Monthly Archives: February 2006

What’s In A Name

Here are a list of murderers with the middle name "Wayne".  An asterisk means they are dead.

Timothy Wayne Adams (Texas)
Shannon Wayne Agofsky (Texas)
Thomas Wayne Akers (North Carolina)
Stephen Wayne Anderson (California)*
Joshua Wayne Andrews (Virginia)
David Wayne Arisman (California)
Timothy Wayne Barnett (Alabama)
Gerald Wayne Bivins (Indiana)
Scott Wayne Blystone (Pennsylvania)
Elvis Wayne Botley (California)
Steven Wayne Bowman (South Carolina)
Ricky Wayne Brown (Florida)
Michael Wayne Brown (Oklahoma)
Dennis Wayne Bryant (Virginia)
Edward Wayne Bryant (Oklahoma)
Estell Wayne Buck (Ohio)
Bradley Wayne Cagle (Texas)
Seth Wayne Campbell (Texas)
Darren Wayne Campbell (Oregon)
Mark Wayne Campmire (Connecticut)
Michael Wayne Carter (Indiana)
Rodger Wayne Chastain (California)*
Ronald Wayne Clark, Jr. (Florida)
Douglas Wayne Clark (Texas)
Darryl Wayne Claughton (Alberta)
Kevin Wayne Coffey (Texas)
Michael Wayne Cole (North Carolina)
Joseph Wayne Cook (North Carolina)
Billy Wayne Cope (South Carolina)
Alvin Wayne Crane (Texas)*
David Wayne Crews (Tennessee)
Donald Wayne Darling II (Alabama)
Christopher Wayne Davis (Louisiana)
Gary Wayne Davis (Kentucky)
Jerry Wayne Dean (Kentucky)
Aryan Wayne Duntley (California)
John Wayne Duvall (Oklahoma)*
Dennis Wayne Eaton (Virginia)*
Dale Wayne Eaton (Colorado)
Michael Wayne Eggers (Alabama)
Gary Wayne Etheridge (Texas)
Michael Wayne Farmer (Maryland)
Ellis Wayne Felker (Georgia)*
Matthew Wayne Ferman (Ohio)
Michael Wayne Fisher (Pennsylvania)
Terry Wayne Freeman (Illinois)
Percy Wayne Froman (Alabama)
Ronald Wayne Frye (North Carolina)*
Morris Wayne Givens (Alabama)
Richard Wayne Godwin (Oregon)
Arthur Wayne Goodman, Jr. (Texas)
Richard Wayne Gorrie (New Zealand)
Jeffrey Wayne Gorton (Michigan)
Keith Wayne Graham (California)
Coleman Wayne Gray (Virginia)*
Charles Wayne Green (Arkansas)
Christopher Wayne Gregory (Texas)
Kenneth Wayne Gregory (Florida)
Ralph Wayne Grimes (Kentucky)
Anthony Wayne Grimm (Illinois)
Randall Wayne Hafdahl (Texas)*
Conan Wayne Hale (Oregon)
Kenneth Wayne Hall Sr. (South Carolina)
Michael Wayne Hall (Texas)
Steven Wayne Hall (Alabama)
Jerald Wayne Harjo (Oklahoma)*
Robert Wayne Harris (Texas)
Jerald Wayne Harvel II (Oklahoma)
Mark Wayne Hauseur (California)
Carl Wayne Heath (Maine)
Brandon Wayne Hedrick (Virginia)
Michael Wayne Henry (Texas)
Rodney Wayne Henry (Kansas)
Donald Wayne Holt (Maryland)
Bryant Wayne Howard (Oregon)
Kenneth Wayne Jackson (Texas)
Allen Wayne Jenecka (Texas)*
Mark Wayne Jennings (Virginia)
Robert Wayne Jiles (New York)
Jason Wayne Johnson (Texas)
Terry Wayne Johnson (Florida)
Timothy Wayne Johnson (North Carolina)
Mark Wayne Jones (Ohio)
Bruce Wayne Koenig (Maryland)
Derrick Wayne Kualapai, Sr. (California)
Dudley Wayne Kyzer (Alabama)
Monty Wayne Lamb (Texas)
Robert Wayne Lambert (Oklahoma)
Jonathan Wayne Larrabee (South Dakota)
Jeffrey Wayne Leaf (Oklahoma)
Christopher Wayne Lippard (North Carolina)
Kenny Wayne Lockwood (Texas)*
Mark Wayne Lomax (Texas)
Shelly Wayne Martin (Maryland)
Donald Wayne Martin (Texas)*
Steven Wayne McBride (Minnesota)
George Wayne McBroom (Arizona)
David Wayne McCall (Texas)
Rocky Wayne McGowan (Kentucky)
Robert Wayne McMillion (Florida)
Jason Wayne McVean (Colorado)
David Wayne Mears (Michigan)
Wesley Wayne Miller (Texas)
Jimmy Wayne Miller (Texas)
John Wayne Moore, Jr. (Missouri)
John Wayne Moses (North Carolina)
Jack Wayne Napier (Kentucky)
Danny Wayne Owens (Alabama)
Bryan Wayne Padd (Arizona)
David Wayne Pallister (England)
Jeffrey Wayne Paschall (Utah)
Michael Wayne Perry (Tennessee)
Jason Wayne Petershagen (Texas)
Curtis Wayne Pope (Texas)
Donald Wayne Rainey (Mexico)
Randy Wayne Richards (Canada)
Barry Wayne Riley (British Columbia)
Robert Wayne Rotramel (Oklahoma)
David Wayne Satterfield (Texas)
Christopher Wayne Scarber (Kentucky)
Michael Wayne Sears (Virginia)
Kenith Wayne Sherrill (Washington)
Dallas Wayne Shults (Tennessee)
Mark Wayne Silvers (South Carolina)
David Wayne Smith (Virginia)
Daryl Wayne Smith (West Virginia)
Richard Wayne Smith (Texas)*
Richard Wayne Snell (Arkansas)*
Richard Wayne Spicknall (Alabama)
Randall Wayne Stevens (Illinois)
John Wayne Stockdall (Missouri)
Michael Wayne Summers (Missouri)
Gary Wayne Sutton (Tennessee)
Bobby Wayne Swisher (Virginia)*
Michael Wayne Thompson (Indiana)
Andrew Wayne Toler (Texas)
Robert Wayne Vickers (Arizona)*
Billy Wayne Waldrop (Alabama)*
Anthony Wayne Walker (Ohio)
Jerry Wayne Walker (Kentucky)
Jessie Wayne Walker (North Carolina)
Chadwick Wayne Wallace (Illinois)
Daniel Wayne Warfield (Virginia)
John Wayne Warrener (Colorado)
Alexander Wayne Watson Jr. (Maryland)
Louis Wayne Watters, Jr. (Texas)
Coy Wayne Wesbrook (Texas)
Larry Wayne White (Texas)*
Michael Wayne Williams (Virginia)
Richard Wayne Willoughby (Maryland)
Kenneth Wayne Woodfin (Virginia)
Bobby Wayne Woods (Texas)
Darrell Wayne Wright (Texas)
Jerry Wayne Wright (Tennessee)
William Wayne Wright (Texas)

[Source]

Idol Update

KellieI had to mostly agree with the judges on the ten remaining women.  A lot of bad song choices, and some lackluster performances overall.

Lisa Tucker and Paris Bennett had a slightly off-week, but they still are my favorites. 

I (like everyone else) was charmed by North Carolina’s Kellie Pickler — pictured right — who, in retrospect, I sold short last week.  It was clearly her night to shine.  I think her nerves will, in the end, be her undoing, but I think (I hope) she’ll be around a while. 

Mandisa clearly has some pipes, but she just doesn’t do anything for me performance-wise.   The same for Katharine McPhee.  Something’s not quite reaching me with either one.

And Ayla Brown is by far the most interesting.  The judges — especially Simon — pegged her exactly right.  Not a natural, but if she wins, it’s because she works hard and is successful at everything she does.  And if Idol doesn’t pan out for her, she should run for political office.  Or enter the Olympics.  Or something.  There’s nothing she can’t do.

Tinkerbell Is Dying

… but Bush is still clapping as hard as he can:

Bush told ABC News he had spoken to leaders of all Iraqi sects after last week’s bombing of a major Shi’ite mosque and "I heard loud and clear that they understand that they’re going to choose unification, and we’re going to help them do so."

AP:

A series of suicide attacks, car bombs and mortar barrages rocked Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 66 people and wounding scores as Iraq teetered on the brink of sectarian civil war.

Like Running Through Molassas

The journalists over at the conservative Moonie-owned Washington Times have come really late to the party, informing its readers today that the Bush Administration lacked a comprehensive plan for rebuilding Iraq.

In future editions, the Washington Times will "break" such news stories like "August 2001 PDB Warned Bush Of Possible Bin Laden Strike On U.S." and — dare we say it? — "WMD Not Found In Iraq".

Nothing ever gets by these guys.

Eventually.

Where Did You Get YOUR Degree?

Can I just rant for a second?

Polls like this drive me nuts.  Here’s are the questions asked of respondents by Survey USA:

"Based on what you know about the government wiretapping of certain phone calls …Is it clear that President Bush obeyed the law?  … Is it clear that President Bush broke the law? Is it not clear? … Or, are you unfamiliar with the matter?"

Look, jerks.  This is irrelevant.  How can people opine whether Bush "broke the law" if they don’t know what the law is?

I went to law school.  And I can tell you this without fear of contradiction: the law is not what people think it is.  The law is what the law is.

What’s next?  Are we going to start diagnosing patients based on public opinion?

Dumb Lawsuit Of The Week

Nine female fans of American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken are suing Aiken’s record company.  The cause of action?  They were supposedly duped by the record company’s advertising and promotions into thinking that Clay was straight, when he is in reality, well, not . . . apparently.

The angry ladies go on to state, "This is tantamount to a manufacturer concealing information about a defective product. Therefore these actions were both unfair and deceptive to consumers."

A spokeswoman for the group says, "As consumers, we feel ripped off. It is obvious now that the private Clay is very different from the manufactured packaged public Clay that was marketed to us."

Okay.  Where to begin?

(1)  "Clay"?  Are you ladies on first name basis with him?

(2)  You ladies need to get your gay-dar fixed.

(3)  What exactly did the record company do to promote Aiken’s ersatz heterosexuality?  What should they have done instead?  Have CD covers with Aiken in chaps?

(4)  How exactly were you ladies injured?  It’s not like you ever stood a chance scoring with Aiken anyway, even if he was straight.  And buying his records didn’t increase your chances either.  So what makes his products "defective"?

(5)  Good luck trying to prove in court that Aiken is gay.

Next week: My grandmother sues the estate of Liberace on the grounds that she was deceived into thinking he was a macho stud.

Other Poll News

A first-ever survey of U.S. troops on the ground fighting a war overseas has revealed surprising findings, not the least of which is that 72% of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year.

Gadflyer Paul Waldman comments:

Man, our troops really don’t support our troops. How can our troops be expected to be out there fighting for freedom when they’re being undermined by our troops? Our troops really owe it to our troops to support our troops.

Further, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows that more than one in four (29%) thought the U.S. should pull its troops immediately.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, also showed that another 22% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next six months. One in every five troops – 21% – said troops should be out between six and 12 months. Nearly a quarter – 23% – said they should stay "as long as they are needed."

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. Nearly nine of every 10 – 85% – said the U.S. mission is "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks," while 77% said they believe the main or a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq."

Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there. Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.

Just 24% said that "establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

Impeach

Taking a cue from Wisconsin Democrats, the Dems in the NC Senate have backed a resolution urging the state’s representatives in Washington to support efforts to impeach Bush, Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  Okay.

Yup, It’s Civil War

Some conservatives latched on to heartening news in the past few days that the violence we saw last week in Iraq following the Golden Dome bombing has subsided.  The daytime curfew, no doubt, did quelch some violence, but now that the curfew has been lifted, the violence continues once again.

Furthermore, we are now discovering that the prior spate of violence was three times more deadly than originally reported, with civilian casualties as high as 1300.

Blame Game

Glenn Greenwald’s thesis here is pretty straightforward. 

First, Glenn notes that conservative Bill Kristol pointed the finger at the U.S. military, as an explanation of the Iraqi debacle.  Kristol got the blame game started, and now that it’s in full swing, Glenn plays it himself.

Glenn then turns to blogger Jeff Goldstein, who "shared this blame-shifting gem with us yesterday":

One of the important points made in this excerpt (the entire piece is available to subscribers only) is that a goodly portion of our success or failure in Iraq has ultimately to do with how we react in terms of either lending our support or leveling our criticisms against the campaign.

And this is (and has been) a crucial component of the war—one that many on the anti-war side are loathe to admit: that their constant naysaying, though it is well within their right to voice, has objectively hurt the war effort, particularly when the criticism incorporates carefully-crafted falsehoods many of the war’s critics know for a fact to be objectively untrue.

From my perspective, there comes a time when, having registered disagreement with the war, the war’s critics (and here I’m not talking about critics of individual strategical or tactical initiatives, but rather those who have been against the effort from the start) simply wait and—if things fail—rush to brag of their prescience and perspicuity. But in the meantime, actively working to undermine the effort by presenting our enemies with a rabidly partisan divided front (one of their chief aims, remember)—whether it be through suggestions that we are in Iraq “illegally”, or that the President “lied” to take us to war, or seemingly hoping, on a daily basis, that the whole thing devolve into a civil war—matters. And not just rhetorically.

Greenwald mockingly responds:

One can bet the mortgage that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this over the next few months – between now and, say, oh, November or so. Those who insisted on this war, who started it, who prosecuted it, who controlled every single facet of its operation – they have no blame at all for the failure of this war. Nope. They were right all along about everything. It all would have worked had war critics just kept their mouths shut. The ones who are to blame are the ones who never believed in this war, who control no aspect of the government, who were unable to influence even a single aspect of the war, who were shunned, mocked and ridiculed, and who have been out of power since the war began. They are the ones to blame. They caused this war to fail.

Glenn is absolutely right.  How can the failure of the Iraqi effort be blamed on those who are NOT in power, and who control NO branch of government?  Read it all.

Bush Ratings At An All-Time Low

That’s the headline screaming from CBS, who now have Bush at 34%.

(And Cheney’s at 18%.  That’s simply mind-blowing.  Why so high?)

UPDATE:  A conservative "pollster-type" writes to the Corner and takes aim at the poll’s methodology.  He peaks in silliness when he writes this:

Now, I’ll tell you right now, what "Americans" or "adults nationwide" think, doesn’t matter one iota in politics, or the polling world.   Ultimately, anyone who thinks CBS is guilty of bias can find more evidence in this poll, which is exceedingly dirty.

That’s right.  The poll is biased because it asks what "Americans" and "adults nationwide" think.  And when it comes to politics, who cares what "Americans" think?

Cat In Germany Has Bird Flu

This menace is getting closer and closer every week it seems:

Sylvestr BERLIN – The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in a cat in northern Germany, the first time the virus has been identified in the country in an animal other than a bird, a national lab said Tuesday.

The cat was found on the northern island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain have been found, the Friedrich Loeffler institute said.

Enigma Message Decyphered

In WWII, the Germans used the Enigma coding machine to send messages back and forth.  The Enigma code, which you can read about here, was so good that even after the Allies obtained an Enigma machine, it still was difficult — if not impossible — to crack certain messages.

The M4 Project is a shared computing project.  Shared computing is an interesting research tool where volunteers (like you and me) essentially donate our PC resources, allowing our computers to run programs in the background to accomplish some goal.  In effect, it’s like one massive computer engaging in one massive task. 

The M4 Project is designed to crack some still-uncracked German messages created with Enigma.

Last week, they succeeded in cracking one.

The cyphertext:

nczwvusxpnyminhzxmqxsfwxwlkjahshnmcoccakuqpmkcsmhkseinjusblkiosxckubhmllx
csjusrrdvkohulxwccbgvliyxeoahxrhkkfvdrewezlxobafgyujqukgrtvukameurbveksuh
hvoyhabcjwmaklfklmyfvnrizrvvrtkofdanjmolbgffleoprgtflvrhowopbekvwmuqfmpwp
armfhagkxiibg

The decrypted (and formatted text):

Von Looks:

Funktelegramm 1132/19 Inhalt:

Bei Angriff unter Wasser gedrueckt, Wasserbomben. Letzter Gegnerstandort
08:30 Uhr, Marqu AJ 9863, 220 Grad, 8 Seemeilen, stosse nach. 14 Millibar
faellt, NNO 4, Sicht 10.

Translated to English:

From Looks:

Radio signal 1132/19 contents:

Forced to submerge during attack, depth charges. Last enemy location
08:30h, Marqu AJ 9863, 220 degrees, 8 nautical miles, (I am) following
(the enemy). (Barometer) falls (by) 14 Millibar, NNO 4, visibility 10.

Who Does Port Security?

Fred Barnes writes:

This isn’t true. Security would remain in the hands of the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs Service. And the personnel operating the ports would be the same. Only the company owning the terminals would change.

I’ve come to accept this as true, which is why I’m not terribly up in arms about the Dubai Ports World deal.

But Matt Yglesius gives one pause to think:

This a widespread notion, but is it true? If you’ve ever been to a port it doesn’t seem to be crawling with Coast Guard personnel, they’re out in the harbor somewhere. There are some Customs folks about and sometimes a special port police departments, but as with any other sizeable business in America the ports I’ve seen appear to employ a lot of security guards to do security. Consider a bank. The FBI, I believe, is responsible for catching bank robbers. The Secret Service handles counterfeiting. If I point a gun at a bank teller, grab some cash, then run out onto the street, the local police will chase me. Law enforcement professionals, in other words, are in charge of enforcing the laws against robbing banks. But there’s an important sense in which (duh) banks are responsible for bank security. They have cameras and guards and locks and procedures and all the rest.

Transparent Grid has further thoughts.

Backward Evolution

This is freaky-deaky:

QuadrupedsAn editor of a noted scientific journal says he has discovered a genetic defect that seems to set back the clock on human evolution by more than a million years.

The researcher, Uner Tan of Cukurova University Medical School in Adana, Turkey, has posted an online video clip of an affected woman walking on all fours, her face blurred.

The idea that evolution can run backward isn’t new; some scientists say there have been confirmed cases of it in animals. But it’s also a controversial subject, and considered hard to prove in any given case.

Tan, at any rate, argued that this could be a case of it, so the mutation—known to run in one Turkish family—might offer scientists an unprecedented glimpse into human origins.

“This syndrome interestingly exhibits prehuman features” and represents “possible backward evolution,” he wrote in a paper describing the condition. As such, it “can be considered a live model for human evolution.”

The paper appears in the March issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience, where Tan sits on the editorial board. He also named the condition after himself: Unertan syndrome.

The mutation could shed light on the “transition from quadrupedality to bipedality”—from four-legged to two-legged walking, he wrote. Possibly more important, he added, it may illuminate the evolution of the mind.

“The children exhibiting this syndrome originated from a family having 19 children,” he wrote in another recent paper, in the journal Neuroquantology. Five of these, aged 14 to 32 years, “walked on two palms and two feet, with extended legs… They could stand up, but only for a short time, with flexed knees and heads.”

“The patients had a rather primitive language… they spoke to each other using their own language, using only a few hundred words” which the parents could partly understand, Tan wrote.

“They were mentally retarded; they could not count from one to ten. They were not aware of time and space. For instance, they did not know where they live (which country, which village, which city). They were unaware of year, season, day, and time. Otherwise, they had quite strong legs and arms.”

“The sitting posture was rather similar to an ape,” Tan added. “They could not hold their heads upright; the heads were flexed forward with their skulls. They could not raise their heads to look forward. This head posture with flexed skull was rather similar to the head posture of our closest relatives, like chimpanzees.”

Interestingly enough, many living organism carry the genetic code of their by-gone ancestors.  It is relatively simple, for example, to genetically modify chickens to that they grow teeth like their dinosaur ancestors.

No word yet on how the "intelligent design" people hope to explain this phenomenon.

Government Secrets For Sale At Amazon.com

321201The government’s program to reclassify (or de-un-classify) documents, as discussed here and elsewhere, is leading to absurd results.

For example, if you go to the National Archives, you can no longer find a copy of the 1958 Department of Defense "Emergency Plans Book," an early cold war description of response planning for a nuclear attack on the United States.

But you can purchase it on Amazon.com, as part of this book.

What’s going on here and why is this silliness happening?  Slate offers an answer:

With very few exceptions, we are not talking here about secrets that have anything to do with "national security" as anyone might reasonably define the term. In many cases, we are talking about documents that were publicly released—and have since been widely disseminated—after careful review by high-ranking military officers and security personnel. It is also worth noting that much of this reclassification is being conducted by junior officers, or in many cases private contractors who know nothing about the historical context of these documents and nothing about whether the contents are sensitive or innocuous. One military historian told me that some of these junior contractors have been instructed simply to reclassify anything bearing the words "atomic" or "restricted data," regardless of what else the documents might or might not contain.

Yeah. It’s Not Like We’re Going To Be Hit With Hurricanes Or Something…

Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush Administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.” Following a recent Pentagon budget proposal to cut 20,000 Guard members, “all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard.”

“Stand Your Ground” and Bernhard Goetz

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the spread of "Stand Your Ground" laws throughout the United States.  To date, Florida is the only one to enact such a law, but 21 other states are thinking about it.

Through statute or common law, most states allow people to use deadly force when intruders enter your home.  "Stand Your Ground" laws take it one step further — they allow people to defend themselves with deadly force even in public places when they perceive a life-threatening situation for themselves or others, and they would not be held accountable in criminal or civil court even if bystanders are injured. 

InnocentbystanderWelcome to the Wild West.

Back in the early 1990’s, I worked on People of The State of New York v. Goetz.  I was a law clerk — one of a small handful of people working for the defense.  For those of you too young to remember, Bernhard Goetz was riding the #2 downtown train in Manhattan on December 22, 1984, when four young black men approached him and asked for five dollars.  Sensing them as a menacing and threatening presence (and no doubt recalling an earlier time that he was mugged), Bernie pulled out a .38 Smith & Wesson and shot them.  One of them, Daryl Cabey, is paralyzed.

The case sparked a nationwide controversy about vigilantism and self-defense.  To this day, people disagree on whether the shooting was justified.  At the end of the day, Goetz was found guilty for illegal possession of a firearm, but was acquitted on all charges related to the shooting.  In a subsequent civil trial by Cabey (I was not involved with that), a jury found Goetz guilty of recklessness and awarded Cabey $43 million. Goetz subsequently filed bankruptcy.

The "Stand Your Ground" law would make Goetz’s actions entirely legal.

And that’s the problem.

One of the sticky wickets of the criminal trial was the Goetz confession (given, ironically, to police in my hometown of Concord, NH, where Goetz fled).  Goetz told police that he fired all five shots.  Then after surveying the scene, Goetz saw Cabey moving on the bench and later confessed to approaching Cabey and saying, "You don’t look too bad, here’s another", and then attempting to shoot Cabey again in the stomach (with an empty gun).

This confession was used by prosecutors to show that Goetz was not merely reacting in self-defense.  He was, they argued, acting with intent to harm (after all, he had already shot all four guys, so he was out of danger).  We (the defense) argued that Goetz was in a state of heightened fear, and was working on "auto-pilot", and wasn’t cognizant of his motivations.

This is the danger of the "Stand Your Ground" law.  It takes law and order out of the hands of the legal authorities and gives it to each individual, some of whom may be unreasonable in their paranoia, some of whom may be pumped up with adrenaline, some of whom may become irrational when faced with a potentially deadly situation.  It was fortunate that the other two people on Goetz’s subway car that night were not it, but will that always be the case?

"Stand Your Ground" is a law laced with machismo, but it is simply a recipe for disaster.  It’s only matter of time before innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire between fearful gun-toting would-be victims and their assailants.  Who will protect them?

Slap On The Wrist

In a story related to the one below (in which the U.S. government pays Halliburton’s overcharges), we learn how our government is abdicating responsibility for making mines safe.

USA Today reports how the fines assessed on Sago Mine (the West Virginia mine which collapsed last month, killing 12) were minimal.  Not the number of violations — there were plenty of those.  But for each violation, it was assumed that the safety of only one miner was jeopardized, thereby minimizing the fine:

• On Aug. 16, 2005, an inspector found a main escape path "obstructed by concrete blocks." On Nov. 8, 2005, an escapeway was "not being maintained in a safe condition to assure passage of anyone." Sago got six citations for blocking escapeways miners use to flee a fire or explosion. Each citation said one miner was endangered. The mine paid $60 fines for two violations. The amounts of the four other fines are being decided.

• On Aug. 16, 2005, an inspector found "chemical smoke" being blown toward areas where two mining teams were working. A team typically has eight to 10 miners. The citation said one miner was endangered. A fine is being determined.

• Sago was cited for 22 violations from July 2004 to December 2005 for "accumulation of combustible materials" — coal dust and coal chunks that can spread fires and explosions. All 22 violations said one miner was endangered. MSHA fined the mine a total of $1,768 for 17 violations and is deciding fines for the five others.

"If you have coal dust in the air, that becomes part of the explosion," says Robert Ferriter, director of mine safety training at the Colorado School of Mines. "That would certainly affect more than one person. That would affect everybody in the area."

Halliburton Overcharges; U.S. Pays Anyway

It kind of makes you wonder what these people are thinking.

Halliburton had a contract with the U.S. Army to deliver fuel and repair oil in Iraq.  (It actually was one of many no-bid contracts that Hallilburton has with the government with respect to Iraq).

The contact was for $2.4 billion, but Halliburton overcharged Uncles Same by $236 million.  Obviously, since our government is run by responsible fiscal conservatives, the Bush Administration refused to pay for the overcharge of $236 million, right?  Right?

Citing Army officials, the [New York] Times said the military had decided to pay Halliburton engineering and construction unit Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) all but $10 million of the costs which Pentagon auditors had identified as potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation.

Unbelieveable.  So far, the folks at Porkbusters are silent.

Another Conservative Admits The Truth

This time, it’s none other than Bill Buckley:

One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven’t proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The number of Koolaid drinkers is decreasing rapidly.

RELATED:  George Will with George Stephanapoulos this morning:

STEPHANOPOULOS: What does civil war look like?

WILL: This. This is a civil war.

This Is Old News…

100545349_5b1d39bc5f_1…to most of us, but Flickr now has images of the notes of Department of Defense staffer Stephen Cambone, taken on September 11. 2001.

The notes (11 pages of them) include Donald Rumsfeld’s 2:40 PM instructions to General Myers to find the "[b]est info fast… judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]" (as discussed on p. 334-335 of the 9/11 Commission Report).

Clearly, Rumsfeld knew that "UBL" was the culprit for 9/11, but as early as 2:40 pm on 9/11/01, he was thinking strategicially about whether the facts were "good enough" to hit Hussein.  Cambone’s notes also include the line "Hard to get a good case".

You can click the image on the right to get a "full-size" look at one of the pages of notes.

I Love This

Via Shakespeare’s Sister, we learn of an Ohio State Senator who has discovered the power of satire as a legislative tool:

Lawmaker’s proposal: Bar Republicans from adopting

If an Ohio lawmaker’s proposal becomes state law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship…

Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious…

To further lampoon Hood’s bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims.

Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence" to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children, Hagan said.

I’m sure many on the right will see this as "unhinged" and "ludicrous" without understanding the Senator’s whole point is that discrimination based on bogus scientific evidence really is ludicrous.

The interesting thing is that there is evidence showing that divorce rates are 27% higher in red states than in blue states.  Couple that with the conventional wisdom among conservatives that kids raised in "broken homes" and/or non-nuclear families are more screwed up than June and Ward Cleaver’s kids, and Hagan may actually have a "scientific" leg to stand on.

Good Health News

I think this is an underreported story, so I want to highlight it:

SAN FRANCISCO – In a surprising discovery, researchers said Friday they had found a virus in some prostate cancer patients, a finding that opens new research avenues in the most common major cancer among men in the United States.

The virus, closely related to one previously seen only in mice, was found in cancerous prostates removed from men with a certain genetic defect. The researchers, with the University of California, San Francisco and the Cleveland Clinic, warn that they have not discovered any links between the virus and prostate cancer, but they were nonetheless excited about prospects for future research.

"It is a very exciting discovery," said Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic, who presented the findings at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. "There is now a suggestion that prostate cancer could be caused by an infectious disease."

Sex Offender Map

Go here, type in your address, and get a map of the registered sex offenders in your neighborhood.

Sexoffender

While it is good to know that I am within a stone’s throw of a couple of perverts, I have misgivings about the sex offender registry in general.  Mostly this: any chance there could be mistakes made?  Remember, the people who compile this information are no more skilled than your typical DMV worker.

Friday iPod Random Ten

Another installment in which my iPod embarrasses me and my musical taste:

  1. Real – William Shatner [Oh, dear.  Off to a very very bad start]
  2. Brandenberg Concerto No. 3 – Swingle Sisters [Ah, classical.  I’ve redeemed myself]
  3. Rosanna – Toto [Back on shaky ground, but I can still keep my head up]
  4. The Flower Duet – Delibes Lakme [A bit fay, but it’s classical, so my taste can’t be impugned]
  5. Introduccion from Suite Punta Del Este – Astor Piazzola [A tango, better known as "The Theme from ’12 Monkeys’" – now I’m just being a snobby musical elitist]
  6. Seasons of Love – Rent (Broadway) [Okay.  A little hackneyed, but not too embarrassing]
  7. Mama Used To Say – Junior [Now we’re talkin’!!!]
  8. No One Is To Blame – Howard Jones [This is a little embarrassing, but I can deal…]
  9. Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon [Nothing embarrassing about this at all]
  10. Video Killed The Radio Star – Buggles [Slightly embarrassing, but there are worse things on my iPod]

Another Visit With Kaye Grogan

GroganWe had hoped that Kaye would write this week about the Dubai deal, but it seems that she’s back to her old themes.  That’s okay.  We’re flexible.

You know what?

What?

I wouldn’t cry one single tear if every abortion clinic in the world was shut down.

Imagine our surprise.

But I can tell you that I have probably cried at least 47 million tears representing each precious baby that has been killed since 1973.

We wanted to figure out how many gallons of tears this would come out to, but we couldn’t find out how many fluid ounces are contained in the average teardrop.  We can tell you that, to meet this quota, Kaye must have cried roughly 4,000 tears per day — every day — since 1973.  That’s a lot of tears.  She must be a lot of fun around the house.

While abortionists and abortion clinics are getting filthy rich off of the blood of innocent babies, I wonder how many of them have ever pondered what the consequences will be for them later on down the road?

Are you asking us a question?

Well, they could care less right now as they ride around in their Bentley or BMW, smoking fat cigars, wearing expensive designer clothes, and living in their high dollar mansions.

Kaye hates capitalism, even when she makes things up in her mind.

Isn’t this a heck of a way to build up Social Security retirement funds? I’ll say!

You build up Social Security retirement funds by smoking cigars??  We didn’t know that!!!

Bravo to South Dakota for being the first state to branch out in an effort to stop all abortions in their state. At least this is a step in the right direction.

Right.  Stopping all abortions is just the first step.  Next comes the extermination camps for gays.

Boy, I bet the abortion-rights groups, and the ACLU are seething. I just had a vision of them jumping up and down beating walls!

No, Kaye.  That "vision" was your kids acting out.  They want you to put down the liquor flask, step away from the computer, and feed them.

There is only one abortion clinic (which is one clinic too many) — in South Dakota operated by Planned Parenthood. And naturally with good reason they are worried about being shut down.  I would love to see every abortion clinic in America have to put going out of business signs on their door. Hallelujah! …what a day of rejoicing that will be!

Except that most "abortion clinics" provide other gynecological services to women.  But you wouldn’t know about those things, would you, Kaye.

I don’t believe the full significance of the legislature passed by the State Senate in South Dakota has sunk in yet.

Well, you’ve got cigar-smoking abortion advocates banging the walls of their mansions.  It sure sounds like the significance of the statute has sunk in.

This could inadvertently open the doors wide open…

…as opposed to closing the doors wide open…

This could inadvertently open the doors wide open to give the more conservative U.S. Supreme Court leeway to readdress the Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortions in all 50 states — especially since Norma McCorvey, who was one of the key players has seen the light, and is now an opponent speaking out against abortion.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, I’m sure Ms. McCorvey’s "seeing the light" will have had little bearing on their decision.

See — miracles can still happen.

Thank you, Al Michaels.

Of course, this doesn’t alter the fact that Ms. McCorvey is still partly responsible for the biggest travesty of justice ever to hit the United States, but she can help to redeem herself (somewhat) by continuing to work vigorously to help overturn Roe V. Wade.

Yeah.  Ms. McCorvey was the "Roe" of Roe v. Wade.  Back in the 1970’s she was the only one getting an abortion, and if she hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in today.

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone in congress (who claims to be pro-life) come out and publicly reveal how much tax money is generated off of the murder of unborn babies annually, but it has to be astronomical.

Abortionists — doing their part to decrease the deficit.

Can’t you just hear some of the arguments now in an effort to keep abortion legal? Of course, we’ve heard them all before — except of course the part about how it makes many people wealthy. You won’t find a pro-abortion person discussing the monetary revenue from the human slaughter houses…

Right, that’s your (bogus) argument, Kaye.

So I guess Kaye is mad that the pro-choice community doesn’t make the argument that abortion is revenue-enhancing and lowers the deficit.

…you’ll just hear the same old familiar sob stories.

And not even 47 million tears’ worth, I bet.

Example: "if abortion is criminalized there won’t be enough prisons to hold those involved with illegal abortions. And how can you put a woman in jail for making the decision to end her pregnancy?" On . . . and on.

Will Kaye enlighten us with a response to these questions?

Let’s look at some of the feeble excuses many women use to have abortions.

Guess not.

They already have enough children. They are getting ready to go to college. It’s not the right time. They are just not ready to be a parent. Their husband or boyfriend will be upset with them. A baby will crimp their lifestyle. Do any of these excuses justify murder?

No, but they justify abortion.

Not in my book!

The only book that matters.

I don’t see any justification for murdering a little innocent baby. Not even to save the life of the mother. What makes her life any more valuable than the life of her child?

That’s your choice.  Isn’t it great where we live in a country where you are free to make those choices?

One of my friends told me about a heart wrenching story about how when she was in labor, life-threatening complications entered the picture, and the doctor told her husband how grave the situation was. Her husband told the doctor to do everything needed to save his wife’s life. Well, miraculously both mother and child pulled through. And her only child (a son) has been the apple of her eye from the moment he was laid in her arms.

"Um . . . I forget what my point was with this story, but it has something to do with mothers having babies, so it must be relevant."

It would be heartbreaking to hear of any mother dying during childbirth, but isn’t dying part of living?

Yes.  It’s the very very last part.

What really makes me irate is when I hear the pro-abortion folks using the same old ridiculous worn out line: "if you are against abortion . . . why don’t you take care of all of the unwanted babies?" Now that makes about as much sense as expecting all those who find drinking a menace to society — to buy up all of the alcoholic beverages, so irresponsible people won’t drink and drive.

Besides, Kaye’s liquor cabinet is adequately stocked as it is, thank you very much.

I hope people are not going to be disappointed with the newest members on the U.S. Supreme Court. We’ve been duped before on the assumption some of the judges were conservative when in fact, they were liberals in the truest sense of the word.

It shouldn’t be too much longer before we are privileged to see which side of the abortion issue U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, and colleague Justice Alito embrace.

But in the meantime: everybody should be responsible for their own actions. The blame game has run its course.

Sadly, Kaye, when you criminalize something, you remove the incentive for people being individually responsible.  You remove choice.

But I get your drift.  Excuse me now.  My abortionist friend is going to take me out for a spin in her Bentley.

Serial Killer In North Carolina?

Via Blue NC, this news report:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Law enforcement officers in North Carolina and South Carolina will investigate the possibility that three women who were killed in the past nine years were victims of a serial killer.

Union County North Carolina Sheriff Eddie Cathey said at a news conference Thursday that officers are investigating all possibilities, including that the deaths aren’t connected.

A dismembered and decapitated body found February 9th in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, was identified as that of 46-year-old Sharon Tucker Stone of Monroe, North Carolina. She had been shot twice in the head.

Cathey says she was last seen around January First and no one reported her missing.

Investigators will look into any connections between that death and the deaths of two other women, whose bodies were found in Union County, North Carolina, in 2004 and in 1997.

The Results Are In

Conservative blogger (and Penn U. cultural studies professor) Michael Berube constantly rails against supposed "liberal bias" on college campuses.  Here’s his post from yesterday, for example.

Conservative online mag Frontpagemag.com picks up Michael Berube’s meme, and asks readers to vote for the "worst professor in America".  Berube has encouraged his blog readers to vote.

Here are the top five results of the "Worst Professor in America" to date:

School Professor Votes
Michael Berube Penn State University 150693
John Bellamy Foster University of Oregon, Eugene 77951
Eric Foner Columbia University 26070
Timothy Shortell Brooklyn College 11329
Jerry Lembcke Holy Cross College 11123

Perhaps Michael should just shut up.

(By the way, Howard Zinn currently has 660 votes and Noam Chomsky has 669 — table scrapings compared to Berube).

Good Iraqi News

Lately, I’ve been reporting about the escalation of the Iraqi civil war, due to the Golden Dome mosque bombing earlier this week.

Leave it to Karl Rove to spin the bombing into a good thing:

SNOW: So you expect this [the bombing of the mosque] is going to strengthen the opposition to the terrorists?

ROVE: I think it could. I think it’s likely to.

Yay!  An escalation in tribal violence means we’re more likely to succeed.

UPDATE:  Media Matters has more, including these funny screenshots from Fox News:

Cavuto200602242

Cavuto200602241

Idol Update

OdonoghueWell, I have to say that I agree with America.  They booted four Idol contestants that really were not very good.

Bobby Bennett, while a pleasant fellow, really was out of his league.  And I have a confession — I like Barry Manilow and "Copacabana".  But Bennett really made it painful.

The saddest departure of the four (for me) was Becky O’Donohue (pictured at the left), but only because she is so beautiful.  And she’s a twin

But, sadly, looks does not equal talent.

The four North Carolinians are still in it, but only one — Chris Daughtry — has a decent shot, in my humble opinion.

For Sudoku Fans

Puzzlemaster Will Shortz gives an interview explaining the lure of Sudoku.

What makes it so addictive?
It’s the appeal of the empty squares to be filled in, which is a quality it shares with crosswords, and it has very simple rules. You can learn it in 10 seconds, and yet the logic needed to solve Sudoku is challenging. It’s a perfect amount of time to spend on a puzzle, anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour. And there’s usually a rush at the very end, filling in the last squares, which gives you a great feeling. You immediately want to do another.

Okay.  Maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Our Solar System

This is pretty cool.  This webpage shows a scaled version of our solar system, where 1 pixel equals about 1000 kilometers.  You start off at the sun, and you scroll to the right until you hit Mercury.  Then Venus.  Then Earth, and so on.  Not only are the distances between the planets to scale, but the planet sizes are to scale.

Be prepared for A LOT of scrolling.  This is a looooong webpage.

Blank Stares

The Nation:

[S]enior administration officials from the Departments of Defence, State, Treasury and Homeland Security trooped up to Capitol Hill to brief the Senate Armed Services Committee about the plan to let Dubai Ports World, a firm owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in charge of ports up and down the east coast.

Noting a particularly concerning line in the 9-11 Commission — "The United Arab Emirates was becoming both a valued counterterrorismally of the United States and a persistent counterterrorism problem" — U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, asked the administration representatives: "Just raise your hand if anybody (at the witness table) talked to the 9-11 commission," said Levin.

The senator’s request was met with blank stares.

A Civil War By Any Other Name

The brass at the Pentagon "reject" the notion that a civil war is brewing.  Well, I guess the Pentagon has to say that, although ex-Pentagon officials have been signing a different story for quite a while:

“It’s just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We’ve been in a civil war for a long time,” said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon. [Newsday, 5/12/05]

So which is it?  You be the judge.  Let’s look at events over the last 24-48 hours:

  • Sistani is threatening to deploy his own militia.

  • The top Iraq Sunni political party has pulled out of negotiations for the formation of a new government in protest over sectarian violence.

  • Violence over the past 24 hours has cost 130 lives:
  • A day after a suspected al Qaeda bomb destroyed a major Shi’ite shrine, Iraq canceled all leave for the police and army and minority Sunni political leaders pulled out of U.S.-backed talks on forming a national unity government, accusing the ruling Shi’ites of fomenting dozens of attacks on Sunni mosques.

    Washington, which wants stability in Iraq to help it extract around 130,000 U.S. troops, has also called for restraint, reflecting international fears that the oil-exporting country of 27 million may be slipping closer to all-out sectarian war.

    The main Sunni religious authority made an extraordinary public criticism of the Shi’ites’ most revered clerical leader, accusing him of fuelling the violence by calling for protests […]

    Police and military sources tallied more than 130 deaths, mostly of Sunnis, around the two biggest cities Baghdad and Basra in the 24 hours since the bloodless but highly symbolic bombing of the Shi’ite Golden Mosque in Samarra. Dozens of Sunni mosques have been attacked and several burned to the ground.

    Certainly has the earmarks of a civil war, yes?  And we’re still in the crossfire.  Seven U.S. soldiers killed in the past 24 hours.

    UPDATE:  More civil war deniers over at GOP.com.  Iraq is going great, they say, because mail carriers are carrying one third the amount of mail they did before the invasion, instead of one fifth.  (GOP.com cites the New York Times as its source, but fails to tell us what NYT added — i.e., that more and more Iraqi mail carriers are getting shot at).

    Hack Gets Hacked

    Michelle Malkin posted the cartoons that offended Muslims throughout Europe, and went on Fox News to show them.

    Her site is now down.  Apparently the source of the denial-of-service hack is from Turkey.

    I’m not sure what Malkin was trying to prove by publishing the cartoons.  And while I don’t condone digitial sabotage, I have the distinct feeling that Michelle intentionally provoked this, half-seeking to generate just this response.  When all is restored with her blog, she will no doubt whine about the victim of cyberterrorism.  I, for one, will be unsympathetic, just as I would be for a kid who pokes a stick at a rabid dog and complains about being bit.

    Digitial “Black Like Me”

    Erika_closeupthumbErika Thereian is blonde and sports a California tan.  When playing online in Second Life, her avatar is a Pamela Anderson look-alike.

    Erika_in_midnight_skinthumbBut for a lark, she recently remodelled her skin so that she looked more like Serena Williams, and spent three months in the digital world that way:

    Some of her friends shied away, she believes. Then there were the "guys that thought I was an easy lay, for lack of a better term. It scared me honestly, some of the assumptions made. …I lost a couple of what I thought were good friends [who] stopped IMing and chatting. They were polite to a fault when I showed up, but [it] was weird.

    Full story here.

    What? Me Worry?

    Regarding the Dubai Ports deal, Bush said this morning:

    The management of some ports, which, heretofore, has been managed by a foreign company will be managed by another company from a foreign land. And so people don’t need to worry about security. This deal wouldn’t go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America.

    Yup.  "Nothing to see here.  Daddy will take care of everything."

    This comes on the heels of the revelation that the WH negotiated a "secret deal" with the UAE company:

    Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

    The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

    In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

    While this deal does not necessarily implicate national security, it certainly looks like the White House bent over backwards to make sure that DPW was not accountable to American courts and oversight.

    But, that’s okay, says Bush.  Don’t worry.

    One of the six ports, by the way, is in New Orleans.  I wonder how many New Orleanians are reassured by Bush’s comment.

    To The Batmobile!

    0069610It looks like Osama’s days are numbered:

    In his latest adventure, Batman will dispense with his old enemies, the Riddler and the Joker, and take on Osama bin Laden instead.

    In Holy Terror, Batman!, a new graphic novel by the Batman writer Frank Miller, the Caped Crusader will take on al-Qa’eda when his home town, Gotham City, which is based on New York, is attacked by terrorists.

    "It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a piece of propaganda – Batman kicks al-Qa’eda’s ass," Mr Miller told a San Francisco comic book convention. "It just seems silly to chase around the Riddler when you’ve got al-Qa’eda out there.

    Well, it seems silly to have a fictional character going after bin Laden, but at least somebody’s on the case.

    "Superman punched out Hitler. So did Captain America. That’s one of the things they’re there for. It’s an explosion from my gut reaction of what’s happening now, a reminder to people who seem to have forgotten who we’re up against."

    I think most people know who we’re up against.  The problem is, the Bush Administration forgot.  Then again, since they probably read comic books, maybe this will serve as a reminder.

    The Real Port Problem

    It’s not who is conducting the stevedoring operations, and not really whether they are an American company, a Great British company, or a Dubai company.

    The real problem from a national security standpoint is, and always has been, this:

    Only 4 percent or 5 percent of those containers are inspected. There is virtually no standard for how containers are sealed, or for certifying the identities of thousands of drivers who enter and leave the ports to pick them up. If a nuclear weapon is put inside a container — the real fear here — "it will probably happen when some truck driver is paid off to take a long lunch, before he even gets near a terminal," said [Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander who is an expert on port security at the Council on Foreign Relations].

    John Kerry, by the way was all over this back in late 2003

    PORTSMOUTH — Calling the busy harbor port here a "point of opportunity" for terrorists, John F. Kerry called yesterday for significantly increasing screening of cargo and hiring of customs inspectors to improve security at the nation’s ports. After a morning boat tour of the harbor, Kerry expressed concern that US inspectors scrutinize only 4 percent of containers that are unloaded daily at the nation’s ports. He declined to give his own target percentage when asked, but said that the US should strive for 100 percent, though he acknowledged that the high cost of inspecting all containers would make it difficult. Kerry argued that President Bush has failed to make US ports more secure after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    … and throughout the 2004 campaign:

    "The measurement is not, are we safer; the measurement is, are we as safe as we ought to be. And there are a host of options that this President had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America, containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them — 95 percent come in today uninspected. That’s not good enough."

    I find it slightly amusing that Bush supporters kept calling Kerry weak on homeland security, and — even now — still are content to have only 5% of containers inspected in our ports.

    UPDATE:  The New York Times informs us:

    That port, along with the five others Dubai Ports hopes to manage, are the last line of defense to stop a weapon from entering this country. But Mr. Seymour, head of the subsidiary now running the operations, says only one of the six ports whose fate is being debated so fiercely is equipped with a working radiation-detection system that every cargo container must pass through.

    South Dakota Bans Abortion

    The law is clearly unconstitutional, and South Dakota legislators know it.  There isn’t even an exception for the health of the mother.  The only reason South Dakota passed it was to give the U.S. Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Full story here.

    I think that South Dakota is going to be disappointed in the end.  If the Roberts Court overturns Roe, it will be an admission that the law changes based on the make-up of the SCOTUS bench.  The problem is that the justices — both conservative and liberal — are more concerned about the credibility of the law (and stare decisis), rather than hot issues of the day.

    Brokeback Mountain

    So I saw it the other night.

    It was okay.  Beautifully shot.  A bit plodding at  times.  Good acting, but on the whole, pretty forgettable for me.  Too many words have been written about the whole "gay" thing, and nothing I could say could add or detract.  It doesn’t have, as rightwing homophobes suggest, a "gay agenda"; it’s just about two cowboys with a secret forbidden relationship.  As a movie, it was not a huge tearjerker, nor a huge romance — but it was a chick flick nonetheless.  Which is why I’m kind of non-plussed by it.

    But I bring it up only as a preface to this story:

    In Turkey, a pirated DVD version of the intentionally controversial movie hit the streets even before it arrived in theaters.

    The title has been translated into Turkish as the less-poetic "Faggot Cowboys."

    According to Screenhead.com, news of the DVD’s unofficial release has caused outrage in the Muslim country.

    My advice to Turks is quite simple: if you are outraged by this movie, don’t smuggle it into your country, and change its name.  I mean, it’s not like it’s being forced on you.

    By the way, for a good laugh, you should read Pat Boone’s review of "Brokeback Mountain".  Well, it’s not really a review, because Pat didn’t see it.  After all, Pat’s family has been traumatized by Hollywood westerns before.  It happened many years ago when they all went to see…

    a very popular musical film, "Paint Your Wagon." It had been a celebrated Broadway smash, terrific music, and the movie version starred Clint Eastwood, in a singing role! It was at the Cinerama Dome, a posh downtown theater in Hollywood – what could have been more ideal for a family outing?

    But as the thing rolled along, with giant production, huge cast, all the "good stuff," I realized that the story was about a struggling frontier town whose city fathers decided that the cowboys needed feminine companionship – so they’d build a whorehouse and import a lot of "ladies" to stock it! And when a big musical number centered on all the girls coming in by stagecoach and all the rugged wranglers salivating to get at them, I gathered my flock and we left.

    Yeah, Pat.  If "They Called The Wind Mariah" gets your panties in a bunch, then "Brokeback Mountain" really isn’t your cup of tea.

    But even though Pat hasn’t seen "Brokeback", he’s still traumatized by its success:

    I cringed when Clint Eastwood, the quintessential Western hero, had to give the Golden Globe for best director to Ang Lee for "Brokeback," and saw my friend Denzel Washington cringe as he announced the Golden Globe for BEST FILM went to the same sorry tale.

    Clint Eastwood is "the quintessential Western hero"?  But wasn’t he in "Paint Your Wagon", that horribly offensive movie that you and your brood stormed out of in a fit of Christian rage?

    Well, Pat’s a grown man.  I’m sure he can get over this Brokeback Mountain-mania, right?

    I’ve since been obsessed with wondering what John Wayne would say. Will his beloved "Alamo" be remade now, with a "new slant," into "Al and Mo"? Will "Shane" be modernized into "Shame, with Al and Ladd"? Will Hollywood treat us to "Catfight at the OK Corral"? "Hang ’em Limp"? "He Wore Yellow Ribbons"? "Stagecrotch"?

    I probably couldn’t repeat, or in this space print, what the Duke would have to say.

    I’m having a hard time finding Pat’s moral center here.  Not only is he fantasizing about John Wayne swearing, but since not seeing "Brokeback Mountain", Pat’s become obsessed with taking the titles of classic Westerns, and gaying them up.  Even John Waters isn’t that obsessed with homosexuality.

    I think Pat has issues.  Maybe he should move to Turkey.

    This Is, Like, Bad

    Relating to my earlier post about the bombing of the Golden Dome in Iraq, I think it is worth noting that Middle East expert Juan Cole says:

    The threat of terrorism and attacks on Americans just went way up.

    Read the whole thing.

    Or You Could Get A Girlfriend…

    157Kevin McCormick had an epiphany one day:

    One day, I had to face the facts:  I had no idea how to dress myself.  After going through old yearbooks and photographs, I came to the stunning realization that I needed serious help with my wardrobe.  So, at first I did what most people would do.  I went to others for advice.  It was good, but limited.

    So Kevin went the extra mile. 

    He created a website, called dresskevin.com, posted pictures of all of his shirts, pants, jeans, etc., and asked readers to dress him . . . daily, by simply clicking on the items. 

    Sometimes, he’s dressed more than once per day, if, say, he’s going to work and then clubbing in the evening.

    As of this writing, for example, we are asked to dress Kevin for a trip to the gym on Wednesday afternoon.  (Kevin helpfully provides the weather – it’s going to be roughly 50 degrees and partly cloudy)

    With each article of clothing, he also lists the last time he wore it ("I wore this 19 days ago"), so that readers won’t have him wearing the same thing over and over again.

    It looks like a lot of women are enjoying playing "dress-up" with Kevin, which only goes to prove . . . um . . . something.

    Pictured at the right is Kevin, with what his readers selected for him to where to work today (2/22/06).

    Prediction

    GoldendomeI think that in a few years’ time, we’ll look back on today’s Golden Dome bombing and recognize it as the spark that ignited the Iraqi Civil War (all capital letters).

    This was not some equivalent of a church bombing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  To Iraqi Shiites, this is the equivalent of bombing St. Paul’s in New York, or the National Cathedral.

    UPDATE:  This is not good

    In one ominous sign of how Shiites may react, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric and the country’s vice president hinted that local armed militias might play a bigger role in security in future, if the government can’t protect such holy shrines.

    Both Sunnis and the United States fear the rise of such militias, which Sunnis view as little more than death squads. American commanders believe they undercut U.S. efforts to create a professional Iraqi army and police force — a key step toward the eventual drawdown of U.S. forces.

    Which Begs The Question

    From AP:

    WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that the Pentagon is reviewing its practice of paying to plant stories in the Iraqi news media, withdrawing his earlier claim that it had been stopped.

    Rumsfeld told reporters he was mistaken in the earlier assertion.

    "I don’t have knowledge as to whether it’s been stopped. I do have knowledge it was put under review. I was correctly informed. And I just misstated the facts," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news briefing.

    So, when this issue was raised before, Rumsfeld had the correct information, but told it incorrectly.

    Did he "misstate the facts" intentionally or unintentionally?

    In other words, liar or idiot?

    Bob Dole – UAE Spokesman

    CNN is apparently reporting that Bob Dole has been hired by the Dubai company to lobby for the company’s interest and hopefully do some PR damage control.

    Doleviagra

    Let the jokes begin.

    We’re too busy to make up our own jokes, but we offer the following punchline:

    "Port?!?  I thought you said ‘pork’!"

    Bush Knew In Advance About Cheney Shooting

    From The Onion:

    White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat Aug. 2005 Briefing Warned, ‘Cheney Determined To Shoot Old Man In Face’

    February 20, 2006 | Issue 42•08

    WASHINGTON, DC—Government documents declassified today reveal that President Bush was briefed last summer of "a substantial risk" that Vice President Dick Cheney would shoot an elderly male in the face sometime in the next several months.

    In a Presidential Daily Briefing given to Bush in August 2005, the CIA warned that the vice president was a potent threat to the senior population at large, and in particular "possessed the capabilities and intentions to spray a senior citizen with projectiles fired from a shotgun or other weapon." A second brief identified the population at risk as those "between 70 and 80 years of age," and warned that the vice president posed the greatest threat to "seniors in close proximity to the vice president when he is armed."

    There’s more.

    Whose Government?: The Politics of “Portgate”

    Bluememe, via Glenn Greenwald, deconstructs Bush’s language:

    Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on Air Force One after returning from a speech in Colorado. He also stopped to talk before television cameras after he returned to the White House."I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

    Got that? There’s Congress on the one hand. And what Bush considers "our Government" on the other. And never the twain shall meet.

    Greenwald also points out (along with Atrios) that the GOP-dominated Congress is unabashedly hypocritical.  When it comes to the NSA wiretapping, many Republicans stand by the notion that Article II of the Constitution gives the President unitary power in the area of national security.  But many of these same Republicans are now seeking emergency legislation to block the Bush’s UAE port deal . . . in the name of national security.  Go figure.

    I’m still largely on the fence about this.  It seems clear that port maintenance is often outsourced to foreign companies, so this isn’t a biggie unless you take the xenophobic position that all Arab companies are inherently bad.  It should be noted that the UAE is within the "coalition of the willing" and has sent troops to aid us in Iraq.  Furthermore, as Kevin Drum points out, the workers will be American union members, and security matters gets handled by the people you would expect to be doing it (Coast Guard, etc.)

    On the other hand, this particular company is owned by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, a family that has met with bin Laden himself, as late as 1999.   They refuse to recognize Israel, but they recognized the Taliban. 

    Even more troubling to me is the apparent ease with which this contract was granted.  The law requires a 45-day investigation into deals of this kind, a review which apparently never took place.  Then, there are allegations of quid-pro-quos, and the undeniable argument echoed everywhere about "why American companies can’t do this".  And also, is the UAE even good at this?  (See, e.g., Washington Post – 2/17/2002: "Al Qaeda’s Road Paved With Gold — Secret Shipments Traced Through a Lax System In United Arab Emirates")

    One thing is for sure: while the deal may or may not be unsafe, the cause for concern certainly is understandable.   The Rude Pundit illustrates his concern in this crass, yet logical, way:

    Let’s say, and why not, that you’re a victim of a crime, where a guy breaks down the doors to your house, wrecks the fuck out of your living room, strangles your cockatiel, and shits on the floor. You know who did it. It’s your neighbor who hated hearing your goddamn cockatiel start chirpin’ at sunrise everyday. But the cops can’t find your neighbor. Now let’s say you hire a decorator to come in to refurbish your shat on, fucked up living room. Let’s say you discover that the decorator’s assistant is your neighbor’s cousin. Sure, you can be assured over and over that he only saw your neighbor at large family gatherings and that he doesn’t know where the fucker is, but, c’mon, you gonna feel comfortable with that dude in your house every day? Would you be wrong to fire him?

    My concern is the same as that of Publius:

    I’m more afraid of the rogue actor. My fear is that giving Dubai control of the ports will give the company access to a host of extremely valuable information about our security procedures even if that information is just basic shipping logistics (where stuff comes in, when it’s inspected, what isn’t inspected, etc.). If the company has ready access to all this information, it only takes one disgruntled employee to share information in a way that could be harmful.

    Conservative James Lileks says the same thing:

    I’m not worried that some evil emir is putting a pinky to his monocled eye, and saying Mwah! at last I have them where I want them! I’m worried about the guy who’s three steps down the management branch handing off a job to a brother who trusts some guys who have some sympathies with some guys who hang around some rather energetic fellows who attend that one mosque where the guy talks about jihad 24/7, and somehow someone gets a job somewhere that makes it easier for something to happen.

    Whether or not this is realistic concern is anybody’s guess.  But the politics of the "Portgate" "scandal" may be more important that determination of whether there actually is a bonafide scandal.  To that end, Greenwald makes another salient observation:

    [T]here is a sweet poetic justice in watching all of this unfold. Having spent the last four years squeezing enormous political benefits out of cynical fear-mongering over Arab terrorists and despicable accusations that his political opponents are aiding and abetting terrorists by opposing his foreign policies, Bush now finds himself crying victimhood over what he is depicting as these very tactics. One reaps what one sows, and all of that.

    True, but the real interesting thing is how this plays out politically.  Lileks again:

    It’s remarkably tone deaf. It’s possible that the Administration did some quiet polling, and asked the question “How much Arab control over American ports are you comfortable with,” and misinterpreted stunned silence as assent. It’s possible the Administration believed that this would be seen as outreach, an act of faith to solidify a Key Ally, and didn’t think there’d be much hubbub – but if that’s the case, it’s the best example of the Bubble Theory I’ve heard, and I’ve not heard much convincing evidence. Until now. The average American’s reaction to handing port control over to the UAE is instinctively negative, and for good reason. There are two basic reactions: We can’t do this ourselves? and We should trust them, why?

    Facing re-election challenges, the last thing that Republicans need is to be outflanked by Democrats on national security issues.  Therefore, they need to oppose Bush on this.   The UAE deal is the wedge issue that Democrats have been wanting to see for a long time.

    What, then, should be the Democrat’s move?  Should they exploit the scandal, even if (as more and more are arguing) the Dubai deal isn’t really a threat to national security?  Greenwald seems open to the question:

    If Democrats have an opportunity to inflict serious political harm on the Administration and its enablers in Congress through a scandal which may not be truly meritorious but can be a potent political weapon (and I’m not saying that’s the case for Portgate – I’m simply posing this question hypothetically), ought Democrats do what Bush followers have done for the last 5 years — namely, use whatever instruments they can to politically harm the Administration, even if there is some cynicism involved in doing so – or ought they maintain higher and more intellectually honest standards and forego political gain if it means cynically exploiting a scandal?

    As some have said, this may mean that we have to "become like Republicans" in order to defeat them.  Digby opines:

    Sometimes I get criticism from my readers for suggesting that the Democrats must play on the same playing field as the Republicans. They say, "we shouldn’t become them." But I never suggest that the Democrats should lie, cheat or play dirty as the Republicans do. I suggest that they wise up and stop pretending that Republicans are anything but ruthless adversaries and adjust accordingly. They can be beaten with smart strategies, but not unless the Democrats internalize the connection between the nice men and women they are working with on capitol hill every day with the thugs they hire to get elected. They are all cogs in the same cutthroat political machine.

    The UAE deal represents much more of a shake-up of the political landscape than a Harriet Miers  nomination.  It places both parties at crossroads.  On the whole, I think the shake-up bears well for Democrats.  There is no "win" in this for Democrats, but it seems clear that Bush can only lose, especially if he exercises his veto power and it gets overridden by the GOP-dominated Congress. 

    My sense is that Democrats will benefit from the GOP crack-up over this, and there is no need to exploit the GOP division.  Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth — just ride it.

    Bush Digs In

    Incredible.  He’s never vetoed anything in his 6 years, and now he’s threatening to veto Congress if it blocks the UAE deal, even though it has less support than Harriet Miers.

    Libertarian Glenn Reynolds:

    Either this deal is somehow a lot more important than it seems (a quid pro quo for, well, something . . . ) or Bush is an idiot. Your call.

    A bit ironic, since Congress will probably have the votes to override, thereby tarnishing Bush’s image even further.  Conservative Hugh Hewitt:

    Majority Leader Frist just told my audience that an override of a presidential veto of legislation blocking the port deal was possible. Looks like a showdown, and it isn’t one the president can win.

    Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald isn’t sure its a scandal, but is open to argument:

    Here is the source of my ambivalence. What exactly is the principle which the Administration has violated here? Are we supposed to be assuming that anything or anyone connected to the Middle East is more likely to pose a threat of terrorism than those who aren’t connected to the Middle East, and thereby avoid anything related to the Middle East when it comes to sensitive contracts? Or is the concern specific to this Middle Eastern country — that we ought to be assuming that anyone with connections to the UAE poses a greater threat of terrorism than those who don’t have such connections? Isn’t that the sort of profiling that most people have agreed is improper? These are real questions, not rhetorical ones.

    Sean-Paul Kelley at The Agonist argues that there is no meritorious profiling component to these objections:

    A number of people have pointed out that opposition to the UAE-US port management deal has a ‘racist’ tint to it. Bogus. The problem here is that we are giving a foreign company and country (it’s state-owned) control over a vital national security concern. What’s worse, is that we’re considering giving it to a country/company that has links to non-state actors. The same non-state actors that blew up the WTC, the Pentagon and the Cole.

    This is a sovereignty issue, but not in a xenophobic/Lou Dobbs/Michelle Malkin type way. It goes to the heart of our struggle with al Qaeda. The UAE still has ties to al Qaeda-not to mention that is was a focal trans-shipment point for material from the network of AQ Khan in Pakistan. P&O, to the best of my knowledge, has links to neither.

    Time Magazine also points out just why this isn’t good:

    New York Republican Congressman Peter King has insisted the administration revisit its approval of the transfer of control of U.S. ports to "a company coming out of a country where al Qaeda has such a strong presence," and which could be easily infiltrated by the terrorist network. Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey plan to hold hearings on the issue next week, and are seeking legislation banning companies controlled by foreign governments from buying U.S. port facilities. Menendez alleged that the UAE has a "serious and dubious history… as a transit point for terrorism." And in response to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff’s insistence that the administration made a rigorous check — without disclosing details — of the security implications of the deal, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said "It’s ridiculous to say you’re taking secret steps to make sure that it’s okay for a nation that has ties to 9/11 to take over part of our port operations."

    It seems that conservatives are more apeshit about this then liberals, who are focused on Bush’s hypocrisy.  Conservatives are likely to go even more apeshit when they realize that Jimmy Carter supports Bush on the UAE deal.

    To be continued, no doubt.