Saturday, January 28, 2006

In Memoriam

Francis R. (Dick) Scobee

Michael J. Smith

Judith A. Resnik

Ronald E. McNair

Ellison S. Onizuka

Gregory B. Jarvis

And of course....
20 Years Later, Teacher's Life Remembered

Associated Press Writer

January 28, 2006, 4:44 AM EST
CONCORD, N.H. -- It was just as Christa McAuliffe would have wanted. The Concord High School teacher and her six crewmates on the space shuttle Challenger appear chronologically, with no special billing, in a school lesson on space travel.

It was just as she once taught, that ordinary people make history. Except this time, she was the ordinary person and the history was a disaster 20 years ago Saturday that wounded the school and city so deeply that the slightest touch still can bring tears.

This week, as he has done for 19 previous anniversaries, biology teacher Philip Browne taught his students about space travel, from the Mercury missions to the space station. As McAuliffe did in her social studies classes, Browne kept it simple.

He demonstrated the size of the shuttle's cargo bay with an illustration of it holding a Trailways bus; he showed how the parts of its solid rocket booster were stacked together like round Lego blocks, sealed with huge rubber washers called O-rings.

And he explained what could happen if those O-rings got cold and brittle, as they did on Jan. 28, 1986, allowing flames to escape and hit the shuttle's huge fuel tank.

"A rubber O-ring failed, the flames leaked out, burned through the orange (fuel) tank, exploded the oxygen and hydrogen, and the shuttle never made it into orbit," said Browne, 57, who was one of four other New Hampshire finalists in the national competition that eventually selected McAuliffe to be the first teacher in space.

Around each anniversary, he takes his classes to McAuliffe's grave and the nearby planetarium built in her honor. In class, Browne calmly and expertly explains the science, but in an interview afterward, a single word, a question about the cemetery sojourn, brings him to tears: "Why?"

Taking a deep breath to fight sobs, he responds: "I don't want anybody to forget ... their bravery, their dedication. They were people who loved life. They wanted something better for the world."

The school is exhibiting material from McAuliffe's odyssey and offering students a new documentary about the teacher-astronaut's life. No special ceremonies are planned by the city.

Assistant Principal Bill Haubrich said the anniversary presents an annual dilemma.

"There is a legacy here. How do we promote the legacy, and not promote that particular day that was the most painful day in our school's history?" he said.

McAuliffe's husband, Steven, and children Scott and Caroline disappeared from public view after the explosion. In a rare comment, McAuliffe, now remarried and a federal judge, said he is grateful to the community.

"Our children have been taken in and protected by everyone, and so were allowed to grow up normally and without undue focus or attention, in the best of American small towns," he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I suspect there are not many places where that could have happened, and I know Christa would want me to express her appreciation as well for that priceless gift."

Son Scott, 29, is married and pursuing a career in marine resource management, McAuliffe wrote. Daughter Caroline is 26, an educator like her mother.

"They both are healthy, happy, great kids, and first-rate people," their father said.

Twenty years ago, the city buzzed with excitement over Christa McAuliffe, who was 37. Scott's third-grade class even went to Florida for the launch.

Ben Provencal, 28, was one of the third-graders shivering in the VIP bleachers when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.

A full-page photo in Newsweek later showed Provencal, looking tiny in his oversized baseball cap, his hands pulled into his sleeves against the cold. His teary eyes stared at white smoke and zigzag rocket contrails the explosion painted on the brilliant, blue sky.

Provencal said he and his classmates understood before their parents that the Challenger had exploded.

"We had been studying the space shuttle at school. We knew every second of that launch sequence and what was supposed to happen," he said.

He remembers the emptiness and the reluctance long afterward for teachers and friends to talk about space travel, especially when Scott was around. Now he focuses on other aspects of the trip, and on McAuliffe's goal.

He does it as "Mr. P.," special education assistant and coach at Concord's Rundlett Middle School.

"I used to say,`I want to be an astronaut too,'" Provencal said, "but now I'm so proud that I teach kids and work with kids and I can follow in the footsteps of people who were as incredible as Christa was."
By any measure, a remarkable woman.

No screed on the failure of the Bush administration to reach for the stars. That will come, and soon. No, a simple remembrance of a day that almost seems trivial in comparison to what has transpired in the nation since, but at the time was as unimaginable a tragedy as the attacks that followed fifteen years later. NASA had been our best shining example of what America could accomplish. NASA fulfilled a dream of a President now resting in Arlington and with it, renewed our nation's spirit and soothed the aching emtpiness of the loss of that President and others, countless others, in the ensuing years.

That innocence, torn away by the hurricane-force winds of nickle-and-dime funding of space efforts since man walked on the moon, could never return. We dare not dream anymore, since those dreams are so easily destroyed by short-sighted gorillas.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Bush, Abramoff

Jan. 26, 2006, 9:21PM
Bush defends Abramoff photos
He says images showing him with disgraced lobbyist won't be released to the public
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The photographs Democratic strategists would love to send to potential contributors — of President Bush gripping and grinning with now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff — will remain in the White House private collection, Bush said Thursday.

Under dogged questioning at a press briefing, Bush dismissed the photographs as routine shots taken at public receptions and denied any close relationship with Abramoff.
Sorta like these shots were "innocent," right, Mr. Bush?

At least Clinton only screwed one woman. You've screwed everyone!

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Snarky Emails

From Mike K., a recovering screenwriter and friend:
American-style democracy

Agree with the rest of Bush's agenda or not, it's really hard to find fault with the concept of spreading "American-style democracy" around the world.

Now, with leftist victories across South America (Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and of course, Venezuela), the collapse of the US-backed party in Iraq, and the apparently astonishing landslide victory of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, it'll be interesting to see if we're really going to honor elections that don't agree with our national interests.

Today's headlines is that we will "refuse" to deal with Hamas because of their anti-Israel stance. Frankly, I'm not sure what I'd do if I was Secretary of State, but I can't wait to see how quickly Bush is going to back away from "democracy" now that it's clear the average person on the street in poor nations won't support the status quo.

Mike K

Couldnae hae said it butter meself...

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The Bull In The China Shop

Google China Censorship Controversy Roundup

Google choosing to censor the search results of its Google China search engine has led to a lot of industry flack and protest against a search engine which was viewed as the ‘people’s hero’ only last week for standing up to government aggression. When Google agreed to comply to Chinese law in order to expand its services in China, they opened up a can of worms which, in this writer’s opinion, is not going to go away anytime soon.

Sure, MSN and Yahoo, along with multiple global businesses have conformed to Chinese Sinification restrictions when opening shop in the People’s Republic, but this is Google - the company that makes business decisions by its ‘Do No Evil’ motto. This leads to the question, is doing business in China evil? Is the suppression of free expression which can lead to social unrest evil?

The long term potential of accomplishing change through working with the people and wishes of China is much more powerful than appeasing the short term preferences of interest groups. Google will probably do more good than harm in the long run delivering the world’s information to China, even if that means excluding some touchy information in the here and now.
Which sounds like a noble experiment, but let's face facts: It's all about the yuan. The money. And I have no problem with that, though apparently wrong wingers do(please forgive me for linking to a member of the Fascist Black Footsie Pajama Media):
The Chinese government is a communist regime. They control what information their citizens have access to. Google, Microsoft and Cisco have decided to play along in the name of the dollar with the ChiComs. These are people who fear losing control like the Kremlin did in the late 80s. Then, people got access to radio and tv from Western Europe. There were no gateways to those signals that could be turned off or redirected. Soviet-bloc people learned over time that life was good outside the Soviet area of control. When a revolt started in one Soviet satellite, or there was no food or gas in another, people in other Soviet states found out via radio & tv waves. The real story was drastically different than what was said on Pravda.
Really? What an idiot!

Perhaps Herr Moronic El Gato forgot this little bit of information:
To try and persuade the Chinese he was not a danger, Murdoch threw the BBC off Star. He argued that it was gratuitously attacking the regime, playing film of the massacre in Tiananmen Square over and over again. He also pointed out that since the BBC broadcasts only in English, almost no Chinese could understand it. In 1998 he ordered his British publishing firm, HarperCollins, to drop the memoirs of Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong and another fierce critic of Beijing. The reward came last December when Chinese President Jiang Zemin praised Murdoch for the "objective" way in which his papers and television covered China.

When I put it to him that he was betraying his anti-communist values to ingratiate himself with Beijing, he said: "I don't think there are many communists left in China. There's a one-party state and there's a communist economy, which they are desperately trying to get out of and change. The real story there is an economic story, tied to the democratic story." He argues that Western entertainment, even without Western news, will help further dilute the regime.[....]

Murdoch has now married 31-year-old Wendi Deng, who grew up in China and was working for Star TV when he met her. They have bought an apartment in Manhattan's trendy SoHo district, and Murdoch seems more relaxed than ever.
That was 1999. This is 2006:
Media magnate Murdoch 'building China home'
Updated: 2004-12-22 09:20

Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch is building a home near the Forbidden City in Beijing.
OK, 2004, but you get the drift. So it's WRONG for Google to kowtow to China, but it's OK for Murdoch to suck up to Beijing in such a bold way?

By the way, this bastion of (as Time puts it) "devout anti-Soviet and anti-communist" tendencies, this morally upright, FOUR TIMES MARRIED EX-AUSSIE, has a long history of behavior inconsistent with his apparent belief system.

Pot, meet kettle. I think it's calling you. And El Gato? Better button up them PJs. Your brains might fall out.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

OhMyGod! I Really AM French!

My Deepest Genetic Ancestry

Type: Y-Chromosome
Haplogroup: I (M170)

Your STRs:
DYS393: 13 DYS439: 11 DYS388: 14 DYS385a: 14
DYS19: 15 DYS389-1: 12 DYS390: 23 DYS385b: 14
DYS391: 10 DYS389-2: 16 DYS426: 11 DYS392: 11
How to Interpret Your Results

Above are results from the laboratory analysis of your Y-chromosome. Your DNA was analyzed for Short Tandem Repeats (STRs), which are repeating segments of your genome that have a high mutation rate. The location on the Y chromosome of each of these markers is depicted in the image, with the number of repeats for each of your STRs presented to the right of the marker. For example, DYS19 is a repeat of TAGA, so if your DNA repeated that sequence 12 times at that location, it would appear: DYS19 12. Studying the combination of these STR lengths in your Y Chromosome allows researchers to place you in a haplogroup, which reveals the complex migratory journeys of your ancestors. Y-SNP: In the event that the analysis of your STRs was inconclusive, your Y chromosome was also tested for the presence of an informative Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP). These are mutational changes in a single nucleotide base, and allow researchers to definitively place you in a genetic haplogroup.

Your Genetic History

Your Y chromosome results identify you as a member of haplogroup I, a lineage defined by a genetic marker called M170. This haplogroup is the final destination of a genetic journey that began some 60,000 years ago with an ancient Y chromosome marker called M168.

The very widely dispersed M168 marker can be traced to a single individual—"Eurasian Adam." This African man, who lived some 31,000 to 79,000 years ago, is the common ancestor of every non-African person living today. His descendants migrated out of Africa and became the only lineage to survive away from humanity's home continent.

Population growth during the Upper Paleolithic era may have spurred the M168 lineage to seek new hunting grounds for the plains animals crucial to their survival. A period of moist and favorable climate had expanded the ranges of such animals at this time, so these nomadic peoples may have simply followed their food source.

Improved tools and rudimentary art appeared during this same epoch, suggesting significant mental and behavioral changes. These shifts may have been spurred by a genetic mutation that gave "Eurasian Adam's" descendants a cognitive advantage over other contemporary, but now extinct, human lineages.

Some 90 to 95 percent of all non-Africans are descendants of the second great human migration out of Africa, which is defined by the marker M89.

M89 first appeared 45,000 years ago in Northern Africa or the Middle East. It arose on the original lineage (M168) of "Eurasian Adam," and defines a large inland migration of hunters who followed expanding grasslands and plentiful game to the Middle East.

Many people of this lineage remained in the Middle East, but others continued their movement and followed the grasslands through Iran to the vast steppes of Central Asia. Herds of buffalo, antelope, woolly mammoths, and other game probably enticed them to explore new grasslands.

With much of Earth's water frozen in massive ice sheets, the era's vast steppes stretched from eastern France to Korea. The grassland hunters of the M89 lineage traveled both east and west along this steppe "superhighway" and eventually peopled much of the continent.

A group of M89 descendants moved north from the Middle East to Anatolia and the Balkans, trading familiar grasslands for forests and high country. Though their numbers were likely small, genetic traces of their journey are still found today.

Haplogroup I, is widespread throughout southeastern and central Europe and most common in the Balkans. Members of this haplogroup carry a 20,000-year-old marker dubbed M170.

This Y chromosome marker first appeared in the Middle East. Its subsequent spread into southeastern Europe may have accompanied the expansion of the prosperous Gravettian culture. These Upper Paleolithic people used effective communal hunting techniques and developed art notable for voluptuous female carvings often dubbed "Venus" figures.

The later spread of this lineage could be also tied to the mid-first millennium B.C. Celtic culture. The tantalizing possibility could explain the wider dispersal of this unique genetic marker.
So among my deepest ancestors (on my dad's side, at any rate) are Balkans, Celts, Druids, the early Europeans, but none of the Mongol blood that later invades my ancestral homeland.

Which was not totally unexpected. This means my ancestors were probably in Scandanavia before the Mongols came, and were on the Viking forefront against them.

Find out about your deep ancestry at The Genographic Project


This is going to be a think piece. A bit late for the 2006 election cycle, but certainly food for thought for the 2008 cycle.

This is not directed at the Democratic Party: rather, it's directed at the women's movement.

I think the time has come to organize a bit better, frankly. The overriding issue the media is covering in terms of the struggle for gender equality is the battlefield of abortion. In short, to be for women's right means primarily to be for the right to choose.

Now, I am a man, but I like to think that in my progressive outlook and attention to the news, and if I have that opinion, certainly that opinion can't be isolated.

Which is a shame, because the women's movement ought to be about a lot of other things, as well. Think about it for a moment, and you'll see what I mean.

Pensions? Women's issue. Women tend to outlive men, and pension benefits tend to devolve to the next of kin when the pensioneer dies.

Unemployment? Women's issue. Women tend to work jobs that are outsourced more quickly than men, further, women's white collar jobs get lost when companies merge.

War. Women's issue. Men go off to fight war, primarily, which means women have to pick up the slack at home. The prime example of this is World War II and Rosie the Riveter, of course (nevermind what happened to her after the war was over), but it's been true of every war ever fought, before and since.

Inflation? Women's issue. Who usually ends up balancing the budget at home while Dad (if he's even around!) sits on the sofa watching the great American game of homosexual tag, football?

The environment? Women's issue. Women tend to drive the car more frequently, for one thing, but they also tend to be more concerned about the environment. I'm not sure if it's a maternal instinct that drives this, or even just the fact that so many of them are the primary caregivers for the least among us (children and the elderly), but a high proportion of environmentally-aware people I know are women, and I don't think I'm an exception here.

A side note: ironically, women also tend to use SUVs heavily, for family safety. While this may seem antithetical to the ecologic movement, it's a matter of self-defense: people in cars die when hit by a pick-up truck or SUV in a collision, and since so many men felt some pathetically penile need to drive a "rig" (while listening to that great American homosexual game of tag on the radio, no doubt), it was practically mandatory that women start driving them as well.

And yes, abortion. The fundamental right of a woman to decide whether to bring a child in the world at any given moment. There cannot be a more essential woman's issue than that.

"Pro-choice." That term sounds like a panicked response to the wrong-wing smear spin machine term, pro-life. So maybe the time has come to stop calling "us" (rather than them, since I consider myself a feminist, although I'm sure I will be emailed a laundry list of my sins against women) pro-choice. Maybe the time has come to link all these issues and the wealth of others under one umbrella. Stop making abortion the topic of distraction and discussion, and make the overall rights of women in a society where they are diminished because they don't have a penis the arching theme of the movement. I know it's been tried, but it's been neatly derailed by the other side, and abortion has been the fallback code word, and even that now is under attack, no longer safe from dismantlement.

Let's start calling us, pro-woman. Maybe then we can start to work the right-wing propaganda machine the way it ought to be manhandled.

Pun intended.

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Bush To GM, Ford: Let Them Eat Cake.

Bush not keen to bail out US carmakers

US President George W Bush thinks hard pressed American auto giants, General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co, should develop better cars instead of looking to Washington for help.


Bush suggested that one way automakers could make more appealing products was to promote cars using alternative fuels, a topic he plans to mention in his state of the union address next week.

Bush said in the interview that US automakers could find new market share in the competition to sell vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

"As these automobile manufacturers compete for market share and use technology to try to get consumers to buy their product, they also will be helping America become less dependent on foreign sources of oil," Bush told the newspaper.
Now, on the face of it, that makes sense: you know, oil prices being so high, perhaps even artificially high, with no near-term fall in sight.

So it might interest you to learn that the Energy Bill of 2005, that Bush both lobbied for and signed, has these interesting little nuggets in it:
The bill exempts oil and gas industries from some clean-water laws, streamlines permits for oil wells and power lines on public lands, and helps the hydropower industry appeal environmental restrictions. One obscure provision would repeal a Depression-era law that has prevented consolidation of public utilities, potentially transforming the nation's electricity markets.

It also includes an estimated $85 billion worth of subsidies and tax breaks for most forms of energy -- including oil and gas, "clean coal," ethanol, electricity, and solar and wind power. The nuclear industry got subsidies for research, waste reprocessing, construction, operation and even decommission. The petroleum industry got new incentives to drill in the Gulf of Mexico -- as if $60-a-barrel oil wasn't enough of an incentive. The already-subsidized ethanol industry got a federal mandate that will nearly double its output by 2012 -- as well as new subsidies to develop ethanol from other sources.

The final bill dropped most of the controversial amendments that blocked passage of earlier versions, including authorizing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, relieving the petroleum industry of liability for the gasoline additive known as MBTE and exempting some communities from clean-air standards. Eco-friendly measures to tighten fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and take a stand against global warming were deleted as well. What's left, said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), is "a smorgasbord."

For example, it exempts oil and gas companies from Safe Drinking Water Act requirements when they inject fluids -- including some carcinogens -- into the earth at high pressure, a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Betty Anthony, director for exploration and production at the American Petroleum Institute, said states already regulate the process, but residents of Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia and other states have complained that it has polluted groundwater in their communities.

Meanwhile, the measure will streamline Bureau of Land Management drilling permits -- even though the Bush administration already has granted a record number of permits on BLM land. Lawmakers also authorized seismic blasting in sensitive marine areas to gauge offshore oil reserves -- despite a moratorium on drilling in many of those areas. And the bill will exempt petroleum well pads from storm-water regulations under the Clean Water Act. Anthony said the provision makes sense because the wells are already exempt, but critics question why the oil and gas industry, which has seen record profits in recent months, should be exempt from any aspect of environmental law.

"This bill will allow America's most profitable companies to pollute our water supplies," said David Alberswerth of the Wilderness Society. "They're the kings of Capitol Hill."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) also managed to insert at least $500 million in subsidies over a 10-year period -- with the option to double the amount -- for research into deep-water oil and gas drilling, a grant that many lawmakers expect to go to the Texas Energy Center in DeLay's home town of Sugar Land. The bill also includes royalty relief for deep-water drilling projects, a strategy that helped jump-start production in the Gulf during the 1990s.

"If you don't provide the relief, nothing will happen," said John Felmy, the American Petroleum Institute's chief economist. "The start-up costs are just too massive."
So if there's no incentive for oil and gas companies to spend their own money to work harder to find new sources of crude, if the administration is basically handing them the keys to the bar and saying "Lock up when you're ready to go to your AA meeting," then how on earth are Ford and GM supposed to react? They're assuming the President is comfortable with oil-fueled transportation.

Wouldn't you?

So this massive "alternative energy" push that Bush has touted as his shining energy plan, turns out to be "No Lobbyist Left Behind", particularly in the oil and gas industries, as John McCain put it so neatly.

Yes, Ford and GM should have foreseen this. That's what they're corporate planning people are paid a lot of money to do: peek into the future and nail down projections. But Toyota had the Prius, a hybrid car, on the market for four years before they saw a significant profit from American sales, and Ford and GM were already deep into their shareholders toilets. Did Bush expect them to lose more money these past few years? The bailout would have come a LOT earlier and Bush would have chided them for spending money on foolish alternative energy research!

For the record, I own a modest stock holding (a few thousand shares) in a company in Canada that is partnered with Ford in working on fuel cell technology.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Most Sensible Column You'll Ever Read By A Conservative

James Pinkerton is a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, meaning he's the kind of conservative a) I grew up around and b) I can actually talk to.

Pox News uses him as balance to the flaming 'rhoids of vengeance, to give you an idea how conservative he is.

So imagine my surprise when he actually came out yesterday in SUPPORT of social programs!
The dollar-cost of war doesn't end when it's over

January 24, 2006

When nations go to war, government spending goes up. First for the fighting, then for the social-welfaring.

So all the fond dreams of reducing the size and cost of government in the years ahead are just that - fond dreams and nothing more. If a country calls its young people to rally to the colors, it had better be prepared to pay for their service, in the short run and also the long run. To do otherwise is to risk disaster, on the homefront as well as the warfront.

Chiseled on the headquarters facade of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington are words from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865, in which the 16th president declared a key mission of the soon-to-be-reunited America: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

So, while the federal government shrank back from its engorged wartime maximums, a post-Civil War ratchet effect was evident: Uncle Sam didn't shrink all the way back. Federal spending was $63 million in fiscal year 1861; it ballooned to $1.3 billion four years later. And, after Appomattox, outlays never fell below $242 million - quadruple the prewar level.
So far a nobrainer, right? A warhawk (don't recall if he served or not) coming out in favor of VA programs (which Bush has either slashed or attempted to slash in every budget during his administration). But then he does something surprising: he quotes Bismarck & David Lloyd George:
During the next five decades, the vision of the welfare state was enshrined among most industrial countries. The 19th century statesman Otto von Bismarck stands as the pioneer in arguing that no country could be strong if it didn't have a system of cradle-to-grave protection for its citizenry. The issue, in Bismarck's mind, wasn't handouts; it was assurance that no loyal German would ever be left bereft.

World War I vindicated Bismarck's vision: Countries with weak social safety nets, such as Russia, fought poorly while countries with strong safety nets, such as Germany, fought well. The reason was simple: Men at the front wanted to be assured that the mother country was united behind the war effort - and willing to put its money where its mouth was.

The definitive slogan of the warfare-welfare state was enunciated by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on Nov. 23, 1918 - less than two weeks after the Armistice that ended World War I: "What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in." Lloyd George was a grateful patriot. But he was mindful, too, of the need to pre-empt Bolshevism - and to fortify a new generation for the next war.
Which got me thinking.

America was at its greatest when we had social programs. Unemployment stipends, social security, government workfare programs were not born in a vacuum. They were forged in the mills of war and the Great Depression. They ensured that anyone who wanted to work, could and if they were temporarily out of work, or too old, or sick or injured to work, they would be taken care of.

Yes. The Mommy State was born in World War II, hardly a time for mothering, if you listen to the punjabs of "personal (but not corporate) responsibility".

Too, Eisenhower assessed post-World War II America, and said we need a highway system the likes that Germany has. We need an education system to make sure we don't fall further behind the Russians. And he warned us against the military-industrial complex, a warning which rings quite true now in the age of Halliburton.

History will not judge us on how we waged war, but on how we pursued peace, domestically as well as internationally. We remember the Romans not so much for their vast conquests but for their mysterious decline.

But we remember the Greeks for their wisdom and intellect. We should always bear that in mind as we select Presidents and Congresscritters. That's up to us as voters, to choose wisely. And to us of the reality-based constituency, it's up to us to persuade and influence our fellow Wrong Wingers to change their ways of seeing things.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Doin' A Heckufa Job There, Pervez!"

Will people ever get that the Bush family is a batch of pathological liars?
Bush Calls Pakistan `Vital' Ally in War on Terrorism

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush called Pakistan a ``friend'' in the war against terrorism after meeting with the country's prime minister, who said the two allies need to communicate better to defeat the enemy.

``We consider this friendship to be a vital friendship for keeping the peace,'' Bush told reporters in Washington after two-hours of talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Bush didn't answer questions or publicly comment on the U.S. missile strike earlier this month on a Pakistan village, an attack that has sparked protests there.
OK, fair enough: Pakistan has been a bit more flexible towards our needs and POV since September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, but...remember the Kurds in 1991?
In America's dealings with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Iraq's Kurds have been a tragic side show. For decades, they looked to the U.S. for support in their struggle against Saddam's government. Washington's response has been classic realpolitik - using the Kurds when it wanted to hurt Saddam and then dropping them when their usefulness had run out.
Uh huh. Now, keep in mind this little event from the other day:
Confusion Shrouds Pakistan Attack

By Pamela Constable and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 18, 2006; A10

U.S. intelligence sources said Tuesday that they were increasingly certain a missile strike in Pakistan on Friday had failed to kill Ayman Zawahiri, second in command of al Qaeda, but regional officials in Pakistan said the attack had killed four or five other foreign Islamic extremists who were attending a dinner in a village near the Afghan border.


News of the civilian casualties provoked angry anti-American demonstrations by Muslim groups in several cities over the weekend, straining the government's role as an ally in the U.S. anti-terrorism effort. On Tuesday, government ministers also condemned the attack after a stormy session of the National Assembly in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, due to leave for a visit to the United States this week, tried to smooth over the contradictions Tuesday, saying, "Pakistan is committed to fighting terrorism, but naturally we cannot accept any action within our country which results in what happened over the weekend."

Aziz, who spoke during a news conference in Islamabad with former president George H.W. Bush, said he would raise the issue with U.S. officials, but he suggested that the attack was a single "unfortunate" incident in a "long-standing" U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Bush is in Pakistan to survey relief efforts following the Oct. 8 earthquake.
Apparently, Aziz forgot about it:
He said Jan. 22 that Pakistan wasn't consulted in advance of the missile strike. Asked today if the U.S. raid was brought up in the meeting with Bush, Aziz said, ``we discussed every issue.''

``We discussed the war against terror and the need for closer cooperation and coordination,'' Aziz said.
Fortunately, having spent a lifetime amongst diplomats, ambassadors and politicians has taught me to parse language like this, so let me translate it:
I asked nicely if they could not do that again, and Bush stamped his feet and said "fuck off, towelhead."

Yea. That's what I figured.

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Bush Defends 'Terrorist Surveillance'

Associated Press Writer

January 23, 2006, 11:15 PM EST

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- President Bush pushed back Monday at critics of his once-secret domestic spying effort, saying it should be termed a "terrorist surveillance program" and contending it has the backing of legal experts, key lawmakers and the Supreme Court.

Several members of Congress from both parties have questioned whether the warrantless snooping is legal. That is because it bypasses a special federal court that, by law, must authorize eavesdropping on Americans and because the president provided limited notification to only a few lawmakers.

"It's amazing that people say to me, 'Well, he's just breaking the law.' If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?" asked Bush. One of those who had been informed, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was sitting behind Bush during his appearance at Kansas State University.
"Briefing Congress"? Pat Roberts counts as "briefing Congress"? I mean, OK, let's give the baby his bottle and call it a "terrorist surveillance" program (neatly begging the question, "what is a terrorist as he defines it?").

Or not. Let's take a look at some of the spin being done here:
"I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means: It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics," Bush said.

Bush and Gen. Michael Hayden, the former National Security Agency director who is now the government's No. 2 intelligence official sought to paint the program as vital to national security. "Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al-Qaida operatives in the United States," Hayden said.
You mean like the August 6 2001 PDB said there were, Mr. Bush? Would you have ignored THESE as well, sir?
Hayden maintained that the work was within the law. "The constitutional standard is reasonable. ... I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we are doing is reasonable," he said at the National Press Club.
Is that why a FISA judge resigned in disgust, Gen. Hayden?

Who's zooming who here? And who REALLY is a terrorist? That's the question maybe Bush ought to be addressing.

By the way, there was this luscious exchange between Bush and a UKansas audience member regarding Brokeback Mountain. It read funnier than it played on TV:
WASHINGTON — President Bush long has cultivated the image of a rancher in the Wild West, donning cowboy boots and blue jeans to clear brush on his sprawling Texas property. But on Monday he was noncommittal, and even a bit nonplused, when asked for his reaction to the most talked-about ranching film in years, "Brokeback Mountain."

"I haven't seen it," Bush said of the critically acclaimed love story about two gay ranch hands. "I'll be glad to talk about ranching," the president told thousands of students and professors in the audience at Kansas State University, "but I haven't seen the movie."

"You're a rancher," the young man said to Bush. "A lot of us here in Kansas are ranchers. I was just wanting to get your opinion on 'Brokeback Mountain,' if you've seen it yet."

As the hall filled with nervous laughter, the young man persisted: "You would love it. You should check it out."

The president appeared as if he wanted to say something about the film. "I've heard about it," he said. "I hope you go — you know."

He paused, and the hall filled again with nervous laughs. The president appeared to chuckle a bit, and then said: "I hope you go back to the ranch and the farm is what I'm about to say."

[....] One observer said he was not surprised by Bush's apparent discomfort. Although the story line is full of Republican touchstones — small-town Fourth of July celebrations, a father's devotion to his children, even the wide-open landscape of Wyoming, Vice President Dick Cheney's home state — the depiction of homosexuality makes the film untouchable for a politician.

"It's the thing no one can talk about," said Bill Handley, an associate professor of English at USC who is compiling a book of essays on the movie's cultural impact. "So he's repeating that whole gesture in the film that you turn your eyes away, you don't want to act like it's there."
Or, to put it another way: Only thing ever came out of Crawford, Texas is steers and queers and I ain't seein' no horns on Bush...

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David Patterson: A Great Choice

Democrat candidate for governor taps state Sen. David Paterson as lieutenant in move seen as appeal to city


January 24, 2006

ALBANY -- Finalizing his ticket ahead of the usual political calendar, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has chosen state Senate Minority Leader David A. Paterson to be his running mate in the governor's race, and the Harlem Democrat has accepted the offer, Spitzer's aides said yesterday.

In choosing Paterson, an African-American who like Spitzer is a Democrat from the city, Spitzer went against the conventional wisdom, opting not to pick a lieutenant governor nominee from upstate or the suburbs.

By turning to one of his allies in the city - the base of the Democratic vote - some analysts saw the move as an attempt by the attorney general to strengthen his position in a primary, rather than the general election.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who is expected to formally announce soon that he will challenge Spitzer for the Democratic nomination, has been working feverishly to bolster his support in the five boroughs.

"Suozzi has to find a way to counter Eliot's move and add some power to his ticket," said Basil Smikle, a political consultant based in Manhattan. "It becomes a much more street-level campaign earlier."

Those close to Spitzer said Paterson's profile as Senate minority leader - a position that has taken him throughout the state - convinced the attorney general that Paterson would bolster the ticket.
Quietly, Patterson has traded on several significant assets-- name recognition from family heritage being the most obvious one (his father was Basil Patterson)-- and overcome enormous obstacles (being a liberal Democrat from the city, and visually impaired) to become a state-wide force as Senate minority leader, increasing the number of seats the Dems hold in the Senate in the process.

He's got a good sense of humour and connects with people he speaks with.

Every so often in politics, an unobvious choice is made that, once made, crystalizes so many nebulous, tenuous areas. This is one of those choices, the kind that make political junkies like me smack our heads and say "Why didn't I see that coming?"

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Noted: A Passing

NBC Cancels 'West Wing' After 7 Seasons
By DAVID BAUDER , 01.23.2006, 04:04 AM

NBC's political drama "The West Wing," which briefly made bureaucrats hip and won four Emmy awards for best drama, will end this spring with the inauguration of a new fictional president.

NBC announced the series' conclusion after seven seasons on Sunday. In the end, it fell victim to television's democratic process: sinking ratings, particularly after this season's move to Sunday nights.

The series will end May 14, preceded by an hour's retrospective.

Actors and producers toasted the show's end Sunday night at a cocktail party with television critics, who championed the series from the beginning.

"We knew we had a special show and we remained as a family," said Martin Sheen, who portrayed President Josiah Bartlet. "We all knew that we weren't going to get this kind of a chance again."

Series producers have only in the past few days decided who would win the presidential campaign that has been this season's main story; it will be revealed in April. The contest pits a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican portrayed by Alan Alda, and the show's writers have fought over who should win.
Just when it was getting interesting. Just when we could see how badly they wanted to skewer Bush.


My prediction: Sam Seaborn will replace Leo McGarry (played by John Spencer, who died last month) as VP candidate and Matt Santos will be sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.

"Boring" Economic Bullshit

Stock futures rise after Ford results, deals

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures edged up, pointing to slightly higher market opening on Monday, as easing crude oil prices, a higher-than-expected Ford Motor Co. (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research) profit and corporate deal activity lifted investor sentiment after Friday's fall to nearly three-year lows.


On Friday, Wall Street suffered its biggest loss in nearly three years, with the Dow average <.DJI> closing down 2 percent and Nasdaq <.IXIC> ending 2.4 percent lower.
Ford to drop 1,700 suppliers, keep 800: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co intends to cut the number of its suppliers around the world to around 800 over the next few years from about 2,500 now, industry paper Automotive News reported on Monday.
Ford drives past forecasts

NEW YORK ( - Ford Motor Co., hours ahead of an expected announcement about thousands of job cuts and widespread plant closings, posted much better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Monday.

The nation's No. 2 automaker said it overcame losses at its core North American auto operations to earn $511 million, or 26 cents a share, excluding special items in the quarter. Analysts surveyed by earnings tracker First Call had forecast only a 1-cent a share profit in the period.

The company earned $554 million, or 28 cents per share, on that basis a year earlier.


Company executives have been signaling for several months that deep changes are needed. Mark Fields, president of Ford auto operations in the Americas, said it a speech earlier this month that American automakers had to "Change or die."

Published reports suggest that the assembly plants most at risk of closing are in Atlanta, St. Louis, St. Paul, Minn. and Wixom, Mich., as well as St. Thomas, Ontario, and Cuatitlan, Mexico. As many as 25,000 to 30,000 employees could be trimmed as part of the cutback.

The cutbacks follow a November announcement by competitor General Motors Corp. (Research) that it was cutting 30,000 hourly jobs and closing a dozen plants and facilities.
OK, I posted a lot of stuff there for you to digest, so let me summarize what I'm seeing here.

Ford made about 10% less money in one quarter in 2005, than in the same quarter in 2004. It beat analysts' estimates by a wide margin. Its stock goes up. I'm OK with that.

What I'm not OK with is the lay-off of 30,000 hardworking Americans from across the country, and our trading partners, Canada and Mexico. That giant sucking sound Ross Perot warned about wasn't just about US jobs, it seems.

A half a billion dollar profit goes a long way to paying the salaries and benefits for those workers, but Ford feels its more important to pay attention to its shareholders and the stock markets, apparently.

And for what? As PeterofLoneTree of Blondesense posted this past weekend (from the Dark Wraith Forums), not much:
"January 22, 2001 was the first day of trading after Mr. Bush became President. Three major indices stood at the following levels at the close of trading on that day:

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,578.24
Standard & Poor's 500: 1342.9
NASDAQ Composite: 2757.91

At the close of trading today, January 20, 2006, these same three averages stood at the following levels:

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,667.39
Standard & Poor's 500: 1,261.49
NASDAQ Composite: 2,247.70"
How many refrigerators, houses, cars, meals, college educations, Xboxes, were going to be bought by these 30,000 folks?

A lot more than the shareholders were going to buy with their 26 cents, I can guaran-damn-tee you.

In the thread below, a discussion was generated about how Rome fell: was it the Caesars or the people?

It was both. The Caesars had the power to change things, but didn't because they were beholden to economic interests (mostly their own, but there were factions, of course, in the Senate who influenced policy), but the people had a duty and obligation to reject the bread and circuses that were being foisted upon them (see a resemblance to Fox News in the gladiatorial games?) in favor of real reforms.

And they failed as miserably as the emperors did.

tags technorati :

Sunday, January 22, 2006

When Will Americans Get Tired of Electing Failures Named Bush?

U.S. Navy Seizes Pirate Ship Off Somalia

By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 32 minutes ago
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The U.S. Navy boarded an apparent pirate ship in the Indian Ocean and detained 26 men for questioning, the Navy said Sunday. The 16 Indians and 10 Somali men were aboard a traditional dhow that was chased and seized Saturday by the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, said Lt. Leslie Hull-Ryde of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

The dhow stopped fleeing after the Churchill twice fired warning shots during the chase, which ended 87 kilometers (54 miles) off the coast of Somalia, the Navy said. U.S. sailors boarded the dhow and seized a cache of small arms.

The dhow's crew and passengers were being questioned Sunday aboard the Churchill to determine which were pirates and which were legitimate crew members, Hull-Ryde said.


Somalia has had no effective government since 1991, when warlords ousted a dictatorship and then turned on each other, carving the nation of 8.2 million into a patchwork of fiefdoms.
The war of "Blackhawk Down", you may recall, incorrectly blamed on Bill Clinton (although that attack did occur on his watch), was a UN peacekeeping operation gone awry, first initiated and pretty much run by George H. W. Bush (Bush 41), for the first three months, at any rate.

Meanwhile, darker forces were at work, plotting an attack on American soil in Feb. 1993, the first month of the Clinton administration. Again. a Bush had warnings. Again, a Bush failed to pay heed to those warnings, fixated instead on a meaningless exercise in flexing American military power in a veiled imperialistic ploy. (sounds a little like Iraq in 2002, huh?)

Why Somalia?

Access to the Gulf of Arabia and the Red Sea. Oil. Shipping. Or didn't you notice that this story was reported out of the United Arab Emirates by way of Bahrain?