Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Speaking of John "Flip-Flopping" Kerry...

... here's his response to Dubya's speech which makes less sense than Pelosi's response, if that's possible.

By Sher Zieve – Providing the Democrat Party’s response to Wednesday’s President Bush speech on Iraq, which was delivered from the US Naval Academy, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said that members of the president’s administration “always use the troops when making speeches”. Kerry further said: “The troops don’t belong to the administration”.

Well I don't really see what the problem is here. I didn't know we were arguing about who "owns" the troops; I thought we were talking about Iraq, but OK... whatever.

Kerry advised that the “debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal” from Iraq. Defending the Democrat position, Sen. Kerry stated that Democrat leaders now believe in the upcoming Iraq elections. He further said that if the Iraq elections are successful, the US should begin to withdraw its troops.

Well actually the debate is about "artificial date for withdrawal" because that along with "Bush has no strategy" are the only to concepts democrats seem to be able to voice as reasons for opposition to the war. And of course they neglect to give any facts and/or ideas of their own in the stead of the president's plans. And all of a sudden the Dems do believe in the Iraqi elections? Wow, there's a change. But what do they believe about them? That they'll be a miserable failure? Or is that just what they secretly hope so that Dubya ends up with some egg on his face? And how is starting to withdraw troops after the December Iraqi elections diferent from the president's plan? Everything the administration has said is that they plan to keep troop levels stable if not increase them a bit for the elections and in 2006 (which if logic serves is after December) start to look to slowly withdrawing troops. I was hoping for something original John not something you plagiarized... again.

Kerry said “I can’t tell you what motivates the president or the administration” and added “withdrawing troops will lead to success”.

No shit you can't tell us what motivates the president. That's why you lost the election because you have no clue that the hippie pacifism that got you into the limelight after Vietnam doens't fly anymore. And how does withdrawing the troops equal success? Oh unless he means success for the terrorists because we decided to run away... then he's absolutely right.

Nancy Pelosi comes out against Bush

That should have been obvious, but the way she does it is really pretty stupid.

(Washington) Murtha, a Vietnam combat veteran and former Marine, voted in 2002 to give the president the authority to go to war. He has been a strong supporter of the military and an influential voice on military matters during his three-decade House career — and his position switch set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill.

At the time, Pelosi emphasized that Murtha spoke only for himself, and not for her or the Democratic caucus.

She changed course after President Bush gave a speech on Iraq on Wednesday.

"I'm endorsing what Mr. Murtha is saying, which is that the status quo is not working and that we need to have a plan that makes us safer and our military stronger and makes Iraq more stable," she said. "I believe that what he has said has great wisdom."

Is she taking a page from John "Flip-Flopping" Kerry here? She was against Murtha's immediate withdrawal, but now that Dubya has given more details for his strategy, she's for Murtha's plan. Huh?

What makes Murtha's plan safer? How does his plan make our military stronger? How does his plan make Iraq more stable? What changed about his plan between when it was voted down and Dubya's speech today that made her change her mind?

Why doesn't this woman make any sense?

Howard Dean responds to Bush's speech and strategy

Washington (USNewswire) - "Today, the President failed to give an honest assessment of what's really happening on the ground in Iraq. Instead he released thirty-five pages of rhetoric and gave a speech full of slogans, but no clear plan. Let's be clear, 'stay the course' is a slogan, not a strategy.

"By failing to address critical factors on the ground, President Bush doesn't seem to care what the facts are, and you can't lead when you don't care what the facts are. It's troubling that with his credibility on the line, in the face of widespread concern from the American people, and a bi-partisan vote of 'no confidence' in the Senate, President Bush still refuses to produce a real strategy for success that includes benchmarks and a process for measuring success. The American people should have seen a plan for success at the start of the war, not after three years and more than 2,000 lives lost. Our troops are serving with honor and courage, and they deserve a plan not more slogans.

I'm still waiting for Dean's facts and strategy (or the rest of the democratic party's for that matter. All they've come up with so far is pull out now). For someone complaining about Bush's strategy being vague, he's being remarkably vague himself. "Bush doesn't care about what the facts are." Really? What facts are those? He said the word "facts" a lot, but neglected to actually give any.

Memo to Dean as soon as you find some facts, let me know. I'll listen... as long as you don't let fly with one of those "YEEEEEAAAARGH!"s in my ear.

Bush lays out strategy for victory in Iraq

Dubya gives us some of the benchmarks and goals he and the administration are using to measure success in this front of the GWOT. Check out the whole document for yourself

Victory in Iraq Defined - As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemy’s surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event – there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages.

Victory in Iraq as a Vital US Interest - [1] The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror. [2] What happens in Iraq will influence the fate of the Middle East for generations to come, with a profound impact on our own national security.

The Consequences of Failure - If we and our Iraqi partners fail in Iraq, Iraq will become [1] a safe haven for terrorists as Afghanistan once was, only this time in some of the world’s most strategic territory, with vast natural resources to exploit and to use to fund future attacks [2] a country where oppression – and the brutal imposition of inhumane practices, such as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan – is pervasive [3] a failed state and source of instability for the entire Middle East, with all the attendant risks and incalculable costs for American security and prosperity. If we fail the terrorists will have [1] won a decisive victory over the United States, vindicating their tactics of beheadings, suicide bombings, and ruthless intimidation of civilians, inviting more deadly attacks against Americans and other free people across the globe [2] Placed the American people in greater danger by destabilizing a vital region, weakening our friends, and clearing the way for terrorist attacks here at home. The terrorists will be emboldened in their belief that America cannot stand and fight, but will cut and run in the face of adversity [3] called into question American credibility and commitment in the region and the world. Our friends and foes alike would doubt our staying power, and this would damage our efforts to counter other security threats and to advance other economic and political interests worldwide [4] Weakened the growing democratic impulses in the region. Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and pluralism in the region – a historic opportunity, central to America’s long-term security, forever lost.

If we retreat from Iraq, the terrorists will pursue us and our allies, expanding the fight to the rest of the region and to our own shores.

Tons of good stuff. Make sure you read the whole thing. Look for updates with Democrats responses to the strategy.

UPDATE: Here's some analysis of Bush's speech as it relates to the strategy

Portions of the document have been in place since 2003, though it hasn't been released until today, according to National Security Council spokesman Fred Jones.

The strategy "says the U.S. is still heavily dependent on the competency of the Iraqi government and security forces before we can withdraw our troops, and for restless members of Congress, that explanation probably won't be enough," said Ted Carpenter, vice president of defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute, a research group in Washington that generally supports the White House.

During his 43-minute speech, Bush said that a year ago, there were "only a handful" of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Today, there are over 120 Iraqi army police combat battalions, typically between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces, he said.

Of these about 80 battalions are fighting with coalition forces, while 40 others "are taking the lead" in the fight against terrorists in controlling their own territory, he said.

"They're helping to turn the tide, and the struggle, in freedom's favor," Bush said, though he added that their performance is "still uneven" in some areas.

The number of U.S. forces in Iraq will depend on progress in Iraq and the assessments of military commanders, Bush said.

"Decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington," Bush said.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Patterico needs your help...

Seeing how low the qualifications have sunk to be nominated for the Nobel Prize, Patterico figured now is the time...

As regular readers know, I am involved in a campaign to get myself nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, to make a point about how easy such nominations are to make. Eugene Volokh suggested yesterday in this post (referring to my campaign, though not by name) that such a nomination would not be legitimate, because the nominator wouldn’t really mean it.

I think my nomination would be every bit as legitimate as Tookie Williams’s. If I can talk someone into nominating me, their motivation will be mixed. Their primary motivation will be to expose such nominations as less prestigious than they really are. But they need not be dishonest in making the nomination. Indeed, given the fact that terrorist and murderer Yasser Arafat actually obtained such an award, someone could nominate me and sincerely argue that they believe I am more worthy of the prize than Arafat was.

Read the LATimes article he's referencing. I had heard essentially the same story on the John and Ken show that I linked to yesterday... that basically all you need to be nominated is to have a liberal arts professor nominate you. Nothing else. So hey if you fit that single, lonely qualification let Patterico know. He (to the best of our knowledge) hasn't murdered four people (yet) let alone sponsored terrorism like Arafat. That's got to make him fairly well deserving right there.

Bush had a Reagan moment

Anyone remember the radio address that Reagan had that accidentally aired - "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

Sounds like Dubya had a similar moment here and these Brits got arrested for it.

Times Online - A civil servant and a former MP’s researcher appeared in court today charged with leaking an account of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush, in which the US President allegedly suggested bombing al-Jazeera, the Arab news network.

Like they'll really bomb al-Jazeera. Puh-leeze.

As a curious cat, I would like to hear what the full exchange was though...

UPDATE: The Llama's are just as curious...

Can we have Lieberman sit down with Murtha?

How about the rest of the Democrats for that matter. Murtha can't see the bigger picture past our casualties but Lieberman seems to get the message (via Say Anything).

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, just back from Iraq, wants President Bush to give the American people details about the progress being made in that country - from military triumphs to the proliferation of cellphones and satellite dishes.

[...]But Lieberman, D-Conn., who spent Wednesday and Thursday in Iraq, saw strong evidence that a workable American plan is in place.

"We do have a strategy," he said. "We do have a plan. I saw a strategy that's being implemented."

Lieberman, who is one of Bush's strongest war supporters in the Senate, cited the remarks of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who last month told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the strategy in Iraq was to "clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions."

Lieberman spent his time in Iraq, his fourth trip there in 17 months, conferring with American officials and Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, the country's interior and defense ministers, and senior members of the Supreme Council. He also talked with about 50 Connecticut troops.

Other war backers shared the belief that the strategy would work. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District, said he was "pretty optimistic" after his 10th trip to Iraq last month.

"The [Iraqi] troops are moving forward in a very positive way," Shays reported.

Yo Joe! Now you know and knowing is half the battle.

UC system needs an overhaul

... but too bad it's not over the UCSD porn scandal.

LATimes - A group of University of California professors is calling for an independent investigation into UC's compensation practices after reports that the university has spent millions in recent years on bonuses and other perquisites for top UC executives.

About 50 faculty members at UC Berkeley and UCLA have signed a petition that was sent Monday to Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of UC's Board of Regents, and UC President Robert C. Dynes, asking for a "truly independent investigator" to examine the issue.

[...] The action followed recent reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that the university has spent millions on bonuses, relocation packages and stipends for senior executives in recent years despite a funding crisis that has meant five straight years of fee increases for UC students.

Well you've got to start somewhere...

How can Americans think the economy is strong and weak at the same time?

Just take a look at the info here

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- New reports on U.S. consumer confidence, new home sales and durable goods orders depicted an even more buoyant economy than some analysts previously thought.

The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said its consumer confidence index rose to 98.9 [was predicted at 90.0] this month from 85.2, the biggest rise in more than two years. Purchases of new homes unexpectedly jumped to a record last month [predicted 1.2mm, actual 1.42mm] and orders for long- lasting equipment, such as aircraft and machinery, rose twice as much as forecast [predicted 1.8, actual 3.4], according to Commerce Department data.

``Coming after the energy shocks and Katrina, it's a remarkable spring-back,'' said Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Inc. in New York. ``The economy seems to have an underlying resilience.''

Declining fuel prices from a record a couple months ago are boosting confidence and spending, bolstering expectations for economic growth this quarter. Shoppers splurged over the Thanksgiving weekend at discount retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. U.S. Treasury securities fell and stocks rose after the reports signaled a pickup in economic growth.

The statistics fly in the face of polls showing many Americans say the economy is in recession. A survey by the Manchester, New Hampshire-based American Research Group found that 43 percent of those questioned said the economy was in a recession, while 44 percent said it wasn't.

Sixty-two percent said they disapprove of the way President George W. Bush is handling the economy, according to the poll of 1,100 adults conducted between Nov. 19-22.

Here's the expanded poll data Bloomberg was citing, but I just don't get it. Yeah, I pay close attention to what's going on, but I don't see how people can believe the economy can be that bad. And that Dubya is making it worse is very difficult to believe. I've always believed president's in general have very little that they can actually do to affect the economy, but it is easier for him to institute policies to make things worse rather than better, at least short term.

Come on people, it's Christmas. Sales are going to jump, oil prices are gradually moving down, which will make travel and heating your home a little cheaper, and lower taxes plus lower gas prices mean more immediate money in the pockets of people. It's not as bad as you all seem to think.

UPDATE: For all matters economic I turn to Lawrence Kudlow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Maybe shopping isn't so bad afterall...

But you do have to go to Maine to see this, so that's one drawback...

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- In this town, window shopping is attracting a lot more guys than usual.
A lingerie store called Spellbound is grabbing attention with live models in the window. Some people have complained, but police say there is nothing illegal about the lingerie models.

Now that's something I could... um... get behind... so to speak.


How's this for a milestone?

1,000th deathrow inmate to be executed.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is scheduled this week to witness its 1,000th execution since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but even as it reaches this milestone opponents said capital punishment may be falling out of favor.

Some 997 people have been put to death since the Supreme Court ended a 10-year moratorium on capital punishment that ran from 1967-1977. With five people scheduled for execution in five different states this week, it seems almost certain that the landmark of 1,000 will be passed.

"This is a time for somber and sober reflection but the United States is slowly turning away from the death penalty," said David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"Death sentences are down 50 percent since the late 1990s to around 150 a year. Executions are down 40 percent from the high of 98 in 1999," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that crimes committed by juveniles could not be punished by death. That resulted in 71 people being taken off death row and followed another Supreme Court decision in 2002 declaring that it was unconstitutional to execute criminals who are mentally retarded.

A Gallup poll last month showed 64 percent of Americans favored the death penalty -- the lowest level in 27 years, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994.

"There's now considerable public skepticism about whether all those being executed are really guilty and that has cast doubt on the whole system," said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.

This is the subject I alluded to in my post-Thanksgiving post; a lot of people have very strong feelings on this issue. But "only" 64% of the country are in favor of the death penalty? Wow. Stop the presses. They must be on that "new math" where 64 is less than a majority of 50%.

I am very much in favor of the death penalty, but think it's perhaps lost it's steam, as the article suggests, because of people's distaste for the legal process involved. There's 20 plus years inbetween conviction and execution. Dozens of appeals and other legal mumbo jumbo get in the way of the passionate determination felt by the citizenry after the conviction and sentencing. What will people feel in 20 years when Scott Peterson is ready to be executed? At the moment I would have to say he is fairly universally reviled, but what about 20 years from now? If we could even cut that lag time in half I we'd find people much more in favor of the death penalty, and I'm sure it would be a much more effective deterrent to crime if we could shorten the convict's time sitting on death row. Tax payer's are paying for them to get 3 squares a day, exercise, get an education, write books, and all sorts of other crap that turns the stomachs of most people in favor of the death penalty. This person was sentenced to death as a penalty for his crimes; he wasn't sentenced to watch TV or write books for 20 years.

California has an execution coming up in December. I'm looking forward to seeing how ugly the public debate on this one gets.

UPDATE: How's this for just punishment:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a California man to be sentenced to spend a day outside a San Francisco post office wearing a signboard stating, "I stole mail. This is my punishment."

The justices rejected an appeal by Shawn Gementera, who argued that this was designed to publicly shame and humiliate him. He said it violated the Sentencing Reform Act and the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Gementera pleaded guilty to mail theft after the police arrested him and an accomplice in 2001 for stealing letters from several mailboxes in San Francisco.

Adventures of a first-time homeowner, pt. 4

I didn't even want to come close to tackling painting the bathrooms that we had just textured. Texture was a big enough pain in the rear, so I left this one to the pros who did a remarkable job Saturday and did all 3 bathrooms in 5 hours.

While they were painting, the fetching Mrs. Wookie and I attended a do-it-yourself class and the local Lowe's. The next project is probably going to be tiling the floors in the 2 upstairs bathrooms. They are currently carpeted, which can get really rank in the bathroom. Tile is much easier to clean, and we wanted to learn all we could about how to lay tile.

So tiling the floors and a little on the walls. There's a horrible backsplash in the master bath that needs to be removed and the same as a strip in the shower.

This ought to be interesting.

Cyber Monday

Do we have to name everything? Honestly, I have never heard of "Black Friday" as it referred to the shopping day after Thanksgiving until maybe a week before Thanksgiving, but today is apparently "Cyber Monday." Who thinks this stuff up?

Bosses beware: Workers today may not be as productive as usual. It's Cyber Monday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. More than one-third of the consumers polled say they will go online at work where they have faster Internet connections. Total North American Internet traffic by visitors per minute already is up 35 percent from a typical Monday, according to the Akamai Net Usage Index.

Hey, I blog at work, why can't they shop? Just don't be stupid and get caught.

UPDATE: Llama's look to try to capitalize on the cyber shopping craze... if only they had something to buy...

Hussein trial makes good TV

When the defendant stands up and yells at the judge, that's drama. Too bad no one can understand it since it's not in English. Subtitles just don't work in a case like this.

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Saddam Hussein argued with the judge in his murder and torture case minutes after proceedings resumed in Baghdad today. A video transmission of the trial was suspended during the outburst.

The deposed Iraqi dictator, 68, and seven former members of his Baath Party regime face the death penalty if convicted on charges of crimes against humanity. They deny all counts, including murder, forced expulsion, imprisonment, torture, and breaking international law, in connection with the 1982 killing of 148 in Dujail, a village just north of the capital. Today's session was followed by an adjournment until Dec. 5.

Hussein, wearing a white shirt and a dark suit with a handkerchief in the pocket, appeared as defiant today as he did when the trial opened Oct. 19. On the first day, he refused to recognize the legitimacy of a tribunal set up with U.S. guidance. Today, he denounced the presence of U.S. guards in the high- security courtroom.

"You are Iraqi, you have sovereignty," Hussein told Kurdish Judge Rizkar Mohammed Amin. "They are in your country, they are foreigners, they are invaders."

[...]Hussein then stood and complained that memorandums he had written to the court weren't passed on. Amin said he was granting an adjournment for Ramadan to find new counsel.

Hussein is the first leader of a Middle Eastern country to be brought to justice for abuses of human rights, and his trial is intended to open "a new chapter in the history of Iraq," according to President Jalal Talabani.

The court saw a brief video clip of Hussein in Dujail questioning people about a failed attempt on his life there that is alleged to have provoked the massacre. In the clip he told security forces to "separate and investigate."

The five-judge panel also saw the videotaped testimony of Waddah Ismail al-Sheikh, a former Baghdad prison warden who said Hussein's men took orders from Barzan al-Tikriti.

Amin read the official transcript as the video, taped in al- Sheikh's hospital room before he died, played without sound. According to the transcript, al-Sheikh, who appeared weak and sat in a wheelchair, said that about 400 people were detained after the assassination attempt on July 8, 1982. Amin called a recess after the video.

About 200 people gathered in the center of Dujail today, carrying portraits of murdered villagers, AFP reported.

"We are calling for the execution of the dictator Saddam," according to a banner described by AFP.

Why isn't this on Court TV? It's like Jerry Springer for lawyers; Law and Order come to life. But please people stop executing his lawyers or else this trial will never end...

UPDATE: More word games at the New York Times. The NYT titles this story Hussein, back in court, is combative and feisty. Well, you'd be feisty too if you were on trial for a zillion different charges. Hmm... perhaps falsely self-righteous might be a better word. How about egomaniacal? Ooh, ooh... I know disdainful!

NYT Editors: Can we please limit the word puzzles to the crosswords?

Friday, November 25, 2005

2008 GOP straw poll

Hugh's got a straw poll going for 2008 presidential front-runners along with some hot button issues as well. There's some interesting data over there, so go check it out and vote.

You can see the results as well.

Good-bye Thanksgiving, hello Black Friday

Well the busiest shopping day of the year is upon us and I am nestled safe and sound in my... cubicle. Yeah I'm at work (unfortunately), but hopefully not for too much longer. If only I could have come in for those couple necessary hours around noon...

Can you measure the level of your thankfulness by the size of your hangover?

UPDATE: How many of you had a little bit of this happen at you Thanksgiving dinner table? We sure did and ended up sending someone from the table crying...

And we also had these after the more traditional dinner (I told you it would happen). Everyone got a some and several nearly threw up. Much fun was had by all... sort of.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a truly happy Thanksgiving. Spend it with your family and friends; enjoy and be grateful for the blessings in your lives. Everyone who's travelling, godspeed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Quote of the Day

Those who show mercy to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.

- Dennis Prager, paraphrasing the Talmud.

Michael Ledeen: as always a must read

He's always right on target. Read his latest.

More than three years ago, prior to the liberation of Iraq, I lamented that our great national debate on the war against terrorism was the wrong debate, because it was "about using our irresistible military might against a single country in order to bring down its leader, when we should be talking about using all our political, moral, and military genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate the peoples of the Middle East from their tyrannical rulers. That is our real mission, the essence of the war in which we are engaged, and the proper subject of our national debate."

The proper debate has still not been engaged, and the administration's failure to lead it bespeaks a grave failure of strategic vision. The war was narrowly aimed against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. But, as President Bush himself said after 9/11, it was logically and properly a war against both the terrorists themselves and against the regimes that foster, support, arm, train, indoctrinate, and guide the terrorist legions who are clamoring for our destruction.

Following the defeat of the Taliban, there were four such regimes: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. They were the true terror masters, without whose active support the terrorist groups would have been unable to mount a global jihad. They had — and the surviving three still have — two common denominators: all actively support terrorism in one way or another, and all are tyrannies.

Definitely a must read.

UPDATE: Double trouble! VDH has a new article as well! And is just as on the money as Ledeen.

Yet as they [democrats] hedge — on television praising Congressmen Murtha who advocates withdrawal, but making sure they vote overwhelmingly on the record to reject his advice — they should consider some critical questions.

First, are the metrics of this war in the terrorists’ or our favor? Are the Iraqi security forces growing or shrinking? Are elections postponed or on schedule? Are Europe, Jordan, Lebanon, and others more or less sympathetic to a war against Islamic terrorism in Iraq? Are bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi more or less popular or secure after we removed Saddam? Is al Qaeda in a strengthened or weakened position? Is the Arab world more or less receptive to democracy in the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, and the West Bank? And is the United States more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack as we go into our fifth year since September 11?

I ask those questions in all sincerity since the conventional wisdom — compared to the true wisdom and compassion of those valiantly fighting the terrorists under the most impossible of conditions — is that we are losing in Iraq, our enemies are emboldened, and the Arab world has turned against us. But if we forget the banality of New York Times columnists, the admonitions of NPR experts, and the daily rants of a Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, or Al Gore, more sober and street-smart Democrats are in fact not so sure of these answers.

So these wiser ones wait and hedge their wagers. They give full rein to the usefully idiotic and irresponsible in their midst, but make no move yet to undo what thousands of brave American soldiers have accomplished in Iraq.

What exactly is that? Despite acrimony at home, the politics of two national elections and a third on the horizon, and the slander of war crimes and incompetence, those on the battlefield of Iraq have almost pulled off the unthinkable — the restructuring of the politics of the Middle East in less than three years.

And for now that is still a strong hand to bet against.

Dim-bulb of the Day!

I'm sure this sounded like a great idea at the time.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German man drank too much, wet his bed and set fire to his apartment while trying to dry his bedding, police in the western town of Muelheim said Monday.

"He was too drunk to go to the toilet," said a police spokesman. "The next morning he put a switched-on hairdryer on the bed to dry it and left the apartment." When the 60-year-old returned, his home and belongings were in flames.

Firemen eventually put out the blaze.

Must... resist... peeing... firehose... joke...


Catholic Church to prevent gay priests

As a Catholic, this whole situation just makes me sad.

BOSTON (Reuters) - Gay rights activists and liberal Catholics girded on Wednesday for a long battle over the Vatican's tougher stance on homosexuality, predicting the Church would lose thousands of followers in the United States.

The policy, drafted to deal with scandals over pedophile priests that erupted in Boston in 2002 and spread across the United States, says the Church can admit those who have clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

But practicing homosexuals and those with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred, it said. Conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church and in other religions welcomed the stand.

"We are calling on all Catholics of goodwill to speak to their priests and to express their outrage at this decision," said Harry Knox a director of Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group based in Washington.

"We'll seek to speak over the heads of the Pope to Catholics in the pews to urge them to take into consideration what Jesus would do if He saw His neighbor being treated in this way," said Knox. "Jesus would never exclude."

The Catholic Church would lose thousands of future priests in the United States, while those who remain will live in fear of "witch hunts," said Marianne Duddy-Burke of gay and lesbian Catholic group Dignity USA in Boston.

"A number of good, holy gay priests will probably quietly slip away from their calling because of the climate."

That is exactly what many conservative Catholics say should have happened long ago. They laud the 21-paragraph Vatican document for reinforcing a standing policy that many believe has not been properly enforced.

"This is not just about homosexuality or homosexual acts -- it's about an agenda and subculture that is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church," said Michael Rose, author of "Goodbye, Good Men: How liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church."

Like many conservative Catholics, Brian Saint-Paul, senior editor of the Catholic journal CRISIS, sees a firm link between homosexuality and the scandal over pedophile priests.

One can only pray that the Church heirarchy doesn't turn this into a witch hunt because every priest in the Church is an asset to their congregation and community whether or not they are gay. But any responsible priest must understand the importance of protecting the children in these communities. We can not allow the abuse scandal to continue, and there can be no hint of the church covering up for these priests.

I recall a priest from my parish when I was still in grade school being transferred suddenly, and a day later the news carried a story that he had been accused of molesting a couple boys. I was stunned. Of course this led to my parents talking to me, asking the gruesome yet appropriate and important question: if I had been molested. Fortunately, in my case, the answer was no, I had not. I was an altar boy at the time, and all the altar boys (and the rest of the students from the associated parochial school for that matter) liked that priest. He was the fun priest who could relate to and talk with the kids at their level.

It's only now that I look back, that I shudder at the thought of what may have happened and perhaps, why he was so good with the children. What's just as disturbing is how the church quickly transferred him with the hope that the situation would disappear. It did actually, after that news piece ran on television. It was never mentioned again at the parish, and I never heard anything on the news about it either. This is what must be stopped: rouge priests (gay or striaght, it doesn't matter) and the cover up by the church. That the church appears to be actively dealing with the matter which is great, but it sounds as if the process will be full of vague generalities... "deep-seated gay tendencies," "support gay culture," and gay seminarians can only be admitted after having "clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years." How do you judge that?

While I don't know their sexuality for a fact, I believe I know several gay priests who have been not only exceptional priests, but just all around wonderful people.

I can only pray that this all works out and doesn't tear the Church apart in the process.

UPDATE: A gripping exposé in the LA Times on Catholic missionaries abusing children as well. Membership (it's free) is requried and it's a long article, but well worth it.

Oxford Research Group aligns with "War for Oil" crowd

It's really not much of a report if you ask me...

The war in Iraq is still in its early stages and US and British troops are likely to be bogged down in the conflict for decades, a report by the Oxford Research Group said on Wednesday.

The independent think tank’s report will make unwelcome reading for the British and US governments, both of which have indicated that they hope to begin reducing the number of troops in Iraq after the next Iraqi parliamentary elections in December.

Like Dubya and Blair are really going to care what snooty old oxford scholars think. They may still slowly start to diminish troops in Iraq after the next round of elections. Key word: s l o w l y... Not the Murtha let's-get-the-hell-outta-there-like-now plan.

Under growing pressure from domestic opponents of the war, both governments have suggested that the improved capabilities of the Iraqi security forces - now numbering 200,000 - may allow them to reduce their military commitment in Iraq next year.

Duh. What the hell do they think we've been doing over there? Twiddling our thumbs?

Neither have not put forward any timetable for withdrawal, however, despite repeated calls for them to do so.

Again... the timetable is s l o w l y. Get the wax out of your ears...

Condoleeza Rice, US secretary of state said this week she suspected US forces were “not going to be needed” in the same numbers “for all that much longer”.

"all that much longer" is too close to "slowly" so the intellectuals probably won't understand that either. I really don't get it; why is not giving an exact date and time such a big deal? Can't they grasp the concept that if we tell them when we're leaving they're just going to wait until we leave to try to take over the nation?

But Tony Bair, UK prime minister, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that it was vital not to “back away” from Iraq before ensuring that the country’s democratic institutions were properly established.

“The terrorists and insurgents would take over unless the multinational force was there to safeguard the democratic process,’’ said Mr Blair.

Blair gets it.

Ensuring a friendly government in Baghdad is an essential part of US security policy, even if this requires a permanent US military presence, because long-term access to oil from the region is essential to the US, given its increasing dependence on imported oil, says the report.

If Iraq can no longer be controlled, and if Iran guards its independence, then the US risks finding its access to Gulf oil diminishing at precisely the same time as China seeks to make gains in the region.

I think this is where the moonbats hijack the report. Freindly to the US so we can get cheap oil is a distant hope well behind other important things such as democratic, free, actively anti-terror, capitalist, and tolerant. We're not there to try and make a new best friend; this isn't the elementary school playground. Want to solve the oil supply problem. DRILL IN ANWR!!! ...for crying out loud... it's like talking to a brick wall here...
[update: I always forget about nuclear power. Why not use a little more of that? Talk to the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and see if they'll approve it. If it's good enough for Europe, surely it's good enough for us.]

The report by Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University provides a detailed month-by-month assessment of the developing insurgency for a year between May 2004 and April this year.

This ought to be interesting...

It points to the growing numbers of civilian casualties, as well as the failure to control the insurgency, even with the use of overwhelming firepower, as with the assault on Fallujah last November, and concludes that the war in Iraq has been a ‘gift’ for al-Qaeda.

Well, since we're not killing civilians, I wonder who is? Maybe it' the terrorists; maybe that threat is inspiring the Iraqi people to join the Iraqi armed forces (numbering 200,000 now remember?) to combat terror and help make their country safe for the innocent civilians. And we shouldn't be trying to control the terrorists, we're trying to kill them. Or arrest them for interrogation purposes so that we can use the intel to find/kill/arrest more terrorists... bigger terrorists. It's a difficult concept, but try to wrap your head around it. And if al-Qaeda wants a gift tell them to come out of their cave, and we'd be happy to give them a great gift... hopefully a bullet, center mass. Or if they're really lucky a trial by a jury and then an execution. We'll even wrap it for them.

Iraq has become a magnet for young jihadists, replacing Afghanistan as a combat training zone, even to the extent that jihadists from that country now travel to Iraq to gain combat experience, taking their skills back to Afghanistan to use against western forces there, it says.

Yeah a magnet. It's easier to kill them if they come to us instead of us going and looking for them. "Easier to catch flies with honey..." is how the saying goes I believe... And it's better for Americans if they do it on foreign soil fighting our highly trained, well armed military rather then here on the streets of New York, Washington, or Los Angeles.

UPDATE: More talk of troop reduction.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Speaking of avian flu... Turkey Day... It is a'comin'

And we were just speaking of wasting tax payers' money....

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was a dream come true for Marshmallow and Yam, two lucky turkeys from Henning, Minnesota.

President George W. Bush on Tuesday spared them from being served for Thanksgiving dinner and, to top it off, sent the pair on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland.

"I know that Marshmallow and Yam are going to feel pretty good strutting around sunny California remembering the cold days of Minnesota," said Bush, who was flanked at the annual turkey pardoning ceremony by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The granting of the turkey pardon is not a responsibility that I take lightly," Bush added.

Bush said the turkeys were named after "a nationwide election" on the White House Web site. "In the end, the voters made the choice, and it was a close election. You might say it was neck and neck," Bush said.

Marshmallow was designated the national Thanksgiving turkey at the ceremony. Cheney was seen grinning in the background as the turkey's handler wrestled the feisty 37-pound (16.8 kg) bird to the table.

The alternate national bird, Yam, was honored in absentia. "He's in a pickup truck hanging out by the South Lawn," Bush said.

Thanksgiving Day is November 24.

For the past 15 years, turkeys lucky enough to be pardoned by the president were sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia.

But Marshmallow and Yam will instead travel to sunny southern California and retire in style at Disneyland in Anaheim. They will serve as honorary grand marshals at the park's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Marshmallow and Yam were a little skeptical about going to a place called Frying Pan Park," Bush said. "I don't blame them."

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, had petitioned Bush to stop sending the pardoned birds to Frying Pan Park, where the group said they died from neglect or harsh conditions.

Save tax payer's money! Kill the turkeys! Who cares about PETA!?! Nobody likes tofu-turkey with gravy and all the trimmings anyway.

There's a great joke in this story... Any takers?

This bird flu thing has gotten a little cuckoo...

As we discussed before, I believe the avian flu pandemic scare is a little over blown. Take the following example...

Abramovich Must Keep Pet Parrot Caged on Yacht, N.Z. Says

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's NZ$170 million ($117 million) yacht can visit New Zealand as long as his pet parrot remains caged and doesn't leave the boat, to avoid the risk of spreading disease, the government said.

New Zealand officials are concerned the Grey African parrot may carry diseases such as avian influenza. The parrot must stay in its cage, indoors throughout the visit, Biosecurity New Zealand said in a statement sent to Bloomberg today.

The parrot will be tested for a variety of diseases when the yacht first arrives in Auckland, and inspected daily by government officials pending the test results. The yacht will be able to visit other New Zealand ports only once the parrot is cleared, the agency said.

If the parrot test positive for any disease, it must leave New Zealand, the agency said. The parrot's owner will have to pay the costs of testing and inspection, the agency said, without saying how much that would be.

Now I understand controlling the environment, especially for small island communities like our fine state Hawaii and their strict agricultural and animal policies for travellers and residents. But this is begging for a Monty Python skit. Something along the lines of Lancelot using "scientific methods" to determine how to quantify a witch.

At least the owner will pay the expenses if his bird test positive and doesn't have to be worried about being burned at the stake, so that's a plus. But it still seems to be a waste of money...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Now that's why I don't watch CNN...

...because they're subliminally messing with your mind. I always thought it strange that after watching only 10 minutes of CNN I had an uncontrollable urge to take razor sharp shears and cut the tops off of shrubs and bushes... Hmmm? Apparently that's not a huge coincidence when you realize they're just putting a big target on the VP's head

At 11:04:45 AM ET Monday CNN was airing Vice President Dick Cheney's speech live from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington -- when a large black 'X' repeatedly flashed over the vice president's face!

The 'X' over Cheney's face appeared each time less than a second, creating an odd subliminal effect.

As this DRUDGE REPORT screen capture reveals, while one 'X' flashed over Cheney's face CNN ran a headline at the bottom of its screen: "CHENEY: I DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS WRONG TO CRITICIZE."

One top White House source expressed concern about what was aired over CNN.

"Is someone in Atlanta trying to tell us something?"

A CNN spokesman did not return repeated calls late Monday night.

Just imagine the tragedy that would have been narrowly averted had I been trimming the hedges and if Reggie Bush had stopped by Saturday before his big game against Fresno State.

I shudder at the thought... and I don't think Hugh would have been strong enough to resist these powerful Jedi mind tricks sent by the emperor himself, Ted Turner. Oh how Hugh loathes the Trojans.

UPDATE: Uh-oh Michelle's got it now... It's so on! I hope CNN's ready for the onslaught on this one. She's got phone numbers, emails... the whole nine yards.

UPDATE 2: Looks like it may have been accidental after all. Oops. My bad.

Dubya and the Republicans lay the smack down on the Democrats

Like I said at the time, actually allowing Murtha's resolution to withdraw be voted on was brilliant.

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush rejected a call for setting a deadline to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, saying he relies on military officers who advise staying to defeat terrorism.

"So long as I am commander-in-chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground," Bush said in excerpts of a speech he's scheduled to give today to U.S. soldiers and airmen at Osan Air Base in South Korea.

No. You don't say. Listen to the people on the ground who actually know what they're talking about? I don't think that's ever been done before.

Bush's trip to East Asia, intended to boost trade and reassert U.S. influence in the region, has been overshadowed by debate over the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In Washington, Representative John Murtha, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and the top Democrat on the House defense spending subcommittee, called Nov. 17 for a U.S. withdrawal.

The excerpts of Bush's speech were released as House Republicans sought to kill any talk of immediate Iraq withdrawal by planning a quick vote on the matter in Washington. They outnumber Democrats in the chamber by a margin of 231-202.

"In Washington, there are some who say that the sacrifice is too great, and they urge us to set a date for withdrawal before we have completed our mission," Bush said. "Those who are in the fight know better."

Ooooh. Fool, you just got served, yo. Damn.

It is too bad this ridiculous topic continues to resurface to blemish Dubya. Diplomacy hopefully continues to make strides towards the nuclear disarmament of North Korea, Dubya visited Mongolia, another fledgling democracy that was one of 40 countries that supports the war in Iraq, and here at home economic indicator's point to continued growth this year and next while controlling inflation

Adventures of a first-time homeowner, pt. 3

Someone, please... do these homeowner's projects ever end?

Last weekend the fetching Mrs. Wookie and I took down 3 bathroom's worth of horrendous wallpaper. Well, technically 2 and a half bathroom's worth but still that's what prompted my original post's update that wallpaper sucks, 'cause it does.

So anyway we were going to have them professionally painted (we know a guy who knows a guy who was gonna do it way cheap). But the walls beneath the wallpaper hadn't been textured. Apparently that's important. Because of the extra work involved the price from the guy known by the guy we know practically tripled. We talked to some friends who said we could texture it ourselves and save like $600. We said hell yea. We borrowed a compressor, bought the texture mix, bought a spray gun, and went to work yesterday.


So 11 hours later Sunday evening, we've done 1 and a half baths. We actually did the half bath twice, but had to take it off and start over again when we saw the coat was still lumpy because we hadn't mixed the texture well enough. We were kinda ghetto about the mix and actually used our kitchenaid to make that texture look like cake batter. Of course we'll probably never use that mixer again, but we don't bake that often anyway. And it worked like a charm. Texture coats that we did look bitchin'. We've still got one bathroom to go though...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harry Potter 4 rocks

Did you really expect it to be bad? It was awesome, but now I want to see the 5th cause the story just keeps getting better. The fetching Mrs. Wookie's main complaint was they cut so much of the story out which is true. They had too; it was 2 and half hours as it was. Definitely still worth the see.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Republicans call the Democrats bluff

A brilliant political move! (via Llama Butchers & Let Freedom Ring)

House Republicans sought a showdown Friday with Democrats on a proposal by one of their most senior members to force an end to the U.S. deployment of troops in Iraq.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., offered the resolution demanding a pullout. The GOP-run House was expected to reject it - and make a prominent statement about where Congress stands on Iraq - as the chamber scurried toward a Thanksgiving break.

"We'll let the members debate it and then let them vote on it," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the acting majority leader.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office had no immediate comment.

Murtha, a well-respected Vietnam veteran who voted for the Iraq war, called for the immediate withdrawal of troops Thursday, intensifying the already red-hot debate on Capitol Hill over President Bush's war policies.

Murtha's resolution would force the president to withdrawal the nearly 160,000 troops in Iraq "at the earliest predictable date."

Most Republicans oppose Murtha's plan, and even some Democrats have been reluctant to back his position. Republicans were seeking to force Democrats to stand with the respected 30-year congressman or go on the record against his proposal.

All right Dems, time to put your money where your mouth is.

More democratic stupidity: they really just can't get past their bleeding hearts when it comes to the budget

You'd think the House was taking the food stamp lollipop right out of their sweet little granddaughter's mouth.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to cut $700 million from the food stamp program as part of a broad bill to reduce federal spending by $50 billion, despite objections from antihunger groups.

Some 235,000 people would lose food stamp benefits under the House bill, according to one analysis.

The House bill, which also trimmed other social programs for the poor, was narrowly approved on a vote of 217-215 early on Friday.

House and Senate negotiators now must write a final, compromise version of legislation to pare federal spending over five years. The Senate did not cut food stamps in its version of a $35 billion budget-cutting bill.

"In nutrition, the Senate did the right thing," said Ellen Vollinger of the Food Research and Action Center. She said Congress should not cut food stamps as part of its final budget-cutting bill.

Food stamps, the major U.S. antihunger program, help poor people buy food. Some 25.8 million Americans received food stamps in a program run by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

In a statement, the White House said it supported the House "efforts to narrow overly broad exemptions from the food stamp program's eligibility limits." President (George W.) Bush proposed restrictions in February that are similar to the House-approved steps.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss said earlier this month that he would oppose "substantial cuts" in food stamps in the budget bill. By tradition, the Georgia Republican would be a senior negotiator on the budget bill.

Under the House plan, roughly 165,000 people who now automatically are enrolled in food stamps when they get assistance from welfare programs would lose their food stamps. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the affected people were mostly working families with children.

States would have the option to continue offering free school lunches to families cut off of food stamps. The Center on Budget said it was unlikely all states would do so.

The House proposal also would require 70,000 legal immigrants in most cases to wait seven years to become eligible for food stamps, rather than the current five years. That brings the total number of people affected by the plan to 235,000.

I'm surprised the democrats didn't start parading poor little children into sessions, point their boney fingers at the republicans and scream bloody murder. The only problem is when you actually look at the numbers 235,000 out of 25,800,000 lose benefits. That's less than 1% and would save $700 million. Less than 1% of out of a welfare system that we all know has been seriously abused, so are we to truly believe that we're cutting out the truly needy here? That's extremely doubtful.

Good luck cutting another $49.3 billion without a democrat actually commtting seppuku right there on the Senate floor.

Iraqi terrorists take a page out of the Palestinians playbook and target civilians

This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel ill.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers strapped with explosives killed 77 people and reduced two crowded Shi'ite mosques to rubble during Friday prayers in a northeastern Iraq town, deepening the country's sectarian conflict.

More bodies were trapped in the rubble, said Ibrahim Ahmed Bajalan, a member of the local council in Khanaqin. "I think there are more than 100 people dead," he said. Another lesser blast was reported near a bank in the town, police said.

Kamaran Ahmed, the director of Khanaqin hospital, said 77 people had been confirmed killed and 80 were wounded. He said many bodies were too badly mutilated to identify. The death toll rose steadily through the day but looked to be stabilizing.

The attacks in the mixed Shi'ite and Kurdish town near the border with Iran seemed certain to fuel sectarian tensions ahead of a December 15 election that Washington hopes will pave the way for peace and democracy 2-1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.

The Shi'ite and Kurdish-led government and its U.S. backers are fighting a mainly Sunni Arab insurgency that has frequently blown up civilians in crowded places like mosques and markets.

Police said the bombers entered the small Sheikh Murad and Khanaqin Grand mosques with explosive belts strapped to their waists and detonated themselves when the buildings were at their busiest -- during prayers on the Muslim holy day.

Earlier this month, nearly 30 people were killed at a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Musayyib, south of Baghdad.

Kurdish peshmerga militia forces sealed off Khanaqin shortly after the blasts, and U.S. forces also came to help, ferrying the wounded to hospitals in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

They blew up a mosque. Not a military base, or checkpost... a mosque. A mosque filled with innocent civilians, women, children, fellow coutnrymen whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is the sort of scum that we're trying to help train the fledgling Iraqi military to combat. This is the sort of filth that prolongs our stay. This is the sort of human waste that will take over the country if we bring our troops home now. That's something you'd have to live with Senator John Murtha, if you and your fellow democrats succeed at destroying the resolve that is the foundation of this president and forcing him to bring our troops home now. Then we'll have accomplished nothing but aided and abetted the terrorists, basically handing them their own nation.

Democrats really piss me off.

Italians to start affirmative action for their politicians

I just don't get it. Why would someone pick anyone other than who the felt was the best person for the job? Who cares what color, gender, religion, or sexual preference they are? Whether you're talking about politicians, possible employees, or prospective students, I'm for picking the person best suited for the position.

But hey, at least they gave the project a suitably lame name...

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Cabinet approved planned legislation aimed at forcing parties to name a woman candidate for every three men running for election.

Approval was a turnaround from a 452-140 defeat last month in Parliament, when a secret ballot allowed many ruling coalition members to oppose the provision that was part on an overhaul of electoral laws. Berlusconi's 25 Cabinet members agreed to restart the legislative process for the measure as a separate bill.

``This is a clear sign,'' Berlusconi said in a news conference today in Rome. ``We would have applied the principle anyway, even without the measure.''

Known as the ``pink quotas,'' the measure if passed won't enter into full force until elections in 2011. Parties that don't meet the minimum threshold of women candidates in 2006 would pay a fine.

``It's going to be gradual,'' said Equal Opportunities Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who drafted the bill. ``After a setback, we want to recover lost ground.''

Newspapers including the Corriere della Sera reported Prestigiacomo, one of two female ministers in the government, cried in a Cabinet meeting after the measure was defeated in the lower house of parliament on Oct. 13.

Elsewhere in Europe, the situation is mixed. France has equal-opportunities legislation that forces parties to put forward the same number of male and female candidates in some elections or pay fines. The U.K. doesn't have quotas for candidates.

Well of course the French have it. It suitably progressive and stupid, so I'm sure they pioneered the idea.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Because I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes

Via Llama Butchers:
You scored as Calvin. You are Calvin! You are an obnoxious little six-year-old who knows way too much to be getting Fs in school. You know how to have the best time playing, and can annoy adults to no end.







Mom and Dad


Mrs. Wormwood


What Calvin & Hobbes character are you?
created with

That better be some damn good scotch

Because at 500 pounds a sip (about $850 USD) I'd probably have to kill myself afterwards...

LONDON (Reuters) - At 500 pounds a sip it is one of the world's most expensive tipples this Christmas.

For connoisseurs with the pocket, British drinks giant Diageo is selling a Johnnie Walker whisky blend at 14,000 pounds a bottle to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Scotsman who created the world's best-selling whisky brand.

The group which distills one-third of the world's scotch has selected Scotland's best whiskies, all over 30 years old and some as old as 70 years old, to create its 1805 anniversary pack -- containing just one bottle.

I can only imagine... served to me in a golden, bejeweled chalice by beautiful, young virgins... you know, something right out of History of the World.

"It's good to be the king."

Bird flu funding shot down

Someone help... I'm trying to figure out how we can kill two birds with one stone here.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Emergency money that President George W. Bush requested to combat a looming influenza pandemic has been deleted from a U.S. health-funding bill after conservative Republicans insisted it would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday was set to debate the massive health-funding bill. After days of intensive talks between the House and Senate, negotiators dropped a plan for $8 billion in funds that Democrats pushed through the Senate last month.

Following that Senate vote, Bush on November 1 asked Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency money.

The funding fight erupted after conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.

Republican leaders in the House said that instead of attaching the bird flu money to a massive $602 billion health and labor spending bill that is rapidly moving through Congress, they would try separate legislation later this year or early next year.

Read the rest of the article. The main reason cited by Republican Congressmen is "too much spending." I'm glad someone is saying it, and insisting that if you need money here, it means cutting something there. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Do I think this avian flu will be a problem? Tough to say. I'm naturally an optimist, so I'm of the belief that it will affect some (the deaths from flu will be higher than normal because of it) but I don't believe it will become the pandemic many have suggested. I don't subscribe to the Chicken Little the sky is falling credo. That's for the birds.


Swiss investigate Oil-for-Food companies

2,253 companies to be exact.

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Swiss Federal Prosecutor is investigating companies named in a United Nations report for possible violations of trade embargos against Iraq or illegal payments to Saddam Hussein as part of an aid program.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern has asked the prosecutor to examine whether criminal proceedings against the companies should be opened, said Rita Baldegger, a spokeswoman for the secretariat.

``I can confirm that we got the letter and now, of course, we are looking into the matter,'' said Hansjuerg Mark Wiedmer, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Bern, in a telephone interview. Wiedmer and Baldegger declined to name companies.

A U.N. investigation found 2,253 companies paid illegal kickbacks to Iraq to win business from the aid program, which was designed to enable Saddam's government to sell oil to pay for humanitarian needs, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who led the report, said last month.

Already before the request, the prosecutor had started ``criminal proceedings in the oil for food case having to do with money laundering and corruption,'' said Wiedmer.

So if you were involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal and work for the UN you'll get a slap on the wrist, otherwise you're screwed. I'll wait until they start prosecuting UN officials, but the prosecutor's challenge will be hanging on the to documents which are supposed to be returned to original sources, unless the UN intervenes.

This could get interesting. Wagers on whether UN allows prosecutors to continue possession of thes incriminating documents and for how long?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Patriot Act to be renewed...

That's the rumor anyway. Secret meetings in dark alleys by mysterious Senators has gotten the renewal of the Patriot Act underway.

The tentative deal would make permanent all but a handful of the expiring provisions, the sources said. Others would expire in seven years if not renewed by Congress. They include rules on wiretapping, obtaining business records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and new standards for monitoring "lone wolf" terrorists who may be operating independent of a foreign agent or power.

Permanent is a good thing.

Bernanke approved as Greenspan's replacement

He'll take over when Greenspan's non-extendable term ends on January 31st.

Speaking of economic issues, check out this article on Bloomberg today on the strength of our economy. Didn't the Democrats insist during the election last year that the economy was going down the tubes and tax cuts would help? It's growing faster than expected after Katrina and record gas prices, we have record foreign investments, and the dollar is strong. Plus the tidbit at the bottom of the article saying Carribean banks holdings are down. A lot of that is US dollars being brought back to the US for investment, instead of hidden in the Carribean to avoid taxes.

Read the article. It's a great tutorial for those interested in learning more about our economy.

UPDATE: Here's more good news: inflation is slowing and consumer confidence is up.

French rioters burn only 163 cars

And since that number is down for the sixth straight day, the French government is discussing instituting affirmative action to help bolster the number of weary young French muslims rioting in the streets.

PARIS, France (Reuters) -- Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has stepped up calls for France to introduce measures to help minorities find jobs, directly challenging President Jacques Chirac.

Boosted by an opinion poll showing strong voter support for his tough response to France's worst civil unrest in almost 40 years, Sarkozy on Wednesday fanned controversy over how to bring disaffected youths into mainstream French society.

Violence continued for the 20th successive night, but police said the number of vehicles set on fire fell to a low of 163. A law extending anti-riot powers for three months was expected to complete its passage through parliament later on Wednesday.

Sarkozy has called before for "affirmative action" to tackle higher than average unemployment among minorities -- one of the problems angering rioting youngsters in run-down suburbs. Many of them are of African and Arab origin.

Because even rioters need a helping hand every once and a while...

White phosphorous use by US just a lot of smoke

But liberals will continue to try to fan any flames they can.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Falluja last November.

At the same time, they denied an Italian television news report that the spontaneously flammable material had been used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while white phosphorous is used most frequently to mark targets or obscure positions, it was used at times in Falluja as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," Venable said.

The spokesman referred reporters to an article in the March-April 2005 edition of the Army's Field Artillery magazine, an official publication, in which veterans of the Falluja fight spelled out their use of white phosphorous and other weapons. The authors used the shorthand "WP" in referring to white phosphorous.

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition," the authors wrote. "We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosive)" munitions.

"We fired `shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

The authors added, in citing lessons for future urban battles, that fire-support teams should have used another type of smoke bomb for screening missions in Falluja "and saved our WP for lethal missions."

The battle for Falluja was the most intense and deadly fight of the war, after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The city, about 35 miles west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River, was a critical insurgent stronghold. The authors of the "after action" report said they encountered few civilians in their area of operations.

Italian communists held a sit-in Monday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Rome to protest the reported use by American troops of white phosphorous. Italy's state-run RAI24 news television aired a documentary last week that alleged the United States used white phosphorous shells in a "massive and indiscriminate way" against civilians during the Falluja offensive.

The State Department initially denied that U.S. troops had used white phosphorous against enemy forces. "They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters," a department Web site said.

The department later said the statement had been incorrect.

"There is a great deal of misinformation feeding on itself about U.S. forces allegedly using `outlawed' weapons in Falluja," the department said. "The facts are that U.S. forces are not using any illegal weapons in Falluja or anywhere else in Iraq."

Venable said white phosphorous shells are a standard weapon used by field artillery units and are not banned by any international weapons convention to which the United States is a signatory.

White phosphorous is a colorless-to-yellow translucent wax-like substance with a pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military ignites once it is exposed to oxygen, producing such heat that it bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. It can cause painful burn injuries to exposed human flesh.

The Brits and Israelis have used the weapon very recently, but I've yet to find anything that would be particularly horrific about it's use. It's not toxic unless the terrorists are picking up the munitions and eating them, and it is used commonly as tracer rounds. I think of it as a weapon commonly referred to in the movies, a flash-bang. It's a weapon designed to startle, disorient, and flush out the enemy. It is not designed to kill, but can if suspects are too close to the grenade when it explodes. So even the BBC acknowledges that this is not a chemical weapon, the way that sarin and mustard gas are:

So WP itself is not a chemical weapon and therefore not illegal. However, used in a certain way, it might become one. Not that "a certain way" can easily be defined, if at all.

The US can say therefore that this is not a chemical weapon and further, it argues that it is not the toxic properties but the heat from WP which causes the damage. And, this argument goes, since incendiary weapons are not covered by the CWC, therefore the use of WP against combatants is not prohibited.

Critics claim that the US used chemical weapons in Falluja, on the grounds that it is the toxic properties which cause the harm. The UK's Guardian newspaper for example said: "The US used chemical weapons in Iraq - and then lied about it."

There is an intense debate on the blog sites about this issue. "It's not a chemical weapon" says Liberal Against Terror. "CONFIRMED: WP is a CW if used to cause harm through toxic properties," says Daily Kos.

But don't expect this story to go away any time soon, because I can almost guarantee that liberals will continue to flog the dead horse with the standard "Bush lied, people died" mantra. Don't be fooled.