Saturday, January 14, 2006

New York State Is Being Sued By Bush!

On January 10, 2006, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the New York State Board of Elections informing them that:
"I have authorized the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the United States against the State of New York as well as the New York State Board of Elections, et al, pursuant to Sections 301 and 303(a) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, 42 U.S.C && 15481 and 15483(a).Section 401 of HAVA, 42 U.S.C. & 15511, authorizes the Attorney General to bring an action in federal district court for such declaratory and injunctive relief as is necessary to carry out the requirements of Title III of HAVA."
Apparently, Bush and his DoJ feel that New York State is not moving fast enough to allow for the manipulation mechanization of future elections in compliance with the Help America Vote Act, otherwise known as Newspeak for "Help Diebold Rig Elections".

See, this is what I don't get here. New York State has never ever reported results late, nor has anyone ever disputed (with any seriousness) the recounts of elections here. Why? Because these old mechanical pull lever machines work just fine. You pull a tiny lever. You see your vote. If you voted incorrectly, you flip the lever back up and revote. You pull this big friendly lever to the left, and voila! Your vote is recorded.

Machines that have been tampered with are evident even to untrained eyes, and you don't need a Master's degree in assembly coding to figure out what was changed.

It ain't broke, so don't fix it.

Of course, that might be Spitzer's intent from the get-go, plus he gets to make a real political splash by taking on and overturning HAVA.

More at Vicky Perry's blog.

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Welcome To Iran, The Other Red State

Dr. Minoo Mohraz, the nation's top AIDS expert and chairman of the Iranian AIDS Research Center at the University of Tehran, has been warning the government and the public about the disease for 20 years.

In the early days, she says, no one would listen. "It was very difficult in the beginning because they didn't understand -- not even the government officials believed me, she says." "Initially I was alone. Now I have a lot of colleagues helping. We had only 300 patients, now we have 12,000."

Dr. Mohraz says she saw the impact of AIDS in other places like Africa and knew it would be coming to Iran.

"The denial state is very high in our country," she says. "They believed it was all about high risk behavior, promiscuity in Africa, homosexuality in America."
Lemme see...denial of a very real world crisis...thinking it couldn't happen here...deeply religious country, to the point of boneheadedness when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world...couldn't Iran basically be Bumfuck, Alabama?

According to Dr. Mohraz, the largest percentage of HIV infections are so-called "opportunistic infections," infections caused by blood transfusions or drug injections. Iranian estimates for the HIV population are as high as 12,500 people currently (700 women), with 200,000 drug addicts. This number will skyrocket.

I think it's safe to say that, in a highly repressive and repressed state like Iran (or the deep South in America), there's a lot more to this than just some junkies, like prostitution (after all, drug addicts tend to look for money however they can find it) and of course, sexual behaviors.

Fundamentalist states are a breeding ground for what they themselves would term immoral behavior and the predictable response to such behavior is always more oppression. It's what we've seen in America. It's what we'll see in Iran. Understanding, knowledge, and tolerance are paid lip service (if I had a nickle for every "Christian" who talked about "killing alla them queers off, and ending AIDS," I would be living on my yacht)

Read more here.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Write Your Own Caption Someplace Else!

Don't post your entries here. Post them here

Write Your Own Caption!

Simply the Single Most Sensible Pro-Choice Post I've Ever Read

The issue isn't abortion. The issue is whether the U.S. Government or the State of Texas or any of the forty-nine other states can demand that a woman carry a fetus to term. Can the government force pregnancy onto American women?
Get it? Got it? Good. Now go read the rest of Jaye's post.

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Why In Hell Are We Still In There?

The U.S. military has predicted more violence in the weeks ahead as Iraq's splintered politicians and religious groups struggle to form a government.

Thursday's warning followed a week marked by what U.S. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston described as "horrific attacks," amid deteriorating relations between the Iraq's largest Shiite religious group and Sunni Arabs who make up the core of the opposition.

Alston, spokesman for the U.S.-led force, said attacks that have killed at least 500 Iraqis and 54 American forces since the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections were a sign insurgents were using the transition to a new government to destabilize the democratic process.

Violence dropped after Iraqis began celebrating the four-day Islamic feast of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, on Tuesday. But Alston said it was likely to rise.

"As democracy advances in the form of election results and government formation, and as the military pressure continues, and the pressure generated by political progress increases, we expect more violence across Iraq," Alston said.
We must be nuts.

There's a desperate tone to the operations now. The cool calm facade that Bush has put on for this entire fiasco is makeup to cover the bruises and black eyes that America's prestige and respect has received, self-inflicted.

This is a deeply divided and divisive region. The Kurds can't stand any Arab whatsoever, so probably need to be considered as an autonomous state, but that's not in the plans for Iraq, at least not what this administration believes they should be.

Probably because it would cut off the huge pipeline for Halliburton to fatten its bank accounts on...

And that's before we even consider the strife between Sunnis and Shi'ia, as the above quoted article points out. This was an huge gaffe, getting involved in a region notoriously closed to the outside world. But we did.


Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

Suozzi steps toward Albany


January 13, 2006

ALBANY -- Nassau Executive Thomas Suozzi, the brash Democrat who has hinted at seeking statewide office since he took control of the county in 2001, has officially submitted paperwork to pursue a run for governor, formalizing his primary challenge of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Before he filed a notice with the state Board of Elections late Wednesday, creating a political action committee that will allow him to begin fundraising, Suozzi's candidacy had been a political striptease.

The county executive - head of a reform campaign called Fix Albany - has traveled the state widely and endeared himself to the press, routinely unveiling initiatives to address policy dilemmas. Yet, he has refrained from explicitly stating his ambitions.

Suozzi's filing came ahead of what was to be an official statement today that he had created the committee Friends of Tom Suozzi. Suozzi, 43, is not expected to give a major speech, but Jan. 13 is significant to him because it is the birthday of his brother Joe, who died of a heart attack in 2000.
It's also Friday, the 13th, so take care, Tom, that you don't undo what you've worked so hard for so many years. This will have repercussions, should you fail (which is what I expect) to capture the nomination.

Especially when you read this:
Spitzer support in Suozzi’s backyard


January 12, 2006, 11:02 PM EST

The first wave of endorsements for governor on Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi's home turf rolled in Wednesday -- for his likely opponent, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The announcement by "Nassau Leaders for Spitzer" appeared to be an in-your-face message to Suozzi. The event was held a day before the county executive's expected declaration of his interest in the Democratic nomination, just a half-mile from his Mineola offices. And though Spitzer didn't attend, some who did urged Suozzi to stay in Nassau for now.

"I have been a supporter of Tom Suozzi for county executive since he started running and believe he has done a very good job," said Roger Tilles, a member of the state Board of Regents from Great Neck. "The job is not over."

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic national committee member also from Great Neck, called Suozzi "an exemplary county executive." He went on, "Eliot Spitzer has the national stature, the leadership, the record that shows he is most equipped to serve as governor. His time is now."

Arthur Kremer, a former state assemblyman from Nassau, helped organize the endorsements by current and former officials and union leaders. Rep. Steve Israel, a Huntington Democrat whose district contains part of Nassau, was listed as a Spitzer supporter, although he was not there Wednesday.

Suozzi campaign manager Kim Devlin did not respond to the endorsements. In a statement, she cited Suozzi's "widespread support based on his record of reform, strong leadership and the fiscal turnaround Nassau County now enjoys."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An Appreciation of Mark Messier

Tonight is going to hurt.

I know, it's just a game. I know, he barely played for my Rangers for a few years. I know, he left the first time under horrid circumstances. I know, his return was pathetically weak.

But I also know that he almost singlehandedly, along with Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, and a crew of other amazingly hard working players, brought the Stanley Cup to New York after 54 years.

At that time I was a Rangers' fan for about half of that drought. I'd lived thru 1969, and the Ron Duguay years. Each year, I could promise myself an early baseball (and later, softball) season.

Until 1994. Suddenly, my winter lasted until June.

I played against him once, in a charity hockey game. I knew he was playing at about 20%, but nevertheless, I was forced to raise my game to a level I didn't think I could achieve. Would that I could have done that every night.

I don't have to link to his career so that you can understand what he means to the game. All you need to read here is that he came eleven games short of setting the record for the most NHL games played. Eleven. His uniform number. How much more perfect could that have been?

Mark, you may never, probably never, read this, but thank you.

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Mike Bloomberg, Lesbian

Former council member dubs Bloomberg an 'honorary lesbian'


January 12, 2006

In an unusual ceremony that saw former city Councilwoman Margarita Lopez dub him "an honorary lesbian," Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday marked the transfer of six city-owned lower Manhattan buildings to a group of cultural and artistic organizations.

Each of the buildings on East Fourth Street had been run down, vacant and occupied by squatters, and through the years had been taken over informally by community theater and arts groups. Lopez, an openly gay Democrat who left the Council last month because of term limits, had clashed with the Giuliani administration, which she said sought to have the city sell the properties to private developers.

Last September, however, Bloomberg and the Council approved the sale of the buildings for a token $1 each with the agreement that the 13 non-profit organizations involved would provide "specific cultural and community uses," officials said.
No one denies Bloomberg's support of the arts (unlike his predecessor, who wouldn't know Art if Garfunkel walked up and introduced himself).

One wonders at the ultimate fate of six buildings in prime real estate regions like East Fourth. Yes, the buildings were abandoned, probably because they were rent controlled in a highly-lucrative neighborhood. One can only imagine how this will be co-opted (pun semi-intended).

Closing the Barn Door After The Horse Is Out

Efforts for Control Over Lobbyists Not New

Associated Press Writer

January 12, 2006, 3:47 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- "Trailing its slimy length from gallery to committee room, at last it lies stretched at full length on the floor of Congress, this dazzling reptile." That's how a reporter in 1869 described lobbyists, a group that has been wooing, advising and many say corrupting Congress from its earliest days until the latest scandal involving disgraced influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

As with past scandals, lawmakers are suddenly seeking new controls over an industry they depend on for information and in some cases use for their own personal or political advantage.

Since the last lobbying ethics act passed in 1995, "the lobbying industry has grown exponentially, new strategies for evading restrictions have emerged, and the laws and ethics rules have failed to keep pace," said a recent statement by three lawmakers, Reps., Marty Meehan, D-Mass., and Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., authors of one of several reform measures that have been introduced.

But if change is overdue for some, for others it is overkill. "My concern is that we are rushing to judgment," said Paul Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists. Without looking at the lack of enforcement of current rules, "I'm not even sure you can blame the system."

Excuse me? You can't blame the system? No of course you can't...YOU CAN BLAME THE IDIOTS WHO LET LOBBYISTS WRITE LEGISLATION IN THE FIRST PLACE!

The Republicans.

Man Killed By Shrimp

Benihana shrimp toss cited in death


January 11, 2006, 10:12 PM EST

The first piece of shrimp hit Jerry Colaitis' brother-in-law square in the forehead, attorney Andre Ferenzo told a jury Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Mineola.

The next one scorched the arm of Colaitis' son.

So when Colaitis looked up from his dinner at the Benihana restaurant in Munsey Park to see a third sizzling-hot shrimp sailing at his head, he jerked his neck away, Ferenzo said.

That violent motion wrenched Colaitis' neck and led, less than a year later, to the 43-year-old's death, said Ferenzo, a Roslyn lawyer representing Colaitis' estate. Now, about four years later, Colaitis' family hopes to win more than $10 million in damages for pain and suffering, lost earning potential and wrongful death.

But Charles Connick, a Mineola lawyer for the Benihana chain, said it's unlikely a chef who works for tips would toss food at customers after being asked not to, as Ferenzo claimed. And even so, he said the cause of Colaitis' death was an infection unrelated to the shrimp or a neck injury.
There's a Homer Simpson moment in there...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Medical Update

The doctor called to let me know (finally...nearly had a heart attack waiting...) that there is no dysfunction in the old ticker, and that I am free to go about my usually hell-raising ways.

No word on what caused my chest pains or my dizzy spells. I imagine that will entail another doctor's visit...

Think Ol' Jeb Will Throw A Hissy Fit Over This?

Remember this?:
In April 2000, for instance, the Clinton administration didn't let the law interfere with its plan to return 6-year-old boat boy Elian Gonzalez to Castro's Cuba. Instead of waiting for Gonzalez's legal case to play out in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Attorney General Janet Reno executed White House plans to have the boy kidnapped from the home of his Miami relatives at machine-gun point.
Gov. Bush's reaction? He called the action "unconscionable" but showed no interest in pursuing legal sanctions against the White House.
I wonder, if that action was "unconscionable", how Jeb feels about this?:
Cuban-Americans May Hold GOP Accountable

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 11, 10:53 AM ET

MIAMI - When 15 Cubans fleeing their homeland landed on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys, they inadvertently found themselves in an uncomfortable legal spotlight — one the Republican Party is sharing.

[....]The migrants were returned after the government concluded that the partially collapsed bridge they landed on — which no longer connects to any of the Keys — did not count as dry land.

Under the current "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are allowed to remain in the United States. Those stopped at sea are sent home.

Coming on the heels of more stringent deportation policies for Cuban migrants, and amid a wave of GOP calls for tighter immigration enforcement, some community leaders wondered whether the deportation will cost the party support among one of its staunchest bases.

"It was a total abuse, how all these Cubans were treated. They landed on our territory only so that we can send them back to hell," said Armando de Cristo, a city employee, 66, who fled Cuba 30 years ago.
Think there will be any outrageous photographs of the refugees seeing brandished machine guns in their faces on the news tonight?



Conservative media.

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Our Bad Economy

From that bastion of anarchist liberal thought, Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach, one of their top analysts.

Don't let the right wing apologists fool you; this is one BAD economy for the average American:
America’s once mighty job machine is struggling as never before. The combination of subpar job creation and real wage stagnation puts extraordinary pressure on the income-generating capacity of the world’s most aggressive consumer. Of course, you’d never know that from the spin that followed the release of the latest monthly labor market surveys of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. From Washington to Wall Street, the verdict was nearly unanimous -- all is fine on the US labor market front. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The overall pace of job creation in December (108,000) was half that expected by the market consensus (200,000). Consolation for this miss was taken from a big upward revision to the original job count in November (from 215,000 to 305,000). As if that’s all that mattered. Never mind that the two largest contributors to this upward revision were temporary hiring agencies and the so-called leisure industry (mainly restaurants); the basic point is that the underlying hiring trend is decidedly on the wane. You can’t tell that by fixating on the vigor of average gains in November and December -- they were hugely distorted by a post-Katrina rebound effect. The four-month average, which covers the storm-related disruption -- which held employment growth to a mere 21,000 in September and October -- and its subsequent rebound, was a mere 114,000. That’s the only accurate way to measure the underlying trend in job growth during this storm-distorted period, and it represents a decided shortfall from the more robust pace of job creation that had prevailed over the preceding 18 months (197,000 per month).

But context is key in understanding that subpar job creation is now the norm in America. The US economy has just completed the 49th month of an expansion that began in November 2001. At this juncture in the four long cycles of the past -- the ones that began in 1961, 1976, 1982, and 1991 -- job growth was cruising ahead by about 210,000 per month. Moreover, in those earlier cycles both the economy and labor market were considerably smaller than is the case today. Adjusting for the scale effect, the 210,000 cyclical norm from earlier cycles would translate into about 325,000 per month in today’s economy. On that basis, the latest four-month average of 114,000 on the hiring front looks all the more pathetic -- literally 35% of the pace that would be expected at this phase in a normal business cycle expansion. Of course, this has never been a normal business cycle expansion insofar as hiring has been concerned. For the first two years, it was the infamous “jobless recovery.” While the pace of hiring has picked up somewhat in the subsequent two years, growth has been chronically weak when compared with any expansion of the past 40 years. Had hiring followed the trajectory of the previous four expansions, our calculations suggest about 11 million more workers would have been added to nonfarm payrolls by now.
So this "recovery" has been anemic by any measure. And the bills are coming due. For the first time in six years, consumer spending declined in November and December, which could mean that wages are going up, or people are running out of ready credit.

You decide.

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Iran So Far Away

Blair urges U.N. to consider action on Iran

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair called on Wednesday for the U.N. Security Council to consider action against Iran after it resumed nuclear fuel research, but former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said any sanctions would be futile.

Iran removed U.N. seals at uranium enrichment research facilities on Tuesday and announced it would resume "research and development" on producing uranium fuel, prompting angry reactions from Washington, the European Union and Russia.

Blair vowed to haul Iran before the Security Council, which can impose punitive measures.

"I think the first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to the Security Council, (if) that is indeed what the allies jointly decide as I think seems likely," Blair told parliament.

"Then .. we have to decide what measures to take and we obviously don't rule out any measures at all," he added.
Well, that landed with a dull thud.
"Adopting harsh measures like imposing sanctions cannot bring about the desired outcome," Rafsanjani said at Tehran University in a sermon to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival..."We will stand by our right to nuclear technology. They will regret creating any problems for us," he told worshippers.
Blair is taking the lead on this issue for a couple of reasons, not least of which is the idiotic stance that Bush took when he invaded Iraq, thus losing any credibility on the weapons of mass destruction front. Putin wouldn't dare impose his will on Iran, a huge trading partner and a purchaser of arms from Russia.

A Security Council resolution imposing sanctions would likely be vetoed by China or Russia, more likely China, who stands to gain as Iran develops its reactor. Iran is basically thumbing its nose at the world and at Bush and the US in particular.

But wait! There's more!
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said last week that Iran’s nuclear program “can be destroyed.”

Halutz made the comments during a conference at Tel Aviv University, Army Radio reported.

Israeli officials and politicians have openly discussed the possibility of an attack on Iran, either alone or with other countries, aimed at crippling Iran’s nuclear development capabilities.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to Iran’s decision last week to resume nuclear fuel production research by issuing a statement saying “it is clear that this step calls for a grave and immediate international response – sending the issue to the [United Nations] Security Council.”
The...hesitation...the Foreign Ministry had in saying the issue should go to the Security Council is what we in acting call a "pregnant pause", which means of course that there's an implication, perhaps that Israel will act unilaterally if the UN, notorious for picking on Israel to behave, fails to take action on this issue.

One longs for the days of Clintonian diplomacy.

For Your Oscar Consideration...

(Thanks to the LeftCoaster)

Tom Suozzi to Challenge Eliot Spitzer?

Suozzi - ready to rumble?
Nassau exec expected to say he's interested in race against Spitzer for governor nomination


January 11, 2006

He has hinted at it, flirted with it, shrugged off the questions with wry smiles. This week, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi is trying out a new step in his delicate dance of running for governor: admitting that he is actually interested.

Suozzi is expected at the end of the week to announce with little fanfare that he is forming an exploratory committee for this year's governor's race, local Democratic sources said. The campaign would likely pit him in a primary against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

While not a declaration of his candidacy, the announcement would be Suozzi's first formal public statement about running. For years, he has privately told associates that he has wanted to run for governor. Suozzi's campaign manager, Kim Devlin, said yesterday, "I'm not going to comment on speculation as to Tom's future plans regarding running for any office."

Friday's date, Jan. 13, has sentimental meaning for Suozzi because it is the birthday of his late older brother Joseph, who died in 2000 of a heart attack at age 46. Suozzi announced his first campaign for county executive on that date in 2001. Last year, gearing for re-election, Suozzi held a fundraiser on Jan. 13 headlined by singer Tony Bennett.
One has to wonder at the timing of this "exploration".

His home base party, Nassau County Democrats, is in turmoil. This has the smell test of the head rat deserting his ship before the deck dips below the waterline. On the other hand, the recent election proved that Nassau County voters are firmly supportive of Suozzi, which gives him an enormous leg up on fund raising over every other candidate, possibly including Spitzer, who has infuriated the monied class of this state by rooting out corruption.

Imagine. A politician cutting his nose to spite his face.

Too, the voters seem to be firmly behind the machine he has left in place. However, given the turmoil over the county leadership roles (two Dems are vying for the county legislature leadership, one with support of the Republicans precisely because he's not a Suozzi operative), and any residual anger over the fact that he just this past November won re-election to the County Executive seat (his term just began on Jan. 1, so 13 days later, his focus is elsewhere), may be enough to turn some of that goodwill against him.

In addition, his history suggests he has a combative nature, and whatever alliances he seems to be forming are purely of the "enemy of my enemy" sort. He's accepted money from John Whitehead, for example, who is head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a leading anti-Spitzer figure, and a large contributor to the Republican party. He's made nice with the Nassau County Republicans with whom he's battled. In short, he's running a race that smacks a bit of desperation to be "anybody but Eliot".

One has to ask why, since he's likely to get spanked hard by Spitzer. I don't know if there are term limits in Nassau County (one suspects there are) but he could easily run again in 2010 should Spitzer fail (not likely), or perhaps run for a different statewide seat that might give him a platform to show his effectiveness across the Nassau border (my thinking is State Assembly, maybe even run for Congress this year against Peter King, a notorious right wing Republican who barely deserves to breathe the ocean air without prison bars on his window).

My suggestion, Tom? Don't do this. You have a bright future, but there are dark clouds on the horizon for you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How Much Of This Story Can Be Traced To Sharon's Illness?

Iran resumes nuclear research, angering West

By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran removed U.N. seals at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and resumed nuclear fuel research on Tuesday, drawing sharp Western criticism but no immediate threats of punitive action.

Tehran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything but a civilian energy program aimed at satisfying the Islamic Republic's booming demand for electricity.

But the United States and the European Union doubt that Iran's atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful and are likely to ask the U.N. Security Council, which can impose economic sanctions, to take up the matter, Western diplomats said.

Western powers had called on Iran to refrain from any work that could help it develop atomic weapons.

"Iran's nuclear research centers have restarted their activities," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.

He said work at the research facilities would be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Saeedi told a news conference Iran had come to an agreement with the IAEA on what work Tehran would do. He gave no details.

The IAEA in Vienna confirmed Iran was removing U.N. seals at Natanz, an underground plant in central Iran that Tehran concealed from U.N. inspectors until an Iranian exile group revealed its existence in August 2002.
The timing seems suspicious, to say the least: Sharon nearly drops dead, and Iran breaks the UN seals on its nuclear reactor. One suspects they were looking for an excuse.

We know that Israel has nukes, somewhere on the order of 100-200, and the ability to deliver them regionally. We have strong reason to suspect Iran has them already, and have pretty good evidence that Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan, a nexus of actual and potential Islamist launching pads for attacks on Israel, have them as well. We suspect Kazahkstan and Chechnya may be developing low-yield weaponry or have simply hidden some weapons from the former Soviet Union.

And keep in mind that the fastest growing minority in that erstwhile entity is a Muslim religious minority, 80 million, made up mostly of the southern Asian republics.

See, John Kerry was absolutely spot on when he said during the debates in 2004 that Bush has done a shameful job of securing the loose Russian nuclear materials. He committed the nation to the SORT treaty in 2002, which was a rewriting of the SALT and START agreements that mitigated the reduction AND REMOVAL of nuclear weapons-grade materials, as well as the oversight mechanism that Reagan so handily summed up as "trust but verify". He committed $10 billion over 10 years.

Do you realize that committment added not one dollar to the spending we already had in place under the Nunn-Lugar bill of 1991?

Having failed to cooperate with our allies on critical issues like Iraq and terrorism, having failed to confront Iran's nuclear programs (as well as North Korea's) more forcefully, indeed, having abrogated our position as chief nonproliferator, it stands to reason that Iran looked at its agreements with France, Britain and Russia (with the US as a deeply interested spectator), and thumbed their noses at it at the first chance they had.

So to answer my original question, Sharon's illness may have been the trigger, but the safety was released way back in 2002.

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Bird Flu IS Among Us

Probe: Bird flu can be mild

New research finds human cases of avian virus more pervasive than thought, but can be easily shaken


January 10, 2006

Thousands of mild human cases of avian influenza have occurred throughout the two-year outbreak in Vietnam - epicenter of the disease in Southeast Asia - suggesting that the infection is far more pervasive than previously thought, new research has found.

The investigation by a team of scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden is not altogether bad news. It suggests bird flu can be so mild in some people that they easily shake the infection without medical attention. And while the new research reveals that infections with the H5N1 virus is more widespread, it also underscores that the strain does not kill 50 percent of people infected with it.

Infectious disease experts yesterday said the research provides a strong counterpoint to growing fears about the infectiousness of avian influenza, especially in light of reports of human cases apparently smoldering in Turkey for months.

"The symptoms most often are relatively mild," wrote Dr. Anna Thorson, lead investigator of a project that surveyed more than 45,000 people in northwest Vietnam where highly lethal outbreaks have led to waves of poultry die-offs.

"Close contact [with sick or dead birds] is needed for transmission to humans," she said.

Thorson, reporting in yesterday's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, randomly selected residents in Vietnam's Bavi district and asked them a series of questions about exposure to poultry and having any flu-like illnesses. The study was conducted between April 1 and June 30, 2004. The first human cases were reported in Vietnam in the fall of 2003.

About 80 percent of those responding to the survey reported living in homes that maintained fowl and about 25 percent of those respondents said they lived in homes where birds had become sick or died suddenly. All told, 8,149 people said they had experienced flu-like symptoms, but the illnesses lasted no more than three days. Thorson and her team defined flu-like symptoms as cough and fever. Respondents with direct contact with sick or dead birds were 73 percent more likely to report symptoms.

The research confirms what experts at the World Health Organization have said all along: Close contact with affected birds is key to infection. Infectious disease specialists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have emphasized that human-to-human transmission would be needed to trigger a global flu pandemic on the scale of the 1918 outbreak that quickly circled the globe, killing 50 million people.
Good news, right?

Maybe. After all, viruses mutate at incredibly swift rates. That this particular mutation made the leap and is mild doesn't mean: a) it's stopped mutating or b) that a new mutation, a deadlier mutation, could still make the leap to mammals (and of course, humans).

Let's get through February, and we can all breathe a little easier for now.


Monday, January 09, 2006

NOW She Wakes Up!

From a fellow blogger, and someone I consider a distant friend...ok, there's a restraining order involved, OK? Happy you asked????
Model Housewife Turns Feminist

.... after her husband leaves her.

Well that's a wakeup call. It's your 40th wedding anniversary and you are congratulated with divorce papers because the husband found a younger model. What is a 67 year old woman to do? A woman who devoted her life to husband and family?
Wow. I mean, wow. 67 years old, forty years of living an incipient lie.

Plus ├ža change, plus ce meme chose...Why is it the Arianna Huffingtons, the David Brocks, and now, the Terry Hekkers of the world get the message AFTER they've caused the damage???

Of course, I see another "convert" on the horizon....

Reasons To Be Glad Dubya Is President

Believe it or not, they exist (hat tip to Miss Cellania)

- Iraq. The deteriorating situation in Iraq is the inevitable outcome of a poorly conceived, incompetently executed and predictably doomed flight of foreign policy fancy...Imagine how a President Kerry, inheriting Bush’s disaster, would have been paralyzed with the Hobson’s choice left by his predecessor. To be a “tough Democrat,” he might have disastrously committed more troops. Any withdrawal would be tarred by the right as treason and cause even more damage to the party on that old bugaboo, defense.

- Bushonomics. He’s the Accountability President; let him bask in all the blame. Better that than we get burned picking up the pieces.

- Scandals. Another silver lining in the dark clouds over Washington is that it might be a swiftly breaking storm. It’s taken less than five years for the Republican Idea to reveal itself as a grotesque falsehood. Now we’ve got great seats as a whole host of first-term crimes hatch into second-term scandals. The Plame Game, Jack Abramoff’s web of Republican intrigue, Bill Frist’s financial indiscretions, domestic spying, the cronyism exposed by Brownie’s heck of a job during Katrina — these were ineptitudes and overreaches of Nixonian dimension that, for the sake of the country, need vigorous public exposure.

- Schadenfreude. It might be bad form to gloat, but watching Bush fail is at least civic-minded gloating.

Catching Myself Up

It feels like years since it's been clear...

Well, I'm back in blog, so to speak. A bit irritable, but apparently none the worse for the wear.

See, over a year ago...well, let me track back even further than that to summer 2003, when I tore my right bicep opening a locked window (got the fucker open too, but that's another story). I was on the shelf, workout wise, for a long time, rehabbing my arm and getting it healed.

So last fall, I was in the gym with a trainer after having done all the proper rehabilitation on my arm and making it good as new again (e.g. 80 lb. dumbell curls, support in bench pressing 300 lbs., so on and so forth). So there I am in the squat rack, having just finished an intense superset of squats, when I start to feel a little light headed.

Nothing I'm not used to, mind you, but it never really goes away. I relax in a sauna (it's pronounced sow-na, by the way, not saw-na) as we Finns are want to do, shower, take my time getting dressed, walk out and get on the subway...

...where I promptly come within seconds of passing out. I groped my way to a seat (I'm not sure if someone got up or if I threw them off, it's hazy), where I regain consciousness.

That was the first of what my doctors are now calling a "vascular event". It *could* have been as simple as a pooling of blood in my arms, legs, and stomach after an intense workout. Or not. It had never happened to me in such a extreme way before, and usually when I sit in a sauna for five or ten minutes, I can gather myself up and move easily again.

Since then, I've had a couple of transient moments where I've been a bit out of sorts. Imagine you're drunk or stoned, how the world feels like it's at arm's length, like you're watching your life go on without you, and you'll have a sense of what I mean. Nothing to worry about, right?

In November, I finally had the last straw as far as not seeing a doctor went. I nearly passed out while standing for a few hours, and shortly thereafter began having chest "congestion" (won't call it pain, but I can't ignore my chest felt tight). I immediately booked an appointment and ended up referred to a cardiologist. My cholesterol and blood pressure are both pretty high, but never high enough that my doctor was overly concerned about them, as they both seemed to be under control and more important, lowering. Now he is.

I've always had an enlarged heart, what with all the sports I played (scouted in three, nearly signed in one), and I'm thinking my metabolism is a little screwy because of the active life I've lived. Naturally, as I age, I'm slowing down and ain't a damn thing I can do about that, except try to stay in shape and watch my diet.

The diet part is easy enough, and I've been fairly good (altho lately, near perfect) about that, but the injury to my arm kicked out a critical component of my lifestyle. I had, while rehabbing, tried to increase my aerobic work to compensate, but it appears that my muscles craved the anaerobic load I was working with.

And of course, since that near-fainting spell, I've been reluctant to really push it in the gym.

Right now, the doctor's are studying the results of the tests I took, a stress test (which I was surprised how easily it tired me out) and a nuclear echocardiogram, which was an event in and of itself. I haven't heard back yet, but it should be shortly.

So, my apologies to you if it was an abrupt parting last week, but as far as I can see, I'm back now.

Sex Offenders List

State legislature to vote on sex offender registry


January 9, 2006

With 168 convicted sex offenders scheduled to be removed from the state registry in the next few days, lawmakers are at odds on legislation that would keep the offenders under government scrutiny longer.

The state Senate and Assembly will vote today on two laws that would extend the period of time sex offenders remain on the state registry. Supported by Mark Lunsford, whose daughter, Jessica, 9, was murdered in Florida after an abduction by a convicted sex offender, the Republican-controlled Senate will vote for a lifetime registry for most offenders. The Assembly, with a Democratic majority, is expected to support a measure that would extend the registry period at least a year until Congress passes a national registry law.
Tough position to be in, a Democrat in the New York State Assembly (or Senate, for that matter).

I'm conflicted on how I feel about this: as a parent, of course, I want all children to be safe. As a libertarian, if a man (since they usually are men) serves his debt to society, I feel extended punishment is unwarranted. A ten-year period of monitoring, a de facto probation, seems pretty reasonable.

What I find amazing about this entire discussion is that this is a liberal-type program that a "mommy-state" would design, that's been co-opted by the law-and-order types as a needed tool of law enforcement. Isn't this precisely the type of program that cries out for privatization?

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