Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fox's Lame Attack on Anderson Cooper

Foxnews hates CNN so much, they decide to do a weak commercial attack on him. Apparently a Captain Janeway lookalike gathers more viewers. Whatever. Maybe if the FOX-shockers would stop reporting stories based on ring-wing hype they wouldn't have to attack fellow journalists who call them out on it.

There's Something About Iraq

If things don't change, expect a fractured GOP to split even more.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

President Bush Catches Up to the Onion

Last August, the Onion (which is not real, people) wrote:

The Presidential Empowerment Act, which the president hand-drafted on his own Oval Office stationery and promptly signed into law, provides Bush with full authority to permit himself to authorize increased jurisdiction over the three branches of the federal government, provided that the president considers it in his best interest to do so.

"In a time of war, the president must have the power he needs to make the tough decisions, including, if need be, the decision to grant himself even more power," Bush said. "To do otherwise would be playing into the hands of our enemies."



Fast forward to today:

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.


It's scary when the executive branch uses a satirical publication as a blueprint for governing.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Missing a Little Heart in the Courts?

The (lonely) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on her relationship with former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor:

"We have very different backgrounds. We divide on a lot of important questions, but we have had the experience of growing up women and we have certain sensitivities that our male colleagues lack."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beware of Tom Tancredo

This is what living in fear gets you:

White House hopeful Tom Tancredo said Thursday the existence of the Congressional Black Caucus and other race-based groups of lawmakers amount to segregation and should be abolished.

``It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race,'' said the Colorado Republican, who is most widely known as a vocal critic of illegal immigration.

``If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses,'' said Tancredo, who is scheduled to pitch his long-shot presidential bid this weekend in New Hampshire.

What a racist putz. He doesn't want nonwhite immigrants to come into this country, and he doesn't want nonwhite Americans in this country to gather. Someone needs to tell this guy that it's 2007, or better yet, Colorado needs to seriously consider another representative.

Um, "Forgettable?"

My apologies to Nat and Natalie Cole. Anyway, from Eugene Robinson:

Bush said there was "no way to imagine America without New Orleans." No imagination is needed -- the New Orleans that we knew before the flood no longer exists. The remnant of a city that survives between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain has less than half the population of the New Orleans we used to know. Vast neighborhoods are full of houses abandoned to mold and decay.

Hundreds of thousands of residents still have no way to come home -- or no homes to return to. Vicious hoodlums have returned, however, and are preying on the diehards who never left and the pioneers who are doing their best to help the city rebuild. Yes, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have just bought a house in New Orleans and say they will make the city their home. But they're likely to have better security than their neighbors.

Assuming the area doesn't become occupied by the classic WASP crowd, I can't see how anyone there votes for anyone even remotely Republican.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Little Flashback

Al Franken is talking to Terry McAuliffe about his book, specifically about the the time right before President Clinton left office: apparently, some reporters and photographers where in Air Force One when one of them accidently broke a champagne glass into a celebratory cake. The Clinton people told them not to worry about it, and they went right back to giving interviews and preparing to move out.

Of course, then the story comes out that the Clinton people were trashing not only Air force One, but the White House as well. One of the reporters who "broke" this false story? Current Press Secretary Tony Snow.

What a small world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ZAP!

From the AP (via the smh):


The military calls its new weapon an "active denial system," but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless - a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.

Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan...

...The system was developed by the military, but the two devices currently being evaluated were built by defense contractor Raytheon.

Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, of New Orleans, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis constantly pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout out US forces.

Finally Given a Voice

From CBSnews:

"Democrats on Wednesday pushed through a rules change giving limited voting rights on the House floor to the chamber's five nonstate delegates. Republicans described the move as an unconstitutional power grab.

With the 226-191 vote, delegates representing the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa can cast ballots on amendments. The lawmakers, however, will not be allowed to vote on final passage of legislation. If the delegates' votes decide the outcome of an amendment, the House immediately will vote again without the delegates' participation."

Post-State of The Union

President Bush's SOTU speech was lacking in the middle, accoriding to Slate's John Dickerson. The WashPost found more substance in VA Sen. Jim Webb's response.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mission Accomplished: The Ethiopian Version

Reuters:

"Ethiopian forces who helped Somalia's interim government rout rival Islamists in a war over the New Year will begin leaving the chaotic Horn of Africa nation's capital on Tuesday, an Ethiopian general said. "

Welcome Back, Wilbon!

Michael Wilbon takes some time out of his busy schedule to talk about local hoops; namely the Wiz-Suns matchup.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Via Reuters:

A freelance journalist said on Sunday he had seen U.S. troops on the ground in south Somalia working with Ethiopian forces hunting fugitive Islamists.

"They were Americans, I have no doubt," the journalist said, referring to helicopters he saw overhead and personnel he bumped into with Ethiopian soldiers at a military base.

Rumors have swirled for days that U.S. personnel were inside Somalia since a January 8 air strike aimed at al Qaeda suspects believed to be among the Islamists.


I guess this puts some doubt in the whole "Bush won't attack Iran without Congress' approval" theory, huh?

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Holding Nothing Back

Forget John McCain; nobody's a straighter shooter than Charely Rosen. Too bad he just does the NBA.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

"Our Goal In Iraq..."

It's hard work to find out what the mission in Iraq is nowadays. New Secretary of Defense Robert Gates broke it down like this:

"Our goal is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself, and live free from the scourge of extremism. There's widespread agreement here that failure would be a calamity for American national interests and those of many other countries as well."

Ok, then: now we have something to work with. Let's look at the four criteria:

AN IRAQ THAT CAN DEFEND ITSELF
That won't happen until Iraq has a stable, trustworthy military. I don't know what the ratio is of American troops who are training vs American troops who are fighting, but either the training hasn't been taking, the Iraqis are resisting the training or the Iraqis have been trained correctly. My bias to America make me want to believe the first two scenarios, but either way that means that Iraq isn't exactly on pace to be able to defend itself. As for being trustworthy: wouldn't we also want an army that not only could fend off an invading army (unless it's us again, I guess) but not partake in favoring (read: killing) one ethnic group over another? If so, the military must also be diverse: made up of Sunni and Shi'a. Accomplishing this will take a long time, probably longer than President Bush's remaining two years in office.

AN IRAQ THAT CAN SUSTAIN ITSELF
This could mean financially. I don't see Iraq surviving in the early stages with do some kind of trading with their neighbors, and they definitely won't survive if they follow the Bush Administration's doctrine of not talking to countries they don't like. They'll need materials to export and import, and the means to transport them. They'll need businesses to operate these functions. Who or what entity will control the economy? How will currency be printed? How can people post and answers requests for jobs? Those are only some of the questions that would need to be answered before you can claim that a country is "sustaining itself."

AN IRAQ THAT CAN GOVERN ITSELF
If their government is to model ours, they'll need a way to collect money so the federal government can function. It will also be nice to show tolerance for all ethnicities and genders. But the real question is: could the government survive a coup? A takeover from within? Only a very intricate constitution (like ours) can fight such a thing, and as recent American events have shown, even we were in danger of losing it all. Also, government must be slow. A quick-to-judgment body of leaders will only lead to a bloody civil war or at best , an annual upheaval. The question is: how does the surge help any of this come to pass?

AN IRAQ FREE FROM THE SCOURGE OF TERRORISM
"Free" like Israel? Great Britain? The U.S.A.? All three of these places have been hit, and they represent probably the hardest places to infiltrate. In reality, Iraq will never be 100% "free," but it can be safer. But this really depends on accomplishing the first three tasks above. A corrupt army, recessive economy or fractured government could be just the opening future terrorists need.

In short, to do what Gates wants will take longer than 2 years, especially when you look at the past 4 years as a barometer of success.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Kick in The Pants

Blogger and ThinkProgress regular jurassicpork explains why Americans need to use their power to vote more responsibly.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hargrove: Virginia's Last Apologist

I say that because the guy will probably be the last to say he's sorry for anything.

Va. Delegate Frank Hargrove sure put his foot in his mouth today. Here's what he said about a piece of legislation in VA (apologizing for slavery):

“The present commonwealth has nothing to do with slavery,” said Del. Frank D. Hargrove, R-Glen Allen, whose ancestors were French Huguenots who came to America in search of religious freedom.

How far do these calls for apologies go, wondered Hargrove, a member of the House Rules Committee that could take up McEachin’s resolution as early as Wednesday.

“Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?” Hargrove wondered. “Nobody living today had anything to do with it. It would be far more appropriate in my view to apologize to the Upper Mattaponi and the Pamunkey” Indians for the loss of their lands in eastern Virginia, he said.


Gee, wonder how that got people mad? Never mind the trial of Jesus was given to Pontius Pilate, who himself punted the decision to a mob. Never mind that (some) Native Americans have been given reservations - a small compensation for losing your land and almost being migrated into extinction, but a compensation nonetheless. I guess in Hargrove's mind, blacks should be proud that slavery was abolished.

Staying "Objective"

Saudi Arabia isn't exactly embracing the Bush/McCain surge, which buts them in the majority.

I Hope They Kept The Receipt

I think we'd have a better chance of winning the GWOT if we stopped supplying people President Bush refers to as enemies:

The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countries — including Iran and China — who exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.

The surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.

Now I know people (and governments) make mistakes, but Jesus. Couldn't Bush have done some research before he mentioned Iran as a next possible target?

Monday, January 15, 2007

A View From Up North

Canadian writer Heather Mallick discusses our country's fixation with "Nixonomics, a calculated risk on the cost-benefit of ignoring the law," using the arrest of an innocent professor as an example.

Oil's Well That Ends Well


"The Iraqi government plans to introduce a law that will give Western oil companies rights to the country's huge oil reserves, a British newspaper says.

The government is drafting a law based on "production sharing agreements [PSAs]," which will allow major oil companies to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil, the Independent on Sunday reported."

Dr. King: The Past Is the Future

From Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence:"

"The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. "

Saturday, January 13, 2007

From One King to Another

Colbert I. King wonders how Martin Luther King Jr. would view our situation in Iraq, using his Vietnam speech as a reference. You can find the full text of MLK Jr.'s speech here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Not Exactly a Confidence-Builder

I think it's safe to say that the stress of perpetual deployment has taken it's toll on the American military:

U.S. troops were fatter and drank harder in 2005 than before the Iraq war started, according a Pentagon survey of more than 16,000 service members released on Friday.

Still, the Pentagon said service members appeared to fare better than civilians in measures of lifestyle and health-related behaviors.

"I am pleased, and even a little surprised, that despite the stresses of war and ongoing deployments, nearly all indicators of service members' health and well-being continue to be quite good compared with civilian populations," said William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs.


Really? I'll remember that when they decide to raise the recruitment age above 42, or decide to look the other way when the guy who's 30 pounds overweight begs to enlist. BTW, did you know 61 percent of American adults are overweight, and three out of 10 U.S. adults are obese? I don't know if Winkenwerder knows, but lets assume that everyone in that other 39% are connected to the military.

Oops. We can't do that:

Some 60.5 percent of respondents in the 2005 survey were overweight compared with 57.2 percent in the previous survey conducted in 2002.

The survey also showed 44.5 percent of respondents participated in "binge drinking," up from 41.8 percent in 2002. The Iraq war began in March 2003.

Seems like the military is actually a reflection of American society, and not an exception of it. Go figure. And don't get me started on the drinking thing.

What Wasn't Said (or done) Was Worse

That's my basic impression of President Bush's speech the other night. It was as many predicted, "The Same Way: Backwards;" an admission not that our direction was wrong, but that we were just using the wrong vehicle. Or in other words: "We couldn't go through the brick wall driving the Mercedes, let's try a Hummer."

Scarier than that (the undisputable proof that this president will never listen to anyone outside of he pre-approved group of bobbleheads) is what he didn't talk about. Four pop into my head:

*NO PLAN B*
Bush never said what our options are if this fails. He didn't say whether we would surge more, surge less or surge sideways. He didn't say whether he'd depend more or less on the Iraqi government if this fails. He didn't ask Congress to hold some money aside from a rainy day (I know there's no money; but that's never stopped him from asking before).

*WHY 2006 WAS AN UTTER FAILURE*
"Their strategy worked," he said, talking about the violent attacks from "Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents" in the wake of the 2005 elections. Remember: purple fingers and dancing in the streets? I recall Bush saying that if you had an average Iraqi compare our version of democracy to Al Qaeda's version of government, we'd win every time. So why didn't it work?

*THE LIBRARY? WTF?*
If I'm the POTUS, and I'm about to give a speech about kicking ass and taking names, I'd do it in the Oval Office. That's where you make those kinds of speeches: in front of two flags waving in slow motion, pounding on your power desk to emphasize key points. But the library? What is this, the boardgame Clue? The last time I saw Bush around so many books, he was staring into space wondering who the hell just attacked us. Is that really the memories he wanted to invoke?

*WHY THE TWO ORDERS?*
If Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - and, be extentsion, his "co-workers" - is so inept that we have to surge to keep things together, then why should the American people have any faith in them whatsoever? "Trust him, he's in idiot," was what I got out of the whole Iraqi-provisional-government-needs-our-help-some-more segment. Um, why?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bringing Winning Back

One small step in becoming a serious playoff threat: the Wizards beat the Bulls yesterday, with solid rebounding, defense and good bench play.

Escalation of the Surge: Iran

"US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six members of staff.

The troops raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers and papers, according to Kurdish media and senior local officials."

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Tally of the Escalation Dissenters

So far, I count alot of factions/people against Bush's expected call for escalation:

1. The majority of the Democrats in Congress (currently led by Senator Ted Kennedy);

2. A minority of Republicans in Congress (like Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon);

3. At least one member of the Iraq Study Group (Leon Panetta);

4. 89% of the American Public, according to a CNN poll.

5. Tony Blair, who I mentioned the other day.

6. According to a report I heard on the radio, an Iraqi faction who said something to the effect of; "If 140,000 troops can't get it done, how can 20,000 more make a difference?"

7. The troops on the ground; which Ollie North confirmed.

8. Joint Chiefs of Staff (until they were given carrots).

9. Generals who were running the show but were replaced once they voiced their opposition (like Gen. Abizaid).

10. Colin Powell.

11. And President Bush, when it wasn't his idea.

So in short, pretty much damn near everyone thinks that this is (at best) something done too late to make a difference, or (at worse) the most disasterous thing that could be done in modern American military history. Which to me sounds like Bush went through his entire "listening tour" with his index fingers in his ears going "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA."

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The Demons Within

It turns out that one of the officers involved in the killing of an Iraqi family had a history of mental problems:

Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

While I honor the sacrifice our men and women make to keep us safe, some people just shouldn't be in our military. We shouldn't encourage people who only want to destroy, maim and kill to be part of the world greatest armed services. And we shouldn't look the other way when they try to slip in.

Hopefully, Pfc. Green can get the help he needs, and the standards of the military will change so something like this won't happen again.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Scooby-Snack in Your Memory...

Rest in Peace, Iwao Takamoto.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Escalation of the Surge


On Wednesday, the President will make a speech concerning Iraq, most likely advocating an escalation of troops (aka, a "surge"). Nevermind that he rejected the notion when John Kerry brought it up during the 2004 presidential election, or that more and more generals are speaking out against this strategy, or that prominent members of Congress are skeptical (to say the least).

His only course of action is to take his message to the people...the same people he trusts so much that he believes he has a right to read their mail unfettered.

My only question at this point: will the strategy change between Wednesday and the State of The Union Address?

UPDATE: Tony Blair won't match Bush's push.

No Longer Biden His Time

The Senator made his intentions to run pretty clear on Meet the Press. It's about time, but my view on Biden's true role hasn't changed.

Another Rush To Judgement

For Rush, making fun of Michael J. Fox and comparing women to cats isn't enough. Now he has to make sexist remarks about the new Speaker of the House.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Same Way: Backwards

"Although officials said the president has yet to settle on an exact figure of new troops, senior military leaders and commanders are deeply worried that a "surge" of as many as five brigades, or 20,000 troops, in Iraq and Kuwait would tax U.S. ground forces already stretched to the breaking point -- and may still prove inadequate to quell sectarian violence and the Sunni insurgency. Some senior U.S. officials think it could even backfire."

Gravely Mistaken

"The Army said on Friday that it will apologize to the families of deceased and wounded officers that it mistakenly encouraged to re-enlist via letters sent out in late December.

About 75 families of deceased officers and 200 families of wounded officers received such letters sent to more than 5,100 officers between December 26 and 28, the Army said in a statement."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Death Imitates Life (or Death)

"Police and family members said a 10-year-old boy who died by hanging himself from a bunk bed was apparently mimicking the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Sergio Pelico was found dead Sunday in his apartment bedroom in the Houston-area city of Webster, said Webster police Lt. Tom Claunch. Pelico's mother told police he had previously watched a news report on Saddam's death. "

Thursday, January 04, 2007

No Main Topic


1. Via Crooks and Liars: Glenn Beck forgets that he's a bigot when he goes on other programs.

2. Speaking of tolerance, newly sworn-in congressman Keith Ellison gives his views on faith.

3. From WashPost: Mike Wise thinks that the Wizards are good just the way they are, at least for the East. I say they're one Kevin Garnett away from winning it all.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's Only in Sports Media, I Guess

Funny how when a sports figure lies, their media seems willing to call them out, but when politicians lie, their media calls them anything but a liar.

Pat Forde, I salute you; if for nothing but having the balls to do what the Wolfe Blitzers and Chris Matthews of the political world can't and won't.

America's Expectations Can't Be That Low


I found the orginal story at ThinkProgress, but let me relay the money-paragraph from Financial Times:

Al Hubbard, chairman of the National Economic Council, who is co-ordinating White House energy policy, has also raised expectations. In a speech at De Pauw University he predicted “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence”.


As TP has stated, Bush has made this promise before. I distinctly remember last year's SOTU when President SwitchGrass promised the moon and the stars, and then I remembered that this is the same President who still hasn't been able to deliver us a fully operation New Orleans.

But seriously: "knock our socks off?" Am I the only one having "Bring it On" flashbacks here? I think Bush's expections of the average American are as low as their expections of him back in 2000.

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Still Cleaning Up To Do in New Orleans

"Seven policemen charged in a deadly shooting in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina turned themselves in Tuesday at the city jail, where more than 200 supporters greeted them in a show of solidarity."

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When "Keeping it Real" Goes Wrong

At least that's the way the WashPost poses it. Apparently Obama's candor may become a liability, which is funny considering how John McCain was celebrated for riding around in a big-ass bus with the words "Straight Talk Express" on it.

I'm actually surprised it took this long for the "Obama's past will hurt him" story to break, which leads me to believe that the "Obama isn't qualified enough" argument isn't as solid as people tried to make it out to be.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Take Two of These and Call Me in March

Despite a "Herculean effort" to get the word out, more than 6,000 students in Washington's Maryland suburbs were excluded from class yesterday because they failed to comply with a state vaccination requirement that took effect with the new year.

Students in grades 6 through 9 who had not provided a record of chickenpox and hepatitis B vaccinations -- or, in the case of chickenpox, month-and-year documentation of when they had the disease -- were told they could not return until they had the necessary paperwork in hand. The only exceptions were to be those who arrived with proof that they have appointments to get the shots by Jan. 22.

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A Resolution to Understand

1. Why President Bush believes that escalation will result in "success."

2. If it's wise for shows like LOST and Smallville to show like, 5 episodes in the Fall then like 25 in the Spring, all so the networks can trick viewers into getting complacent enough to maybe watch the lesser-quality filler shows.

3. Why sex sells when it's so plentiful, and also when in many cases it's free.

4. Why famous people seem to pass away at the tail end of the year.

5. Why the Redskins want to reinvent the wheel every year.

6. How someone could be "stunnin' like my daddy" when "stunnin'" wasn't even a slang then.