would really like to see President Bush and Congressman DeLay before I die" whispered the priest.

"I'll see what I can do, father" replied the aide.

The aide sent the request to the White House and waited for a response. Soon the word arrived. The president and congressman would be delighted to visit the priest.

As they went to the hospital, Congressman Delay commented to the president "I don't know why the old priest wants to see us, but it will certainly help our images after the number the Democrats have done on us." The president couldn't help but agree.

When they arrived at the priest's room, the priest took President Bush's hand in his right hand and Congressman DeLay's hand in his left. There was silence and a look of serenity on the old priest's face.

Finally Congressman DeLay spoke "Father, of all the people you could have chosen, why did you choose us to be with you as you near the end?"

The old priest slowly replied "I have always tried to pattern my life after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

"Amen" said President Bush

"Amen" said Congressman DeLay

The old priest continued..."He died between two criminals. I would like to do the same."

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Grudging Praise

Despite my many criticisms of Governor George Pataki, and most of his policies and stances, sometimes I have to give credit where credit is due:
Pataki: Hybrid car owners to get tax break, perks

Associated Press Writer

January 16, 2006, 4:05 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The rising number of buyers of hybrid and alternative fuel automobiles would get a tax break, a map of alternative fuel filling stations and access to some priority traffic lanes under Gov. George Pataki's proposed state budget.

The wide ranging energy proposals, including tax breaks for heating costs, will be part of Pataki 2006-07 budget proposal on Tuesday. They address his goals of cleaning New York's air while reducing dependence on "terror-promoting foreign oil."

The governor's budget proposal to the Legislature is scheduled to be delivered Tuesday, starting the usually contentious budget negotiations with legislative leaders.

The energy proposal he released Monday seeks to provide incentives for consumers to use cleaner fuels, as well as funding for research to make cleaner, lighter automobiles. It is Pataki's last budget to try to burnish environmental and fiscal conservative credentials nationwide as he considers a run for president in 2008. Several proposals encourage the use of ethanol, an agriculture-based fuel for automobiles that would appeal to farmers in New York and the key presidential primary state of Iowa. [....]

Pataki's proposal include:

_Renew the $2,000 personal income tax credit for buying a hybrid vehicle, which carries a higher costs than traditional models. It would cost the state about $5 million in lost revenue.

_10 percent discount in the E-Z Pass toll program for drivers of hybrid and other cars that get at least 45 miles per gallon and meet air quality standards.

_Allow vehicles that average at least 45 mpg and meet air quality standards to use often less congested car pool-only lanes in New York City and on the Long Island Expressway, even when not car pooling.

_Home heating tax credit for New Yorkers 65 years old and older with incomes up to $75,000. The tax credit could be up to $500.

_$50 million to help low-income families pay energy bills.

_A $500 tax credit for replacement or renovation of old home heating systems.

_Two sales tax-free weeks for the purchase of appliances and air conditions that carry the Energy Star tag showing they are energy efficient.

_Ending state taxes on renewable fuels while creating more filling stations for ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels. This could make alternative fuels cheaper at the pump than gasoline. Renewable fuels would be offered at all 27 state Thruway travel plazas and the state would send maps of alternative fuel stations to owners of those vehicles.

_$20 million would be used to promote "cellulosic" ethanol made from paper mill waste, grasses and shrubs to lead to the construction of an ethanol manufacturing plant.

_Construction of an alternative fuel research lab in Saratoga County's town of Malta technology and energy park. It would do research on fuels, batteries and pollution control technologies. Another $10 million program would support research to make lighter vehicles and a $5 million program would research hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

_$10 million in competitive grants to companies to develop flex-fuel hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies.

_Companies that use clean energy will get tax breaks similar to those offered in geographic Empire Zones, regardless of where the clean company is located.
But, as one hand giveth, the other taketh away:
The package of energy-related bills would also provide home heating tax credits and encourage development of so-called clean coal-burning plants.
Right. The puppies what been spewing mercury into our atmosphere and poisoning our food chain, right into the pelagic fish like salmon and tuna.

More bad news on the budget front:
Gov. George Pataki proposed a $110.7 billion state budget plan Tuesday that would reduce property, income and business taxes by $3.2 billion even while pumping up spending on education and energy independence.

The New York Republican, proposing his last state budget while eyeing a run for the White House in 2008, would increase spending by 4.1 percent, a rate above inflation, while closing what he called a modest $700 million budget gap. The budget also calls for several tax incentives to lure and enhance business in New York.
Let's do some quick math here: Pataki proposes a 3% tax cut across the board, and a 4.1% increase in spending in a state that is already running an operating deficit.

So let's be charitable and say that 4.1% is on equal dollar footing with the 3% cut in taxes, making the budgeted shortfall over 7%.

Now, economic growth of 3% over inflation is considered healthy but inflation continues to stubbornly refuse to cooperate by remaining flat in New York State. So let's be charitable and say it prices will rise by 2%. That means about a 2% shortfall in the budget, or about $22 million dollars, on top of the already in-place $700 million.

And that's before any emergency spending is taken into account and you know damned well something will pop up. In fact, with all the rain we've had already this month, we can expect at least one disaster in the coming weeks.

Do Republicans ever learn? The definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing that doesn't work, over and over again. While New York is a heavily taxed state at all levels, perhaps Pataki should be pushing for money from the other end (e.g. the Bush administration).

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A Valentine's Gift for Bill O'Reilly

The Talking Dildo

Yes, now even Bill can hear himself coming as he "Abu Ghraib gently" inserts this into his anus, and pleasures himself, his wife, his sexual abusee AND the liberal blogtopia©...simultaneously!

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Monday, January 16, 2006

NeoCons: Closeted Homer Sexuals

I love it when Wolcott bitch-slaps NeoCons bitchslapping each's a tasty diversion from him bitchslapping NeoCons who are trying to purse-smack him:
"Gay tinge" is a rather prissy phrase on Podhoretz's part, as if Sullivan were trying to slip by a sly innuendo. There's no need to be sly. I won't presume to speak for Sullivan, but it's clear that there's a homoerotic ardor for Bush by neonconservatives that bypasses reason and reduces them to hero-worshipping mush.
Can't say it any better than that, but Wolcott manages to top himself...errrr, no pun intended, Mr. Wolcott. Sir.

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Goombah No. 5

A Little Alito In My Life

I don't usually link to Vesti's blog. I really should do that more often. He's amazingly funny.

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My Favorite Coat

It's cold. It's dry. It's windy. It's a perfect day to wear my favorite coat.

My carrick. My greatcoat.

It covers me from head to toe (yes, I even have to lift it to climb stairs), and the shoulder cape has so many uses, from wrapping like a scarf to a modified hood. Originally a nobleman's coat, it was later discovered by carriage drivers as a way to bundle up against the cold bracing winds one would drive into in winter.

For me, though, this coat evokes a sense of romance, of passion.
Practically Byronian, wouldn't you say? Actually, this is precisely the version I own and can be purchased at (No, that's not me in the photo)

Life should be lived with romance and passion. Not romance and passion for a woman or a man, though that naturally follows, but for life itself. Understanding that by being who you are, you can accept who other people are more readily. Further, you don't have to rely on someone else to make you feel better about yourself (but again, that will happen, but organically) if you have passion about your life and yourself.

So go buy a carrick.

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A Token Attempt to Be Fair And Balanced

Students were assigned to read 2 books, "Titanic" & "My Life" by Bill Clinton. One smart ass student turned in the following book report, with the proposition that they were nearly identical stories! His professor gave him an A+ for this report:

Titanic: $29.99
Clinton: $29.99

Titanic: Over 3 hours to read
Clinton: Over 3 hours to read

Titanic: The story of Jack and Rose, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.
Clinton: The story of Bill and Monica, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.

Titanic: Jack is a starving artist.
Clinton: Bill is a bullshit artist.

Titanic: In one scene, Jack enjoys a good cigar.
Clinton: Ditto for Bill.

Titanic: During ordeal, Rose's dress gets ruined.
Clinton: Ditto for Monica.

Titanic: Jack teaches Rose to spit.
Clinton: Let's not go there.

Titanic: Rose gets to keep her jewelry.
Clinton: Monica's forced to return her gifts.

Titanic: Rose remembers Jack for the rest of her life.
Clinton: Clinton doesn't remember Jack.

Titanic: Rose goes down on a vessel full of seamen.
Clinton: Monica...ooh, let's not go there, either.

Titanic: Jack surrenders to an icy death.
Clinton: Bill goes home to Hilary...basically the same thing.

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Separated At Birth?

Ugly NeoNazi Jean Schmidt AND
Geddy Lee of Rush?

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In Honor and Rembrance...

But let's not forget the lasting legacy of Dr. King's message was not only about race and intolerance, but about poverty.

See, poverty is the real killer of dreams in this country, the richest country ever to exist on this planet. Twenty years after establishing this day of service, we still have too many children going to bed hungry; too many women who can't support the children they've conceived and borne; too many men unable to find a job that keeps them out of prison; too many families living either on the streets or in shelters; too many people desperate and living solely to make it to the next measly paycheck.

And they're, far and away, mostly white. So it clearly is not about race, despite the Republicans best efforts to paint it that way (and thus neatly sew up the po' white trash vote, since if those folks had a clue about whom the Republicans really hurt, they'd vote Democrat in a heartbeat.)

Katrina exposed a deep racial divide in this country in most eyes, but for me, it exposed something far more troubling: our nation's inability, from the government down to the individual, to recognize that there are people who are not making it in this world and we ought to do something about it.

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Possibly The Most Intriguing Local Race

I say "intriguing", because this race for a vacated Assembly seat will pit neighborhoods of very different ethnicities and economic status against each other. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out:
Rare open seat has Queens politicians abuzz


January 16, 2006

Attorney and Democratic District Leader Rory Lancman appears to be the front-runner to replace Assemb. Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), who will not run for re-election, leaving a rare open seat in the state legislature.

That is, unless Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) decides to run. Or if a strong South Asian candidate appears in southern portions of the district, which runs from Flushing down central Queens to Richmond Hill.

Dilip Nath, 32, a member of McLaughlin's political club who lives in Fresh Meadows, has indicated he is interested in running. However, Nath finished a distant third with 10 percent of the vote last year in the Democratic primary against Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Morshed Alam, 38, of Jamaica Estates, said he is weighing a run. "I think I have a lot of support in the community," Alam said in an interview last week.
Let's take a closer look at these areas mentioned.

Fresh Meadows is a quasi-suburban neighborhood, dominated by single and two family homes and not many multiple unit dwellings. In other words, fairly wealthy, and fairly family oriented. Not much rapid transit makes it out to Fresh Meadows aside from the occasional bus route and express bus, so the residents rely heavily on cars and in particular, the Long Island Expressway, which means a lot of their shopping is done in Nassau County, a few miles down the road.

Bayside, likewise, is predominantly single family dwellings, except that being slightly more urbanized (a Long Island Railroad line passes through and has stops in Bayside), there are condominium developments. Bayside, therefore, tends to attract a larger crowd of young singles and recently married couples. With numerous bus lines running into Bayside, these residents can afford to live way the hell out in Queens while managing to work a-cut-above entry level jobs.

Jamaica Estates is also an upper-middle class neighborhood, bordering on Jamaica, so it has a slightly different make-up. Jamaica proper is a lower-class neighborhood, tending to be highly ethnicized (yea, I'm using code), so Jamaica Estates folks have to be a little bit, um, pioneerish to live here.

Which leaves Flushing. In the past twenty years, Flushing went from a blue-collar neighborhood of mostly ethnic whites, Irish, Italians, to a small-business-owning Asian population. In fact, Flushing now accounts for more Asian-Americans in New York City that Chinatown. Add to this a recent influx of Pakistanis, Indiands, and other South Asian peoples, and you have a highly diverse and highly polarized community. Well, "polarized" may be too strong a word, but as with all recent immigrant ethnicities, people tend to stick to their own.

Richmond Hill, of which a small portion of this district covers, is a blue-collar working class neighborhood and is only now undergoing the transition that Flushing saw in the past two decades.

A clue to how this will all shake out lies in the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by four to one. You can discount any Republican dark horse candidate at this point, and focus on the names listed above (as well as anyone else who might emerge).

It's a fractious population, to be sure, and any candidate from Jamaica Estates or Flushing will have to work hard to get his or her name known in Bayside or Fresh Meadows, OR cross cultural lines within the more densely populated portions of this district. Both of these will be tough to do. Any candidate who can come out of Jamaica or Flushing to win this district will be a force to reckon with in the next mayoral election.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Conan The Finn

UPDATE: It appears that Halonen, altho winning a plurality of the votes, will be forced into a second round of voting, as her percentage was around 47%, shy of the 50% to win outright.

Conan's endorsement and mocking of the Finnish election was not cited as a reason for her failure, however it should be noted that, as late as two weeks ago, Halonen was running at about 52% in the polls.

Conan's Endorsement No Joke to Some Finns

Associated Press Writer

January 14, 2006, 10:05 PM EST

HELSINKI, Finland -- Finland's president finds her traditional support among women and the Social Democratic Party base, but lately to the surprise of many Finns -- and her opponents in Sunday's election -- she has gotten an endorsement of a different sort.

The redheaded late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien has been promoting President Tarja Halonen's re-election bid as part of a long-running joke about their supposed physical similarities.

"Why do I support Tarja Halonen? Because she's got the total package: a dynamic personality, a quick mind, and most importantly -- my good looks," the comedian, whose show is broadcast on cable in Finland, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Whether O'Brien has a real interest in Finnish politics is uncertain, but his gags and mock campaign ads for Halonen have not gone unnoticed in this Nordic country of 5.2 million.
Thus proving Finns do indeed have a sense of humour beond the totally unfunny (and my distant cousin) Emo Phillips.

Oddly enough, I was going to sit out this election, my first as a Finnish citizen, because I obtained my citizenship too late to have followed the issues in my ancestral home. I do have an absentee ballot I can file, even tho the first round of the election has ended. (PS If you follow the link, you'll see the Finland, arguably the most technoologically advanced country on the planet, where you can buy a soda from a vending machine with your cellphone, files paper ballots as absentee)

You heard me correctly. First round. There's a mandatory run-off round if a candidate doesn't receive 50% of the direct vote. Maybe HAVA should take a closer look at the Finnish elections?

I was leaning towards Halonen (mostly because her website has an English page), but was also intrigued by the conservative candidate, Sauli Niinisto. "Conservative" in this case would qualify as "liberal" in any state in America. Henrik Lax strikes me as a bit of a dreamer, but in Finland, maybe dreams do actually come true. I mean, here's a man who doesn't want to see Finland give up its principles just to kiss Bush's ass!

But then I found Heidi Hautala.

Under any circumstance, I will need to wait out today's results to see whom I shall vote for. But Conan's endorsement is sure helping me make up my mind....NOT!

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No, I'm Not Prescient...I Just Pay Attention

Izzy Stone was famous for saying that a newspaper should report the news so that no one is surprised when they read a story. I hope this one doesn't surprise you...
U.S. curtailed on reforming Iran


January 14, 2006, 9:08 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- One year ago, the United States was actively identifying targets inside Iran for a possible bombing campaign, according to intelligence sources.

The official rhetoric of the United States toward Iran had for some time been nearly as bellicose as it had been toward Iraq two years before, with the most hard-line U.S. officials making it clear they were interested in fomenting regime change in Tehran as well as in Baghdad.

But now, despite all the tough talk in Washington and Europe last week about Iran's nuclear program, the reality is that the diplomatic options are limited and, in part because of Iraq, the military option is almost nonexistent.
If it does, you missed my post the other day.

Phelps and Gordon, of course, have far more access to source material than I do, and so their article is a must-read if you are interested in Iran.

A Lesson In Investment Analysis

I wanted to give you an intriguing look at how the mind of a stock market analyst works:
600,000 Xbox 360 game units sold in US: group

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) has sold 600,000 of its new Xbox 360 video game consoles in the United States since its November launch, an analyst for market researcher NPD Group said on Friday.

The Xbox 360 debuted to much fanfare on November 22 in North America. Since then it has been in short supply. Analysts, video game publishers and retailers have said shipments during the key holiday season fell short of expectations.[....]

Microsoft last week confirmed its target of selling between 4.5 million and 5.5 million Xbox 360 consoles during the current business year, which ends June 30, 2006. It said in its statement on Friday that it will provide information on its Xbox 360 business during its quarterly financial report later this month.
OK, so let's do a little basic math here: 600,000 sold in six weeks, so that's about 100,000 a week, right? They retail at $300 list, so that's $30 million in gross revenues, before the retailer takes his cut, let's make that $200 at wholesale, and $20 million clear revenue for Micro$oft.

One hundred thousand units a week. Six months. 5 million should be an easily attainable number, right? Right. Except that the first six weeks contained Christmas and Hannukah, and while stores ran out of consoles, some places like Circuit City and Best Buy still had them in stock and are even discounting them now.

So Micro$oft ran at about twice its projected pace for the first six weeks of introduction. Too, it hasn't shipped any new units in 2006 (according to the stores I've seen around New York City) in the first two weeks, and no one I spoke to said they had any notice that they'd receive any more units soon.

We're talking about easily losing a month's sales in the pipeline; a month, I might add, that has a three day weekend in it. A month that sees some colleges still out on break. A month that will have kids home with the flu. A month that traditionally sees people staying indoors, doing indoor things like watching TV, reading, and ohhhhhh, playing games???? And yet, anal-ysts (my term for analysts who will bend over and let a company buttfuck them for some inside gossip to pass along) had this reaction to this announcement:
Microsoft shares closed up 5 cents to $27.19 on the Nasdaq.
Go figure.

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