Saturday, December 16, 2006

Nine Days Til Christmas Music Blogging

The Kinks - Father Christmas

They Eat Their Own

Would that they had done this during that horrible spate of "books" written by Rush Limbaugh:
O.J. Simpson's would-be publisher, Judith Regan, was fired Friday, her sensational, scandalous tenure at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. ending with the tersest of announcements.

"Judith Regan's employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately," HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman said in a statement. "The REGAN publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group."

Regan's firing comes less than a month after Murdoch's cancellation of Simpson's hypothetical murder confession, "If I Did It," a planned book and Fox television interview that was greeted with instant and near-universal disgust when announced.
Let's take a closer look at this, shall we?

First off, I don't care how much power you have at a division of a major American media conglomerate: if you're going to publish the memoirs of one of the most notorious killers (unconvicted division) in American history, that's a decision you might make on your own, but I would expect someone at HarperCollins knew about it.

However, if you are going to promote this book with two nights of interviews on your sister network, and someone at the parent company hasn't been apprised? Then either there's something functionally wrong with NewsCorp, or Rupert Murdoch made her fall on his sword. How many millions of dollars of advertising time was sold, and no one of the sponsors called Rupert and said, "Um, are you sure about this deal?"

Any bets on how many times Murdoch had to say yes before that deal was approved?

It seems pretty clear, based on just the "public face" of things, that Regan was forced to swallow the poison to cover up Rupert's deep miscalculation of the American stomach for nauseation. You'll notice no Fox heads rolled, nor did any News Corp corpses get uncovered. Either Judith Regan had an enormous amount of interdimensional "stroke" (and granted, she did come up with "Growing Up Gotti"), or she's the fall guy. Errr, girl...errr, person.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Kitten Blogging

This time for sure!

Ten Days Til Christmas Music Blogging (Hanukkah Edition)

Hanukkah Bird

Friday Kitten Blogging

....will be a little delayed this week, because dummy me forgot to upload the photos from his camera to iPhoto...grrrrrrrr...

Not that ThumbPer is doing anything extraordinarily special, mind you, I just hate oversights. In the meantime, some moldy oldies to get your kitty Jones calmer...

Yet Again, Bush Blows It, Big Time....

Of the various people who have come to this country to do it harm, many have arrived on some form of legitimate visa, tourist or education. So a good way of knowing who might be doing us harm is to compare the people coming in with the people leaving and trying to find the people who overstay their welcome. Or so you'd think:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 — In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.

Domestic security officials had described the system, known as U.S. Visit, as critical to security and important in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Similarly, one-third of the overall total of illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas, a Congressional report says.

Tracking visitors took on particular urgency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became clear that some of the hijackers had remained in the country after their visas had expired.
Now, it almost sounds as if the Bushies did everything in their power to put this in place, only to be snafued by a bureaucracy. Guess again.
But in recent days, officials at the Homeland Security Department have conceded that they lack the financing and technology to meet their deadline to have exit-monitoring systems at the 50 busiest land border crossings by next December. A vast majority of foreign visitors enter and exit by land from Mexico and Canada, and the policy shift means that officials will remain unable to track the departures.
So, um, lemme who provides the funds for this research and development, you think? Congress? Well...
Congress ordered the creation of such a system in 1996.
Wait...1996? You mean Bill Clinton signed this sensible measure into law? So it wasn't Clinton. Who else?
Domestic security officials, who have allocated $1.7 billion since the 2003 fiscal year to track arrivals and departures, argue that creating the program with the existing technology would be prohibitively expensive.

They say it would require additional employees, new buildings and roads at border crossings, and would probably hamper the vital flow of commerce across those borders.
Lemme see...more expensive than, say, fighting a land war in South Asia?

So basically we're left to the conclusion that the only reason this system isn't in place right now, ten years after authorization, is that a war in Iraq is draining the economy and government of the vital funds needed to study, research, develop, and implement a simple system of essentially keeping a clipboard and checking whether a person who said he or she was leaving, has left.

No one's doubting that the vast majority of people who stay here illegally are here for benign reasons: a better job, a better life, a better chance. That's America, and we ought to get used to the fact that we cannot seal our borders so well as to prevent that dream from spilling over and then backwashing our shores.

But. If you have on your list a Saudi Arabian visiting from Hamburg, Germany who recently has spent a few months in Jalalabad, Pakistan and Kandahar, Afghanistan, you might want to keep an eye on his whereabouts, and that starts with knowing that he's still here.

Thanks, George!

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eleven Days Til Christmas Music Blogging

Weird Al Yankovich - Christmas At Ground Zero

No, not that Ground Zero...and it's very funny.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The top story of the day: Tim Johnson, D-SD, and part of the newly-elected one seat Democratic majority in the Senate, had what appears to be a stroke (could just be an ischemic attack), but is listed in critical condition. My sense is he'll survive and recover fairly quickly. His resignation or death will be a major blow to the Democratic agenda overall, but I feel that there is enough moxy now in the Republican moderates that some of the major points of the Pelosi/Reid agenda will get through, like a hike in the minimum wage. This may not be as bad as the punditry makes it out to be, that Cheney has the deciding vote, because a) most votes won't come down to that, and b) Cheney's heart makes his physical attendance in the Senate questionable. There is no precedent for what happens when that occurs.

2) Jacq pointed to an article at where Senator McCain is going to introduce legislation to severely curtail your civil right to comment on this or any other blog, and to hold me personally responsible for your comments. Other parts of this legislation include greatly increasing the punishment for the use of copyrighted materials (on the fence about this part), and even more severe restrictions on the posting of personal information in a profile and/or a diary!

What a jerk. Although it woud be fun to watch such right wing blogs as Little Green Footballs actually censor comments from the right wingnuts who post there...

3) The Boston Red Sox have apparently come to terms with Daisuke Matsuzaka. First, it ought to be fun reading the Boston sports columns for the first few weeks as their, um, provincial writers try to spell that puppy. Second, the deal with Matsuzaka was for about $60 million over 6 years (for a guy who hasn't even thrown a major league pitch!), with the Red Sox ponying up an additional $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka (yea, I'm rubbing it in that I know enough Japanese that I can type "Matsuzaka" with some comfort). It's the fee portion I'm focused on.

I think this is a good thing, that baseball is beginning to implement what soccer has had for years: a transfer system, whereby a team in any league in any country that agrees to join UEFA can negotiate for any player on any other team in any other country, with the teams exchanging money for this right. It prevents, say, the Portugese league from becoming a de facto farm system for the English Premiere League. Some of these fees can range into the tens of millions of dollars (well, euros, but multiply by 1.25 for the dollar ratio, roughly).

Major League Baseball has had such a superior product that other nations-- Korea, Japan, but most notably poor nations like the Dominican Republic-- have become farm systems for players. Now, Japan, having won the World Baseball Classic this past spring (the United States was humiliated before the round robin tournament portion and eliminated), they've shown that, at least for the first nine to twenty five players in their league, they are as good as the majors, can command this fee.

Personally, I think it ought to be imposed by all countries that have a player under contract to a local team. But nobody asked me...

4) Some Saudis are threatening to take military action if we leave Iraq without securing the Sunni minority's safety. With whose army? Ours? I say, let them get their hands dirty for once.

5) Barack Obama isn't running in 2008, and he ought to stop toying with the party. This is highly reminiscent of Mario Cuomo in the 80s, and it eventually cost him not only a chance at the nomination, but his governorship.

6) Another reason to stop the death penalty in its tracks. If we're going to kill people, we ought to do it unemotionally and with as little malice as possible. The loss of any individual ought to be a time of mourning, not a time of running around trying to figure what went wrong. If we can't get it right, then don't do it.

7) No wonder Tony Blair was so quiet at the press conference last seems he had his hand in the cookie jar.

8) My voice is slowly coming back, I'd say about 70-75% there, and I can even sing in my lower registers. Normally, I'm a baritone. I've trained my voice to carry tenor (used to be falsetto, but now I have to skip over some alto tenor notes to get there, and even then it's kind of iffy. Age will do that.), but I can easily hit bass and even sometimes basso profundo if I've had enough to drink (think Lurch of the Addams' Family). It's a little weird to sing a Gin Blossoms song in your shower sounding like Barry White, I confess...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Twelve Days To Christmas Music Blogging

For Darfur

Hump Day Marx Brothers

Groucho Explains How Bush Is A Uniter, Not A Divider

Conspiracy Theories

I happened to catch the interview with Mohammad Al Fayed on the Today Show (video link) this morning, in which he discusses the soon-to-be-released British government inquiry into the deaths of Princess Diana and his son, Dodi, along with driver Henry Paul.

Al Fayed, if you didn't know, is convinced the British royal family had Diana killed in order to cover up the fact she was pregnant with Dodi's child and was planning to marry him.

If you understood anything about British history, this claim is pretty unusual on its face. Bastard children are no big deal when it comes to royals, but I digress.

Admittedly, Al Fayed seemed sincere in his claim, and yet, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that part of him seemed to cling to what appears to be the truth: a car accident, precipitated by the uncertain physical state of the driver and the excessive speed at which he was piloting the vehicle to avoid the paparazzi.

Certainly, there are plenty of details that don't appear to correspond to this conclusion. For example, the missing white car that paint stripped off of (and witnesses saw) just prior to the accident looms large in the inquiry.

And yet, isn't this true of any event? We all know, for instance, that OJ did it, but he was acquitted, primarily because the gloves didn't fit (and there's a perfectly good explanation for that: when wetted, leather can shrink and warp). No one's about to seriously claim that there was a conspiracy to frame OJ, however.

I have a very simple rule I use when considering conspiracy theories: do they answer more questions than they raise? If not, I discard the theory immediately. Let's see how this applies to some of the great controversies of my lifetime:
1) The JFK Assassination -- I firmly believe the Warren Commission got the lion's share of this one right: Lee Harvey Oswald fired the weapon that killed JFK and wounded John Connally in Dallas in 1963. There is no detail raised by the vast number of conspirarists that cannot be demonstrated in that context. Period.

As an example, let's take the highly touted so-called "magic bullet" theory: that one bullet contorted, stopped and twisted in the air to cause seven injuries was impossible.

Nonsense. The Zapruder film shows that Connally and Kennedy were not sitting facing the same direction, nor in the same plane perpendicular to the direction of the car. Connally was facing over his shoulder, in a jump seat lower than Kennedy's, so the direction of a shot fired from behind and over their left shoulders could not have been any other way, and would have made precisely the wounds they suffered.

There are hundreds of other salient details that I'm not going to bog down my blog with, but suffice it to say that a lot of them rest, in part, in the confusion over what one bullet could do in mid-air. If you eliminate the "impossibility" of a single gunman, suddenly all those details fall into line.

2) The Moon landing was a hoax -- I had to laugh when I first heard this one, just prior to the release of Capricorn One (starring, curiously enough, O J Simpson). We'd been sending astronauts to space for almost a decade in 1969, getting progressively closer to the moon with each mission. Hundreds of people, more likely hundreds of thousands of people, witnessed these spacecraft taking off, live and in person over dozens of launches. To think that suddenly the one flight that first landed us on the Moon was faked was, well, silly.

This nonsense at least has the charm of being a fringe belief, with only 6% of Americans believing it, but it generates enough media heat that occasionally, you'll see a show about it.

Most of the claim of this hoax rests on missing data from the landings. Most of those claims have since been debunked, most recently when, in Australia, an old box full of telemetry tapes from Apollo 11 was found, which confirm that the landing did, indeed take place.

3) Vince Foster was killed -- Ken Starr debunked this one. Nuff said.

4) September 11th was a U. S. government plot -- OK, this has some of the wilder theories I've ever heard, but I chalk this up to the fact that the events are so recent that people haven't had the chance to get together and straighten out their claims (talk about conspiracies!).

I believe that Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and flew three of them into major structures in the United States cities of New York and Washington.

Being an earwitness to the first flight, I can confirm that a plane buzzed Manhattan that day at high speed, flying very low to the ground. Moments later, there was an impact and a large gash in the north-facing side of the north tower.

There are really two conspiracy theories involved here, and I'm going to shock you: this level-headed fellow, who has read a lot and thought a lot about these attacks, agrees with one theory. I believe there was an amount of complicity by the Bush administration in the attacks.

By "complicity," however, I do not mean that Osama and Dubya sat down over beers and hashed it out. I mean that the Bush administration clearly had foreknowledge of the attacks, and that some in the administration urged inaction. This debate, I believe, raged right up to September 11, which is why few steps, if any, were taken to prevent it. It fit an agenda, and enough in the administration subscribed to that agenda to muck up any preventative measures.

The theories, however, that three buildings were somehow pulled down by internal explosives set to detonate to implode the three main structures that came down that day (the other four were deemed unsalvageable and dismantled separately) is ludicrous on its face, and asinine on further reflection. No credible witness reported any explosions (one janitor deep in the basement claims he heard explosions, but a) he was in the basement where sounds could expect to be distorted and b) he has never been tested to see if he would have mistaken a floor-by-floor collapse, with the concurrent concusive forces involved, with a series of explosions), and in fact, credible witnesses describe what sounded like a series of metal-on-metal impacts, consistent with the collapse of a building made primarily of metal. Too, scientists have shown that the jet fuel created temperatures sufficiently hot enough, when combined with the added fuel of furniture, paper, and other combustibles, that could have caused the collapse, as the outer walls, the structural support for the towers, would buckle outwards, leaving floor after floor floating in mid-air. Where else would they go?

The implosion theory, whose results would be similar to the scenario suggested above, have one fatal flaw: who set the explosives in offices that were occupied at the time of the attacks? How did they get access to over two hundred floors housing tens of thousands of tenants and thousands of corporations, without being noticed? Explosives are not light. They are not easily stored, nor are they easily set in place. Also, the risk of a premature explosion before all the charges was set, which would have exposed the plot before the crucial moment, would have been too great for anyone to contemplate unmasking.
See? Asks more questions than it answers.

Conspiracy theories have a place. They force us to ask questions, and examine the answers carefully. They allow us to confront those who hold this information, to make them more carefully examine the data, as was the case in thedeath of Princess Diana, where a senior Scotland Yard investigator was assigned to do an in-depth inquiry.

Ultimately, though, life is like this: dumb things happen, for no reason. Evil exists. People are clever enough to accomplish some pretty amazing and infamous things. Sometimes, there are conspiracies, like Watergate, like stolen votes, like fraudulent sweepstakes, that are exposed and dealt with.

But take a closer look at that last point: those conspiracies certainly have high stakes, and used as few people as possible, and yet holes opened, facts didn't coincide, and the official explanation not only fell on its face, but was replaced by a better one (Harris certifying Florida for Bush when Gore actually won).

Which simply isn't true in most cases, which means we ought to be very careful in espousing such theories, and once proven to a reasonable extent, accept the official explanation.

I think conspiracy theories give us a curious comfort, as if knowing there's a bunch of old men (the Trilateral Commission, or the Bilderberg family) who sit around and determine the fate of nearly each and every person.

Sort of like religion.

My heart goes out to Mr. Al Fayed. No one should outlive their child, and by all means, clinging to them is understandable. But this isn't going to bring him back sir, and I'm afraid it's over now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's Different For Women....

...or why men should shower more often...
The term "opposites attract" has new meaning in a lab at the University of New Mexico, where scientists have discovered that women are more attracted to men who are genetically dissimilar to them. After studying 48 romantic couples, researchers found women were more apt to find their partners less sexually desirable and more likely to be unfaithful if they shared similar sets of certain genes than if the genes varied.

The genes studied are called major histocompatibility complex, or MHC. They're part of the immune system responsible for recognizing things not part of the self, thus alerting the troops to fend off foreign invaders. MHC genes, it turns out, also are responsible for how a person smells, and how another person will interpret that smell.[...]

The more similar, the less sexually responsive they were to their partners. They also were more unfaithful. The genetically similar women reported more attraction, interest and fantasy toward other men prior to ovulation. When they were not in this phase of the cycle, they showed no sexual interest outside of their partner.
Sounds practically tribal, in some ways. It sure would go a long way to explaining an awful lot of bizarre semi-truths about human behavior, like when a handsome stranger comes to town, how women swoon, and stuff like that.

Men do not show an MHC-based sexual preference, the reproductive biologist added.
Which makes sense, from a behavioral point of view: men have the reputation of being less fussy in choosing partners than women...even I have been accused of wanting to fuck anything that moves, which simply isn't the case...well, not anymore.

Which leads to this very sad piece of news: Love is a compromise.:
Here is the depressing news: Thornhill believes the partner one chooses is "a compromise. A woman might get a man who doesn't smell so great in MHC genetic sense but he will have other attractive attributes," said Thornhill, a professor at the university. Once the pairing takes place, "love encourages you to do the best you can."
This is very bleak news for anyone who believes the Snow White/Cinderella "someday, my prince will come" fairy tale.

Obviously, the best strategy for a dating male is to shower, and use a cologne that masks your MHC-scent. Based on my own personal example, I would recommend anything but Brut or Hai Karate....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

Folks, the worst is yet to come. Much of the economic "growth," such as it was under Bush, that occured happened because of the "wealth factor": flush with cash from interest-only payment mortgages with adjustable rates, which took advantage of the ridiculously low prime rate, as the Fed tried desperately to correct Bush's policy blunders, consumers would spend, spend, spend, rather than put aside a portion of the principal due on the mortgage (or heaven forbid, even just save a few bucks!)

Why? That's a good question and sociologists all over the world will be analyzing this for centuries, I fear. My gut instinct is that marketing has, in fact, become TOO good and is overpowering any common sense the average consumer might have. Advertising all over, from the Net to TV to radio to the stupid temporary ads taped down on crosswalks, all tell you you're a bad person for not buying "X."

Well, people are plum running out of money now.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - During the recent U.S. housing boom, mortgage lenders touted so-called exotic mortgages that allowed people to buy houses they could not otherwise afford. Now those lenders are bracing for the not-so-happy story of borrowers like Jesline Jean-Simon.

The Miami woman bought her two-bedroom condo a year ago on a 3 percent adjustable rate mortgage with flexible payments.

When home prices in the city were blasting off two years ago, Jean-Simon was sitting pretty.

But now prices have eased and she works three jobs just to manage a mortgage that has ballooned into interest rates of around 10 percent.
You read that correctly: her mortgage interest alone went up 333%! Worse, she probably won't be able to sell her home and recoup her principal (and mind you, the loss on the sale of a home is not tax deductible, although if you were a corporation selling its "home," it would be...that's fairness for ya!)

So she's screwed either way.
A mortgage survey due on Wednesday is expected to show that more and more Americans are in danger of losing their homes. The quarterly report from the Mortgage Bankers Association is also expected to show that the same mortgage products that helped send the housing market into the stratosphere are now weighing homeowners down.

In a hint at Wednesday's data, October saw more foreclosure actions than any other month this year according to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties.
A foreclosure, for those of you who are fortunate enough not to worry about this, is when the bank takes your home from you because you can no longer afford to pay for it, because part of the mortgage process is to sign ownership of your home over to the bank until you have satsified the debt.

Interest-only mortgages are a recent development in the lending process and increase the risk of default. You lower your monthly payments, which means you can afford more house (a bigger mortgage) than someone who has a traditional "interest plus amortization of the debt" mortgage (which allows you to pay off your house faster).

You would take an interest-only mortgage under two conditions: first, that you believe you will be making more money in the future than you are now, or if you believe you will move before the mortgage come due (requiring you to pay off the entire balance somehow) and will have enough residual value in your house to pay the mortgage off.

Neither prospect looks particularly encouraging at this point, however, as the housing market is not just shaky, but practically trembling under the weight of too much product and not enough demand. Housing prices, impacted by the lack of demand as boomers trade down, and impacted by rising interest rates, meaning people can afford less house, are plateauing and even beginning to slip downwards.

Which will be tragic for the economy of the United States, and by extension, any economy that has significant stake in the American economy, such as Treasury bondholders like China and England, or trading partners like Canada and Mexico.

2007 is shaping up to be a critical year in American history. This year was merely prologue.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's About Time(s)...

Y'know, for twelve years now, I've sat and marveled at how moderate Republicans, many of whom were recently drubbed in the midterm elections, could sit idly by while the party (and the nation's) agenda was commandeered by a vocal-yet-numerous minority of legislators who were hand-picked by extreme right wing operatives to run this country.

Sure, we've all read stories where moderates like Nancy Johnson of Connecticut was all but warned to stay in line, or risk a primary challenge backed by heavy Christian Coalition money, or how crucial swing votes on legislation, like Lincoln Chafee's, were obtained in what amounted to dropping a manila envelope with pornographic pictures of him on his desk. Yet, the only man who had the gall to stand up to this kind of treatment, Jim Jeffords, had to leave the party rather than try to form an insurgency, for lack of a better word.

And yet, as it turns out, an insurgency is what was needed:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The release of the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group this week exposed deep fissures among Republicans over how to manage a war that many fear will haunt their party — and the nation — for years to come.

A document that many in Washington had hoped would pave the way for a bipartisan compromise on Iraq instead drew sharp condemnation from the right, with hawks saying it was a wasted effort that advocated a shameful American retreat.

[...]Republican moderates clung to the report, mindful of the drubbing the party received in last monthÂ’s midterm elections largely because of Iraq. They said they hoped President Bush would adopt the groupÂ’s principal recommendations and begin the process of disengagement from the long and costly war. But White House officials who conducted a preliminary review of the report said they had concluded that many of the proposals were impractical or unrealistic.

The divisions could make it more difficult for Republicans to coalesce on national security policy and avoid a bitter intraparty fight going into the 2008 campaign.
Apparently, the famed Republican discipline of the past twelve years is gone. Good riddance, says I.

The absolute absurdity of this conflict in Iraq has reached proportions where it is hurting domestic policy. We've all been told how Iraq required no sacrifice for us here, but oh, it did. Just not for the people who wanted the war.

Take these examples from an article in Time Magazine this week, profiling Milwaukee, a typical moderate sized city in AmeriMidwestdwest, and what it has lost because of this horrid abomination called "Operation Iraqi Freedom":
It's as if Milwaukee, Wis., had reverted to a state of lethal chaos. A Special Olympian is killed for his wallet as he waits for a bus. An 11-year-old girl is gang-raped by as many as 19 men. A woman is strangled, her body found burning in a city-owned garbage cart. Twenty-eight people are shot, four fatally, over a holiday weekend.

These are the kinds of crimes American cities expected never to see in high numbers again. In the 1990s police departments nationwide began applying the so-called broken-windows theory: arrest the bad guys for minor offenses, and they wouldn't be around to commit more serious ones. This zero-tolerance approach--combined with more cops on the street to enforce it, a strong economy and a fortuitous demographic change that reduced the population of young men who typically cause the most trouble--lowered the rates of murder, robbery and rape for 10 consecutive years. Until last year. Not only did crime suddenly begin to rise in 2005, but the most violent crimes led the trend. Homicides shot up 3.4%. Robberies, 3.9%. Aggravated assaults, 1.8%. Hardest hit were not metropolises like New York City and Los Angeles but cities with populations between 400,000 and 1 million--such as Baltimore, Md.; Charlotte, N.C.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Oakland, Calif.--and this year looks to see similar rates of increase, if not worse.

Few places have suffered more than Milwaukee. The homicide count for the city of 590,000 fell from 130 in 1996 to just 88 in 2004. But last year, according to FBI figures, Milwaukee saw the country's largest jump in homicides--up 40%, to 121.[...]


Most municipalities count on grants from the Justice Department's State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program to help pay for officers on their force. But $1.9 billion, or 45%, of that funding has disappeared since the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, as federal resources are increasingly directed toward homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Midsize cities, which depend more heavily on federal funds than larger ones do, have nearly 25% fewer officers than they did in 2001, and the White House's budget proposal for next year would sweep away an additional $1.5 billion.[...]

Further exacerbating the city's police shortage is the redeployment of cops from the streets of Milwaukee to those of Baghdad, Mosul and Kabul. As many as 135 officers at one time have gone on leave to serve in Wisconsin's National Guard or military reserve units in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's difficult to manage a force that's always coming and going," says police chief Nanette Hegerty. Those left to hold down the fort at home feel overstretched and underappreciated. "Morale is low," says Officer John Balcerzak, head of the police union. "We're racing to a new crime before we've investigated the last. That leaves criminals out there on the streets."[...]


Since 1998, Wisconsin has lost nearly 90,000 manufacturing jobs. Milwaukee has suffered the brunt of that, hemorrhaging 7,500 positions in 2005 alone. The unemployment rate hovers around 7%, up from 2.6% in 1998 and nearly double the national average. [...]
It is, however, true, as the graphic I posted last night indicates, that those who live in the bluest areas of the nation suffer the most for this war for oil, as Bush himself admitted.

You might think that people of all political stripes would be free to speak out against this war, to point out the idiocy of spending nearly half a trillion on a losing battle, when we were told $87 billion and six months would be all it would require. It's a creehemorrhageorage, but the people who are actually spending this money, the Congress, ought to have been a little more antsy about voting for it with each passing appropriation.

The Democrats made a stink about it, but Republicans and their attack-dog spinmeisters were able to discount that as partisan bleating of a minority party, trying to create an issue where none existed. It required the GOP moderates to get off their duffs and do something about it. With safety in numbers, by banding together, they could have fended off extremist threats: after all, even the Christian Coalition would run out of money at some point if enough people with backbones stood up.

It's sad that it took three thousand dead American men and women, $500 billion and counting in lost money, a midterm election debacle, an incipient crime spree, and what amounts to the embarrassingssing month in the history of the American presidency, including Richard Nixon's resignation, for a moderate coalition to coalesce.

Too little. And definitely too late.

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