No wonder the Red States support this war and this moron in the White House: they have very little skin in the game, relatively speaking.
Why? Probably because most of the soldiers who have been to Iraq enlisted in the Guard or Reserves for the college tuition stipend, because in blue states, you can really see the value of a good education. Few manufacturing jobs, fewer agricultural jobs, means more white collar jobs and that means more college degrees.
(hat tip to Kos via Martini Republic)
Saturday, December 09, 2006
No wonder the Red States support this war and this moron in the White House: they have very little skin in the game, relatively speaking.
Richard Nixon managed to disgrace himself. George W. Bush has managed to disgrace his entire family name, thus ruining any political career for any Bush for the foreseeable future. Even Ed Cox, Nixon's son-in-law, stood a chance of running in an election...
I say all this because of this: The Fighting First Family.
And may I just say? Amen, Mr. President. Take your phony-cowboy-elitist-shallow-gene-pool breeding stock to Paraguay or some banana republic, where you can rule to your heart's content...maybe declare war on the Faroe Islands...
The Fright Wingers have been all over the case of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), calling them "Surrender Monkeys" (the New York Post), accusing them of re-fighting the Vietnam War (curiously, as opposed to many on the right Blogosphere, many of the Group actually have picked up a weapon, some in Vietnam even!), and just generally calling the program unrealistic or some variation thereof.
One might think it's slightly more realistic to sit down, see that we have an enormous mess on our hands, and try to figure the most graceful exit from a debacle that really holds no graceful exits. It's now a matter of how much fecal matter we can avoid.
The cogent point that Alex made is this:
If anything, the mistake in Vietnam (and Iraq) was treating a political problem like a war, not the other way around.These past four years, as I've groped around like a sighted man in a pitch black room where the furniture's been rearranged for an appropriate way to describe why fighting this war was wrong, I had circled this concept, but never really summed it up so precisely. Thank you, Alex.
Iraq is, or rather was and is again, a political problem. President Clinton understood this. He knew that containment and embargoes were having the effect they needed to have: keeping Saddam at bay while not removing a critical balancing point in the Middle East: the threat of Saddam's "WMDs", and how they were keeping Iran and Syria in check. Clinton knew that, remove Saddam and Iran and Syria would be free to indulge their most lavish terror fantasies, including nukes and the potential destruction of Israel.
In essence, a political problem: how to keep Saddam in check without yanking his teeth.
We've seen the results of treating Iraq as both a political problem and a military problem: Eleven years of peace, marred only by the random missile lobbed at a US or British fighter plane, versus a regional conflict in the making, involving Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even the Sudan and Somalia for good measure.
And that's before counting all the places that have suffered terror attacks and military action against terror groups as a direct result of our and our allies' actions in Iraq: Madrid, London, Bali, Jordan and the Phillipines.
Vietnam, too, was a political problem: how to keep Communism in check. The military solution wasn't the answer, because the underlying premise, the Domino Theory, was invalid, as demonstrated by the fact that Thailand is not Communist today.
I heartily and openly admit to being a pacifist, but that doesn't mean I disagree with all military actions, just that military action should be a last resort (you know, "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"). Afghanistan, for example, was a military action I supported, because we had a clear objective: find and capture Osama bin Laden, who had masterminded the September 11 attacks. It was clear the Taliban were not going to give him up to a extradition request. We had to go in and get him.
Or so we thought.
Neither did I support the first Gulf War, although I found that one a little more palatable, so made less of a stink about it. Then-President Bush...you know, Ol' Weepy...managed to convince the UN to put together a coalition to "save" Kuwait from Saddam's oil predations.
Not exactly the stuff heroic novels are written on, but it did involve protecting the sovereignty, however noxious that sovereignty was, of a country.
Similiarly, altho I did not support the Kosovo action, I could make less of a stink about that, as well: a NATO operation, it involved protecting the rights (ironically of Muslims) of an ethnic minority against the genocide of another ethnic group in country.
Sort of like going into Darfur and fighting the janjaweed, which has the added allure of being action taken against Muslim terrorists who might have knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts. Which may be why we haven't taken up that cause.
So what IS the solution to Iraq now? According to Jon Stewart, the ISG recommendation #73 is "Call a Jedi," with which I heartily concur.
No, I'm not kidding. Altho "Jedi" is not the description I'm thinking of, in effect, this solution will call for a person of indisputable impartiality, someone the Fright Wing has poopooed, and by extension, has been disrespected by the administration, but who is not cozy with Iraqis in general, or Iran or Syria. It must be a person who has familiarity with the entire region, who can get involved in the Palestinian/Israeli question without fealty to either side (and who, in fact, has had issues with both parties). A man who, while supportive of our actions in Afghanistan because of the 9-11 tragedy, has taken great pains to remain objective in his approach to that conflict as well.
I hear Kofi Annan is even looking for a job....
Friday, December 08, 2006
The Origin Of Frasier
How Niles Came To Be
The Final Countdown
Fascinating look at "inside baseball"...
Well....the answer is, they're NOT human, at least not all human!
On November 28, 1998 a chance discovery turned up the 24,500-year-old skeleton of a child at Abrigo do Lagar Velho, Portugal. The skeleton was that of a 4-year-old child. He had been buried with a pierced shell and sprinkled with ochre. The ochre was only found immediately next to the body, implying that he had been wrapped in some material with the ochre inside of it. ( Duarte et al, 1999, p. 7604). The discoverers, after examining the skeleton, called Erik Trinkaus in to examine the remains because they suspected that the child was of mixed Neanderthal-modern human parentage. Trinkaus confirmed the mixture of traits in this child. This is the first demonstrable hybrid and as such it has important implications for anthropology and Christian apologetics.At least now we know how Republicans came into being, although I find it most ironic that the same people who largely back Creation theory are the ones who disprove it outright: after all, if God made us in His image, what the hell are Neanderthals doing in the mix?
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Meaning, I haven't faced the throngs of Christmas shoppers in Manhattan. Meaning, I've avoided as many tourists as one who works across the street from Grand Central Station possibly can, even tho they troop through the lobby of my building regularly on sightseeing tours.
Tourism is a life-blood of New York City, to be sure, and after September 11th, one of the most remarkable sights, one of the most enduring reminders of the human spirit, was seeing tourists lining the streets of Times Square and midtown Manhattan, peering at the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, gazing over the horizon from the top of the Empire State Building, all just weeks after the most devastating terror attack in a major city ever.
You would have thought they'd be scared away: crowds, threats, increased police surveillance, all prime opportunities for another attack. Hell, even I bailed to Aruba that year, and I consider myself a typical New Yorker, for whom nothing is more than a distraction. Manhole covers blows sky high? Call "heads" in the air. That sort of thing.
But there comes a point when the sheer volume of people, the mass of human flesh and odors, becomes too much. And this Christmas, in particular, is a prime example of a time when it will.
Part of the problem, for New Yorkers, is the dollar is damned cheap compared to other currencies. That means, and I can picture it clearly in my mind, travel shops all over the UK and France are adverstising "shopping holidays" in America, where you can fly 3,600 miles and still save on your presents!
For example, the wildly popular iPod. The UK Apple store lists the iPod at £189. US price? $249. With the exchange rate at $1.96, the UK iPod costs $370.
See what I mean? You've paid one-quarter the airfare right there, with one gift. Now factor in shopping outlets, and you can see that any major American city in the east that has a big outlet mall nearby (New York has three, and a fourth one is a fairly short drive away in Pennsylvania) will be inundated with international tourists, who along with shopping, will sightsee. Eat in our restaurants. Walk on our sidewalks. Drink in our bars (and complain about our beer)! Ogle our women! Steal candy from our babies! BREATHE OUR AIR! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!
The streets of the city normally feel like the veins and arteries in a bloodstream: cars and people pulse to the heartbeat of the stoplights and flashing "Don't Walk" signs, creating a rhythm to the city that a native can usually suss out, and quickly assimilate into the flow.
When you add tourists, it's like adding a blood thickener. Streets clog. Sidewalks become obstacle courses of gawking families, Hagstrom maps unfurled, gazing up, jaws agape. Suddenly, the jaunt that took five minutes to walk has turned into a trek of fifteen minutes, requiring a sherpa, a navigator, and elbow pads.
(NOTE TO TOURISTS: Please, if you need to consult a map on Broadway and 45th Street, step to the curb or the wall of the building! You'll do us all a favor.)
And what usually happens in the body when a foreign object is absorbed? The immune system kicks in, and the body rallies the lymph system and the corpuscular fighters into action (read: muggers and pickpockets). The police help, but once you get police activity (the New York euphemism for "somebody fucked up, big time"), you can count on even longer delays, to the point of horn-honking and impolite language passing amongst the cabbies and truck drivers. And the poor tourists, looking for all the world like lost deer, are trying to absorb it all while checking their wallets.
I had a proposal which I submitted to Mayor Bloomberg, on which I have not yet heard back: during tourist season, we should raise the kill limit. Currently, it stands at two bucks and as many does as you can carry in the back of your SUV, unless the police catch you. I'd like to see the buck limit doubled to prevent breeding.
I believe the only way to truly recapture the natural beauty of our streets, the pristine habitat of native New Yorkers, marred only by the occasional out-of-town "commuter," whom we tolerate because they feed us all year long, as opposed to these agglomarations of gluttony provided by tourists, is to implement this hunt as soon as possible. That way, we can restore balance to our city.
Think of it. We might actually hear the birds chirping once more!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I think we've seen enough public embarassments in just this year alone....anybody recall Mel Gibson?...to understand the dynamics of making a mistake and what to do afterwards. Life's little object lesson.
And yet, the people who should be most responsible, our leaders, seem to be the ones who have the most problems owning their mistakes. What's the saying: "Success has many parents, while failure is an orphan"? And yet, it is by their mistakes that our public figures, even politicians, are judged, at least in the short run.
Take Bill Clinton. This President oversaw the greatest economic engine in the history of the world: the 1990s American economy. He did this while maintaining a basic level of peace for the country, and improving relations with nearly every country in the world, which only served to help our economy.
People thrived. They not only thrived, but all evidence points to the fact that the American people had never had it so good.
Mention his name, tho, and it is inextricably linked to Monica Lewinski. Oh, history will change that, no doubt. Historians will see the good works Bill accomplished despite having an antagonistic Congress for six of his eight years, and they'll judge him as one of the greatest in American history, or at least the 20th Century.
Imagine what would happen if Bill had simply said, in 1998, what he said on the campaign trail in 2000: "I made a mistake, and caused great pain to my family and let down my friends. I'm sorry." It's impossible to know what that would have meant for the rest of his term, but certainly if he was able to accomplish what he did with Lewsinki and Starr hanging around his neck, he'd be able to accomplish at least that much, and prima facie, be already judged one of the greats.
Bush doesn't have the luxury of a booming economy, or global peace, or frankly, anything of note to point to as an accomplishment, which means his failures and mistakes become magnified.
And yet, it is rare and grudging that he will even admit a mistake, much less show regret for making it.
The list of Bush lies, lies that killed men and women, American, allied, and Iraqi, are too numerous to list. Even recent lies have been exposed so fast and furiously that it's hard to keep track: Bush says he never said stay the course, yet two days later, he's saying there will be no change in policy. Semantic quibbling, a bald-faced lie, or does Bush have a personality disorder of such magnitude that he actually believes, despite video and audio evidence, that he never said those words?
Or is it a case of "what the definition of 'is' is"?
One might hope that the release of the Iraq Study Group's report today would trigger an internal cleansing. I don't mean of administration personnel, but of Bush's conscience and soul. Confession, you know.
And yet, I doubt it will happen. I think one of the huge blindspots of American society is the belief that forgiveness will come, no matter what. Certainly, the comebacks of many celebrities from some horribly icky circumstances...Hugh Grant and a hooker in his car leaps to mind, but then so does Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon...gives some support to this belief on the part of any politician: why admit a mistake when you can simply get out of the spotlight for a while, then make a comeback and be granted "elder statesman" status? Just ask Robert Byrd, who took his damn sweet time to express regrets about his former KKK membership.
Too, the Protestant work ethic and Christianity in general support this trope: why be penitent at all when, on your death bed, you can make a bland apology and get a priest or minister to ratify your sincerity, thus guaranteeing your entrance into heaven? What's the point in "doing a mitzvah," as the Jews call them, when you can recant at the last second?
I think this "forgiveness" thing gets distorted, as well. Ted Haggard indulges in behavior that would embarass most hedonists, yet his peers speak of his forgiveness as if its fait accompli, even tho his own culture demands five years of "rehabilitation," a process that by its own founder is no more than fifty percent effective (ignoring precisely what he's supposed to be rehabilitating from...). Meanwhile, a meth addict steals some food to feed his family (admittedly, a distortion of his responsibility to clean himself up, get a job and do it the right way) and these same people tut-tut, and throw him in jail for years.
Which brings me to one more point about the "forgiveness merry-go-round" in America: when forgiveness becomes assumed for some, it means that others will suffer undue burdens to prove that they are worth forgiving, because those who are easily forgiven find it easy to shirk that forgiveness and go back to the behaviors that got them in trouble in the first place. Just ask pitcher Steve Howe.
The dynamic in Bush's case is curious: here's a man who, by all measures of this analysis, should be a slam dunk for obtaining forgiveness from those who matter the most to him: his base, Christians and rich war-mongers.
And yet, for some reason, he can't find the strength in himself to pull the trigger and admit he's made some big mistakes. And apologize for them. His bullheadedness, long thought to be a strength, is nothing more than a manifestation of his Wimp Factor. It speaks to me of lacking the moral fibre and self-consciousness to look at yourself and do the right, altho hard, thing.
And his life cries out this theme: take the easy way out. Duck! Cover! Deny! Stonewall! Shed responsibility to your fellow citizens for personal comfort and gain! Never forget you are of the privileged elite and you never get your hands dirty!
Even his confession to being a flat-out drunk and then ducking the true work of rehabilitation seems cynical and calculated.
Well, I've been surprised by life before, and maybe today we'll see the turning of a page to a new Bush.
But I doubt it.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky
Iraq Study Group
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
For the past three years, London has been charging drivers about $14 to enter the central business district. Subsequent studies found that the number of cars on the streets fell by more than 20 percent, and bus delays fell by half.If you've ever been on the streets of New York City during a gridlock alert day's afternoon rush hour, you will fully appreciate the need for congestion pricing.
Environmental and transportation groups have been advocating for congestion pricing here ever since, and were joined yesterday by the pro-business Partnership for New York City.
Unless you were a Republican corporatist or one of their henchmen, of course:
But now, a new group called The Committee to Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free is fighting back with its own statistics. "Everyone touts the London system as a model," said former City Councilman Walter McCaffrey, who now works for the group."New tax": the mantra of greedy little short-fingered vulgarians everywhere.
"But if you are in a situation where you have to bring your vehicle into Manhattan for work, you could end up paying $5,000 more a year for this new tax."
Yes, technically, it's a tax, since it's an additional cost for an activity or event.
So what? Why shouldn't the people who use the most congested streets in America, who create that congestion, be forced to pay their share of the burden for causing it?
If I go to a movie in Times Square, I don't expect Mr. McCaffery, the councilman-turned-lobbyist, to pick up my movie ticket. Why should he pick up the cost of driving my car to the theatre?
With the advent of technologies such as EZ-Pass and other RFID markers, it would be a no-brainer to collect fees for congestion pricing, and indeed, on Port Authority of New York bridges and in the tunnels, such a scheme exists: you get a deeper discount from the regular toll with your EZ-Pass on off-hours than you do during the crunch.
According to a study published yesterday by the Partnership for New York City, a pro-business group, the congested streets around Manhattan cost the city about $4 billion dollars, and about 52,000 jobs. Congestion pricing would try to ease that as vehicular traffic south of 60th Street in Manhattan would have a fee charged, which would fund additional alternative mass transit facilites, such as increased ferry service and more buses and subways. 3.6 million people travel into this district daily and about a third of those arrive in vehicles. Less than half those vehicles are used in the course of business in this district, meaning that roughly 900,000 vehicles enter midtown and lower Manhattan daily, as commuters or pleasure drivers. Daily. A million cars daily.
That's so unnecessary. The time has come to get the fair share out of these folks for clogging up our streets.
New York City
And thank you all for your kind wishes for my recovery. It's been a tough road, but I'm glad I'm on it. I'll be taking some time off after the holidays....excuse me...after Christmas...to recuperate someplace reasonably warm and quiet.
Birthdays were never a big part of my family growing up, perhaps because my parents were too embarassed by how little they made to give us presents and parties like we'd want. Or maybe they were just cheap bastards. I know that would be my dad's point of view.
Anyway, as an adult, I came to the realization nthat birthdays really do mean nothing, aside from the fact that you made it one more year. But we mark that on New Year's Eve anyway, and it gets handled in one fell swoop.
My daughter gave me a present over the weekend, the entire Superman movie catalog on DVD, and that's enough presents for me. She's getting a new laptop in turn, so it's not like she's not making out on the deal. ;-)
I feel like I'm at a crossroads in my life, and this asthma thing has only thrown into sharp relief how time is no longer an ally in picking and choosing my next path. I don't know how close I came to a catastrophe last week, waiting for doctors to make up their own minds, but I suspect it was a lot closer than I thought at the time. If my life is now measured in days (and in truth, who among us knows whether that's true or not), then I have things to do.
Anyway, I wanted to share something my "older brother" shared with me in e-mail. Pete and I have known each other 30 years now...HOLY SHIT!...and he is precisely one day older than I am. Brilliant man who needs more brilliance in his life.
---Don't let aging get you down. It's too hard to get back up!Enjoy your day(s), and thanks again, everyone!
---THE SENILITY PRAYER : Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.
---My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.
---It's scary when you start making the same noises as your coffeemaker
--- The nice thing about being senile is you can hide your own Easter eggs.
--- Remember: You don't stop laughing because you grow old, You grow old because you stop laughing.
Now, I think you're supposed to send this to 5 or 6, maybe 10 people. Then something might happen. Oh heck, just send it to a bunch of your friends if you can remember who they are.
Monday, December 04, 2006
WASHINGTON -- The White House is preparing for an important week: President Bush plans to meet Monday with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, and the recommendations from the bipartisan commission are to be released Wednesday.al-Hakim is the leader of the largest faction in the Iraqi parliament, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and as such, likely fronts for al-Sadr and other Shi'a partisans, such as Ayatollah Sistani. In fact, I'd lay money that it was al-Sistani who encouraged this meeting.
To put it in perspective, it's a little like Nancy Pelosi going to Beijing to meet with President Hu Jintao about settling the red/blue states dispute. Meanwhile, this all goes on in front of the backdrop of Bush's meeting with Prime Minister "heckuva job there, Nouri" al-Maliki last week, and his stubborn insistence that there will be no change in course.
Of course there will. There's only the question of how long Maliki will fight to remain in office, and how much political cover the Baker report, due Wednesday, will give the administration to make changes. The fact that Bush is meeting with Hakim, who had a public disagreement with Maliki a few weeks ago over the progress being made, and all but removed the pins from under Maliki, who had relied on his appeasement of Sadr and Sistani as a technique for remaining in power, on the heels of the leaked Hadley memo, speaks a lot to the direction this is heading in.
Oh....the Hadley memo, in case you missed it this weekend:
The latest, first reported in Sunday's New York Times, showed that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for a "major adjustment" in U.S. tactics on Nov. 6 -- the day before an election that cost Republicans the Congress and Rumsfeld his job as defense secretary.Uh, yea. Rumsfeld, the day before the election, suddenly decides to give the President a laundry list of changes to be made...no, there was no machination there!
Hadley played down the memo as a laundry list of ideas rather than a call for a new course of action.
He said that Bush -- just before a pivotal election -- was not portraying a different sense of the war to the public than his own defense secretary was giving him in private.
So my expectation is, that the Baker study will be released, Bush will at first ignore the memo, maybe even poopoo it, but eventually will quietly implement most of its recommendations, finishing with a troop redeployment in late 2007. Remember, this is a President who, on the campaign trail promised to never ever get into "nation building," yet had plans all along to do just that in Iraq.
That a robot can take better pictures than I can. I don't mind looking at a David Doubilet or Brian Skerry photo and realize I'll never attain the combination of eye and technical capacity to capture the images they can, but a frikkin' robot????
These are real-color, unenhanced photos from Saturn and its moons, courtesy of the National Geographic Magazine website.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ridiculed as the "do-nothing" 109th U.S. Congress, the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on Monday begin a brief session to wrap up whatever work they can, install a new defense secretary and approve money to prevent a shutdown of government services.IF the Republicans were a party of honorable men and women, they'd probably do just that: leave this stuff for the Dems to fix. They've screwed things up enough and the American people clearly have had enough. I'm not counting on it, tho.
The Republican-led Congress will meet only for about another week before drawing to a close -- as lawmakers prepare for the new 110th Congress set to convene on January 4 under Democratic control.
Having been blown out in the November 7 elections, Republican lawmakers are getting ready to hand over to Democrats some major unfinished business, led by what to do about the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.
Republicans are also leaving unfinished long-term government funding legislation, and appear unlikely to decide whether to extend popular tax credits that expired at the end of 2005.
Congress has failed to pass nine of the 11 annual bills that fund government activities in the fiscal year that began on October 1. Farm subsidies, education, health and law enforcement are among the programs without full-year funding.I'm not sure they should bother. Perhaps closing the government down and giving the Dems a fresh start to clean house would make more sense. Oh...but count on one partisan thing to be sure to get done this session:
To avert government shutdowns, two temporary spending bills have already been enacted. The latest expires on Friday and Congress is expected to pass a third stopgap funding bill that would keep U.S. agencies running through February 15.
A House ethics panel is poised to release a report on its investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit electronic messages to teenage interns and what fellow Republicans knew about the matter.Right. After all, we wouldn't want the parties truly responsible to be held accountable. Which I think is what the November 7 election was all about.