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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Rumsfeld Never Signed Military Dead's Condolensce Letters

posted by Mike at 12/18/2004 05:07:00 PM

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Sorry to be so chatty today, but I'm running across a lot of amazing crap. Such as this incredible shocker. Every time, frankly, I think that the Bush Administration can't sink lower, can't do one more thing to disgust me, they do something new.

Such as learning that to date, condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in action by the Department of Defense were signed by a machine, not by Rumsfeld.

I found this via a Daily Kos diarist.

Jesus. Every time I hear about this kind of stuff, the words of Joseph Welch come to my mind: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Brits' House of Lords Rule Against Indefinite Detention

posted by Mike at 12/18/2004 04:49:00 PM

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From remarks in the judgement by the House of Lords that the British government is wrong to detain foreign terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial, via author William Gibson's blog and a Guardian article:

Lord Hoffman:

This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community ...

Such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.


Lady Hale:

It is not for the executive to decide who should be locked up for any length of time, let alone indefinitely. Only the courts can do that and, except as a preliminary step before trial, only after the grounds for detaining someone have been proved.

Executive detention is the antithesis of the right to liberty and security of person. Yet that is what the 2001 act allows.

We have always taken it for granted that we cannot be locked up in this country without trial or explanation.

If the situation really is so serious and the threat so severe that people may be detained indefinitely without trial, what possible legitimate aim could be served by only having power to lock up some of the people who present that threat?

Movin' on up. Running Scared is a rodent.

posted by Jazz at 12/18/2004 02:30:00 PM

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Something from the "sort of good news, I think" department.

In the TTLB Ecosystem, we've moved up to "Adorable Rodent" status, coming in at number 2740 on the hit parade. Which is sort of surprising, since the last time I checked in early Fall, we were down in the "Flippery Fish" category. And yes, I put their tracking code into the right column. (Let the shameless self whoring begin.)

Hrmmm... if you guys get on the stick, we might even make it up to a category where we're at least an animal capable of walking on two legs.

Edit: That reminds me... nominations are still open at Wampum for the 2004 Koufax Awards. Just scroll down until you find the latest nominations thread and use the comments section. (Hint Hint Hint... Not that we would want you to nominate us for "Best Group Blog" or any other categories, of course. What do we look like... blog whores?)

Cuba Gets in a Rather Good Zinger at the U.S.

posted by Mike at 12/18/2004 02:05:00 PM

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The United States diplomatic mission to Cuba put up a Christmas display that supports Cuban dissidents. Among the decorations of Santa Claus, candy canes, and white lights around palm trees, there is a sign that reads "75," a reference to the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed last year.

Cuba asked us to take down the "75" sign. We refused. They said a diplomatic phrase that, translated into normal speak, said, "Okay, if that's the way you want to play it ... "

On Friday, Cuba put up a billboard across from the mission that had photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, as well as a huge swastika overlaid with a "Made in the U.S.A" stamp.

Secretary of State Colin Powell's response was:

[T]o put "75" on the side of the building was showing solidarity with people who are being held and intimidated and whose rights are being denied by the Cuban Government. And the Cuban Government's response is to show solidarity with people who are being held and intimidated and whose rights are being denied by the American government? Ouch. Touche, Fidel. Good one.

*record scratch* Actually, I'm sorry. Got that wrong:

[T]o put "75" on the side of the building was showing solidarity with people who are being held and intimidated and whose rights are being denied by the Cuban Government. And the Cuban Government's response is to put forward and show the world a swastika? I don't think that is very wise on their part, and we will continue to stick by our troops down there, our diplomats down there and our Christmas display, with the "75."

Very well done, Colin. If the swastika hadn't been there, would you have remarked on, oh, the size stock they used? Ignoring something a little there?

The Associated Press interviewed Wayne Smith, who headed the Cuban U.S. mission during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He said, "If I were in their shoes, this is what I would do -- call attention to the fact that the United States is now guilty of torture, of massive violations of human rights. Yes, I'd like to see the 75 all released, but we're in no position now to criticize anyone."

That's the point, and one that Colin can't really outright acknowledge. We used to be able to stand with Amnesty International and criticize when egregious human rights violations were committed. After Abu Gharib, we lost our moral standing to do so, especially when the buck stopped absolutely nowhere on that whole sordid event.

Pig Suffocates from Excessive Lipstick: SPCA to Protest

posted by Jazz at 12/18/2004 01:07:00 PM

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Today, Betsy Newmark points us to a column by Jeff Jacoby, who is joining the ranks of Bush supporters valiantly flailing around in an effort to make the President's disastrous mistake in Iraq look like a positive. After acknowledging the realities of the situation - looting, insurgency, terrorists, kidnappings - he asks and answers his own question.

"This is liberation? Yes, it is. But liberations are often dangerous and turbulent, less clear-cut while they are happening than they later become in retrospect."

Am I the only one who finds this eerily reminiscent of Rummy telling us that "Freedom is messy" some time back?

His column covers what is admittedly an interesting film project, "Voices of Iraq" which was created by letting thousands of Iraqis take hand held cameras and film whatever they wished and provide comments. Of course, the producers could distill 80 minutes of film out of that which makes things look hopeful. I'm not saying that nothing good every happens in Iraq. That would be disingenuous. But to think that this invasion is leading down a yellow brick road to a successful democracy might be a bit of a stretch.

To see exactly what I'm talking about, check out this column by David Ignatius, who tells us "How Iran is Winning Iraq." After seeing the slate of candidates which are being put forward by the leading Shiite clerics, Ignatius sees the man behind the curtain, and it's not a friendly, benevolent wizard.

If you had asked an intelligence analyst two years ago to describe the worst possible political outcome following an American invasion of Iraq, he might well have answered that it would be a regime dominated by conservative Shiite Muslim clerics with links to neighboring Iran. But just such a regime now seems likely to emerge after Iraq's Jan. 30 elections.

Iran is about to hit the jackpot in Iraq, wagering the blood and treasure of the United States
. Last week an alliance of Iraqi Shiite leaders announced that its list of candidates will be headed by Abdul Aziz Hakim, the clerical leader of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. This Shiite list, backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is likely to be the favorite of Iraq's 60 percent Shiite majority and win the largest share of votes next month.


Iraqis who aren't part of the Shiite religious juggernaut are frightened by what's happening. The Iraqi interim defense minister, Hazim Shalan, this week described the Shiite political alliance as an "Iranian list" created by those who wanted "turbaned clerics to rule" in Iraq. Shalan is no saint himself -- like interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, he was once part of Saddam Hussein's Baathist network. But he and Allawi speak for many millions of Iraqis who don't want to see an Iran-leaning clerical government but are powerless to stop it.


This is something that authorities on the Arab world have been warning us of since the beginning. Yes, a worst case scenario is a civil war breaking out as soon as we significantly reduce our troop levels there, and that possibility still looms. However, even in the event of "successful elections" there is no guarantee that Iraqis, the power of a shiny new democracy in their hands, will do with it what we might like. The clerics in Iraq hold huge power over the opinions and actions of the people. Sistani seems to be showing us exactly what he plans on doing with it.

I recall seeing reporters try to nail down the Bush administration about what our response would be if the newly "liberated" Iraqis chose to adopt a radically fundamentalist Islamic ruling class which would not be very different from a theocracy. The responses were uniform and predictable. While never saying that we would allow it to happen, we were always told that the Iraqis could elect whoever they choose, but "we trust they wouldn't do that." It looks like that trust may have been misplaced.

UPDATE: I had no sooner finished writing this than I saw this piece by Ron over at Middle Earth Journal which ties in quite nicely. Take a look.

The Drug Companies won't like this!!!!!

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/18/2004 11:36:00 AM

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"Polymeal" could slash heart attack risk.
Dining regularly on a "Polymeal", devised with ingredients to boost the health of the heart and blood vessels, could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by more than three-quarters, researchers claim.

They say feasting on fish, garlic, almonds, fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate, all polished off with a glass of wine could substantially reduce the risk of problems such as heart attack when compared with the general population.
This solution has one serious drawback, no one is going to make big bucks on it. The drug companies prefer the "polypill".
This wonder pill - a cocktail of six existing drugs - was proposed in June 2003 as a preventive pill which might slash the risk of heart attack or stroke in people over 55 years old by as much as 80%. The proposal was underpinned by an analysis of over 750 trials of the existing drugs.
And I bet the polymeal won't even destroy your liver like most prescription drugs, unless of course you get carried away with the wine.
Of course, fortunately for the drug companies most of us would rather pop a magic pill than attempt to live a responsible life style even if it kills us.

Outstanding!

posted by Jazz at 12/18/2004 10:43:00 AM

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Big thanks to Joe Gandelman for pointing us to this article on Christie Todd Whitman. The former New Jersey governor has always been a favorite of mine, and I had hoped that she would run for President in 2000. She's one of the more vocal moderates in the party, and has now written a book titled, "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America."

This is some really good news. Far too many people have written off the GOP moderates as a sidelined, marginalized, powerless minority in the face of the neocons currently calling the shots. It would be nice if a bold move by Whitman could energize some of the others, including Snowe, Collins and Chaffee.

"It is time for Republican moderates to assert forcefully and plainly that this is our party, too, that we not only have a place but a voice, and not just a voice but a vision that is true to the historic principles of our party and our nation, not one tied to an extremist agenda."

Preach it, sister.

Joe has a longer analysis of the article, also.

Looking for Leadership

posted by Jazz at 12/18/2004 10:29:00 AM

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The outgoing head of the government's Commission on Civil Rights, Mary Frances Berry, has written an op-ed for the Post today. Bush bobbleheads have been cheering in joy over her elimination, since she was a vocal critic of the administration. What they fail to remember is that she has been a vocal critic of every president since Jimmy Carter, who appointed her.

Her piece provides a recap of the state of civil rights in America over the last quarter century, and is well worth the time to read. I'll just share her closing summary with you.

<> Today the nation is crying out for presidential leadership on intractable issues of race, opportunity and rights. A watchdog is still needed: that is the job the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has done.

The president can either squander or seize the moment. His stiff resolve to quiet critics and defeat those he believes may pose a threat to his notion of liberty and justice -- both here and abroad -- can only distance us from the values he has pledged to protect.


Rudy G: Battered but not Broken

posted by Jazz at 12/18/2004 09:18:00 AM

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Good piece in the Times this morning on Rudy Guiliani's future in the Republican party, and the effect that his partnership with Bernie "Political Cyanide" Kerik may have. There is a lot of buzz in New York about Rudy, some good, but a lot of negatives. Around other parts of the country, however, some people seem to be in denial.

"He was close to Kerik, sure, but what does that mean?" asked Spencer Jenkins, the executive director of the Utah Republican Party. "Does that mean he was responsible for everything that Kerik did or thought? I don't see any negative here." A Quinnipiac University national poll of 1,529 registered voters, released on Thursday, said that 45 percent of those surveyed still wanted him to run for president, as did 68 percent of Republicans.

I like Rudy. He is part of that unique brand of moderate Republicans we tend to grow in New York. In such a decidedly blue state, it's the only way to get elected. Pro choice Republicans who are decidedly centrist on most social issues are the only ones who can manage to get elected around here. Unfortunately for Rudy, it seems fairly obvious that the hard right wingers in other parts of the country aren't exactly going to warm up to him. And some of them are already using his relationship with Kerik to poison the well.

"The question becomes, how does he fit with the plurality of the rest of Republicans, and the answer is, not very well," said David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "And the Kerik thing does not help. It really goes to the flip side of what people like about Rudy, which is that he is not seen as someone who is very careful about much of anything. It raises the question of what kind of people and what kind of checking would he do if he were in the position of making those kind of decisions."

Only time will tell. Getting Rudy into a prominent position in the party could go a long way towards salvaging what's left of the Republican party, but I just don't see it happening.

Friday, December 17, 2004

White House Publicly Chastises Bush Confidante

posted by Mike at 12/17/2004 11:35:00 PM

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The White House has released a videotaped statement acknowledging that a close confidante of the President has failed in the primary job duty assigned to him by the President. Furthermore, when this confidante approached several key members of the Administration, they refused to offer assistance. Mrs. Bush, oddly enough, was the one to advise the confidante that they had totally misread the parameters the President had handed down, ensuring that said individual would still be able to carry out his task in January.

To view the statement, click here.

The End of the World

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 05:30:00 PM

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... has possibly arrived. Michelle Malkin and I agree on something. Look out for dark riders on pale horses in the sky this weekend.

Christmas Decorating is "Hard Work"

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 01:55:00 PM

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Via Mr. Left.
A friend of mine just got the chance to get a White House tour, and she really wanted to see President Clinton's portrait close up. She couldn't find it, and an usher quietly told her that it had been taken down to make room for Christmas decorations. But there was Bush 41 and Reagan still on the wall.


Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 01:32:00 PM

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I'm stealing it from Jill, so rather than post it here, just click over to Brilliant at Breakfast, laugh your arses off, then come back. (Please.)

Jogging Fearful via Yahoo ...

posted by Mike at 12/17/2004 01:17:00 PM

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If you use My Yahoo!, and you would like to have Running Scared's headlines display there, just click here.

Cool, huh?

Edit: Changed the URL to match Yahoo's official FAQ answer. If you were having problems before, try again.

Ring my Dell

posted by Mu at 12/17/2004 10:14:00 AM

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Ok, you have to be of a certain advanced age to get the little play on words from the bad songtitle of the late disco age. So what, so am I, and it's Xmas.
One of my favorite tech news sites is the the Inquirer. One of the reasons is it's british, so they have everything written by the time I log on, and can finish the day's stuff in one setting. The other is - compared to more formal news sites like CNET - they have more of a personal journalism stile, including a number of vendettas. And they have really good insider info - and since they don't subscribe to NDA's usually they are not shy to put stuff up, like the complete confidential netcast of Intel to it's employees withing hours of it's distribution within the company.
Recently they put up a couple of slides showing data from Dell regarding AMD processors. Now, if you're not a hardware geek-wonna-be, Dell is Intel's flagship outlet, using exclusively Intel CPUs, and getting the best of the best from Intel in return. Every new CPU generation is available at Dell first, and quite frequently nearly exclusively. So Dell having anything AMD is a surprise. But nothing to fascinate any non-geeks, and nothing that would warrant a second post. But then Dell made the mistake and sending the author a take-down notice, and we all know you should let sleeping dogs lie, even tiny ones.
The resulting post is a shredding for Dell. Basically, not only did they compare their Intel product to an AMD product - they needed to fudge the data to make sure they don't look completely left behind. Better keep your mouth shut and look stupid than opening it and confirm it to the world.

San Francisco Bastards

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 09:25:00 AM

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Every time you look away for too long, there's somebody trying to take away your constitutionally assured rights. Next up, we have these idiots in San Francisco.

San Francisco supervisors want voters to approve a sweeping handgun ban that would prohibit almost everyone except law enforcement officers, security guards and military members from possessing firearms in the city.

The measure, which will appear on the municipal ballot next year, would bar residents from keeping guns in their homes or businesses, Bill Barnes, an aide to Supervisor Chris Daly, said Wednesday. It would also prohibit the sale, manufacturing and distribution of handguns and ammunition in San Francisco, as well as the transfer of gun licenses.

As this article correctly points out, there are currently only a few cities in the US that have a ban on handguns, one being Washington, D.C. The ban has been in place for quite a while now. So, how's that been working out?

Washington, D.C. is the only major American city that currently bans handgun possession by private citizens. Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association, said San Francisco officials are remiss to use the District of Columbia's experience as a model.

"If gun control worked, Washington, D.C. would be the beacon. However, it's the murder capital of the United States," Arulanandam said.

Exactly. Sam Paredes explains why these types of actions, while sounding wonderful to some extreme social reformists, are doomed to failure.

"The amazing thing is they are going to turn San Francisco into ground zero for every criminal who wants to profit at their chosen profession," Paredes said. "People are going to be assaulted, people are going to be robbed, people are going to be pushed around by thugs and the police are going to be powerless to do anything about it."

I certainly hope the people of the Bay area are smart enough to vote this down before it winds up clogging the courts for years to come, eventually being struck down as unconstitutional anyway.

Over at Winds of Change, the Armed Liberal provides some additional perspective: "As policy, if this worked, Washington D.C., Chicago, and New York City would be the safest places in the country. They're not? And as politics, it maneuvers the Democratic Party here in California out onto a thin branch and starts sawing."

Eugene Volokh reminds us what gun "control" advocates keep screaming at us every election cycle: "No-one Is Trying To Take Away Your Guns" You just keep on believing that.

Steven Bainbridge ponders whether or not such legislation would also violate the fifth amendment? Excellent question, professor.

When the puppet takes charge

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/17/2004 09:13:00 AM

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In the comments section of a Left Coaster post yesterday T2 said:
"I'm starting to fear my greatest fear; that Bush actually is in charge up there. He may be like the pit bull someone buys for protection, only to find the dog is just as likely to turn on the owner as anyone. Could George be a loose canon in the Cheney/Rove White House? or, god forbid, is he actually their boss."
Digby talks about a Bush actually in charge this morning and the prospect is frightening.
....But it is past time that they come to the realization, however frightening it may be, that Bush actually is making decisions. In the first term it seemed clear that he was manipulated by a powerful group of courtiers who were able to guide him in the direction they wanted him to go through flattery and access. Now that he has been validated by the people his personal arrogance has come to the fore.

All we need do is look to the Kerik debacle to see that Bush himself is now making decisions and he is doing it against the will of his advisors. It is obvious that Kerik appealed to Bush as a man's man. It was a sympatico relationship --- a pair of testosterone cowboys, one blue, one red, in love with their images as tough guys who take no shit. Bush saw in Kerik the man he now believes he is --- self-made, salt of the earth, leader of men, killer of bad guys. The empty frat boy and the crooked bureaucrat teamed up as adventure heroes.

The minute I read about this I knew that this had been a case of Bush saying "I take the man at his word, Alberto, now make it happen." This wasn't sloppy vetting. It was Junior issuing an edict based upon his vaunted "gut" with the predictable result. And I have no doubt that rather than blame himself for this mess, the Preznit blames Kerik for not being the man that Bush wanted him to be and blames the others for being right. (And I imagine that Bush will stick with Rumsfeld no matter what for the simple reason that so many want him out. That's the way dumb megalomaniacs think.)

This is the big story of the second term. Bush himself is now completely in charge. He did what his old man couldn't do. He has been freed of all constraints, all humility and all sense of proportion. Nobody can run him, not Cheney, not Condi, not Card. He has a sense of his power that he didn't have before. You can see it. From now on nobody can tell him nothin. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?
And you thought it was bad before. The pit bull is loose and he is about to maul the country and the world.


The New Nero

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 08:44:00 AM

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Bob Herbert, with his usual flair, gives a better summary than we've managed of how the Bush administration seems to have gone straight past bizarre and on through into heretofore undiscovered realms of the surreal. In his column "Fiddling as Iraq Burns", he provides an excellent counterpoint to the delusional ramblings of his colleague Kathleen Parker, earlier this week.

The White House seems to have slipped the bonds of simple denial and escaped into the disturbing realm of utter delusion. On Tuesday, there was President Bush hanging the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on George Tenet, the former C.I.A. director who slept through the run-up to Sept. 11 and then did the president and the nation the great disservice of declaring that it was a "slam-dunk" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

He also has some thoughts to share on the fact that the President is doing fundraising lunches for his multimillion dollar inauguration bash, while troops in his war of choice are dying without adequate armor and equipment.

By anyone's standards, terrible things are happening in Iraq, and no amount of self-congratulation in Washington can take the edge off the horror being endured by American troops or the unrelenting agony of the Iraqi people. The disconnect between the White House's fantasyland and the world of war in Iraq could hardly have been illustrated more starkly than by a pair of front-page articles in The New York Times on Dec. 10. The story at the top of the page carried the headline: "It's Inauguration Time Again, and Access Still Has Its Price - $250,000 Buys Lunch With President and More."

The headline on the story beneath it said: "Armor Scarce for Heavy Trucks Transporting U.S. Cargo in Iraq."

This administration has many things on its mind besides the welfare of overstretched, ill-equipped G.I.'s dodging bombers and snipers in Iraq. In addition to the inauguration, which will cost tens of millions of dollars, Mr. Bush is busy with his obsessive campaign against "junk and frivolous lawsuits," his effort to further lighten the tax load on the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations, and his campaign to cut the legs from under the proudest achievement of the New Deal, Social Security.

He goes on to discuss some of the other star players in the Bush team, including Cheney and Alberto Gonzales, before closing with the following:

Medals anyone? The president may actually believe that this crowd is the best and brightest America has to offer. Which is disturbing.

Disturbing is putting it mildly. The medals ceremony, to me, went well beyond the bounds of the freakishly bizarre. It was an insult to the American people that the country's highest civilian award should be given to the criminally incompetent crew who were the architects of disaster on such a grand scale. Herbert's column manages to capture it nicely. This one is definitely worth a look.

A Holiday Themed Cat Graphic

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 07:24:00 AM

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Enjoy



Special Friday Cat Blogging

posted by Jazz at 12/17/2004 06:16:00 AM

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I'll put in the normal (and highly useful) links to the Friday Ark from The Modulator and this weeks' Carnival of Cats, hosted this week at Sharp as a Marble. For this week, it's not the usual, current pets here at Running Scared. Whenever winter begins to set in and the snow starts to fall, my thoughts turn to my old Rags Cat. She's no longer with us, as she passed away on Feb. 9, 2003. I have a long and, I'm sure, tiresome story about her below, but before re-telling it, I'll post the picture in case that's what you came to see. This is one of the few remaining pictures of Rags, sadly, and I apologize that I don't have a full size version of it. She was looking particularly silly for a cat of more than two decades in age, getting into my wife's knitting and spreading yarn all over the chair.




I always get to thinking of Rags in the winter, because she really hated winter. Each year, though she lived to almost a quarter of a century, I kept telling myself that she would make it another year if she could just make it through the winter. In the winter of 2002-2003 she finally didn't. The following is a piece I wrote at the time. I apologize in advance for the poor writing, but I wasn't myself at the time. So, then, I present my story of the Rags Cat. Dated Feb. 10, 2003


Last night my old Rags Cat passed away. It happened some time during the night. She'd been doing very poorly again, and we had given her some medication and some water with an eye dropper to make her more comfortable. But apparently she just decided that the time had come. She laid down in one of her favorite napping places, atop the back of our love seat, on a heating pad we'd put up there for her, and never moved again.

She was a mean cat.

I say that only because, in the beginning at least, it was true.

You may or may not know that some ten years ago, back when I first met my wife, I was in a weird point in my life. I had finished up some contracts I was working on in New Jersey and decided to go back home where I grew up and just take a break for a while. I was living at my Mom's house to keep expenses down and had begun volunteering at the Humane Society during the day. After a time, their shelter manager was retiring, and though I knew it would be temporary, they asked if I would fill the position for a while, so I took over the day to day management of the shelter.

On one particular day in December a man came in with a cat carrier. He was not there to adopt. He was there to "drop off" as we used to say. Lots of people drop off their animals at shelters for many different reasons. Some do have legitimate reasons for doing so, though many, many had totally stupid, if not made up, reasons and only angered me. This fellow claimed that his new girlfriend was allergic to cats and so he was going to give up his cat. Now it's true that a very small percentage of people are *so* allergic to animals that they can't breathe, have significant health concerns, etc. However, Vets estimate that they represent less than one in ten thousand people. Many more can have mild reactions that vary from barely noticeable irritation to congestion that is easily controllable with periodic medication. The number of people I heard make that excuse during my time there would lead you to believe that cats and dogs would be the imminent downfall of mankind because every other person on the planet would die if they so much as came within a hundred yards of one.

This fellow opened his cat carrier and released a simply beautiful cat. She was in excellent health, current on her shots, and had obviously been well kept as an indoor cat. She was an orange base calico, obviously a bit on the old side, and polydactal on all four feet. (The cat amazingly had a total of thirty claws. Eight on each front paw, and seven on each back paw. Her feet looked like snowshoes.)

The man filled out the forms to give up his pet, and informed us that the cat was "about ten years old". (The vet, upon first inspection, later told us the cat was a minimum of 13, if not older. But people tend to lie about an older pet's age to increase their chance of adoption, so that's understandable.) And he said the cat's name was Rags. (Again, a fairly typical name for a calico.)

Rags was moved into a cat cage, with great difficulty, for she attempted to attack anyone who came near enough to try to pet or pick her up. You could get close enough to put down her food and water dishes, but she would tolerate no picking up, holding, petting, or cuddling of any kind. She shredded my arms fairly efficiently in the process of getting her settled in.

Now, one of my least enviable tasks on that job was the weekly "count" of the animals in the shelter. State laws and sensible sanitation concerns insisted that we could only have up to a certain maximum number of dogs and cats in the shelter at any given time. Any number over that, unfortunately, had to be scheduled for euthanasia by injection. This was performed by a visiting doctor, but I had to assist with it many times and it made me simply ill.

Christmas week had arrived, and the shelter was preparing to close down for a few days except the minimal staff who would do the feeding and essential daily cleaning. I went through on Christmas Eve day and counted the animals. We were fine on dogs, because adoptions always seem to go way up at the Christmas Holiday. But the weather had brought an influx of cats, and even with brisk adoptions, I was one cat over the limit.

The normal method for selecting candidates for Euthanasia was that the very sick or badly injured cats would go first. Then, any animals with bad, or even dangerous temperaments, as they would be difficult or impossible to place in a home. After that it came down to age. Old animals went first because people most want to adopt kittens and puppies, but barring that, will take a young animal over an old animal.

We had no sick or injured cats, and the majority of the rest of the cats in the facility were under two years old, with some being kittens.

And then there was the Rags Cat, at least ten years the senior of any other cat there, and hissing up a storm as I approached her cage to look in on her. But it was the holidays. I slowly opened her cage door and said, "Look, cat. It's Christmas Eve, and I simply don't' have the heart to call the doctor down here to Euthanise one cat and ruin everyone's holiday. So I'll make you a deal. If you can manage to learn to behave yourself a bit, I'll take you home with me and my other two cats, and you can stay there, at least for the holidays." And so saying, I slowly reached inside the cage to attempt to pet her and put her in a carrier to take her home.

She shredded my arms so that I was bleeding for some time to come. So much for Christmas miracles.

Right. So I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, stuffed her into a cat carrier and stuck her in my car. At home, I released her and she immediately ran off to hide. She remained in hiding for many days, staying behind the furniture whenever I was at home, and I only knew she was there when I would catch her furtively moving from the litter box or the food dishes back to her hiding places.

Then one night, while I was laying on the couch watching a television program, the cat came strolling out into the center of the living room and looked at me. I didn't move, for fear of alarming her. She seemed to look at me as if to say, "Well, I appear to be stuck here, so we may as well make the best of it. Just don't get too comfortable." And she jumped up on the couch and lay down on my lap. I thought this was great progress, so I began to pet her. She immediately swatted me with one of her huge eight clawed paws, drawing blood again, but only once (sort of as a reminder, I suppose) and went back to napping.

From that time on, we moved into having a sort of uneasy peace together, sharing our home while respecting each other's space. It was a satisfactory relationship all around, I think, and the best that could be made of the situation.

Now it's finally over. She somehow lasted into her mid twenties, far older than most any other cat I've ever known. She might, under other circumstances, have died back in that shelter. But she got an extra decade of life out of the deal, and we were able to spoil her rotten as she reigned as queen of the household's cats. She was a good cat, and I miss her very much. I don't think I shall be the same again after this.


Going back after almost two years, I realize that I was right. I never get over missing Rags Cat, and I shall most likely never be the same. Merry Christmas, Rags Cat. I'll see you again some day.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

A Bit of Help for the Troops

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 05:51:00 PM

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Courtesy of Tata at Poor Impulse Control

(Thanks for the tip)

Phone Cards Connect Us With Wounded

Yellow ribbons tied around trees and red, white and blue stickers on the backs SUVs saying "Support our Troops" are things that make civilians feel good but do nothing for the men and women actually in uniform.

So please consider the following:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home.

Many will be there throughout the holidays. Really support our troops -- Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated.

Wal-Mart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sam's Club is even better, if you are a member.

Jane, get me off this crazy thing ...

posted by Mike at 12/16/2004 05:44:00 PM

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Reminder: Koufax Awards

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 03:35:00 PM

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The nominations are still going on for this years Koufax Awards over at Wampum. Be sure to nominate your favorite blogs. I know Jill from Brilliant at Breakfast could use a few more, though she has a lot of supporters in the Best Blog and Best New Blog categories. (If anyone else wants to nominate Running Scared for Best Group Blog we will, of course, send you the usual bribes.... ok. That was a joke.) Whoever you vote for, this is for left leaning blogs of quality. (I consider myself a centrist, but with all the flaming liberals in our pack of bloggers, I suppose we do lean left.)

Give it a look.

Blogroll Shuffle

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 01:46:00 PM

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Did some housecleaning and editing in blogrolls. Not much deleted, mostly things moved around. If I lost you in the shuffle, shoot me an e-mail.

Cheers.

Students forced to labor for Republicans

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/16/2004 11:00:00 AM

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John Sugg at Atlanta's creative loafing has a story about students being forced to work for Republicans at an Atlanta area High School.
At 1337 Canton Road in Marietta is a suite of nondescript offices. Appearances can be deceiving. Think of the offices as (apologies to Tolkien) Saruman's Tower with the dark side's other spire, Sauron's redoubt, being 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C.

The Marietta stronghold harbors some of the nation's most malformed political orcs, members of the Cobb County Republican Party. They've kidnapped Jesus, hoisted a banner of devilish theocracy, embraced George Bush's trampling of liberty and tossed science in the schoolhouse dustbin. In short, the Cobb GOP is goose-stepping into, oh, the 11th century.

And, by the way, they're getting help from Marietta High School.

At the school, there's an "apprenticeship" program run by teacher Sandra Thompson, who happens to be on the Cobb GOP executive committee. According to senior Gabi McMichen, Thompson uses her school post to funnel students into gigs as Republican foot soldiers. During election season, for example, kids were dispatched to labor for U.S. Sen.-elect Johnny Isakson and other GOP candidates.

"We place students [with organizations] that contact us," Thompson says. When asked if Republican campaigns had contacted her -- Thompson, of course, works on the same campaigns -- she says, "Yes." When asked if Democrats had requested interns, she says, "No."

"We live in a Republican district," says Thompson. "That's the way it is all over Georgia. We respond to people who contact us. We do not discriminate."
In addition the curriculum is a bit suspect.
And McMichen says partisanship permeates Marietta High. "In American government class," she says, "Democrats are depicted as only minorities, as only people who need handouts."
So the Theocrats in Georgia have taken over the school system. Sounds like the tactics of the Hitler Youth to me.




Reaching across the world

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 10:59:00 AM

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I'm sitting here with the weirdest feeling in my gut. During the web log awards, for the category of Best Middle East blog, I put in a nomination for A Star from Mosul. On Tuesday, she posted about her 5th place finish and thanked me for my comments and nomination, very sweetly.

She's going to school in Mosul, Iraq. I'm some schlub sitting here safely in the United States with nobody trying to blow up my house. It's a very weird feeling that I'm having trouble describing. Thanks, Star. You brightened my day. Stay safe.

Caption Contest du jour

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 10:32:00 AM

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Joe Gandelman has a rather, umm... "interesting" picture of our Dear Leader that needs a caption. Go give him some suggestions.

Techblogging

posted by Mu at 12/16/2004 10:23:00 AM

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As most have noticed, I'm usually more trolling techblogs than the politial stuff - mostly since I can claim a "valid business interest" in doing that during the day. So here some noticable excerpts from this week.
The BBC has this tibbit on tests of home photo printing vs. having your digital pictures printed by professional labs. Looks like that, especially in large sizes, your costs are lower and your quality better if you use a decent home printer.
Then there is the case of the guy who made the mistake of trying to land it big with hacking into a Lowe's store and got 9 years. He should have gone for armed robbery, probably would have been out in 5.
Finally, in case you're wondering were our taxpayers money is spend, a test of our new terrorist nation deterring missile defense system showed it's effectiveness with a $85M dud. Sorry Seatle.
And for the enthusiast who's done all of the US rollercoasters, how about a ride in this?

Your Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 09:42:00 AM

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Though it's not daily anymore, we once again turn our attention to James Wolcott. Today he has a few thoughts on an old favorite of ours, Faux News star, Bill O'Reilly.
Bill O'Reilly intends to take part in a USO tour of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as he's able to have Judith Regan's cell phone removed from his ass. Its ringing late at night from deep in his echoing cavern has been cost him precious hours of sleep and making him a shade grumpy over his morning oatmeal, fed to him through a slit in the door.


Man (?) of the Year

posted by Jazz at 12/16/2004 09:30:00 AM

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It remains to be seen, but according to Betsy Newmark (and subsequently picked up on several other blogs) "bloggers" were in the running for being Time Magazine's "Person of the Year." There were even some proposed covers for the issue, declaring the winner to be either "bloggers" or "Citizen's Media", depending upon which one you saw.

However, Betsy reports that while in the running, Time will pass over bloggers and name Dubya as their "Man of the Year." Before you get too upset, they've named inanimate objects to that title before. (I believe "The Earth" won the honors once.) Still, having that title bestowed does carry with it a certain implication of a positive image, so it's a pretty awful choice on Time's part. Bush is certainly among the very worst presidents with which this country has ever been burdened, led incompetence in previously unseen proportions, and was the architect of the most disastrous mistake in our history. (Iraq, obviously.)

Ah, well. Time will tell. (Pun intended.) Their cover has been graced for this award by plenty of people who drove the hawks crazy, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Shining some light on the problem?

posted by Mike at 12/15/2004 04:49:00 PM

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"LAPD Plan to Curb Flashlight Beatings."

Well, that's good. Because, you know, I'd be really worried if they were planning to increase them.

A woman, a shirt, and a dream

posted by Jazz at 12/15/2004 03:59:00 PM

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I have no idea where to begin talking about this post I just finished reading. A woman in verbal battle with a store that sells inappropriate shirts. (By the way... it's Polyester Bride, which you'll find in my fourth blogroll someplace.) I also have no idea why I found it so riveting. Note: To expand the entire post, (only an abbreviated version may be showing for some posts) click on the "Deck the Halls" link. Smart people might figure that out immediately, but it took me a while. Then again, I was dropped on my head a lot as a child.

I know you're tiring of Kerik stories, but...

posted by Jazz at 12/15/2004 01:36:00 PM

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Stop by The Moderate Voice today. There is a full background story with all the dish on Kerik's relationship with his two mistresses and how his little wonderland of infidelity wound up falling apart. It's like a train wreck. I have to keep reading.

One thing is clear: This man had serious issues with impulse control.

From reading that story, it sounds as if that statement is on par with saying "that supermodel was mildly attractive."

A Jew on Christmas

posted by The One True Tami at 12/15/2004 10:31:00 AM

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I've posted my take on Christmas music at school concerts over at The One True Tami. It's long, and rambling, and takes a couple of side trips. Basically, I've switched my position from all-exclusive to all-inclusive. Feel free to take a gander, if you're so inclined.

Kathleen Parker: Space Alien

posted by Jazz at 12/15/2004 10:11:00 AM

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I am beginning to believe that Kathleen Parker is seriously jockeying to take over Dave Barry's spot when he retires in January. (Please join me in a moment of silence for this loss to humanity. Dave's wit and humor will be sorely missed.) But... back to the wingnut in question. Parker's two most recent columns contain so much unintentional humor that I hear Tbogg is considering hiring her as a guest blogger.

In her Dec. 11 column, Parker attempts to take up the old whine about how things are going just fine in Iraq, or at least as well as could be expected, and how unfair the liberal press is being by reporting only bad news. The problem isn't just with her complete lack of any grasp on reality - she also resorts to being blatantly insulting and partisan out of annoyance with people who point out the flaws in her logic. This is in addition to her angst over that same media not paying enough attention to all the wonderful news from Afghanistan.

On the very Tuesday that Karzai was to be sworn in, the New York Times, for example, opted not to give it any play. Instead the front page featured a story about two reports from the Central Intelligence Agency warning of deteriorating conditions in Iraq.

Conditions in Iraq are far more pessimistic than what we've been hearing from the Bush administration, we're told. In terms of politics, economics and security, things are bleak. Whereupon mature Americans nod their heads: war is like that.

Are you getting the message, America? The "mature Americans" know that this is exactly how things should be, and all of you whining about the massive death, dismemberment and destruction going on for no purpose at all are simply "childish." She then commits a major slipup by showing that she is playing her part as a party shill and not just commenting in an editorial fashion.

Things will get worse, of course, because Iraqi insurgents - and self-interested parties elsewhere - do not want things to go well. They will continue to do their best to derail the elections, to weaken the will of the Iraqi people, and to undermine U.S. support.

For this reason President George W. Bush has been steadfast in his insistence that the Jan. 30 deadline not be compromised.

Most neoconservative hawk pundits would have stuck with the far more professional, "For this reason, we must be steadfast..." or even, "... America must be steadfast..." for that graf. With this style of writing, Parker simply demonstrates that she has her fingers in her hears, chanting, "President Bush did NOT make a mistake by invading and occupying Iraq. It wasn't a mistake. It wasn't. It wasn't. It wasn't. And if I keep repeating this enough times I'm going to start believing it, God Damnit!"

Her next line is yet another jaw dropper to top the last. "Much is at stake, not the least of which is American credibility in Iraq and the Arab world." Credibility in Iraq and the Arab world? Did she really just say that? Between her hypnotizing insistence that things are going so well in Iraq and that last statement, I have to wonder if she ever even attempts to read the papers that carry her columns, or if she gets all of her news by having Scott McClellan press gaggles beamed directly into the metal plate in her head.

Her next column, published today, is a feature length, feel good testimonial to the three Iraqi brothers who publish the blog, Iraq the Model. Now, for some time I've had to wonder about those guys. Most of the Iraqi bloggers have some good days and some bad ones. Sometimes the news is hopeful, other times it is depressing. But not for Iraq the Model. Every day was another slobbering tribute to the wisdom of the United States in taking over their country, the admiration they felt for the strong and steadfast leadership of Bush, their profound gratitude, and how much they were looking forward to their bright new democratic future.

At first, I just assumed they were an unusual, but honest anomaly. There must be some people, I reasoned, who weren't having family members and property blown up on a weekly basis, and who really hated Saddam and truly wanted a democracy. Not many, but at least some - and these guys were probably just an example of that particular mindset.

However, as Parker reports (and was broken around the blogosphere earlier this week) these brothers might not have been such an unbiased news source as we first thought. (Is it any mystery that they took over half the votes for "Best Middle East Blog" in the Web Log Awards, when none of the other, less "America friendly" blogs even broke into double digits?) Looking back, you could just about hear the Bush - Cheney talking points in their posts. It was the same spin we were seeing here, just in slightly worse English. And what are they doing now? Taking a tour of the United States with a chance to meet their hero, Dubya, in person.

Well, how else would you reward some of the faithful, hopeful citizens that you had just liberated except by getting them the hell out of that death trap. It's definitely starting to look more and more like this was yet another attempt by neocon hawks to bend opinion and push some more spin into the blogging world about the disaster in Iraq. I'm sad to say that I'll probably be dropping Iraq the Model from my blogroll today. But I won't drop Parker. Once Dave Barry stops writing, she may be all I have left for comedy.

Rumsfeld under attack from the right

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/15/2004 09:45:00 AM

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Tip from MEJ's Bill in DC

First it was Chuck Hagel then John McCain and now it's Bill Kristol super hawk saying Rumsfeld must go.
"As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,

in a town hall meeting with soldiers at Camp Buehring in Kuwait, Dec. 8.

Actually, we have a pretty terrific Army. It's performed a lot better in this war than the secretary of defense has. President Bush has nonetheless decided to stick for now with the defense secretary we have, perhaps because he doesn't want to make a change until after the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections. But surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term.

Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld.
We have seen how the President likes to reward incompetence with the promotion of Dr. Rice, who had never figured out what her first job was, and the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three of the men who are responsible for the mess in Iraq is another. Rumsfeld's incompetence, arrogance and total inability to take responsibility is beyond belief. Kristol gives us this example:
But then, what about his statement earlier last week, when asked about troop levels? "The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control." Really? Well, "the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."

Leave aside the fact that the issue is not "the number of troops we had for the invasion" but rather the number of troops we have had for postwar stabilization. Leave aside the fact that Gen. Tommy Franks had projected that he would need a quarter-million troops on the ground for that task -- and that his civilian superiors had mistakenly promised him that tens of thousands of international troops would be available. Leave aside the fact that Rumsfeld has only grudgingly and belatedly been willing to adjust even a little bit to realities on the ground since April 2003. And leave aside the fact that if our generals have been under pressure not to request more troops in Iraq for fear of stretching the military too thin, this is a consequence of Rumsfeld's refusal to increase the size of the military after Sept. 11.

In any case, decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine." Except he fails to take responsibility.
But Dubya continues to feel in his gut that Rumsfeld is the right man for the job and Dubya's gut is getting us deeper in the hole everyday.

Kournikova Marries Iglesias: World Yawns

posted by Jazz at 12/15/2004 09:28:00 AM

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How is it that this makes it onto the front page of CNN? I'm sure Julio has a fine voice, but let's face it... he made it as a singer riding on his family name. And Princess Anna? For all the fuss that was made over her, she never won a single major professional tennis tournament. She was the T&A to boost the television ratings for the events. So they're married. Whoop-tee-freaking-do. Don't strain yourselves spending all of each other's money, kids.

If CNN really feels compelled to bring us "celebrity news" how about at least spicing it up to grab our interest? I think that a lot more people would click on that link if it said, "Iglesias faces down Kournikova in honeymoon steel cage knife match to the death!"

Or how about... "Shark castrates Iglesias on Mexican honeymoon. Kournikova files for anullment."

Or, if you have to stick with the tennis and marriage theme, "Kournikova marries Iglesias. Stephie Graff says she gives better head than Anna, too."

Come on, people. Use a bit of imagination. If the National Inquirer can manage it, certainly CNN can.

5 Reasons Why Aruba is Better Than the Northeast USA

posted by Jazz at 12/15/2004 09:01:00 AM

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As you may know, whenever the weather takes the normal turn of events and transforms the Northeastern part of the country into a frigid version of the frozen, nightmarish eighth plane of hell (only without the interesting Demons and dead lawyers) I like to torture myself by tuning in to a web cam in Aruba. The Bucuticam shows a tropical resort where you can always view people who are having a far better life than you ever will. It's particularly fun to check in between 8:00 and 8:15 in the morning (East Coast Time) because the resort owners zoom the camera in on a sign on a small patch of beach. There, guests can stand around and have their picture taken on the web to show their friends back home, hold up signs, pose, or just generally look silly.

So, with no further delay, reasons two through five of why Aruba is better than New England. (Reason one was the aforementioned transformation into a frigid hell.) Pay particular note to the one woman who, convinced that she wasn't torturing us enough already, decides that the bikini top and miniature silk scarf she is wearing for a skirt are simply far too much clothing for such an environment, so she removes part of it. If I can ever track her down, I'm going to throw snowballs at her.

Click on images for full size photo.












You may, of course, buy me a week's stay at this resort, along with air fare, if you have any compassion in your soul (along with more money than brains) and simply e-mail me the reservation information. I'll be back to blog more in a bit, after I finish banging my head on my desk.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Surprise Win for Moderate Voice!

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 03:58:00 PM

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Yesterday I posted the sad news that Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice had suddenly fallen into second place and lost the 2004 Web Log Awards in his category. However, the final stats were published and he was, in fact, the winner! Another blog (Code Blue or something?) had, in the last days shot up out of nowhere and overtaken him by a percentage point. However, in the final results they were listed back down around 14% (where they had been) and Joe won by a landslide. I e-mailed him asking if they had been involved in that script loading scandal, or if it was just a math error, or...? I'll let you know if I find anything out.

Stop by The Moderate Voice in his post on that and give him a high five.

One Last Scott Peterson Post

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 01:57:00 PM

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Well... possibly not the *last* depending on the appeals outcome, but hopefully the last for a while. As you may recall, I posted at the close of the first trial phase that I thought the DA in this case had "framed a guilty man" much like in the OJ Simpson case. Now, the penalty phase has concluded and the jury has recommended that Scott Peterson get the death penalty.

I can't bring myself to go into all the reasons why I think this is the wrong decision, and fortunately I don't have to. Centerfield has already written up a very thoughtful post on the subject with a list of reasons which I find valid. Read them over.

Remember, you're not hearing this from some sort of anti-death penalty bleeding heart, or a Peterson apologist. While my opinion counts for nothing (since I wasn't on the jury) I do think that Peterson is guilty. And I'm all about the death penalty in cases where guilt is 99% of the way to "beyond a shadow of a doubt" and should, in fact, be expanded to include serial rapists, torture, child molesters and creatures of that ilk.

But there are disturbing things about the Peterson case that will never sit right for me without further legal action. First of all, the court cherry picked off two jurors who were voting against conviction and replaced them with two more who wanted to convict, after the deliberation phase had started. That places the entire conviction on horribly weak ground to start with.

Second, as Centerfield so correctly points out, many aspects of what is needed for a capital crime conviction are either missing or unable to be proven. For that matter, nothing is really proven. There was no forensic evidence, material evidence, or witnesses to confirm the DA's theory about the timeline and details of the case. It's pretty hard to prove premeditation when you don't know the circumstances of her death. And with a case built 100% on circumstantial evidence, it just seems to fall short of what you need to put somebody in the chair.

Possibly the best college prank ever.

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 01:50:00 PM

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Courtesy of Dead Parrot Society



Nice prank from a group of Yale students at the annual Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 20. Twenty of them whipped up some custom "Harvard Pep Squad" shirts, then handed out 1,800 sheets of red and white construction paper to the fans on the Harvard side, promising that when they held them up in unison, it would spell out "GO HARVARD".

Except it actually spelled out "WE SUCK".

Nicely done, and they've put up a website tribute, with video.




I have to say... seeing the picture and the video, those kids are going to go down as legends.


"Old Europe" strikes back at Rumsfeld

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/14/2004 01:31:00 PM

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A complaint has been filed in Berlin on the behalf of four Iraqis who were alleged to have been mistreated by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib. The complaint names Donald Rumsfeld. The Pentagon has warned Germany that the Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld Threatens US-German Relations.
The Pentagon made thinly veiled threats on Monday, suggesting US-German relations could be at risk if a criminal complaint filed in German courts over Abu Ghraib proceeds.

The Pentagon expressed concern Monday over a criminal complaint filed in Germany against US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, warning that "frivolous lawsuits" could affect the broader US-German relationship.
Germany was chosen because it has universal jurisdiction for war crimes.
The groups that filed the complaint said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable. DiRita said he did not know whether the United States had raised specific concerns directly with the German government. But he said, "I think every government in the world, particularly a NATO ally, understands the potential effect on relations with the United States if these kinds of frivolous lawsuits were ever to see the light of day."
This is not the first Pentagon clash with "Old Europe".
The United States clashed with Belgium last year over a similar law that allowed war crimes charges to be brought against retired General Tommy Franks (photo), who led the US invasion of Iraq, as well as numerous other international figures.

The 1993 law empowered Belgian courts to judge suspects accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, regardless of where the alleged acts were committed, or the nationality of either the accused or the victims.
The United States threatened Belgium and it worked and plan to intimidate Germany in the same way.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to block funding for a new NATO headquarters in Belgium over the law, and said the United States was considering whether it would continue to send officials to meetings in Brussels as long as the law was in place.

The Belgian parliament replaced the law with a watered down version in August 2003 and its high court threw out lawsuits against Franks, former president George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Indicating the US planned to play a similar game of hardball with Germany, Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy that he will not take part in the annual Munich security conference in February should the investigation proceed.

If You're Still Thinking of Moving to Canada

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 01:27:00 PM

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... and you heard that it might be hard to get a work permit, you might consider becoming a stripper.

Coiled around a brass pole on a barroom stage, clad only in towering stiletto heels, a 31-year-old Romanian woman named Veronica is helping to fill what has suddenly become Canada's most talked-about shortage: a scarcity of strippers.

A government program to import hundreds of "exotic dancers," which was already controversial, took center stage recently when Canada's immigration minister, Judy Sgro, was found to have given preferential visa treatment to a nude dancer who did volunteer work in her re-election campaign for Parliament.

Hat tip to The People's Republic of Seabrook.



A Different Blog Awards

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 10:19:00 AM

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For those of you who felt that the 2004 Weblog Awards on Wizbang simply weren't worth the effort of investigating, by virtue of being a right wing affair, the lefties can take heart. The 2004 Koufax Awards are starting up at Wampum. Here is the latest nomination thread, but it will likely change each day. There are twelve categories for nominations, so if you want to have some fun and find some new blogs to check out that are decidely more to the left, give them a peek. (The name "Koufax Awards" was picked because Sandy Koufax was one of the greatest left handed pitchers in baseball history.)

Enjoy.

EDIT: I put in my nominations this morning. Please don't get upset if you weren't included... it was very hard. These, also, are only for left leaning blogs.

Best Lefty Blog: Brilliant at Breakfast.

Best Writing: Hands down, James Wolcott.

Best Post? Since we're supposed to be tooting our own horns, many people seemed to enjoy Republicans Behaving Badly.

Best Single Issue Blog: I have to go with Talk Left again.

Most Humorous Blog: I have to go with James Wolcott again.

Most Humorous Post: I laughed a long time at Feets do ya stuff, which was a review of the time some students threw cream pies at Ann Coulter.

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition: Middle Earth Journal. Always high quality.

Best New Blog: Mr. Left.



Thinking our way out of Iraq

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 07:48:00 AM

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Yes, it sounds impossible, but maybe not. I've got an analysis of a recent column by David Ignatius over at Middle Earth Journal on the subject. Sometimes an insane situation requires a radical or crazy solution. We might be able to get out of Iraq now by giving it to Iran. Read the whole thing before you dismiss it as lunacy.

Policy Summit Advice for Wonks

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 07:03:00 AM

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Tomorrow, in Washington, the massive policy summit to discuss changes to the payroll tax system will begin. In an unusual display of snark, David Brooks hits one out of the park with his column today, titled "The Wonk's Loya Jirga." (In case I'm not the only lowbrow who didn't already know that term, it's an Afghani phrase which translates to "grand council.") His opinion of these types of summits is somewhat less than complimentary.

The first thing you need to know is that the subject of the summit is not the subject of the summit. That's because the subject of all executive branch dramaturgy is the president himself. No matter who is talking, all cameras will be fixed on him.

As the first pseudo-event of the second term, this gabfest is meant to give President Bush a chance to show his more deliberative, bipartisan and intellectual side - to really let his inner Cornel West out for a spree. Your role as a symposiast is to give the president something to nod thoughtfully about.

One of the hallmarks of really good commentary, at least for me, is when the pundit takes both sides to task with equal vigor. Brooks fills the bill.

[Y]ou have to remember that Republicans have a different relationship to ideas than Democrats. When Democrats open their mouths, they try to say something interesting. If the true thing is obvious and boring, the liberal person will go off and say something original, even if it is completely idiotic. This is how deconstructionism got started.

Republicans are less concerned with displaying their own cleverness. When they actually stumble upon an idea, they are so delighted they regurgitate it over and over again. Where others might favor elaboration, Republicans favor repetition.

All in all, an excellent piece. Give it a try. (Yes, as usual, annoying free registration is required to read it, but it's well worth it.)

A work of art

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 06:10:00 AM

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The French have just opened the tallest, and possibly most beautiful, roadway in the world. Called the Millau Bridge, it spans the Tarn Valley and is nearly 900 feet above the ground at its highest point, actually rising above the clouds. (Photos and story via CNN.)



I'm sure that somebody like Hind Rocket, Capt. Ed or Michelle Malkin will find something childish and negative to say about it because it's in France, but this is a simply stunning accomplishment. Full credit to British architect Norman Foster, who designed it.

Tis the season

posted by Jazz at 12/14/2004 04:16:00 AM

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Oy. Merry effing Christmas.

"Christmas is the deadliest day of the year for Americans with 12.4 percent more deaths than normal, researchers said on Monday."

Ok... for something to counter that depressing story, click this.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Social Security, even conservatives see through the lies.

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/13/2004 04:47:00 PM

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From conservative Joe Scarborough. Congressional memo to future generations: You're screwed
Take it from a not-so-old former congressman who knows: Proud young Americans, you are in for a con job from Washington that you can't even imagine.

Your government has already borrowed almost $8 trillion that it can't pay back. Guess who will have to write the check? That's right. You.

Expect massive tax hikes in your future, and wicked cuts in national defense, education, environmental enforcement, police protection and medical care for the poor and elderly.
.......[snip].......
You see, they've got this really cool plan to privatize parts of Social Security that usually make free market conservatives like myself giddy. We start talking about the invisible hand and the power of market forces.

Only problem is that this plan to get government off our backs costs a cool $2 trillion in transition fees.

And-- let me see if you are following me here-- who pays for that?

That's right. YOU!

But that's not the biggest problem with this $2 trillion Social Security plan. What bothers me the most is the fact that everybody in Washington knows that allowing Americans to invest parts of their Social Security payments in the stock market will produce some winners. But capitalism also always produces losers, and we all know that there will be millions of Americans who will make stupid investments in the coming years. (See Enron, etoys, Pets.com, Worldcom)

So what will happen when they retire and start complaining to their local congressman and TV camera crews about how they're about to be thrown out in the streets because of the dumb investments they made with their Social Security payments years ago?

Congress will pass the "Save Our Stupid Seniors Investment Relief Act of 2025," thereby guaranteeing that all Americans will have all Social Security payments restored in full.

That will require that you take your third job in the Chinese high tech factory just so you can pay even more taxes to Washington.

It's a bright future, brought to you by a gang in Washington who really couldn't care less about what happens to the world they pass on to their children and grandchildren.

How do I know this? Because I was in Congress long enough to learn that you judge politicians by their actions, not their words.
And then Joe does something conservatives don't do very often, he sends you over to read Paul Krugman. He doesn't mention that it's not Social Security that's broken but at least he realizes that Bush doesn't have a plan to fix it.

Attention New Jersey!

posted by Jazz at 12/13/2004 03:45:00 PM

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I feel bad tossing this item out before I have a chance to dig in deeper, but I'm a bit pressed for time. Over at The Opinion Mill, there is a rather distressing story of a Chinese immigrant from Highland Park, NJ who is about to be deported under what appear to be awful circumstances. (The permalink for that article isn't working for me, so you'll need to scroll down a few entries to this story, dated 12/12. The entry is titled "Bring Andy Home.")


The author of Opinion Mill is asking people in that area to help support an effort to stop this deportation. (The rest of this individual's family are all citizens and can stay here, but he will face possible severe consequences if he is forcibly sent back to China.) I'll try to get some more details on this later, but if you have any, please e-mail or comment.

Hey, Kids! Let's Ruin a Song!

posted by Mike at 12/13/2004 02:20:00 PM

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With great amusement and no little amount of disgust, I note that Yoko Ono has apparently decided to ruin "Give Peace a Chance". If you're a masochist, you can listen to a tad more of it here. (I had to see exactly how much of a train wreck it could be.)

Let me carry the thought of Ms. Ono's lyrics a little further:

The sky was so blue
and we had no clue


Hmmm ...

so we went to the zoo
and waited in a queue
to see a bear named Pooh
and then had a stew
topped off by a brew
which was served by a crew
who was led by Sir Hugh
but who could have knew
I'd get the review
'she gives you
stomach flu'


Interestingly enough, Sean Lennon did a cover of it with the Peace Choir, one of those big huge celebrity supergroups (Flea! Dwayne Wayne! Cyndia Lauper! Q-Tip! Half of 'Was Not Was'!), which provoked the formation of another celebrity supergroup to record "Voices that Care" (Michael Bolton! Alan Thicke! Warrant! and the musical stylings of James Woods!).

UPDATE: Just for clarification, the first two lines are Yoko's. The remainder, after the "Hmmm." were me making fun of the insipid "blue"/"clue" rhyme. The new lyrics are spoken-word poems set to a techno-fied "Give Peace a Chance" melody. Yeah, you read that right. Yoko made "Give Peace a Chance" TECHNO.

UPDATE 2: When I was typing the word 'update' above, I hit the keys just to the left of U and P, then typed D and A, and then wondered why the word 'YODA' had suddenly appeared on my screen.

Harvey the Giant Rabbit?

posted by Jazz at 12/13/2004 01:23:00 PM

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He may have been real. At least, Prophet or Madman is willing to entertain the subject of imaginary friends. I used to think I had an imaginary friend. Then I found out it was just paranoid schizophrenia.

Carnival of the Not Feeling So Terribly Liberated

posted by Jazz at 12/13/2004 01:19:00 PM

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A quick roundup of some of the Iraqi bloggers that we track and what's going on with their lives.

Riverbend is finally back online at Baghdad Burning, and she is primarily discussing the ongoing fuel shortage. "People have to wait in line overnight now to fill up the car. It's a mystery. It really is. There was never such a gasoline crisis as the one we're facing now. We're an oil country and yet there isn't enough gasoline to go around... Oh don't get me wrong- the governmental people have gasoline (they have special gas stations where there aren't all these annoying people, rubbing their hands with cold and cursing the Americans to the skies)... The Americans have gasoline. The militias get gasoline. It's the people who don't have it. We can sometimes get black-market gasoline but the liter costs around 1250 Iraqi Dinars which is almost $1- compare this to the old price of around 5 cents. It costs almost 50,000 Iraqi Dinars to fill up the generator so that it works for a few hours and then the cost isn't so much the problem as just getting decent gasoline is. So we have to do without electricity most of the day."

I have a breakdown over at Middle Earth Journal on the latest post from "Secrets in Baghdad." The author is mostly discussing the massive unemployment problems and the trouble they are having with the new, American trained National Guard. Apparently the guardsmen are looting homes giving civilians a very hard time. (Note: These are Iraqi National Guards, not ours.) "site: my uncle's house time: 5 am event: national guards knocking brutally on the door, they left after minutes of ssearching, leaving a mess behind them, and scared people. - few days before that, 2am another house, they broke in, they stole not only mobile phones, but also $4800 and a CAR!!!! - few days ago, they decided suddenly that a hair dresser shop is "suspected", so they broke in, and "Searched" all women's bodies."

Iraqi Letters to America is still very concerned about the ongoing situation in Fallujah. Apparently, it's noplace that you would want to be. "The 200,000 or so who fled the town are still homeless � many of them living in tents. - Fallujah may be no longer a safe haven for terrorists, but it also no longer home for its 300,000 inhabitants. - The US army refused to let in a group of doctors (5 young doctors with 5 ambulances and 10 supporting staff) sent in by the Ministry of Health a few days ago. - Two days ago, the Iraqi Red Crescent was ordered out of the town by the US army."

A Star from Mosul is back in class at last. Sadly, it's not like your typical American high school experience, it seems. "There was a big explosion close to school today. When I looked out of the window of the classroom, a moment after the explosion, there was a huge black cloud of smoke!"

And lastly, Diary from Baghdad is still working on the rumor (I definitely hope it's a rumor) running around the city that Americans are dropping Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons on Iraq. I won't cut/paste that one. It gets rather long so you can skim through it yourself.

The Next Great Crossroads

posted by Mike at 12/13/2004 01:16:00 PM

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I hesitated before posting this to Running Scared, because it's (a) lengthy [it's too bad Blogger never incorporated 'cut tags' like LiveJournal has] and (b) quite the polarizing document. But then, I have to admit, I began to feel a certain feeling I get sometimes ... a sense of pride when I manage to nail exactly how I'm feeling about something. This is how I feel. Aside from the continual use of the word "we" implying that I'm solidly bound to the Democratic Party, which I did a bit for effect, this is pretty much honestly how I feel about the next crossroads, and so, here we go as I put it out into the ether before getting cold feet. I sent this to Illinois' delegates to the DNC:

I'm sure that you were alarmed as I was to witness John Kerry's defeat on November 3, 2004. It was, for me, a nightmare come true: now, without the restraints of re-election concerns, the next four years will prove to be a neoconservative agenda run amok, and I truly believe that we're going to see some of the worst times this country has ever experienced. Imagine if America had to deal with the domestic horrors of McCarthyism and the wartime horrors of Vietnam at precisely the same time, and that is what is in store for America for the next four years.

I imagine that you are, at the moment, being blanketed with what is called "astroturf" in some circles — the etymology of that coming from the idea of "fake grassroots." But this is something that I actually wrote myself, and is not fake, cut-and-pasted text. Even the "fake grassroots" folks, though, still mean what they're writing about, so I hope you pay attention to them as well.

At the risk of alienating you, I must say I feel the Democratic Party needs a new vitality of purpose, or else it's not going to survive. The Democratic Party faces an extremely momentous decision when it elects its next chair, and this decision will, I believe, determine its very survival.

It is for this reason that I am asking you to vote for Howard Dean as the DNC's next chair.

I believe the Democratic Party lost the November 2 election not because George W. Bush was the better candidate, but because John Kerry's most widespread message was that he was not George Bush. The large bulk of Kerry votes — including mine — were not for John Kerry. They were for "Not George Bush." If a vegetable was called upon to describe itself, if it told you that it was not meat, that would not tell you much about what it inherently was. It could still be a potato, a piece of broccoli, or a carrot.

This was the problem inherent with the widescale Democratic loss in November. We need to start getting out to the public the message, on a widespread, national basis, as to who we truly are — because Air America isn't widespread enough (or, frankly, good enough) to do the job, and the Republicans pundits (like Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly) are. And the people are listening to the only message being publicly shouted from airwaves. Howard Dean knows how to leverage these new medias.

The other alarming trend seemingly being considered by the Democratic Party at the moment is the adoption of a more centrist and conservative platform, as a reaction to the large conservative showing in the 2004 election. I think that may be a fatal mistake. If the Democratic Party positions itself as "Republicans Lite," then the Republicans are going to vote for the Republicans, and large amounts of alienated Democrats are going to seek out third parties. We will certainly never gain enough of a quorum to bring a Democratic candidate to the White House.

Sen. Edwards' and Sen.-Elect Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention this year were amazing visions of the Democratic Party that resonated and excited the American populace. Bush may have cast himself as a "uniter," but the first term of his Presidency has polarized the American public to a degree never before seen, and that trend will only continue to a far worse degree in his second term as he takes more and more action to further the fundamentalists' and neoconservatives' agendas. The Democratic Party needs to be there as a viable, exciting alternative, to embrace and envelop those who dissent against Bush's tyranny. They need to say, as the cover of the Seattle periodical The Stranger did on November 11:

"Do not despair. You don't have to leave. You don't have to move to Canada. You may feel out of place in this United States today. You may feel like you're surrounded by fundamentalist-church-going, gun-hugging, gay-bashing, anti-choice Bush voters, but you're NOT! George W. Bush only got 51% of the national vote."


An additional, corollary note: Dean has paid attention to the teachings of cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff, who has wisely observed exactly how over the past 20 years, the Republican Party has engineered its use of terminology and thought patterns (i.e., "pro-life" implying that the alternative is "anti-life", etc.) to great success. The Democratic Party must pay attention to this process, as exhaustively studied by Lakoff in Moral Politics and other texts, in order to win back the harts and minds of the American populace.

I am 30 years old, and Howard Dean was the first candidate to motivate me to participate in and volunteer for Democratic politics. Were I there, physically, in your office, I would actually get down on my knees and beg you to cast your vote for Howard Dean as the chair of the Democratic Party, if that would make a difference. I would do this because I believe that your decision is one of those votes upon which, honestly, and I'm sorry for the melodrama, the fate of the country hangs.

Like it or not, America is a two-party system, and thus, the Democratic Party is the only viable alternative to the now-neocon-hijacked Republican Party. The fate of most of the sane people in America rests in your hands as you decide what its leadership will be, and as a result, how viable a competitor it will be. If the Democrats do not reinvigorate themselves, then Karl Rove may be right when he envisions a Republican dynasty stretching far into the future. Please, please, please make the right choice, and elect Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

Thanks for your time. I hope you made it all the way to the end of this letter — I had a lot to say, but when it's about the future of this country and everything you hold dear, it's hard to cut it down.


If, by any weird chance, this actually influenced anyone, go check out DraftHoward.Com.

Hey, we've got it better than Swaziland at least

posted by Jazz at 12/13/2004 09:48:00 AM

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If you think that we've got it bad, being saddled with Dubya for four more years and a congress that appears poised to rewrite all the rules for the benefit of a narrow majority, cheer up. Things could be worse... you could live in Swaziland. Among the horrors of this place is the fact that the 36 year old King of Swaziland just bought a new car.

Well, you might say, lots of people have new cars. What's so horrible about that? Answer: the car in question costs half a million dollars.
The Maybach car has a television, DVD player, 21-speaker surround-sound system, fridge, cordless telephone and sterling silver champagne flutes.
And his high spending lifestyle isn't limited to collecting automobiles.
In April this year, 10,000 guests celebrated his 36th birthday at an event estimated to have cost $600,000.

In recent years, he has asked parliament for $15m to build a palace for each of his spouses and $45m to buy a royal jet.
Ok... so that's a bit lavish. But after all, the guy is an actual King, right? He's got to have a few perks. Maybe not if you happen to be the King of Swaziland. Consider a few thumbnail facts about his country.

- The national unemployment rate is 40%.
- More than 70% of the population earn less than one US dollar per day
- Approximately one third of the population rely on food aid just to survive
- Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world
- The state of the country has been declared a national disaster

After reading that article, you can almost hear yourself saying, "Maybe Bush isn't so bad."

Almost.