Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Year of The Year Award

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/01/2005 10:28:00 PM

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For those of you not familiar with the silly but savage satire of Fafblog I suggest you check it out when you are in need of a chuckle. Today they bring us the Year of the Year award.
.....And a darkhorse candidate was the year 1 AD for Bush-Cheney fans who saw the president as the rebirth of Jesus.
But the winner is:
But in the end we had to give it to 1296 for its blase acceptance of torture, feudalism and theocratic rule.

Not So Happy New Year for Pataki

posted by Jazz at 1/01/2005 04:58:00 PM

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And here you thought Rudy Giuliani was having problems with his business partner.

While everyone else is partying (or recovering from same) things might not be quite so rosy in the offices of George Pataki. The New York governor has recently been the subject of a great deal of speculation, particularly as to whether or not he might be considering a run at Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, or even the White House in 2008. Things like this Erika Rosenberg article, however, may come back to squash any national level ambitions he might have.
Gov. George Pataki's administration is trying to keep secret at least 500 pages of records related to a discredited deal to sell development rights along the Erie Canal system for a rock-bottom price.

Top Pataki aides pressured the Thruway Authority not to turn the records over to Democrats investigating the deal, the Thruway Authority chairman testified Wednesday.

They had been fighting the release of these documents in the court system right up until this week. In a follow-up piece today, Rosenberg reports:
Hundreds of pages of internal memos and e-mails made public Friday reveal how Gov. George E. Pataki's administration tried to control the damage done by news stories about a since discredited deal to sell development rights along the Erie Canal for a rock-bottom price.

They show Pataki aides directing the public responses made by the Thruway Authority and Canal Corp. to questions about the deal granting Buffalo developer Richard Hutchens exclusive building rights along the 524 mile canal system for just $30,000. and they show the Republican administration was irate when Democratic state Comptroller Alan Hevesni nixed the deal.
This is just the cover-up phase of a much older story. Allow me to provide a thumbnail summary of the background.

Back in 1999, the New York State Canal Corp. (a supposedly independent, non-partisan office staffed with Governor appointees) began working on a project to develop thousands of acres of waterfront real estate all along the Erie Canal system in Upstate New York. The goal was to generate some revenue and to develop high scale, upper class residences in these desirable areas of state controlled land. Whoever got the contracts to do this would stand to make a lot of money, with some estimates saying that the deal would be worth more than $27 million.

So, how did this non-partisan office seek out the best deal for a developer to take on this task?

The high-profile project was announced in a whisper: A 250-word notice seeking bidders was right below the notices for mops, shop towels and coveralls, on page 62 of a booklet available to vendors for $175 a year.

So, in 1999, the state got just one bid, from a Buffalo developer named Richard Hutchens who had been working with the state on a canal proposal since 1996.

If this shocks you, it really shouldn't. This is New York State politics in its most typical form, but in order to appreciate it you need to know a little bit about how politics works here in the Empire State. Jay Gallagher has been doing investigative reporting into the inner workings of this system for ten years, which gets surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) little attention in the wider media. Frankly, I'm shocked that the guy hasn't wound up floating face down in a river by now.

When people from other parts of the country think of New York, they tend to think of the Big Apple. But say what you will about Gotham's cultural centers, conventions, Wall Street, etc. the real power in New York doesn't reside in NYC. The real power is found in Albany in and lush palatial estates up and down the Hudson Valley. You see, what New York has in abundance, perhaps more so than most other states, is Old Money. And I'm talking about seriously old money - money so ancient that it's covered in moss and has been fermenting since the 1800's. We have Rockerfellers and Winchesters, Westchesters, Carnegies and more. Many of the names change via marriage, but the Old Money behind them remains the same. And here in New York State, nobody (with the exception of Hillary, who is a recent and possibly unique exception) rises up through the ranks of political power without these people.

They have numerous offices of "political consultants" who span the entire spectrum from radical liberal to arch conservative. They are all funded by the same money, and the really odd thing about them is that they seem to have no serious political interests, at least in terms that most pundits would recognize. They aren't worried about either party's agenda - they are in the business of taking care of the Old Money, first, last and always.

If you are running for office in New York - pretty much any office higher than dog catcher - and you have even a ghost of a chance of being elected, people from one or the other of these organizations will show up and dump bags of money on you for your campaign. You can be a Democrat, a Republican, a Green... hell, you could be a Nazi and if you're polling high enough, they'll have somebody there with a check. And they make no secret of the fact that they are donating to your opponent's campaign as well.

Once you are elected, you can put forth any sort of agenda you like. You can be out there fighting for thousands of acres of land for the endangered blue striped squirrel, or you can be leading the charge to get creationism taught in school. It doesn't matter - they'll have somebody there smiling and cheering you on. But then, every once in a while, some "little" piece of legislation will come up that affects the old money. Or, in cases like this one, it might not even be legislation - just an appointment or the awarding of a certain contract. Then the smiles fade and these same people will come and just mention how they would like to see things go. And they will remind you of how much money they have flushed into your career, and oh, wouldn't it be just tragic if they forgot to write you a check next year but still funded your opponent? That's when you see quiet bipartisan cooperation on an unheard of scale... and that's how business gets done in New York.

Forget about the $8,000 and $12,500 donations that Richard Hutchens made to Pataki's war chest in recent years. That was small peanuts. Hutchens is connected to some serious Old Money in New York, and if this hadn't been exposed (unlike so many other, similar deals which go by without notice every year) there wouldn't have been anyone else in the world who had a shot at that contract but him.

These things go on all the time in New York. But I think that George Pataki is getting ready to learn a hard lesson about how the media (and bloggers!) can dig up skeletons like this out of your closet when you dare to reach for the White House. There's more where this came from, I assure you. Pataki has been embedded in New York politics his entire life.

Didn't think I could find THIS belief out there ...

posted by Mike at 1/01/2005 10:32:00 AM

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I think I just need to pass this along without comment:

"U.S. Should Not Help Tsunami Victims."

Read the whole thing. It gets worse as you go on.

(If you're curious about the philosophy behind that awful essay, you can read about it on Wikipedia.)

Quick Lassie... Get the Sherrif

posted by Jazz at 1/01/2005 08:34:00 AM

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STAYED OUT TILL TWO .. : STOP
DRANK FAR TOO MUCH .. : STOP
ATTEMPTS TO POST RATIONALLY FAILING .. : STOP
PLEASE SEND COFFEE .. : END

If I try to post anything serious right now, it's going to come out like Franz Kafka on the rough side of a bout of manic depression. Back in a bit.

Friday, December 31, 2004

New Years Resolutions and Changes

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 04:59:00 PM

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As this will be my last post for the year of 2004, I felt that it should be something meaningful to me. As such, you may notice yet another change in the header. (If you don't see it, hit Shift - Refresh.)

For some time now I have been growing increasingly despondent over the direction that I've seen the Republican party taking. It was one of the primary reasons that I started this blog. I still believe very strongly in some of the old school, traditional values that the GOP used to stand for. Among these are policies of fiscal conservatism, the return of more power and responsibility to the individual states, shrinking the federal bureaucracy, and guarding the individual rights and privacy of citizens regarding their government.

While there are still a few Republicans in the government who seem to fight for these values, the numbers are vanishingly small and they are ironically referred to as "moderates" these days, when once they would have been traditional Republicans. But even so, as I watched the party's platform being highjacked by a new breed of neocons and theocons, veering towards a hawkish, intrusive, fundamentalists, I still maintained hope that the pendulum would swing back the other way sooner or later.

Then, on November 2nd, I felt as if I'd been dealt a serious blow. Not only were this new breed of Republicans successful in getting Bush back in office, but they seemed to take a sweeping victory across some parts of the nation where they previously did not. Bush is, in my opinion, arguably the worst President to ever sit in the Oval Office, and I find it staggering that this many people could support him. I promised myself at that time (and blogged about it here) that I wasn't going to make any hasty decisions or rash changes. I decided to give myself until the new year to see how I was feeling then.

The fact is, what I feel more than anything else is embarrassed. There really isn't a better word. I am, at this point, simply embarrassed to tell anyone that I'm a Republican. I can't even recognize the party anymore, and the damage that the GOP is doing to this country on more levels than I could possibly enumerate in one post is quite simply more than I can stand.

By the same token, there is still not enough going in the Democratic party to attract me to register with them. In reality, I had always been closer to an independent than anything else, and I registered with the Republicans because I agreed with a few more planks in their platform than the Dems. Plus I wanted to vote in the primaries. This is no longer a good enough reason to continue.

That is why, this week, with a great feeling of resignation, I made the decision to head down and change my registration and join Ron among the ranks of the independents. At least, that is, until somebody comes up with a viable centrist third party.

So, happy New Years to everyone. Thanks for reading this blog, and I hope we can all continue to work towards improving our government. Lord only knows how, though. Enjoy yourselves, and don't drink and drive! It's amateur night out there. You're better off just staying off the roads.

And before I forget, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Ron for all of the graphics work he's been doing for Running Scared, and Mike for all of his coding work on updating the format, and to Georg, Mu, and Tami for contributing to writing this blog all this time. I value this little place where we gather more than you can imagine, and look forward to better days ahead.

Always release bad news on Friday

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 01:43:00 PM

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I was hoping to keep most of the posts for today upbeat, but Brilliant at Breakfast has some awfully disturbing news to share. Apparently our Department of "Justice" has released new federal guidelines on the handling of sexual assault victims. All mention of preventive emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy from the rape has been removed. I'd say more, but Jill has already done it for me.

Bug Man Not Off the Hook Yet?

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 01:30:00 PM

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(As usual, hat tip to Memeorandum) Some interesting news from deep in the heart of Jesusland... it seems that Sears has agreed to turn state's evidence in the DeLay investigation in exchange for having charges agains them of illegal GOP campaign contributions dropped. Of course, it might still all come to naught if they can get the case transferred to their buddy in the Attorney General's office (who would likely just drop the investigation rather than suffer the wrath of The Hammer) or simply get the laws changed to make all of DeLay's shady dealing legal.

Burnt Orange Report tells us, "I wonder what the good folks at Sears have to tell the state of Texas about their good friend Tom DeLay? We shall see, but at least for now, it's nice to see that UT gets something out of the deal."

Charles Kuffner seems to be tracking this closely. "That's two down and six to go. Who'll be next to turn state's evidence?"

$8.4 million ...

posted by Mike at 12/31/2004 01:09:00 PM

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I'd like to quote something from what I am realizing was one of my most overly hasty posts of the decade:

In the days after September 11, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo collected millions upon millions from the American public at an amazing speedy rate. Why aren't we doing that now? Because we weren't attacked? BECAUSE IT'S NOT US?

And then point you with a vague sense of mixed pride and embarrassment to here.

$8,404,889.

*blink*

[takes a big bite of post]

Hmm. Tastes like some sort of fowl. Corvus brachyrhynchos, I think.

Taking the wind out of the bluster

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 01:08:00 PM

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I already did a guest post at Middle Earth Journal about this, but I'd hate for you to miss this much entertainment. The initial premise is my taking apart a completely ludicrous column by Ben Shapiro at Town Hall as he hilariously tries to defend the Bushies' position that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is somehow part of the larger war on terror.

Words almost failed me in attempting to describe that laughable column, but fortunately the good folks at World O' Crap blog managed to get the job done right. In fact, they not only take apart the Shapiro column, but manage to deliver a bloody fisking to Ann "The Toxic Twig" Coulter, Thomas Sowell, and others. This is possibly one of the best blog entries of the year from any source, and I hope you take the time to read it. Just put your coffee down first unless you want to spend New Year's Eve cleaning your keyboard out.

Election campaigning - Iraqi style

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 01:00:00 PM

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Juan Cole brings us a rather puzzling way of approaching campaigns in Iraq.
KarbalaNews.net reports that Adnan Pachachi, head of the Independent Democratic Bloc, called again on Thursday for a postponement of the January 30 elections. He, Ghazi al-Yawar and Nasir Chadirchi are among the few Sunni Arab politicians with name recognition still in the race.

Candidate name recognition doesn't appear very important, however. For security reasons, the actual names of most candidates on the 78 party or multiparty lists have so far not been released. This odd situation, in which the candidates are not known amonth before the election, attests to how dire the political and security situation in Iraq really is.
This is democracy on the march?

Why not a drive up window?

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/31/2004 11:29:00 AM

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Bull Moose reports that not only are house Republicans trying to make it easier for felonious characters like Tom the Bugman Delay to hold leadership positions they are trying to make it easier to accept bribes from lobbyists.
The article [WAPO] also notes that the Delayicans will reverse two additional rules,
"Republicans, returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after increasing their House majority by three seats in the Nov. 2 election, also want to relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.

A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member."
What's next? A drive-by window on the side of the Capitol where lobbyists can conveniently drop off their checks and carry-out their desired legislation? And the window can be attended to by a friendly Tom DeLay who can urge the lobbyists to "super-size" it!

The Moose can only believe that Newt must be downcast and glum over the behavior of his progeny. DeLay was always Newt's adversary - couldn't Newt just offer a few choice words on Fox to admonish these betrayers of his legacy?
The Delayicans might be the gravediggers of the House Republican majority.
The Moose continues to believe that Tom DeLay will be the end of the Republican Party as we know it. Well as I know it right now it can't come soon enough.


All That Liberal Hate Speech

posted by Jazz at 12/31/2004 09:06:00 AM

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It seems that Betsy Newmark has taken exception to my view that the majority of political hate speech is not coming from the liberals. The basis for her original post is this piece by Jeff Jacoby which purports to provide a laundry list of liberal media figures using hate fill speech to attack conservatives. Her specific complaint:
Blogger Jazz thinks I'm hypocritical for implying that only liberals use hate speech and cites as examples the hate-filled letters that people wrote Al Neuharth of USA Today for recommending that we leave Iraq. However, that is irrelevant to Jeff Jacoby's column. He's not writing about bloggers or hate-filled letter writers. His examples are mainstream Democratic politicians and liberal members of the media. Other than a few writers like Ann Coulter, I challenge you to name similarly prominent Republican politicians or conservative writers who refer to Democrats Nazis as Al Gore or Julian Bond do.
(Emphasis mine.) Right off the bat, and for the record, I did not at any time call Betsy a hypocrite or imply that she was hypocritical. For that to be true, I would have to believe that Betsy herself was in the habit of writing hate filled attacks on liberals, which I have never seen her do. She's one of the better conservative bloggers and quite polite. As I said in the previous post, I think she actually believes Jacoby's premise, which is somewhat frightening.

First, let's take a look at exactly what Jeff Jacoby wrote, keeping in mind that Betsy wishes to leave out bloggers and wing nut letter writers, preferring to focus on "mainstream Democratic politicians and liberal members of the media." She gives us Ann Coulter right off the bat, and we could certainly fill a book with Ann's hate filled venom, but fair enough... we'll pass on Ann. So who exactly is Jacoby referencing?

Right out of the gate he goes to the old well of MoveOn.org's anti-Bush commercial contest. First of all, I would hardly call MoveOn.org or their PAC legitimate "media" or politicians. I've long felt they were as big a bunch of loons as the Swiftboat guys. But even if you consider them "legitimate" you need to remember the context. That was a contest where private individuals sent in commercials they made with the winner having their commercial professionally produced and put on the air. (The winner, you may recall, was a commercial showing young children working in factory jobs to pay off the Bush deficit. Hardly hateful.) One person sent in an entry comparing Bush to Hitler. Along with hundreds of others it got pumped onto their web site for members to vote on. As soon as the content was pointed out to MoveOn, they pulled it from the site. It was never voted on and it never appeared on the TV.

Jacoby next has Al Gore referring to GOP activists as "brownshirts" and Hugh Pearson (a truly awful writer) likening the GOP convention to a Nazi rally. Fair enough. We'll give you those two.

Then, in order, on his list of on "mainstream Democratic politicians and liberal members of the media" Jacoby offers us... Linda Ronstadt? A little known local councilman from Boston named Chuck Turner? Cameron Diaz? How about this one:
Commentator Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, accused Democrat Howard Dean of using the tactics of Hitler and Goebbels to silence his competitors.
Fair enough, but that seems to be a conservative attacking Howard Dean.

He brings up Walter Cronkite saying that the October Osama bin Laden tape was "probably set up by Karl Rove." That might qualify for tin foil hat country, but hardly hateful. Nicholson Baker's novel "Checkpoint" is up next because its plot talks about assassinating the president. Ummm... Jeff? It's a novel.

He brings up Bill Moyers saying, "I think there'd be an effort to mount a coup, quite frankly. . . . The right wing is not going to accept it." Again, this hardly sounds like a rational conclusion, but hate speech? I think not. Confused speech possibly.

Jacoby then veers off again and cites Chevy Chase, cartoonist Ted Rall, an anonymous flier from Tennessee and the St. Petersburg Democratic Club. That's it, folks. That's the entire litany of hateful speech from "mainstream Democratic politicians and liberal members of the media."

We could compile our own laundry list in return, but what would be the point? The charge hasn't really even been made yet to answer. Are a bunch of Hollywood figures (who are not accountable to any vote) shooting off their mouths? Sure they are. But if they are "the media" now, we're in serious trouble.

Let's just drop in a couple of items to get Betsy started on searching for balance in this story. How about a Vice President who tells a seated member of Congress to go fuck themselves on the Senate floor? How about Timothy Carney of National Review who made repeated references to the Democrats as Nazis and likened them to Neville Chamberlain? (Another link for Carney's antics.)

Tony Blankly calling George Soros "... a Jew who figured out a way to survive the holocaust."

Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights', think gays... think someone who wants to rape your son."

Bill O'Reilly telling the Jews they need to go back to Israel.

The list for Rush Limbaugh is too long to even begin. And Oh My God.... we can't forget Michelle Malkin. (Yes, she blogs, but she's also a columnist and Fox contributor.) Where in the hell could we even start with Michelle Malkin? That hate and venom that spews from that woman could sink a battleship.

No, my friends. I would have to say that Jeff Jacoby has made no case at all for this argument, but the examples of conservatives firing off hate filled attacks on liberals are pretty obvious. If we want to include bloggers and commentors, then I think Betsy already acknowledges that we can find enough mud to drown in on both sides. Hell, just spend one day reading Ace of Spades, Captains Quarters or Dean's World.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging - Early Start

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 09:01:00 PM

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This will be edited to add links to The Modulator's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats (this week at Martini Pundit) as they become available.

This week we find Spider demonstrating that, on a cold winter's evening, the only good place to lie is on a heating pad. My God, but these cats are spoiled rotten. (Click on image for rediculously large full size picture.)





Important Sexual Harassment Information

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 02:24:00 PM

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Hat tip to My Catharsis. If you follow that link and then go to the video download, you'll see one of the funnier videos from ebaum's world that I've watched in a good while. WARNING: While the video doesn't contain any nudity, etc. the language and subject matter are probably not appropriate for children. Then again, I'm often accused of having the mind of a three year old, and I thought it was hilarious.

Beyond Belief

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 10:48:00 AM

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This is exactly the reason that it's good to keep up with opinions coming from the opposite side of the aisle from your own. Betsy Newmark has posted a brief opinion on hate speech in public political discourse. In one of the most staggering things I've read in ages, she actually wrote the following:
Jeff Jacoby has been keeping a file on hate speech in the past year. Almost all of it is on the left. We've seem all the examples one by one and chewed over them on our blogs. But to see them all together is both illuminating and depressing.
(Emphasis mine.) Tell that to these guys. I read (far too many) blogs from both sides of the fence and I can assure you, the greatest volume and the most virulent hatred that I see being spewed definitely comes from the far right side. The fact that right wing bloggers not only post things like this, but actually seem to believe it, is simply staggering. It's pretty much the same as all of these (same) sites that were running around before the election writing that there were a lot of attempts to highjack the election, and it was primarily the Democrats who were doing it. There really aren't words to describe that sort of flat earth outlook.

How Blogging is Changing Media

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 10:35:00 AM

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Joe Gandelman has a long and thought provoking post on this. The money quote:
Accounts of the world that are in a state of permanent revision stand a better chance at truth than a series of "finished" accounts, each claiming enough accuracy not to need revision. One of these (the state of permanent revision) is more native to blogging, while the other (the series of snapshots) is more characteristic of news in the mainstream model.
This is a good piece, and it really highlights the key difference between conventional newspapers and blogs. Once a paper puts out an edition, it's written in stone, never to be altered. (Yes, some papers publish "corrections" in later editions, but there's nothing physically linking that to the original story.) Blog posts are always "a work in progress" and subject to critique, revision, and correction. The final product will often end up being better, in terms of both accuracy and form, than a hard copy new story. Give Joe's analysis a read. Well worth the time.

Those Lovely, Patriotic Bushies

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 09:43:00 AM

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Hold on to your hats. This one is too priceless to miss. (Courtesy of Memeorandum) Apparently, last week, Al Neuharth published an opinion column in USA Today suggesting what we have been saying for some time - the United States needs to start pulling our troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later. (Preferably NOW in case I haven't mentioned it today.) This opinion was highlighted (though not even endorsed) by Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher. And hoooooo doggy. You should see the flood of enraged "love" that came from the oh-so-American Bush supporters. Here's a few small tastes just to give you the flavor. (All emphasis mine.)
Kenneth Genest: ?They had two of these in World War 2. One was called Tokyo Rose and the other Axis Sally. Their job was to discourage the American soldiers. I see they have one now at USA Today.?

Joe McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa: ?Mr. Neuharth, thanks to you and your ignorance the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now! If we pull out of Iraq with the job unfinished the terrorists will be bombing McDonalds, and blowing up malls and schools here, killing our innocent men, women and children.?

Craig Wood, Waianae, Hawaii: ?Today's press undermines our troops and supports our enemies. They convince parents that supporting your President is dangerous. They concentrate their ire on any fight that involves the United States and ignore all others. Like the sex scandal in the Congo with United Nations forces?. But, let some Army private put panties on an Iraqi's head and all hell brakes loose.?

Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: ?Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers.?

Mel Gibbs: ?The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.?
And just to make sure you don't get much sleep tonight, I'll remind you of one more thing. All of these drooling mouth breathers get to vote. And last November 2nd, they did.

Tbogg had a good take on this:

You know, if this is the middle that Peter Beinart wants us to move towards, I think I'll pass. At least without some tongs and rubber gloves and maybe some bug spray. ...and a tranquilizer gun. A really big one.

Quote of the Day

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 08:49:00 AM

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"Thanks to the Internet, I now receive chastisement for the errors and misjudgments committed in this column faster than ever before."

- David Broder

Another blog on the roll

posted by georg at 12/30/2004 08:22:00 AM

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Jazz has convinced me that we can put my blog on the blogs to the right. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea, as it isn't politically oriented or even more insight into my mind or opinions. It's a work of fiction that I add to occassionally, and I thought it would be challenging to write in a blog format. So you can see Dear Dear Diary in the listing on the right now. Please, if you do decide it is worth visiting, read from the beginning. Things will go in order, and I am not sure if jumping into the middle will make any sense.

I want to stress again Jazz is not Frank and I am not Jeannie- this is not our life- I made it up. But hopefully, you'll find it horrifyingly funny.

Challenging the Cell Phone Ban

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 07:51:00 AM

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You might not know it, but New York State passed a law in 2001 (the first in the nation) banning the use of hand held cell phones while driving your car. You can still use headset or "hands free" phones - just not the kind you have to hold to your ear. At the time I was all in favor of that law. Cell phones are annoying enough as it is when you are out in public. Having people crashing into you because they're trying to dial up their Aunt Emma while doing forty miles per hour is even worse.

Now, however, a woman in Buffalo is challenging the state law. She was given a ticket for talking on her cell phone while driving and faces a $100 fine if convicted. She's not arguing the fact that she did it... she's challenging the validity of the law.

A Buffalo-area woman is taking on the state law that prohibits motorists from talking on cell phones while driving.

Thirty-five-year-old Tracy Diina of North Tonawanda was ticketed for talking on her cell phone while driving in the suburban Buffalo village of Kenmore last fall.

She's challenging the state law, which her attorney calls "creeping totalitarianism."

Attorney James Ostrowski has filed a brief in which he notes drivers aren't punishing for other actions behind the wheel, such as drinking hot coffee or using an electric razor.

Ostrowski argues the cell-phone ban violates due process because it isn't a valid exercise of the state's police power and doesn't promote a legitimate government purpose.

I'm simply not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I still find many cell phone users annoying, and I think that a lot of my support for this law came from that bias. But the woman in this case makes a very valid point. Ostensibly this law was put in place to make drivers more safe and to force them to keep their attention on the road. But we have no restrictions on so many other things. I constantly see people balancing hot mugs of coffee, applying makeup, and even watching movies on their car's DVD player while driving. Surely these are all as hazardous as placing a phone call.

How far do we take these regulations? Singling out one activity as being "dangerous" while ignoring others certainly sounds like shaky legal ground. But do we really want a legal system where everyone has to have both hands on the wheel at ten and two o'clock, staring straight forward? At what point do we draw the line in having the government "protect us from ourselves"?

Arkansas Judge: Gays are almost people too

posted by Jazz at 12/30/2004 07:26:00 AM

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I know one judge in Arkansas who will be getting coal in his stocking next christmas from the immoral majority.

Ark. Judge Voids Ban on Gay Foster Parents


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- An Arkansas judge Wednesday declared unconstitutional a state ban on placing foster children in any household with a gay member.

Ruling in a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox said the state Child Welfare Agency Review board had overstepped its authority by trying to regulate "public morality."

At issue was a 1999 board regulation that said gays cannot become foster parents, and foster children cannot be placed in any home with a gay member under its roof.

The ACLU had argued that the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of gays. But the judge's ruling did not turn on that argument.

Instead, Fox noted that the Arkansas Legislature gave the child-welfare board the power to "promote the health, safety and welfare of children," but the ban does not accomplish that. Rather, he said the regulation seeks to regulate "public morality" - something the board was not given the authority to do.

"The testimony and evidence overwhelmingly showed that there was no rational relationship between the ... blanket exclusion (of gays) and the health, safety and welfare of the foster children," Fox wrote.

Rita Sklar, director of the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU, expressed satisfaction with the ruling.

"He made extensive findings of fact and he accepted everything we entered into the record refuting the state's reasons for the regulation, including these ridiculous claims that gay people are more likely to do drugs or have diseases," Sklar said.



Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"Moral Values" and George W. Bush

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/29/2004 10:15:00 PM

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I oppose the death penalty in large part because I question the "Justice" system's ability to impose it fairly. Even those of you who favor the death penalty should be shocked by this article by Sister Helen Prejean in the New York Review of Books, Death Texas Style. It concerns the death penalty in Texas and George W. Bush.
In the twenty-first century, a state governor represents the last vestige of the "divine right of kings," because he has absolute power over life and death� especially when such power is entrusted to politicians motivated more by expediency than by conscience. Faced with a pending execution, no governor wants to appear callous about human life.
What George W. Bush says:
Bush has said: "I take every death penalty case seriously and review each case carefully.... Each case is major because each case is life or death." In his autobiography, A Charge to Keep (1999), he wrote, "For every death penalty case, [legal counsel] brief[s] me thoroughly, reviews the arguments made by the prosecution and the defense, raises any doubts or problems or questions." Bush called this a "fail-safe" method for ensuring "due process" and certainty of guilt.
The reality:
...[Alberto] Gonzales admitted that his conferences with Bush on these cases typically lasted no more than thirty minutes. Berlow confirmed this for himself when he looked at Bush's appointment calendar for the morning of Washington's execution and saw a half-hour slot marked "Al G�Execution."
The callousness of George W. Bush shocked even Bush supporter, conservative Tucker Carlson:
In his autobiography, Bush claimed that the pending execution of Karla Faye Tucker "felt like a huge piece of concrete...crushing me." But in an unguarded moment in 1999 while traveling during the presidential campaign, Bush revealed his true feelings to the journalist Tucker Carlson. Bush mentioned Karla Faye Tucker, who had been executed the previous year, and told Carlson that in the weeks immediately before the execution, Bianca Jagger and other protesters had come to Austin to plead for clemency for her. Carlson asked Bush if he had met with any of the petitioners and was surprised when Bush whipped around, stared at him, and snapped, "No, I didn't meet with any of them." Carlson, who until that moment had admired Bush, said that Bush's curt response made him feel as if he had just asked "the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed." Bush went on to tell him that he had also refused to meet Larry King when he came to Texas to interview Tucker but had watched the interview on television. King, Bush said, asked Tucker difficult questions, such as "What would you say to Governor Bush?"

What did Tucker answer? Carlson asked.

"Please," Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "please, don't kill me."

Carlson was shocked. He couldn't believe Bush's callousness and reasoned that his cruel mimicry of the woman whose death he had authorized must have been sparked by anger over Karla Faye Tucker's remarks during the King interviews. When King had asked her what she planned to ask Governor Bush, Karla Faye had said she thought that if Bush approved her execution, he would be succumbing to election-year pressure from pro�death penalty voters.
But it can't be blamed on politics or election year pressure.
Bush was receiving thousands of messages urging clemency for Tucker, including one from one of his daughters. "Born-again" evangelists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, normally ardent advocates of execution, urged him to commute Tucker's sentence. When Pope John Paul II urged Bush to grant mercy to Tucker.....
What it can be blamed on Bush's intellectual laziness combined with a complete disregard for human life. Is it really so surprising that he spent 3 days clearing brush in Crawford after the worst human disaster in recorded history?
I suggest that you read the entire article as I just hit the high points here. Sister Prejean sums it up:
As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he has presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy, then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt.
OK red staters, these are the "moral values" you voted for, think about it.


Cross posted at MEJ because I think it's important.

Poking Fun at the Dead

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 03:06:00 PM

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I wasn't going to write anything on the passing of Susan Sontag, since so many others have already done it for me, and I imagine it's quite a personal thing for many people. However, I do feel a need to point out how the odious Michelle Malkin immediately stamped her little feet and cackled in delight at the woman's death, feeling it necessary to post this crap.

This woman not only needs to be removed from the punditsphere, but she really needs to leave the country that she claims to work so hard at protecting. The sad part is, she apparently has children. I can only imagine that mess on a group shrink couch some ways down the road.

Carrot - Stick - Rectal Insertion

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 02:46:00 PM

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Brought to you courtesy of dougpetch.com

How do you get your employees to love you? Well, if you're U.S. Airways, you give them two interestingly balanced statements.

First on deck: "U.S. Airways is appealing to employees to work for free at Philadelphia's airport over the New Year's weekend."

... and in nearly the same breath: "... the airline warned employees that it will review the attendance records of those who called in sick over the Christmas holiday and discipline workers who abused the sick-time system."

Definitely go read this lesson, which should be required for all MBA hopefuls, on how to win friends and influence employees.

This explains a lot

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 01:59:00 PM

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If you're wondering why the red staters have such trouble figuring out difficult concepts, (such as who to vote for) they also have trouble figuring out how to hire a proper chauffeur.

Dog Smashes Truck Into Store

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 Posted: 7:03 AM EST (1203 GMT)

SPRINGDALE, Arkansas (AP) -- Michael Henson left the auto parts store with more problems than when he arrived. For that, he can thank his dog.

Henson, whose truck had been experiencing a sticking throttle, left his dog in the truck when he went into the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Springdale on Sunday.

"He'd left the truck running -- I guess to show the people at O'Reilly's -- and the dog jumped over and knocked the truck into gear," police Sgt. Billy Turnbough said.

The truck raced into the building, stunning Henson and clerk Josh Hopper.

"The guy said he was standing there, looked up, and saw his dog driving his truck through the building," Turnbough said.

Hopper said he heard the crash and looked up from the transaction.

"His truck was in the window," Hopper said. "I thought, 'Oh no.' Everybody was fine. His front left tire just made it onto the brick wall."

No one was hurt and no citations were issued, police said.



Donation idea

posted by georg at 12/29/2004 01:20:00 PM

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Here's an idea that I have lifted off another list.

If you are hosting a party for the New Year, consider putting out a donation basket. Label it clearly as going to one of the many relief organizations for the Tsunami aid. (Or, you can do your favorite charity too). But clearly label it. You may get a hatful of change, but every little bit helps. And then give it!

And please do not drive drunk on Amateur Night. Hire a cab, or use public transport, or stay home. I promise I'll do the same. I've got my bottle of champagne already cooling in the fridge. :)

Blog Rolling

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 11:43:00 AM

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It's an ill wind that blows no good, as they say. Following Mike's rather odd rant, I had the opportunity to go and browse through Waiter Rant's current and archived posts. It's a very funny and well written blog. Welcome to the blog roll! There's a particularly good one there today on idiots with cell phones. Check it out.

George W. Bush for President, of Iraq

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/29/2004 11:24:00 AM

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In the LA Times Patt Morrison gives us a number of reasons why George W. Bush would be the perfect Iraqi President.
The reasons for Bush to become president of Iraq:

� The United States is already on Bush autopilot; his agenda is safe in the hands of Dick Cheney, who wrote a lot of the playbook anyway.

� Karl Rove is getting bored and needs a real challenge, and Iraqi campaigning makes the rhetorical phrase "political bloodletting" real.

� Bush could wear his "mission accomplished" flight suit all the time.

� Iraq is running out of its own politicians.

� Short campaigns mean less time to be caught in tongue-twisting contradictions.

� Bush can institute his Social Security reforms without carping from elderly voters' lobby or economists � Iraqis may not live long enough anyway.

� It guarantees that the U.S. gets exactly the kind of leadership it wants in Baghdad.

� As a Texan, he'll fit right into a country that has more guns than cars.

� Iraq has a crying need for someone who knows the "awl bidness."

� The climate is more like Texas' than D.C.'s.

� Many Iraqi people also speak English with an accent.

� Unmarried daughters have to live at home and stay out of trouble.

� Thanks to Saddam Hussein's precedent, no problem defying international treaties.

� He could find himself signing a death warrant for Hussein, the guy who "tried to kill my dad."

� No alcohol � no temptation to fall off the wagon.

� No term limits.

� Iraqis love faith-based initiatives.

Works for me.

A Mea Culpa from Mike

posted by Mike at 12/29/2004 11:23:00 AM

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I'm sorry to clutter up the main page with this, but I feel since I attacked a particular blogger on these pages, I owe him an apology with the same prominence.

My name is Mike, and I'm the guest blogger who made the post below entitled "$40 Mill for the Prez's Party -- $15 Mill for the Homeless, Sick & Dying." The person who is the head honcho of this blog is Jazz, but there are other bloggers, named Mu, Ron, Tami, and Georg. You can tell who the author of a post is by looking at the "posted by" credit directly beneath the posts' title.

If you would like to e-mail me about this article to curse me out, please write me here. Please do so instead of writing to Jazz.

In the aforementioned post, I singled out The Waiter, the blogger behind the well-written funny Waiter Rant blog, as an example of a behavior I don't find useful: simply posting links to charities without actually donating to same. However, at the time that I did this singling out, I really had no evidence one way or the other that he had or had not donated, and it was extremely unfair and wrong of me to single him out in such a fashion. (And, as it turns out, he had indeed donated.)

My intention behind the rant was simply that I do not feel that bloggers should be satisfied with the sole goal of disseminating charity links to increase awareness this time around, especially given the massiveness of this disaster. I've both blogged and read blogs for quite some time, and over that time, I've observed a very concerning behavior/tendency in the Internet community at large: the tendency to consider blogging -- in and of itself -- action on an issue. Don't get me wrong, I do recognize that blogging can indeed have a positive effect on issues, but I honestly don't feel it is as effective as many other actions out there, such as a real paper letter to a Congressperson, attending a rally, finding and attending or donating to a grassroots group for your cause, etc. There are lots of "real life" actions that could have greater effect on extremely concerning issues, if bloggers would simply push their chairs away from the computer. Note that I don't exclude myself from this criticism.

That having been said, it was entirely unfair, and quite wrong, of me to single someone out as an example of this behavior for no good reason aside from they happened to be the last place I had seen the set of links. Waiter, I apologize.

I should also clarify that the quotation from Scripture was meant solely to apply as criticism towards the Administration's lackluster donation of $15 million, which I found extremely unimpressive when compared to expenditures for something as insignificant as the President's various upcoming 2005 inaugural parties. It was not directed to bloggers. This Administration and this President has continually professed a deep tie with God and with Christ. Regardless of my own beliefs, I find particularly galling for him to then ignore one of Christ's most prominent teachings about alleviating suffering. It strikes me as hypocritical and immoral in the extreme.

Sorry for the controversy. We now return you to the normally astute commentary on Running Scared.

An Internal Response - Help for the Sick and Dying

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 10:52:00 AM

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Last night (well after this old man headed off to bed) it appears that Mike posted a bit of a rant here concerning bloggers helping out the tsunami victims in Asia. This post obviously created a bit of a stir. There were answers (none too happy I might add) in the comments section, and I received a number of e-mails from people, including the blogger who was linked and targeted in that rant. I have tried to answer all of the e-mails I received and the comments as well, but feel that it deserves a bit more of an answer here.

Let me first state that I don't censor the guest bloggers here. That's a deal we made on day one. I may not agree with everything they write, but they are free to bloviate on their own opinions so long as there is no hate speech, hard core pornography, or a few other items I don't want represented here. I don't plan to ask him, nor would I expect him, to edit or remove his post.

With that said, I'll admit that I was rather puzzled by it myself. Mike apparently launched a missile over the transoms at Waiter Rant. (A blog which, frankly, I hadn't heard of before but will check out now.) The basic substance of the complaint seemed to be that bloggers were posting links to places where people could donate to help out the refugees, but he didn't feel that people were going to contribute and were just stealing "feel good" links from the MSM.

Well, I don't know what to say. I steal things from the MSM all the time, as do most bloggers. I couldn't generate much content without them. I will also freely admit that I have, in the past, posted links to places where people could make donations when I had not donated myself. That might have been because I simply didn't have a lot of extra cash at the time, or it was something that I didn't personally believe in strongly enough to donate to, but knew that some readers might. (e.g. I once posted a link to donate to the Dean campaign, even though I was supporting Edwards or Wes Clark at the time.)

Apparently the specific accusation against Waiter Rant about donating was incorrect, as he apparently did donate... he simply didn't post about that fact. For this, I apologize since it appeared on my blog.

I will leave it to the rest of you to decide how this will all wash out. I simply wanted to make my position clear. I didn't post that rant, and I really don't agree with it, but I respect Mike's right to rant about it here if he feels that strongly about the status of donations in America.

Cheers.

Powerline or Powertools?

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 10:04:00 AM

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(Hat tip to Memeorandom for this amusing story.) Some of you may remember Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman, who has been taken to task many times, both here and around the blogosphere, for his seemingly random attacks on bloggers. This week, however, he comes up with a really amusing (if somewhat poorly written) frontal assault on the windbags at Powerline. (If you've never bothered to go through the annoying free registration process for their paper's online version, this one will be worth your time.)

These guys pretend to be family watchdogs but they are Rottweilers in sheep's clothing. They attack the Mainstream Media for not being fair while pursuing a right-wing agenda cooked up in conservative think tanks funded by millionaire power brokers.

They should call themselves "Powertool." They don't speak truth to power. They just speak for power.

The lads behind Powerline are a bank vice president named Scott Johnson and a lawyer named John Hinderaker. If you read Powerline, you know them better by their fantasy names, Big Trunk (that's Johnson) and Hind Rocket (Hinderaker). I will leave it to the appropriate professionals to determine what they are compensating for, but they have received enormous attention from the despised Mainstream Media and deserve more.

Coleman goes on to summarize his chief complaints against Powerline, primarily dealing with his impression that they claim to be some sort of legitimate news source while really acting as shills for the GOP. Now, shills they certainly are, but I don't' think they have ever claimed to be otherwise, have they? I mean, even their most diehard fans can't possibly think that their site represents any sort of unbiased view of political news and world events, could they? Anyway, some more from Coleman's persnickety poison pen.

[L]ike talk radio, they are dominated by the right and are only interested in being a megaphone without oversight, disclosure of conflicts of interest, or professional standards.

Powerline is run by Ivy League lawyers, one of whom (Johnson) is a vice president at TCF Bank in Minneapolis and works for Bill Cooper, an ex-state Republican Party chairman. Johnson and Hinderaker are fellows at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that seems to be obsessed with gays and guns and wants to return us to the principles of our founders, although I can't determine if that includes Ben Franklin's skirt chasing.

Mainstream or Extreme? We report, you decide: Last month, Claremont gave its Winston Churchill Award to that visionary statesman and recovering drug addict, Rush Limbaugh!

But Extreme bloggers don't tell truths. They tell talking points. Powerline is the biggest link in a daisy chain of right-wing blogs that is assaulting the Mainstream Media while they toot their horns in the service of ... what? The downtrodden? No, that was yesterday's idea of the purpose of journalism. Extreme bloggers are so hip and cool they can make fun of the poor and the disadvantaged while working out of paneled bank offices.

The column goes on to do some hilarious "fact checking" of Powerline and to deride their recent awards from both Wizbang's 2004 Blog Awards and their unbelievable kudos from Time Magazine as the 'blog of the year.'

The usual list of suspects lined up to answer Coleman's charges.

Shorter Big Trunk: "I don't disclose conflicts of interest in my writing? DO TOO! DO TOO! DO TOO!"

Shorter Hind Rocket: "I wasn't able to figure out what Nick wrote, so I'll call him crazy and unprofessional."

Shorter Captain Ed: "I'm going to jump on the Coleman bashing bandwagon, and maybe next year Time Magazine will fete me!"



Selective Reality

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 09:46:00 AM

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I haven't done any shameless double dipping in a while, so I'll just say that I posted a piece over at Middle Earth Journal today on one of my favorite topics, cocooning. The always enjoyable Leonard Pitts did a column on it today in the Miami Herald. Take a look.

Oh, and while you're there, check out Ron's post on The Angry Earth, and a good perspective from a geologist on phenomenon like the super tsunami.

Terrorism: It's Not Just for Insurgents

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 08:41:00 AM

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Regular readers know that we follow the stories told by Iraqi bloggers quite closely here. They have shared with us a number of stories of some of the heavy handed treatment which civilians receive at the hands of "coalition" forces around their country. Now some volunteers who monitor the stories of detainees have provided shockingly similar testimony in a recent BBC interview.

The volunteer in question is Peggy Gish of Christian Peacemaker Teams. (You might want to visit their website. They do a lot of other peacekeeping work, including walking Palestinian children to school every day past Israeli guard posts to prevent attacks on them.) Peggy reports that the detainee situation in Iraq is somewhat better since the Abu Ghraib scandals came to light, but conditions and army protocol still remain brutal.
We were not allowed to go into prisons, so our contact was with the families of detainees and freed detainees. We got very careful testimonies.

We were hearing some of the same stories from people all over Iraq, so we were fairly certain what we were hearing was accurate.

We heard about very violent house raids in the middle of the night, in which US soldiers would storm in, and if the men did not get down immediately, they would knock them down and beat them.

Then their house would be ransacked, often with property damage. Many would report that at the end of that time jewellery and money would be missing. Then the men of the household would be taken away.

We also heard about sexual abuse and beatings when they were being questioned. If they did not give information about an explosion or something they would be knocked down, kicked in the groin, and hurt in other ways.

Apparently some of our "informants" are not just turning over real insurgents to the American troops. They are also reporting people with whom they have personal grudges, knowing that their enemies will then "disappear" for long periods of time.
In fact, we came to the conclusion that 80% to 90% of the prisoners had never been involved in any violent action. This is an estimate that tallies with the estimates of other groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A common reason for men to be detained is because an informant in the neighbourhood has given their name to US military and claimed that they are part of the resistance.

Informants get money for each name they give, and many people have told us that informants use the system to revenge personal grudges.

They say it is rather like life under Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqis use an Arabic expression, "Same donkey, different saddle".

I can believe that, originally, a large part of the first insurgency fighters were composed of former Saddam loyalists and outside terrorists looking for an opportunity to attack Americans following the breakdown of social order in Iraq. Now, however, I can't help but believe that we are fueling the recruitment drive of the resistance with actions like this. It's rather hard to feel "liberated" when you are being dragged out of your house in the middle of the night, locked up for months with no charges filed against you, and your family's possessions are being looted.

Conservative Students Sue University: Don't Be Teaching Us Your Commie Crap, Pinko.

posted by Jazz at 12/29/2004 07:01:00 AM

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Of all the depressing side effects of the great "Red - Blue Divide" debate, seeing it infiltrate the nation's colleges is one of the worst. Apparently young conservatives are now trying to dictate what can and can't be taught on campus to avoid having the "godless commie liberal professors" brainwash the youth of America. This sad story is brought up again today in CNN.

"I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them," said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus. "A lot of students feel like they're being discriminated against," he said.

Katie bar the door! Holy Mother of Rumsfeld... can you believe the nerve of these professors? They might actually want students to (gasp!) read a book about a different religion! What is this world coming to? How can we tolerate having our children attending schools where they are exposed to information about different cultures? Mind you, they aren't even telling the students to read the actual Quran. Just a book about the Quran.

A couple of observations on this follow. First of all, (and perhaps I'm just crazy here) I was under the impression that one of the main reasons we set out as young people to go to college is for the opportunity to be exposed to new ways of thinking - to explore progressive (which does NOT immediately translate to "liberal" or the Democratic party) thought processes and gain an opportunity to see the world in a new way. College is supposed to ensure that everyone doesn't get 100% of their news and world views by "sitting around the cracker fuck barrel", to quote Lewis Black. Call me a radical, but I honestly thought that the purpose of an institute of higher education was to get an education, not just be indoctrinated into the political dogma of one party or the other.

My second point is simply a bit of shock at people questioning the obvious. Is there a liberal slant among college professors? Well... DUH. Obviously there is. Perhaps if more conservatives decided to go into the lower paying role of teaching instead of rushing off to Wall Street to see how fast they could get their third Jaguar that might change. But I really don't see professors as endorsing one particular political party over another. It's more a matter of breaking young people out of the boundaries of narrow thinking which might have grown in their home towns and challenging them to see the world in a different way and judge for themselves.

The last issue I have with this controversy is a bit tougher to get into. While there are certainly a few points of curriculum being discussed, the majority of it seems to be centered on the Zionist vs. Anti-Zionist schism. The article linked above goes on at length about "pro-Palestinian" professors intimidating or discriminating against Jewish or Israel supporting students.

At Columbia, anguished debate followed the screening of a film by an advocacy group called The David Project that alleges some faculty violate students' rights by using the classroom as a platform for anti-Israeli political propaganda (one Israeli student claims a professor taunted him by asking, "How many Palestinians did you kill?"). Administrators responded this month by setting up a new committee to investigate students complaints.

Is that how we are supposed to be pigeonholed these days... the conservatives support Israel and the liberals back the Palestinians? I'm generally loathe to touch on this subject because it is so sensitive to so many people and I don't have a personal stake in it. But, with all due respect to the Jewish bloggers here, other bloggers, our readers, and any of my friends, what about those of us who refuse to take sides and are sick of the conflict? I'm an unabashed isolationist, and I'm damned proud of it. I'm perfectly willing to send humanitarian aid and supplies to people anywhere in the world who need it, but I prefer to take care of Americans first and I do not want my country to be the world's policeman. I don't personally feel it is our job to be Israel's meaner big brother until the end of eternity.

I completely understand how the Jews want to hang on to their homeland which they waited so long for. I also fully sympathize with the fact that the Palestinians want a homeland of their own and feel that they hold historic title to some of those lands. And, of course, a lot of it boils down to a battle of religions and who controls the "Holy Land." Christ on a crutch, people... armies have been invading that tiny piece of real estate for over a thousand years now, and it doesn't show any signs of stopping soon. Do we really need to battle this out in our nation's classrooms and universities?

Rather than pushing for colleges to be "more conservative" or "more liberal" or pro or anti Israel, what say we just push for them to get back to educating America's youth and pushing them to broaden their minds? Is that really so hard?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

$40 Mill for the Prez's Party -- $15 Mill for the Homeless, Sick & Dying

posted by Mike at 12/28/2004 11:19:00 PM

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There's a great deal of "let me help by doing figuratively nothing" thinking on the Internet as a result of the tens of thousands dead and millions made homeless as a result of the earthquake and resulting tsunami. What am I criticizing? Posts like this, and I've run across this exact same post -- almost in the exact same order -- on about a dozen blogs now.

Don't get me wrong. I like this guy's blog. He is often a brilliantly funny writer. But this sort of post is worse than nothing, because it gives the poster a sense that he's done something altruistic, when he's actually done nothing useful at all -- just recycled information already made available in hundreds of locations already.

Are you a blogger and you'd like to help? Actually go and give money to those relief organizations. Don't just post links and feel as if you've done something. This is one situation where passing along information is doing nothing. I don't consider that this blog entry, for example, will help anyone actually suffering out there. But when I open my wallet after my next paycheck and send something, that'll help.

In the days after September 11, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo collected millions upon millions from the American public at an amazing speedy rate. Why aren't we doing that now? Because we weren't attacked? BECAUSE IT'S NOT US?

And ... why not just let our government send relief?

Well, our government isn't sending troops as relief workers. They're needed to die so we can secure our oil companies' profits over in Iraq.

And it's sending money, but it isn't really sending money. Yes, we're sending $15 million, but did you happen to notice we're spending $40 million on the President's inauguration? And that's not even the funds we'll be spending on His Excellency's security.

So if it's going to come from somewhere, it's got to come from the American people. But of course, it won't. I don't have faith in the American populace finding enough compassion within themselves to do anything massively considerable. We're more concerned about our own daily lives.

And as for those idiot neocons in the White House who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, let me outright post part of the passage of Scripture I mentioned on Christmas:

I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, sick and in prison, and you never visited. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

I honestly am not sure if I believe Christ was Lord, but it's amazingly galling that people who confess to believe in His teachings are so blatantly ignoring such a central lesson of their faith when there are, at one whack, millions of hungry, thirsty, homeless, shivering, sick people out there.

Never before has our leaders' hypocrisy been painted in such bright, primary colors.

It is time to invade Cuba

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/28/2004 11:55:00 AM

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No not Castro, the American military base at Guantanamo Bay.
A Devil's Island for Our Times by Robert Scheer.
It is time to invade Cuba and put an end to what has become another Devil's Island in the annals of government-sanctioned torture. The barbaric treatment of political prisoners on the island is made no more palatable by being conducted in the name of an ideology that claims to be liberating the world from its shackles.

Once again, we are witnesses to the ugly truth bound up in that philosophical contradiction that the ends can justify the means: Desecrations of the human body and spirit can never be righteously justified by high-minded appeals to the needs of the masses. Fortunately, a few brave U.S. intelligence agents have managed to penetrate the security of a morally repugnant Cuban gulag and documented both the barbaric acts occurring on the island and their state-sanctioned rationalizations.

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water," wrote an FBI agent who gained access to the prison compound. "Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more."
Yes, this is not the Brutal regime of that tyrant Castro but the work of the US military.
Even more troubling is that the FBI agents make it clear this is not the work of a few poorly supervised sadists. Their reports refer to what they described as a new � and very much secret � executive order on prisoner treatment by the president at the top of the camp's chain of command, which allowed for severe interrogation tactics, including "sleep deprivation and stress positions" combined with "loud music, interrogators yelling at subjects and prisoners with hoods on their heads."
I was a member of the US military intelligence community from 1968 through 1971. One of the first things we learned was that when you torture people you learn what you want to hear but you don't learn the truth. This behavior only points out the gulag mentality of the democratically elected tyrants in charge. And to think they were reelected on "moral values". This does not represent the moral values of a modern society but the moral values of the Spanish Inquisition. Oh, that's right, I forgot that 50+ percent of the US population actually does want to return to the 16th century. Well it looks like you have gotten your wish.
Note
Jeff at Red Hair & Black Leather tells us why Bush and company may have a reason to invade Cuba. Hint; one word that starts with an "O".


Next Bush Cabinet Appointee

posted by Jazz at 12/28/2004 11:35:00 AM

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I'm not sure which department he will be heading but Ashley the Atheist Slayer should be a shoe-in for a spot in Bush's cabinet as soon as he gets out of jail, mental hospital, rehab, etc. (Big hat tip to Turnspit Daily.)
A devout Christian who killed a man and injured his wife in a frenzied axe attack after they told him they were atheists was jailed for 18 years in Australia yesterday. Drifter Ashley John Appoo, 40, pleaded guilty in the Queensland state Supreme Court to manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.

The court heard Appoo was hitchhiking in November 2001 when John Leslie McDonald and his wife Alois picked him up and took him home for lunch.

Defense lawyers said Appoo had suffered from violent rages and a personality disorder since 1995 when he was hit on the head with a didgeridoo -- a long, tubular Aboriginal musical instrument.


Video from the tsunami

posted by Jazz at 12/28/2004 10:36:00 AM

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This is a fairly horrifying film. It's at a resort where a guy with his video camera saw the wave coming in and washing over their resort.

"One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."

- Joseph Stalin


I wonder if that's why you tend to become numb instead of horrified as something like this sowballs towards unimaginable disaster?

Learning from (ancient) history

posted by Jazz at 12/28/2004 07:35:00 AM

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There is a simply excellent piece in the New York Times today by Dennis Smith, a geologist and retired firefighter from California. The title is "When Nature's Wrath is History's Reminder" and it was spurred by the recent earthquake and subsequent disastrous tsunamis in Asia. He provides a wealth of information about other parts of the world where similar (or even worse) disasters are simply waiting to happen, and how we are not taking steps to prepare for such events.

The subject of what can possibly happen on earth is simply too big for most of us to handle if we are to continue to be an optimistic race. And so we hope for the best. Yet there are some things we should be thinking about in a more serious manner. There are facts that we should not let pass into an obscure scientific history, for remembering them will undoubtedly help ensure a safer future for all on our planet. This is harder than it sounds.

The author also reminds us that we shouldn't be surprised to see such activity in that area of the world. Sumatra has seen worse problems, though you have to look at the area in terms of geological time, rather than the relatively short sight of human lifespans.

Yet the single worst explosion in our known geologic history - an eruption of a 20-by-60-mile caldera some 71,000 years ago - occurred on Sumatra, just 100 miles from the epicenter of Sunday's earthquake. The earlier eruption left a 10,000 square-mile sheet of volcanic rock, more than a thousand feet thick, and so filled the sky with ash that it probably created our last ice age.

Here's one that hits closer to home. (Or might hit.) The chilling part is that he says this event is not a matter of "if" but "when."

The possibility of great landmasses falling into the ocean is always with us, and recently scientists found vertical fault lines through a volcano on La Palma, one of the smaller and more westward Canary Islands. The volcano has a crater about five miles wide and a half-mile high, and erupts about every 200 years. The last eruption was in 1948, but the newly discovered fault lines have convinced some scientists that eventually the huge crater will break apart and slide into the ocean, bringing more than a half-trillion tons of rock with it.

Since tsunamis are created in proportion to the amount of land that has fallen into the water, this event would likely create a wave mass never before known to written history, many times bigger than the wave at Lituya Bay. The wave would diminish a little as it crossed the Atlantic, but if it hit the Atlantic Seaboard it could be higher than the skyscrapers of Boston, New York, Washington and Miami. Scientists do not know if it will take one, four, or 10 eruptions to separate the landmass, only that the separation is inevitable.


The only good news is that volcanoes usually send signals before they erupt, and it would take eight hours for the wave to travel from Africa to the United States' eastern shoreline. It is not sufficient time, however, to move all the people who would be in its path. In any event, surely the mountain on La Palma should be reduced in size, to lessen the impact should it ever slide into Atlantic. But, who will pay for such a huge reduction of a landmass?


I suppose the real question is, if there are so very many massive threats from the planet lurking all over the globe, where do we start? If we start tearing down the mountain in La Palma to prevent that huge tsunami, how comforted will we be when an earthquake tears open New York City and half of the skyscrapers come down? (There's a fault line, according to the author, running right under 125th St. in Manhattan. Someday it's going to give.) The worst earthquake in our nation's recorded history wasn't in San Francisco. It was in Mississippi. Only people didn't notice it as much because in 1811 there weren't many people living there, and the ones who were lived primarily in log cabins that stood up well to earthquakes. Now millions of people live in cities there.

Ah, the dangers of living in Coastopia. I suppose the only comfort we can take is in hoping that the big one hits Jesusland around the Big Muddy first.

33 Days

posted by Jazz at 12/28/2004 06:55:00 AM

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Oy. 1,326

A U.S. soldier was killed Monday and four others were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. No information was available about the condition of the wounded victims. The death brings the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war to 1,326, including 1,044 in hostile action and 282 in nonhostile activities, according to the U.S. military.

Here's to hoping that any members of the Shiite led Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq who manage to survive for 33 more days are handily elected and throw us out of that hell hole immediately.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Are the Kurds Really Trying to Break Out?

posted by Jazz at 12/27/2004 03:16:00 PM

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Interesting set of links coming from a Kurdish blogger on an issue which I've not seen brought up recently in the MSM. This weekend, Kurdo tells us that the Kurds have turned in more than 1.7 million signatures to the UN for a referendum asking that Kurdistan be set up as a separate state from Iraq. He goes on to say the the UN has rejected it because of questions about the legitimacy of the signatures. The only references provided are a recent article from Aljazeera, which obviously might have some bias, and a "Turkish Weekly" article. (I've never heard of that source before.) I wouldn't have given this a lot of attention if it weren't for the fact that the BBC reported some time ago that they were collecting these signatures for the UN. I don't see anything today about a statement from the UN on this, though.

While we are generally forced to get our news from Iraq filtered through what the military will release, this goes against most of what I've heard. I was rather under the impression that an independent Kurdish state was to Turkey what an independent Singapore is to China - effectively an immediate declaration of war. Of course, it could be something very different, in a variety of degrees, depending on what the real situation is on the ground.

We'll have to wait and see if anything else on this turns up, or if it is Kurdish citizens trying to fire up the engines of independence when there is no popular infrastructure or support for it.

Pets are your responsibility

posted by georg at 12/27/2004 01:52:00 PM

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One of the things that pissed me off over the weekend that I had to swallow and hide and pretend didn't matter for the sake of Family was what my brother and his wife have done to yet another of their cats. Some folks have heard me say a few snide comments about my brother before. He's my baby brother, and when he stops acting like a big baby, I'll stop calling him one.

He does have a very soft heart for animals and children, I can give him credit for that. But he doesn't have a lot of responsibility. He's perfectly happy to take home the cute fuzzy thing, but when it grows up, and he can't take care of it, off to the pound the animal goes. He learned this behaviour from our mother, for which I will never forgive her. For example, George and Colin were acquired from the shelter after my mother dropped them off. I did not speak to her for a month. I am currently smelling Colin's cabbage- scented farts as he sleeps on my lap, but poor George passed on years ago and is buried in our backyard.

When he met his wife, she had two cats, BJ and Midnight. BJ is a holy terror who attacks everyone who visits. Midnight is very sweet and hunts laps. But my sister-in-law loves BJ. Time passed, and my brother wanted a dog, because he loves dogs. So the year they got their first child, he got a big loveable goofy dog. Did I mention he was BIG? The following Kissmoose, he got in his head to get a kitten for his wife, and I did my best to talk him out of it. But he could not walk by the kittens in the mall without wanting to get her one. They named the long haired puffball Sydney, and the poor thing spent most of the time hiding from the other cats and the small child.

When they had another child, they finally realized, "Hey, this is a lot of beings living in this tiny 3-bedroom house." Their solution? Ditch a cat.

They called me. They knew I had volunteered at the pound, and could I recommend a good shelter? I exploded in expletives, of course. If you take an animal home, you take it home. It is your new family member. You get its problems and its joys- and its poop, and you take care of it. And you fix it so it won't breed and make more problems. (At least my brother does believe in spaying and neutering- The PETS anyway). I know the shelters in their area well, and I know how long it would be before a neurotic cat would be killed. I told him to bring the cat here.

We renamed him Pepe, and he's recovered well enough to be out and social and play, and most of the time he gets on with the other cats. You can see his pic here.

I have recovered my anger at their abandonment by now. They do not ask after the cat. But I still brag about him, as I'd brag about any of my kids.

What pissed me off is that I learned that Midnight is not living with them any more. They took her to the shelter. She is solid black, petite, and very affectionate. She may have a chance. But how many people want to adopt 10 year-old cats? I am afraid that she won't have a chance. And they will not tell me which shelter, nor how long ago, and I cannot keep my temper in check to ask for more information. I cannot comprehend how you can keep a cat for 10 years, and then throw it away. It is simply beyond me. I think the only reason why he took the cat to the shelter instead of bringing her here was because of the lecture I gave him last time about ditching pets.

While I don't want to continue to house my family's rejected pets, I will if that is the only option compared to taking them to the shelter. At least here, I know they'll be loved and not tossed out.

Christmas in Mosul

posted by Jazz at 12/27/2004 01:49:00 PM

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The Iraqis aren't getting Turkey and David Letterman. From A Star in Mosul:

Okay, I've sent only 3 letters now and I discovered that the electricity will go off in 30 minutes so, I won't be able to send more letters I guess!! Sorry..

We went to school today, it was raining heavily, and it didn't make me feel well. But, when we reached school, they sent us back to our houses. I don't know when will we be able to go back to school and start a stable year.


We're running out of bread, and the bakery shops aren't having enough gasoil (I can't distinguish between gasoline, gasoil or anything else), and this is a problem.. Some people are freezing in their houses from the cold weather and they have no gasoil to turn on their heaters (That's something else I'm not sure of its name, I don't think you even use it!).

Plus, I was telling mom that I'll need to take a shower today when dad told me that I'll have to wait till Thursday; we're not getting enough electricity to heat the water, and we don't have enough gasoil to heat it on fire.


Yes, it looks like we're going back to the dark ages and mom will soon have to bake the bread by herself..


Not much to say but, "oy."

100 Bunnies

posted by Jazz at 12/27/2004 01:05:00 PM

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One hundred bunnies sitting in a straight row all leap backwards at once.


(Wait for it.)


Receding hare line.

Yes... I stole that from the comments section at Atrios. I think I'm losing it today.

We can only hope

posted by Ron Beasley at 12/27/2004 01:04:00 PM

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Bull Moose tells us about the gift that keeps on giving from the Republican leadership.
The Abramoff/Scanlon/DeLay/Reed/Ney Indian gambling scandal is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday's Washington Post reported on the latest episode which involves the Indian gambling money enabling Abramoff to wine and dine his trusty Republican allies in luxury boxes at various major sports venues in the nation's capital. It will come as no surprise to veteran Moooseketeers that even the upright, God-fearing, gambling hating GOPers are among those enjoying Abramoff's gaming largesse,

"For most politicians, fundraising is a dreaded chore. But until recently, Rep. John T. Doolittle of California and other members of the House Republican leadership had adopted a painless solution: fundraising events in luxury sports boxes leased largely with the money of Indian gaming tribes, where supporters snacked on catered fare in plush surroundings as they watched the Wizards, Caps, Redskins or Orioles.

"Doolittle, a Mormon, is an ardent opponent of casino gambling, so it is somewhat ironic that he would invite supporters to watch the Wizards play the Sacramento Kings from an MCI Center suite paid for by casino-rich Indian tribes. But the plaque at the door to Suite 204 did not say Chitimacha or Choctaw. It said "Jack Abramoff," a name synonymous with largesse and influence in the GOP-controlled Congress."

And there might be more than the Lord's law that was being violated here because evidently unreported in-kind campaign contributions were being made in these wages of sin skyboxes. That pesky devil is always at work attempting to undermine the righteous ones!
The Feds are on the case and the Moose thinks this may be the beginning of the end for the House Republicans.
In this week of 2005 predictions, the Moose urges one and all to keep an eagle eye trained on this scandal because it may the beginning of the end of House Republican rule. The GOP has achieved in ten years what it took four decades for the Democrats to accomplish. One can only marvel at the extent to which the decadence of power has enveloped the House Republicans in such a brief period of time.

It could be their ethical Waterloo.
We can only hope that the Bugman and his crooked crew will get their just rewards.