Saturday, March 03, 2007

Oh, Yoo Hoo! Ann!

Portrait of Anndorian Gray

A couple of items passed my desk this morning, that I thought I'd post here, both relating to the porn-loving hag, Ann Coulter.

First, from my good friend and co-blogger, Lydia Cornell:
Just a few hours ago, my friend Dan Borchers (conservative Christian who is writing a book about Ann Coulter's "extermination speak") was bodily wrestled out of CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) by 4 of Ann Coulter's bodyguards (two claimed they were CPAC security.) They staged the whole thing, followed him with a camera, cut his hand, tried to pry his name tag and credentials off from his neck, physically WRESTLED him out of the hotel, and shoved him. Why? Borchers couldn't get a straight answer out of the four guards, except "you are not permitted to be here." Borchers recognized the most hostile guard as Ann Coulter's longtime body guard.

His crime: asking a question of another author (Mark Smith) about Ann Coulter, and about the Paula Jones case. Borchers spent money, bought tickets, took time off work and traveled from Maryland as he does every year, to be at CPAC. He is a lifelong Republican, a conservative military veteran, whose only crime is being morally offended by the way conservatism has been ruined by people like Coulter who indulge in hate speak. He believes it is his moral obligation to bring attention to this, and that "evil triumphs when good men do nothing."

Borchers is the most mild-mannered, humble Christian. He is critical of the way Ann Coulter has "mainstreamed extremism" and has written articles about her. He accused her of plagiarizing her early books, and at the CPAC conference two years ago, he tried to distribute press kits calling for coulter to stop her hate speak.
More details can be found at Basham And Cornell, the blog for Lydia's brand new radio show.

The other Ann thing is a little more disturbing. After all, Ann has a history of physically harassing people (aren't you glad you never dated her?) and siccing her underlings to handle things that are clearly beyond the scope of her painted little fingernails. No doubt she's saving those as well as her virginity for her husband.

Although at 40....6? 7? 9?...she's more likely to find a husband herding yaks in Nepal than in the United States. And at least she'd have some way to work off her pent up energy...

Anyway, as the years have not bene kind to Ann, she in turn has not been kind to years. She has gone from a strident, obnoxious critic of President Clinton (in the process, abusing and sucking dry what little dignity Paula Jones had) to being a parody of herself: her own best argument against what she advocates. Too, I think she spends a little too many nights locked in some fraternity hazing fantasy where she's the dinner table for a dozen pledges of My Thicka Smega, because she's trying be a stevedore without the cojones to stand up the way a stevedore does, and confront people face on.

Speaking today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter said: “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.” Audience members said “ohhh” and then cheered.
. You can view the C-Span video at the link.

What poor Ann Coulter may have done is sealed Mitt Romney's campaign as dead, as well, because he was dumb enough to go on ahead of Ann and actually praise her (that video is at Think Progress as well): “I am happy to hear that after you hear from me, you will hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh yeah!”

You know, there's a winnowing audience for Coulter, which speaks volumes about America's tolerance for such obvious grandstanding, self-aggrandizing thuggery. To call a man out for being a "faggot", however, is kinda like throwing a rock at another fourth grader while hiding behind Daddy's manicured hedge, and mocking them for not coming over to smack the living shit out of you.

So, Ann, I'm putting you on notice, mostly because I'm just nuts enough to tear through that hedge: make sure, if you ever come after me (and I'll give you cause to at some point in the near future), you'll need six body guards.

Cuz, I know people...four isn't going to be enough to protect you.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Tears For Fears - Sowing The Seeds Of Love

Friday Kitten Blogging

You know, I knew there was something I forgot to do this week...Oh well. I'll make it up next week, but to tide you over, I present "PAWS!"

Naked America

One of the underreported side effects of a war in Iraq fought on the cheap is suddenly becoming a grave issue:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is not adequately equipping the National Guard and has not adapted to the increasingly important security role it plays in the post-September 11 environment, an independent commission said in a report to Congress on Thursday.

The report said the global war on terrorism had placed increased demands for the National Guard to provide forces for both overseas and domestic missions, but added that the Defense Department, or DOD, had been slow to adapt to the change.

"DOD's failure to appropriately consider National Guard needs and funding requirements has produced a National Guard that is not fully ready to meet current and emerging missions," the commission concluded.

Among its findings, the 13-member panel said the Defense Department was not adequately equipping the Guard for its domestic missions.
Pretty scary stuff, but it gets worse:
Nearly 90 percent of Guard units in the United States are rated "not ready," partly because of equipment shortages, according to Guard data and the findings of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, The Washington Post reported.

National Guard units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been required to leave large quantities of gear behind when they return home, the newspaper said.
So we're trashing them there so they can trash us here...

The National Guard's function used to be pretty simple: help out in an emergency that overwhelmed local authorities. You know, a tornado hits, you call in the Red Cross and National Guard. Or maybe a big blizzard.

Certainly during and after a terror attack.And while the Guard can be used to protect our land by fighting overseas, that really ought to be a last resort and ought to be in support of regular army and other military branch forces. You should be sending in the first team. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush et al, did not, and there's a price to pay for that.

See, there's a concept in American constitutional law, posse comitatus, which was created in Colonial times, as the British army used to barrack their soldiers in private residences, creating a de facto network of military police. Although the Constitution itself does not create the concept of "posse comitatus", it does contain the Third Amendment, prohibiting the quartering of soldiers in peacetime without the owner's consent. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1875 goes one step further in barring the use of the military in nearly any domestic situation, under Federal authority.

The National Guard is an outgrowth of Article 1 of the Constitution, and so is explicitly designated for domestic use along with the Coast Guard, should it become necessary.

You know, like, in a blizzard. Or tornado. Or terror attack. The governor of the afflicted state (remember, it cannot be the President) can ask for his state's Guard to assist.

We've been fairly lucky in that, since the Iraq invasion began, aside from Katrina, we haven't had a major disaster that required all hands on deck.

And one begins to wonder how much better Katrina would have turned out had the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guards been at full complement. As it was, over 58,000 Guard troops from all over the country were called in, and you have to figure that the 30,000 that were serving in Iraq including thousands from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could have been there, as the Civil War general used to say, "furstest", saving hours and saving lives.

But no. And it's costing us: lives, money, property. All to fight a war overseas that means nothing at a cheaper cost to the economic royalty.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Royalists Rear Their Ugly Heads

Chuck Schumer, in his marvelous book, "Postively American" (the Simply Left Behind recommended reading selection for February 2007), posits that the Republican party is made up of two factions: theocrats and economic royalists.

"Theocrats" is an obvious reference to those in the Republican party who would limit our freedoms in order to align the nation with "Christian teachings," which naturally have been warped from what Jesus actually taught.

"Economic royalists" are those more socially liberal Republicans who nonetheless adhere to doctrinaire beliefs about economic issues: lower taxes means more money for everyone, government has no business regulating business, and so on. In other words, devout capitalists, worshipping mammon.

Both pretty dogmatic, you'd agree, and ultimately irreconcilable. As Jesus Himself said, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:13, for those of you playing along at home)

Comes this story today:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate began debating legislation to bolster America's security on Wednesday with the White House threatening a veto because one part would extend union protection to 45,000 airport workers.

President George W. Bush's administration charged that the Democratic-backed provision to provide workers limited collective bargaining rights would curb needed flexibility at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and diminish traveler safety.
For want of the ability to screw the workers of America, Republican royalists like Bush would allow us to continue lay vulnerable to the predations and rapine of terrorists, foreign and domestic.

This is a lot like a landlord refusing to fix a door to your apartment because you want to install a peephole. It's just one more measure to help ensure your security, yet it might cost him an extra buck or two.

Yes, unions cost corporations money. This is reflected in the facts that, as union memberships in this country have plummeted in the face of economic royalist assaults on the American worker and the American family, corporate profits have skyrocketed.

The time has come for unions to take their once-and-future place as protector of the American worker. When corporations can so boldly and baldly buy politicians, pay for and write legislation for their benefit, and exercise each and every right afforded you and I, to the detriment and diminishment of you and I, there must be some oversight.

Since the government, and in particular, the Bush administration, have been so lax in this fiduciary responsibility to its citizenry, we need a structure put in place that is non-partisan, non-governmental, and has the interests of the citizens it represents in mind.

David beat Goliath, yes, but with what amounted to a lucky shot. We can't count on 300 million Americans scoring lucky shots in health care, environmental protection, wage and job security, dependent care, pension security, and legal protections, among other vital issues. And we clearly can't count on our elected officials, of either party, to protect us as thoroughly as an union can.

Bush and the GOP talk a big game about "privitization" of governmental functions. For that reason alone, you'd think they would get behind mass unionization, and save the government bureaucratic bungling of most of the issues I mentioned above.

Unions can stand up, collectively, against the behemoths of corporate America, and with one voice, tell them to be on guard and to treat people fairly.

The time has come, folks, the time has come. Let's reverse twenty five years of Republican economic royalty, and bring our unions back!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Hugh Grant In "Love, Actually"


This is not the only place they should be looking:
NEW YORK -- Rats have been found in another New York City restaurant.

Video shot by NewsChannel 4 on Tuesday night showed at least two rats in the kitchen of Midtown's Au Bon Pain cafe.

The Boston-based bakery/cafĂ©, located at 600 3rd Ave (40th Street), was last inspected on Aug. 16 and was cited for only 13 points, well below the 28 points necessary to fail the inspection. It was initially cited for "evidence of flying insects or live flying insects present" and "cold food held above 41°F (smoked fish above 38°F) except during necessary preparation."
As noted, this is the second restaurant in a week to have rats openly filmed scurrying around.

The other, a Taco Bell down in Greenwich Village, was closed after a horde of rats started putting on a vaudeville show after hours, visible from the street:(note to James Whittingham: I think you take your job too seriously)

The responsibility for restaurant inspection falls to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which has in the past had its own issues with restaurant inspections, as inspectors would openly take bribes from restaurants to look the other way. As these things go, it started small: a refrigerator that wasn't quite working right was overelooked, a few hairnets missing, maybe a fly in the kitchen. And once everyone realized how profitable it coule be...
Twenty-eight current and former New York City health inspectors and supervisors were charged yesterday with extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from restaurants by threatening to close them or cite them for sanitation violations.
One suspects the same thing may be happening all over again, but in a lesser vein.

Still, perhaps the DoHMH should stick to its last. I have it on good authority that many of the community health centers, set up by the city to serve its poorest neighborhoods, have rat infestations of their own, most notably the Bushwick Center on Central Avenue in Brooklyn, and the Corona Health Center on Junction Boulevard in Queens.

No wonder they're letting restaurants keep pets...the inspectors probably think rats are part of the framing for the building!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

When China Sneezes Now....

....we better start having Kleenex around:
NEW YORK Feb 27, 2007 (AP)— Stocks plummeted Tuesday, briefly hurtling the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 550 points as Wall Street succumbed to a global market plunge sparked by growing concerns that the U.S. and Chinese economies are cooling and that equities prices have become overinflated.

A 9 percent slide in Chinese stocks, which came a day after investors sent Shanghai's benchmark index to a record high close, set the tone for U.S. trading. The Dow began the day falling sharply, and the decline accelerated throughout the course of the session before stocks took a huge plunge in late afternoon as computer-driven sell programs kicked in.

The Dow fell 546.02, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground in the last hour of trading to close down 415.86, or 3.29 percent, at 12,216.40, according to preliminary calculations. Because the worst of the plunge took place after 2:30 p.m., the New York Stock Exchange's trading limits, designed to halt such precipitous moves, were not activated.
So, two things: one, look out for tomorrow, and two...well, let's just say that some were more prescient than others:
Last year 2.4 million investors began trading stocks through the Shanghai exchange, a 250% increase in new accounts. That's an average of about 7,000 a day, a flood of fresh blood from san hu (as the Chinese call small investors) that is making seasoned traders nervous. "When you see shop assistants and taxi drivers racing out to borrow money to buy stocks, you've got trouble," says commodities guru Jim Rogers. "That's the market sucking in a whole lot of neophytes priming to get slaughtered."

Plenty of stock analysts and fund managers disagree, arguing that prices are simply keeping pace with China's remarkable economic rise and that accounting reform and better supervision have made Chinese companies more attractive. The country's GDP grew 10.7% last year, the highest rate since 1995. But the alarm is being sounded by Beijing officials, who are worried there could be another Chinese market meltdown like the one in 2001 that soured the public on stocks for years. On Dec. 30, Cheng Siwei, a vice chairman of the National People's Congress, cautioned investors against "blind optimism" in the country's relatively underdeveloped capital markets. China Central Television, the government TV network, last week aired a show warning citizens not to put up their homes as collateral for loans to buy stock. Authorities are doing more than jawbone. Bank lending for stock purchases was banned last month, and regulators temporarily halted the sale of new mutual funds.
So, basically, it was less than two weeks later that the architects sketch came true:

The S&P 500 right now is trading at a P/E of about 18, which is four points higher than its historic level.

It was trading about at about 48 when the market began it's recovery in 2002.

We can see what this is all about: Bush's three tax cuts that were targeted for rich investors did little to create the massive recapture of capital gains they were intended to (likely because Clinton beat him to the punch). Instead, it create recessionary conditions that were ripe for investors to tie up their money longer in income producing vehicles, forcing corporations to think more short term in terms of profitability and less long term in strategic planning. They had to maintain those profitability rates of upwards of 5 or even 6% in order to retain investor dollars in stiff competition with other investors.

The kicker of this is, as investors finally felt safe enough to start cashing out assets, that's when the market was beginning its upward climb, but it also built in a major, heavy downward spiral, which my estimate says will take it somewhere south of 10,000 by the end of the year.

Too, because the consumer market collapsed in the fourth quarter last year (something unheard of happened...there was actually a decline in consumer spending in the Christmas quarter as opposed to any other quarter in 2006, and a decline from 2005's Christmas quarter) and the housing bubble burst, this does not bode well for the markets.

The final pin in the voodoo doll of the economy was the pace of mergers and acquisitions last year.

Anytime, and I mean, anytime you hear about megamergers even being discussed is the time to start putting your money into municipal bonds and Treasuries. You know what they say about the sucker at the poker game.

If you look around and you can't see him that means it's you.

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Oye, Steve Gilliard!

Normally, I could give a rat's ass about A list blogs in Blogtopia (© Skippy, The Bush of the few A list blogs I'd even deign to darken the hand towels of), but Steve seems to break good stories amidst the wind, so Steve, hearing you're laid up, godspeed and get better, guy.

The Problem With Crowing About Something... sometimes, you have to eat yourself:
RIYADH (Reuters) - The death toll in a militant attack on French tourists in Saudi Arabia rose to four on Tuesday after a French teenager died from bullet wounds, a hospital doctor said on Tuesday.

The boy's father was among three French expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, who were shot dead during a desert trip on Monday in what appeared to be the first attack by suspected al Qaeda militants on foreigners in three years.

An acquaintance who did not want to be named said the men were machine gunned down in front of the women and children, confirming a report from a security source[...]

They were part of a group of nine French nationals living in Riyadh who had been visiting historic sites and camping in the desert in the scenic western region of the vast desert country.

Islamic militants swearing allegiance to al Qaeda launched a violent campaign to topple the U.S.-allied Saudi monarchy in 2003, with suicide bomb attacks on foreigners and government installations, including the oil industry.
So, Al Qaeda pops its ugly head up in Saudi Arabia after all these drinks. Where else?
KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide bomber killed up to 12 people at the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday in an attack the rebels said was aimed at Dick Cheney, but the visiting U.S. vice president was not hurt.

An American and South Korea soldier were killed, as well as a U.S. government contractor whose nationality was unknown, NATO and Korean officials said. NATO said 27 people were wounded.

A Reuters photographer at the scene at Bagram Airbase, 60 km (40 miles) north of Kabul, saw eight bodies in addition to NATO's tally of four dead, putting the toll at 12.
Oops! OK, not Al Qaeda, but an incredible facsimile! These were the guys we were supposed to be getting six years ago, right?

Eh....not so much...
ISLAMABAD, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Britain does not foresee any chance of dialogue with Taliban leaders running an insurgency in Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said in Pakistan on Tuesday.

Beckett said she had no inclination to talk to Taliban commanders whose expressed goals were to kill British troops stationed in Afghanistan.

But, she added that talks with former Taliban or sympathisers who were no longer active might be a possibility in the future.
Because, you know, there's been this "spring offensive" in the works since November...
Six years after the declaration of victory in Afghanistan the British government announced the dispatch of 1,400 extra troops yesterday in readiness for an escalation of the violence sweeping the country.

The sending of the troops, along with aircraft, armoured vehicles and artillery, will raise the total force there to 7,700 making it bigger than the one now deployed in Iraq.
...which, if you only watched US network news, you would only have heard about either this weekend, when Dick Cheney finally raised his helmeted head out of his playpen secure bunker to announce with grave alarm:
US Vice President Dick Cheney today sought Pakistan’s help in countering al-Qaida’s efforts to regroup in its remote border region.

He warned that Taliban militants are planning a “spring offensive” in neighbouring Afghanistan, the Pakistani president’s office said.
Now, if you really wanted to flush out the Taliban AND Al Qaeda, wouldn't you go to where the money came from?

No, not Saudi Arabia: Pakistan:
experts say that Pakistan’s military and Interservices Intelligence (ISI) both include personnel who sympathize with—or even assist—Islamist militants. ISI has provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups active in Kashmir, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jaish-e-Mohammed, which investigators linked to the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the February 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
*Ahem* But we've made our bed and now must sleep in it. I swear, Musharraf has done such a bang up job of misleading the Bush administration, I'm surprised he hasn't tried to sell them on the idea of a pipeline through his country to the India! For natural gas!

Um. Oops.

So we have terror attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia resuming, a Taliban offensive in Afghanistan, assisted by Pakistan's ISI, forming up, and possible Al Qaeda cyberattacks on our banking and other financial institutions.

In effect, they've taken six years to regroup, reform and re-energize the network. Add to that the growing threat of non-Al Qaeda terrorism, and the fact that every year since we've attacked Iraq has seen more deaths from more terrorist attacks in more countries than the previous year.

All while Al Qaeda lay dormant. While some of our *koffkoff* finest minds have said Al Qaeda is on the run...

And Bush thought 2006 was a bad year for him! I expect he'll be crying for his mommy by September.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

It's Bad Enough I Could Go Blind....

...but end up dead, too?
HONG KONG (Reuters) - A 107-year-old Hong Kong villager, who still enjoys an occasional smoke, has attributed his longevity in part to decades of sexual abstinence, a newspaper said on Sunday.

"I don't know why I have lived this long," Chan Chi -- one of Hong Kong's oldest people -- was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post during an annual feast for the city's elders.

"Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have lived a sex-less life for many years -- since I was 30," said Chan, a widower whose youthful bride perished during the Japanese invasion in World War Two.
I for another 60 years....have sex...torture my daughter when she's 80....have sex...see President Shiloh Jolie-Pitt take the oath of office...have sex...

Decisions, decisions!

Why I Don't Watch The Oscars

The funniest moments don't involve the comedians...

A Rising Tide Drowns All Boats

....except for yachts.

A quote, from our President:
The federal government should take no more than a third of anybody's check. But I also dropped the bottom rate from 15% to 10%. Because by far the vast majority of the help goes to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
"By far the vast majority of the help goes to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder."

That rung is falling off, however:
WASHINGTON - The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of the 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty.

A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period.
(emphasis added)All the tax cuts in the world won't help people who aren't making enough to pay taxes, will they, Mr. Bush?

Is it any coincidence that this corresponds with the probationary period that was imposed during welfare reform under the Clinton administration?

No. But then Clinton assumed that the nation wouldn't lose 6 million jobs in the first three years after he left office. Clinton assumed that Preident Gore would be able to put into place a safety net that would cover the people that did lose jobs by keeping taxes in place on the people who never needed to work in the first place.

Let's look at those tax cuts for the bottom rung: in point of fact, when you count in the Social Security and Medicare taxes that people earning up to $90,000 MUST pay a portion of, you see that the bottom 60% of taxpayers got a tax cut of just over 14%.

Now, I don't know what kind of fuzzy math Mr. Bush was using, but I do know that 14% is roughly one-seventh, meaning that 60% of the tax cuts went to the top 40% earners. "By far, the vast majority..."

Now, I don't know about you, but when we've added some four million people to the rolls of desperately poor so that Paris Hilton can afford pedicures for her dog, I think there's something a little screwy going on.

When we've added four million people to the rolls of desperately poor so that Anna Nicole Smith's estate won't be taxed for essentially adding no value to the economy and indeed, sucking activity OUT of the economy, there's something very wrong going on.

When we've added four million people to the rolls of the desperately poor so that Exxon Mobil can make $39.8 BILLION dollars in profit in 2006 alone, our priorities are clearly fucked up.
The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind.

At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps to explain why the median household income for working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975.
Profits up, but wages and job growth have severly lagged behind. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2000, there were 137,000,000 million people employed in the US. That level dropped in real numbers until October 2003, due to the Bush recession.

However, population climbed in that interval, so that in December 2000, that 137 million people represented 64.4% of the employable population, where we didn't reach that employment percentage again until, well, we're still waiting, Mr. Bush! (January 2007 was 63.3%)

This is something to be very concerned about. We're deeper in debt than ever before, owing some $7 trillion in mortgages alone. At least we have assets to cover some of that, but we owe another trillion dollars in auto loans, credit card debts and other unsecured credit facilities.

Which is roughly equivalent to the total debt of the United States. And when you've gone into debt, you're essentially getting an advance on your paycheck. Which assumes you will have a paycheck later on to pay off your debts. The US doesn't have that guarantee and neither do too many of us, anymore.

This is also why you see so many commercials on cable now for Countrywide home loans and other credit fixing scams.

43 million poor, sadly, may be a figure we one day look back on as "good times".

There are rocks in the road the size of Buicks. It's going to take a lot more than a war in East Asia for us to forget about them.