Friday, January 30, 2004

Friday Dog Blog

If you've seen any national weather lately, you know that here in upstate New York we've gotten pounded lately with snow. A town I regularly drive through on the way to my in-laws got over 70 inches since Wednesday. We didn't get quite that much, but so far in January, we've gotten nearly 50 inches.

So for this Friday's edition of dog blogging on The Fulcrum here's yours truly and Baylea enjoying what we've got the most of... snow.

Dean's Dollar Doldrums?

There seems to be a mix of hope and despair among those supporting Dr. Dean for the Democratic nomination. Hope: that he will be able to continue to bring his message of change and to inspire the intense grass-roots devotion that has brought him this far. Despair: that he will have enough money to do so.

From the comments of an earlier post, Steven Bates, The Yellow Doggerel Democrat had this to say:

Sorry to spoil the fun, but if Dean is truly out of money, it may well be all over, whatever the delegate count.

Dean's money was, to all evidence, raised in a virtuous way, compared not only to other Dem candidates (though Kucinich also took the small-donations route) but to every candidate in recent prior presidential elections. But there's no getting around the fact that campaigns run on money. I'm hoping for a miracle, and I'm with Dean to the end (election or withdrawal), but I'm afraid it may take a miracle.
Yesterday I heard - and I can't remember where - that all of the people who had given to Dr. Dean couldn't afford "another $75." I think, no, I hope that particular talking head was underestimating the depth of support for Dean and the depth of their pockets. And there are likely still people out there who saw that Dean's fund raising was going so well that they didn't give the first time around.

Unfortunately, money plays such a huge part in just staying in the game, much less actually crossing the finish line. But that's the subject of an entirely different post.

I'm with Steve on this one; "I'm hoping for a miracle, and I'm with Dean to the end..."

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Thanks for the Memories...

Via Rubber Hose, comes this video.

It is simple. It is powerful.

Whoever gets the Democratic nomination should purchase this video and run it as a commercial 24/7 for the duration of the campaign. Or maybe George Soros should do so.

Now there's an idea...

Trippi to Neel Before Dean

Joe Trippi's out in the Dean campaign. Roy Neel is in.

I heard this last night and haven't been able to figure out whether this is a good thing or not. Whether it's a smart move or a sign of desperation.

Neel was appointed to Al Gore's transition team when Gore was the presumptive - and actual - winner of the 2000 election and had pledged to join Dr. Dean's campaign after his ex-boss threw his support behind Dean.

Trippi did an excellent job propelling Dr. Dean to the forefront and to the front-runner position before the Iowa Caucuses. It remains to Roy Neel to bring him back to the front. He has his work cut out for him - I really hope he's up for the task.

By the way; still no mention in the press - anywhere - that Dean remains in the lead by delegate count.

Shorter Condi: "Screw the American people."

There was part of an interview on Good Morning America today; Diane Sawyer was speaking with Condoleeza Rice about the David Kay testimony before Congress. She straight out asked Condi if Kay's assertions are found to be correct, would the President or someone in the administration admit to the people that they were wrong in asserting that Iraq had massive quantities of WMD that were a gathering/imminent threat to the US. Condi went off on the usual BushCo tangent about the world being a safer place without Saddam.

Much to my surprise - I almost choked on my breakfast - Diane actually followed up and repeated the question, almost forcefully. "Would the administration admit that it was wrong?"

No surprise that Condi evaded the question again. But it was very clear that the question had not been answered.

What was even more clear to me - and I hope it was as clear to everyone else watching - is that BushCo are not even trying to care what we might think about their misadventure in Iraq or the deceptions that lead up to it. They are playing their usual game of bluster and misdirection in the hope that the issue will fade away into the next crisis or the next Michael Jackson revelation. The difference this time is that a reporter actually called one of them on the misdirection.

A follow up question! What's next, some real reporting?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I'll See Your $477 Billion and Raise You $23 Billion!

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the 2004 budget deficit to be a record breaking $477 billion. Record breaking, budget breaking and back breaking for all those middle class people (like me!) who are forced to carry the tax burden and for our children and grandchildren whose economies will be burdened with paying off this debt.

Not wanting, apparently, to be outdone, the White House released its estimate: $500 billion - or more.

Here's an interesting take on it from the WSJ:

The higher deficit estimate, to be reported in the president's 2005 budget request Monday, could give the White House political headaches in the short run, drawing further attention to the nose dive the government's finances have taken on President Bush's watch. But some analysts have suggested that the $500 billion estimate -- which White House officials have floated periodically since last summer -- could actually help Mr. Bush's cause if the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 with a deficit that is less than $500 billion. That could help Mr. Bush persuade voters that his policies have begun to turn around the deficit problem.
Turning around the deficit problem. Right.

Playing With Air Safety

BushCo is continuing its policy of promise now to pay later - but only after we're safely gone. This time however it's not a Mars mission or AIDS assistance or even our children's' education. This time it's air safety. You know, one of those things that aWol specifically promised to fix even before September 11, 2001. From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

The Bush administration plans to propose a 16% cut in spending on air-traffic-control equipment and facilities, saving nearly half a billion dollars a year but postponing or scaling back projects aimed at making air travel more efficient.
Don't be fooled by the word "efficient." When it comes to air traffic control, that means SAFETY. Efficiency in air traffic control means that planes don't have to be stacked up quite so closely when queued up for landing or takeoff. That gives controllers and pilots more time to react should something out of the ordinary happen.

So, there's the cut, the part you knew was coming. Where's the promise?

Speaking Tuesday to an aviation-industry group, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta made no mention of the budget plan but said the administration is working to triple the capacity of the nation's aviation system over the next 15 to 20 years.

There's the now-classic set up. We're going to do something so wonderful - just you wait and see! But it won't be finished for quite a while. Sure we'll be long gone, but you'll have a nice, shiny new [insert promise here]. Then, under the cover of the latest announcement or emergency, they cut funding for their brand new whatever. They've gotten quite good at it. But they've done it so often, you'd think the public would have caught on by now.

What? A new mission to Mars? Wow...

Now, what was I saying?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hey, Big Spender...

"Tax and Spend." We all know that when someone uses that phrase, they are usually talking about Democrats.

Not any more. The chart below, comes from an article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and shows just why some "paleo-conservatives" are not too happy with BushCo. It also puts to rest that damned quote above - at least as far as it applies to Democrats.

Here's the arch-conservative WSJ on the matter of Shrubby's spending spree:

But if the gap between revenues and outlays is of small concern in any single year -- and especially during recession and war -- it does not follow that there should be no worry over rapidly rising levels of federal spending. The much delayed omnibus appropriations bill for 2004, scheduled for a vote in the Senate this afternoon, looks set to cap the first term of the most profligate Administration since the 1960s.


GOP leaders would have us believe this all adds up to one of the leanest spending plans in years -- an increase in federal discretionary spending of only 3%, compared with 13% and 12% in each of the previous two years. But Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation points out that it's really more like a 9% increase, and that's assuming there will be no supplemental appropriations as in previous years.

The 3% vs. 9% discrepancy results from the difference between budget authority and actual outlays. The increase in budget authority looks smaller only because a lot of money that will actually be spent in 2004 was assigned to 2003. That's true most importantly of the Iraq war supplemental. But the drive for the appearance of fiscal sanity has also reduced our representatives to gimmicks such as moving the authority for $2.2 billion in education spending back into 2003, after previously voting to push it forward to 2004. When corporations tried accounting like this, Congress gave us Sarbanes-Oxley.


Amazing as it may sound, the ostensibly small-government GOP seems totally oblivious to the fact that all this spending puts its future economic agenda in jeopardy. Appropriations do mean taxes after all, even if they're deferred taxes.

All emphasis is mine.

So, does all this mean that the so-called paleo-conservatives will vote for the Democratic nominee? Probably not. But it might mean that some of them will vote for somebody other than Shrubby; some independent. And that could be enough for the Democrat to clinch the election.

Early Voting, Early Polling, Early Results

No, you won't find minute-by-minute updates on the New Hampshire primary here. But you will find this short rant about early exit poll results and early reporting.

I know that the networks have to fill up the morning news. I know that elections are now seen as part entertainment part spectacle. I also know that complaining about early reporting of results is a quadrennial sport - much like the Olympics.

But really.

The talking heads were all reporting exit poll results - and apparently real district results - after two small New Hampshire townships voted just after midnight. I won't repeat the results here; that shouldn't be done, in my opinion, until after all the results for the state are in. Honestly, can such reporting do anything but spoil the process? Anything that could potentially discourage voters from going to the polls is a bad thing. I think early reporting can do just that.

However, one thing you can count on from our friendly neighborhood media whores, is that they will bring you the circus for as long as they think you'll watch.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

New Law Left Behind

Is there a GOP backlash against BushCo's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law? According to the Washington Post, it seems there may be. And Democrats are gleefully piling on.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates sharply criticized President Bush's signature education program Friday, calling the No Child Left Behind Act an unfunded mandate that threatens to undermine the state's own efforts to improve students' performance.


No Republicans voted against the resolution, a fact that House Education Committee Chairman James H. Dillard II (R-Fairfax) said is proof that "the damn law is ludicrous."


As a result of a Republican legislative initiative in Ohio, the state commissioned a study released this month that found the federal government had significantly underfunded No Child Left Behind.

In North Dakota, a resolution sponsored by Democrats that stated the "cost to states of implementing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is as yet unclear" was passed by both the Republican-controlled House and Senate. And the Republican legislature in Utah is considering legislation to forgo the federal money and opt out of the program entirely.

While this is just one part of BushCo's overall plan, it must be a sharp rebuke to what has seemed an unstoppable thrust to change so many aspects of our society. That even some of their staunchest supporters are starting to fight back gives some hope for November. At least it seems that way from the end of January.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Charles Duelfer

I'm not sure what the hell this means...

The CIA named a new inspector to lead the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction Friday, choosing a veteran investigator who has expressed recent skepticism that Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons that posed an immediate threat.
From the Boston Globe on-line.

This after sending home the team that would have been responsible for handling any truly dangerous materials. The only thing this says to me is that BushCo has no idea what it's doing. But just about everything they do says that to me.

Any thoughts?

So Sad...

Bob Keeshan died today.

If you don't know that name, maybe you know this one: Captain Kangaroo.

What an amazingly sad piece of news. I haven't seen Capt. Kangaroo in probably 30 years, and yet as soon as I heard the news a flood of memories came back. Mr. Greenjeans, Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose, Grandfather Clock, Tom Terrific... Names that hadn't passed through my mind since I was eight or nine years old; but they were all there, like old friends.

Keeshan's show was a calm in a growing sea of chaos and violence aimed at young people. It is also one of my first memories of TV. Three generations of children grew up knowing the upbeat sound of his theme song. And now, he's gone. It may have been years - decades - since I'd seen him, but I will miss him.

This is Justice?

Remember Congressman Bill Janklow from South Dakota? Sure you do; he ran a stop sign going 71 mph in a 55 mph zone, then hit and killed a young motorcylclist. No, wait... he was doing 71 mph in a 0 mph zone - he blasted right through that stop sign as apparently he had been seen doing before. He had dozens of speeding tickets that he got right up until he was elected for his third term when they suddenly stopped.

Rep. Janklow was tried and sentenced on December 8. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Bill Janklow, who dominated South Dakota politics for three decades as governor and then congressman, was sentenced to 100 days in jail Thursday for an auto accident that killed a motorcyclist and ended Mr. Janklow's career in disgrace.

After 30 days behind bars, Mr. Janklow will be allowed to leave jail during the day for up to 10 hours to perform community service. After he completes his jail term, he will be on probation for three years, during which he won't be allowed to drive.
I wonder how long you or I would have spent behind bars for that crime? You can be certain it would be a lot longer than 100 days with community service. But then - most likely - you and - for sure - me aren't rich, white, Republican males who likely appointed or had something to do with the appointment of the judge who would sentence us.

We are all equal in the eyes of the law; it's just that some of us are more equal than others.

Surprised? You Shouldn't Be.

Two Halliburton employees took kickbacks totaling up to $6 million for ensuring that a Kuwait based company was awarded a lucrative contract supplying US troops in Iraq. The Wall Street Journal reports that Halliburton reported the crime, perhaps softening the severity of potential penalties, but it brings even more scrutiny to the company. The company which was once headed by now-Vice President Dick Cheney - and which still provides him with "delayed compensation" - is already under intense scrutiny for charges that it overcharged the military for fuel deliveries by some $61 million.

Here's Tricky Dick on the subject:

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was chairman of Halliburton until he left in 2000, defended the company Wednesday in a Fox Radio Network interview. "They get unfairly maligned simply because of their past association with me," he said.
And perhaps because they have gotten such a huge portion of the contracts for work in Iraq while you are the sitting VP? Here's how the WSJ put it:

KBR [Note: a subsidiary of Halliburton] is now repairing Iraqi oil fields and supplying everything from food and laundry services to housing for U.S. troops and coalition officials in Iraq under two huge contracts valued at up to $16 billion. That work has so far cost nearly $6 billion, well over twice what has gone to all of the other 40 U.S. contractors in Iraq, according to government records.
How is it that this goes so relatively unnoticed? Why hasn't the Pentagon frozen all contract work by this group of thieves? Where is the outrage?

Oh... Dr. Dean has it all.

For very good reason, I'd say.

Early Friday Dog Blogging

The snow here has been incredible. So far in January, I think we've gotten over 50 inches. No kidding there are drifts in my back yard that are up to my hips. And it's been cold - just like the rest of the northeast - bitter cold with wind chills well below zero. But there's one thing that's constant (even when the temperatures are not): Dogs gotta play!

So, regardless of how the wind feels as though it could flay the skin off of our faces, we get bundled up and get Baylea out to play. And below she shows off at her favorite game: catching the ball in mid-air while executing the perfect half-reverse-flip.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Spirit, Phone Home...

Click the picture to go to the Mars Mission Site

Just when everything was going so well with NASA's latest mission.

They've lost contact with Spirit. More accurately, Spirit has stopped sending intelligible data. The radio is working, but it's no longer sending real data. In typically dry NASA-speak there is "a very serious anomaly on the vehicle."

I hope they re-establish contact. I hope the mission - and it's twin, set to land on Saturday - is a resounding success after this. But past Mars missions don't leave much hope for that.

Plame Leak Revisited

I had thought that the investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame was going to die a slow, silent death. But an article in today's New York Times states that a group of former intelligence officers is pressing the Justice Department to ensure the investigation does not come to a premature close.

It is unusual for former intelligence officers to petition Congress on a matter like this. The unmasking of Ms. Plame is viewed within spy circles as an unforgivable breach of secrecy that must be exhaustively investigated and prosecuted, current and former intelligence officials say. Anger over the matter is especially acute because of the suspicion, under investigation by the Justice Department, that the disclosure may have been made by someone in the White House to punish Ms. Plames's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, for opposing administration policy on Iraq.
This investigation must get to the bottom of this leak. Putting American operatives into danger by revealing their identities to the press is treason, and must be punished accordingly. I believe that treason is currently a capital offense under federal laws. I'm not a fan of capital punishment, but I would like to see everyone involved in this put away for a long, long time.

This new wrinkle in the story gives me hope that someone will take the big perp-walk out of the White House. Wouldn't that be a nice "reverse October Surprise?"

Behind the State of the Union

Via Blah3, I found a great USA Today article. Like the editor at Blah3, I'm not at all a fan of this paper. I read it when I travel if it's the only thing available; and it's usually free at most hotels with lots of business travelers.

The article takes some key points from Shrubby's SOTU and then gives the reality, the context behind the points. There are no punches pulled, no candy coating.

Here's the opening salvo:

A reality check on what Bush said on key issues.
Weapons of mass destruction

What Bush said: Search teams have "identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" in Iraq. "Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."

Context: The Bush administration has struggled to explain why weapons hunters have found no chemical or biological weapons in Iraq in 10 months of searching. On the eve of the war, President Bush said there was "no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." He said terrorist groups could acquire weapons from Iraq and use them against the United States. A search effort led by CIA appointee David Kay has turned up no weapons and no evidence of any advanced weapons program, raising questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence and the Bush administration's justification for war in Iraq.
I agree with Blah3's assessment: this is an example to place before your favorite SCLMW. Go check out both Blah3 and the article.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


It's been a while - and it doesn't mean I haven't been reading the blogs. But here goes another Liberal Coalition Blogabout:

You just have to love a well written blog. All the wonderful content in the world won't make up for poor writing. But when there's content and writing, well that's something to get worked up about. Scout, over at And Then... has a great post about watching the SOTU with Wesley Clark. Go read about what Clark is like, how Scout feels about Clark. And for a little comic relief, read about his encounter with a couple of Larouche supporters.

Echidne of the Snakes takes a long hard look at anger. Anger in politics. Sure the Repugs are accusing Democrats of being angry, but who has practiced political hate speech for longer than those on the right. Sometimes anger is a good thing; it moves us to action - as long as it is well modulated and targeted. Go see what else Echidne has to say on anger.

At Collective Sigh, andante wonders how far Dr. Dean has to go to overcome his "angry" image, even with Democrats. Is it the media's fault? Deans? Or is something else at work here? Andante has some thoughts, but I won't ruin your trip over to read it yourself.

An annotated - with links, no less - State of the Union address awaits you at The Gotham City 13. It's only Part I, but Jesse has some interesting things to say (some snarky things, too!) and some interesting links in this dissection of aWol's SOTU. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shake your head more times than Ted Kennedy! Go check it out - and stand by for Part II.

You can always count on Mustang Bobby for some biting, South Florida perspectives, and a post on Jebby borrowing from Shrubby's play book is right on form. Tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in services or continued waits for underfunded services seem to have been embedded in the Bush DNA at some point. There are lots of other great posts over at Bark Bark Woof Woof, stop by and make sure to let MB know you were there.

Finally, go read Steve Gilliard's News Blog. He's got a short post up about aWol's SOTU speech, and he's right on the money about how surreal Bush's choice of subjects were. But most of all, go welcome "Gilly" back from the hospital. He had a couple of rough days being pretty sick and it's nice to have him back.

Okay, that's enough for tonight. If you don't find something interesting in the posts I pointed to above (which is really hard to believe), check out some of the other blogs in my blogroll on the Left.

So ends another Liberal Coalition "Blogabout."

Iowa - And the Rest of the Campaign

I don't have much to say about the politics or results of the Iowa caucuses that hasn't already been said - and probably much better - by others. But something I did notice intrigued me. So I thought I'd wait a few days and see if I was just imagining it.

But no...

I noticed that all the talking heads on network and cable news, all the supposed pundits and reporters from the major papers, not one of them said anything more probing or insightful than I'd been reading in blogs for the months and weeks before the caucuses. If you tour most of the blogs in my blogroll of the Liberal Coalition or just about any of the "bigger" bloggers you'll find some incredibly cogent writing on the issues, on the candidates and on the outcomes. You'll also find just as many misses in calling the results. What you won't find in just about all of the blogs I read regularly and that I've grown to depend on as sounding boards and sources of analysis is the pack mentality of the SCLM. None of the blogs I truly like ever engaged in tearing down one Democratic candidate or another.

They were, in a word, more professional than the professionals.

That doesn't mean I'll be giving up the major news outlets, but it does say a lot about how far our media has fallen. And how far bloggers have risen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

State of the Union

I'm tired and I'm going to bed. But here's my quick, over-tired take on Shrubby's SOTU:

Over promise.

Under fund.

Appeal to the base(r) desires.

Let the shit hit the fan long after he's gone.
I really hate that smirk.

Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt

Totally unexpected.

Lots of real work today, so I won't get to this 'till much later.


Monday, January 19, 2004

More High-Tech Offshoring

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on Big Blue, IBM, and offshoring. While the article does give numbers; 3,000 jobs will be moved to China, Brazil and India, it also deals with some internal documents that give a glimpse into how the company is trying to position these moves.

The IBM documents show that the company is acutely aware of the sensitivities involved. One memo, which advises managers how to communicate the news to affected employees, says among other things: "Do not be transparent regarding the purpose/intent" and cautions that the "Terms 'On-shore' and 'Off-shore' should never be used." The memo also suggests that anything written to employees should first be "sanitized" by human-resources and communications staffers.
Notice the phrases above I've bolded: if you clear away the business speak what it says is that employees being fired because their jobs are being moved offshore should suffer one additional indignity: they should be lied to. "Do not be transparent," don't, for heaven's sake tell them why they are really being fired. "Sanitized," don't give them any clue why we are screwing them over and especially don't give them any legal recourse.

So what could convince IBM that decreasing the number of people in this country with jobs or who have a good opinion of IBM is a good thing? The article lays out some very interesting numbers:

Besides the low-level programmers billing at $12.50 an hour, the chart shows that a Chinese senior analyst or application-development manager with more than five years experience would be billed at $18 an hour. The person familiar with IBM's operations said that person would be equivalent to a U.S. "Band 7" employee billed at about $66 an hour. And a Chinese project manager with seven years experience would be billed at $24 an hour, equivalent to a U.S. "Band 8" billed at about $81 hourly.
Those are very interesting numbers and even if they somewhat overstate the actual savings most companies see by offshoring they are hard to ignore. And yet they understate what would be lost besides American jobs. They completely ignore the way that companies are continuing to "recover" from the recession at the expense of their employees. Employees - or ex-employees - who will no longer be able to buy IBM products. Ex-employees who will be forced into lower paying jobs, forced to shop at Wal-Mart. All of which forces the economy into a jobless spiral and continues to push average wages lower and lower.

In a final bit of ignominy and vast understatement, IBM's managers are given a script for how to handle these firings.

In the draft script prepared for managers, IBM suggests the workers be told: "This action is a statement about the rate and pace of change in this demanding industry. ... It is in no way a comment on the excellent work you have done over the years." The script also suggests saying: "For the people whose jobs are affected by this consolidation, I understand this is difficult news."

Patriots vs Carolina

It's time for an annual tradition of mine and this is the first year I'll do it in so public a manner. Every year around this time I have to explain just why it is I don't care a bit about the "Super Bowl."

It's not just the Super Bowl. I don't watch any sports on TV. I don't follow any team in any way. There are no stats from some long forgotten game clogging my memory, no player's record stuck to some neuron in the back of my head. It's not that I never played sports; I've played, at some point in my life: football, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, racquetball, tennis, handball, golf - and I'm sure I've forgotten some. I also run and downhill ski.

Here's how I look at it: If I have three or four hours to waste in front of the television, that's time I could be doing so many other things, including actually being active. I've always felt that way. I'd much rather be doing something rather than watching somebody else doing something.

So there'll be no Super Bowl parties at my house. If I get invited to one - and actually go - it'll be for the commercials and the half-time show (and maybe the beer). The only reason I know who's playing this year is that you can't get away from it; it's blared from every TV channel and radio station. Don't ask me who I'm rooting for; I don't know anything about the teams or the players.

I know. It makes me an odd sort of creature: an American male who doesn't watch sports. It really does take all kinds.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Trading Votes for Science

It seems it's as simple as that. Shrubby's grandstanding, election year announcement that NASA will focus its energies (and hence its monies) on returning men to the moon and eventually to Mars is the death knell for one of the most important and fruitful missions ever undertaken. Because of aWol's announcement requires that all future shuttle missions be dedicated to completing ISS, NASA has canceled all future servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble has provided incredible and unprecedented views of the distant universe; into the past; closer to the "Beginning" than we had ever seen. It gave us beautiful pictures, definitely. But it also gave us insights into the most fundamental questions that a sentient race could ask: "where did we come from? what came before?"

But NASA had to cancel the last servicing mission that would have provided Hubble with updated gyroscopes, batteries and perhaps, in a future mission updated sensors. The final mission to Hubble will now be a small rocket to ensure that Hubble de-orbits in a safe manner. The budget for that mission, likely around 2007 - to kill Hubble - must come, in a final irony, from NASA's astronomy budget.

As the news flashed around the world by e-mail, other astronomers joined the Hubble team in their shock. Dr. David N. Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton and a member of a committee that advises NASA on space science, called it a "double whammy" for astronomy. Not only was a telescope being lost, but $200 million worth of instruments that had been built to be added in the later shuttle mission will also be left on the ground, Dr. Spergel said.
If I thought that this program would actually result in the establishment of a permanent base on the moon and the landing of astronauts on Mars, I might not despair for Hubble. But for a publicity stunt, one which he has already underfunded even in its announcement, aWol has ensured the destruction of one of the finest scientific instruments ever devised by man.

Go here to see some of the incredible images brought to mankind by Hubble.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Don't Adjust Your Set

It's not your computer, it's not the strange weather, it's not the couple of frosty beverages of choice you just had. No, it's not even the CIA or the NSA or the Secret Service. It's just me rearranging my blog template.

My side bar was getting too long, I thought. So I split it up into right and left and put my posts in the middle. I'm pretty sure I like it; it keeps the place neat, clean and with a certain visual appeal, I think.

Let me know what you think.

Friday Dog Blogging - Late Edition

If you've been watching the news or the weather, you know that where I live - near Rochester, NY - it's been very snowy and cold. So this edition of Friday Dog Blogging; featuring Baylea the Wonder Lab shows Baylea in our back yard, her face covered in snow after snuffling through about 12 inches of snow looking for her favorite ball.

We were freezing, bundled up in snow pants, parkas and hats. Baylea wanted to stay out all afternoon. We compromised: Baylea played, we froze.

Baylea the Wonder Lab

Why I Read Bob Herbert

And why you should too:

Herbert wrote today about Al Gore's environment speech in NYC; about his passion, about his grasp of not only BushCo's rape of the environment in the name of donor quid pro quo, but of the larger danger of Shrubby's cabal. Read the entire article here, but these two paragraphs are just so outstanding that I had to include them in this post:

The fates dealt Mr. Gore and the United States a weird hand in 2000. He got the most votes but the other guy became president. And the country, its Treasury looted and its most pressing needs deliberately ignored, has been rolling backward ever since.

"This is insanity," said Mr. Gore, referring to the administration's handling of the environment. But his speech made it clear that he could just as easily have applied that sentiment to the full range of Bush-Cheney policies. History will not be kind to the chicanery that passes for governing in the Bush II administration.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Upyernoz vs Safire

Head over to Rubber Hose and see Upyernoz dissect William Safire's latest lame effort at spinning BushCo's misadventures in the world as successful.

The post is long, well written and worth every minute it takes to read it. Join the commenters in asking him to send this missive into the New York Times to add a little balance.

France vs USA

I thought I'd just keep with the World Cup feel to my headlines today.

Lots of folks have blogged about France wanting to indict VP Dick "The Puppetmaster" Cheney for his role as then-CEO of Halliburton when that company was bidding, with a French oil company for gas rights in Nigeria. There is the possibility of a sitting Vice President being indicted by a foreign country for bribery and corrupt practices while a CEO for a company from which he is still receiving delayed compensation. If indicted, he would obviously not stand trial, but then would be unable to travel to any country within the EU without being arrested and brought to trial. That would make him really useful, right?

This is huge news, right?

Nothing in the Wall Street Journal.

Nothing in the New York Times.

Washington Post? Nope.

Where can you find the story?

The UN Observer.

Le Figaro (France's largest, conservative paper), of course (archived stories must be paid for, but watch the front page for upcoming stories).

Al Jazeera.

And an article - not on the front page - from January 9th in the Dallas Morning News.

Our wonderful, So-Called Liberal Media, doing it's job. Which is, apparently, nothing.

Brazil vs USA

I'm not talking about the next World Cup match up. No, unfortunately I'm referring to the latest incident caused by Brazil's requirement that Americans visiting that country to be finger printed and photographed. That move comes in retaliation for BushCo's new requirement for visitors from a long list of countries, including Brazil, to be photographed and finger printed on entry to the U.S. Several countries have complained about the intrusive process, but Brazil has been most vocal and was the first to take a counter action.

Here's the entire AP article, reprinted from this morning's Wall Street Journal:

Brazil's New Entry Rules
Cause Yet Another Flap

Associated Press

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- An American Airlines pilot was arrested by federal police after making an obscene gesture when being photographed at the airport as part of a newly imposed entry requirement for U.S. citizens, federal police said.

The pilot allegedly lifted his middle finger while undergoing a new fingerprinting and photographing process put in place by Brazil for U.S. citizens Jan. 1, said Francisco Baltazar da Silva, chief of Sao Paulo's federal police. The pilot has agreed to pay a fine equal to $12,750, a federal prosecutor said.

The incident is the latest flap in a growing diplomatic spat between Brazil and the U.S. Brazil began requiring Americans to be photographed and fingerprinted upon entering Brazil in response to a U.S. antiterrorism measure that requires the same from citizens of all countries who need visas to enter the U.S. The Brazilian requirement became the government's official policy Monday, citing the diplomatic concept of "reciprocity."

American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Pantin said the incident was the result of a misunderstanding under investigation by the airline, but didn't provide more details. American Airlines is owned by holding company AMR Corp.

What's New In My Sidebar?

For being so opinionated on so many other things, you've probably wondered why I haven't come out and said who I support for President this year. The wondering can stop (if any of you were...).

I have decided - at the same time as Carol Moseley Braun, apparently - to support Governor Howard Dean, M.D..

For long-time readers, you'll remember that I initially expressed interest in Gen. Clark. But after watching all the candidates over these past months, reading their positions and mulling everything over, I've made my decision. I think that Dr. Dean can defeat the unelectable fraud currently in residence in our White House. I think he's got the right policy ideas and I think that he can lead us back to a true leadership position in the world.

I have added my voice to the growing chorus for Dr. Dean. If you haven't figured out who you're going to vote for, I hope that you are actively trying to come to decision. You may make no more important decision for yourself or your children this year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A Friend in Need...

Everyone go visit Elayne Riggs today over at Pen-Elayne. She's feeling a bit down on herself and could use some encouragement, kind words and some general support and good will.

Off with you. Go be nice to your neighbor!


Another word from this administration to describe a type of lying. Maybe this one should be limited to mean only hagiographic, sycophantic lying. Here, let me show you what I mean.

This is Rumsfeld, on Shrubby, in the New York Times, refuting Paul O'Niell's assertion that aWol was like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people."

Mr. Rumsfeld defended the president for "his brain, his engagement, his interest, his probing questions, his constructive and positive approach to issues."
Describes Bush perfectly, no?

Bush Election Boondoggles Part I

The biggest election year boondoggle is already getting plenty of press; both mainstream and in the blogosphere. I want to talk about another, much smaller boondoggle.

In this environment of ever expanding federal deficits as far as the eye can see, when state and federal programs to help the truly needy are being cut everywhere, BushCo, in a nod to their fundamentalist, right-wing, wacko base are willing to blow $1.5 billion on promoting marriage.

There is some evidence that education programs that promote good communication on important marital matters really do help couples remain married. There is less evidence, but still some, that such programs aimed at people before they marry are helpful as well. All well and good. However, you just know that nothing this administration does can be for the good it can do or because sound science says it's the right thing to do. What sort of restrictions can you imagine would be in such a program that would increase it's appeal to the rabid, bible-thumpers on the right?

Well, there's the much hated 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act," which specifies that for any federal program a married couple must only be defined as... go ahead, you know the answer... a man and a woman.

There are other problems of course. Many groups worry that such programs would be de facto coercion to marry or that there would be pressure for women to remain in abusive marriages.

Beyond that, I'm concerned that such programs would provide ammunition for local and state judiciaries to roll back the gains made in divorce law over the past several decades. They could be induced to add restrictions to divorce statutes and knowing the propensity of conservatives to define everything in terms of how it can benefit males (and especially WASP males), you could expect such restrictions to fall most heavily on women.

In combination with the DMA, such programs are sure to be heralded as a move back to the "good old days" when heterosexual marriage for life was not only expected, but tacitly enforced by societal convention and by the law regardless of the toll it takes on women and children.

"Compassionate Conservatives." Makes your head hurt doesn't it?

I think the word you're looking for is "oxymoron."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

A Good Night

I don't do many posts on personal subjects, but tonight was such a nice night I just thought I'd share a little of it with you.

After a long day of work (the only "not great" part of the day), my wife and I came home - we work at the same office - made a nice, quick dinner, then had a great big piece of carrot cake. Now carrot cake happens to be my favorite dessert in the whole world. I usually only get it one day of the year; my birthday. So, as you might guess, today's my birthday (I'm not telling!).

It's cold, windy, snowy and just generally miserable outside. But inside it's warm and cozy; there's an open bottle of wine and a fire. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Now, if you're wondering what the hell I'm doing blogging with all of that outside of my den: my wife's on the phone to her parents. So I thought I'd just send out a sort of reverse birthday greeting to you all. I've had a great time writing this blog. But of course without readers - especially those who leave comments - it would just be typing practice. So thank you all very much. Your comments and your blogs have been a help and an inspiration to me.

So, with all I have here at home and with all of you out there, I feel it's been a very good year. And I'm ready to start another.

Hubris Defined

It's been widely commented on but, not surprisingly, underreported in the media, but I just had to say something on it.

"No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."
I wanted yesterday to go into the whole "who said this" routine, but it's been done. I wanted to write about the sheer gall of aWol, but that's been way over done. I wanted to bang my head on my desk, but I've been doing that so much lately that I have a permanent bruise on my forehead.

Has there ever been a president - not including Reagan, I mean that's not fair, the guy had Alzheimers - who is so out of touch with reality? That just had to be an unscripted moment; did Rove turn away for an instant?

He's not only unelectable, he's impeachable!


Those of you who use BlogSpeak already know, but for those who don't and are looking for my comments link... Well, here's the message up on the BlogSpeak web site as of this morning:

BlogSpeak is currently down because the bastards that host it decided to suspend my account. I do not know as of yet when this situation will be resolved. If you don't want any JavaScript errors on your pages, take the code off for the time being. Thanks for your patience.
I'm off to find a (temporary, I hope) replacement. I hope BlogSpeak comes back up. I really like the service; it works.


UPDATE: I've set up HaloScan for my comments. I'm not sure how long BlogSpeak will be down... I hope I don't lose all the comments I'd gathered over the past months. Anyway... comment away!

Monday, January 12, 2004

Army War College Critical of War on Terror

In a further shot at aWol's "War on Terra'," the Army War College authorized the publication of a paper exceptionally critical on the current direction of the War on Terror.

It'll come as no surprise to those in the center or left side of the blogosphere, but:

The report, by Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point."

It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Record goes on to say that the Iraq misadventure was a dangerous distraction from the more important focus on al Qaeda.

This has not been a good day for the administration with the major war-fighting colleges of their own military. This is important stuff. Read the rest of this article in the Washington Post on-line here. Read the whole report at the Strategic Studies Institute, here.

UPDATE:A paragraph from the SSI report that is the perfect description of why aWol's Global War on Terror (GWOT) seems oddly detached from any discernable or achievable goal:

“Terrorism” as a word and concept became associated in US
and Israeli discourse with anti-state forms of violence that were
so criminal that any method of enforcement and retaliation
was viewed as acceptable, and not subject to criticism.
By so
appropriating the meaning of this infl ammatory term in such a
self-serving manner, terrorism became detached from its primary
historical association dating back to the French Revolution. In
that formative setting, the state’s own political violence against
its citizens, violence calculated to induce widespread fear and
achieve political goals, was labeled as terrorism.

Bold emphasis mine. Charles2

Comments Down

Blogspeak, the great folks who provide my comment system, are having problems today. Their website says that they hope to have the system up and operating by this evening.

If there's anything you want to let me know, or if you just have comments, send me an e-mail - see the link below. Thanks for your patience.

U.S. Joins USSR, East Germany, China and North Korea

The Supreme Court today allowed the administration to withhold the names and whereabouts of hundreds of people seized in the United States by the government in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Those other countries in my headline also allowed - or do allow - the secret arrest of citizens or residents without judicial review. Is this what BushCo's War on Terra' has brought us to? Are these the countries with whom we want the world and historians of the future to associate us?

That this vital, constitutionally important case was decided in such an egregious manner should be an affront to all citizens.

I am not - to head off the trolls - saying that the information being sought on detainees should be released without review, but such broad-based denial of rights and the lack of transparency of government actions are monstrous.

"It's the first time in history that the government has arrested people in secret," said Kate Martin, who represented the Center for National Security studies in challenging the government. "We had hoped that the court would look at the unprecedented and serious first amendment issues here . . . We have 200 years of law and tradition saying that arrests are public . . . We do not have secret arrests."
Apparently we do have secret arrests now.

Congratulations to al Qaeda; you've moved our government another step closer to an oligarchic theocracy; another step closer to destroying our way of life.

NOTE: all quotes above from this article in the Washington Post on-line.

Diplomatic Might

This was an interesting letter - from an interesting source (note the signature block at the bottom). This is, perhaps a sign that the military, here in the form of a professor from the Naval War College, has had enough of the neocon acid trip of world domination through preemptive warfare.

The original was in today's on-line Wall Street Journal, here (subscription required), but I hope Prof. Stigler doesn't mind me reproducing the entire thing here:

America Still Needs Striped-Pants Brigade

It is ironic that David Frum and Richard Perle ("Beware the Soft-Line Ideologues," editorial page, Jan. 7) dismiss diplomacy while using an example that clearly indicates the risks of an assertive foreign policy. They express concern over the future of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Yet the assassination attempts on Mr. Musharraf must be partly caused by frustration over assertive American actions abroad and Islamabad's reluctant support of those actions.

And condemning diplomacy because it has not solved an incredibly complicated problem such as the Israeli/Palestinian dispute is ridiculous. Their shallow perspective is akin to dismissing the utility of military force following our defeat in Vietnam.

My students at the Naval War College are chiefly military officers, many of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are not "soft-line ideologues." Yet it has constantly surprised me how many of them believe that diplomacy will be a crucial weapon in the struggle against terror. Given that military force alone will never defeat the diverse forces that generate terrorism, we must avoid the narrow and dangerous perspective that Messrs. Frum and Perle offer.

Andrew L. Stigler
Associate Professor
National Security Affairs
United States Naval War College
Newport, R.I.

Anger Management

I know that several other bloggers have already written about Dr. Dean's "anger problem." But after a piece on this mornings ABC news, I just had to add my two cents worth.

ABC showed a couple of video clips with Dr. Dean "getting angry." Now, I'm normally pretty mild mannered - but I do have a temper. I know people who have hair-trigger tempers and I know people who have volcanic tempers. Dr. Dean has none of these things. He appears to get angry on occasion, he yells a bit - although none of the clips I've ever seen of him show him truly losing his temper.

So I find it odd that people say he has an anger problem.

I find Dr. Dean's anger to be refreshing. He gets upset at things that should make him upset - they make me upset. He has real reactions to real problems and situations. He's not mealy mouthed about things, he doesn't try to talk his way around things so that whatever comes out of his mouth seems tepid and somehow out of touch with the reality of things.

In other words, he reacts - he gets angry - like a real person; not like a politician.

Since I last wrote about a politician - Gen. Clark, about 3 months ago - I've done lots of thinking, but have restrained myself from coming out and really endorsing any Democrat. I did however register at the end of last year as a Democrat so I could vote in the New York primaries. Some people might be somewhat turned off by Dr. Dean's so-called "anger problem." I think his reactions are real; I think they are appropriate for where we find our country right now.

I think I'm beginning to see my candidate.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

When You Think Your Life Sucks...

I don't know how many people saw the report several months ago about the teenage surfer who was attacked by a shark and lost her arm. She seemed like a very strong young woman, but I really did wonder how she could recover from such an injury and return to her sport. For those of you who've surfed, you know it's a sport that requires incredible balance and quick movements.

I'm not really one of those people who like stories where there's some kind of moral about how strong the human spirit is - not usually anyway, but the picture that accompanied her story on today really amazed me.

So, here's that AP picture; I hope it amazes you, too.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Late Friday Dog Blogging

For all of you who were waiting for this week's picture of Baylea - on my intermittent Friday Dog Blog - wait no more.

This was taken about 5:30 this evening; the temperature was hovering around 0F with windchills around -12F. That's Kim with Baylea in about 14 inches of very fluffy, lake effect snow. It's her dog; that's why she's shivering in the cold and I'm taking the picture from the warm doorway!!

My Scrabble Score

Thanks to fellow LC member,Pen-Elayne for posting about this:

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 28.
What is your score? Get it here.

It's the "Z" that gets me all those points! Scrabble just happens to be one of my favorite games.

America is Sick

Here's Bob Herbert in today's New York Times:

Maybe the nation itself needs a doctor. Shoving low-income people, including children, off the health care rolls at a time when the economy is allegedly booming is a sure sign of some kind of sickness in the society.
I couldn't agree more.

He's discussing the way states are dropping people, especially children from health insurance programs because of budget shortfalls. You can read the rest, if you're up to it, here.

Alert Level: Ludicrous

Via Atrios; from The Register.

A mother making an inquiry at a Massachusetts Staple store about MS Flight Simulator for her son is visited in the night by a State Trooper who was alerted by store management.

So alarmed was the Staples clerk at the prospect of the ten year old learning to fly, that he informed the police, the Greenfield Recorder reports. The authorities moved into action, leaving nothing to chance. A few days later, Olearcek was alarmed to discover a state trooper flashing a torch into to her home through a sliding glass door at 8:30 pm on a rainy night.
This, of course, on the heels of the story about officials being alerted to be on the watch for people carrying maps and almanacs.

We might as well just invite the Taliban to Washington.

My head is sore from pounding on my desk.

Somebody make it stop.

"Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it!"

I sure with they'd do something about it here... It's cold. Really cold. My indoor-outdoor thermometer said it was -3F this morning. The high is supposed to be around 5, but I doubt it will get that "warm."

The snow is beautiful, and if I were at home during daylight hours I'd have the digital camera outside and show you all. But there's that whole work thing... We got about 14 inches yesterday, about 4 last night and are expecting 2 - 4 inches today and another 4 inches or more tonight. I'm so glad I bought that tractor with the snow blower!

Anyway, here's what the Weather Channel has to say about our weather:

As Jimmy Buffet says: "The weather is here, wish you were beautiful."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

WMD Search Team Withdrawn

Their entry into Iraq immediately after "major combat operations ended" was trumpeted by BushCo. Their mission: to find the massive stockpiles of "weapons of mass destruction" the administration was convinced were hiding all over Iraq.

Today, in the New York Times, we find out that the team of 400 has been very quietly withdrawn.

The Bush administration has quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment, according to senior government officials.

The step was described by some military officials as a sign that the administration might have lowered its sights and no longer expected to uncover the caches of chemical and biological weapons that the White House cited as a principal reason for going to war last March.
"Quietly withdrawn." Why quietly? Because to do so under the full glare of media attention - oh, wait, never mind that part (what liberal media?) - any way, because to admit to doing so would force the public to see that the entire rationale for going to war in the fist place was a bald faced lie.

This revelation comes after yesterday's report in the Washington Post that claimed Iraq's WMD destroyed in the first Gulf War and that sanctions and the no-fly zone prevented Hussein from rebuilding and testing his programs.

Just how goddamn difficult is it for the media and the public to connect these dots? Why is this not front page news and blaring out of TV sets across America? Where is our free press?

NOTE: Thanks to Hesiod for the heads up on the NYT article.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Outsourcing, Offshoring, It's All the Same: Lost Jobs

It's unlikely that the CEO of Hewlett-Packard will ever have to worry about her job being transplanted to India or China or Pakistan. But she's not worried about her own people's high-tech jobs either. Not worried at all. In fact, she could care less.

That's the opening paragraph of my latest entry over at The Liberal Coalition blog, where I unload on a couple of high-tech CEOs who claim that Americans no longer have the right to expect American companies to employ them.

Grit your teeth, put away all sharp objects and go read the rest of it here.

Then peruse the rest of the Coalition site - there are some great folks writing there.

Belated Blogabout

I haven't been quite as diligent in my Liberal Coalition Blogabouts lately. So, without further ado:

Pen-Elayne opines that it does no one any good to call someone stupid.

But I'm not above admitting there's something tastelessly dismissive about tagging a whole voting bloc as stupid just because they like someone you don't. That's why "the pollsters don't ask it" and "the media don't report it" (except of course Starkman and Hal Crowther and...). Because it's not true (Bush voters, besides not even being the popular majority, are no more a product of monolithic group-think than anyone else) and -- well, I'll blare it out so Starkman can perhaps adopt strategies to overcome it -- it makes you sound like an asshole.
Lambert, at Corente, has a short, but sweet, post on entitlement in the Bush family. Or as Lambert says: "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Wow! NTodd over at Dohiyi Mir actually agrees with David Brooks (R. NY (Times, that is)). He writes about the - hopefully - impending conservative implosion.

Brooks concludes in his piece: Partisanship has left many people unhinged. Concur 100%
Rubber Hose's Upyernoze has some questions about the long-term legal problems with arbitration under local Sharia. He has an interesting take on it being a lawyer.

Finally, Trish Wilson has a post on the hypocrisy of right-wing fundamentalists who harp on the moral decay of the nation. She compares divorce and cohabiting rates for fundies, your ordinary religious folks and even atheists; they should probably not be casting stones given the large glass house they are apparently living in.

So ends another, all too infrequent, Liberal Coalition Blogabout on The Fulcrum! I would make promises to be more diligent in doing the next one, but I hate to lie to my readers and friends.


Winter is Back.

Last Saturday it was 60 degrees here in Rochester, NY (just outside actually, but I'm rounding up). Below is a partial screenshot of today's weather:

Winter has returned with a vengeance!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Blogging Help

Anyone out there know an easy way to alphabetize my blogroll? I'm kind of anal about that sort of stuff (and yet lazy about putting out too much effort) and it bugs me that I haven't been able to find a truly easy method.

Any assistance would be appreciated!

UPDATE 01/07/03: Thanks for the suggestions on how to get this done. I've added "Blogroller" to my template and it appears to be working well.

Creative Destruction

Most people would call that headline an oxymoron - and in this specific case, they'd likely be correct. In this morning's Wall Street Journal, there's an editorial piece (subscription required) discussing outsourcing of service jobs to India or China.

As you'd expect, the editor is all in favor of outsourcing. He quotes Joseph Schumpeter, calling such outsourcing "creative destruction." The idea being that as such jobs are outsourced, saving companies about 58 cents for each dollar in wages moved off-shore, the money saved is then used for innovation and future job creation; "creating new jobs we often can't imagine."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Think tax cuts for corporations and the rich that create massive deficits which will be erased by future revenues "we often can't imagine."

The WSJ's answer? Well, you'll recognize most of them - warmed over as they are:

"The alternative is to do what it takes for Americans to remain innovative and create the next wave of wealth-creating technology and ideas. Improve K-12 education, especially in the inner city, maintain an open immigration policy so the world's brains can live in the U.S., reform the tax code and fix the legal system."
We already know about BushCo's commitment to education: No Child Left Behind is woefully underfunded and is now basically just lip service. And just how open an immigration policy we have - or can have - is wide-open to debate given the ever tightening scrutiny of immigrants. Tax code reform under Bush is reform only from the point of view of the very rich. And fixing the legal system basically means protecting business from all forms of civil action.

Even if we could depend on aWol to implement such schemes fairly, it would only do the next generation of workers good. Those whose jobs move to India or China today are stuck with shrinking unemployment benefits, loss of medical insurance and a shredded social safety net.

But of course, you can always depend on conservatives to be compassionate, no? When it comes right down to it, here's the money quote from the WSJ article, the one that really says how our compassionate conservative politicians think. When discussing some state laws requiring call centers to re-route calls to an American location if the caller requests, the editor says: "We doubt someone from South Dakota finds it any easier than someone from Delhi to understand a New Jersey accent."

In other words, suck it up.

I wonder if we could outsource the government?

Monday, January 05, 2004

Smile for the Camera - While We Fight the Last Battle

The military - and governments in general - almost always prepare to fight the next war like they should have fought the last one. Unfortunately, the world and our enemies do not remain static. They evolve, change. So nearly always, militaries must learn on-the-fly during a war how to fight this evolved enemy. We are seeing this clearly in the aftermath of the latest Gulf War; we went in thinking we were in for a tank-on-tank, division-on-division open territory battle like Gulf War I. Instead, the Iraqi army faded into the population in the cities and, along with insurgents and a few foreigners, are fighting a guerilla type warfare.

We are also seeing this failure to learn and adapt by the Department of Homeland Security. Today began their latest program of photographing and fingerprinting visitors to the US (only from certain countries) in the hope of catching someone on the terrorist watch list coming in through major international airports and cruise ports. In the details there are concerns about privacy, but in general this is probably not a horrible idea if executed correctly and fairly. Most importantly, though, is that this is how the last group of successful terrorists made it into the country to perpetrate 9-11. It is unlikely they will use this method again.

While Secretary Ridge screws around with taking care of the last threat, the most likely avenue for a future threat remains woefully unprotected: our major cargo ports of entry. With incoming cargo ships loaded with almost uncountable containers inspected at a rate in the low single digits (if I remember the last report correctly), this remains our most vulnerable spot. But because it is nearly unseen by most Americans it is nearly ignored in favor of more visible actions.

But we shouldn't be surprised at this; this administration is all about the appearance of action. Appearances can be deceiving, but only if you're not paying attention. And I guarantee you: al Qaeda is paying attention. You remember al Qaeda, don't you? They were the ones really responsible for 9-11. Of course with BushCo. paying so little attention to them, you could be forgiven for not remembering.

That's my job - to remind.

Don't be fooled; we are not safer since the capture of Saddam, hiding incommunicado in his hole. Al Qaeda remains a potent foe dedicated to doing our country harm.


Sunday, January 04, 2004

Spirit on Mars!

After recent failures (and apparent failures - Beagle), NASA seemed to be preparing the world for the worst; just in case. But last night, after a series of complex maneuvers and a bouncy landing, Spirit signaled that all was well and that it was ready to begin its search for signs of life.

Since our ancestors first looked to the sky, Mars' red hue has caught our interest. The color of blood, it has long stood as the god of war, the bringer of doom. Until the late 19th century when H.G. Wells put some of the first aliens on Mars. Ever since it's been the home of little green men, flying saucers and other, assorted boojums.

Since the Viking landings of the early 1970's Mars has seemed our best hope of finding life - or signs of past life - in the Solar System outside of Earth. The more photographs we saw of the surface, the more convinced scientists became that there was once liquid water on the surface; the most necessary ingredient for life. Follow-on missions were inconclusive at best on whether there was life there, so now Spirit, a larger, more capable rover is there. It offers our best chance so far to begin putting an answer to that ancient question; "Are we alone?"

Friday, January 02, 2004

Back by Popular Demand

It's hard to believe that when I put up a picture of my wife's Yellow Lab - in joking response to several blogs' Friday Cat blogging - that I actually got some positive response. Now I have to admit that I've never had a dog before I married Kim - and I still don't think I'd ever get one on my own. But, you know, if it brings comments and visitors, then who am I to deny my public what they want?

Okay, stop snickering over there... "my public," right.

Anyway, here's Baylea on Christmas morning, doing what she does best: making sure she's the center of attention regardless of what else is going on.