Saturday, October 13, 2007

Are We Picking Yet ANOTHER Fight?

On the heels of yesterday's tense meeting between Condi Rice, Robert Gates and Vladimir Putin of Russia, comes this stupid spewing from the Secretary of State:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Russian human rights activists on Saturday she wanted to help them build institutions to protect people from the 'arbitrary power of the state'.

The meeting could irk the Kremlin, which is sensitive to Western accusations it is rolling back democratic freedoms and suspects foreign governments of trying to influence the outcome of next year's presidential election.
I have two points to make here, both of which I can sum up in an anecdote.

Imagine, if you will, Nikita Kruschev coming back from the grave, and standing up in front of, say, Yearly Kos, and saying essentially the same thing.

OK, my two points:

1) What the fuck is Rice trying to do, ignite a nuclear holocaust?

2) When will Condi stand up for the rights of Americans to protect us from the arbitrary power of the state?

That is all. I'm too angry to write much else.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

Billy Joel - Pressure

My favorite Billy Joel song of all time. He had a period about twenty years ago where he really dealt with his inner demons through his music. I have no doubt that once he stopped, he started his real drinking.

I met him back in the early 80s in a bar in Roslyn, NY, where he was celebrating a friend's birthday, and my buddies and I were in the next booth.

Really nice guy. We sat for a little while with them, drinking and laughing. It was a good way to get laid for a few months afterwards...

Friday Kitten Blogging

Who da bessest kitten onna planet?

Dass right, ME! Not sum stoopid hairless pussy...

Nobody Asked Me, But...


When news breaks, I pick up the pieces.

1) Turn your closet into a pantry!

2) That's now TWO THREE FOUR former Presidents of the United States who have won Nobel Peace Prizes! Congratulations, Mr. President!

3) Pooty-Poot looks like he's going to take up the Dixie Chicks mantle. First, he made Condi Rice and Robert Gates cool their heels in his antechamber ("Professor, the Dean is furious! He's waxing wroth!" "Is Roth out there, too? Tell Roth to wax the Dean for awhile." baDUMching!), then he threatened to cancel an anti-ballistic missile treaty over Bush's posturing with a new missile defense shield.

4) At least someone can stand up to this monster.

5) It looks like I'll finally be able to come out of the closet. Maybe there really is a Crusade about to take place.

6) Finally, a reason to buy a Wii:

7) You have sixty minutes before an asteroid hits the planet and wipes us out. Quick? What would you do for sixty minutes? Me, I think I'd do number two. And not just the one on the list!

8) Obviously, this bug has been married.

9) Shaun of the Engine Room.

10) $250 million for what? Good grief, is this payback for beating them in a war?

11) No. This has been another edition of "Obvious Answers To Ridiculous Questions."

12) Is it just me, or is this starting to sound like the plot from the first Batman movie?

13) The oldest wall painting yet discovered was revealed this week (see photo above). Apparently, it even predates Clement Greenberg as no scathing review accompanied it. Thanks to Miss Cellania, let me clarify: Lascaux predates this painting, but this was painted on a constructed wall and is art for art's sake.

14) Oh...and ThumbPer asked me to remind you to boycott this weekend's NYC Cat Show, since he was not personally invited to attend. He's very insulted. He barely gobbled down two bowls of cat food over the past 24 hours.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Em Angree!

I sawr thes arteckle on the innertubenets taday, and et made me so mad!:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The claws will be out in New York City this weekend as hundreds of pedigree cats, with stage names such as "Disco Nofurno" and "Leonid the Magnificent," compete to win "Best of the Best" at the Cat Championships.
Dass MY titel, cuz dadby sed so! An dese stoopid cats are tryin to take et away from me?

OHNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dey be steelin mah titel!

Look at dis little pussy!

I cud scartch hes eyes out, no problem! Butt hem want to be bessest qat?

I don fink so!

Or dis wun!Look at det! Hem has to jump tru hoops an I'm stell a bester qat!

Yes, you keep steckin yer tongue at me, keyboard boy...I scartch your eyes out too, you dancingcat!

I no whare you lib!

Maybe, Just Maybe.....

...the Democrats are starting to get their acts together:

Item 1 - House panel backs Internet tax ban extension:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would extend a moratorium on state Internet access taxes for four years.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to endorse extension of the Internet tax ban after defeating Republican amendments that would have either extended the prohibition further or made it permanent, a committee spokeswoman said.
Curiously, I'm behind the Republicans on this one, but what the hey...we all know they did that to prevent the original bill from being approved, thus allowing states to impose a tax on Internet access.

Item 2 - House backs bill to end private tax collections:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to end a Republican-backed program allowing private debt collectors to pursue tax debts owed to the federal government.

The House voted 232-173 for a bill ending the program enacted in 2004 by the then Republican-led Congress.

Democrats, who now control Congress, and unions opposed the program, saying it was a costly way to collect tax debts that could more efficiently be collected by Internal Revenue Service employees.
This one is close to my heart at the present time. It's a lot easier for me to negotiate with the IRS, believe it or not, than with a private tax collection agency, simply because the tax collection agency has a threshold where it will no longer make a profit on any tax I might owe. The IRS has no such bottom line, and so I might be able to discount anything I owe them.

Since I'm currently being audited, this is a relief to me.

Item 3 (and the biggie) - House Democrats defy Bush, approve spy bill:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defying President George W. Bush, Democrats voted on Wednesday to bolster civil liberties safeguards in his anti-terrorism spying program and refused to shield phone companies from pending lawsuits.

Just hours after Bush warned Democrats they would be rolling back efforts to protect the United States, the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence committees approved legislation to ensure congressional and court oversight of the surveillance of suspected enemy targets.

The party-line votes by the two panels were 20-14 and 12-7, respectively.
FINALLY, a spine begins to emerge from the fetal soup that Pelosi et co have been stewing in!

Mind you, there's a contingency, almost blackmail, to the bit about the phone companies:
Bush insisted the new bill "must grant liability protection to companies who are facing multibillion dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend our nation."

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan replied: "The president's remarks today raise further questions about how the administration might have pressured or induced telecommunications companies to participate."

House Democrats say they will not consider retroactive immunity unless the White House hands over records of detailing what the companies did. The House bill would protect the firms from future lawsuits, but not from pending ones.
In other words, "Bush? Your cronies are on the chopping block unless you start ponying up material in our investigations."

Based on how this administration is responding and cooperating with Congress, you begin to get the sense they feel Nixon didn't fight hard enough to create the imperial Presidency and that Ronald Reagan was a wimp.

Of course, those two men labored under the apparent delusion that the Constitution was more than a piece of parchment hung on the wall of the Skull & Bones frat house.

Item 4 - House panel OKs Armenian genocide resolution:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House committee approved on Wednesday a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians genocide, brushing aside White House warnings that it would do "great harm" to ties with NATO ally Turkey, a key supporter in the Iraq war.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution 27-21. It now goes to the House floor, where Democratic leaders say there will be a vote by mid-November. There is a companion bill in the Senate, but both measures are strictly symbolic and do not require the president's signature.
OK, this one I might have a bit of a problem with, not for the sentiment expressed (it's pretty clear Turkey owes Armenians an apology and acknowledgement of the slaughter, at the very least), but for the timing:
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's prime minister will ask parliament next week to authorize a military push into north Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels amid Turkish anger on Thursday at a U.S. vote branding Ottoman Turk killings of Armenians genocide.

Analysts say a large Turkish cross-border incursion remains unlikely, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government will seek authorization for it after a public holiday which ends on Sunday, a ruling party member told Reuters.[...]

Ankara says 3,000 rebels from the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are based in northern Iraq from where they stage deadly attacks into Turkey.
We need to prevent this, somehow, and hobbling Bush and Condoleeza Rice with this wet towel that Erdogan can smack them around with is probably not helpful.

Too, Turkey is a vital pipeline into Iraq for munitions, troops, and fuel. Pissing them off is effectively cutting funding for the troops, which while a noble goal, needs to be done some other way, more directly, instead of this passive aggressive bullshit featuring a staunch Muslim ally.

So, we'll score yesterday's session a B+, with plenty of room for improvement, but its clear they've started to take their jobs seriously.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

A real toe tapper...

How To Shoot Yourself In The Foot

Since this is extracted from a New York Times article, I'm going to quote from it more extensively than usual, since I don't know how quickly they'll archive it.

If you've been paying attention to the blogosphere these past few days, a storm's been brewing over the Democratic response on September 29 to President Bush's weekly radio address. 12-year-old Graeme Frost urged Bush not to veto legislation that was then pending in Congress (and subsequently passed):
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — There have been moments when the fight between Congressional Democrats and President Bush over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program seemed to devolve into a shouting match about who loves children more.

So when Democrats enlisted 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who along with a younger sister relied on the program for treatment of severe brain injuries suffered in a car crash, to give the response to Mr. Bush’s weekly radio address on Sept. 29, Republican opponents quickly accused them of exploiting the boy to score political points.
OK, so far, no harm, no foul. The anger the Republicans felt was directed where it should have been: at the Democrats, not Frost or his family.

And then the Republicans called in their orc stormtroopers...:
In recent days, Graeme and his family have been attacked by conservative bloggers and other critics of the Democrats’ plan to expand the insurance program, known as S-chip. They scrutinized the family’s income and assets — even alleged the counters in their kitchen to be granite — and declared that the Frosts did not seem needy enough for government benefits.
There is a certain disingenousness about attacking a 12 year old (and you'll note the White House silence on this so far) and his family to the point where in truth, these blogophericals have stalked the Frosts.
The critics accused Graeme’s father, Halsey, a self-employed woodworker, of choosing not to provide insurance for his family of six, even though he owned his own business. They pointed out that Graeme attends an expensive private school. And they asserted that the family’s home had undergone extensive remodeling, and that its market value could exceed $400,000.

One critic, in an e-mail message to Graeme’s mother, Bonnie, warned: “Lie down with dogs, and expect to get fleas.” As it turns out, the Frosts say, Graeme attends the private school on scholarship. The business that the critics said Mr. Frost owned was dissolved in 1999. The family’s home, in the modest Butchers Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, was bought for $55,000 in 1990 and is now worth about $260,000, according to public records. And, for the record, the Frosts say, their kitchen counters are concrete.

I suppose this all wouldn't be nearly so ugly if it wasn't for the confrontational attitude that many in the media, particularly Michelle "Jackpot Baby" Malkin who has a history of invading people's privacy while hypocritically bitching when the tables have been turned on her, having been forced to move (and admitting it on her blog) when Jesus' General posted general directions to her house at his blog.

Poor Jackpot Baby, but when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas...

Back to the Frosts:
Certainly the Frosts are not destitute. They also own a commercial property, valued at about $160,000, that provides rental income. Mr. Frost works intermittently in woodworking and as a welder, while Mrs. Frost has a part-time job at a firm that provides services to publishers of medical journals. Her job does not provide health coverage.

Under the Maryland child health program, a family of six must earn less than $55,220 a year for children to qualify. The program does not require applicants to list their assets, which do not affect eligibility.

In a telephone interview, the Frosts said they had recently been rejected by three private insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions. “We stood up in the first place because S-chip really helped our family and we wanted to help other families,” Mrs. Frost said.
Now, you'd think this is precisely the kind of family that Republicans would want to help!

After all, among the major reasons people give for filing bankruptcy and then going on public assistance is (drumroll, please) major catastrophic medical expenses not covered by health insurance.

As I said, you'd think...
But Michelle Malkin, one of the bloggers who have strongly criticized the Frosts, insisted Republicans should hold their ground and not pull punches.

“The bottom line here is that this family has considerable assets,” Ms. Malkin wrote in an e-mail message. “Maryland’s S-chip program does not means-test. The refusal to do assets tests on federal health insurance programs is why federal entitlements are exploding and government keeps expanding. If Republicans don’t have the guts to hold the line, they deserve to lose their seats.”
No. It doesn't means test.

Neither do SBA programs that are intended to rebuild businesses after a catastrophe like Katrina. Or tax deductions for property taxes. Or tax credits for farmers (Michelle, are you listening?). Or oil exploration credits. The interstate highways don't charge fees based on how expensive your car is.

And Iraq swore it didn't have WMDs, but no one bothered to wait around until that was "means tested" by Hans Blix, either.

The simple truth is, blogosphericals, that people suffer tragedies and can't afford to recover from them, even if they appear to be in fairly decent shape. Those of us who have the means to be able to recover shouldn't make fun of or harass those who don't.

Just as those of us who were born here of legal American citizens shouldn't denigrate the citizenship of jackpot babies. Thems the law, and that's the rule we play by.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Nader Of The GOP

The lessons learned of the 1992, 1996, and 2000 elections apparently did not sink in to the Republican party:
To many values voters, Giuliani's rise is one more insult in the wake of the serial GOP sex scandals in Congress, the failure of George W. Bush's Administration to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage, and a hunch that religious voters register on the Republican radar only when Election Day is in sight.
No duh!

We get a bit of an insight into why Karl Rove bailed out on the Republican party just when they need him most: for the past seven years, his hand-picked choice for President, the man to whom he delivered 3.5 million additional conservative Christian votes in 2004, has failed miserably, not just in imposing freedom in Iraq, but also in imposing a clear, conservative Christian agenda on America.

Sure, he's made inroads, no question about that: the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito have all but cinched a conservative agenda for the next four decades in the court system, barring a sudden change of heart with a new President.

But look what hasn't happened, what was promised to the religious right: an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution, overturning Roe v Wade, an end to the sex scandals that plagued government during the Clinton administration (suddenly, Monica Lewinski giving the Big Dog a hummer doesn't seem nearly so outrageous, when he was derided by people who "meat up" in men's rooms in airports), and other Christian stances that were, in fact and deed, repudiated by Bush (on issues such as saving the environment and assisting the poor such as in the Katrina tragedy).

There are two dynamics at work here: the first and overarching one is the hubris the Christian Coalition has shown over the past twelve years when in point of fact, its harsh stances and inflexibility has created many of the legislative logjams and moral morasses we see now.

After all, would Larry Craig have been such an huge hypocrite if his constituency, egged on by people who have their own moral matters to contend with-- like Ted Haggard or Ralph Reed-- hadn't insisted he tow a hard line in order to win their votes?

Pardon the pun.

On the flip side, the Republicans bear a lot of the responsibility here, too. Just as Democrats are often accused of taking (pick your minority/interest group) for granted, the Republicans assume that Christians have no alternative, having painted themselves as the final arbiters of Jesus' work here on earth.


If you take abortion off the table, the Democratic positions are much closer in fealty with Jesus' teachings than the Republicans, which is why the GOP is terrified of a Hillary nomination.

She's truly the only candidate of either party who is in a position to take a nuanced stance on abortion, as both a women and a Christian, and her "let's make abortion rare, safe, but legal" stance resonates with many more Christian middle class women than overturning Roe v. Wade does, while maintaining a strong position for liberals to embrace.

Meanwhile, the GOP doesn't have anyone in the race or on the horizon who could accept the full embrace of the Christian Coalition while having a plausible presence in the rest of the country's mind as a President.

In other words, the Christian Coalition is looking at itself in a mirror, thinking it sees the country, which it does not.

The sort of hubris that Ralph Nader's supporters saw in 2000, and look what that got us.

OK, that's not entirely fair. Al Gore lost the election (despite the stealing of Florida) for any number of reasons, not least of which was his failure to win his own damned Congressional district, much less Florida.

And yet, Nader got into the race, as his campaign staff put it "to put George Bush in the White House," in order to punish the Democrats for drifting from the left.

You'll notice they've tacked ever closer to the center and actually started winning some elections, Ralph. You might have done more good for the progressive cause by sitting out the 2000 election.

In many ways, this uprising by the conservative Christians is more damaging than Ralph Nader's was. Having seen the failure for two terms of their hand-picked candidate, and the moral incompetence of their handpicked Congress, for them to pull out now would be like taking heroin from an addict.

But then again, Christians were never particularly tolerant of people's weaknesses, even if their Lord is...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Drive By Posting

My DSL provider has seen fit to suddenly become all Keystone Kops with my connection. I'm, um, borrowing a neighbor's WiFi connection to make this hit and run posting.

I'm fine, just a three day weekend and a stupid bureaucracy is all that stands between me and actually shooting my mouth off as usual...

“Figures lie and liars figure”

From Danny Schecter, the News Dissector at

Is The Economy Out Of The Woods?

New York, October 8, 2007: On Sunday, October 6, the Public Editor of the New York Times pointed to all the discrepancies and conflicts in the violence figures coming out of Iraq. He called for more nuanced reporting and increased public skepticism. He noted that the perception of progress there has been bolstered by the release of questionable statistics.

What’s true of reporting from Iraq is also true about the job figures that the government releases monthly gauging the health of the U.S. economy. Can they be trusted? And what about the reporting on them? This is an especially timely issue as Fox News gets ready to launch its own heavily-hyped new Business Channel.

For weeks, we have heard all these warnings about the financial crisis sharpening and a possible recession. Reality intruded after a big subprime relief rally sent stocks soaring. Wall Street was quickly back in swamp, and it looked like the Federal Reserve Bank would have to cut interest rates again to further bail out the markets.

But then, on Friday, the Bush Labor Department announced a new jobs report and much of the coverage turned upbeat.

The report offered preliminary data claiming that the economy added 100,000 jobs in September. Suddenly, lower job figures from July and August were also magically revised upwards.

Wall Street went crazy. The S&P went up and the headlines went positive.

Here are two examples of the spin:


The Wall Street Journal: “US ECONOMY DOWN, NOT OUT.”

The new numbers accounted for the turn around? Bear in mind, back in the 90s, in the Clinton years, 200,000 new jobs was expected on a monthly basis to assure economic growth. That was the gold standard. Now that number has been cut in half and is suddenly being treated as Great Leap Forward. How did the job numbers turn around? Or have they?

More here.