Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cindy Sheehan arrested before the SOTU

I know, I know... I shouldn't be happy at someone else's misery... though if you think about it, she knew what she was doing... and is probably happy for the publicity to her cause... so I guess it's alright then...


WASHINGTON - Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq who reinvigorated the anti-war movement, was arrested and removed from the House gallery Tuesday night just before President Bush's State of the Union address, a police spokeswoman said.

Sheehan, who was invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. The charge was later changed to unlawful conduct, Schneider said. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Sheehan was taken in handcuffs from the Capitol to police headquarters a few blocks away. Her case was processed as Bush spoke.

You don't think this will hurt her possible chances at running for the Senate, do you?

I sure hope not, cause that will be fun.

The Democratic response to the SOTU

So, I'm not sure I got the point of the Democratic response...

Was it something about there being a better way? I don't know...

Maybe I should listen better next time.

One live-blogged note on the State of the Union

I swear to friggin' God! I just saw Hillary Clinton shake her head and roll her eyes when Bush mentioned the terrorist surveillance program! Someone please tell me I'm not crazy!!

He said terrorists made international calls right before 9/11 and that we won't let ourselves be attacked again, and the not-so-distinguished Senator from New York shook her head and slightly rolled her eyes while everyone else applauded. She decidedly did not clap.

I can't believe it!

UPDATE: It was the NBC broadcast that cut to her in the audience, if anyone else was watching.
UPDATE 2: Well her not clapping wasn't that big an issue... most of the Democrats didn't clap. Oh, unless it was when they appluading themselves (*cough* Social Security *cough*) for keeping the president from making strides to achieve his agenda.

UPDATE 3: Here's the transcript of the SOTU speech.

UPDATE 4: She looked kinda like this... (via Ace)

Iran has documents that serve no purpose other than the construction of a nuclear weapon

... and for some reason the Russians insist that though they will agree to refer Iran to the Security Council, they remind Iran that this won't yield any immediate results. Gee. Thanks Russia.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said in a report Tuesday that Iran obtained documents and drawings on the black market that serve no other purpose than to make an atomic warhead. Tehran warned of an "end of diplomacy" if plans to refer it to the U.N. Security Council are carried out.

[...] While diplomats familiar with the agency probe into Iran's nuclear program, speaking anonymously, said at the time that the papers apparently were instructions on how to mold highly enriched uranium into the core of warheads, the agency itself refused to make a judgment on what possible uses such casts would have.

In the brief report obtained Tuesday, however, the agency said bluntly that the 15 pages of text and drawings showing how to cast fissile uranium into metal was "related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components."

And again the world breathes a simultaneous, "Oh shit." Can we nip this in the bud already? I would like to think Michael Ledeen is wrong and that our intelligence is good enough to get all their reactors, but I just can't. While our intelligence has improved by leaps and bounds, leaps and bounds from the useless pile of crap that it was under Clinton, doesn't necessarily translate into hard intel. I don't know though that we can wait for Israel to be the courageous country that acts alone... again in preventing a totalitarian regime from getting nukes. Can a popular uprising with vigorous US support succeed? Only if it gets crackin' already...

Australians increase troop and aid commitment to Afghanistan

And it's a deal that may also include a Dutch contingent of troops to the region as well.

The Australian - Australia will contribute another 200 troops and an additional $150 million in aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

Speaking outside a two-day international donors conference in London, Mr Downer said Australia's commitment to Afghanistan was not as large as some countries, but it would nevertheless make a big difference.

He said Australia would build on the $110 million it has already spent in Afghanistan with a new pledge of $150 million over 5 years through aid agency AusAID.

[...] Australia's latest troop commitment, for a provincial reconstruction team in conjunction with the Netherlands, will take its total deployment in Afghanistan to 500 troops.

But it is not yet a done deal, as it hinges on a key vote in the Dutch parliament later this week.

Amid dissent in its own coalition ranks, the Dutch Government is relying on opposition support to pass its proposal for 1200 troops for Afghanistan.

We've been applying pressure to many of the EU nations now for a while and maybe it's starting to pay off. Sure the Dutch view this more as a "reconstruction" mission as opposed to "anti-terror" and that's why it may get approved. But we've got to be thankful for small favors. Sometimes they lead to bigger favors.

76% of terrorist attacks fail according to latest numbers

Don't expect to see a big deal made of this in the MSM.

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The death toll among U.S. troops in Iraq dropped back to average levels in December and January after a bloody autumn, and U.S. officials said on Tuesday insurgent attacks have been waning since October.

The number of attacks conducted by insurgents has dwindled from more than 700 per week in the first week of October, just before the Oct. 15 referendum on a new Iraqi constitution, to the current level of about 430 per week, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

This counts all attacks against U.S. and other foreign troops, Iraqi government security forces, civilians and infrastructure targets, Johnson said. Attacks that cause damage or casualties are considered "effective."

"They've had a fairly consistent effectiveness rate of about 24 percent throughout that period," Johnson said.

I thought that was pretty interesting, and though I'd love to credit our troops with foiling all of those terrorist attacks, it's more realistically a combination of our troops, Iraqi troops, and the terrorists' incompetence. While it's far from perfect, it's something to congratulate our troops and the Iraqis on.

The article goes on to say that IED attacks have doubled in the past year and are the leading cause of injury and death to our troops in Iraq. I interpret that to mean there are fewer terrorists available to carry out suicide bombings and gunfights with our troops. Perhaps those numbers mean we are capturing or killing the terrorists in the act, before they can carry out their attacks. Perhaps the terrorists' message is beginning to lose some of the luster it may have had initially as Iraqis see the possibilities offered them by a free, democratic society. Perhaps we have been capturing more potential terrorists as they try to enter the country at better secured borders with Iran and Syria. Perhaps.

Alan Greenspan's reign at FOMC ends

Greenspan steps down after nearly 19 years as chairman. Of course he had to raise rates one more time before he left...

Financial Times - The US Federal Reserve on Tuesday raised interest rates another quarter point, a decision that brought to a close Alan Greenspan’s long chairmanship of the central bank but not an end to its campaign of rate increases.

[...] During his 18½ years at the Fed, Mr Greenspan has chaired 155 FOMC meetings, including a small number of emergency meetings. Over the period, growth and inflation have averaged 3.1 per cent and unemployment 5.5 per cent.

Following Tuesday’s meeting the Fed hosted a farewell lunch for Mr Greenspan and his FOMC colleagues, followed by an afternoon party to which with the staff.

Mr Greenspan bequeaths to his successor an economy that is expected to grow at close to its trend rate, commonly put at 3¼-3½ per cent this year, and in which inflation expectations are controlled.

Everyone say hello to our new Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke.

Hi Ben!

Michael Ledeen on democracy

Here's a snippet of his new National Review piece.

Islamofascism seems to me to be on the same track to the losers' circle. The Iranian people loathe it, and would gladly trade it for the Westminster model or their own fine 1906 Constitution. Most Iraqis, even though they are still voting along 'religious' lines, have shown little affection for a new caliphate or Islamic republic. No sooner had they voted for the religious blocs than they sat down and renegotiated the division of power. It's not textbook post-electoral politics, but it bespeaks a distinctly non-fanatical approach to government. Several recent polls show that al Qaeda's popularity ratings are careening downward, while our own are rising. I think these positive symptoms are the result of four main factors: the failure of the terrorists to drive us out of the Middle East, the recognition by most people that the terrorists, from al Qaeda to Hezbollah (that is, from Sunni to Shiite), are evil and must be defeated, and the near-universal conviction that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not the sort of place where one should want to live. That mullahcracy is the closest thing on earth to the much-ballyhooed "caliphate" so dear to the mouths of the jihadis, and while some alienated middle-class Muslims might dream of its wonders, most think it stinks. As it truly does.

And as always, read the rest of the essay. It's brilliant, but that's what we've come to expect from Mr. Ledeen.

UPDATE: Can't believe I forgot the link!

Alito's in!

He made it! All that whining and complaining by the Democrats comes to naught.

That's a happy looking Justice!

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate confirmed Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court on Tuesday by a vote of 58-42, a day after an attempt by some Democratic senators to block his nomination fizzled.

Alito, who will be the court's 110th justice, will be sworn into office across the street from the Capitol at the Supreme Court, just hours before President Bush's State of the Union address. He will then join Chief Justice John Roberts in the House chamber for Tuesday night's speech.

Judge Alito will be ceremonially sworn into office Wednesday in the East Room of the White House.

Alito watched the Senate vote from the Roosevelt Room of the White House with President Bush and his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner.

Only one of the Senate's 55 Republicans voted against Alito's confirmation -- Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a moderate facing re-election this fall in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

The four Democrats who broke party ranks and voted for Alito are Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. All four of the states represented by the senators were carried by Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

It will be intersting to see what happens to those who broke ranks in the upcoming elections, particularly Chafee. Anyone got any thoughts on whether Dubya gets to put a third justice on the Supreme Court?

Jack Bauer kicks the crap out of the traiterous chief of staff

And to maintain integrity, we will refer to all characters by their "Nom de BlogRing."

So yeah. Jack kicks the crap out of Sid Blumenthal (President Weasel's Chief of Staff) and threatens to pluck out his eye. I wonder if that is covered in the torture ban? All because MoveOn.org got involved in the script and the nerve gas is to be used to garner oil for the US. Whatever. Jack doesn't want cheap oil, he wants to kill more terrorists.

And Chiggy Killa puts the rookie, Sam Gamgee, in his place. That was sweet... no second breakfast for you hungry, hungry hobbit!

And Kim Bauer makes her triumphant return next week. I would make a comment about how hot she is, but I fear I might anger Jack and I'd rather not lose an eyeball... or anything else...

And now, a moment of zen from the Chuck Norris Jack Bauer Random Fact Generator:

Scientology is Chuck Norris' Jack Bauer's first sucessful get-rich-quick scheme.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Exxon posts most lackluster "windfall" profits in history

I couldn't help but comment on the Exxon story...

When I got home I flipped on the news, and it happened to go to the local ABC affiliate here in SoCal. The first story I saw was on Exxon's record profits for the 4th quarter. They put on the weary consumers, tired of high gas prices and let them vent... "I don't know if it's because of the war [in Iraq], or because of Katrina... We're being gouged" was the sentiment of all those whose opinions were aired. They even had a tax advocacy group spokes-hole on who blamed the commodity market and Katrina. "They control the quantities... they control the supply..." Blah blah blah.

They finally put on a Exxon representative who made two good points in her 10 seconds of air time. One, that Exxon is a global company, so the profit reflects global earnings, not just the money of hardworking Americans (Duh people, you think our gas prices are bad. And two, Exxon's profits are on par with other corporations. Good points. How on par is Exxon? Boots and Sabers (via Say Anything) takes a closer look at the numbers:

Exxon Mobil earned a profit of $36.13 billion on the year. This is off of revenue of $371 billion. That is a profit margin of 9.78%. Exxon Mobil is earning less than a 10% profit. That is not obscene. Let’s look at the profit margins for some other businesses:

Profit margin on a typical new home? 9.8%
Big telecom? 35%
The Left’s darling, Apple? 9.9%

So while $10.71 billion is a big, record breaking number, it's really not that much profit when you look at the bigger picture. And if you're an investor, isn't the whole goal of a successful company to make a profit? Since Exxon is a corporation, who's really making all that money? Their investors; you and me (well you, if you were smart enough to buy their stock. I unfortunately had to sell all mine to help cover the closing costs for the fetching Mrs. Wookie's and my new house. The housing market better keep increasing in value at that 9.8% clip.)

ABC/AP - The company's earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October-December quarter, up 27 percent from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.

Up 27% compared to a year ago. That sounds like a pretty good investment. Michael Medved today made the point that for much of the 80's Exxon was in the red. If I were a stockholder then, I'd have been pissed. Maybe we need a diagram to help show where all that money at the pump really goes.

43% is based on the price of a barrel of oil, and if you check the link it has 2000 barrel prices which have doubled since then thanks to in large part (drumroll please...) OPEC, our good buddies in the Middle East. So, wow, this "War for Oil" has done a number on getting us super cheap gas, huh. And if you think our prices are outrageous, check out the rest of the world. And, hello, does everyone see that big ol' 31% that goes right to the government? The government makes more off of the gas you pump at the station than the oil companies do. So where's the outrage?

So is less than 10% profit for the quarter really big enough news for the liberals to get all whiny about, or is that a stupid question?

What Superhero are you?

I thought this was pretty accurate, but I'm surprised the cape question didn't ruin it for me. (via CrosBlog. He finds the best quizzes)

Your results:
You are Superman

Green Lantern

The Flash

Iron Man






Wonder Woman


You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

New blog added to Cake or Death BlogRoll

A satirical site, Picked Cockle. It's brand-spanking new, but I like Alito's Ten Commandments.

Pretty funny. Check it out.

Newly democratized nations leading the charge in the GWOT

All those former Soviet nations that have a recent histories with totalitarian regimes and the newfound freedoms of democracy, are providing critical support in the GWOT.

Since the end of the Cold War, many former foes are now allies, coalition officials said. Now some of these former Soviet Bloc nations are globally united and aligned with organizations like CENTCOM's coalition, NATO and the European Union. And as part of the coalition, these fledgling democracies are helping nations like Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild with a democratic foundation, even as they themselves continue to build their nations with democratic rule.

Former Soviet Bloc and other formerly communist nations now supporting coalition operations are: Russia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, East Germany (now part of Germany), Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan, Slovenia, Slovakia, Macedonia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

"We're supporting the reconstruction of these countries," Romanian navy Capt. Sorin Nicolaescu said. "All these guys in theater are there voluntarily. They are there because they wanted to go."

[...] Currently, Romania has approximately 1,400 military personnel deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In southern Iraq, Romanians are patrolling and securing routes used by the coalition. "They're doing force protection, engineering missions, training Iraqi forces -- the full range of missions," Nicolaescu said. Romanians are also protecting Iraqi infrastructure and providing medical care for insurgent detainees in theater, he said.

Other nations new to democracy are committing troops to the cause of democracy in CENTCOM's area of responsibility. Azerbaijan is an emerging democracy and also a member of the coalition. The country is a member of the Council of Europe and also participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, a project created in 1994 to build trust between NATO and European states and the former Soviet Union. Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, all former members of the Partnership for Peace, have sinced joined NATO.

I think Americans have gotten lazy and forgtten what a blessing it is to live in a free society. Example: Cindy Sheehan continues to try to extend here 15 minutes by calling Bush a terrorist while visiting newly elected communist Chavez and is reportedly considering running for US Senate in California against Sen. Feinstein. Honestly, that could work ought well for Republicans, as those two battle for the title of "Leftist Queen." Sheehan's Bush is a terrorist comment echoes the Zawahiri's latest comment; remind me who's side is she on again?

In some other good news, infighting amongst the terrorists in Iraq seems to be dividing their ranks and distracting them from attacking coalition forces.

"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."

The U.S. military cited incidents of insurgent infighting in a rare public description of a split:

• At least six ranking members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been assassinated by Sunni insurgents or tribal gunmen in separate incidents since September, Zahner said. The killings are usually in retaliation for al-Qaeda's role in violence, such as the execution of local police officers, he said.

And on the lighter side, capitalism continues to take hold in the region as Iraqis hit the gym.

When Mohammed Jassem, 21, decided to start bodybuilding a year ago, he chose the Arnold Classic Gym.

"Arnold is my hero," he says. The gym, of course, is named after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Gyms, like other businesses, were tightly regulated under Saddam Hussein's regime, but the weightlifting union lost control after the U.S.-led invasion. Now entrepreneurs don't need permission before opening a gym. Dozens of gyms have opened around Baghdad over the past couple of years, capitalizing on the new freedoms and demand.

Under Saddam, modern gyms were mostly available only to elite athletes or the ranking members of the regime. Now ordinary Iraqis are rushing out to get in shape. Saif Ayman, 26, opened Mr. Olympia Gym after the U.S.-led invasion. "The demand for this sport increased after the war," he says. "I decided to open the gym because it's a good way to make money very fast."

It's the Iraqi dream. Get fit, make some money, maybe be the next Mr. Universe. The world is quickly becoming their oyster.

And Saddam's got a new judge and colleagues say he won't take any crap.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman is a career judge known for efficiency and strict adherence to the law, a native of the Kurdish town where 5,000 died in a gas attack allegedly ordered by Saddam Hussein.

Colleagues call him sober, straight-talking and tough.

"He is a serious and honest person," said Omar Abdel-Rahman, a lawyer who worked with the judge in the 1970s. "He is a man of principles, but sometimes he gets angry quickly."

Hopefully he can minimize Saddam's shenanigans in court and get the Iraqis some closure by getting to the sentencing and execution phase quickly.

UPDATE: Cindy Sheehan, as alluded to above, is allegedly contemplating running for Senate to replace Sen. Feinstein which has inspired her supporters to start a blog in an effort to convince her to go for it. Go support Cindy, the best thing to happen to California Republicans since sliced bread. (via Llama Butchers)

Bob Woodruff's life saved by body armor

If the press have armor enough to save a life from a roadside bomb, then perhaps it's likely our troops have sufficient armor as well (please make note of this Senators Clinton and Kerry).

NEW YORK - ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, seriously hurt by a roadside bomb in Iraq, has shown signs of improvement and may be airlifted to the United States as soon as Tuesday, the network's news president said Monday.

A hospital official said body armor likely saved the journalist's life.

Cameraman Doug Vogt, also hurt in the explosion, is in better shape than Woodruff but doctors were pleased with how both handled the transfer to a U.S. military base in Germany, said ABC News President David Westin.

"We have a long way to go," Westin said. "But it appears that we may have also come some distance from yesterday."

Vogt was filming a stand-up report with Woodruff and both were standing in the open hatch of an Iraqi military vehicle when the bomb went off. They underwent surgery in Iraq before being flown to Germany.

"They're both very seriously injured, but stable," said Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in western Germany. He said both men were heavily sedated and under the care of the hospital's trauma team.

Their body armor likely saved them, "otherwise these would have been fatal wounds," Gamble said.

What is enough body armor for Senator Clinton? Why don't we just wrap each one of our military servicemen in a tank? That shouldn't cost too much. It's not like we want them to move around very much. They need to be able to just sit there and be pounded with enemy fire and be completely impervious. Let's load 'em up 200 pounds of body armor ought to do the trick.

Oh and my prayers and thoughts go out to Bob Woodruff's and Doug Vogt's families. Hopefully we coninue to get good news on their condition.


You break it you buy it, my friend!

CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) -- A museum visitor shattered three Qing dynasty Chinese vases when he tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and brought the vases crashing to the floor, officials said Monday.

The three vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to The Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948, and were among its best-known artifacts. They had been sitting proudly on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years.

"It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident, but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed," said Duncan Robinson, the Fitzwilliam's director.

Talk about a bad day...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sex calms nerves before public speaking

Yeah I know I slammed most studies earlier, but this is too funny.

LONDON (Reuters) - Forget pretending you are talking to one person or concentrating on a single point in the audience -- having sex is good way to calm nerves before giving a speech or presentation.

But Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in Scotland, said it has to be full sexual intercourse to get the best results.

He studied nearly 50 men and women who recorded their sexual activities for two weeks and analyzed its impact on their blood pressure levels when under acute stress, such as when giving a speech.

Brody discovered that the volunteers who had sexual intercourse were the least stressed and had blood pressure levels that returned to normal more quickly than people who engaged in other types of sex.

But people who had abstained from sex had the highest blood pressure response to stress.

What about during, à la Police Academy? What's that do for stress? I think more research is needed...

Colombian passport ring busted

So terrorists can get fake passports in Colombia, a Meixican military escort across the US border, a map some you don't get lost and so you can find the best spots for cell phone reception, and liberals don't want us listening to international calls without the almighty warrant. Great.

BOGOTA, Colombia - The United States on Friday asked for the extradition of eight people arrested as part of a sting operation to dismantle a false-passport ring, although U.S. officials disputed Colombian suggestions the suspects were linked to Middle East terrorists.

The eight foreign nationals — seven Colombians and one Palestinian native — were among 19 people arrested in 32 simultaneous raids across the country. Authorities said they seized what they believe were fraudulent passports from Hong Kong, Canada, Jordan and other countries.

Four Jordanian nationals were among the 19 captured, Colombian officials said.

Contradicting the claims of U.S. officials, acting Colombian Attorney General Jorge Armando Otalora insisted that his country's detectives uncovered evidence that the criminal gang may have supplied false documents to members of al-Qaida and Hamas terrorists.

Al-Qaida and Hamas. Well that's just fabulous. Maybe we should really follow Blackfive's Hamas proposal. And since I found this via Captain's Quarters, here's what Captain Ed said:

How does everyone feel about that international surveillance now? Sounds like a pretty damned good idea, doesn't it?

Indeed. That plus more NSA wiretaps and shutting down the damn border too.

Must read: Blackfive on Hamas election

Blackfive has a fascinating take on the election of Hamas in Palestine told via a hypothetical speech for Condi.

The spread of freedom through democracy is a novel concept, but one that has worked phenomenally for those who have stuck with it. It would be a great moment indeed if a terrorist group could take the popular mandate from their people and renounce it's illegitimate and heinous tactics becoming a force for good rather than evil. Congratulations to all the Palestinian people, we urge you to support your new government in it's efforts to create a peaceful and prosperous Palestine.

I presented the new Palestinian leadership with a copy of the mutual defense pact we have with Israel, I urge them to read it carefully as they now are one of the nation-states we would help Israel protect itself from if attacked. Our hope is that the newly democratic Hamas and other former terrorist groups will join in this tremendous opportunity and create a country where their children and grandchildren can grow up happily.

If for any reason this idyllic possibility is shattered by a terrorist attack on Israel, we will join in support of Israel as they repel an invasion, and obviously a casus belli would have been presented. In simpler terms it goes like this: If you or any of your Jew-hating friends blow up a single Israeli bus, we are going to stand by and giggle while the Israelis beat your new nation state like a wet dog in a dry house.

I like it. I don't think it's takes much of a logical leap to consider a suicide bomber attack on a bus or at a pizzeria by Hamas terrorists as an act of war by a majority Hamas government. And the Israeli government has every right to protect its citizens from such an attack and seek retribution. (My previous Palestinian election post)

Read the whole post and the comments too. A great discussion is taking place...

Most Americans who think the economy is worsening under Bush are wrong

Just after I put up that last post on the poll hammering Bush and the economy I find this over at Ace regarding the horrible, unfair, tax cuts for the rich:

Take a look at Table 4-4 on page 92 of the Budget and Economic Outlook released this week. You’ll see that actual liabilities from capital-gains taxes were $71 billion in 2004, and $80 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $151 billion. So let’s do the math one more time: Subtract the originally estimated two-year liability of $125 billion from the actual liability of $151 billion, and you get a $26 billion upside surprise for the government. Yes, instead of costing the government $27 billion in revenues, the tax cuts actually earned the government $26 billion extra.

CBO’s [Congressional Budget Office] estimate of the “cost” of the tax cut was virtually 180 degrees wrong.

Very interesting... cutting taxes actually made us money. Yet people think the economy is going down the toilet, and liberal wankers love their slogans like "Tax cuts for the rich." I wonder how many of them can actually balance their own checkbook... Here's a simple explanation of why tax cuts make money for the liberals out there trying to keep their heads from exploding at the thought of lower taxes making the US money.

[...] a capital gains tax cut spurs the growth of new businesses, increases the wage of workers, enhances consumer purchasing power, and grows the economy at large, resulting in more overall gains to be taxed. When capital is taxed at a lower rate, any revenue losses are offset because there is more overall capital being produced, and thus more total revenue being generated.

Makes you just want to smack some sense into the placard carrying, protesting weenies, doesn't it? I bet that Budget and Economic Outlook report would hurt if you hit them with it...

Another misleading poll

I had to read this one a couple times just to figure out exactly how they got the results they claimed in the article's title, What Head of Steam? Economy Is Worsening Under Bush, Most Americans Say. Dramatic statement but not surprising as people have been down on fairly robust economy but the poll data doesn't necessarily say that.

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy was robust by almost every measure last year, prompting President George W. Bush to say that 2006 began ``with a full head of steam'' and he will make things even better. Most Americans don't buy it.

By a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy, according to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll this week. About six out of 10 say the economy will stay the same in the next six months, while more say it will worsen than say it will improve. And by 47 percent to 22 percent, the public says the country is worse off economically since Bush became president.

The disconnect between the poll numbers and the economic data reflects anxiety about structural changes in the economy, said Vin Weber, a Washington lobbyist and former Republican representative in Congress who is close to the Bush administration. ``Americans have seen their basic conceptual view of the American economy shattered, and it hasn't been replaced by anything,'' he says.

Weber says mass job cuts announced by Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. and bankruptcies and pension freezes at major airlines are among the reasons Americans are insecure even as gross domestic product is growing.

OK so 59% "disapprove" of Bush's handling of the economy. That's fine; I disagree, but hey, that's me. Now, "about six out of 10" say economy will stay the same. Here's where it gets hazy... "More say it will worsen than say it will improve" Oookaaaay. Let's put in some numbers: 3 to 1, worsen to improve for the sake of our argument. Now let's rephrase the results, about 7 out of 10 say economy will stay the same or improve. Doesn't sound so bad now. And finally, "47 percent to 22 percent, the public says the country is worse off economically since Bush became president." Rephrase: 53% say economy is better or the same since Bush came into office. And with the rephrase above, about 53% think the economy, that 70% think is the same or better since Bush came into office, will stay the same or improve.

What's that amount to? A whole lot of gobbledygook crap. It means nothing. It's all about how you phrase the results.

That's why most polls are crap. I'll expand that to studies as well.

Dennis Prager was discussing a recent number of studies touting the health benefits of wine in moderation. He was impressed enough that he tried to drink wine more regularly since he usually drinks alcohol in general very rarely. But is the wine health connection a causal or associative? He cited a new study that linked people who buy wine also tend to buy healthier foods: more fruits, veggies, low fat meats and cheeses, etc. than people who buy beer, who buy both beer and wine, or who don't buy alcohol at all. So does wine benefit as much as those studies thought or is the health of those people more reflective of a healthier lifestyle and that they happen to prefer wine with their healthier diet and lifestyle than those who drink beer or drink no alcohol at all?

Studies and polls, while they can be useful don't often express the truths that they claim.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This is one of the cooler quizzes yet...

via Crosblog

I'm a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.


So... when do I get it?

More testimony to the theory that Saddam moved his WMD to Syria before the war

Hopefully he gives us some good information that will allow us to finally put this WMD debate to rest. (via Michelle Malkin)

NYSun -- The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

We'd heard these stories at the beginning of the war in Iraq, having never found any large caches of weapons on the order of the amounts pre-war intel said he had. Mr. Sada brings more credibility to the theory the WMD were moved to Syria, and he outlines how passnger jets were transformed into chemical weapon transports and flown by pilots under his command. And I like JunkYardBlog thought at the time, this is the most telegraphed punch of a war in hostory. Saddam had plenty of time to move stuff around while we were putzing around with the flippin' UN.

Hopefully all this leads to the smoking gun of buried WMDs uin Syria so we can put our thumbs in our ears, stick out our tongues, and go "Na na nana na" in a very condescending tone to the Cindy Sheehan following, anti-war nitwits.

That'd be fun.

Adventures of a first-time homeowner, pt. 6

It's been a while since I've done another one of in this series of posts, but that's definitely not to say we haven't been busy.

Other than repairing divots in the backyard as I perfect my 7 iron, interior design has been the theme of the past month. The fetching Mrs. Wookie along with a friend who in the area who does interior design (just screams trouble, doesn't it?) have been shopping. Results: new sofa and love seat for the living room, new curtains and curtain rods for the family room and living room, and new lamps for the lving room. The living room did need the most work, because it was pretty much an empty room. Apartment to house move translates into half the necessary furniture and most of the furniture you do bring ends up being inadequate, so you buy new stuff to replace the old stuff too.

My parents shipped out the piano that I grew up playing on, so that got moved in to the living room a week ago as well. New sofa and love seat were delivered around the same time as the piano. Fortunately I didn't have to do anything electric with the lighting, other than plug them in. That leaves taking down existing, ugly, box-like, valence-type thingies and putting up new rods and curtains.

The family room had the most windows, but went fairly quickly. Old, boxy, valence-type thingies came down easily enough and the new rods were hung with little trouble. My main concern with these was making everything level. My laser level will suction to the wall, but our walls are textured, so that would friggin' work. So the levelling was a combination of laser and eye, and turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. The living room was another matter.

Did I mention the living room has cathedral ceilings? And a 12 foot high front window? So there I am standing on the top rung of the 6 foot ladder I borrowed from next door (good thing I'm 6'5") trying to drill holes in the front wall to hang these damn rods. Straight wasn't an issue because the windown is inset in to the wall, encased in a nice frame which gave me my measuring reference. The problem was drilling the holes. Inch long drywall expanders for the screws, and all I could drill in was a half an inch. So 10 half inch holes in the wall later, and 8 broken, smashed and bent drywall expanders later I finally find a spot to drill where I'm not drilling directly into metal framing connectors. Nearly three hours to hang two damn curtain rods over a 12 foot window.

And now I've got to go back up and patch all those damn holes...

Projected results suggest Palestinians voted Hamas into office

Basically the Palestinians just took a car bomb to the "Road Map to Peace" by electing terrorists who've made it their goal of destroying the Jewish state.

NYTimes -- Hamas leaders claimed their own count showed that the group was winning an outright majority in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council. Sixty-seven seats are needed for a majority, and Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the group expected to at least 70.

[...] Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah leader, was elected a year ago and his position is not affected by Wednesday's vote. However, Mr. Abbas, commonly known as Abu Mazen, wants to restart peace negotiations with Israel, and there is no realistic possibility of that happening if Hamas leads the next Palestinian government.

Israel calls Hamas a terrorist group and has always refused to deal with the organization. Contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are already limited and fraught with difficulty, and would only become more so with Hamas in the Palestinian government.

Gee... ya think? It's tough to bring peace between two individual states when the majority of Palestinians support a poltical party/terrorist group that aims to eliminate half of the two states involved. This is also know as the "Peace is easy when the people from the prospective country with whom you'd like to agree to peace with are all dead" or PIEWPPCWWYLAPAAD or something to that effect. Wow. That's a mouthful.

Bloomberg -- Hamas, running for the first time in national elections, vowed to fight corruption and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While it moderated its stance toward Israel, not mentioning its goal of destroying the Jewish state in its official platform, the movement says it won't give up its arms.

Along with its fight against Israel, Hamas has built its popularity over the past two decades by providing health services and social welfare programs that weren't available from the Palestinian Authority and international refugee organizations.

Russia called on Hamas to embrace the peace process and said its own cooperation with the Palestinian Authority won't be affected by the make-up of the government, Agence France-Presse said from Moscow.

Hamas should "speak in favor of a peaceful settlement and, as a result, of the creation of an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel,'' AFP quoted Russia's special envoy to the Middle East, Alexander Kalugin, as saying, citing Russian news agencies.

Bleh. Hamas gained popularity by forming their own militia of imbalanced kids with suicidal/homicidal tendencies, blowing up Israelis in an aim to destroy the Jewish state, and supporting the families of their miltia/suicide bombers. I suppose that must be what qualifies you for "health services and social welfare programs" under Hamas.

I wonder if the UN electoral advisory committee or whatever the UN group is called that "validates" elections, can disqualify Hamas as a political party. I don't think most political parties should have their own military wing. Something smacks of "improper" about that sort of thing... Would you refuse a "Vote 4 Hamas!" button from a guy with an AK-47?

UPDATE: Cox & Forkum are right on the money as usual...

A second thought on the torture ban

Looks like not all torture was banned. Someone call the ACLU

Anti-torture legislation, poised to consume Congress and Senate after the Samuel Alito hearings, will still allow "naked dude pyramids," Capitol Hill insiders said yesterday.

The news was welcomed by the "Lynndie England types" of the U.S. military - about four people in a total force of over one million soldiers.

Ms. England was convicted last year of torture for her role in the Abu Ghraib prison, but not for stacking prisoners like charcoal briquettes. "It was her use of the dog collar that had us peeved," said an anonymous military judge.

The legislation will buttress existing legislation already banning torture. The bill's subtitle is "Redundant Moral Superiority / A Lesson In Bestowing Constitutional Rights Upon Suspected Terrorists."

A spokesman for Senator John McCain, who is leading the anti-torture bill, said, "This may not help us win the War On Terror, but we sure will be able to feel good about our moral superiority the millisecond before we're vaporized by terrorist nukes!"

Unfortunately for those Lynndie England types, the legislation will indeed ban "corralling prisoners with dog collars."

"Naked dude pyramids" were all the rage in early 2004. Some commentators called the naked dude pyramids "the gayest thing to transform American pop culture before Brokeback Mountain was released."

Oh the humanity. Not the Naked Dude Pyramid of Death!!! What about mocking them in their underwear and making them wear silly hats and hoods?! Please don't tell me that's legal.

What I think they really ought to ask themselves is WWJBD... What would Jack Bauer do? The Chuck Norris Jack Bauer Random Fact Generator says:

Chuck Norris Jack Bauer is the reason you don't mess with Texas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

0 to 60 in five seconds... on a bike

How cool is this?

(PopSci.com) -- For rocket designer Tim Pickens, a rocket on two wheels is the next best thing to a spaceship.

"At heart we're a bunch of guys wanting to go to space, and we can't afford it," says Pickens of himself and his rocket-scientist brethren, most of whom never get to ride their own creations. "Basically it's my own subscale space program."

Pickens, president of rocket-design firm Orion Propulsion, created his first rocket bike with fellow speed enthusiast Glenn May by bolting a 35-pound-thrust rocket engine to Pickens's bike -- enough power for a gentle push down the road.

That project didn't kill anyone, so Pickens got himself another bike and stepped it up, attaching a 200-pound-thrust engine capable of blasting him from 0 to 60 miles an hour in five seconds -- fast enough to beat a Porsche in a drag race.

Man I always wanted something like that when I was a kid. I might have actually taken off if I'd hit a jump with that.

Sweet. I can't believe he can take a Porsche with that thing...

(Hat Tip to Dave Barry)

UPDATE: "You ever take it off any sweet jumps?"

Schwarzenegger adds some GOP strategists to his team

This is a little good news after his failed initiatives, hiring of a big Democratic advisor, and a State of the State address that was big on spend, spend, spend.

WaPo -- Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush campaign strategist, will play a similar role in Schwarzenegger's reelection bid -- handling long-term positioning and message.

As he faces a tough reelection battle, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is adding people to his political entourage. So far, at least, he's not doing any subtracting. This could lead to a big team -- not always a formula for nimble politics.

Steve Schmidt, who will leave his position as a senior adviser to Vice President Cheney at the conclusion of Samuel Alito's confirmation battle, will be the campaign manager with broad mandate over spending and strategic decisions, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.

Trying to move back to the right and the positions that got him elected hopefully.

... and now the Mexican government will distribute border maps to possible illegal immigrants

That on top of the armed escort for smugglers I posted about yesterday.

MEXICO CITY (Jan. 25) - A Mexican government commission said Tuesday it will distribute at least 70,000 maps showing highways, rescue beacons and water tanks in the Arizona desert to curb the death toll among illegal border crossers.

The National Human Rights Commission, a government-funded agency with independent powers, denied the maps - similar to a comic-style guide booklet Mexico distributed last year - would encourage illegal immigration.

Officials said the maps would help guide those in trouble find rescue beacons and areas with cell phone reception. The maps will also show the distance a person can walk in the desert in a single day.

"We are not trying in any way to encourage or promote migration," said Mauricio Farah, one of the commission's national inspectors. "The only thing we are trying to do is warn them of the risks they face and where to get water, so they don't die."

You've got to be kidding me... Pamphlets, on how to cross, maps, and the Mexican military giving escorts to smugglers. Why not just friggin' bus 'em over?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Mexican military is helping smugglers across the border


Daily Bulletin - Mexican soldiers and civilian smugglers had an armed standoff with nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officials on the Rio Grande in Texas Monday afternoon, according to Texas police and the FBI.

Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States, said Chief Deputy Mike Doyal, of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department.

Mexican Army troops had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border -- near Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso -- when Border Patrol agents called for backup. Hudspeth County deputies and Texas Highway patrol officers arrived shortly afterward, Doyal said.

We all heard the story last week of Mexican military crossing the border into the US which HSA Chertoff dismissed as them possibly getting lost since in the middle of the desert no one knows exactly where the border is anyway. I rolled my eyes... whatever. But this is outrageous!

Mexican troops and smugglers in a shootout with US law enforcement. Mexican troops fighting with smugglers?! Helping them bring drugs into the US?! That's it! Shut down the damn border NOW! We need to see some serious action from the Bush administration on this quickly.

UPDATE: As usual, Michelle Malkin seems to beat the rest of the world to the story.

An open letter from Barbara Streisand

The Llamas were critiquing the LATimes through a letter Babs sent to the Times after she cancelled her subscription when they fired Robert Scheer. I don't know why, but it made me think of this 5 year old WSJ op-ed mocking Babs' affinity for writing letters. It's a little dated, but still funny... just switch around some names (example: Pakistan for China) and it would still work today.

Barbra Streisand has sent a three-page memo to top congressional Democrats, accusing them of being "paralyzed, demoralized and depressed" since the election, Ms. Streisand's publicist confirms.

"We have a President who stole the presidency through family ties, arrogance and intimidation, employing Republican operatives to exercise the tactics of voter fraud by disenfranchising thousands of blacks, elderly Jews and other minorities," the singer-actress charges. "I hope you're through arguing among yourselves and distancing yourselves from President Clinton."

Yesterday Ms. Streisand's publicist also confirmed she had dispatched a number of other missives.

• Barbra Streisand has sent a scorching 15-page memo to top leaders at the Pentagon accusing them of being "putzes" for sending electronic surveillance aircraft near the Chinese coastline.

"Are we at war with China?" writes the star of "For Pete's Sake" and other films. "I didn't hear anything about that. What do we care what they're up to, anyway? They're nice people, the Chinese, and their military donated generously to President Clinton's re-election campaign in 1995 or 1996. Whatever. The real threat to America is George Bush. Him we should force to land on an island somewhere."

• Barbra Streisand has sent a withering 18-page memo to top leaders at the State Department blasting them for "not bringing about peace in the Middle East."

"I've had it with you," writes the star of "Nuts" and other films. "Two and a half months you've been in charge and has anything changed? Every time I look at the TV, another suicide bomb. This cannot go on. Maybe if you spent less time kvetching about Marc Rich, a true Middle East peacemaker, and more helping Israel, we would not be in this situation. Am I getting through to you?" Ms. Streisand concludes the memo saying, "P.S. This is nothing personal against Colin Powell, whom I personally think is wonderful. Such eyes. That skin, I would die for. In fact, have him call me about this. Him I can talk to."

• Barbra Streisand has sent a blistering 22-page memo to British Conservative leader William Hague accusing him of "infecting thousands or however many cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in order to make my friend Tony Blair--I could squeeze him--look like a schmuck." The star of "What's Up Pussycat?" and other films writes she was "sick and tired" of seeing piles of dead cows being burned, and charged that the recent epidemic of BSE was "Tory revenge for Tony's courageous ban on fox hunting."

• Barbra Streisand has sent a withering 28-page memo to NASA accusing the space agency of "dragging feet." "Why haven't we landed on Mars yet?" writes the star of "Yentl" and other films. "Is this 2001, or 1901? Is there a problem?" Ms. Streisand says that if "Bill Clinton--such strength, such charisma, don't get me started--were still in charge, we'd be on Pluto by now."

• Barbra Streisand has sent a fulminating 35-page memo to the National Institutes of Health demanding to know "why you haven't cured AIDS yet." The star of "The Way We Were" writes that she has "had it up to here"--she does not indicate which body part--"with excuses, excuses, excuses" and says that if the disease is not eradicated by June "at the latest," that "you'll be hearing from my close personal friend David Geffen."

• Barbra Streisand has sent an incendiary 42-page memo to the head of Nasdaq accusing him of "losing more of my money in this Republican stock market than my last five movies combined." "When Bill Clinton was president--and whose bright idea was it that you only have two terms as president? Republicans!--every day I made money. Some days, God made less than me. Now look. Cisco, down. Amazon, I can't look. CMGI, the Titanic. Thank God for Philip Morris is all I can say, and I don't even smoke. With a voice like mine, you'd be crazy to."

• Barbra Streisand has sent a livid 55-page memo to the Commerce Department complaining that the upholstery in her "brand new" Mercedes "smells funny." "I paid good money for this car," she writes. "Don't you inspect them after they arrive here from Germany? When Bill Clinton was president they didn't let in cars that smelled." She concludes the memo saying, "And why are we trading with Germany anyway? Haven't you seen 'Saving Private Ryan'? Are you anti-Semitic?"


My personal anti-red light ticketing soapbox

Oh, it's on...

Temecula ---- The numbers seem to support the belief of Temecula officials that motorists still aren't getting the message: stop running red lights.

Well maybe because the miles of traffic on the only three main streets causes people to try to sneak through a light that's a little too yellow. A while back when I was going to Boston, the fetching Mrs. Wookie and I timed it... it took nearly 30 minutes to go 1.5 miles from the major intersection by our house to the freeway. In fact I ended up missing my flight because of that and the 15 freeway needing 2 more lanes in each direction. Oh and luckily enough there's median a plenty to build 2 more lanes in each direction. None of that carpool lane crap. Real lanes.

The city has had a plan in place for several years to target the problem, called the Stop Light Abuse Program.

SLAP. Really? Did we have a Kindergarten class name this program? I wonder if anyone has SLAPped one of these cops sitting at the lights. And it's been in place for "several years"? Guess it hasn't worked very well, huh?

Since July 2003, when he started keeping track of red-light tickets being issued, Temecula police Sgt. Mike Pino says 11,741 citations have been issued ---- almost 400 a month. That average held constant last year, Pino said, and so far this year with more than 300 tickets already written in January and eight days left in the month.

400 a month after you started SLAPping motorists with ticky-tack tickets with no sign of people stopping? Then maybe it's time you start thinking of another solution since this one's obviously not working the way you wanted.

Temecula's City Council has, over the last few years, discussed the possibility of installing red-light cameras at problem intersections, as Murrieta has recently begun doing, but decided instead to spend that money on more motorcycle officers to catch violators.

That's not exactly what I was thinking about. I'm thinking more along the lines of better city planning so that we have more than three main streets. If you can't do that maybe consider widening the three roads we've got. And how about NO RED LEFT TURN ARROWS!! After a green turn arrow, allow motorists to turn when safe, yielding to oncoming traffic. Most of the lights here have turn arrows, 95% of which are completely unnecessary. Let people yield to oncoming traffic when turning!! It works in a fairly large portion of our nation, so I'm pretty sure it might work here too. Whoever laid these streets out and decided every intersection needs a red and green turn arrow is the one we ought to be holding responsible for all the traffic.

City Councilman Chuck Washington says he's frustrated that drivers still aren't following the law.

Well Chuck, motorists are pissed about a half mile back up at intersections of people waiting to make left turns (also see aforementioned 30 minutes to go 1.5 miles). I noticed we finally got a deal with CalTrans to expand a couple bridges. We need more, wider through streets, not more cops ticketing people at intersections. Work on that, will ya?

And void out my ticket while you're at it...

Jack Bauer keeps kicking ass

The guys over at Blogs4Bauer were liveblogging last nights episode. I don't think I could maintain coherent updated posts with all that suspense. Anyone else think Spencer looked soulless while they interrogated him? It looked like his eyes were all black. Creepy.

Anyway, two more dead moves the official Blogs4Bauer "Jack Bauer Kill Counter" to 25.

And as The Man points out, 10 have been killed by Jack, which includes two killed by his cell phone. Next thing you know Jack will start killing terrorists with telekinesis.

UPDATE: I was thinking... you've all I'm sure seen the Chuck Norris random fact generator... We need one of those for Jack Bauer.

Or you could just keep using the Chuck Norris one, and substitute in Jack's name.

Chuck Norris Jack Bauer has never used a question mark in his entire life. He believes that the interrogative tense is a sign of weakness.

Chuck Norris Jack Bauer performs cold fusion in his left testicle, and nuclear fission in his right.

The Ford Motor Company is recently changing the standard Horse Power in favor of Chuck Norris Jack Bauer Roundhouse Kicks. So a supercharged Mustang, instead of having 360 horsepower, has .14 Chuck Norris Jack Bauer Roundhouse kicks.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush re-dubs NSA wiretaps the "Terrorist Surveillance Program"

The long process of repudiating all of the Democrats false information about the program begins...

MANHATTAN, Kansas (AP) -- President Bush on Monday rejected critics' assertion that he broke the law by authorizing domestic eavesdropping without a warrant, saying he was doing what Congress authorized him to do to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

With congressional hearings set to begin on this issue February 6, Bush kicked his administration's new intensive public relations effort to win support for the program run by the National Security Agency. As part of that, he attempted to give it a new label -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Bush noted that Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who is opening hearings into the program, was among the lawmakers on Capitol Hill who were given regular updates about the surveillance by the White House.

"It's amazing that people say to me, `Well, he's just breaking the law," the president said, with Roberts sitting behind him on stage at Kansas State University. "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

The Terrorist Surveillance Program... I like it. TSP. It's catchy. From now on that's how we'll be referring to the program.

And Bush's quip "If I wanted to break the law, why am I briefing Congress" is great, and inserts a little common sense back into an issue the Democrats were trying to turn into mass hysteria. I think Bush is quicker on his feet than most critics give him credit for. There's a great quote in the book I'm reading, Shadow Wars, where Bush was talking with, I believe, a diplomat from Dubai (I don't have the book right in front of me, so I'll doublecheck this later). The foreign minister/diplomat quoted a Muslim proverb that went something like, "A caged cat, can eventually become a lion" when referring to the caution he wished to take when dealing with al Qaeda. Bush responded with "Well the cat has rabies and the only way to cure it is to cut its head off." Oh, Snap!

The Iran-Syria connection

Michael Ledeen helps connect the dots and assuages fears, saying the Iranians are in a weaker position than most think.

In short, the Iranians have a lot to worry about, regardless of whether or not they have atomic bombs. Indeed, as I have long argued, the mullahs have made an enormous strategic miscalculation by going all-out for nukes, because it has made regime change in Iran an absolute imperative for the West. The closer they get to their first nuclear test, the closer the mullahs approach judgement day, and not in the way the fanatics around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad believe. They will not face the 12th Imam, but the harsh condemnation of their own people.

The mullahs have long seen this threat, and indeed the elevation of Ahmadinejad was a desperate throw of the dice to quash any and all revolutionary forces in the country. In recent weeks, Tehran forced the government of Dubai to cancel all live satellite TV broadcasts in the Persian language. Just a year ago, the mullahs had similarly intimidated the Dutch government, even though parliament in the Hague had appropriated funds for the project. In a little noted sequence of events, the Dutch won some big contracts in Iran shortly thereafter, and the Bush administration fined Dutch banks to the tune of eighty million euros for embargo-busting (do you ever wonder, as I do, that this tasty information has to be gleaned from Rooz Online?).

This is the usual practice of insecure tyrants (whose sense of doom is demonstrated by the ongoing exodus of money and talent from the country). They cannot risk the consequences of honest news reaching their people, and they run around like little mad hatters, sticking their thumbs in every crack in their ideological dykes. They are now shutting down NGOs, which, according to the hard-line publication Qods, the interior ministry accuses of planning to overthrow the regime. The mullahs want Islamic organizations, not independent ones, which might support civil liberties or elementary human rights. They want a total monopoly on the flow of information inside the Islamic republic.

Read the whole thing. I pray you're right, Michael, and that the US and the world have the willpower to act.

"Faster. Please?"

40th Anniversay of Pet Sounds recording

One of the greatest albums of all time. Wouldn't It Be Nice, God Only Knows, and Sloop John B are about as close to musical perfection as we'll ever see again...

BBC -- Forty years on from the recording of Wouldn't It Be Nice, the legacy of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys remains undimmed, despite a subsequent roller-coaster ride featuring mental illness, mass murderers and serial litigation.

[...]By January 1966, Brian Wilson, still only 23, seemed to have the world at his feet.

A glittering string of hit songs - including Fun, Fun, Fun, Little Deuce Coupe, Surfin' USA and California Girls - had established him alongside Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards as a leading light in rock music's burgeoning aristocracy.

But, beneath the surface, Wilson - a musical genius despite being totally deaf in his right ear - was deeply unhappy.

Just before Christmas 1964, the pressures of writing, producing, arranging and performing had culminated in a nervous breakdown.

Eschewing the rigours of touring, Wilson withdrew to the privacy of his state-of-the-art recording studio.

Heavy drug use, especially of marijuana and LSD, led him into a netherworld of auditory and visual hallucinations, obsessive thoughts and bizarre behaviour.

As Wilson says in his autobiography, also entitled Wouldn't It Nice: "If madness is an inability to adjust to the way people are supposed to act, then I was on my way, since except for functioning in the studio, I was increasingly unable to get in step with the rules."

Paradoxically, it was this psychological maelstrom, plus the urge to respond to The Beatles' recently-released Rubber Soul, that contributed to the album that many regard as Brian Wilson's masterwork, Pet Sounds

The tortured genius of Brian Wilson. These songs will always sound current no matter when they're played...

I grew up in the 80's, and was a teenager in the 90's, but I knew 50's and 60's rock better than I knew modern music. I fell in love with the Beach Boys because of their early hits, but their later songs, especially Pet Sounds, made them enduring music masters. As a kid, me and my friends, would do our own American Idol to every Beach Boys album we had. Of course we were our own judges and there was no Simon to tell us we were horrible. We'd host concerts for our parents, jump around on our stage (aka my bunk bed) and play guitar with tennis rackets and baseball bats.

Now, anytime I hear a Beach Boys song, I always hum/sing along. That's timeless music.

Compton may be the new US murder capital

... and I've been complaining about my stupid ticket...

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Compton, California, is a Los Angeles suburb of single-family homes and apartment buildings, crisscrossed by tree-lined boulevards with Mexican food stands and grocery stores on the corners.

It's also a battleground for drug gangs, police say, and may have the highest murder rate in the U.S.

Homicides in Compton soared 72 percent last year, with 67 murders in a city of 97,000 people. That probably outstripped the rate in places such as Camden, New Jersey, that are perennially at risk of being branded as the country's murder capital, says Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press, which compiles crime statistics.

Ouch. And this still being California, houses in Compton are still worth half a million.

Weekend update

I was sick so I didn't do a whole lot besides watch TV, a couple movies, and read.

Apparently, there were a couple football games on... With the Chragers out, I didn't have a horse in the race, so to speak. For the Superbowl, I'm pulling for Seattle since they've never been there before.

In other sports news, Kobe Bryant says "Shaq who?" with an 81 point game. He scored only 26 points in the first half. Of course the team still has a worse record than the Clippers, so we're not expecting too much yet from Smush et al.

And in entertainment, Madonna and Guy Ritchie's marriage is rumored to be at an end...

New York: Rumours are abuzz that all is not well in the kingdom of the 'Queen of pop' Madonna and director hubby Guy Ritchie, and that the two are on the verge of putting an end to their five year old marriage.

An insider revealed that the singer had started concentrating more on her career than her marriage.

“She has been spending very little time with him. She is obsessed with everything related to her career at this point. The album [”Confessions on a Dance Floor”] is a hit, and that is all she seems to care about these days. A split? Not sure. Less time together? Most definitely,” the New York Daily News quoted the source, as saying.

Guess all that Kabala hasn't helped...

Movies: Netflix left me Ocean's 12 and The Great Raid. Ocean's 12 was basically here's 90 minutes of what didn't actually happen, followed by the simplest and dumbest what really happened ever. In short, it was horrible. I sacrificed myself for the good of mankind... If you haven't seen it yet, don't bother.

The Great Raid on the other hand, was absolutely incredible. Very well done. Definitely worth the rental.

And I'm about halfway through Shadow Wars. Fascinating. I'll let you know when I'm done.

So those are my sick rantings from the weekend. I'm a little better and stuck at work. I need another cup of coffee...

UPDATE: Coffee's still brewing, so here's the Miss America results. Miss Oklahoma won. Miss California wasn't even in the top 5. Better luck next year.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Chocolate City

I think by now everyone has heard New Orleans' mayor Ray Nagin's statement about making New Orleans the "Chocolate City." It was only a matter of time before some clever people actually try to use that dork to turn a profit. (A promotional email sent to me...)

When you think of chocolates, think of New Orleans, named the Chocolate City by our mayor, and think of Laura's Candies, your chocolatier of choice. After all, our mayor says we will be chocolate at the end of the day!

I ordered a bunch of chocolates from Laura's for relatives at Christmas. Good for them for making the best of an idiot mayor.

UPDATE 1/24 @ 11:35am: Michelle Malkin has some more of the Chocolate City shenanigans.

Miss America is getting a makeover

Because we bring you the news that matters...

(hey... if the Llama's can put Melissa Theuriau on their "masthead", I can blog about Miss Ameria...)

This weekend, we'll see two new Miss Americas. One will be the winner. And the other will be the pageant itself. Facing waning interest, the event is getting a makeover. Here's how it will
be different:

· Held in Las Vegas
· Broadcast Jan. 21 on CMT
· End of quiz show
· End of casual wear competition
· Miss Congeniality elected again
· Reduced scholarship money

How about Miss California? Think she's got a chance? Apparently she's quite the musician (her family is the next coming of the Von Trapp/Partridge family) and she likes sailing.

Go California!