Friday, August 31, 2007
1) There's something "heartwarming" (/snark) to be said about how Republicans are all about personal responsibility, until one of their cronies gets into trouble. In this case? The banking industry. Make no mistake: this is not designed to protect homeowners. It's designed to protect the bankers who loaned the money and those up the food chain who provided the funds.
2) Clearly, this step means that there's a lot more trouble to come. Specifically, next year. Estimates are that the value of mortgages whose interest rates are due for readjustment next year is about five times the value of this year's crop.
3) This column started out way too wonky. So let's get snarky. Turns out that the reason Leona Helmsley loved her dog $12 million worth is, the dog was her lover. You might recall that Leona has had her man problems in the past...
4) OK, this is a story I really didn't need to read the week I bought one of these gizmos.
7) Moronic. (Gonna sue ME now, Lay, like you tried to sue your college?)
8) I'll have to start TiVoing "Scrubs" now...
9) In the aftermath of the Chris Benoit tragedy, the WWE has announced the suspension of ten wrestlers for drug violations of its "wellness policy". If every wreslter who took drugs was suspended, Vince McMahon would lose his hyouse in Greenwich. It's practically Republican, the way this organization exploits its workers than covers its ass by blaming them.
10) Dueling political leaks. You have to know Petraeus and the White House really didn't want to have to tip their hands, but the (Clinton appointed) GAO and it's chief had better things in mind.
11) Things are starting to heat up in the Atlantic.
12) Somewhere in this picture is Senator Larry Craig.
13) OK, that might not have been fair. After all, none of these men is sitting on a toilet.
14) Question: how could they tell?
15) Good on them. Too often, corporations treat music and musicians like garbage, while making gobs of money off their work.
16) One of these things is not like the others.
17) Note to any returning injured Afghan or Iraq vets: claim hemmorhoids.
18) My daughter heads off to college tomorrow. Anybody got tips for an anxious dad?
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I want you to close your eyes and imagine you are standing in the middle of Church Square of the blogosphere, at the junction of Piety Avenue and Judgement Boulevard.
Still your mind for a moment. Take a deep breath and exhale completely, and now, listen.
Did you hear it?
The sound of utter, embarrassed silence.
I think we've just witnessed the death of the Christian Coalition. There are, of course, many causes that this can be attributed to: the death of Jerry Falwell had to take a lot of the starch out of its sails, to be sure, but more, I think the marriage of Christianity to the GOP agenda created a monster that ultimately Man could not control.
So Jesus stepped in.
The signal to me that Jesus stepped in was the event of the week in politics: the self-debasement of Senator Larry Craig of
The evangelical church, the backbone of the Republican-church pairing, was strangely silent. Where was Pat Robertson? Why wasn't he denouncing this "abomination" of a man the way he accused lesbians and witches of causing the terror attacks of September 11?
Where was "Dr." (psychology, not divinity...shame on you, pastor!) James Dobson, the head of "Focus On Family," the organization that just last year skewed research to "prove" that gays and lesbians make bad parents? Larry Craig has received a 100% approval rating from the Christian Coalition, an organization Dobson claims to be a major force in...why is he suddenly silent? He had no qualms about speaking out against Rudy Giuliani.
Where are all those "countless" American Catholic bishops who threatened to excommunicate John Kerry for respecting the rights of women who aren't Catholic and don't necessarily agree with the Catholic Church regarding abortion? After all, the Bible condemns homosexual behavior according the the church, right alongside abortion...and if anything, is even more specific about homosexuality than abortion.
Where they at?
I think what we're witnessing, and not a moment too soon, is the death of the Religious Right as a political force. So many things have piled up over the past two years-- Catholic priests as pedophile, Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, David Vitter, as well as Larry Craig and the death of Jerry Falwell, not to mention the absolutely tragic Bush presidency and the waning influence demonstrated during the 2006 midterm elections-- that I think the Religious Right has chosen to sit this one out.
In fact, I'd posit that the major reason Karl Rove left the White House was he realized he'd never be able to duplicate the "perfect storm" that created the Bush presidency in the first place, then managed to eke out a re-election. He knew he couldn't sell yet another load of manure about a Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, and expect that constitutency to figure out how to put enough ketchup on it to make it palatable.
That was the most intriguing part of the Rove strategy: that he found enough
Note that only the first wave of prelates got any stroke out of the deal. Your local church only saw the grateful words of those above it.
As a liberal Christian, I can begin to imagine the disllusionment many of the flock are feeling right now: to sit and defend behaviors they find even more abhorrent than the blow jobs they were violently and vehemently protesting just ten years with their "allies" in the GOP must be enormous, and their embarrassment even more so.
After all, they donated money to these men, just like they donated money to Christ. In their minds, these men were the equivalent to Christ for that reason. They must have felt it was that important.
In my heart, I feel for Senator Craig, too. Not completely. Not enough to want to see him not get punished for his comments and votes against tolerance and his hypocrisies. But I can imagine the humiliation he and his family feel, and I feel for them for that. We've all walked a mile in those shoes, most of us never had to walk them on the front pages of the tabloid news with flashbulbs popping in our faces.
And I feel for Senator Craig in another way: how much it must hurt him to hate who he is.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The niggling numbnut naysayers of the right wing often point to the "failed" avian flu epidemic as a sign that science doesn't always get it right, and that the dire warnings about global warming should be discounted for that fact alone.
Um. Not so fast, guys:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A mathematical analysis has confirmed that H5N1 avian influenza spread from person to person in Indonesia in April, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.Ah, you might say, statistical analysis is not a precise measuring tool.
They said they had developed a tool to run quick tests on disease outbreaks to see if dangerous epidemics or pandemics may be developing.
Actually, it is. Statistical analyses were what helped pinpoint a plague outbreak in London (the first widespread use of statistics, by the way) to the drinking water (i.e. The Thames) and aided in taking steps necessary to prevent a further spread of the disease.
To continue with the article:
since 2003 it has infected 322 people and killed 195 of them.The Turkey outbreak yielded insufficient data upon which to form a conclusion, but the Sumatra outbreak was clearly shown to be a human-to-human transmission.
Most have been infected directly by birds. But a few clusters of cases have been seen and officials worry most about the possibility that the virus has acquired the ability to pass easily and directly from one person to another. That would spark a pandemic.
Ira Longini and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at two clusters -- one in which eight family members died in Sumatra in 2006, and another in Turkey in which eight people were infected and four died.
Why is this important? The great fear of scientists regarding the avian flu is the mutation to a form that would infect mammals. Most scientists consider it a certainty that this will happen. It's already happened once in my lifetime (The Hong Kong flu was a type "A" influenza, meaning it was once avian and then mutated...I remember having that. It was not fun.)
Less than 100 years ago, an avian flu virus mutated and created the Spanish Flu. Original estimates were that between 40-50 million people worldwide died of this disease, but statisticians believe that number is off by 100%, and that the total was closer to 100 million, or roughly ten percent of the world's population. The discrepancy is attributed to more primitive medical diagnoses, because avian flu symptoms are so severe, the disease is often misdiagnosed as Ebola or Dengue fever.
Yea. You read that correctly. It's that nasty:
"One of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhage from mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestine. Bleeding from the ears and petechial hemorrhages in the skin also occurred." The majority of deaths were from bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenza, but the virus also killed people directly, causing massive hemorrhages and edema in the lung.Too, because this was all happening at the tail end of World War I, it's likely that many of the war dead actually died of the flu, but were tallied as combat casualties.
So there's a lot of reason to be concerned about avian flu and a lot of reason to be thankful that so far, we've all been very lucky. It is, however, coming, and just because the conservative cretins pray the problem goes away, and then whistle past the graveyard when we've made it through yet another flu season without this deadly outbreak, doesn't mean it will not happen.
We need to find solutions and we need to recommit resources that have been allowed to drift away from this crisis. Thankfully, a Democratic Congress is in place, and might...might...have the foresight to do something before things get out of hand.
Given the current "It's better to apologize later than ask permission now" sentiment floating around DC, however, I wouldn't hold my breath.
Even if eventually, we all may have to.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
If only this could be true:
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Former Sen. John Edwards said at a Hurricane Katrina conference he would propose what he called "Brownie's Law" requiring that qualified people, not political hacks, lead key federal agencies.Unfortunately, the tradition of patronage and rewarding hacks is a long-standing one in politics, not only in America.
Edwards, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, drew laughter when he spoke on Monday of the proposal at the "Hope and Recovery Summit" ahead of the two-year anniversary of the storm on Wednesday.
"It's an absolute travesty to have people who are essentially political hacks in a very responsible position," he told the audience at the University of New Orleans.
"Brownie" refers to Michael Brown, who was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when Katrina struck the United States on August 29, 2005. He was criticized as being a political appointee unprepared to lead FEMA when a floundering government effort stranded thousands for days in flooded New Orleans.
He resigned shortly after President George W. Bush, who appointed him to the post, told him publicly, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" as chaos reigned in the devastated city.
True, Brownie blew up in Dubya's face (and a real leader would have fired him in a New York minute, rather than glad-hand him and give us weeks more of incompetent boobery in New Orleans and Mississippi), as did Alberto Gonzalez, another incompetent and ill-equipped appointee. Bush has cover on Gonzo, tho, since the Senate...the GOP-controlled Senate...had to vet and confirm that braying burro of an attorney general.
Still, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished, Edwards' proposal, but one that is ultimately doomed to the bonepile of good-but-impractical ideas. Many questions can be raised: who would vet the credentials of the appointees? The Senate? That would be unConstitutional, which specifically delineates what positions require Senate confirmation.
A blue-ribbon panel? OK, but who would appoint them? And what qualifications would they need?
And you just know some right-wing blog is checking out Edwards' appointees and staffers, looking for any hint of incompetence or underqualification for the position they hold.
Which raises yet another, more basic issue: what would happen if someone whose qualifications are not immediately apparent was appointed to one of these posts?
Nothing in Brownie's past indicated that he would be anywhere near qualified for FEMA director, save for a job as a glorified secretary for some state emergency manager's office.
Sometimes, tho, those administrative assistants know more about the job and the responsibilities than the people who nominally oversee the agency.
Just ask Brownie's secretary at FEMA! In fact, I'd wager that she (or he) would have made a far better FEMA director than Brownie, but (s)he'd never be hired under Edwards' plan.
Nice thought, John-boy. Try again.
Monday, August 27, 2007
After Karl Rove's resignation, this should have been a particularly obvious event, even if there was speculation that Bush forced Rove's resignation in favor of Gonzalez:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned, an official said on Monday, ending a controversial tenure as chief law enforcement officer that blemished the administration of President George W. Bush.First off, I didn't realize that Chertoff was a lawyer, not that the DoJ has had any interest in law since 2001. Second, the curious thing is that this resignation follows Gonzalez' statement to Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) that he would be staying to fix the dysfunctionality at Justice, created in large part by his ham-handed handling of the firing of US Attorneys in 2005, among other issues.
Gonzales was to make a statement at the Justice Department at 10:30 EDT. Bush was also expected to make a statement about Gonzales Monday morning, but would not be announcing a replacement, a senior administration official said.
A senior administration official said U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting Attorney General, amid speculation that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff could be a candidate for a permanent replacement.
And clearly, Bush would have been happy to have his partner-in-crime, literally, stay on. Thick as thieves, those two, and I suspect when history has its final say on the Bush administration, crimes we don't even suspect right now will have been traced back to those two.