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Sunday, August 31, 2003
What is this man talking about?

And for that matter, why is he on this subject, anyway? And what was he doing in Oslo?

Daily Times - Site Edition US Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Friday it was likely that components of Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuclear weapons programme would eventually be found in Iraq.

“We’ve already found a number of things which are troublesome, things that relate to the development of the evil chemistry and evil biology that could be very dangerous to the human kind,” Ashcroft told reporters during a visit to Oslo.

This is really creepy

Gerald Posner digs up some really disturbing dirt on the Saudis, Pakistanis, and bin Laden in his latest book.

TIME.com: Confessions of a Terrorist -- Sep. 08, 2003Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs—an unnamed "quick-on, quick-off" painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum—in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces," pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.

Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, "his reaction was not fear, but utter relief." Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, "tell you what to do." The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd's and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002. To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden triangle.

Read the whole article. It turns out the telephone number was good.

via Atrios.

Saturday, August 30, 2003
It's not just Judge Moore....

Judge Kenneth Hoyt is a Reagan appointee to the Federal bench in Houston. He was appointed in 1988, when he was 40. He's now hearing the criminal case against Andrew Fastow and two other former Enron execs, and seems to have some ...unusual... ideas about whether the press should be allowed to cover a criminal proceeding.

HoustonChronicle.com - Chronicle shut out of 2 more Enron hearings: "A federal judge held two more closed hearings in the criminal case against Andrew Fastow and two other former Enron executives on Tuesday and refused to unseal the transcript of a July 28 hearing he also held in secret.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt said he might continue to close hearings if he thinks it necessary.

"There are matters that do not need to be discussed in public in ways that embarrasses or humiliates the government or the defense and particularly the court," he said.

Hoyt denied a motion by the Houston Chronicle to make public the record of the closed hearing in July and the two on Tuesday.

"Embarrassment is not an exception to the First Amendment," Chronicle Editor Jeff Cohen said. "With all due respect to the judge, we will continue to press him to open these hearings until he provides a better explanation."

Rex Smith is the editor of my local paper, the Albany Times Union, and his column in today's paper adds some interesting information to this issue. Jeff Cohen was editor of the TU before going to Houston to edit the Chronicle, which is his connection to the case. But let's let Smith take over:

Judge Hoyt has been embroiled in controversy a number of times since President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the prestigious federal bench in 1988, when he was just 40.

Hoyt, who is African-American, has refused to accept evidence about the rate of lupus among blacks "because white people wrote it," and he has denied that race is a factor in sickle cell anemia. He also aroused ire by claiming that physical differences among races were the product of their environments.

"Why do you think Chinese people are short? Because there is so much damn wind over there they need to be short," he was quoted as saying a few years ago. "Why are they so tall in Africa? Because they need to be tall. It's environmental.

"I mean, you don't jump up and get a banana off a tree if you're only 4 feet. If you're 7 feet tall and you're standing in China, then you're going to get blown away by that Siberian wind, aren't you?"

As we say, you can't make this stuff up.

Calling Mr. Snopes...

Here they go again, this time in Wyoming:

billingsgazette.com - version 5.0: "Also endorsed was a recommendation for teaching biology: 'It shall be the policy ... when teaching Darwin's theory of evolution that it is only a theory and not a fact. Teachers shall be allowed in a neutral and objective manner to introduce all scientific theories of origin, and the students may be allowed to discuss all aspects of controversy surrounding the lack of scientific evidence in support of the theory of evolution.'

Board member Tom Ball, who opened the discussion on the proposed changes, said he thought the evolution recommendation should use the word 'required,' rather than 'allowed.'

Several people addressed the board, including Pastor Bud Surles who said 'evolution is more a product of Hollywood movies than based on real science.' He also said the district should teach that 'sex is safe only in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship' and that abstinence until marriage should be the message delivered by the district.

Another pastor, Mike Brush, quoted scholars whom he said 'understand the misconception of evolution' and are more inclined to accept the 'intelligent shaping of matter.'

'Intelligent design is not religious-based. I would not want you to teach religion in any way, shape or form,' he said. "

Kudos to Kitsy Barnes, head of the high school science department, for a much more clear and rational defense of reason than is often found in these cases:

"Science is a way of understanding the world, not a mountain of facts. Before anyone can truly understand scientific information, they must know how science works. Science does not prove anything absolutely - all scientific ideas are open to revision in the light of new evidence. The process of science, therefore, involves making educated guesses - hypotheses - that are then rigorously tested."
Happy Capital Day!

As usual, E. J. Dionne hits the bullseye.

Do Jobs Not Matter Anymore? (washingtonpost.com): "After all, aren't we now a 'nation of investors'? Isn't most business reporting, especially on television, about stock prices and 'returns on capital'? If you care about wages and working conditions, you must be some sort of dinosaur."
It's a good read, with particular attention to what utter nonsense is being spouted when Grover Norquist talks about "the 70 percent of voters who own stock", and the following observation about supply-siders:
Supply-side theories on the urgency of cutting taxes on the rich were exploded when Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy and -- contrary to the supply-side predictions -- helped unleash a remarkable period of economic growth.
It would be good if people recalled how the Republicans said at the time that they washed their hands of any responsibility for the economy, and that Clinton's tax increase drew prophecies of gloom and doom from the likes of Phil Gramm.

And he ends with a potent dose of common sense:

I am all for a nation of owners and investors. But most people need jobs. For 25 years, we have been hearing that labor depends upon capital. It's time to resurrect the other, buried truth: that capital depends upon labor. Our prosperity really does require keeping the "Labor" in Labor Day.
See, is really is a Republican!

Arnold lies. Or lies about lying. Or lies about having lied. And smoked pot. And lied about it. Or didn't.

NY Daily News - front - Sex & drugs just stories, says Arnold: " Arnold Schwarzenegger laughed off his lewd bragging about sex and drugs in a decades-old skin magazine yesterday, saying he was just trying to be outrageous.

'I haven't lived my life to be a politician,' he told a radio host, using the embarrassing old quotes to highlight a top asset: his outsider status.

'Obviously, I've made statements that are ludicrous and crazy and outrageous and all those things. I was always out there.'

But the 1977 Oui magazine interview, which surfaced in an eBay auction of an old copy and soon rocketed around the Internet, brought new attention to a 1988 Playboy interview in which the wanna-be California governor denied ever using drugs.

'Never in my entire life,' Schwarzenegger told Playboy. 'Nor has anyone so much as smoked a joint when I was there. Or sniffed coke. Or taken any drugs.'

Schwarzenegger has since admitted using pot in the '70s.

Campaign spokesman Sean Walsh dismissed the Playboy denial, saying, 'This is really a nonissue.'"

At any rate, it's a "nonissue". Move along. These aren't the droids you're looking for.
e-voting the graveyard....
Democrats want election machine firm thrown out - portclintonnewsherald.com: " Democratic leaders want a major Republican fund-raiser blocked from becoming the state's new voting machines supplier, saying his presence puts in doubt the fairness of all Ohio elections.

Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., this week sent out letters to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home.

His company, which specializes in security and election machinery, is one of three under consideration to supply new, electronic voting machines to replace punch card machines still in use in 71 Ohio counties.

House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, and Senate Minority Leader Greg DiDonato, D-New Philadelphia, on Tuesday petitioned Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to drop O'Dell's company from the list of potential suppliers, saying his presence could undermine Ohio's entire election system.

'The whole point of this upgrade is to ensure fairness,' Redfern said. 'The inevitable appearance here is of a pay-to-play system.'

In his invitation O'Dell states his support for the Republican Party and notes he is 'committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year.' "

You know, they're not even pretending any more.
Who knew?
Check out the Whopper of the Week: Rumsfeld - Who knew Saddam's troops would "blend into the countryside"? By Timothy Noah. Who knew? Well, Mr. Rumsfeld, you're the Secretary of Defense. I can't say for certain who did know, but I'm quite sure that you should have known, or at least considered the possibility.
I always did like Lowell Weicker

I lived in Danbury, CT, when Mike Dukakis ran against George Bush. At the same time, Democrat Joe Lieberman was trying to unseat sitting Republican Senator Lowell Weicker. My wife and I did some phone bank work for the local Democrats, mostly polling and reminding people of when the election was going to be. It was amazing how many people told us they were going to vote for Bush and Lieberman, or for Dukakis and Weicker. I remember Weicker from the Watergate hearings, from well before I ever lived north of the Mason-Dixon line, and had liked him ever since.

FOR 30 YEARS, Lowell Weicker considered Richard Nixon our worst president, but now he has a new nominee.

"I think George W. Bush is the worst president we ever had," Weicker told me recently. "I was on Nixon’s case because of his disdain for the Constitution, but Bush can stand right next to Nixon on that."

Good to hear he's not lost his outspokenness.

On edit: fixed link to the opinion piece containing this item.

Overdue process
Zacarias Moussaoui has won another round in obtaining access to witnesses.

via TalkLeft

Some people never learn

Despite things in Iraq turning out nothing like they predicted and despite the fact that the Iraqi defectors' (many associated with Chalabi) stories of WMD are turning out to be, shall we say, less than accurate, the neocons are still flogging the idea that we should turn the whole country over to Ahmad Chalabi. Josh Marshall has a really good item on it.

The Bigger Lie Theory

The only rational explanation I can think of for this item is that they hope that saying something so preposterous will distract people from noticing how the entire web of lies and deceptions on Iraq is unraveling.

Yahoo! News - Campaign Shows Bush As Funding Underdog President Bush's campaign — expected to dwarf Democratic hopefuls by raising $200 million or more for the primaries, with no GOP rival — is appealing for donations by portraying Bush as a fund-raising underdog who won't have enough cash to defend himself against Democratic attacks.

Oh, and Marc Racicot does a pretty good job of inventing some tinfoil-hat positions for Howard Dean further down in the story. The GOP must really be getting worried. Why not help them out by looking over in the left column and clicking on the Dean link and donating a couple of bucks. Every little bit helps.

Go Doctor Crash!
An old college friend of mine from RPI is the captain of one of the teams in the current run of Junkyard Wars. Go Crash!
New euphemism: "reversal of denials"

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the US helicopter blew down a Shiite banner from a tower in Sadr City? And how there were furious denials that it was on purpose? Well....

Copter Blamed For Dislodging Shiite Banner (washingtonpost.com): "The commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq said today that an American helicopter crew intentionally dislodged a Shiite Muslim banner from a tower in the capital's Sadr City district two weeks ago, an incident that sparked violent protests in which U.S. troops killed an Iraqi boy.

In an abrupt reversal of denials issued at the time, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said that as a result of a U.S. military investigation, 'I think the aircraft was getting close enough to that tower in order to blow the flag down.'"

Where's Emily Litella when you really need her?
fnord sighting!
Author fnord and noted fnord nonconformist Robert Anton Wilson is running for fnord governor of California on the Guns and Dope party. As he puts it, " After all, why should I remain the ONLY nutcase in California who ain't running?" fnord
Please turn to the "P" section in your textbooks...

And under "paranoid", we find the following excerpt from a recent Bill O'Reilly interview with historian Douglas Brinkley we find this gem:

Hit & Run: "I wouldn't answer -- look, I've got to -- I've got to tell you, Doctor. They're after me. You know that. And even you've had some problems. Anybody who goes on television and speaks their mind, they're going to attack."
Uh-oh. It's....them.
Friday, August 29, 2003
A staggering work of brain-numbing stupidity

So we've now raided the home of reporter and well-known blogger Salaam Pax. What a great idea. Why would we do that? Well...

They have been “informed” that there are daily meetings the last five days, Sudanese people come into our house at 9am and stay till 3pm, we are a probable Ansar cell. My father is totally baffled, my brother gets it. These are not Sudanese men they are from Basra the “informer” is stupid enough to forget that there is a sizeable population in Basra who are of African origin. And it is not meetings these 2 (yes only two) guys have here, they are carpenters and they were repairing my mom’s kitchen. Way. To. Go. You have great informers.
It's pretty hard to top that one. Way. To. Go.
Gee, wonder why they don't like us?
Army Times - News - More News: "In a second day of testimony Thursday to determine whether charges of mistreating prisoners of war should be brought against four U.S. Army reservists from Pennsylvania, an officer testified he saw a prisoner being thrown to the ground and other prisoners being punched."

I'm sure this is the only instance of something like this happening, though. Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 28, 2003
More people should realize this

A really good entry today from riverbend. If you're concerned about the cost to rebuild Iraq, wander over and listen to the difference between $300,000 and $50,000,000.

Baghdad Burning: "The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. The men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.

The Truth: Iraqis lived in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. Iraqis love fast cars (especially German cars) and the Tigris is full of little motor boats that are used for everything from fishing to water-skiing. "

Competence. Or lack thereof.
Michael Tomasky of The American Prospect guts and fillets the Republicans on the presumption that they are "the party of competence".
TAP: Web Feature: Ineptitude Redefined. by Michael Tomasky. August 27, 2003. : "Well, guess what? They've demonstrated otherwise. No one -- no one -- can name a single front on which today's Republicans have shown even the simplest competence. They don't know how to manage an economy. They sure don't know how to balance a budget."
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me

Protesters made a spectacle of themselves as Judge Moore's graven image of the Ten Commandments was removed from the courthouse in Montgomery. A few of the protesters, though, sound like they should have spent more time studying them first.

FOXNews.com: "'Get your hands off our God, God haters!' yelled the wildly gesturing, red-faced man."
I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.... III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
How can we let these people run our country?
U.S. Cuts Off Financing for AIDS Program, Provoking Furor: "The State Department has discontinued financing for a small but well-regarded AIDS program for African and Asian refugees because it contends that one of the groups involved in the project supports forced abortions and involuntary sterilization in China, officials said this week. "
Now State admits that they have "no evidence to suggest" that the organizaion is involved in forced abortions or involuntary sterilization. The group itself (Marie Stopes Internationa) says it has been trying to work to end forced abortions in China. But they're out $34M in funding anyway.
They're so...charming.

I admit it. I'm a Deaniac. I'm waiting for the 12-step program. Meanwhile, how about clicking on the "Dean Team" link over there on the left and giving the Good Doctor a couple of bucks? Every little bit helps....

This, from the campaign blog, is just so cool:

Blog for America: "For about a week we had expected about 150 to 200 people in Spokane, Washington.

When we arrived there we went immediately to a courtyard where about 200 people were gathered -- the Governor began to give his speech -- when the crowd gently informed him that they were part of the overflow crowd(the 3rd overflow area to be exact) and that he was giving his speech in the wrong place. 'You mean there are more people here?' the Govenor asked -- yes there were -- lots of them."

Faith-based intelligence...
U.S. Suspects It Received False Iraq Arms Tips : " Frustrated at the failure to find Saddam Hussein's suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have launched a major effort to determine if they were victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war."
You know, you'd think that they'd have considered this possibility earlier. At least, you'd hope so.
Although senior CIA officials insist that defectors were only partly responsible for the intelligence that triggered the decision to invade Iraq in March, other intelligence officials now fear that key portions of the prewar information may have been flawed. The issue raises fresh doubts as to whether illicit weapons will be found in Iraq.
Oh, goody! "Fresh doubts". Maybe at some point people will actually realize that the emperor is buck naked.
As evidence, officials say former Iraqi operatives have confirmed since the war that Hussein's regime sent "double agents" disguised as defectors to the West to plant fabricated intelligence. In other cases, Baghdad apparently tricked legitimate defectors into funneling phony tips about weapons production and storage sites.
Seriously, somebody really needs to figure out whether the problem was that the intelligence people didn't spot this or whether the political folks ignored them. My money's on "ignored them". These defectors were telling Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Rumsfeld what they wanted to hear, so they were believed.

But what about David Kay's much-ballyhooed mission to find "the stuff"?

Evidence collected over the last two months suggests that Hussein's regime abandoned large-scale weapons development and production programs in favor of a much smaller "just in time" operation that could churn out poison gases or germ agents if they were suddenly needed, survey group members say. The transition supposedly took place between 1996 and 2000.

But survey group mobile collection teams are still unable to prove that any nerve gases or microbe weapons were produced during or after that period, the officials said. Indeed, the weapons hunters have yet to find proof that any chemical or bio-warfare agents were produced after 1991.
(all emphasis mine)

So we went to war for...a lie? A mistake? Wishful thinking? What do we do now, say "oops, sorry" to the families of the 37,000 or so dead Iraqis and 330-odd American soliders?

Here's an idea. Let's get the idiots currently running the country out of the White House. Here's my favorite theory on that.

The Commandments are removed...now what?

That's the title of this remarkable screed from the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who I believe could stand a bit of extra time studying that part about not bearing false witness.

What an ominous sight it was today as workers detached and rolled away the now legendary Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building and into a private setting within the facility.
Nice start. Really, legendary?
As you know, a federal judge ruled that the monument violates the hypothetical separation of church and state...
Well, actually the federal judge ruled that the monument violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
Barry Lynn, the reverend-in-name-only....
This seems to be the preferred form for ad hominem attacks on Rev. Lynn these days.
I can wholeheartedly report that this is a man who is sincerely following his convictions in defending the Commandments as the bedrock of American jurisprudence.
Oh really? I'd love to be able to ask the good Reverend why, if they are the "bedrock" of American jurisprudence, only 4 of the 10 have ever been a part of US law? And that's if you squint. Of course, then we get to the real agenda:
I believe Chief Justice Moore — a hero in the state — will probably become the next governor or senator from Alabama. What’s more, you can virtually guarantee that the state will elect another conservative justice to head the Alabama Supreme Court.
And the big finish...
Don’t grow weary in well doing. Keep praying for America. Support candidates who uphold Judeo-Christian values (emphasis mine). Remain socially and politically active. Attend church where the pastor boldly proclaims the Word of God. Let’s utilize this setback to turn back the tide against the purveyors of religious tyranny who want God eradicated from the public square.
And if one is not a Jew or a Christian? I chuckle over the furor that would no doubt ensue from the good Reverend if someone prominently displayed excerpts from the Koran, or perhaps the Book of Mormon in a courthouse. In fact, I wonder if he'd be so vehemently defending a monument with the Catholic version of the Commandments from the NIV?

The fact is that despite all the brouhaha that's been stirred up by Moore and his supporters -- who are largely from outside of Alabama -- there is no controversial legal issue here. There was no new ground broken by Judge Thompson. Moore should have known, and I suspect did know, that he was well outside the bounds established by a significant amount of case law when he brought his graven image into the courthouse.

I find this extremely disturbing
CNN.com - Ten Commandments monument moved - Aug. 27, 2003: "The new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll found 77 percent of the 1,009 Americans interviewed earlier this week disapproved of U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the monument. "
Friends, the brain cell trend out there is not, I say not promising.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
If at first you don't succeed...

...get more stupid.

It looks as though the Texas Legislature has adjourned its second special section without pushing through Tom DeLay's redistricting plan. Never fear, though:

Yahoo! News - Bid for Texas Redistricting Fails Again : "Republican Gov. Rick Perry said he would call yet another special session to try to get approval for new congressional boundaries.

'When I call that session is strictly up to me, and I'll give the appropriate notice on the appropriate day,' Perry said. "

Presumably this will happen shortly after he has Texas Rangers stationed ready to apprehend every Democratic legislator. Somehow, I'm finding the spectacle of two of our largest states behaving increasingly like banana republics to really not be all that funny.

via XOverboard.

Insert trousers
It's the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness.
Wanted: sanity
Saddam Makes Comeback in Iraq - - on Wanted Posters: "Iraq's U.S. occupiers had banned Saddam Hussein's image from public display but Wednesday they began plastering pictures of him all over central Baghdad.

Instead of the giant portraits on almost every street corner during his rule, this time Saddam features on wanted posters advertising the $25 million reward offered by Washington for information leading to his capture or proving he is dead."

Two points:
You really think so?
The New Republic Online: etc.: "'Even the president is not omnipotent,' [former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh] Bolten said of the House opposition to the AmeriCorps money. 'Would that he were. He often says that life would be a lot easier if it were a dictatorship. But it's not, and he's glad it's a democracy.' "
Bait and switch
The always-readable Josh Marshall on Does it matter whether or not you bait-and-switch a nation into a good cause? He argues "yes", and I heartily agree.
The nine dancing puppets

The only thing tempering my admiration for this local description of the "nine dancing puppets" who are the rotating presidents of the Iraqi Governing Council is a lingering worry about, well, whether river is who she says. I think she is; I want her to be. I'd just feel that last little bit better with some proof. Call me Doubting Thomas.

The Japanese, they are ...different...

Personally, I would never have thought of combining S&M and hypnosis as a treatment for depression, but hey, what do I know?

MDN: WaiWai: "'The S&M treatment I provide is not the painful type, it's more an S&M that allows for the heart to become liberated. It doesn't hurt, so please feel at ease.' "
Do you pick your toes in Poughkeepsie?

Watched The French Connection again tonight (Netflix R00LZ, D00D). Fine movie. I never realized before, though, that Gene Hackman was the third choice to play Popeye Doyle. Apparently Friedkin originally cast Jimmy Breslin (yes, the columnist), and after a couple of weeks of rehearsals decided it wasn't going to work, then tried to get Peter Boyle, who turned him down.

Domino theory...

They're really out of control.

Group plans Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn recall effort: "A statewide group of activists and conservatives angered by Nevada's record tax increases will notify the Secretary of State's office Wednesday of their intent to recall Gov. Kenny Guinn. "
KYW NewsRadio 1060 - News: "Unlike California, Pennsylvania currently has no procedure to recall a sitting governor.
But an effort to change that could be in the offing, fueled in part by dissatisfaction on the part of some Pennsylvania lawmakers with the current governor.
Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, says there is talk of drafting recall legislation: "

Just who do these people think they are?

Oh, and the footnote that makes this truly surreal: the governor of Nevada is a Republican.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Taxing your LAN?

They're thinking about it in Florida:

Taxing computer connections? - 2003-08-25 - Orlando Business Journal: " A new rule now being formulated in Tallahassee could lead to a state tax of 9 percent -- or higher -- on computer networks commonly used in businesses. "
The details are anything but clear, though it appears that the plan would put a 9%+ state tax on local and wide area networks plus allow local taxes to be added. Part of what's unclear is "9% of what?", though the article implies that either the lease payment or depreciation value of a network would be used as a basis.

Need I add that I think this is a really bad idea?

If this isn't obstruction of justice...
Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "Congressional investigators said on Monday that Vice President Dick Cheney had stymied their investigation into his energy task force by refusing to turn over key documents.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said it was impossible to tell how much energy companies or industry groups may have influenced the task force's 2001 report because the administration withheld important records."

The more amazing thing, though, is this:
Administration officials did not account for much of the money spent on the task force and could not remember whether anyone took official notes during the 10 Cabinet-level meetings the group held in 2001, the investigators said.
Let's run that back. They could not remember whether anyone took official notes? At Cabinet-level meetings? Guys, can you at least tell us the good lies?

Recall that the one leak that's come out of these meetings involved maps of the Iraqi oil fields and information on contracts well before the invasion of Iraq. What is going on here? How can the administration get away with just ignoring the GAO?

What's the British idiom for "smoking gun"?
Bloomberg.com: News & Commentary : " U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair asked for a claim that Saddam Hussein could make an ``improvised nuclear device'' within months be put back into a dossier days before its publication, the Financial Times said, citing documents published by a probe into the death of a scientist.

John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, refused on the grounds that there was no supporting intelligence, the paper reported.

``The prime minister . was worried about the way you have expressed the nuclear issue . can we not go back, on timings, to 'radiological device' in months?'' Blair's head of communications, Alastair Campbell, wrote to Scarlett in an e- mail, according to the newspaper. "

What's the story with Pennsylvania Congressmen?

First Ashcroft, then Santorum, now this:

The New Republic Online: Bombs Away: "t seems safe to assume that Curt Weldon is the only member of Congress who carries his own nuclear weapon. Not a real one, of course, but a decidedly realistic replica, which the Pennsylvania Republican showed to me in his office on a recent July afternoon. It sits within a large black leather briefcase with combination locks. Weldon hauled the case onto a table, popped the latches, and flipped it open. Inside, there was a long steel cylinder surrounded by electronic components. These were the detonator gun, the neutron generator, and the bright red arming switch, Weldon explained. He said a device like this would yield a one-kiloton blast--enough to level the Capitol and everything else within four blocks. He had the prop built for him by a former CIA agent now working on his staff, after learning a few years ago that some so-called 'suitcase nukes' may have gone missing from the former Soviet Union--a still-unsubstantiated claim that Weldon brought to the world's attention. 'I was the one who broke the nuclear-suitcase story!' he boasts. "
He's also got a suitcase that he describes thusly: "I could take this down to Metro Center and leave it on the platform. It can discharge a liter of sarin gas in fifteen minutes."
Krugman strikes again
Dust and Deception: "Last week a quietly scathing report by the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed what some have long suspected: in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse, the agency systematically misled New Yorkers about the risks the resulting air pollution posed to their health. And it did so under pressure from the White House."
Now why might they have done this? Krugman surmises that perhaps it had something to do with not actually wanting to give the $20B (error corrected) in emergency aid that Bush had promised to NYC. Indeed, Don Nickles (R-Flat Place) and Phil Gramm (R-Third Circle of Hell) started trying to cut the appropriation before the (toxic) dust had even settled. It would have been much harder to do that if the media had been reporting that after everything else, NYC was having to deal with toxic dust from the crash site.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Jeebus, here we go again...

First Jane Roe, now Mary Doe. Are these people a pilot project for Active Clue Avoidance technology or something?

U.S. Newswire - Women Across the Nation Join Historic Effort; 'Mary Doe' Files to Reverse Doe v. Bolton Abortion Decision; 'Roe' to Join 'Doe' : " Sandra Cano, the 'Mary Doe' of the 1973 U. S. Supreme Court Doe v. Bolton abortion case, the companion case to Roe v. Wade, is seeking to set aside the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that resulted in abortion-on-demand. 'I'm going back to court to right a wrong,' said Cano. 'Abortion has hurt millions of women,' she said, 'and I regret my role.'"
Birdbrains of a feather...

Looks like all the loonies want to get in on the Talibama action.

U.S. Newswire - Dobson Urges Support of 'Ten Commandments Justice' Says Chief Justice Roy Moore's Battle 'A Pivotal Point In History' : " Focus on the Family founder and chairman Dr. James Dobson urged listeners of his daily radio show today to travel to Montgomery, Ala., if they can afford it, to demonstrate their support for the state's embattled chief justice, Roy Moore."

Dobson interviewed Moore and former United Nations Ambassador Alan Keyes on the broadcast, which also featured Focus President and former Reagan Cabinet secretary Don Hodel. Hodel likened Moore's fight to the "moral battle that was waged to get rid of slavery and segregation" and joined Dobson in challenging fellow Christians to stand up for the principles the chief justice is fighting for -- which many have already done by traveling to Montgomery to join in rallies and prayer vigils for Moore.

on edit: thanks to Skates for inspiring the "Talibama" coinage.

Another one bites the dust

Another Administration lie, that is. Remember the story of Scott Speicher, the Navy pilot who is the only military pilot still unaccounted for from the first Gulf War? The Pentagon listed him as "killed in action" after his plane was shot down over Iraq on January 17, 1991. Later, "evidence" in the form of an Iraqi defector said that he was being held in one of Saddam Hussein's prisons.

Yahoo! News - Source: 'Speicher Died Of His Injuries' : "With regard to his change of status to 'alive presumed captured,' senior military sources tell NBC that 'Pentagon officials demanded the change to further justify the war' in Iraq. "
It looks like that was just more faith-based intelligence, as investigations are ready to conclude that Speicher was killed when his plane went down and DNA evidence provides no reason to believe he was held in a Baghdad cell where initials matching his were found scratched into a wall.
This deserves further investigation

I wonder if it will get it, though. If true, this is really ugly.

Missing Iraqi General in Kuwait after CIA aided Denmark escape. 7/4/2003. ABC News Online: "Former Iraqi General Nizar al-Khazraji, touted as a possible successor to President Saddam Hussein, is now in Kuwait after escaping from Denmark last month with the help of the CIA, the Danish daily Politiken reported on Sunday.

Citing a report by the former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism department, a copy of which was obtained by the paper, Politiken said the US security services see Khazraji as their preferred successor for Saddam in a post-war Iraq, a view that is not shared by the Pentagon.

The ex-CIA official, who completed the confidential report on March 28, said the US intelligence services secretly extracted Khazraji and that he was currently helping US forces in the war against Baghdad, according to Politiken. "

Why did he have to "escape"? He was under house arrest after being indicted for war crimes. His offense? Using chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1998.
I wonder what Dick Cheney thinks about this...

If you didn't know, Dick Cheney has a gay daughter and made a campaign promise that "the question of same-sex relationships" would be left to the states.

DenverPost.com: " A U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay sex, Canada's announcement that gay couples may marry and President Bush's flirtation with a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage have boosted the proposal's profile and prospects as Congress readies to return this fall.

The White House says an endorsement of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., is under consideration and that the administration's decision will depend on whether courts in Massachusetts and other states uphold gay marriage rights in rulings that are expected any day."

Among the usual nutcases on board this issue are Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Concerned Women of America. This is truly remarkable, though:
Some conservatives oppose the FMA, as the proposed amendment is called, because they say it doesn't go far enough (emphasis mine). As drafted, the proposal would still allow states to recognize "civil unions" that can give gay partners the rights of marriage in almost everything but name.
Who's on the "bubble"?
Yahoo! News - Bush escapes life in the 'bubble' at his ranch : "Because the ranch is not government property, Bush feels no obligation to identify guests at his sanctuary, aides say. The names of people who have stayed overnight at the White House and at Camp David are made public. But guests at the ranch, which Bush owns, are not. There are almost always visitors in the ranch's two guesthouses."
It seems to me he's trying to have it both ways here (big surprise). Bush says people shouldn't get upset because he's doing the country's business while he's on his "working vacation", yet wants us to believe that there's no politics and none of "the nation's business" involved in who visits him at the ranch.

Our thoughts and sympathy are with TBOGG. Hope your dad recovers quickly.

Today's blog is brought to you by the number "22" and the adjective "stupid"

Here's another suit we can hope will get thrown out of court so hard it bounces.

Newsday.com - Abercrombie & Fitch Claims 22 Ownership: " Abercrombie & Fitch says its chain of Hollister stores owns the number 22.... Abercrombie says Hollister owns the number 22 because it has appeared on the chain's clothing since the stores opened three years ago."
Here are your rights:

If you are an Iraqi. You have no right to free speech, to peacefully assemble, or to organize a labor movement. Maybe if they called it Solidarity?

Sunday, August 24, 2003
Are they insane?
Ha'aretz - Article: "The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister's Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a 'bonus' the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram. "

Has anyone asked the Iraqi people whether they want to give Israel "a bonus"? Isn't it supposed to be their oil? Or is that hopelessly naive?

If you only read one blog today...

...ok, one more blog, make it this one. The blogger is a 24 year old woman in Baghdad.

Baghdad Burning Females can no longer leave their homes alone. Each time I go out, E. and either a father, uncle or cousin has to accompany me. It feels like we’ve gone back 50 years ever since the beginning of the occupation. A woman, or girl, out alone, risks anything from insults to abduction. An outing has to be arranged at least an hour beforehand. I state that I need to buy something or have to visit someone. Two males have to be procured (preferably large) and 'safety arrangements' must be made in this total state of lawlessness. And always the question: "But do you have to go out and buy it? Can't I get it for you?" No you can't, because the kilo of eggplant I absolutely have to select with my own hands is just an excuse to see the light of day and walk down a street. The situation is incredibly frustrating to females who work or go to college.

Reading her blog has given me a bizarre thought of "The Blog of Anne Frank", and how different things are now than they were 60 years ago.

Another one bites the dust

Administration lie, that is.

Yahoo! News - Experts Doubt U.S. Claim on Iraqi Drones : "Huddled over a fleet of abandoned Iraqi drones, U.S. weapons experts in Baghdad came to one conclusion: Despite the Bush administration's public assertions, these unmanned aerial vehicles weren't designed to dispense biological or chemical weapons. "
Now! Freeze your brain without increasing your waistline!
Yahoo! News - 7-Eleven Introduces Calorie-Free Slurpee : "Slurpees have been a steady seller in 7-Eleven stores since the 1960s, but many devotees who first tasted the slushy treat as kids are grown up and worried about their waistlines. The convenience-store company is trying to win those customers back with its first calorie-free Slurpee."

They're hoping that the Diet Pepsi Slurpee will increase sales to women, dieters, and diabetics.

Bizarre Slurpee factoid:

Fiery Phoenix is one of Slurpee's weakest markets, Ryckevic said, while two of the best are Detroit and Manitoba, Canada. The average August high temperature in Manitoba is 59 degrees.
via South Knox Bubba.
Long Term Memory Dept.

That was then...

"...we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, other presidents, other generations."
G. W. Bush
State of the Union address, Jan. 2003

This is now...

Wall Street Seeks Clearer Deficit Signal (washingtonpost.com): "The Congressional Budget Office will release new budget forecasts Tuesday that will put next year's red ink near $500 billion. [Allen] Sinai's [president of Decision Economics Inc., and a strong supporter of Bush's tax cuts] own forecast put the figure even higher, as high as $535 billion. Absent any serious change in policy, private sector economists say deficits will remain in that range through the decade, then escalate sharply with the retirement of the baby-boom generation.

'I see absolutely nothing that's going to bring the deficit back to balance in the foreseeable future,' said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.

Bush's response Friday was that Wall Street and others should put such concerns on hold until after the economic recovery begins to produce jobs.

'Those who are worried about the deficit must first worry, I hope would worry first, about people being able to find work, like in Washington state,' Bush said to reporters near Seattle. 'I am more concerned about somebody finding a job than I am about numbers on paper.'

That said, he did add, 'we've got a plan to reduce the deficit in half in five years,' alluding to administration budget projections that the deficit will shrink by half without any policy changes."

I'm not sure which I find more galling, the implication (and it's not the first time) by this Yale-educated alleged former businessman that "numbers on paper" don't have a whole lot to do with whether people can find job, or the visit from our old friend, Rosy Scenario.

So much for "freedom from terror", I guess

Can you imagine what the average Iraqi-in-the-street is going to think about the US when he hears this? If this were a movie, this is probably the point where the critics would all be shaking their heads and saying, "come on, nobody would believe this."

U.S. Recruiting Hussein's Spies (washingtonpost.com): " U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a covert campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces here after months of increasingly sophisticated attacks and bombings, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials."
Have a nice vacation, George

26 Americans have died in Iraq since Bush went on "vacation". His preferred method of honoring their memory seems to be attending fund raisers.

BuzzFlash: "The President has been busy during his vacation. He's traveled to several fund-raising events, for example, and played a lot of golf. However, he has yet to attend a single funeral or speak to even one widow or orphan or mother of our dead soldiers. As I write, on August 22, President Bush is in the northwest. He's making a couple of speeches in Burbank, WA, and attending a private fundraising luncheon at the Seattle home of cell phone magnate Craig McCaw.

While in Washington, Bush might have made time to contact the family of Army Specialist Justin Hebert, 20, of Arlington, WA. A rocket-propelled grenade killed Spc. Hebert, serving in Iraq, on August 1 as President Bush traveled to Crawford to begin his vacation. "

Saturday, August 23, 2003
What if Al Gore had been President on 9/11?
That'd be sucky.

Again, via XOverboard.

Stick Figure Site of the Day
A shot-for-shot stick figure version of the video for Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice. I honestly can't decide whether I think its better if you've seen the original or not, but what the heck, watch 'em both. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

Via XOverboard.

Nouveau lexicography

From those wacky folks at the Oxford Dictionary of English (aka the OED), some of the things now considered o-fish-al words, prefixes, and suffixes:

actionable, added value, -adelic, airfare, alpha (usage as alpha male), -athon, attachment parenting
bada bing, biosphere, Birkenstock, bitch-slap, blamestorming, blog, blonde moment, (the) bomb, booger, booty call, bootylicious, brochureware, bupkis, burn rate
cannoli, category killer, CD-R, CD-RW, CGI, coopetition, CRM, crowd-surf, cube farm
daisy-cutter, (Grateful) deadhead, defrag, DNS, DoS
egosurf, endian, ERP
fab (a microchip), feh, fibromyalgia, FireWire, foo fighter, four-by-four
google (as a verb)
hacktivist, hedge fund, high-maintenance
IMAP, -ista
jihad, jump (the shark)
Kraut rock
Linux, logistics
magnet school, malware, mile(-high club), mission creep, mobo, muggle
one-hit wonder, open source, overclock
PDF, Perl, PGP, prairie-dogging, pre-prepare
ralph, roaming (cell phone), roofie
SAN, schmo, servlet, shout-out, SMTP, SSRI, Stepford, sysadmin
terminator gene, thinko,
upsell, VPN
warchalking, warez, WMD
For definitions and the whole list, check here.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Talibama Update
Oh, my. Judge Roy Moore continues to be own best counterargument:
12/1/2001 - Alabama Judge Exhorts Rally On Ten Commandments - Breaking News - Chattanoogan.com: "He said America 'was not founded on Buddah. It was not founded on Mohammad. It was not founded on Confucious. It was not founded on Islam. We don't put our hand on the Koran. We put our hand on the Bible. We were a nation established upon God.'"
I'm thinking they must not get many Muslim defendants in Talibama courts, but I really wonder what Judge Moore would do if one asked to take the oath on a Koran.
Many happy returns!
Happy 83rd, Ray Bradbury. Go read Fahrenheit 451, if you haven't already. Or anything else by him, if you already have.
Full marks for E. J. Dionne

As he frequently does, E. J. nails it. Go read. Behind the Failure (washingtonpost.com): "Can we now please admit that the Bush administration's policies in Iraq are a terrible failure?"

These people scare me

They're either colossally ignorant of the concept of separation of church and state, or else they outright want a theocratic government. Either way, they're pretty frightening.

U.S. Newswire - Judge Myron Thompson to be Confronted by Law of God Says Operation Rescue/Operation Save America : "The judicial system in America has trampled true justice and nullified genuine liberty. These Christians come today to say that Myron Thompson is in contempt of the court which is truly supreme -- the Court of Almighty God. 'Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.' Proverbs 28:12

'The Supreme Court of the United States of America, and her sister federal courts throughout the land, have done all in their power to erase the name of Jesus from the hearts of our children, our schools, our work places, and the public square. They have declared war on Almighty God and we, the Church of Jesus Christ, will resist them. No longer do we hold their decisions binding upon us, upon our children, or upon our nation,' said Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America."

Oh, and as for that sentence at the beginning of the second paragraph...someone should ask the Rev. Flip if his religion doesn't say something about bearing false witness. I know the USSC hasn't done anything to the hearts of my children.
Kournikova to show more intimate side

Honest, that was the link text on cnn.com this morning to a CNN/Money story about Anna Kournikova endorsing a sports bra. I'm intentionally not including any wisecracks about "singles" vs. "doubles" here.

Tennis player Anna Kournikova endorses new sports bra - Aug. 22, 2003: "In advertisements, the athlete who's more popular for her looks than her game will model the sports bra with the tagline: 'Only the ball should bounce,' the newspaper said. "
Who says lawyers aren't clever?
Lawrence Lessig was in the process of becoming a node on the citywide wireless network in San Francisco, but there was one little problem: the conduit he'd had installed from the roof to the server room in the basement made two 90-degree turns and one 45-degree turn on the way. How to get an Ethernet cable through it? Google to the rescue!
So of course we turned first to the internet. I typed in a totally natural language question into Google (which I find these days is increasingly the best method): something like “how do you thread a cable through a long conduit with 90 degree angles.” The first post that came up was a thread from some list titled Threading fiber through a long conduit. This thread reported no good luck, but it had the kernel of an idea: a vacuum cleaner.

So we took a bit of foam, tied it to the end of a roll of kite string, and connected a small Shop-Vac at the other end of the conduit (which is at least 50 feet long). Bingo. The key, it seems, is to have a big but light obstruction, and google at hand.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
Bungee Rock Climbing Super Death of Doom

I'd trade all the spiffy Flash-enhanced corporate web sites for more of this.

Knee-jerk libertarians

I recently saw an amusing description of a libertarian as someone who, when shown how something is working in the real world, says, "Yes, but how would it work in theory?" The folks over at Reason magazine's blog provide a good illustration of this...

Hit & Run: "If you haven't at least encountered the Sobig virus in your inbox you must not get much email. Estimates are that 75% of all mail could be Sobig or a Sobig-caused error message. Time to retool the system.

The only possible solution is sender-pays email. Right now we have a classic tragedy of the commons situation where spammers and abusers have the most incentive to turn the email network to their own purposes."

The only possible solution? How about fixing the software monopoly that's responsible for putting out software that is better at propagating viruses than anything else?
Dying over something that never was
Newsday.com - Dying Over Something That Never Was: "The weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad on Tuesday were a cement truck, explosives and a driver ready to die. It was obvious that if Iraq had these other weapons, nuclear bombs or germs in bombs, they would have used them, just like the truck. They never had them. We started a war over something that never was."
Via O-Dub.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Gee, it's been working so well for the RIAA...
SCO Preparing Legal Action Against Customer - Computer Business Review: "SCO Group Inc is preparing to take a Linux user to court to speed up the legal process in its claim Unix code has been illegally copied into Linux, and also encourage Linux users to take out a license for its intellectual property."
SCO has officially now gone Off The Deep End.
Someone should look up "hubris".
Deciding Where to Draw the Lines (washingtonpost.com): "Ohio Republicans may take a cue from state legislators in Texas and Colorado and tinker with the lines that shape their congressional districts."
The difference between Ohio and the other states is that the current map was drawn after the last census by a GOP-controlled legislature. I'm starting to think Bill Maher wasn't joking when he said the Republicans are willing to try anything to win elections except getting the most votes. Oh, and one of the districts that would be getting redrawn, apparently, belongs to Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
May I see your papers, please?

It will be interesting to see if this becomes an issue in the California recall/race. It's certainly repugnant.

AP Wire | 08/20/2003 | Top Border Official Defends Broad Powers: " The head of Customs and Border Protection has restored the authority of Southern California Border Patrol agents to question people on city streets and workplaces about their immigration status.

That authority had been limited by an Aug. 8 directive from William Veal, chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector. It told agents of a 'long-standing agency policy' preventing them from conducting sweeps in residential areas and workplaces.

In a telephone interview from Washington, Robert Bonner, a Customs veteran who took over the Border Patrol when the Department of Homeland Security was created in March, said he had done away with Veal's directive. He said the policy was 'overly broad and limited the activities of Border Patrol agents.'"

It's so simple...
President Bush, after meeting with his economic advisers at his "ranch" in Crawford:
CNN.com - Bush huddles with economic advisers in Texas - Aug. 13, 2003: "'I'm more worried about families finding jobs and putting food on the table than I am about economic theory and economic numbers,' he said. "
Gee, this is a fun game. How about:
"I'm more worried about families being well and having drugs in their medicine cabinets than I am about medical theory and insurance numbers."
"I'm more worried about families having power and turning their lights on than I am about electric power theory or grid maintenance numbers"?

Feel free to add your own in the comments....

The joys of Harper's

Their online presence isn't terribly impressive, but this is a fine magazine.

Lewis Lapham is a national treasure. From his column this month:

When President George W. Bush moved into the White House in the winter of 2001, he let it be known that eh intended to run the government as if it were a business, and two years later I don't know why it comes as a surprise that the ten-year feeral budget projection has been reduced from a $5.6 trillion surplus to a $4 trillion deficit, or that our splendid little war in Iraq turns out to have been sold to the American pulic in the manner of a well-promoted but fraudulent stock offering. The man has been true to his word, the corporation of which he deems himself chairman and chief executive officer not unlike the ones formerly owned and operated by his friends, fund-raisers, and fellow bandits and Enron and Arthur Andersen.
Harper's Index is always good for some offbeat enlightenment:
Percentage refund that Laura Bush's office sought in June for a $15.95 children's book that it bought for a TV reading: 100
Year in which Dick Cheney said that his policy as CEO of Halliburton was that "we wouldn't do anything in Iraq": 2000
Price of the oil-field supplies sold to Iraq by two Halliburton subsidiaries during Cheney's tenure: $73,000,000

And a fine article this month by John Taylor Gatto titled Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why, which argues that perhaps the problem is not that our school system isn't working, but that it is.

If you read one magazine a month, you could do a lot worse than Harper's.

Forgottenstan update
Daily Times - Site EditionTightly guarded independence day celebrations in Afghanistan were marred by new attacks on aid workers and security forces as well as an explosion that ripped through the home of President Hamid Karzai’s brother.

In Logar province, Taliban guerrillas killed 10 policemen, officials said. Abdul Khaliq, police chief of Logar province, and several other senior police officers were among those killed in an ambush on Monday. “They were in their cars when the incident happened,” he said. “There is no doubt that the Taliban were behind it.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Long Term Memory Dept. (part 2)

George Bush, in the October Presidential debate: “Under Gore’s plan, we’re talking about. adding 20,000 new bureaucrats.”

Federal civilian employment, January 2001: 2,686,835
Federal civilian employment, March 2003: 2,738,344
New Federal civilian employment under Bush: 51,509
New Cabinet departments under Bush: 1

Boy, aren't you glad we didn't get those 20,000 additional bureaucrats?

Congratulations to the Bush administration!

It's another new record! Officially, the largest budget deficit, and over $300 billion for the first time!

Yahoo! News - US 2003 Budget Gap Creeps Above $300 Bln : "The year-to-date deficit, still with August and September to go in the budget year, rose to $323.98 billion, Treasury said in its monthly budget statement. July's deficit, at $54.24 billion, was close to expectations and wider than in July 2002, when it was $29.16 billion. "
Don't stop now, guys, there are still two months to go!
Long-term Memory Dept.
From a speech in Minneapolis, 1 November 2000, George W. Bush:
Gore offers an old and tired approach. He offers a new federal spending program to nearly every voting bloc. He expands entitlements, without reforms to sustain them. 285 new or expanded programs, and $2 trillion more in new spending. Spending without discipline, spending without priorities, and spending without an end. Al Gore’s massive spending would mean slower growth and higher taxes. And it could mean an end to this nation’s prosperity.
Size of the national debt the day George W. Bush took office (19 January 2001): $5,727,776,738,304.64
Size of the national debt, 15 August 2003: $6,770,542,657,467.64
Difference: $1,042,765,919,163

Perhaps Gore's election could have meant "an end to this nation's prosperities." Bush's certainly did. Remember in 2004.

What "Teach for America" Learned

Even when you're a favorite of the First Lady, don't mistake photo-ops for support.

TIME - Joe Klein - Who Killed Teach for America?: "In the midst of the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush had a private breakfast in Los Angeles with members of Teach for America (TFA), the exemplary national-service program that sends recent college graduates to teach for two years in the poorest urban and rural school districts. 'Everyone came out of that room glowing,' said Wendy Kopp, the founder of TFA. 'He really understood education and cared about what we did. He sounds like us, one of our teachers told me.'
Kopp was optimistic that TFA, one of the flagship AmeriCorps programs, would have a future in a Bush Administration. Indeed, Kopp was invited to sit in the First Lady's box at Bush's first budget message to Congress in February 2001. At the same time, Teach for America was designated as one of five education and literacy programs that would receive special attention and support from Laura Bush."
That was then, this is now.
On July 11, however, a form letter arrived in the Teach for America offices from the Corporation for National and Community Service. "We regret to inform you," it said, "that your application was not selected for funding."

"We were shocked," Kopp told me. "There had been no warning." To be sure, Kopp was aware that the rest of AmeriCorps was being squeezed because of a bureaucratic accounting snafu and congressional reluctance to rectify the error. Most AmeriCorps programs were facing severe cuts. But Teach for America's fate was far more drastic; it had been zeroed out, eliminated. "We are no longer an AmeriCorps program," Kopp said.

Kudos to Joe Klein for getting this one in Time.
Gay Marriage Update
OrlandoSentinel.com: News : " If Adrienne Samen ever forgets the details of her wedding reception, the police will be able to provide her with an official account, including a photograph.

The 18-year-old North Haven woman was arrested Saturday night after police said she 'flipped out' at the Mill on the River Restaurant, cursed workers who asked some of her guests to leave the bar and then stormed out of the establishment.

According to Helmar Wolf, a co-owner of the restaurant, the bride and groom began to argue in the parking lot, where the bride shouted, 'I hate you!' Soon after, Wolf said, the angry young woman 'started throwing wedding cake and smashed vases of flowers.'"

You see, if we allow gay people to marry, the sanctity of heterosexual unions like these will be called into question.

Good news from New Hampshire
Latest poll from American Research Group:
from July
Among undecided respondents, 41% have a favorable impression of Dean, 32% have a favorable impression of Kerry.

Of respondents who said they would vote for Dean, 61% have a favorable impression of Kerry. Of respondents who said they would vote for Kerry, 43% have a favorable impression of Dean.

Good numbers for the doctor, especially the breakdown on the independents.

Monday, August 18, 2003
Nope, no monopoly behavior here...
ZDNet UK - News - Microsoft abandons Outlook Express : "Microsoft will not do any more development work on the world's most popular email client

It might be the world's most widely distributed email client, but Microsoft has confirmed that it has no intention of further developing Outlook Express.

'[Outlook Express] just sits where it is,' said Dan Leach, lead product manager for Microsoft's information worker product management group. 'The technology doesn't go away, but no new work is being done. It is consumer email in an early iteration, and our investment in the consumer space is now focused around Hotmail and MSN. That's where we're putting the emphasis in terms of new investment and new development work.' "

Let's see...there used to be a market for email clients. Microsoft started giving away Outlook Express, which forced everybody else to give away their mail clients (not to mention grabbing a lot of market share). Now they're hoping people will move to (and pay for) the full version of Outlook. I'm sure there's a word to describe this sort of strategy. It's right on the tip of my tongue. Seems like it starts with an "m".

Gives a whole new meaning to "tie one on"....
Daily news ... Advocate.com: "An Ann Arbor, Mich., man who has struggled with proper condom use throughout his 26-year marriage has filed a patent on a new type of condom that includes an elastic band that wraps around the scrotum to prevent the condom from slipping or leaking, The Ann Arbor News reports. Leonard McCoy, 52, developed the 'condom coverall,' which can be made with the same thinness as conventional condoms and can be made in a variety of colors and textures. McCoy says the latex condom is as easy to put on and as comfortable as standard condoms but covers more of the penis and stays on better, offering better protection against pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. "
26 years? I really wonder if he ever considered a vasectomy?

Any Star Trek jokes will be considered in extremely bad taste.

Egad, we are such Philistines.

An Evansville, IN, man who put a copy of Michaelangelo's David in his yard has responded to concerns by parents of children at a neighboring center that provides services for the disabled by deploying a strategically-positioned sheet.

Look! A St. Vitus' Death Head!
For those of you taking long automobile vacations this summer, this guide to identifying flowers while motoring should prove invaluable. The rest of you will just find it amusing.
Glad to hear there's not anything more important going on...
Gay marriage ban gains steam : "After escaping August's heat for its annual recess, Congress is set to dive into one of the most sizzling of hot-button issues: gay marriage.

The House and Senate both plan hearings; White House lawyers are studying how to keep legal marriage strictly between a man and a woman.

A constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is picking up increasing support..."

Um...hello? Power grid? Economy? Somehow, "It's gay marriage, stupid" doesn't seem like a great campaign slogan.
The not-so-Solid South
For Bush, Loss of Jobs May Erode Support in South Carolina: "'Something's got to give,' said Ms. Mayson, a mother of three, as she left a state-run jobs center the other day. 'I'm not going to vote for Bush unless things change. The economy has got to get better, and it's only going to do that if someone makes something happen.'

Mr. Chastain, whose company, Mount Vernon Mills, has laid off 1,000 workers in recent years, is part of a coalition of textile executives who have formally complained to the White House about trade practices they contend are driving Americans out of jobs and manufacturers out of business, while giving huge advantages to China and other countries."

Mayson is an unemployed machine operator. Chastain is a CEO. Both are really angry at George Bush. Democrats who are writing off the South should think twice.
Horowitz whoring for the right.
FrontPage magazine.com: "Now [Ashcroft is] back in [the left's] sights because he is diligently enforcing The Patriot Act, the measure Congress passed to help coordinate our nation's intelligence and investigative forces in their battle against terrorists. The radical left hates the Patriot Act because it helps the government to fight their friends. But it knows better than to admit this, so it claims that the tough security measures violate the Constitution."
Don't click on the link. Especially if you've eaten recently. Yes, David Horowitz is now using the man who makes people remember Ed Meese fondly in an attempt to raise funds for his "Center for the Study of Popular Culture" and sell magazines. Is there nothing these people will not stoop to?
Osama bin who?
Boston.com / News / Nation / US shifting focus, agents from Kabul to Baghdad: " As the hunt for Saddam Hussein grows more urgent and the guerrilla war in Iraq shows little sign of abating, the Bush administration is continuing to shift highly specialized intelligence officers from the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to the Iraq crisis, according to intelligence officials who have been involved in the redeployments."
George W. Bush, September 17, 2001: "I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"
Sunday, August 17, 2003
What is going on over there?
Reuters cameraman killed near Baghdad: "A Reuters cameraman was shot and killed Sunday while working near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, the London-based news agency said.

Witnesses reported that Mazen Dana, 41, was filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad when he was shot, Reuters said.

A Reuters staffer told The Associated Press in Baghdad that Dana, a Palestinian, appeared to have been shot by U.S. soldiers as he was videotaping outside the Abu Ghraib prison after a mortar attack there Sunday, in which six prisoners were killed and about 60 others were wounded.

The staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the videotape in Dana's camera showed two U.S. tanks coming toward him, two shots, apparently from the tanks, rang out and Dana fell to the ground. He was taken away by a U.S. helicopter for treatment. "

Dana had won awards for his work on the West Bank, particularly around Hebron. He had been shot at three times in 2000 and at one point Reuters took him off the street in Hebron for his own safety. One supposes they thought he'd be safer in Iraq at this point because everyone knows the US doesn't shoot journalists....
Not to be missed.
(Thanks to Angry Bear.)

Definitely don't miss the best description I've seen yet of Bush's idea of How Guv'mint Works courtesy of South Knox Bubba.

Oh, those wacky, fun-loving Republicans!

In a friendly effort to lighten the tone of Texas politics, the Republicans have been running ads poking gentle fun at the voting record of State Sen Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa. Meanwhile, Democrats, displaying the sort of thin skin that earned them the "Sore Loserman" title, are taking offense.

The Monitor - Local - Radio ad featuring accent upsetting Dems, ValleyitesThe ad, paid for by the Texas Republican Party, questions Hinojosa’s voting record. But it’s not necessarily the words in the ad that have Democrats so steamed. While the ad might mislead listeners about Hinojosa’s voting record, local leaders are questioning the method of delivery. The radio spot features two unidentified actors — one female, the other an older male — speaking in cartoonish, thickly Mexican-accented English.
Break out the calico cats!
Exclusive: Ashcroft’s Campaign to Shore Up the Patriot Act OVER THE NEXT three weeks, Ashcroft plans to swoop into 18 cities, give speeches, meet local officials and grant select press interviews touting department successes using the law. In a conference call and e-mails last week, sources tell NEWSWEEK, the country’s 94 U.S. attorneys were instructed to help gin up support by convening “community meetings,” writing op-ed articles in local newspapers and ensuring that uniformed cops are seated in bleachers behind the A.G. during his visits.

I've never been able to convince myself that the stories about the Attorney General believing that calico cats are evil were completely true, but it would be a wonderful symbolic protest if people would show up at these meetings with as many calico cats as they could manage, just to see Ashcroft's reaction.

Two words. Special. Prosecutor.
Among other things, I'm still wondering if we're ever going to see an investigation into the Valerie Plame (Wilson) affair. It turns out that in order for there to be an investigation of this type of event, the CIA does the initial determination that an investigation is warranted and refers the case to the Department of Justice, which calls in the FBI.
Capital Games: "By now, you see the potential problem. For an investigation to proceed, it appears, the CIA--and that probably means CIA chief George Tenet--has to ask for one, and Attorney General John Ashcroft (or an underling) has to greenlight it. Will either of these two Bush allies be willing to take on the White House and trigger an inquiry that could embarrass, if not threaten, the Bush administration? "
Clearly, this is a case where a special prosecutor is warranted. Who will be brave enough to be the first to call for one?
We told you so dept.
TIME.com: They're Getting Richer! -- Aug. 18, 2003: "The ink was still wet on president Bush's stock-dividend tax-rate cut in early June when Corus Bankshares in Chicago voted to triple its annual payout. CEO Robert Glickman said the move was 'solely in reaction' to the new tax treatment and that he was 'very pleased' to provide shareholders with a beefy new payment. Little wonder. The Glickman family owns half the company, and his 25% stake in the bank will generate $5.8 million in annual after-tax income, up from $1.3 million."
The article goes on to talk about Sandy Weill, CEO of Citigroup, getting a similar windfall. Which is not to say that there's anything illegal going on here. No, as often happens, the real scandal is what is legal. These businesses and CEOs are behaving entirely rationally in response to the Bush administration's dividend tax cut. The cut, you'll recall, the Bush administration was selling as "double taxation" and "unfair", with emphasis on the number of American households who owned stock, as though every single one of them would see a tax benefit.

When you eliminate the households who own stocks but do not generate enough dividend income to be taxable (the first $400 isn't) and the households who only generate dividend income in 401(k) or other tax-sheltered plans (who were actually hurt by the tax cut because their dividends were already tax-free and will be taxed as normal income when withdrawn from the plan), you discover that at most 1/4 of American households will see any benefit at all from the dividend tax cut.

And, as some of us tried to warn people beforehand, households like the Glickmans and Weills are getting the lion's share of the benefits.

Playing the longshot

Disclaimer: I do not live in California. I have never wanted to live in California, for a variety of reasons. It is a nice place to visit, though, and I have friends living there.

Prediction: Gray Davis will not be recalled.

Yes, I know what the polls say. Yes, I know Arnold is in the race. But look a little closer at the polls. The "vote to recall" question is getting numbers of 56-58% yes, 36-38% no, which looks like a huge margin. But remember how the recall works: If Davis "loses" by getting 49% yes, 42% no, he stays in office. All he has to do is get the "yes" vote below 50%+1. Which means that the real gap he's got to attack isn't 20%, it's 8%.

Perhaps I have an unrealistic impression of Californians, but I believe that between now and the election, enough of them will conclude one or more of

to pull the "yes" vote below 50%.

Maybe I'm wrong. We'll find out on 10/7. Unless the courts delay it.

Saturday, August 16, 2003
Buy that man a dictionary. Please.

And maybe a copy of the Constitution as well.

Newsday.com - Crowd Supports 'Ten Commandments' Judge: " Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told thousands of supporters Saturday that he would be guilty of treason if he didn't fight to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building. "
Jerry Falwell and former Presidential candidate/mosh pit diver Alan Keyes were on hand to officially represent the Extremely Right-Wing Wackos with Counter-Rotating Eyeballs and Screechy Voices.
Falwell said Moore is right to defy Thompson's order if he believes he is obeying God.

"Civil disobedience is the right of all men when we believe breaking man's law is needed to preserve God's law," Falwell said.

These idiots don't know their Bible any better than their Constitution. I'd love to be able to ask Falwell on live TV exactly where in God's law it says you should erect monuments to the Ten Commandments.
Wild Card Watch
You may have noticed the inclusion of the "SNOB Division" standings in the left panel. The name is from a NYC sportswriter, from Seattle/New York/Oakland/Boston. Barring something truly remarkable, three of those teams will be in the playoffs at the end of the season, one as the AL East champ, one as the AL West champ, and one as the Wild Card. The colors (white, black, orangey) identify whether each team won, did not play, or lost the previous day.
To boldly blog...

I'm not sure if I like this idea or not. Apparently William Shatner is trying to interest Paramount in his idea for a new Trek-related series.

Before and after the blackout...

Check out these before and after satellite photos courtesy of NOAA.

Compassionate Conservatives at work
fresnobee.com | Local News : "Fresno residents and community leaders, outraged by an e-mail message in which City Council Member Jerry Duncan wished he had a 'dirty bomb' to kill every liberal in Fresno, called Thursday for his resignation, recall or reprimand.

A crowd that gathered in City Hall also chastised City Council Member Brian Calhoun and his chief assistant, Ann Kloose, who wrote in an e-mail that police should 'Cap' members of the Human Relations Commission."

Ha ha, those wacky Republicans. Being white and having "real American" names, they can threaten groups of citizens without worrying about being visited by the FBI and threatened with "enemy combatant" status.
Dim bulb in the White House
Chicago Tribune | House GOP rejected bill on improving grid in '01 : "President Bush said Thursday that 'we'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.'

But a Democratic proposal in June 2001 to offer $350 million in federal loans and loan guarantees to improve power transmission systems was defeated by Bush's allies in the House."

I don't know if Bush doesn't realize that people keep track of what the President said and did, whether he just thinks he can lie with impunity, or whether he doesn't have any long-term memory.

Oh, and don't miss this from Greg Palast, who was hip-deep in the LILCO scandal as an investigative reporter.

Meanwhile, in Forgottenstan
Over 50 Die in Day of Afghan Violence: " In the most violent 24-hour period in Afghanistan in nearly a year, 15 people, including 6 children, were killed when a bomb exploded on their bus in southern Afghanistan. More than 40 others were killed today in fighting in the country's east and south.

The bomb exploded in Helmand Province aboard a bus headed for the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, according to wire reports. It was the deadliest such attack since a bomb exploded in Kabul last September, killing 35 people.

The bombing in Helmand and a series of other attacks today, on top of other recent setbacks, all gave notice to the American-backed government of the growing threat to the nation's stability. "

Suspected Taliban guerrilas attacking government troops, battles between rival warlords, students killed while making a bomb in Kabul. Is this the future of Iraq?
Meanwhile, back in the real world...
IBM to up India headcount to 10,000? - News & Technology - CNETAsia : "Global computing firm IBM plans to increase its staff numbers in India from 4,500 to 10,000 by 2005, according to a report from financial firm Merrill Lynch."
Bush clearing brush while jobs go overseas doesn't have quite the metaphorical zing of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but for working Americans it's about the same (see item below). It's looking like we can add "faith-based economics" to "faith-based intelligence" when talking about the administration's policies: do whatever you were going to do anyway and claim that you believe it's going to fix whatever's wrong.
Is that the royal "we"?
Tax Cuts Will Do the Job, President Says (washingtonpost.com): "Bush's aides said he is not actively considering a new tax cut, but the president left open the possibility that he would continue his pattern of introducing at least one a year. After saying he was satisfied with his policies, he added, 'If we change our opinion, we will let you know.'"
President Bush invited his economic advisors down to Crawford for a chit-chat. Surprisingly, he did not announce plans for more tax cuts, but said that the policies under which the economy has lost 2.6 million jobs were "the absolute right course of action".

He also gave a preview of what we can expect to hear a lot of if the economy doesn't start getting better before campaign season:

"We inherited a tough situation," he said. "But most importantly, the Americans know that I'm not afraid to lead and to make a tough decision. And I made a tough decision, a series of tough decisions."
Blame the previous guy, and focus on how tough the decisions were, not whether they did anything useful.
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