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Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)

30.1.04

Oh, puh-leeze!
 

According to Reuters, a right-wingnut member of the Norwegian Parliament has nominated George W. Bush and Tony Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize. This despite the fact that they perpetrated an illegal war in defiance of international law, that their armed forces killed thousands of innocent civilians before victory was unilaterally declared, and of course the fact that no weapons of mass distraction were ever found.

That strange humming sound you hear is Alfred Nobel whirling in his grave.


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29.1.04

A good call to re-think
 

The Associated Press reports that NASA administrators are rethinking their decision to scrap the Hubble telescope and let it basically fall from orbit once its own resources can no longer maintain it in a stable orbit. That was a chickenshit decision, and one I suspect that was largely driven by the need to find dollars to fund Bush's pet moon base and Mars projects.

As space missions go, the Hubble telescope is pretty doggone cheap. And considering the tremendous amounts of quality data we've gotten out of an instrument that wasn't expected to last this long in the first place, we've gotten a damn good return on our investment. But as long as the thing keeps working and as long as we can safely keep it in the proper orbit, why would we not want to? It's not like we can just hop up and observe far-away planetary or star systems whenever the mood strikes us. Plus, a lot of NASA hardware has proven to be extremely durable, providing data for years, even decades beyond its expected lifetime. The more data we have, the better the information we can derive from it about what the universe looks like, how old it is, what it's made out of and how that stuff is distributed. Why wouldn't we want to do that, especially when one of the tools we need to continue the process is already on-site and running, but only needs a little maintenance and the occasional boost to keep providing us with information we can use?


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Is a puzzlement!
 

I don't get it. On Tuesday, a minor-league pitcher for the Cleveland Indians held a press conference in which he apologized for appearing in a gay porn film during his college years:

Claiming he's not gay, Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Kazuhito Tadano apologized Tuesday for appearing in a gay porn film after his sophomore year in college.

"I did participate in a video and I regret it very much," the 23-year old told reporters in the team's clubhouse. "It was a one-time incident that showed bad judgment and will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball, and going to college and my teammates and I needed money."

To which my reaction is, "Yeah? So what?"

I wouldn't care if the guy were gay. The only thing that should matter to his team, his teammates, and the fans is whether or not he can play the game at the professional level. His private life is exactly that: private. Tadano broke no laws, nor did he harm anyone by appearing in an erotic video. Ergo, it's of no consequence.

I seem to be in the minority on that opinion. It seems the scandal first broke in Japan and kept Tadano from playing professionally there. He had to 'fess up to participating in the video twice last year, and apparently the Indians organization called Tuesday's press conference in an attempt to head off any coverage before spring training starts next month.

If (I repeat, IF) Tadano's participation in this video warrants an apology at all--quite a stretch to get there in my opinion--once should be more than enough.


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28.1.04

My God Is Your God
 

John Kearney, a student at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, wrote a fabulous op-ed piece under the title above in today's edition of The New York Times. It's well worth registering for the Times' web site to read the article.

In the days of sound bite journalism and a 24-hour news cycle where so little content is made to fill so much time for so many people, it is refreshing to see that all hope of rigorous analysis and factual reporting is not yet dead. This is especially true when it comes to coverage of religious issues, which are notoriously resistant to being condensed down to what an announcer can squeeze into the last 15 seconds of the broadcast before they go to the final commercial (the media equivalent of getting the table in the restaurant right by the kitchen door).

The differences between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims are not, ultimately, that many or that large: but they are enormously, vastly important to the individual Shi'a or Sunni Muslims who hold those differences. Seen any coverage on that topic? I didn't think so. And don't even get me started on the insulting gaffes made by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and that arse of a deputy undersecretary of defense, Boykin. All they had to do to prove they didn't know squat about Islam was open their silly mouths to make their reprehensible comments.

Kearney's main point was that our media moguls and their minions do us a disservice by failing to translate a particular word in Arabic: "Allah." As Kearney notes, Islam is a monotheistic religion just like Judaism and Christianity are: and all three faiths believe they worship the same God. (Now if only they could manage to convince all of their followers that this was the case, the world would likely be a much happier and more peaceful place in which to live.) But this is an easy point to miss when, as Kearney noted:

...NPR reported Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza City intoning, "there is no God but Allah." Last week, The Los Angeles Times mentioned mourners for a slain Baghdad professor reciting, "there is no God but Allah" at the university campus. In September, The New York Times reported an assassinated Palestinian uttering, "there is no God but Allah" before he died.

Kearney rightly states that the first of the five pillars of Islam, the indispensable requirements for being a Muslim, is what is known in Arabic as the shahada, or "testimony." But the first precept of the shahada is not "there is no god but Allah," but rather, "there is no god but God." Nor could it be otherwise, or else Islam could not be a monotheistic religion. Failing to translate this essential principle properly is an insult to Muslims and a distortion of the teachings of Muhammad (upon whom be peace).

Kearney concludes by saying, " Of course, there are distinctions to be made between religions, which the press shouldn't shy away from. But there is no need to augment these differences artificially, especially at the cost of an accurate understanding of the origins of the Abrahamic faiths."

To which I reply, "Amen."


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ROFLMAO!
 

A comment by another reader of Eric Zorn's Notebook: "Do you suppose that CBS would run the MoveOn.Org ad if it claimed that the Bush admin. causes erectile disfunction?"

Damn. I wish I'd said that!


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27.1.04

Oimoi!
 

(That's the classical Greek equivalent to the famous Yiddish expression "oy, veh," in case you're wondering.)

To quote a line from The Philadelphia Story, "This is one of those days which the pages of history teach us are best spent lying in bed." And I rather wish that was how I'd spent it. Without boring you with all the details, just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, culminating in the moment when I walked out of the house this evening on my way to my book group... and (in)conveniently managed to forget to bring my keys along for the ride. A long walk and a long wait in the cold later, I had the privilege of shelling out $25 for one of the maintenance men to let me back into my flat, where I'm now going to curl up in the warmth, perhaps indulge in an adult beverage or three, and maybe watch The Philadelphia Story again for a few laughs.


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A little restraint, if you please!
 

In this story, datelined 15 minutes before I'm posting this, Reuters reported that John Kerry has won the New Hampshire primary. But if you read down to the fourth paragraph, you wonder what they were smoking when they decided to put the story on the wires. It's based on returns from only 17 percent of the precincts!

Yes, this is a story that a lot of people are probably watching, and in whose outcome several, I'm sure, are quite interested. But that's no excuse for jumping to conclusions on the basis of paltry evidence.


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Ditto for feminine hygiene products
 

Not to forget the other half of the population, I'd also welcome a whole lot less advertisements for the various feminine hygiene products. I don't care if I never see another advertisement for douches, yeast infection remedies, tampons/sanitary napkins, or what have you.

Of course, those are necessary and useful products. So, I suppose in at least a few instances, are erectile dysfunction medications, jock-itch preparations, and hair-coloring products. That doesn't mean I need to read about them in every magazine, or see them splashed across every sporting event or television program I watch.


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Enough about erectile dysfunction!
 

I'm sorry, but I've had it with all the bleeding ads (to say nothing of the incessant spam) for erectile dysfunction drugs. I'm very sorry for those men who need them, and it's entirely possible there may come a day when I'm among them. That day is not now, however, and I certainly don't see the need to saturate our lives with explicit or suggestive advertisements for these drugs. Those who need them will find out about them, and nobody else needs to know.

And in a turn of events I find particularly disgusting, it seems that CBS has absolutely no problems airing one of the most explicit ED advertisements ever made during this year's Super Bowl, but it won't run the simple "Child's Play" advertisement sponsored by MoveOn.org. Sex is apparently fine for a "family" broadcast of a "sporting event." But you wouldn't want to talk about anything of real importance, no. Can't have that!

I may just have to start forwarding all my Viagra and Cialis spam to CBS....


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Ah, the wonders of modern technology
 

It's not quite as appalling/amusing as the story from awhile back about the user of a laptop computer who got some nasty burns on his willie, but this story from the Chicago Tribune about a man in Malaysia who burned his bum when his cell phone exploded while recharging offers reason No. 1057 why I'm never getting one of the wretched things!


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26.1.04

Start tuning up the orchestra!
 

It's not quite time to break out into the "Hallelujah" chorus, but it might be time to start getting ready for it. Reuters is reporting that a federal judge in Los Angeles has stricken sections of the infamous "Patriot Act" as unconstitutional.If Congress won't make this abomination in legal clothing go away, maybe the third branch of our government will do so.

Activist judges? Damn right I want activist judges--I want them to do what they're sworn to do: uphold the law, and especially the Constitution, with vigor. Even if the president and the Congress both scream bloody murder. (Perhaps especially if that happens.) Something the Framers knew all too well (from personal experience, most likely), but which the present ideologues forget all too easily, is that the majority are not always right, and there are in fact some things on which the majority cannot be allowed to have its way. That is usually in cases when an individual finds himself/herself on the wrong end of a massive state power apparatus that s/he has no chance of fighting against. And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what the Patriot Act has put in place: all the more reason it should wind up buried deep in the legislative shit-can.


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Only in California....or not
 

What's so hard to understand about the separation of church and state in this country? The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a lawyer from Orange County (where else?) is trying to get the state government to buy a Bible for every student in California's public elementary schools and suggesting "that schools use the books as texts for the study of literature."

First off, California already has a ginormous budget deficit--such that they're cutting things like health insurance for the poor and benefits for state employees, while the Governator insists on keeping his lame "no new taxes" pledge even as the government hemorrhages red ink. I really don't think that buying Bibles for school kids should be high on the priority list of things to do with any spare change they might happen to have left lying around under sofa cushions in Sacramento once they've taken care of the important stuff, even if the Supremes allow the practice (which is in itself a dubious question).

But the real laugher in this sad story is that quote at the end of the first paragraph. There is no way on God's green earth that the man pimping for this program wants to use the Bible as a literature text. He just can't get it through the schoolhouse door legitimately as a religious text, so he's trying to sneak it in the back way and hoping that nobody will either notice or care enough to rase a hue and cry.

Something tells me he's going to be wrong about that last one. If he gets his measure passed, I'd bet a month's salary that the ACLU, Americans United, People for the American Way, and a bunch of other organizations will be fighting each other through the courthouse doors to be the first to file a request for a restraining order. Ditto when it comes time to file amicus briefs before the Supreme Court.

And I'm sure there are probably more than a few right-wingnuts out there in states other than California who will be watching the outcome very closely, hoping to do the same in their own backyards. If these people are so freakin' concerned about the crappy religious education children receive in this country, maybe they could start by teaching their own children about some real Gospel values. You know, things like service, justice, mercy, compassion, concern for the poor and the marginalized in society, all that sort of thing.

Regrettably, I'm not holding my breath on that score.


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Mmmmm, chocolate :-9
 

Courtesy of Eric Zorn's Notebook is this link, to a company in the Chicago suburbs that sells one-pound, anatomically correct chocolate hearts for Valentine's Day. I wonder how long it will be until one of these turns up on CSI or CSI: Miami?


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Better than nothing, but....
 

According to Reuters, the Supreme Court has decided to revisit the question of whether it is constitutionally permissible to execute persons who were younger than 18 at the time they committed the crimes for which they were convicted. About bloody (literally) time!

Of course, I'd much prefer they did away with capital punishment altogether. There really does not seem to be any way to guarantee that it will be applied fairly and equitably, that we can with absolute certainty say that we have convicted and executed all and only those actually guilty, and there is obviously no deterrent effect. So why would we want to hang around in the company of Iran and China and other despotic regimes that still murder their own citizens?

Alas, it doesn't seem like my fellow citizens are quite in the mood to see things the way I do. And they probably won't for quite some time yet. But I'll be a lot happier if the Supremes do the right thing and insist that we can't kill children.


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25.1.04

Looks a little like a Zen garden
 

We're still waiting to find out what happened with Spirit, but Opportunity has now landed and is beaming back images like this one from the panoramic camera. Regrettably, they're all in black-and-white, unlike the color images we saw from Spirit, but it's still too freakin' cool that something the size of a large microwave oven can fly millions of miles to another planet and then show us what it sees.


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Not entirely clear on the concept
 

Her Majesty's Government have decided to try a weekend jail program for minor offenders, whereby low-risk offenders will "split their time between prison and the community, under the supervision of probation officers" according to the Home Office.

It seems to me that such a program misses the point of incarceration. Either one has committed an offense sufficiently grave to warrant being confined away from society for a time, or one has not. If one has, then any time off the sentence for good behavior should be applied to reduce the overall length, not to provide "vacations" in the middle of it. And if one hasn't, then a term of house arrest or probation should suffice.


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24.1.04

Politics on ice
 

When I saw the headline to this story, I was skeptical. To the regret of fans like myself, hockey is not exactly a high-profile sport on this side of the 48th parallel, so my first thought was that Kerry was sucking up for votes in an area where it's at least reasonably popular.

But I was mistaken, as I discovered when I read the full story. Seems that Kerry's been a Bruins fan since he was a kid, he played for Yale in his college days, and has played in celebrity games in Massachusetts, in addition to scoring a goal in the game today (though his team lost by one, 9-8).

So, snaps to Kerry for being a puck fan--thus far, the only one in the race that I know of. On top of that, he played to a packed house, each of whom anted up a can of food to be donated to a local food bank. For once, a substantive benefit from the political process. Kerry gets snaps for that, too.


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Requiescant in pace
 

It's been a rough week for children's television--or at least the children's television I grew up with, before "children's television" became more or less synonymous with direct marketing or product placement for the toy companies.

On Wednesday, we lost Ray Rayner, whom I grew up watching on "Bozo's Circus" and later on his eponymous program. Then on Friday we lost Bob Keeshan of "Captain Kangaroo" fame. Neither man had the huge (and rabid) following of, say, the Power Puff Girls or Pokémon, but they also didn't sell their souls to a corporate marketer. You could watch their programs without being asked to buy something, and much of the time there was an unobtrusive lesson tucked in between the cartoons and the skits. I also seem to recall that Rayner's show featured a regular visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo, long before Animal Planet came along and made mucho dinero off of "nature" programming.

God be good to both gentlemen. Our world is diminished by their passing.


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Well, he's at least HALF right
 

According to Colin Powell (via Reuters), it's an "open question" whether or not they will find weapons of mass distraction in Iraq. He did at least concede the possibility that Saddam Hussein didn't have any--which, by all accounts to date, seems in fact to have been the case. Give it up, boys. Hardly anyone believed you a year ago, and even fewer do so now.


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Focus on reality for a change
 

Focus on the Family needs to focus a little more on reality and a little less on the hate-filled rantings of its founder, rantings that twist the Gospel of Jesus Christ out of all recognition.

It's bad enough that they're trying to get federal money (i.e., your tax dollars and mine) for "services" that they allegedly provide. But when they start asking for money to "convert" gay and lesbian people to heterosexuality, that's when my blood pressure starts heading for the stratosphere.

Unlike the Bushies, I've read both the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's opinion in Lemon v. Kurtzman. In that case, the Court set out three tests that any law must pass in order to be found constitutional under the religion clauses of the First Amendment:

  1. The law must have a "secular legislative purpose"
  2. The "principal or primary effect" of the law "must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion"
  3. The law "must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion."
As I read it, Bush's faith-based initiative program fails on at least the last two of these tests. And unlike baseball, where the rule is "three strikes and you're out," in constitutional law it's "one strike and you're out."

Besides, why would a religious organization want to take the federal shilling? Doing so requires an inordinate amount of paperwork, usually involves heaps of arcane regulations, and, oh, yeah, comes with all sorts of strings attached.

Be all that as it may, when a faith-based group goes before Congress and not only wants money to fund its ministry programs, but also a specific ministry program that flies in the face of accepted psychiatric practice, that's when the steam starts coming out of my ears. The so-called "ex-gay" ministries are a sham. They don't work, as any reputable therapist will tell you, and as you could easily verify yourself, just by looking at the five-year reversion rates (nearly 100%).

I mean, think about it. If a "therapist" (such people aren't really worthy of the name, in my book, but I can't think of a better term) can "convert" a gay man to heterosexuality, would it not also be possible to turn a straight man queer? Something tells me that the people who push these programs (or, God rot such parents in hell, send their gay or questioning children to them) have neither thought their motivation through to its logical corollary nor would they accept that their own sexual orientation was capable of being changed. But if that's so, why would they think their son's or their daughter's orientation could be changed, just because it is different from their own?

Sex just seems to make people crazy. Sometimes in a good way, more often than I'd like in very bad ways.


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23.1.04

WMDs? We don't got no stinkin' WMDs!
 

According to a Reuters report, David Kay, who has led the United States' hunt for banned weapons in Iraq, quit the post today. Taking a parting shot at his former employer, he told Reuters that "he had concluded there were no Iraqi stockpiles to be found. I don't think they existed. What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last GUlf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s."

It is tricky deciding just how much weight to put on this account. Yes, this man was the leader of the few people the Bush regime could spare to hunt for those huge stocks of weapons of mass distraction they argued gave them all the excuses they needed to go to war last March. But on the other hand, if he knew the whole thing was bogus all along, why did he wait to announce that fact until the day he quit, when it could be attributed to sour grapes?


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Oh, that's rich!
 

So I'm starting to leaf through the January 23 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education when what do I see but a representation of a Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign button. Care to guess what the slogan on it was?

WARNING: You are advised not to read further while eating or drinking, unless you want to see the results all over your computer's monitor!





Here it comes:





"Bush/Cheney 2004. Keep a team you can trust."

As I recently observed in another forum, I trust George W. Bush about as far as I could throw the former Chicago Bears linebacker William "Refrigerator" Perry who, last I heard, was up to around 400 pounds. In a word, NOT!


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Fraud alert!
 

Beware! There is a new fraudulent e-mail going the rounds pretending to be from the FDIC, with the subject line "Important News About Your Bank Account." The sender of the e-mail presents you with a cock-and-bull story about suspected violations of the Patriot Act resulting in the suspension of the FDIC insurance on your accounts until you verify your identification through a handy little link in the body of the e-mail.

In a word, bullshit. Even a felon's bank accounts are insured by the FDIC against loss if the bank fails. And if the waste of protoplasm that sent you your e-mail was as stupid as the one who sent me mine, although the "Sender" was supposedly the FDIC, if you turn on full headers for the message (which should be your default setting anyway, as it's always a dead giveaway for spam, spoofs, and other nastiness) you'll see a regular Yahoo! e-mail address. Something tells me that the FDIC doesn't have to rely on the free e-mails that Yahoo! provides.

If you did click on that link and fill out that "ID verification" thingie, call your bank now! Then call your credit card companies, the credit reporting agencies, the Social Security Administration and anybody else that has records of who you are and where you live, and put a fraud alert on your records. You can find out more from the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft site.


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If only Bush would speak the truth
 

Molly Ivins says it so much more eloquently than I can. Read it here.

Well, OK. One really good quote:

It is unclear to me why anyone would believe anything the president says about our fiscal situation. Keep in mind, this is a man who took three Texas oil companies into bankruptcy.


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It's over in Illinois (for now, at least)
 

I was very happy when our former governor commuted the death sentences of all 167 inmates on Illinois' death row to life without parole, shortly before he left office last year. I am morally opposed to the death penalty except in extraordinarily rare instances (desertion on the battlefield, for example). But even if I weren't opposed to it on those grounds, it was blatantly obvious that the system was irreparably broken and there was no good way to ensure that only the truly guilty would be sentenced to death, and only after a fair and impartial trial at which all relevant evidence was heard and given its proper weight.

Consequently, I was relieved to hear on the news this morning, and to read in today's edition of the Chicago Tribune, that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the commutations and dismissed a lawsuit brought by current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that would have challenged some 30 of the commutations. The justices agreed with my reading of the relevant bits of Article V of the Illinois Constitution, saying, in the words of Justice Bob Thomas' opinion for the majority, "We believe that the grant of authority given the governor ... is sufficiently broad to allow former Gov. Ryan to do what he did."

Now we need to work to take the death penalty off the table altogether.


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Sad, but often true
 

It's intended to accompany a front-page story in Le Monde on the "grande misère" of French universities, but I think this cartoon covers a whole lot more ground than just that. The young woman asks the man behind the counter, "Where's the information desk?" and he replies "It's been relocated to China." Or India. Or Pakistan. Or some prison. Anywhere the labor is cheap.

Or how about this cartoon, where a geeky little figure says, "I've burned all my old LPs onto CD. ...ripped my CDs into MP3s ....I'm eagerly awaiting the MP4." Isn't that all too often the case. We can't enjoy what we've got because we're waiting with bated breath for the Next New Thing that someone tells us we've just got to have if we want to be cool ....attractive ....hip ....healthy .....safe.


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Spirit talks back
 

According to the Associated Press, NASA heard back from the Spirit rover this morning after sending it a command. So there may yet be hope for this mission!

That's doubly good news on top of the report from Europe's Mars Express craft that they've found traces of water vapor via infrared camera over the Martian south pole. Ain't science great?


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22.1.04

The ad that CBS won't run
 

It's not pornographic or violent. It doesn't involve scantily clad women cavorting in suggestive poses (oh, wait: that's OK during the Super Bowl). What's so bad about the ad, you ask? Well, it has the audacity to question our Not-So-Fearless Leader and his lame-brained policies.

I guess maybe the folks at CBS don't want to bite the hand that feeds them, considering the Bushies just handed them a sweetheart deal that lets them control even more of the national media than they do already: a deal they probably got by sucking up to the White House harder than any other network except perhaps Faux News.

The party line at CBS is that they don't run issue ads during the Super Bowl. Funny, they've done it before. And while they did also turn down an ad from PETA for this year's game, coincidentally (yeah, right!) they are running one for the White House Office on Drug Policy. So I guess issue ads are OK as long as the head office boys at CBS agree with them.

I think that sucks. In fact, I think that sucks rocks. Judge for yourself. Stop by MoveOn.org and watch the ad. If you're so inclined, sign the petition asking CBS to grow a pair of cojones and run it. And if you can, give a little something to MoveOn to help cover the cost. As we all know, airtime during the Super Bowl does not come cheaply.


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Let him eat his pork in peace?
 

Unless you can read German, you'll have to trust me on this story from Agence France Presse.

It seems that our Vacationer-in-Chief made an unplanned stop at the Nothin' Fancy Cafe in Roswell today after talking about his sci-fi "war of (er, on) terror." He's quoted as saying (and I'm translating from the original German of the story here) to the assembled journalists: "Let me explain how the economy works. If you spend money for food here, that's good for this lady's bidness. An order makes it that much more likely that someone will find a new job. So, instead of asking me questions, I'd rather you answered mine: 'You gonna order anything to eat?'"

I wonder if anybody ever explained to him about not spending money you don't have on hand....


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Losing the Spirit?
 

I sure as hell hope it isn't true. But Agence France Presse is reporting that what appeared at first to be a weather interruption to communications with the Mars Spirit Rover may be a much more serious breakdown.

Taped to the wall dead-center above my desk in the office, where it's been for the two and a half years since I printed it out, is a certificate I got from NASA for participating in the Mars Exploration Rover 2003 Mission. My name is among those on a compact disc aboard one of the rovers that blasted off for the Red Planet last year. I think it's cool as shit that we can send bits of equipment (and sometimes people) hundreds of millions of miles off into space, trying to find out what's out there, what it's made of, how it got there, and about how long it's been around. I don't hang around logged in to the JPL to watch every second of live footage from the surface of Mars, but I'm pretty damn excited that we can look at it if we want to. And I did go and take a look at the first big composite photograph they put together from the images Spirit took once it had landed.

I wasn't quite six years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, so I don't remember watching it or thinking much about it at the time. But I've been a big fan of the space program since I was a little tyke. Somewhere back home I have autographs from the three astronauts who came to Northern Illinois University to celebrate its 75th anniversary when I was 10. It's a sad thing that we'd pretty much stopped trying to go boldly where none has gone before (to avoid Star Trek's nasty split infinitive), so I was really hoping these Mars missions would get people fired up to try again when we have the money to spend and don't need it for more pressing concerns (which is why I think Bush and his cronies should be the only ones we send on a manned Mars mission right now, and I'm debating whether or not we should give them space suits).

I sure hope the little buggy wakes up!


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Piggy, piggy, piggy!
 

Oh, well. So much for hoping we might manage to cut a little bit of the pork out of the federal budget (see my "Fix the omnibus bill" item from 08:11 this morning, below). Reuters reports that as of a couple of hours ago: "The Senate voted 65-28 to pass the 1,200-page bill after Democrats, under pressure to free up its funding for everything from foreign aid, farm, veterans, education, transportation and health programs to the State Department and FBI, abandoned procedural tactics they had been using to oppose it."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle commented that nobody "wants to be accused of shutting the government down." Well, why the hell NOT? Especially if all they're going to do is piss away our tax dollars on finding out why people want to escape from prison, or browbeating poor people into making bad marriages, all the while completely ignoring the real problems needing real solutions all over this country. C'mon, people. Grow a pair, would'ja?


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Nailed!
 

The following, from Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable, is courtesy of Eric Zorn's Notebook. It captures so many of my frustrations with our ersatz "president" and his lame-brained policies:

I appreciate the irony of this rich, pampered, oft-rescued son of a president admonishing athletes that there are no "shortcuts to accomplishments."

I marvel at how Bush devoted more time to homosexuals than he did to the environment.

"Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage," Bush proclaimed, envisioning that institution under attack.

Having seen how the Bush administration dealt with the imagined threat from Saddam Hussein, don't be surprised if troops soon pull a marriage-dissin' Britney Spears from her spider hole.

The real issues remain war and the economy. I loved what Bush said about how he is creating jobs and making the world safer. If only what he said were true.

Can I have an "Amen!" brothers and sisters?


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Where, indeed?
 

From a story in today's Chicago Tribune:

"The Eagles' Thrash left little doubt about his beliefs--and reasons for pointing [a finger toward the sky]--in a chat earlier this season with Ashley McGeachy of the Philadelphia Daily News.

'It is just a reminder to everyone that I'm in it for the Lord,' said the wide receiver. 'And what greater platform to thank God than in front of millions of people who might be watching?'

The star receiver said he's confident his teammates know his convictions are pure when he points to heaven after receptions. 'If someone came up to me and said there's not a place for God in football, I'd probably ask them: Where is the place for God?'"

My answer to that last question is that God is everywhere and nowhere. And as for making a public spectacle out of thanking God for a touchdown, I'm reminded of the verse from Matthew's Gospel we'll be hearing read out on Ash Wednesday in a month: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners so that people will see them. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward" (Matthew 6:5, my translation from the original Greek).

Besides, the very idea that God either cares about or takes an active part in determining the outcome of any athletic contest is probably pretty slim. As Mark Twain observed about wars, if God cares about one side, God has to care equally about the other.

I think it's great that there are people with tremendous talents for doing anything who want to acknowledge that they didn't get to that point on their own. But I draw the line at making an ostentation out of what should be a profoundly thankful, profoundly private moment. That's just being an obnoxious show-off--and nobody likes that (probably including the Lord).


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You should watch this
 

As you might have guessed from the fact that the next link in the list after my own home page is to the NHL's web presence, I kinda like hockey.

I was really peeved when none of the sports networks (I expected as much from the regular broadcast networks, I'm sorry to say) felt it was worth showing the 2004 World Juniors tournament from Finland earlier this year. It wasn't anything important, you know. Just the first time in its history that the U.S. team managed to win the gold medal....

I'm happy to notice that ESPN2, which does most of the hockey broadcasting to those of us who don't subscribe to the NHL Center Ice package for whatever reason, is going to show the gold medal game this afternoon at 5 p.m. Eastern. If you like hockey, you should definitely watch this game. (I'm going to be running home at lunch to make sure my VCR is set to tape it, since it wasn't listed in TV Guide, and since I'll be at a lecture from 3:30 to 5, local.) Even if you don't like hockey, you should watch this game. It's a bunch of young guys, some pros, some college kids, giving it their all for their country. You've gotta love that. Check it out!


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Fix the omnibus bill!
 

The good folks over at ActForChange are encouraging people to contact their Congressfolk to refuse to pass the omnibus (that's Latin for "a little bit of everything," which is an accurate description of the goodies tucked inside such bills) spending measure currently before them.

As they say on the site:

"Republicans in Congress and their special interest allies have hijacked the omnibus spending measures that provides money for the coming year and have added on dozens of favors that change Federal policy. In general, these favors would never pass Congress one by one in a public vote, so they've been bundled into a 'must pass' measure. Senate Democrats and a handful of Senate Republicans are currently blocking the bill from coming up for a final vote until some of the most egregious proposals are removed, but Congressional leaders and the White House have loudly refused to make any changes to the bill.

While, as John McCain has stated, 'It's hard to pick the ugliest pig in this sty,' there are five specific proposals that should be amended before the omnibus spending bill comes up for a final vote:

  1. Restoration of overtime pay protections,
  2. Removal of the 2-year delay for country of origin labeling for meat and produce-–which is critical in defending against mad cow disease,
  3. Reinstatement of previously stricter media ownership rules,
  4. Removal of any provisions that will undermine law enforcement's ability to enforce gun laws,
  5. Removal of a provision to use tax dollars to support private religious schools in a school voucher program planned for Washington, DC."

Let me encourage you to talk to your representatives about these issues--and remember both what they tell you and what they do about it when you step into that voting booth in November.


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If it weren't so serious, I'd be laughing
 

I'm sorry, but how appropriate is it that the Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief has decided to go to Roswell, NM to talk about his much-hyped War on Terror? A sci-fi setting for a mostly fictional war, but one that unfortunately has very real casualties. If it weren't for those coffins coming home draped in the flag, I'd probably wet myself laughing over this one.


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21.1.04

Oh, so THAT's where they went!
 

The clue phone is ringing. Wouldn't it be nice if the Bush regime picked it up?

Reuters is reporting that a "top U.S. politician" (Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and described in the story as "a leading member" of the Republican Party) is claiming that the weapons of mass distraction that the Bushies neither found nor looked terribly hard for in Iraq may have been carted off to Syria. According to the story, Roberts made the claim and "did not elaborate."

Could that be because he's talking out of his ass and he knows it?

Syria "has in the past denied U.S. charges it has weapons of mass destruction programs and supports 'terrorist activity.'"

I've gotta wonder just how dumb they think we are. I mean, don't you think someone would have noticed big ol' convoys heading from all sorts of suspicious-looking places and beelining it for the Syrian border? It's not like we had any spy satellites monitoring Iraq, or any sophisticated aircraft flying over the place on a daily basis...


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Schadenfreude's a real bitch
 

I really shouldn't be thinking happy thoughts at sad news, such as the AFP story that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could face a criminal indictment on corruption charges in a few weeks' time, pursuant to an attempt to bribe him when he was foreign minister.

I don't think it's a good thing that another politician finds himself embroiled in another scandal. But since I do think one of the reasons we're still trying to find a peaceful solution to the second intifada is Ariel Sharon, I have to be at least a little happy at the prospect that he might not get to hang on to the reins of power for much longer. And since his deputy prime minister would likely fall under the same indictment, according to the story, it's just possible that the world might get to see the installation of a leader who would work for peace.

That would be a wonderful development. It's been more than three years since last I made aliyah to the Holy Land. I'm jonesing for a Sea of Galilee fix!


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Can't trust Bush further than you could throw him!
 

Reuters reports:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush may seek an additional $40 billion or more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year--on top of the $400-billion military budget he will send to Congress next month, congressional sources and budget analysts said on Wednesday.

But Bush is unlikely to send the request to Congress until after the November presidential election to minimize any political damage, the sources said."

What, you mean things aren't going so well in Iraq, O not-so-fearless leader? Couldn't trust the American people with the truth when he lied his way into war; apparently still can't trust us with the truth while we pay to clean up his mess.


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Step right up and pick your presidential candidate!
 

Again, thanks to Eric Zorn's Notebook for this little tidbit. AOL and Time magazine have put together a pick-a-president site where you can answer questions about your views on issues that look to be important this campaign season. Run down the list, and they'll tell you which of the candidates currently in the running (major parties only at this point, though they did say they'd put in third-party folk after the major primaries were done) best match your opinions.

My results were as follows:

  • Kucinich (100% match)
  • Sharpton (96% match)
  • Kerry (88% match, which surprises me)
  • Dean (87% match)
  • Clark (85% match)
  • Edwards (76% match)
  • Lieberman (72% match, which also surprises me: didn't think it would be that high!)
  • Bush (7% match)

That's right. The Usurper-in-Chief and I don't see eye to eye on even 10 percent of the issues. Small wonder my blood pressure readings have been high the last few years!


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Lost in (re-)translation
 

Courtesy of Eric Zorn's Notebook:

"Librarian Matthew White plugged a series of familiar passages into Babelfish, a site on the Web that automatically translates texts from one language to another, and asked the program to translate them out of English and then back into English.

The results are amusingly daffy:

Stones of the flint.
Solve stones of the flint.
They are the modern family of the age of stone.
Of the city of the bottom rock,
A correct one of the pagination outside history.

That's the lyrics of 'The Flintstones' theme as translated back into English after first having been translated into Spanish."


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The Oreo budget
 

The guys and gals over at True Majority have cooked up a really interesting movie that makes some sense out of the ginormous federal budget. Check it out.
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Leave THIS "president" behind!
 

In keeping with Shrub's plan to "Leave No Child Behind" (except the ones that are too poor to do what he did and go to private school), the folks over at True Majority cooked up a handy little report card that you can send to our "education president" and tell him how you think he did last night. Check it out, then send it in.
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Bush's blind spot
 

Even though the Chicago Tribune endorsed Shrub, they had this to say in one of today's editorials (Bush's blind spot):

"Yet Bush's political calculus saddles the nation with two problems. First, the cost of his tax cuts will grow exponentially over time, putting more pressure on the federal treasury and on tomorrow's taxpayers. Second, Bush hasn't cut the spending that he needs to curb dramatically in order to justify making his tax cuts permanent.

The president asserted that by better managing taxpayers' money, 'we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years.' But he offered no specifics, and the record of this president and this Congress doesn't inspire faith. One example among many: With Medicare and Social Security facing immense demands as Baby Boomers age, what stunt did the mutual spending enablers in Washington recently execute? They joined forces to schmooze voters with a gargantuan Medicare drug benefit that is priced, over one decade alone, in the hundreds of billions."


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The state of our disunion
 

I didn't bother watching Duh-bya's address last night. I figured it would be devoid of substance and replete with the usual lies and evasions--and the sound bytes I'm hearing on the news this morning appear to bear that out. For a "deconstruction" of what the Liar-in-Chief said, check this out.

The thing that gets me is he had the stones to suggest we should keep him on because things are going so well. Excuse me? Lemme see, we've lost more jobs on this git's watch than Herbert Hoover did at the beginning of the Great Depression. Forty million people, more or less, are without health insurance, and Bush has done nothing to make it cheaper or more widely available. His great "Medicare package" will actually cost senior citizens more for the same (or worse) coverage that they get now, and, a great big sop to the drug companies that give bajillions of campaign contributions to the Republiconartists, Medicare is statutorily prohibited from negotiating better rates for the drugs it buys, even when it's the biggest buyer and should be able to get them at a fraction of the retail price. We're $500 billion in the hole, and this asshole wants to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, keep spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq, and now he wants to start paying for education again, after he cut funding for his own "Leave No Child Untested" act.

Yeah. That sure as hell looks like something I want to change.


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