Friday, March 30, 2007

LOST: Nikki And Paulo

Now, that I've had some time to digest the last LOST episode, some thoughts:

1. It was very meta-healthy, almost as if the writers and producers were saying, "We didn't get to do exactly what we wanted, but we're going to do something memorable with these characters anyway." From Nikki's quip about guest stars to the couple "not wanting to end up like" Shannon and Boone, you got a sense that the ep was trying to justify the direction the show's been taking.

2. My first impression was: "If I had never read Edgar Allen Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, or watched the movies Along Came a Spider and Psycho, this ep would have shocked me greatly." but since I did all these things, the ep was more homage-like than anything.

3. Vincent apparently knew that N&P was alive. My question is: does paralysis affect body temperature? I ask because if it does, than Vincent's only means for telling that they were alive (at least to me) was smelling them and realizing that they weren't slowly rotting. But if not, than couldn't someone had checked (they were still debating the cause of death, after all) to see if the bodies were still warm? This bugs me more than anything.

4. This episode shows the importance of someone like Jack, Libby or to a certain extent John. No way N&P get buried with one of those guys around. No way.

5. I know most people feel different, but the flashback with Juliet and Ben felt forced to me, like that had to have a scene b/c they're cast members now. I'd rather have non-archived scenes of Jack and Sayid. Ben came off as a creepy Dr. Evil, revealing and reveling in his plan, and Juliet did nothing but tell us she thinks Jack's cute (I'm shocked, I tells ya!).

6. It was nice to see dead characters again in flashbacks, even if their usefulness on the island was limited.

7. Going by criticism of the characters, the day of winning the audience with a pretty face is over. I remember when 7-of-9 came on the scene to save Star Trek Voyager; ratings for her first appearance doubled. And I know it was the damn outfit (even though Jeri Ryan is a decent actress). But in 2007, with reality shows exposing how bad people are at acting, dancing or surviving, the word is, "you may be cute, but your ass better be able to carry a scene."


Who Is Susan Ralston?

She's a former aide to Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove, which means that she knows things. House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wants to know what those things are.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

2 1/2 Minutes

That's how long Attn. Gen. Alberto Gonzales lasted until he decided to end his Chicago news conference. Reporters had started to ask about the lawyer firings at that point (specifically about the potential firing of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Scooter Libby).

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Gift for the Donors

President Bush declares April 2007 as "National Donate Life Month."


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Washington Post on the Bush Administration

E. J. Dionne Jr. talks about how Bush's support for the war is dwindling (among Democrats and Republicans alike):

To the extent that there has been movement in the Senate, the indications are that support for Bush's policy has slipped. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) suggested yesterday that a bill containing a withdrawal provision could eventually reach the president's desk and require a veto. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has often voted with Bush but now favors Senate language that includes calls for withdrawal and benchmarks for judging success.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a longtime Bush critic, issued one of his strongest condemnations of the war over the weekend. "We essentially are ruining our National Guard. We are destroying our Army. We're destroying our Marine Corps," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "We can't sustain this. . . . I will not accept the status quo."

With most counts showing Senate Democrats needing only one more vote to approve the call for troop withdrawals next year, antiwar pressures are growing on Sens. John Sununu (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). All face reelection next year, as does Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who is already seen as leaning toward the withdrawal plan.

Meanwhile, Eugene Robinson thinks that such rebellious actions may have to do with the fact that it's not clear what (and who) the President himself supports:

Increasingly, the president seems pushed and pulled in contradictory directions, not so much by the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill but by his own Cabinet members and other appointees. The president comes out every once in a while to make a show of steely resolve, as he did last week in support of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But then he retreats and leaves the decidin' to others.

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Tillman Famliy Reacts to the Defense Department

From the AP: Pat Tillman’s family firmly rejected the Defense Department’s findings into the former NFL star’s friendly-fire death in Afghanistan, calling for congressional investigations into what they see as broad malfeasance and a coverup.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

No Main Topic

1. Everybody Run...: An aide of Sen. Jim Webb is caught trying to enter the Senate Office building with a gun. Webb issued a statment saying the aide is "a former Marine, a long-term friend and trusted employee of the Senator" and that they're "still awaiting facts." This is a good example of how to diffuse a situation before it gets out of hand, and still support your people.

2. Consolidation Without Pity: Does Bravo's aquisition of TWoP mark the end of the snarky site's independence? Personally, I hope not.

3. Safe From What, Exactly?: "A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and burning her on his patio grill is safer behind bars and is not asking to be released on bond, his attorney said Monday." I don't think anyone who does something like this to another human being should feel "safe."

4. Oy!: The Jewish Theological Seminary will now be accepting gay and lesbian applicants. This is an interesting move for a traditionally conservative institution.

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Tom DeLay: Short-Sighted (politically)

Via Oliver Willis and YouTube: Tom DeLay needs his glasses to dispute what's written in his own book (guess he had it ghostwritten). More to the point: if you need reading glasses and you know you're hawking a book, wouldn't you BRING YOUR GLASSES WITH YOU in case people ask you questions about it?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

When Pundits Attack

Eric Alterman on why political pundits (like Time's Joe Klein) seem to like to dish it out, but can't take it:

Have you noticed that every time Klein is asked to defend something he has written, he responds with a personal attack against the person making the charge? It's not just me; it's anyone. Look at the names he calls Media Matters and the bloggers generally. Note that Tom Friedman and Howard Kurtz, among others, react similarly. Pundits are used to making Olympian pronouncements and then having everyone praise their wisdom and courage, the way Walter Lippmann defined the job. Asking people whatever happened to the last 10 times you said Iraq has only six more months, or that Bush is sure to be a centrist, and they flip out and call you an ideologue or an "obsessive."

I've always wondered why political pundits thought they had an authority that the average man or women didn't. Anyway, I find Alterman's story interesting mainly because it's really funny that Klein would be so upset that someone would "dare" call him on some of his proclamations and statements. He should realize that the internet has given everyone the ability to be more critical, and to have the means to back up what they say. And he should also lighten up.

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Bringing Pat Tillman's Death to Light

From USA Today:

A Pentagon investigation will recommend that nine officers, including up to four generals, be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said Friday.

The Defense Department inspector general will cite a range of errors and inappropriate conduct as the military probed the former football star's death on the battlefront in 2004, said one defense official.

Sgt. Brad Jacobson, who said it was apparent to the platoon after only "a few days" that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, said "It's about time something happened to somebody that was indirectly responsible for what happened afterward" to ESPN.

UPDATE: From the WashPost: "High-ranking Army officers made critical errors in reporting the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, but there was no criminal wrongdoing in the shooting of the former NFL star by fellow soldiers, the military concluded Monday."

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All's Well That Oils Well...

From the BBC (via Michael Moore):

Iraq's descent into violence, coupled with paralysis and corruption in government, has stymied efforts to rebuild the infrastructure of roads, schools, hospitals and industry.

In many cases, there is little to show for the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction since the American-led invasion in 2003.

The oil sector is a good example of what has gone wrong.

Fixing it has been seen as a high priority, as the revenues from oil exports provide the bulk of Iraqi government income and underpin the entire economy.

Yet crude production is currently still below the pre-war level.

"The Iraqi oil industry has been stuck for the last couple of years." says Manoucher Takin, an analyst at the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London.

Nothing has really changed.

"It's not that officials have done nothing. The problem is, they can't do much because of the security situation."

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Smooth Operator

From WashPost's E. J. Dionne Jr.:

So many principles that Republicans held dear when they were trying to take Clinton down are no longer operative. This certainly applies to a 1998 column now whizzing around the Internet that ran under the headline "Executive Privilege Is a Dodge." It was written by Tony Snow, who is now President Bush's press secretary...

...Bush is nothing if not shrewd. By trying to recast the controversy as a partisan catfight, the president has temporarily diverted attention from the central issues in this inquiry: whether any of the eight fired U.S. attorneys were asked to step down for political reasons; whether political aides in the White House played an important role in the firings; and whether replacing independent-minded prosecutors was a way of influencing ongoing or future investigations.

The double-standard could not be clearer. And I haven't read or heard too many Republicans who can explain why the Clinton Administration was worth so much investigation, so much oversight...and the Bush Administration should just be left alone.

The thing to remember is that this is cyclical. A Democratic Congress tries to assert their oversight powers, and Bush cites "petty politics" explaining that such tactic distract the nation during wartime. So then, when the Democrats make moves on the war, what does Bush do? He claims that the opposition is either cowardly ("cut and run," "retreat"), impatient ("give the surge time to work") or unqualified ("don't micromanage this war").

He's doing his best to try and dissuade Democrats from doing anything that goes against his policies, both foreign and domestic. A "Smooth Operator," indeed. However, the biggest flaw with Bush's tactics is that he has yet to yield the type of tangible results one needs to maintain credibility. In other words, "all heat and no light."

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Down, But Not Out.

Ex-MD governor Bob Ehrlich has decided to back Team Giuliani: "Ehrlich said his position will involve raising money for Giuliani and giving speeches on his behalf."

I wonder if Ehrlich if any of those speeches will refer to Giuliani's support of Gonzales?

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One Take On Bush's Iraq War Anniversary Speech

I wanted to post this earlier, but forgot. From Slate's Fred Kaplan:

Imagine that President Harry S. Truman had not put into motion the Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods Agreement, NATO, and the various other institutions that propped up Western freedom in the destructive wake of World War II—and that, on the fourth anniversary of V-E Day, the greatest boast he could make was: "Today the world is rid of Adolf Hitler." It would have been a great boast, but beside the point as Paris and Rome collapsed amid poverty, despair, and subversion.

So it is with George W. Bush, whose failure to repair postwar Iraq is particularly disgraceful, since this war was launched at his initiative, not as a response to aggression.

Setting aside the Hussein-Hitler comparison, there's some sense to what Kaplan wrote. Bush chose Iraq, not Iran or North Korea, out of his "Axis of Evil." Bush chose to make Iraq a focal point despite evidence that Afghanistan was the place to be to get Osama bin Laden. Saddam Hussein did not attack America, but Bush did lead the attack on Saddam Hussein.

Ultimately this is his mess, and it's a shame he hasn't done more to clean up after himself.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The war was a success, and the occupation a failure."

Ahmad Chalabi (background can be found here) seems to have some doubts about America's extended presence in Iraq.


"How many minds did he pollute?"

From CNN: "During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood."

Going by the story itself, it's hard to determine whether the teacher was truly trying to advance a philosophy or satirize it. Either way, it's a waste of valuable learning time for young minds.


Bush Loses Another Conservative Hawk

This time, it is Robert Joseph. From the NYT:

As the architect of much of the administration’s strategy for countering nuclear proliferation, he helped engineer the decision to exit the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, worked secretly to squeeze Libya to give up its nuclear weapons program, and created a loose consortium of nations, now numbering more than 80, committed to intercepting illicit weapons at sea, in the air or on land.

But last month Mr. Joseph quietly left the State Department, where he was under secretary for arms control and international security, telling colleagues that, as a matter of principle, he simply could not abide the new agreement with North Korea that the Bush administration struck in February.

Mr. Joseph has declined to talk publicly about why he left, but he told colleagues that he thought the deal would prolong the survival of a North Korean government he has publicly called “criminal” and “morally abhorrent” while failing to require it to give up the weapons it has already produced. In an interview, Mr. Joseph made clear that he “does not support the policy” that President Bush has now embraced.

I can't speak for Mr. Joseph, but I know I'm confused. Iraq, which we found out had no weapons, is attacked based off of suspicion. Iran, which is gaining nuclear capabilities, is threaten one day and offered diplomacy the next. And then there's North Korea: basically ignored even after testing weapons and saying that they plan to use them until other countries began to intervene.

One really can't fault Mr. Joseph for wanting to get out.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bush's March Madness

The best thing about March Madness is the unpredictability. Although it never fails to ruin my bracket picks, I have to admit that I enjoy the occasional upset. Pro basketball may be of a better quality, but in the one-and-done world of the NCAA Tournament, heart and luck can give anyone a chance.

Politics (and by extension, war) is quite different from both versions of basketball, but you would never know from hearing the President on the anniversary of the Iraq War. To him it's still a game, and it's a game in which the outcome has already been determined (even if he has no clue how things are going in the now).

For a glimpse into Bush's psyche, I'll refer to one of my favorite WashPost columnists, Eugene Robinson:

In his brief address yesterday, George W. Bush said that "the fight is difficult, but it can be won." Dwell on that for a moment. The "mission accomplished" president, once so full of certainty and swagger, isn't telling Americans that victory is proximate or even inevitable, just that it is still possible.

When I heard those words, I thought that either the president had decided "can be won" is now the outer limit of public credulity, or -- foolish me -- that maybe he had finally begun to see Iraq as it is, not as he would like it to be. But then he reverted to form, raising the specter of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the speech sounded like just another attempt at spin control rather than the product of any sort of presidential

Sigh. The White House remains an epiphany-free zone.

It's becoming harder and harder for even the most ardent Iraq War supporters to find a silver lining is this mess. Quite honestly, I think 9/11 is all Bush has left. Iraq has gone from "slam dunk" to "can be won." So, even though it contradicts everything that he's said about 9/11 and Iraq (he eventually came around and said there's no real connection, but it's been convoluted because members of his own administration continue to say the opposite) he's going to link the two events (9/11 and the Iraq War) because he needs the emotional capital from 9/11 to keep support for being in Iraq from completely tanking. It's like a "Cinderella" college basketball team who makes it to the Sweet Sixteen only to get trounced by their next opponent in the first half; the coach has to channel all of the emotions the players had in the previous games to counter the despair they're probably feeling.

Bush's strategy is to ask for a quick timeout and then send in worn-out players Problem is, he may not have any timeouts left.

The president says all he wants is a little forbearance while his so-called "surge" plan is given time to work. But most Americans have long since run out of patience. Those who haven't -- who believe a decent outcome might still be salvaged in Iraq -- might want to consider not only how daunting the task is but also the record of the administration that's trying to get that task done.

George W. Bush and his aides cited dead-wrong intelligence to convince the American people of the need to go to war. They botched the invasion of Iraq by creating a power vacuum that insurgents were happy to fill. They sent only a fraction of the number of troops needed to occupy the country, scoffing at professional soldiers who told them of their error in advance. They paid lip service to reconstruction, putting it in the hands of conservative ideologues who were more interested in setting up a laboratory for their pet ideas than getting the lights on.

So to continue the college sports metaphor, he's gotten favorable calls from the refs, multiple time outs, pretty much all the prospect players he's wanted, and a blank check to conduct his affairs. And still the program's a mess. Still, he wants more time to win the big game.

Except, in sports, a coach (or athletic director) like that would have been gone a long time ago.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Banned By the Deacon

From TMZ:

The Archdeacon of Trinidad and Tobago wants to ban Elton John from a local jazz festival for fear that he'll tempt locals into becoming gay.

No More Doubt

From DailyKos: BarbinMD has Valerie Plame's opening statement for her testimony. The hearing itself answered some important questions:

Was Plame an undercover agent? Answer: yes.

In the run-up to the war with Iraq, I worked in the Counter Proliferation Division of the CIA, still as a covert officer, whose affiliation with the CIA was classified. I raced to discover solid intelligence for senior policy makers on Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction programs. While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence.

Did Plame send her husband to Niger? Answer: no (she didn't have the authority, even if she wanted to).

The CIA took great lengths to protect all of its employees, provided at significant taxpayer expense, painstakingly devised creative covers for its most sensitive staffers. The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is grave, but I can't provide details beyond that in this public hearing. But the concept is obvious. Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized, even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents, who in turn risk their own lives and those of their families to provide the United States with needed intelligence. Lives are literally at stake. Every single one of my former CIA collegues, my fellow
covert officers, to analysts to technical operations officers, even the secretaries, understand the vulnerabilities of our officers and recognize that the travesty of what happened to me could happen to them.

Was there any collateral damage for outing her? Again, yes.

This hearing was so damaging, Republican Congressman Davis had nothing left but to ask Plame if she was a Democrat or Republican (she is a Democrat, but said of her husband: "He comes from a strong Republican family...but he's probably a Democrat now.") Another Republican, Rep. Westmoreland, quipped that Plame's gotten more attention than the baseball players during the steriod hearing.

Valerie Plame is the center to this storm. Unless Robert Novak or other ditractors can prove that she's lying (and the Libby verdict doesn't help them) the Bush Administration will be putting out alot of "want ads" over the next two years.

And not to mention how this and the Alberto Gonzales-firing attorneys issue seems to be a pattern of the White House getting rid of people who don't share or promote their political philosophy.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Do You Remember the Time...?

Think Progress has an Iraq War Timeline up. Check it out.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

All They Needed Was The Proper Motivation.

By an 89 to 9 vote, the Senate finally decided to talk about Iraq. Think maybe stories like this one had anything to do with the sudden change of heart?

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It's Not Alcohol, But It's Still a Vice.

From Slate, Fred Kaplan wonders why President Bush is addicted to gratitude:

There's a skewed view of the world reflected in these remarks. Does Bush really fail to recognize that even the most pro-Western Iraqis might have mixed feelings, to say the least, about America's intervention in their affairs—that they might be, at once, thankful for the toppling of Saddam Hussein, resentful about the prolonged occupation, and full of hatred toward us for the violent chaos that we unleashed without a hint of a plan for restoring order?

Bush may have had a political motive in making these remarks. He may have calculated that Americans would be more likely to support the war if the people for whom we're fighting thanked us publicly for the effort. By the same token, their palpable lack of gratitude, and the war's deepening unpopularity at home, might have heightened his frustration and impelled such peevish outbursts.

The first step in battling an addiction is admitting that you have an addiction.

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Stand By Your Man

President Bush defends yet another embattled White House official (this time it's Attn. Gen. Alberto Gonzales), but the first Republican to call for resignations comes out of the woodwork.

Why do I get the impression that this is going to be a pattern for the next two years? The one guy that shouldn't have been replaced (Colin Powell, the only White House guy with any credibility) was let go, and every other position either became stagnant (Donald Rumsfeld as Sec. of Defense) or "cronyfied" (Gonzales replacing Ashcroft).

Nevertheless, even if every joker in this deck resigns or is fired, the king will just select another to replace them. It's way past time to think about shuffling the whole deck and giving the American people a new hand to play with.

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Suspension of Belief

From CNN:

For the first time since the Iraq war began, less than half of Americans believe the United States can win in Iraq, a CNN poll said Tuesday.

Just 46 percent think the United States will win, and an all-time low of 29 percent say things are going well there. Of those polled, 46 percent do not believe the U.S. can win in Iraq and eight percent have no opinion.

In addition, more than half of Americans (54 percent) say the Bush administration was deliberately misleading on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S.-led invasion.

I'm sure more people would be confident about winning if the President decides to ever define what "winning" means.


Picture This: Pat Bagley

From the Blog that brought you "No Main Topic" and "Around the Internets" is the latest gimmick, "Picture This," where artwork does all the talking! These pics will be the proverbial "worth a thousand words" variety.

This entry was done by Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune.


The Hyprocrisy That Is Fox News

Blogger jurassicpork has been on a tear recently collecting the most outrageous screen captions in Fox News short history (and it hasn't gone unnoticed).

But more than some of the comical (if not mythical) claims (Bush is the best president on Middle Eastern affairs, Democrats care more about helping terrorists than protecting America) is the blatant the same show.

Never mind the way they pose their talking points as questions ("we aren't saying that this is true; we're just asking"), how can anyone take a cable network seriously when they pose such conflicting messages?

I think it goes without saying that the caption on the right came about when people (read Democrats, anti-war supporters and some retired military officials) began saying that Iraq had descended into a civil war. The President preferred the term "sectarian violence" (when I first heard that, I thought he was talking about some kind of Roman officer, I-kid-you-not). Following the President's lead, FoxNews (a supposed media outlet) began attacking...the media.

Then as things got so bad in Iraq that Bush couldn't even avoid admitting it, I guess that's when FoxNews decided to run the story that lead to the caption on the left. I'm sure some program director was thinking, "Don't worry, our audience doesn't have that good a memory anyway." I say this because there's no other explanation as to why civil war in Iraq could go from being a media fantasy to the best thing since apple pie in about a year.

If that's not hypocrisy, then I don't know what is.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

One More Myth/One More Burden

Via Slate, Ta-Nehisi Coates on the dangers of the Down Low Myth:

In the face of all the skeptical science, why is the belief in the Down Low menace so entrenched? For starters, there's the phraseology, which hints at some carnal secret society, and is catchy to boot. It also helps that the Down Low is the sort of threat that white commentators of all political stripes like to condemn. Conservatives get to disparage black people's inherent amorality (a band of men is endangering their families to have sex with other deceptive men), liberals can attack our inherent homophobia (the black community is so thuggish that the men can't even admit to being gay), and everyone gets to agree that black America is, in a nutshell, a nuthouse. In short, shaking your head over the DL is the perfect way to shake your head over how awful it is to be black.

Yet another myth about black people that needs to debunked once and for all.

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Moving Day

From The WashPost:

To the residents of the Yorkshire Mobile Home Park, all of them families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency crews offered answers that were uncertain and sometimes contradictory. As residents spilled out of their homes to meet their similarly bewildered neighbors, the adults wondered where they would be sent next, and how far they might wind up from their jobs. Some began sobbing. Then the children, seeing their parents' tears, began crying, too. A woman fainted, and an ambulance came...

...Park tenants are keenly aware that they are not particularly welcome where they have ended up. Fearing blight, many local communities have tried to block FEMA trailer parks, and several are trying to enact deadlines for the removal of trailers.

FEMA itself seems torn between closing the parks and serving the poor evacuees squeezed out by the scarcity of housing since the hurricane. Several times since Katrina, the agency has threatened to close the parks, only to grant an extension. Under the latest deadlines, tenants have until August to find other homes, but many seem unsure what they will do then.

There's more.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

No Main Topic

1. A Technical Foul: Women's LSU basketball coach Pokey Chatman leaves, mainly to to charges of improper conduct with player(s).

2. The Title Says It All: "Iraqis Seek Role in Rebuilding Their Nation." Guess they haven't been in charge the whole time; go figure.

3. It Wouldn't Look Suspicious, Would It?: There are calls for Bush to Pardon Libby, but they are mostly coming from Bush loyalists, neo-conservatives, and institutionalized DC insiders.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Are the Generals on the Ground Saying?


The new commander of US forces of Iraq, General David Petraeus, said today that insurgents in Iraq have sought to intensify attacks during a Baghdad security crackdown and additional US forces will be sent to areas outside the capital where militant groups are regrouping.

Petraeus said the troop build-ups outside Baghdad will focus on Diyala province north-east of Baghdad, a growing hotbed for suspected Sunni extremists fleeing the US-Iraqi security operation in Baghdad.

But Petraeus stressed that military force alone is "not sufficient" to end the violence in Iraq and political talks must eventually include some militant groups now opposing the US-backed government.

"This is critical," said Petraeus in his first news conference since taking over command last month. He noted that such political negotiations "will determine in the long run the success of this effort."

What say you, President Bush?

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LOST Returns

I say that because in my opinion the show hasn't been what I've been used since "A Tale of Two Cities." Since then we learned:

Off the Island:

1. that Sun actually had an an affair (but she's been one of the best characters at hiding stuff this really doesn't matter);
2. Locke's not above working for people who make "the Mary Jane" (who cares?);
3. that Jack has a semi-cursed tattoo (most boring FlashJack ever);
4. Sawyer may have a child (but we already know that kids are his weakness, so nothing groundbreaking here);
5. Hurley has daddy issues (who doesn't on this show?).

On the Island:

1. that the Other live in their own little suburban island community (but Walt's "they're pretending" comments hinted at that);
2. the Others are slightly smarter than Jake, Kate and Sawyer combined (no surprise, really);
3. Desmond can see the future (which makes no sense whatsoever);
4. the Others have factions (which are a little more defined then the ones amongst the Lostaways, but still not a real surprise);
5. the Monster may let you go once, but that doesn't mean it'll let you go a second time.

In other words, we haven't learned much about the character's respective pasts or what's going on on the island. The flashbacks have been "things that happened" but didn't give us anymore insight into the characters than their earlier flashbacks have. No new revelations, no exposed secrets. And on the island, you'd expect one of two mindsets: either these guys are trying to get off the damn island, of they've resigned to their fate to stay and therefore need to stake their claim (aka, confront the Others).

Up until last night's episode, neither has happened. The Jack/Sawyer/Kate trio gave up fighting way before "I Do," and the rest of the Lostaways all but admitted that they didn't really have a reason or desire to go after them. There hadn't been an idea to leave since Bernard's "SOS" plan.

Last night was different: Kate's Rescue Party (her, Locke, Sayid and Danielle) found and confronted Others. They got information (albeit shaky considering the source) and a clue on how to find Jack.

We also learned more about the characters as they are on the Island than in the last few flashbacks: Hurley plays a mean game of ping-pong, Locke's game fixation is potentially dangerous, Locke and Kate are big-time snoops, Sayid is easily the most observant Lostaway, Sawyer honors his bets (I mean really, he didn't have to call Hurley "Hugo") and Kate is spoiled (she was the first to rush into the shower at the hatch and last night she was all about ice cubes in her tea).

All and all, a definite step in the right direction.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

No Main Topic

1. Somewhere, Bi Laden Is Smiling: There are plans to bump Captain America off. At least we have Spider-Man.

3. "Nobody Knows...The Trouble He's Seen...": The Libby verdict is just part of one big pile-on for the Bush Administration.

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Getting Battle Ready: The Verdict

Media Matters goes over all of the talking points and political urban legends that may be used in the wwake of the Scooter Libby verdict.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby Was Only the Beginning...

Via Think Progress: Republican Hagel mentions the "I-word." Ruh-roh!

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"Torturing" The Wounded.

From the LA Times:

Degrading treatment and psychological manipulation cause as much emotional suffering and long-term mental damage as physical torture, researchers reported Monday.

Psychiatric evaluations of 279 victims of torture and other abuses from the Balkan wars of the 1990s showed that both types of ill treatment led to similarly high rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The victims themselves rated the psychological tactics on par with the physical abuses they suffered.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, grew out of questions about how the Bush administration has interpreted international and U.S. laws as they relate to interrogation of suspected terrorists.

The administration has sought to narrow the definition of torture to only the most extreme forms of physical abuse and psychological tactics resulting in severe, long-term harm. It has argued that some measures — banned under international law as cruel, degrading and inhuman — are acceptable.

What's interesting here is that certain "acceptable measures" were changed to "unacceptable"...after bad news came out.

In the wake of scandals at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the military rewrote its field manual.

Several interrogation techniques were explicitly banned, including placing sacks over the heads of prisoners, intimidating detainees with military dogs and withholding food and medical care, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Defense Department.

So what about conditions like this?

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

Basically, the conditions of our soldier's hospitals seem to be on par with the detention centers. The only difference is that one place does what it does on purpose, the other out of neglect.

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It's Her Party and She Can Hate if She Wants To.

"We know what to do, we just don't have the money."

"NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth, but there isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done."

I can almost hear it now: "No one could have predicted that an asteroid would hit the planet..."

Wouldn't a rollback on the tax cuts be worth...saving the planet Earth?


Monday, March 05, 2007

Wizards Report Card 2007: Starters

It's that time again! Honestly, I'm a month off, but who cares? Time to go over the Wiz while they're still basically a question mark (as in, how far could they go in the playoffs?). Basic info can be found in last season's review.

Now, on with the Show:

The Starters

Gilbert Arenas: Last year I said I was waiting for Gilbert to become more of a leader. He's all but deferred that duty to Jamison. So Gil is the star and Jamison is the captain, like Karl Malone and John Stockton respectively. Nevertheless, Arenas is still a monster offensively. He's definitely more clutch than a year ago, but he needs to play more (note, not better) defense. Grade: A

DeShawn Stevenson: He's the defensive-minded two-guard I asked the team to get last year. And as I'm sure he's letting everyone know, he's kissing a 49% in feild goals. If the opposing 2-guard is a dud, look for him to contribute defensively. If it's Kobe or Wade, be happy if he scores 8 points. Grade: B-

Caron Butler: Now with a year under his belt, he was able to step in and officially replace Larry Hughes as part of the Big Three. The toughest and most consistent starter (if not Wizard). Currently lead the League in steals. Other then a small lack of quickness, no true weakness in his game. Grade: B+

Center Position: Etan Thomas started as...the starter, then injuries opened the door for Brendan Haywood. As Boswell said before, the two need each other to survive. Haywood's a better offensive center; Etan's a better defensive one. Neither has great hands and both can be foul prone. Both are pretty decent shot blockers. Grade: C (for both)

Antawn Jamison: The undisputed glue and leader of this team. Without him, the Wizards are a talented mess. With him, they are the most potent, dangerous offensive team in the Eastern Conference. Most creative scorer. Underated rebounder. Could be a shot-blocker if he translated some of his offensive talents to defense (i.e., athleticism). Grade: A

Next time: the Bench gets pinched.


Third Time's a Charm

I've been wrong about the Miami Heat (more than once, to be honest) but this time I'm sure I'm right: Wade should not be trying to come back this season.

I know he wants to come back because everyone else on his team (read: Shaq and coach Riley) are back. He probably also believes that the Heat aren't going too far without him playing heavy minutes.

I know he's young. I know Alonzo Mourning (his teammate) has also made a miraculous recovery from having a kidney transplant. I know Shaq is playing like Kobe just called him and said "you were nothing but a fat loser." I know that A. Walker and G. Payton are playing like savy veteran role players.

But in reality, Wade is the only guy I've mentioned that has the chance to play for the next ten seasons. Is getting one ring this season worth the risk of never being able to play at a high level again?


An Uneccesary War Can Do That: The Magnet Edition

Via Michael Moore: Magnet America has an extra million yellow ribbons if anyone wants them.

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1. The iconic hero of conservatives isn't Ronald Reagan; it's Reagan's favorite TV character.

2. One theory on why Sirius didn't work (Hint: Howard Stern).

3. Bill Clinton is still popular with African-Americans, so that should help Hillary (some).

4. Bruce Gordon resigned from the NAACP this weekend.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Et Tu, GOP?

Not Quite Enough?

Representatives from the Department of Defense say that President Bush's surge is about 7,000 short.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Long Time Coming

Jennifer Mee's 5 weeks of hell is over:

She sipped pickle juice, held her breath, breathed into a bag, even went to a neurologist, but for more than five weeks nothing would stop a 15-year-old girl's rapid hiccups _ until they finally just stopped on their own...

..She saw an infectious disease specialist, a neurologist, a chiropractor, a hypnotist and an acupuncturist. She tried a patented device that is designed to stop hiccups, plus all the old remedies. Her mother called the media two weeks ago to try to find more help for her daughter, who ended up on NBC's "Today" show.

Nobody, at this time, knows how it stopped (let alone why it lasted so long). It's amazing that the medical field has so little answers for a condition that's so common. And what Mee went through: I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy.


Hit & Run: The Washington Post

Michael Wilbon states the obvious about the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat, Robert Novak seems to think that only conservatives can save the Republican Party, and the Editorial Page calls for more leadership from President Bush on Katrina.

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