Friday, August 31, 2007

Not a Guard Anymore

If what's reported here is true, then the 6'9" newly 260lb LeBron James is officially a combo-forward.

I know, I know: "what about Magic?" Well, James is good, but he's no Magic yet.


An Interesting Theory

Maybe God does spend alot of time around prison. Public Figures/Celebrities always seem to find Him when they really get in trouble.

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The Onion Writers Know Their Stuff

Who knew that these guys would be so clairvoyant? The key mistake, though, was it was Rove who got all emotional:

Karl Rove was nearly overcome with emotion Friday as colleagues privately paid tribute to the political adviser as he leaves the White House, senior officials say.

Thinking about it again, I guess Bush really wouldn't be chasing Rove's car...he's too busy trying to cement his legacy and avoid impeachment.

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Q&A: Powerful Women

Question: Can you name the woman who isn't that famous, but ranks (according to Forbes Magazine) as more powerful than the Queen of England, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey?

Answer: Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint.

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Because Iraq Is Going So Well...

Pat Buchanon and Joe Scarborough not only think attacking Iran would be cool, but the political advantages would be amazing. Can't say President Bush isn't hearing this tripe while he's working, but hopefully someone with both a brain and a conscience is around to remind him how dumb this would be.

On a slightly related note: The propaganda being spewed in the Iraq conflict seems to be getting more and more vile. The WashPost has a story on how the bios of visiting Democrats are being harshly altered.

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When Satire Met Reality...

I know this story isn't real (it is from the Onion, after all) but that doesn't make it any less humorous:

WASHINGTON, DC—A confused President Bush broke free from the restraint of Secret Service agents and ran in pursuit of departing deputy chief of staff Karl Rove's car for several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue before being outdistanced by the vehicle.

"Why can't I go with him?" Bush tearfully asked advisers as the longtime Republican strategist's sedan disappeared over the horizon. "When is he coming back?"
White House staff were deeply moved by the scene, saying that despite their best efforts, no one was able to explain to the president that he would no longer be able to remain at his chief adviser's side. Onlookers were clearly choked up as a tearful Rove, trying to close the car door behind him, told Bush in a stern, commanding tone to back away.

"Go on…you hear me? Get out of here, I say!" Rove said. "I don't love you anymore, understand? Now get! Get!"

I'd be lying if I didn't think there was, say, a 25% chance of that scenario taking place. Or even this one:

The president continued to ask about his former adviser throughout the day, often clutching Rove's day planner, dialing his extension, and blinking uncomprehendingly when told that Rove was never coming back.

White House press secretary Tony Snow was finally called in to attempt to convey the reality of the situation to the president, but he was unable to do so.
"He kept looking up at me with those wide, innocent eyes, and I didn't know what to say," Snow told reporters. "Maybe someday when he's older, he'll understand how the public lost trust in his big buddy after a series of crucial political missteps, and how firing those attorneys and the..."

At this point in the briefing Snow fell silent, overcome with emotion, and moving many in the press room to tears.

Of course, if his administration didn't try to politicize every aspect of government (in real life) for the sake of power, money and votes, his old buddies wouldn't be leaving in disgrace.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's Like That Addict In A Vegas Casino...

President Bush to Congress: "I need more cash."

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Refresher Course

Unless his memory's faulty, the whole "did he or didn't he" bathroom scandal wouldn't be the first time Senator Craig was exposed to the ups and downs of the Ethics Committee.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All You Need To Know: About Alberto Gonzales

Yeah he retired; and not too soon. But everything you need to know about the man responsible for making sure laws are followed and that the legal interests of the American People are always considered can be summed up here:

"President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance of the enemy on a far broader scale."

Sigh. (H/T to Perrspectives)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Just How Much Has President Bush Flip-Flopped?

In his attempt to muster support for his crumbling mission to stay in Iraq forever, he's gone from saying things like this:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are
comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it. What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation's interest.

A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make America more secure. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have incredible change. It's hard -- freedom is not easy to achieve. We had a little trouble in our country achieving freedom. And we've been there a year, Terry. I know it seems like a long time, it seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. But when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time. And we're making progress.

There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand that. It's been tough on this administration. But we're doing the right thing.

And as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world. And the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.

to saying things like this:

After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."

Of course, "9-11 changed everything"...even if the first statement was made in 2004, and the latter one was made last week.

HatTip: Democratic Underground's EarlG.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again...

This is becoming depressingly monotonous:

A U.S. Army helicopter crashed north of Baghdad early Wednesday morning, killing all 14 soldiers on board, the military said.

The sad irony here is that helicopter travel is supposed to be safer:

Military travel in Iraq is often conducted on helicopters to avoid threats from roadside bombs.

Um...yeah. Well, just to set the record straight: I'm not saying "deja vu" just to have a snappy title:

Since the conflict began, 63 helicopters have gone down, including 36 struck by enemy fire. Over January and February of this year, seven military helicopters and one carrying private security contractors were taken down by insurgent fire, killing a total of 28 people. The incidents prompted the military to reevaluate flight plans and tactics used to prevent anti-aircraft fire.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

RIP: Leona Helmsley

The "Queen of Mean" who famously said that taxes are for "little people" passes away at age 87.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

After All, Clothes Make the Man

What really ticks George W. Bush off? Apparently, when someone criticizes his fashion sense.

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Asleep at The Wheel...

From the "Yeah; That's What We Were Trying To Warn You About" File:

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Of course, the Bush Administration's crack legal squad will be able to properly decipher the logic and limits of these new "powers:"

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

Oops; guess I spoke too soon. I really shouldn't expect much from a group who believe that the president can do anything s/he wants as long as they claim that what they're doing is "for the good of the people."

Remember: many a tyrant and despot have said the same thing. And even if their intentions were genuine, given the record these guys have with (lack of) follow-through and cronyism, I'm not expecting anything less but another story on "abusing power" in about a year...and keep an eye on how many Democrats who helped make this happen "voice their concerns."

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Why the US Attorney Issue is Worth Investigating

Anyone who still thinks that Karl Rove was "just another political operative" needs to read the WashPost story on his mission to politicize every aspect of American government:

Many administrations have sought to maximize their control of the machinery of government for political gain, dispatching Cabinet secretaries bearing government largess to battleground states in the days before elections. The Clinton White House routinely rewarded big donors with stays in the Lincoln Bedroom and private coffees with senior federal officials, and held some political briefings for top Cabinet officials during the 1996 election.

But Rove, who announced last week that he is resigning from the White House at the end of August, pursued the goal far more systematically than his predecessors, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post, enlisting political appointees at every level of government in a permanent campaign that was an integral part of his strategy to establish Republican electoral dominance.

Under Rove's direction, this highly coordinated effort to leverage the government for political marketing started as soon as Bush took office in 2001 and continued through last year's congressional elections, when it played out in its most quintessential form in the coastal Connecticut district of Rep. Christopher Shays, an endangered Republican incumbent. Seven times, senior administration officials visited Shays's district in the six months before the election -- once for an announcement as minor as a single $23 government weather alert radio presented to an elementary school. On Election Day, Shays was the only Republican House member in New England to survive the Democratic victory.

Let's be clear here: Rove's primary goal here was making sure that Republicans won elections. Not "making sure Republicans could help the American people," but "win elections."

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Trying to Climb Back

Remember where you were the day Britney Spears attempted her comeback. And remember: she's a mommy!


When a Fox Gets Caught in the Henhouse...

After Fox News gets caught trying to change Wikipedia (don't they know they have Conservapedia to muck around with?) they decide to attack Wikipedia. Typical.

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In a medical sense, the odds are one in 13 million of this happening:

HELENA, Mont. - A 35-year-old Canadian woman has given birth to rare identical quadruplets, hospital officials said Thursday.

Karen Jepp of Calgary, Alberta, delivered Autumn, Brooke, Calissa and Dahlia by Caesarian section Sunday afternoon at Benefis Healthcare hospital in Great Falls, Mont., said Amy Astin, the hospital's director of community and government relations.

All of the girls seem to be healthy, but Ms. Jepp still has a way to go, assuming that she wants to match the Duggars family.

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More Than Meets the Eye: The Bombings in Iraq

Eugene Robinson on Tuesday's bombing in Iraq:

The bombings Tuesday looked more like an act of genocide, an attempt to erase as many Yazidis as possible from the face of the earth. The motive for this atrocity might not have been political but religious; it might have been the work of Muslim fundamentalists trying to settle a centuries-old local grievance, rather than the work of Muslim fundamentalists trying to drive the Americans out of Iraq or establish a new caliphate in the Middle East.

The point is that here in Washington, we talk about Iraq as if we were intimately familiar with all its fractures, fissures and fault lines. The Bush administration touts as a breakthrough the recent decision of provincial Sunni Muslim sheiks to cooperate with U.S. forces -- but it's also possible that the sheiks are just maneuvering to be in a better position when the Americans eventually leave. The administration says there might be genocide if America pulls out -- but it looks as if genocide has already been attempted.

Some war critics confidently predict that if the United States were to withdraw its troops, the al-Qaeda presence in Iraq would quickly become a non-factor -- that foreign-born terrorists, having outlived their usefulness to the Sunni community, would be driven out or otherwise neutralized.

I happen to think this is a reasonable hypothesis. But I'm anything but confident.

There are those who will see Tuesday's awful bombings as an illustration of why U.S. forces should stay in Iraq. I see the carnage as an illustration of how little the presence of 162,000 American troops can accomplish in a country the size of Iraq.

To say that the divisions in Iraq boil down to just Sunni, Shia and Kurds is like saying everyone in the US is either Catholic, Baptist or Protestant. We know that's not true, so why assume that every attack in Iraq is do to one of it's "Big Three" battling each other? As Robinson said, it could very well be that amongst the battle for control of Iraq, some factions are using the confusion to settling centuries-old rivalries.

Another way to think about it: Imagine that it's the late 1340's if you are part of a group or tribe who's in constant conflict with another one. They want nothing but your total annihilation, but they can't do it because the world's superpowers have intervened. All of a sudden, the Black Death hits and people start dying in the hundreds. With all the political, religious and socio-economic chaos going on, do you think that your foes would hesitate to use this to their advantage?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Remixing in the 2000's

Mandy Moore does a cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella." Say what you will about the actual rendition, but keep in mind that Moore's one of the few young celebrities who isn't driving their career off a cliff.

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To Die For?

Just another reason to end the occupation in Iraq as soon as possible:

Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest number since the 102 suicides in 1991 at the time of the Persian Gulf War.

Granted, it is not the fighting itself, but the fighting does add to an already heavy load:

Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs were factors motivating the soldiers to commit suicide, according to the report.

"In addition, there was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.

And then there's also the method of suicide to consider:

Firearms were the most common method of suicide. Those who attempted suicide but didn't succeed tended more often to take overdoses and cut themselves.

So here's a question: with so many troops dying, being injured to the point that they can no longer fight and committing suicide at such a high rate, how long can an all-volunteer army last before there's a serious discussion about re-instituting the draft? Or is that something the next president has to worry about?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chris Matthews Needs to Calm Down

If you add the things Chris Matthews has said in the past, then combine them with things like this:

He looks like a million bucks. Everything is perfect. Everything about him is perfect -- his look, his manner, everything, the shirt, never rolled-up sleeves, the tie always tied. That perfection -- is that the Republican Party of the 21st century? Is that what we're looking for, the perfect efficiency expert?

and this:

Yeah, I think you're right. I guess I'm thinking of an Eddie Rendell were in the race -- the governor of Pennsylvania -- or if Al Gore were in the race or someone else who's a good heavyweight to be running. But, you know, I do see a lot of really good second-tier candidates here, but I don't see a big, beefy alternative to Hillary Clinton -- a big guy. You know what I mean? An all -- an every-way big guy. I don't see one out there. I see a lot of slight, skinny, second- and third-rate candidates.

and even this:

MATTHEWS: Could you get a little closer to the camera?

BURNETT: My -- what is it? Is it zooming in strangely?

MATTHEWS: Come on in closer. No, come in -- come in further -- come in closer. Really close.

BURNETT: What are you -- what are you doing?

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! You look great! Anyway, thanks. Erin, it's great to -- look at that look. You're great.

BURNETT: I don't even know. I'm going to have to go look at the tape here. I'm in a strange location.

MATTHEWS: No, you're beautiful. I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. You're a knockout. Anyway, thank you, Erin Burnett.

BURNETT: All right, Chris. See you later.

MATTHEWS: It's all right getting bad news from you, even, OK? Thanks for
coming on Hardball.

It's becoming more an more apparent that Matthews is the TV political pundit version of Anchorman's Champ Kind:

Only difference is, Champ's fixation was mainly directed at Ron. That and Champ's a character in a movie. Matthews is a real person and his fixations seem to be more unpredictable and random, even though recent history gives the impression that he has a proclivity to covet Republicans. A case of "poliphilia," perhaps?

Seriously, though: what does a person's musk or their build or their tie have to do with their politics? Shouldn't people like Matthews be more concerned with a person's political views?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let's Talk About Lex

I wanted to address this last week, but some much other stuff came up so here goes (and please remember, these are fictional comic book characters we're talking about people): I agree that Dr. Doom should not be crying about 9-11 considering everything he's done to Marvel Comics New York, but to call him wussier than Lex Luthor is just so wrong.

Let me just put this out here as well before I continue: Superman is not my favorite comic book hero. No character has been jerked around as much as him, and by that I mean the treatment of his powers. One day he's practically a god, the next day missiles, lasers, and well placed punches from questionable adversaries are knocking him aside. I always thought he was best portrayed as the ultimate switchblade superhero, because he has so many powers; in reality he's only limited by his imagination (or rather, that of the writers). And don't get me started on the "stories that deal with him being an outsider" thing; gee, wonder where that idea came from? Personally, I rank Batman and Spider-Man a level higher than the Man of Steel.

Anyway, it's always tempting to compare Marvel characters with DC ones, especially when both comic companies have that nasty habit if stealing from each other. But is one is to make comparisons on such characters, you can't just use one medium. Dr. Doom and Lex Luther have each been in movies and animated shows in their lifetimes, so the theory that "Lex Luther has balls" needs further examination.

First let's look at Lex in films. In the early Superman movies, he's little more than a immoral real estate agent. I don't remember him being aggressive towards Superman at all; in fact, if I recall correctly, in Superman II he spent most of the time kissing either Superman's ass or General Zod's.
In the most recent one, he has the title of "criminal mastermind," but admitted (in passing to his girl) that he needed the thugs he surrounded himself with for protection in prison. Oh, and he only fought Superman after the big guy landed on a landmass comprised of Kryptonite. Sounds tough to me.

In the 80's Superfriends, he was leader of the Legion of Doom, which was a joke of a group. So much so, that as the series continued, Lex took a backseat to Darkseid.

On the TV show Smallville: Lex flirts with Clark Kent, falls in love with Lana Lang, and has more daddy issues than a Steven Spielberg movie. Seriously, Lionel Luther makes any incarnation of Lex (with the possible exception of Kevin Spacey's) look like Jimmy Olsen having a bad day.

In the Bruce Timm Universe (aka, Justice League circa 2002), Lex was arguably at his best: deceptive, manipulative, power-hungry and cruel. I mean totally hardcore evil. His line at the end of the first Superman ep, where he claims that 1/3rd of Metropolis works for him whether they know it or not and that there's not a damn thing Supes can do about it, was classic. This Lex didn't bring together a group of villains to capture or annoy the Justice League/Superfriends, he wanted to kill them. But then, he ruined it in the ep Hereafter where he said to a grieving Lois Lane that he'd miss Superman too.


I'm sorry, but Lex Luthor is not exempt from moments of wimpiness. I'm calling a foul. Now if people just want to argue in the context of the comics, fine. But when character is discussed, remember that there's more than the comics to look at.

And for the record: Marvel's Apocalypse is the most hardcore (and consistent) villain of the two comic companies, with Darkseid coming in a distant second (he loses major points for being Wonder Woman's bitch in the Superfriends cartoon).

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You Always Hurt the One You Rove

I couldn't read Eugene Robinson's piece on Karl Rove's departure without thinking about this guy. Like Rove, Quizboy was an initial success who couldn't come to terms with the changing times and that lead to his downfall (one politically, the other as an authority in the scientist-hero world). Also, they are relentlessly loyal to their hero (George W. Bush/Dr. Venture).

The Democrats in Congress would do well to continue to pursue Rove for answers regarding his involvement in the Valerie Plame/Wilson leak as well as the US attorney firing. Why? In order to conclude, as the President has said, that "there was no crime here." The sooner Rove complies, the sooner both sides can put this mess behind them. Personally, I would hope that Congress pursues this issue even after Bush's term in office ends, but I know how political focus changes with each new administration.

Either way, I doubt Rove will do anything more than take a breather before he begins his quest to put out some political fires, continue to make Bush look like a hero and rebuild his image as a king-maker should his services be needed in 2012. In fact, based on the GOP appeal of has-beens Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich, that last one's practically a given.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

What's Really Going on in Pakistan?

In the WashPost, Pakistani reporter Ahmed Rashid says that panic moves in Pakistan is a bad omen:

Declaring a state of emergency would have suspended fundamental rights, placed restrictions on the Supreme Court and delayed this year's elections. It is unlikely that an already angry and mobilized public would have accepted new restrictions, even those imposed by the army, which Musharraf heads. Massive street protests and further mayhem might have ensued.

After eight years as president, Musharraf is battling for survival, refusing to yield power to civilians yet unable to exert the authority he needs to keep the peace at home and still be a useful ally to the West in rooting out Islamic extremists along the border with Afghanistan.

But, Rashid adds, America's involvement (or lack thereof) partially attributed to the situation:

Since 2001 the Bush administration has refused to understand that political stability in Pakistan requires a modicum of democracy, a political consensus among the country's various liberal forces and a working relationship among the four provinces before any battle against extremism can succeed.

Washington presumed that because Musharraf wielded the army's power there was no need to push for democracy or bother with civilian politicians. As a result, the Bush administration has lost the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people. (They have become further alienated while watching Pakistan become a whipping boy in debates between U.S. presidential candidates.)

The Bush administration looked away when the army rigged presidential and parliamentary elections in 2002 and ignored the exiling or sidelining of mainstream politicians and political parties by Musharraf.

So in retrospect, Barack Obama's claim that military action may be necessary in Pakistan (assuming that there is clear evidence that bin Laden is there, and that the leaders are doing nothing about that) had little to do with Musharraf's panic move. If anything, it's helping to highlight the problems in the country:

Today, Pakistan faces immense problems. There is a full-blown tribal insurgency backed by al-Qaeda in the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan in which more than 200 soldiers have been killed since mid-July, while suicide bombers have twice penetrated Islamabad.

The army, facing civil revolt and plagued by differences of opinion, cannot effectively go after extremists, while Pakistanis have yet to be convinced that this is their war against extremism and not one dictated by Washington.

So what's Rashid's solution?

The United States needs to help bring about a peaceful and fair political transition in Islamabad before it again insists that the army battle al-Qaeda. Musharraf needs to shed his uniform, hold elections and declare that he is not a candidate for the presidency. Washington then needs to help ensure that the new elected leadership works with the army to mobilize public support for the struggle against extremism.

In other words: back to the drawing board.

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Jamison Foser of Media Matters on the problems with relying on anecdotal information when talking about politicians:

These "illustrative anecdotes," and countless others like them -- John Kerry windsurfing or ordering cheesesteak, John Edwards' big house and expensive haircuts, etc., etc. -- aren't inherently illustrative. Journalists use them to illustrate not only things they know about the candidates, but things they think about the candidates as well; to dress up their guesses and hunches as factual observations.

President Bush has been widely mocked for saying upon his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "I looked the man in the eye. ... I was able to get a sense of his soul." But that's essentially what journalists do when they claim these "telling anecdotes" illustrate something completely subjective about the candidates. They don't really know Al Gore is a phony; they're guessing at what is in his soul, then finding anecdotes that can seem to support their guess.

Take the most oft-repeated "telling anecdote" of the 2008 presidential campaign thus far: John Edwards paid $400 for a haircut. What does that really tell us about John Edwards? Many journalists insist (endlessly) that it tells us that he's vain, or a phony, or a hypocrite. Maybe it does tell us something like that. (For the record: It certainly does not tell us he is a hypocrite.) Or maybe it tells us he is inattentive to detail and didn't know how much it cost. Or maybe it tells us he didn't know how much it cost because he focuses his attention on important things like health care, poverty, and war, rather than on his hair. Or maybe it doesn't tell us anything at all. Sometimes, a haircut is just a haircut.

To me, anecdotes where always a technique journalists used to summarize a politician's view of an issue or just life in general. But as time has passed, it has become a substitute for actual reporting. Why give detail about a presidential candidate's view on health care when a story about a conversation with their advisor is so much more entertaining?

And that is the real problem here: there are too many political reporters who would prefer to entertain the public with stories (whether true or false) than inform them.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

No Main Topic

Bush won't help out anyone who loses a home, whether it's from a hurricane or via the tubulent markets:

Q Mr. President, I want to get your thoughts about the volatility in the financial markets, but specifically, a series of questions. Do you think that housing prices will continue to fall? Do you think that the inability of people to borrow money the way they used to is going to spillover into economy generally? And what are you prepared to do about it? And, specifically, are you considering some kind of government bailout for people who might lose their homes?

THE PRESIDENT: David, I'm wise enough to remind you that I'm not an economist, and that I would ask you direct predictions and forecasts about economic matters to those who make a living making forecasts and predictions. I suspect you'll find on the one hand, on the other hand, in how they predict. (Laughter.)

Now, what I focus on are the fundamentals of our economy. My belief is that people will make rational decision based upon facts. And the fundamentals of our economy are strong. I mentioned some of them before. Job creation is strong. Real after-tax wages are on the rise. Inflation is low. Interestingly enough, the global economy is strong, which has enabled us to gain more exports, which helped the second quarter growth numbers to be robust, at 3.4 percent.

Another factor one has got to look at is the amount of liquidity in the system. In other words, is there enough liquidity to enable markets to be able to correct? And I am told there is enough liquidity in the system to enable markets to correct. One area where we can help consumer -- and obviously anybody who loses their home is somebody with whom we must show enormous empathy.

The word "bailout," I'm not exactly sure what you mean. If you mean direct grants to homeowners, the answer would be no, I don't support that. If you mean making sure that financial institutions like the FHA have got flexibility to help these folks refinance their homes, the answer is yes, I support that.

One thing is for certain, is that there needs to be more transparency in the -- in financial documents. In other words, a lot of people sign up to something they're not exactly sure what they're signing up for. More financial literacy, I guess, is the best way to put it. We've had a lot of really hardworking Americans sign up for loans, and the truth of the matter is they probably didn't fully understand what they were signing up for. And therefore, I do believe it's a proper role for government to enhance financial education initiatives, and we're doing that, we've got money in the
budget to do that.

Eugene Robinson believes Bush is more removed from reality than ever.

People who believe that Barack Obama doesn't have good military counsel need to wake up.


Hearts & Minds: Reprogramming the Youth

Newsweek has an interesting story on yet another task that will most likely be added to one of America's "missions" in Iraq: un-brainwashing the young.

Some of the teens may have tried to kill American or Iraqi soldiers, others may have been picked up for smaller offenses like breaking curfew. But the group, all Sunnis, have one thing in common: they've all been brainwashed for jihad. "They get their education from Wahhabis," says Sheik Abdul Jabbar, 37, an Iraqi cleric working with the teens, as he looks on from the side of the class. "They say their enemy is the Shia first and then the Americans." Abdullah has had his dose of radical education. He is convinced that his stepmother, who is Shiite, is a kafir, or nonbeliever. He has told the instructors in the class that, given the chance, he would kill her. "If they let them out, they would all become suicide bombers," says Jabbar. "Soon we will have two generations of terrorists."

If our foreign policy was more about education, diplomacy and governing, and a little less about using the military to solve every problem, maybe this wouldn't have been necessary.

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Star Treatment?

OK, so some of the stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame have been removed for a building project. But look some of the names who've been removed:

  1. Charlton Heston
  2. Cary Grant
  3. Clark Gable
  4. Frank Sinatra

Ever since Bowling for Columbine, I've been a little put off by Heston and everyone knows who Sinatra is...but that aside, they (and the others who will have their stars removed) were good actors. Seriously, there has to be a star who had less of an impact who could give up their space so tourists can see Grant or Gable, right?


Thursday, August 09, 2007

...And You Can Quote Me On That

"They’ve been at the table for the last 35 years and they’ve been eating our lunch."

-- Steve Skvara, on Hardball, referring to the Republicans (and at least one Democratic presidential candidate) who suggest that the insurance companies need to be invited to the table to help solve the problem with our health care.

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Political Gossips

Well, I'll be: seems like it's high school for the GOP presidential wannabes, who are engaging in mass whispering campaigns against each other.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Drunk on Expectations

OK, getting Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett is sure to boost the morale in Boston, but do they really need to beg Reggie Miller to come out of retirement?

If the story is true, there's two things I think the Celtics' management is overlooking.

First: they still have the same coach; a coach known for weird rotations and clock mismanagement. Has Doc Rivers ever even coached in a Conference Championship yet?

Second: Do they think a bunch of talented veterans equals "Instant Championship?" Does anyone even remember the 2004 Lakers (Shaq, Kobe, Payton and Malone)?

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China Wants Their Money...

On the heals of Jim Cramer's..."complaints" about the Fed Chair: China threatens to cash in their American's Market Watch's take on the affair.

The WashPost dismisses the Daily Telegraph as a "tabloid newspaper" but that's not really true (in format or connotation). Of course, this may have something to do with China's human rights record.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jim Cramer Has a Suggestion for the Fed Chair

Ever since President Bush selected Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan, the Fed has played it safe. Mad Money's Jim Cramer says it's time to wake the hell up.

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Robert Gates = Midseason coach

I find it interesting that the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, isn't in the news as much as his predecessor (even Rumsfeld appearance in the Pat Tillman hearing got some ink).

So the question pops in my head: just what kind of guy is Gates? Well, after seeing this post from C&L, I finally get it.

Gates is that mid-season coach you get when your regular coach quits or gets fired. In sports, the MSC's job is to just get by the season unscathed. They're usually saddled with a team that's either too old, too young or too undisciplined (hence the departure of the former coach) and any victory is considered a blessing from on high.

With Gates, there are similarities. First, he has to work with Rumsfeld's playbook (he can make minor adjustments, but in reality he can't remake the Department in his short tenure). Second, he has to deal with the people already in place like Rice (who's fiercely loyal to Bush) and Cheney (who never wanted Rumsfeld to leave in the first place). There's also the important task of boosting troop morale and recruitment.

With all that to consider, Gates has little time for PR. But it's apparent from the C&L clip that he's not willing to be the fall guy for Iraq.

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Fourth Amendment, We Hardly Knew Ya...

Slate's Bonnie Goldstein wonders if the Bush Administration's latest executive order should be cause for concern:

Emboldened, perhaps, by the mild response [to his last executive order], on August 2 President Bush issued a similar executive order (below) regarding Lebanon. This action authorizes the Treasury to "block the property and interests in property" of "any U.S. persons" (including "a spouse or dependent child") who challenge "the sovereignty of Lebanon" (i.e., support Syria's occupation of Lebanon and its interference in Lebanese politics). In this instance the target can be anyone whose actions are deemed to "pose a significant risk" of undermining Lebanon's democratic processes, violent or not.

I guess we'll find out when someone loses their house because they challenged "the sovereignty of Lebanon."

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Sometimes, Ya Gots to Chill...

Charley Rosen wrote a very good piece on being a sports fan and being a sports critic:

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with being a spirited sports fan. Loyalty, passion, the appreciation of details and trends, of grace under pressure, and just plain fun are some of the wonderful rewards resulting from a total immersion in a ball game. Even the "agony of defeat" can be instructive.

However, when a fan (which is shorthand for "fanatic") invests too much emotion in what is after all a vicarious pastime, it becomes easy to cross the line that separates enthusiasm from madness. One symptom of the overly rabid sports fan (or zealots of any persuasion) is a tendency to demonize anyone who has a different view.

Go read the whole thing. Personally, I think it can be applied to more things than just sports.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

You've Got To Be Joking...

I was checking out this story about Bob Allen, (a guy who works for John McCain's presidential campaign) who apparently was soliciting sex in a park bathroom.

Well, Democratic Underground did some snooping, and found out Allen's side of the story:

State Rep. Bob Allen told police he was just playing along when a undercover officer suggested in a public restroom that the legislator give him oral sex and $20 because he was intimidated, according to a taped statement and other documents released Thursday.

"I certainly wasn't there to have sex with anybody and certainly wasn't there to exchange money for it," said Allen, R-Merritt Island, who was arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution."This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park,"

Allen, who is white, told police in a taped statement after his arrest. Allen said he feared he "was about to be a statistic" and would have said anything just to get away.

Sounds like Allen took his alibi from the Crude Joke File. Stop me if you heard this one:

A small white guy goes into an elevator and notices this huge black dude standing next to him.

The big guy looks down upon the small white guy and says, "7 foot tall, 350 pounds, 20 inch dick, 3 pound left ball, 3 pound right ball, Ben Dover." The small white guy faints!!

The big guy picks up the small guy and brings him to, slapping his face and shaking him and asks him, "What's wrong?"

The small guy says, "Excuse me, but what did you say?"

The big looks down and says, "7 foot tall, 350 pounds, 20 inch dick, 3 pound left ball, 3 pound right ball, my name is Ben Dover."

The small white guy says, "Thank god! The first time I thought you had said 'Bend Over! '"

I'm sure the next excuse a hypocritical Republican will give will have something to do with "getting to the other side" or maybe "screwing in a light bulb." And for the record, this makes Allen both racist and stupid.

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Now You're Playing With...Policy?

This is just one of a bunch of games designed to teach the average person about current laws and what's it's like to be part of a particular demographic. In this case, the subject is immigrants:

"ICED!" — a play on the acronym for the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement office — is scheduled to be available for free download next month. It differs greatly from games like "Border Patrol," which popped up on the Internet last year and exhorted players to kill illegal immigrants as they entered the country.

"ICED!" seeks to show how immigration laws passed in 1996 expanded the number of crimes that can trigger deportation and limited immigrants' rights to appeal.

Players try to avoid deportation by keeping a low profile and performing community service. Shoplifting or jumping a subway turnstile loses points. Lose too many, and your character ends up in a federal detention facility.

Maybe this will start new trend of advancing political agendas. Wouldn't hurt.

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Take Notes: An Example of a Real Traitor

More threats from al-Qaeda, but check out the twist:

American al Qaeda militant Adam Gadahn warned the United States and its allies on Sunday that the militant network would target diplomats and embassies in retaliation for U.S.-led actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda released a one-hour, 17-minute video showing a computer-animated depiction of the 2006 suicide attack on a U.S. diplomatic vehicle in Karachi, Pakistan, in which American diplomat David Foy died, according to the Web site of terrorism expert Laura Mansfield.

It's not the first time this guy has been seen giving such a message, but he's being used more frequently.

And let me just say: Adam Gadahn is the modern-day definition of a "traitor" when it comes to fighting terrorism. I wish the politicians would refrain from their "you're helping the terrorists" accusations because in too many cases, what they're accusing their target of doing is nowhere close to what Gadahn is doing.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

About 41 Spines Are Needed in The House...

I wanted to hear what others were going to say about the Democrat's basic capitulation to President Bush for his FISA revisions. Long story short: Alberto Gonzales -the Attorney General who doesn't seem to want to follow the law or tell the truth- can now spy on pretty much whomever he wants.

Anyway, the best take was JP, who says:

Democrats, especially the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, were terrified that George W. Bush would call them names and say they were weak on terrorism, even though it had been proven a year and a half ago that not only has bypassing FISA not resulted in us catching a single legitimate terrorist of note, it’s also been used by the White House to spy on countless millions of American citizens who are capriciously labeled enemies of the state.

I was always concerned that the game plan for the Democrats in Congress was to do nothing and hope that the Bush Administration and the Republican would doom themselves. The problem with this strategy is that it means that the Democrats don't have an aggressive, take-charge plan that would gain them support from frustrated Democratic-voters, undecided independents and estranged Republicans.

All I can say is the Congressional Democrats gave people who believe that "both parties are the same" more ammunition.

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Via Crooks and Liars: Barry Bonds breaking the homerun record won't make him any less of a jerk.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

"...My Fair Lady"

In regards to the horrific bridge collapse in Minneapolis, President Bush gave a 651-word speech. Sadly, only 212 words where really dedicated to the victims and their families. The other 67% of his speech? A blatant attack at the Congress (which has been under the control of the the Democratic Party for about 6 months).

Here's Bush's speech sans the attack:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I just finished a Cabinet meeting. One of the things we discussed was the terrible situation there in Minneapolis. We talked about the fact that the bridge collapsed, and that we in the federal government must respond and respond robustly to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity, that bridge, gets rebuilt as quickly as possible.

To that end, Secretary Peters is in Minneapolis, as well as Federal Highway Administrator Capka. I spoke to Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak this morning. I told them that the Secretary would be there. I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but I also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered. And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who are suffering right now in prayer.

I want to thank OMB Director Rob Portman for his hard work in developing this plan. This was Rob's last Cabinet meeting. Laura and I wish him and his family well. And I call on the Senate to confirm his successor, Jim Nussle, so we can work together to keep our government running, to keep our economy growing, and to keep our nation strong.

Thank you for your time.

Sounds very vanilla, right? And it's pretty much the story the TV media ran with. But then you see the "meat of his speech, in which he blames the Congress for going on vacation:

By the end of this week, members are going to be leaving for their month-long August recess. And by the time they will return, there will be less than a month before the end of the fiscal year on September the 30th, and yet they haven't passed one of the 12 spending bills that they're required to pass.

And he also claims that Democrats in Congress is spending way to much money:

The budget I've sent to Congress fully funds America's priorities. It increases discretionary spending by 6.9 percent. My Cabinet Secretaries assure me that this is adequate to meet the needs of our nation.

Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in Congress want to spend far more. Their budget calls for nearly $22 billion more in discretionary spending next year alone. These leaders have tried to downplay that figure. Yesterday one called this increase -- and I quote -- "a very small difference" from what I proposed. Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference. And that difference will keep getting bigger. Over the next five years it will total nearly $205 billion in additional discretionary spending. That $205 billion averages out to about $112 million per day, $4.7 million per hour, $78,000 per minute.

Put another way, that's about $1,300 in higher spending every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for the next five years. That's a lot of money -- even for career politicians in Washington. In fact, at that pace, Democrats in Congress would have spent an extra $300,000 since I began these remarks.

Funny; as I write this blog the Iraq "war" is costing Minneapolis $675,699,600. I'm pretty sure that they could have used some of that money for bridge repair. If only the President and his war supporters would stop trying to block legislation that would bring things to a conclusion.

Sometimes I wonder: was this the true grand plan of bin Laden and his followers? To get this country so wrapped up in "fighting them over there" that we ignore our own people here? That we dismiss fixing roads and bridges and power lines and levees? That we would send people who normally are the first responders to national disasters away, making the clean-up and rescue efforts that much harder to accomplish? In short: to destroy us from within?

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17 Isn't Enough...

I have to say that this is a true committment to family: The Duggars have had child #17, and don't plan on stopping.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Winning the Battles, but...

Some people seem to believe that the military victories we're collecting in Iraq is enough to make it free, but as Slate's Phillip Carter notes, you still need the component of political progress. In other words: our troops' presence in Iraq has as much to do with the successes (or failures) of the Iraqi government than it has to do with killing insurgents.

But this point -that the Iraqi government needs to start pulling it's own weight- is getting lost in the new fad for talking Iraqi policy: go there for about a week and then come back claiming that you're an expert.

Everyone is becoming so concerned about who the "expert" is that fewer and fewer people are actually discussing what needs to be done (which is why the options have boiled down to "cut and run" versus "stay the course").

As Carter puts it:

Truth is elusive in Iraq; it always remains just out of focus. In Iraq you can find evidence on the ground to support just about any conclusion you choose; most visitors arrive, see what they want to see, and go home believing even more strongly in the positions they held before they landed in Iraq. It takes months—perhaps even years—to gain the depth and perspective on Iraq necessary to develop a reasonably objective and balanced understanding of events there. Neither O'Hanlon and Pollack nor conservative scholars like Fred Kagan, the intellectual architect of the current surge, spend nearly enough time in Iraq to understand its shifting, uncertain realities.

We need to start getting real information about what's going on there, not bloated tours and book reports. We need to be hearing from people who have talked to soldiers from every region, and the Iraqi officials, and the Iraqi military, and the Iraqi civilians (the one group that gets overlooked the most).

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