Monthly Archives: January 2007

Bush Administration Strongarms Scientists

This is, well, orwellian.

A new report presented to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project shows 435 instances in which the Bush administration interfered into the global warming work of government scientists over the past five years. Some other findings of the survey:

46 percent of government scientists “personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or other similar terms from a variety of communications.”

46 percent “perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work.”

38 percent “perceived or personally experienced the disappearance or unusual delay of websites, reports, or other science-based materials relating to climate.”

25 percent “perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings.”

Amanda Marcotte Joins Edwards Team

Greenwald comments:

In an obviously growing trend of political campaigns hiring bloggers, Pandagon’s Amanda Marcotte has been hired by the John Edwards presidential campaign. That is part of a larger trend whereby the blogosphere is slowly ceasing to be its own closed, separate system and is instead seeping into, even merging with, all of the more traditional political and journalistic institutions. Whether that is something to celebrate or lament (and a case can probably be made for both), it is undoubtedly happening and will continue.

Where’s my invitation?

Obama Introduced Bill For Date Certain Troop Withdrawal

Like him or not, the man has balls.  While Democrats (and some Republicans) debate the finer points of passing a non-binding resolution articulating opposition to the Bush escalation of troops in Iraq,  Senator Obama is doing what needs to be done.  He’s introduced a law which states, quite specifically, the goal of getting "all" — yes, all — U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

From his website:

Key Elements of Obama Plan

  • Stops the Escalation: Caps the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the number in Iraq on January 10, 2007. This does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq. This cap has the force of law and could not be lifted without explicit Congressional authorization.
  • De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.
  • Enforces Tough Benchmarks for Progress: These 13 benchmarks are based on President Bush’s own statements and Administration documents and include:
    • Security: Significant progress toward fulfilling security commitments, including eliminating restrictions on U.S. forces, reducing sectarian violence, reducing the size and influence of the militias, and strengthening the Iraqi Army and Police.
    • Political Accommodation: Significant progress toward reaching a political solution, including equitable sharing of oil revenues, revision of de-Baathification, provincial elections, even-handed provision of government services, and a fair process for a constitutional amendment to achieve national reconciliation.
    • Economic Progress: Requires Iraq to fulfill its commitment to spend not less than $10 billion for reconstruction, job creation, and economic development without regard for the ethnic or sectarian make-up of Iraqi regions.

    Should these benchmarks be met, the plan allows for the temporary suspension of this redeployment, subject to the agreement of Congress.

  • Congressional oversight: Requires the President to submit reports to Congress every 90 days describing and assessing the Iraqi government’s progress in meeting benchmarks and the redeployment goals.
  • Intensified Training: Intensifies training of Iraqi security forces to enable the country to take over security responsibility of the country.
  • Conditions on Economic Assistance: Conditions future economic assistance to the Government of Iraq on significant progress toward achievement of benchmarks. Allows exceptions for humanitarian, security, and job-creation assistance.
  • Regional Diplomacy: Launches a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative – that includes key nations in the region – to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people, end the civil war in Iraq, and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and regional conflict. Recommends the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Iraq to carry out this diplomacy within 60 days. Mandates that the President submit a plan to prevent the war in Iraq from becoming a wider regional conflict.

Oh, Well That Explains It…

Republican Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) on the Bush escalation plan in Iraq:

Some commentators have compared the Bush plan to a "Hail Mary" pass in football — a desperate heave deep down the field by a losing team at the end of the game. Actually, a far better analogy for the Bush plan is a draw play on third down with 20 yards to go in the first quarter. The play does have a chance of working if everything goes perfectly, but it is more likely to gain a few yards and set up a punt on the next down, after which the game can be continued under more favorable circumstances.

If I understand Lugar correctly, we’ll be "punting" soon in Iraq.  Is that what he meant to imply?

“I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose My Legs”

If you’ve never heard of body identity integrity disorder, or BIID, then this first-person article will be a mind-blower.

BIID is a psychological disorder in which the sufferer, who is usually "normal" in all other respects, does not "identify" with certain parts of his or her body.  This usually manifests itself in childhood, and carries into adulthood, when the sufferer longs for amputation.  Here’s how the article begins:

I was six when I first became aware of my desire to lose my legs. I don’t remember what started it – there was no specific trigger. Most people want to change something about themselves, and the image I have of myself has always been one without legs.

To the general public, people like me are sick and strange, and that’s where it ends. I think it is a question of fearing the unknown. I have something called body identity integrity disorder (BIID), where sufferers want to remove one or more healthy limbs. Few people who haven’t experienced it themselves can understand what I am going through. It is not a sexual thing, it is certainly not a fetish, and it is nothing to do with appearances. I simply cannot relate to myself with two legs: it isn’t the "me" I want to be. I have long known that if I want to get on with my life I need to remove both legs. I have been trapped in the wrong body all this time and over the years I came to hate my physical self.

More from wikipedia:

Symptoms of BIID sufferers are often keenly felt. The sufferer feels incomplete with four limbs, but is confident that they will feel better about this post-amputation. The sufferer knows exactly what part of which limb should be amputated to relieve their suffering. This is commonly an above-the-knee amputation. The sufferer has intense feelings of jealousy toward amputees. They often pretend, both in private and in public, that they are an amputee. The sufferer recognizes the above symptoms as being strange and unnatural. They feel alone in having these thoughts, and don’t believe anyone could ever understand their urges. They may try to injure themselves to require the amputation of that limb. They generally are ashamed of their thoughts and try to hide them from others, including therapists and health care professionals.

The women in the above article eventually married, and over time, revealed her desires to her husband.  It took years for him to understand.  Eventually, after some attempts to remove one of her legs on her own, she was able to find a surgeon who was willing to amputate her left leg, just above the knee:

I already feel more complete now that one leg is off. I have always been an outgoing kind of person, but my confidence is much higher now as my body is more like I want it to be. For the first time I feel able to move on and lead the life I have always wanted. In many ways I am starting again. I know it sounds odd, but it is incredibly exciting. Running the house, doing the gardening, going shopping – these are all things I manage easily by myself, even though now I might use a wheelchair or crutches. My husband has been supportive. He thinks I look a little strange missing a leg but says that, after all he has seen me go through, he accepts it. For now, he is just happy that I am happy, and I have promised to leave the remaining leg on for as long as possible; I know that losing that will be really difficult for him.

She writes optimistically about the day her other leg will come off.

Because of the taboos associated with this psychological phenomenon, it is unknown how many people actually suffer from BIID.  And nobody is sure what causes it.

There are, of course, associations formed to deal with this problem, and a variety of therapies.  Surprisingly, one of those therapies is quite simple, albeit very controversial: giving the patient what he/she wants by surgically removing the offending body part.

Was 9/11 Really That Bad?

About time someone said it.

Without diminishing what happened that day, historian David Bell takes a look at 9/11, and makes a convincing argument that — as tragic as 9/11 was — it has resulted in a massive overreaction.  Key sentences (emphasis mine):

The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler’s implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War).

But it is no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, or to the men and women of our armed forces, to say that, by the standards of past wars, the war against terrorism has so far inflicted a very small human cost on the United States. As an instance of mass murder, the attacks were unspeakable, but they still pale in comparison with any number of military assaults on civilian targets of the recent past, from Hiroshima on down.

Oldest Living Person For A Few Days

Last week, the world’s oldest living person, 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, passed away.

That meant that the oldest living person in the world was an American — Emma Faust Tillman of Connecticut.  Ms. Tillman was the son of a slave, and was born in 1892 in North Carolina.

Last night, after being the "world’s oldest living person" for four days, Ms. Tillman died.

Oops

UNC messed up:

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (AP) — An admissions department e-mail sent from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill congratulated 2,700 prospective freshmen this week on their acceptance to the school.

The problem is that none of the applicants have been admitted. They won’t start finding out until March whether they’ve made the cut.

"We deeply regret this disappointment, which we know is compounded by the stress and anxiety that students experience as a result of the admissions process," Stephen Farmer, the school’s director of undergraduate admissions, said in a news release.

Farmer said two employees accidentally sent the e-mail Tuesday. It began, "Congratulations again on your admission to the University."

The e-mail was intended to request midyear grades from high school students who already have been accepted to the school.

Admissions officials have sent follow-up e-mails apologizing for the error. They have also e-mailed admissions counselors around the nation to explain the mistake.

About 20,000 people apply each year to UNC Chapel Hill, and the school enrolls about 3,800 new freshmen.

Marie Jon Apostrophe on “Democratic Defeatism”

Marie Joh Apostrophe has some thoughts about the State Of The Union and Iraq:

After hearing the State of the Union address, many people came away with very positive feelings. The president gave an excellent speech. Under the president’s watch, the State of the Union is well.

Marie knows that the State of the Union is well because Bush said it was well.

Bush laid out a new paradigm strategy that will work if the people of the United States get behind him.

In other news, Tinkerbell will live, but only if you clap hard enough, according to leading medical experts.

Wars are won and lost right here at home.

Really?  Then shouldn’t our soldiers be here?

Either put up or shut up.

Well, sadly Marie, the Army Reserves raised its age limit to 42, and I am still too old.  You, on the other hand, look like you could join up.  So why aren’t you?

Democrats should remain silent if they have no new strategy for the war on terror.

The Baker-Hamilton Report is a sound strategy.  Can I talk now?

However, they have encouraged their constituents to protest at anti-war rallies. They are sending a message to the terrorists that America is weak.

This is the most insane drivel, and I get tired of hearing it. 

First of all, 75% of America — and that includes Republicans and moderates — are opposed to the escalation.  So who is this "they"?  It’s not just Democrats, Marie.

Secondly, the notion that opposition to the escalation emboldens the enemy is simply absurd.  As Senator Brownback (Republican from Kansas) said: "I don’t see this enemy as needing any more emboldening or getting it from any resolution. They’re emboldened now."

What hypocrisy. In 2004, then-Minority Leader Pelosi called for increasing the number of troops. This proves once again that the Democrats only want what Bush doesn’t. They have nothing but unwarranted and contemptuous disdain for the president.

Yes, Marie.  Many people thought back then that more troops were needed.  Pelosi was among many who recommended that 300,000 troops be sent.  Back then, they could have done something.  Now, however, the horse is out of the barn, and 300,000 troops won’t be able to untangle the mess.  (Bush’s escalation, by the way, only increases the troop level to about 160,000).

It is interesting to observe that as soon as President Bush presents a comprehensive plan to win, we hear a counterpunch from Senator Bill Webb.

It’s "interesting" that there is a rebuttal to the State of The Union speech from the opposition party?  Geez, where have you been, Marie?  There’s a rebuttal every year, regardless of who is President.

Webb is an outspoken critic of the war. He has a son serving in Iraq and had recently quarreled with Bush at a White House reception.

He also is a decorated war hero.  So obviously, his views on this matter are second place to yours, Marie.

Americans should loathe the polarizing politics. It contributes to killing more of our troops and the Iraqi people.

Guns don’t kill people; polarizing politics kill people.

Terrorism spikes every time a Democrat speaks out to blasts the president.

It does?  Where’s the evidence of that?

Are you getting the picture?

No, can you draw me one?

Senator Webb’s rebuttal to the State of the Union address was one more opportunity to voice words of defeatism concerning Iraq. Some political pundits claim that the senator’s remarks were brilliant. In actuality, here was another Democrat that wants to hang a newly-formed democracy out to dry. The senator’s own words are damning. Quote: "I wanted to slug the Commander-In-Chief."

Marie, perhaps you need to understand that in a democracy, criticism of the President is, you know, okay.  You can’t advocate democracy on the one hand, and undying loyalty to the Leader in the other hand.  Talk about hypocrisy.

Months ago, during a private meeting on the Hill, President Bush asked Sen. Webb how his son, Jim, Jr., was doing in Iraq. The senator reacted to the president’s caring words by becoming nasty and testy. He wanted to punch President Bush in the face. The unwarranted mean-spiritedness is way too prevailing within the DNC.

Actually, what happened was this:  Bush asked Webb how his son was doing in Iraq.  Webb said that he really wanted to see his son back home.  Bush then said — and this is the quote — "I didn’t ask that; I asked how he’s doing".  Now, who was being "testy" in that exchange?

Democrats need a time out. They are dividing our country. We need to work together.

Oh, but we are, Marie.  Republicans and Democrats in Congress are throwing up all kinds of resolutions in opposition to the Bush escalation plan.

Jimmy Webb, Jr., is in the Marine Corps, honorably serving his country in Iraq. President Bush asked Jim Webb, Sr. how his son was doing. The then senator-elect said he would like to see his son get home safely. Bush smiled and in a pleasant voice replied. "I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing." Then all hell broke lose as Jim Webb became enraged with anger.

You probably should have put that paragraph a little earlier.  What’s your source, Marie, for the statement that "all hell broke lose [sic]".  Making shit up again?  The WaPo story on this incident only said that Webb responded "coldly" with: "That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President."

In any event, I don’t think terrorism increased as a result of that exchange.  I really really don’t.

Surely, President Bush would like to see all of our troops come home safely, but there is a war to be won and a peace to prevail.

Whatever that means.

Our country is reaching a boiling point of hostility against a man that should be given a pat on the back for protecting our country during a time of war.

Marie, Marie, Marie.  For the last time, the people who are fighting each other in Iraq — the Sunnis and Shia — are not, and never were, about to attack us.

Democrats have unleashed a dissident tone that could be construed as treasonous. Their words and despicable actions are no longer acceptable.

And what about the majority of Republicans against the war?

More than ever, it is time to stop the partisan politicking and support President Bush, our troops, and the Iraqi government.

Dear Marie, the opposition to Bush’s war is BI-partisan.  Get with the program.

I Don’t Think I Can Take Much More Of “Grease: You’re The One That I Want”

They’re all talented — but so Donny-and-Marie-Osmond bland, just like the musical itself.  I think even the biggest "Grease" fans won’t come to the Broadway show, because by the time this series is over, everyone will be sick of "Grease" (if they’re not already).

And hello?  Are we just going to watch these people sing?  Is there going to be any acting in this here Broadway show?

And as if to put an exclamation point on what’s wrong with Broadway these days, the "special guest judge" next week is none other than Andrew Lloyd Weasel.  Ugh.

You want Broadway?  You want talent? 

How about (Spring Awakening)….

Or how about (Wicked)…

Or how about (Assassins)…

Or how about (The Full Monty)…

Or how about (Urinetown)…

Or how about (Tick Tick Boom)…

Or how about (Bat Boy)…

Or how about (Sweeney Todd)…

Or how about (Into The Woods)….

Or how about (Dreamgirls — and by the way, Ms. Hudson, you’re good — but this is how it’s done)…

Or this (Spamalot)… or this (The Last Ten Five Years)…

Problems With The Surge

A disturbing video showing U.S soldiers watching as their Iraqi Army colleagues (they’re Shiites) brutally beat Sunni civilians to near-death, as U.S. soldiers hoop and holler in support at the "Rodney King" treatment the civilians receive.

Is this how to win hearts and minds?

UPDATE:  Carpetbagger shoots down five myths often spouted by war supporters:

The conservative case in support of the president’s escalation policy in Iraq appears to be premised on five central myths.

The first is the notion that opposition to escalation “undermines” the troops. This, on its face, is absurd — Bush is overstretching the military and sending thousands more soldiers into the middle of a civil war and critics are undermining the troops? The second is the notion that critics don’t have a plan of their own, when, in fact, we do. The third is the idea that Bush’s “new” plan deserves a chance to work, as if we haven’t already tried escalation before. The fourth is characterizing this as a left-right debate, despite the fact that there is ample opposition to the president’s policy in the GOP.

And number five is the idea that congressional opposition to the Bush strategy somehow “emboldens” the enemy. As the theory goes, our enemies are watching Washington, and if they see policy makers in public disagreement, they’ll continue to disrupt efforts to stabilize Iraq. It’s the favorite argument of the White House, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman.

And it’s wrong.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman on Sunday dismissed criticism a resolution opposing a troop buildup in Iraq would embolden the enemy and estimated perhaps only 20 senators believe President Bush “is headed in the right direction.”

“It’s not the American people or the U.S. Congress who are emboldening the enemy,” said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and White House hopeful in 2008. “It’s the failed policy of this president — going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely.”

Thank you, Sen. Biden. Critics of the war aren’t emboldening the enemy; supporters of the war are.

To his credit, even Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), responding to the same argument from Joe Lieberman,
noted the obvious fact that Bush and his backers seem to be missing.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who announced on Friday he will support Sen. John Warner’s (R-VA) anti-escalation resolution, pointed out the obvious: “I don’t see this enemy as needing any more emboldening or getting it from any resolution. They’re emboldened now.”

The “Eldersphere”

Don’t think that blogging is just for the young.  Donald Crowlis, age 93, is the writer of an increasingly popular blog, Don To Earth.  He’s thought to be the world’s oldest blogger.

Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise wonders just how big the eldersphere is.

The Newest Hero For “Heroes”?

ThescreamHow about a boy whose scream can kill chickens?

Hundreds of chickens have been found dead in east China — and a court has ruled that the cause of death was the screaming of a four-year-old boy who in turn had been scared by a barking dog, state media reported on Wednesday.

The bizarre sequence events began when the boy arrived at a village home in the eastern province of Jiangsu in the summer with his father who was delivering bottles of gas, the Nanjing Morning Post reported.

A villager was quoted as saying the little boy bent over the henhouse window, screaming for a long time, after being scared by the dog.

"One neighbor told police that he had heard the boy’s crying that afternoon and another villager confirmed the boy screaming by the henhouse window," the newspaper said.

A court ruled the boy’s screaming was "the only unexpected abnormal sound" and that 443 chickens trampled each other to death in fear.

Free The Chattanooga Six

Look, I know it’s disturbing when teenagers talk about "killing" other people.  We all remember Columbine.

But sometimes, it’s just a joke.

If some girls talk about "killing" their teachers and classmates, that’s one thing.  But when they add Oprah, Tom Cruise, and the Energizer Bunny (which, last time I checked, was an inanimate/fictional non-human corporate mascot) to their list, then it’s obvious that they’re just talking crap:

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (AP) — Six girls at a rural high school were charged with homicide conspiracy after their principal found a list of 300 names and officials discovered online postings suggesting they kill people, authorities said Thursday.

School officials said the list, discovered in a classroom trash can, mostly named students and faculty members but also included Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and the Energizer Bunny.

Sequatchie County High School Principal Tommy Layne said that he initially considered it a joke, but that authorities then found the ninth-graders’ online MySpace pages and postings that included the word "kill."

"In general terms, it was like, ‘Let’s kill these people,’ " Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth said. He declined to provide the specific wording on the posting, which has been removed.

"I am not saying we thwarted a shooting incident or an act of violence," Huth said. "On the other hand, had this gone unchecked, down the road it could have grown into something a whole lot more serious than a list of names."

Nice going, Officer Huth.  You just lost the case against these kids.  As any first-year law student knows, "conspiracy" means more than some imaginary event "down the road" which "could have grown into something a whole lot more serious".  There has to be active planning of an actual crime, not mere pie-in-the-sky "wouldn’t it be cool if…" talk.

Let these girls go.  They may have "issues" and may — I stress may — need some counselling, but they’re not homicide conspirators.

His Fate Is Still Unlearned

CharliecardDear Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority:

It’s come to my attention that you have now implemented "Charlie Cards" and "Charlie Tickets" to commuters in order to ease and speed up the whole fare-buying thing.  This, I think, is good, because those tokens were a pain in the ass.

One thing though.

Your mascot, Charlie, no doubt comes from the folk song "Charlie On The MTA", made popular by The Kingston Trio, and well-known to many Bostonians.

Listen, guys.  You do realize that the song was about "Charlie" who was stuck on the subway system because he lacked money for exit fares, yes?  I mean, the song was critical of the MBTA and its boneheaded fare policies.

So are you sure you want to invoke Charlie as your new mascot?

Just wondering.

A Former "T" Rider

Google Bomb Defused

369539947_e3f05b50e5_oFor the past couple of years, if you searched the phrase "miserable failure" on Google, the top result would be the White House biography of George Bush.

This was the result of mass prank, known as Google bombing.  It took advantage of Google’s algorithm.

You see, a couple of years ago, there was a campaign to Google bomb the President.  Thousands of bloggers (myself included), embedded this — <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html" >Miserable Failure</a> — within their webpage or blog.  When Google’s auto-search robots went out into the internets and scanned pages, they talllied thousands of links to the Bush bio associated with the phrase "miserable failure".  And that’s how he became the number one result for a Google search of "miserable failure".

But if you run that search today, you won’t find that as the number one result.  Google finally cleaned that up, as well as other Google bombs.  More here.

Coffee And Doughnuts Combined

Well, why not?

That cup of coffee just not getting it done anymore? How about a Buzz Donut or a Buzzed Bagel? That’s what Doctor Robert Bohannon, a Durham, North Carolina, molecular scientist, has come up with. Bohannon says he’s developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods, without the bitter taste of caffeine. Each piece of pastry is the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.

While the product is not on the market yet, Bohannon has approached some heavyweight companies, including Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks about carrying it.

Shorter Townhall Columnists

Shorter Mary Graber: "Prompted by the New York Times story that 51% of women in America are unmarried, I stayed up all night drinking black russions and talking to my cat about the Playboy Mansion."

Shorter Burt Prelutsky:  "Dogs, Jews, and Christians — good.  Pigs, Muslims, and Nancy Pelosi — bad.  Any questions?"

Shorter Rich Galen: "Republicans worry too much about punctuation marks."

Shorter Diana West: "I guess I oppose Bush’s strategy is Iraq, which is far better than Democrats who definitely oppose Bush’s strategy in Iraq."

Shorter Kathleen Parker:  "You know why John Kerry would be a terrible presidential candidate for 2008?  Because he doesn’t even have the ambition to runfor President!"

Shorter Jonah Goldberg: "Tehnically, the Korean War isn’t over since we still have troops there, and nobody’s complaining.  So why can’t Iraq be just the same?"

Shorter Mona Charon: "Psssst!  If everybody would just agree to agree with Bush, then the terrorists all over the world will throw down their weapons and go home — isn’t that obvious?!?"

Shorter Mike Adams:  "True story.  There’s a black person out there who actually don’t mind being nice to unrepetent racist segregationists.  Why can’t all black people change?"

Shorter David Strom: "I don’t believe in global warming, because there’s a lot of money to be made as an environmental scientist predicting global warming.  I’m not quite sure how yet, but I’m working on it."

Shorter Debra Saunders: "If Bush wants to be seen as a better President, he should do a better job as President.   Which is why he’s right not to do anything different than he’s always done."

Damage My Insula

So this guy has a stroke, right?

And part of his brain is damaged.  A little-known and little-understood part called the "insula".

After the stroke, he discovers that he simply "forgot" that he was a two-pack-a-day smoker.  No cravings.  No urges.  No withdrawal.  Not even a conscience attempt to quit.  He just stopped.

Could this be a clue to stop addiction (whether it be smoking or something else)?

Scientists are sitting up and taking notice.

Blogging Miss America

Oh, my — that sounds dirty.

Anyway, my friend Heather is blogging her experiences at the Miss America pageant here and here (same thing, but with pictures).  No, she’s not competing (a glorious oversight on somebody’s part), but she’s an afficianado of that whole scene.  She’s so into it, it’s contageous.

Novak: Democrats Are “Rude”

Novak is very cantankerous and grumpy today.  More so than usual, that is.

When President Bush called for a bipartisan "special advisory council" of congressional leaders on the war against terrorism in his State of the Union address, he had in his pocket a rude rejection from Democratic leaders. Thank you very much, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but no thank you.

Three days earlier, Reid and Pelosi wrote a letter to the president turning down his offer (which was contained in his Jan. 10 speech on Iraq) to establish a council consisting of Democratic chairmen and ranking Republican members of the relevant committees. "We believe that Congress already has bipartisan structures in place," they said, adding: "We look forward to working with you within existing structures."

That could be the most overt snub of a presidential overture since Abraham Lincoln was told that Gen. George B. McClellan had retired for the night and could not see him.

There’s a huge distinction, Bob.  General McClellan was a subordinate to his Commander-in-Chief, President Lincoln.  Despite what you may think, Democrats in Congress are not subordinate to President Bush.

Courtesy aside, it shows that the self-confident Democratic leadership is uninterested in being cut into potentially disastrous outcomes in Iraq. It wants to function as a coordinate branch of government, not as friendly colleagues in the spirit of bipartisanship.

Quel horror!!  You mean Congress wants to function as a coordinate branch of government?!?  What is the world coming to?!?  What would Emily Post say??

It seems that Novak’s problem is really with Article I of the Constitution, not congressional Democrats.

Look, I understand that there is a desire out there for Congress to work together on the nation’s problems, and if you want to call that "bipartisanship", then I’m all for it.  But just when did Bush become a convert to bipartisanship?   Only when reality caught up to him, and the American people turned away from him?

For the past four years, opposition to the war (primarily from Democrats) was met by the Bush Administration with not-so-subtle charges of treason, lack of patriotism, naivete, and so on.   Novak has dutifully played his part in levelling those charges against war opposers. 

And now, having insulted and ignored the advice and input of Democrats for all these years, Novak wonders why we don’t accept Bush’s invitation to the prom?  That we’re being rude for not wanting to get into Bush’s limosine, now that his dance card is running low on names?

Sorry, Bob.  Like Webb said the other day, we’ll be happy to show Bush the way.  But to date, he’s shown uncanny resolve in being wrong about Iraq, despite having bipartisan advice from experts (i.e., Baker-Hamilton).  And he shows no sign of changing.  So until then, he — and his hapless followers — are going to have to go it alone.

Set Phasers On Stun

Kirk_phaser_2Well, they’re not quite like what we see on Star Trek, but "ray guns" are here.

Right now, firing rays requires a dish antenna mounted on the back of a small humvee.  Although the rays can reach a distance of 500 yards (17 times the range of most bullets), they don’t actually kill anything.  In fact, all they do is project an invisible beam "intense enough to make participants think their clothes were about to ignite" and, presumably, drop their weapons, or disperse, or whatever.  It can penetrate clothes.

Oh, look.  I found a diagram:

Heat_raygun416

The name for this ray gun is rather lame: The Active Denial System.  Dumb.  It sounds like it’s something that comes from Batman’s utility belt.

The military will start getting this stuff in 2010.  More here.

The Pied Piper Problem

Anonymous Liberal has a coined a great term to describe the great problem facing the Republican Party:

For last decade and half, the Republican party has pursued an intentional strategy of insulating its base from reality. The goal has been to create a permanent block of loyal Republican voters who will dutifully internalize whatever the party’s leaders tell them.

To accomplish this, the Republican political machine has engaged in a relentless and systematic assault on all of the institutions in our society that have traditionally served as arbiters of truth. They have attacked the press, the judiciary, academia, and even science itself. And they’ve been remarkably successful; we’ve now reached a point where much of the Republican base simply refuses to believe anything that doesn’t come from a trusted partisan outlet.

Any unpleasant news reports can be dismissed as the product of liberal media bias. Any inconvenient studies can be explained away as the work of godless academic elitists. And any adverse court rulings can be chalked up to liberal judicial activism. In short, if it didn’t come from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh or the President himself, it’s automatically suspect.

I’m sure the architects of this strategy thought it was ingenious. It would create a loyal and reliable base of voters who were, for all intents and purposes, impervious to reality and who would simply accept whatever the party’s leaders told them.

This strategy has an inherent vulnerability, though. Call it the Pied Piper problem. If you train a bunch of people to follow the Leader reflexively, they’re likely to follow him right out of town (or right off a cliff).

This is the problem now confronting all sane members of the Republican party. For years now, they’ve been telling the American people–among other things–that everything in Iraq is going fine, that the liberal media is just refusing to report the good news, and that any criticism of the war or the President’s war policy gives aid and comfort to the enemy. The vast majority of the American people have long since tuned this message out, but not the Republican base. President Bush may only have a 28% approval rating, but those 28% represent the true-believers. And those are the voters who are going to decide who the next Republican presidential nominee will be.

That puts Republicans in a terrible bind. If they acknowledge reality, which they’ll need to do in order to have any hope of winning independent and moderate voters, they may well be branded as traitors by their base, who still firmly support the Leader and his Glorious War.

As an example of this, A.L. points to "The Pledge" — an online petition by conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt.  The Pledge, which you can "sign" here, states:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

This is clearly hardball, and it exmplifies the bind that the GOP finds itself.  Most of the country, including many conservatives and moderates, actually support the anti-surge non-binding resolution.  The pledge represents a throwing down of the gauntlet by the far far right Bush loyalists — it says "If you don’t support the President now, you will not have get money from us for your re-election".

Of course, I think this will only serve to excommunicate the far far right from the political landscape altogether, which is why I welcome it:

At this point, Bush is the Pied Piper and he’s leading the Republican faithful far away from where the saner voices in the party are comfortable being (and from where the rest of the electorate is). The problem with insulating your base from reality is that there’s no easy way to bring them back down to earth. You risk creating an unbridgeable chasm between your base and the rest of the electorate. If the Old Guard in the Republican party can’t figure out a way to bring the Pied Piper back to Hamelin, they’re going to remain in the political wilderness for a long time to come.

As of this morning, less than 6500 people have signed the "pledge".

Gay Music

Well, praise the LORD for Lovegodsway.org.  Not only do they give us great music videos like "The Bible Says (God Hates A Fag)" by Donnie Davies and Evening Service (click on it — it’s very [unintentionally] funny in its badness), but they also provide a handy-dandy list of "Bands To Watch Out For" — that is, music that will turn your kids into gays.

I’ll reprint the list (since it’s long) below the fold…

BONUS WINGNUT LINK:  Did you know that God Hates Goths, too?

SOTU Roundup

I have little to say on this.  I saw a recording of the Bush speech, and heard the Democratic response by Senator Webb (the latter of which impressed me).  I’ve also read/heard a number of commentaries on Bush’s speech, and — at least in the blogosphere — they are entirely predictable.  Those few still in Bush’s corner thought it was "home run"; everybody else thought it was meager at best.  [Interesting sidenote: Apparently, a lot of people who hoped to liveblog the speech were thwarted last night due to a tremendous crash at Blogger].

My feelings (obviously) fall to the latter, articulated well by the New York Times (emphases mine)

The White House spin ahead of George W. Bush’s seventh State of the Union address was that the president would make a bipartisan call to revive his domestic agenda with “bold and innovative concepts.” The problem with that was obvious last night — in six years, Mr. Bush has shown no interest in bipartisanship, and his domestic agenda was set years ago, with huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans and crippling debt for the country.

Combined with the mounting cost of the war in Iraq, that makes boldness and innovation impossible unless Mr. Bush truly changes course. And he gave no hint of that last night. Instead, he offered up a tepid menu of ideas that would change little: a health insurance notion that would make only a tiny dent in a huge problem. More promises about cutting oil consumption with barely a word about global warming. And the same lip service about immigration reform on which he has failed to deliver.

At times, Mr. Bush sounded almost as if he’d gotten the message of the 2006 elections. “Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on — as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done,” he said.

But we’ve heard that from Mr. Bush before. In early 2001, he promised to bring Americans together and instead embarked on his irresponsible tax cuts, a divisive right-wing social agenda and a neo-conservative foreign policy that tore up international treaties and alienated even America’s closest allies. In the wake of 9/11, Mr. Bush had a second chance to rally the nation — and the world — only to squander it on a pointless, catastrophic war in Iraq. Mr. Bush promised bipartisanship after his re-election in 2004, and again after Hurricane Katrina. Always, he failed to deliver. He did not even mention New Orleans last night.

When Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, Mr. Bush’s only real interest was in making their majority permanent; consultation meant telling the Democrats what he had decided.

Neither broken promises nor failed policies changed Mr. Bush’s mind. So the nation has been saddled with tax cuts that have turned a budget surplus into a big deficit, education reform that has been badly managed and underfinanced, far-right judges with scant qualifications, the dismantling of regulations in order to benefit corporations at the expense of workers, and a triumph of ideology over science in policy making on the environment and medical research. All along, Americans’ civil liberties and the constitutional balance have been trampled by a president determined to assert ever more power.

Now that the Democrats have taken Congress, Mr. Bush is acting as if he’d had the door to compromise open all along and the Democrats had refused to walk through it.

Last night, Mr. Bush also acted as if he were really doing something to help the 47 million people in this country who don’t have health insurance. What he offered, by the White House’s own estimate, would take a few million off that scandalously high number and shift the burden to the states. Mr. Bush’s plan would put a new tax on Americans who were lucky enough to still have good health-care coverage through their employers. Some large portion of those are middle class and represented by the labor unions that Mr. Bush and the Republicans are dedicated to destroying.

Mr. Bush’s comments on Iraq added nothing to his failed policies. He did, at last, propose a permanent increase in the size of the Army and Marines that would repair some of the damage he has done to those forces. But that would take years, and it would do nothing to halt Iraq’s spiral. Mr. Bush failed to explain how he would pay for a larger force, which would almost certainly require cutting budget-busting weapons programs. That would mean going up against the arms industry and its lobbyists — something Mr. Bush has never been willing to do.

Mr. Bush almost certainly didn’t intend it, but his speech did reinforce one vital political fact — that it’s not just up to him anymore. There was a big change last night: the audience. Instead of solid Republican majorities marching in lock step with the White House, Congress is controlled by Democrats. It will be their task to give leadership to a nation that desperately wants change and expects its leaders to work together to deliver it. The Democrats’ challenge will be to form real coalitions with willing Republicans. If they do, Mr. Bush may even be forced, finally, to compromise.

Say what you will about the flaws and shortcomings of the two-party system. After six years of the Bush presidency, at least we know it’s a lot better than the one-party system.

By the way, it is clear that Bush’s words were empty.  He talked about "bipartisanship", but delivered his speech with a subtle and petty but noticeable jab at Democrats.  There is a certain amount of "bipartisanship" in Congress these days — a lot of Republicans aren’t Bush fans either.

Whatever, Dick

"And since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president, I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had now for over three years."

– Vice President Dick Cheney, Meet The Press, September 14, 2003

Halliburtongraph_2

– graph released today by Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Bombshells In The Libby Case

Stg_hz_cheney_958aI haven’t followed the case of Scooter Libby (an extension of the whole Valerie Plame leak thing) lately.  But I have to heap praise on the folks at FDL, who are liveblogging the trial from the courtroom.  If they gave Pulitzers for blogging, these people would be the recipients.

Today is opening statements, and the trial, which I dismissed long ago as boring, is turning out to be a bit of a bombshell.  MSNBC (on the heels of FDL) is reporting the prosecutor’s statement that Dick Cheney was neck deep in the whole CIA leak, and that Libby destroyed evidence linking Cheney to that leak.

FDL has been noting that the trial is likely to paint a picture of a dysfunctional White House — one in which there is (and has been) a severe rift between Bush and his "brain" (Karl Rove), and the office of VP Cheney (who apparently wields real power).

I kind of like the circularity of this thing:

(1) In his SOTU Address in 2003, Bush used the now infamous "16 words" about how Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa. 

(2) In July that year, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson wrote a column about those "16 words", informing the public that he was sent to Africa to find out the truth of this claim …and found that there was no truth behind the Iran-Africa uranium claim …and Bush knew it.  This resulted in several anti-Wilson columns from conservative pundits, some of whom noted that Wilson’s wife (Valerie Plame) was a CIA agent

(3)  Outting a covert CIA agent is a crime, so a federal investigation was conducted as to the "leaker" of this information to administration-friendly reporters. 

(4)  Evidence points to Cheney’s inner circle, and although the leaker is never identified, Scooter Libby is indicted for lying to federal prosecutors.

(5)  Four years later, another SOTU address.  And the Libby trial starts on the same day.

Although the prosecutor is setting his sites on Cheney and his circle, it looks like the strategy for Libby’s defense team is intending to throw Karl Rove under the bus.  Interesting inside politics. 

Academy Award Nominees Announced

AcademyawardstatuteMy predicted winners are in red:

1. Best Picture: "Babel," "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen."

Comments:  The surprise here is, of course, the failure of "Dreamgirls" to be nominated.  It was a movie that many expected to not only be nominated, but to win.  With "Dreamgirls" out of the mix, it is an open question.  LMS is too light and fluffy for an Oscar, and Queen is too, well, British.  "Letters From Iwo Jima" has an outstanding chance, not only because it is a well-done film, but it stands beside Eastwood’s other Iwo Jima epic of this year "Flags Of Our Fathers".  Still, I think it’s going to Scorsese. (P.S. Kudos for not nominating "Borat")

2. Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"; Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"; Peter O’Toole, "Venus"; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Comments: Whitaker won the Golden Globe and the Academy likes him.  DiCaprio has a good chance (especially since he wasn’t nominated for best supporting for his role in "The Departed"), and Peter O’Toole is a sentimental favorite, since it looks like he might not be with us much longer.  Still, I give Whitaker the slight edge.

3. Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Volver"; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Helen Mirren, "The Queen" ; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children."

Comments:  Personally, I would love to see Meryl win another Oscar, and she did take the Golden Globe.  But Mirren’s performance was, according to the buzz, outstanding.  Meryl will be nipping at her heels, and don’t be surprised by an "upset" from Penelope Cruz.

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine" ; Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"; Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed."

Comments:  A lot of people are saying it’s Eddie Murphy, and I certainly was pleasantly surprised by his performance in "Dreamgirls", and pleased with his Golden Globe win.  Still, I have this feeling about Arkin — a consistently good actor who has yet to be recognized.

5. Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"; Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"; Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel."

Comments:  The only sure thing in the top categories — Jennifer Hudson.

6. Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"; Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Stephen Frears, "The Queen"; Paul Greengrass, "United 93."

Comments:  Again, a bit of a surprise that Bill Condon wasn’t nominated for "Dreamgirls", but even if he had, I think this is the year when Scorsese finally wins his first Oscar for Best Directing.

7. Foreign Language Film: "After the Wedding," Denmark; "Days of Glory (Indigenes)," Algeria; "The Lives of Others," Germany; "Pan’s Labyrinth," Mexico; "Water," Canada.

Comments:  Not even close.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men"; William Monahan, "The Departed"; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal."

Comments:  A bit of a surprise that "Thank You For Not Smoking" wasn’t nominated.  I’m leaning toward "Children of Men" but it could be "The Departed"

9. Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine" ; Guillermo del Toro, "Pan’s Labyrinth"; Peter Morgan, "The Queen."

Comments:  It’s either "Little Mary Sunshine" or "Babel".  I’m guessing the former.

10. Animated Feature Film: "Cars," "Happy Feet", Monster House."

Comments:  Its environmental message and good music will give "Happy Feet" the edge over "Cars"

11. Art Direction: "Dreamgirls," "The Good Shepherd," "Pan’s Labyrinth", "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," "The Prestige."

Comments:  I’m picking "Pan’s Labyrinth" simply because it’s otherworldly, and (apparently) done very well.

12. Cinematography: "The Black Dahlia," "Children of Men," "The Illusionist," "Pan’s Labyrinth", "The Prestige."

Comments:  Futuristic ("Children of Men") and historical ("The Black Dahlia", "The Illusionist") often do well, but so do the otherworldly.  I’m leaning toward Pan again.

13. Sound Mixing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Dreamgirls", "Flags of Our Fathers," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest."

14. Sound Editing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Flags of Our Fathers", "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest."

15. Original Score: "Babel," Gustavo Santaolalla; "The Good German," Thomas Newman; "Notes on a Scandal," Philip Glass; "Pan’s Labyrinth", Javier Navarrete; "The Queen," Alexandre Desplat.

Comments:  Never go against Philip Glass.

16. Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," Melissa Etheridge; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven; "Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls", Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett; "Our Town" from "Cars," Randy Newman; "Patience" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Willie Reale.

Comments:  Very odd.  "Love You I Do" was from the original Broadway score, so one wonders why "I’m Not Going" wasn’t nominated.  In truth, the winner will probably be something from "Dreamgirls".  I just don’t like "Listen" or "Patience" very much.  [UPDATE:  Heather says I am wrong about "Love You I Do" being from the original Broadway score, and I probably am.]

17. Costume: "Curse of the Golden Flower," "The Devil Wears Prada", "Dreamgirls," "Marie Antoinette," "The Queen."

Comments:  The costume award just has to go to a movie about fashion.

18. Documentary Feature: "Deliver Us From Evil," "An Inconvenient Truth", "Iraq in Fragments," "Jesus Camp," "My Country, My Country."

Comments:  Usually, popular documentaries don’t win, but this year will be different.

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Blood of Yingzhou District," "Recycled Life," "Rehearsing a Dream," "Two Hands."

20. Film Editing: "Babel", "Blood Diamond," "Children of Men," "The Departed," "United 93."

21. Makeup: "Apocalypto," "Click," "Pan’s Labyrinth"

22. Animated Short Film: "The Danish Poet," "Lifted," "The Little Matchgirl," "Maestro," "No Time for Nuts."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)," "Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)," "Helmer & Son," "The Saviour," "West Bank Story."

24. Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," "Poseidon," "Superman Returns"

How Active Is Your Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus?

People who are nicer have more active brains (specifically, larger posterior superior temporal sulci) than people who do not engage in altruistic helping behavior, according to a new study by Duke researchers.

More here:

Altruism describes the tendency of people to act in ways that put the welfare of others ahead of their own. Why some people choose to act altruistically is unclear, says lead study investigator Dharol Tankersley, a graduate student in Huettel’s laboratory.

In the study, researchers scanned the brains of 45 people while they either played a computer game or watched the computer play the game on its own. In both cases, successful playing of the game earned money for a charity of the study participant’s choice.

The researchers scanned the participants’ brains using a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which uses harmless magnetic pulses to measure changes in oxygen levels that indicate nerve cell activity.

The scans revealed that a region of the brain called the posterior superior temporal sulcus was activated to a greater degree when people perceived an action — that is, when they watched the computer play the game — than when they acted themselves, Tankersley said. This region, which lies in the top and back portion of the brain, is generally activated when the mind is trying to figure out social relationships.

The researchers then characterized the participants as more or less altruistic, based on their responses to questions about how often they engaged in different helping behaviors, and compared the participants’ brain scans with their estimated level of altruistic behavior. The fMRI scans showed that increased activity in the posterior superior temporal sulcus strongly predicted a person’s likelihood for altruistic behavior.

According to the researchers, the results suggest that altruistic behavior may originate from how people view the world rather than how they act in it.

"We believe that the ability to perceive other people’s actions as meaningful is critical for altruism," Tankersley said.

CNN Does What News Organizations Are Supposed To Do

CNN decided to investigate the facts of a story, rather than report rumor as fact.

Good for them.

While Fox News and The Washington Times peddled the story that Barack Obama went to a “madrassa” when he was six years old, CNN actually went to the madrassa and discovered that it is not some school where they teach students to become radical jihadists.  Instead, it was a pleasant little public school with normal boys and girls of the various religious backgrounds (Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, etc.) and they wear little English school uniforms, and get exposed to a variety of religions — mostly christianity (according to former classmates of Obama).

SOTU 2007

0123natwebbushI stopped writing about Bush’s low poll numbers a while ago, simply because it became redundent to do so, and it only serves to reinforce what everybody knows: Bush is a gloriously unpopular president.

But going into his State Of The Union speech tonight, it is worth noting that he has reached all-time lows — even for him.  The new CBS poll, for example, puts him at a 28% approval rating, which is Nixon territory.  (When Nixon resigned, his approval rating was 24%.  And his disapproval rating was 66%, just two higher than Bush’s 64%).

It’s common — indeed, expected — for Presidents to devote major portions of their SOTU speeches to listing the accomplishments over the past year (capped by the inevitable: "Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress, distinguished guests, and the people of the United States of America, the state of the Union  …is …STRONG!!")

Still, I wonder what Bush is going to actually be able to say.  The stock market is doing well, although I’m not sure how much credit he can take for that.  Gas prices are low . . . at the moment.  But other than that, what can he cite as accomplishments for his Administration over the past year?

News reports suggest that he is going to present some bold initiatives, kind of like a couple of years ago when he tallked about colonizing Mars.  Of course, what he says and what he does remains to be seen.

It seems clear though that he is opening the doors to, and addressing, the issues of health care and environmentalism. 

On the former issue, Bush will propose a limit on the deductibility given to employees who have employment-based health insurance, and a tax credit for most in that category, too.  These is a nice start, and I welcome it [UPDATE: Well, maybe it’s not what it’s cracked up to be].  Sadly, it hardly does much to address what is actually needed — universal health care coverage (the U.S. is the only advanced country in the world not to have this).  And it doesn’t move the ball forward in terms of getting insurance companies to pay for health care benefits, rather than look for reasons to deny it.

But at least it puts the ball on the field, and begins the dialogue.

Still, I won’t be watching SOTU.  I have a feeling it will be just a lot of feel-good words and promises, and then nothing will happen.   For sure, he’ll talk about the need for America to no longer rely on foreign energy, but, we’ve heard that before, yes?:

State of the Union, 1/29/2002: Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.

State of the Union, 1/28/2003: Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. … Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined.

State of the Union, 1/20/2004: Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run — so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

State of the Union, 2/2/2005: To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. … I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.

State of the Union, 1/31/2006: Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil. …. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

One wonders how much saber-rattling Bush is going to do over Iran.  And will he have the evidence this time?

On the other hand, it would be entertaining to watch everybody sit on their hands and give lukewarm applause.

HISTORICAL NOTE:  My first blog post was written 3 years and two days ago (Jan. 21, 2004) on the subject of Bush’s 2004 SOTU address.

UPDATED:  Graphic from NYT added.

It’s Official: Today Is The Most Depressing Day Of The Year

DepressionToday is officially known as "Blue Monday".  It is the most depressing day of the year, according to experts:

Dr Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist, devised the formula that shows today is the most depressing.

His equation takes into account six factors: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.

Taken together they pinpoint today as ‘Blue Monday’.

That’s a pretty interesting theory, and I think I buy into it, at least from a statistical-analysis viewpoint.  I (like others) tend to have seasonal depression caused by shorter days (sunlight-wise).  And then when you factor in the passing of the holidays and such, I think there could be something to this "Blue Monday" thing.

Not that I’m feeling depressed today (I’m not), but I like the theory.  Of course, it’s only a generalized theory; I’m sure, for example, that the "Blue Monday" effect is not as pronounced today in places like Chicago and Indianapolis.

The good news for those who are stricken with "Blue Monday" is that it gets better, and you have nowhere to go but up.  At least, until "Blue Monday" of next year.

Excuses, Excuses

The NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) is a CIA report which pulls together the assessment of all U.S. intelligence agencies into a single document.  It is an important document because it provides a complete snapshot of what our intelligence community thinks, based on the latest information.

The last time the NIE made news was in September of last year, when portions of the NIE from 2004 to 2006 were leaked to the New York Times.  At that time, the conclusion of the NIE — the consensus of our entire government intelligence community — was that the Iraq War made the threat of terrorism worse, not better.  This obviously caused some consternation to the Bush Administration, because it directly contradicted the whole Bush rationale for war.  I mean, here is Bush and Cheney and company, saying for years that our efforts in Iraq will help curb global terrorism, and here are documents from the entire intelligence community of the United States during that time saying the exact opposite.

Because of the leak, everybody wanted to the entire report released publicly, particularly the section on Iraq.  But the Bush Administration refused, claiming that the release of the report would influence the November 2006 elections.

Now that the elections are over, senators demanded to be briefed on an updated NIE.  But what happened?  They got a "dog-ate-my-homework" excuse:

Soon after that [a July 2006 story about the blocking of the NIE’s release] was posted, six U.S. senators called for a new NIE on Iraq, and in August the Senate passed an amendment demanding that one be prepared. I’ve just learned that—months later and to the immense frustration of Congress—the new NIE is still not ready.

The situation came to a head last week, during a closed-door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This committee expected to be briefed on the long-awaited NIE by an official from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which coordinates NIEs by gathering input from all of the nation’s various intelligence agencies. But the NIC official turned up empty-handed and told the committee that the intelligence community hadn’t been able to complete the NIE because it had been dealing with the many demands placed upon it by the Bush Administration to help prepare the new military strategy on Iraq. He then said that not all of the relevant agencies had contributed to the NIE, which has made it impossible to put together a finished product.

Now, understand the implications of that:

The government wants to escalate the war in Iraq … which requires them to get better intelligence … which they can’t put together because they’re busy escalating the war in Iraq.  Make sense?

No.  It was quite obvious to both Democrats and Republicans alike on the Senate Intelligence Committee that "senior intelligence officials are stalling because an NIE will be bleak enough to present a significant political liability."  No doubt.

Meanwhile, 27 U.S. troops killed over the weekend, and serious bombings kill scores of Iraqi civilians.

At the risk of re-iterating myself, let me explain why I am opposed to the troop escalation:

  1. The strategy does not seem to come from anyplace other than wishful thinking.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but it seems to me that a whole cadre of experts (both inside and outside the government) think this is a bad idea (as the Baker-Hamilton commission found out).  I have yet to hear/read from a military or intelligence expert who thinks this is a good idea.  The doubters have included members of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Colin Powell, and the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.  So who exactly is the Bush Administration listening to? 
  2. Furthermore, as the above story suggests, the advice from both intelligence and miltary experts seems to suggest that our presence in Iraq makes the situation worse, not better.  Therefore, an increased presence in Iraq is actually counterproductive.
  3. Even with the escalation proposed by Bush, we will still have less troops in Iraq than we had during the summer months of 2005.  If we couldn’t accomplish defeating the insurgency then, how can we do so with the surge of troops, especially when the insurgency is larger and better organized?
  4. The Iraqi police force and army that we hope to train is rife with hidden militias, dedicated to al Sadr and other factions.  In many instances, we will, in fact, be training the enemy and giving them arms.  It is not terribly surprising, for example, that the attacks in Karbala this weekend were carried out by insurgents wearing American troop uniforms.
  5. The increase in American troops (and tired overextended American troops, at that) will not address the root problem behind the insugency: the flow of weapons and support from Iran and Syria.  Those countries must be engaged diplomatically (but not without some strong-arm pressure), so that Iraq has at least a fighting chance.  Merely adding troops is the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a cancerous tumor.  It should be noted that these countries have a vested interest in seeing security in Iraq, because the flow of refugees from Iraq to their countries (it’s already happening) is going to tax their countries and lead to instability there.

There is no doubt in my mind that the intent and goals of the Bush Administration’s troop escalation are good ones.  But just because one wants something to work, and sees the importance of success, doesn’t make it a winning strategy.

Daydream Believer

Studies at Dartmouth are showing that the "default setting" of our brain is set to "daydream":

Some people seem to continually have their heads in the clouds. Perhaps they are pondering during their drive to work the next pickle 24 protagonist Jack Bauer will find himself in. Or maybe they are assessing while buttering toast the Indianapolis Colts’ chances of finally making it to the Super Bowl. Or considering where they will dine that evening as they tap out an e-mail. The question is: What makes their minds veer from the task at hand?

Researchers at Dartmouth College may have the answer. They found that a default network of regions in the brain’s cortex—a grouping known to be active when the mind is completely unoccupied—is firing away as a person is engaged in routine activities.

Anatomy Of A Smear

The Washington Post has a nice story about the latest Obama smear.  It’s about a "story" (that Obama went to a radical Muslim school and is, hence, a radical Muslim) that leapt from spam e-mail to a conservative magazine to the mainstream media — despite having anonymous sources, and devoid of actual fact.

The silly season has started.

On “Spring Awakening”

RspringawakeningThere was a good mainstream media write-up yesterday about Spring Awakening, for those (like me) into that sort of thing:

Teenage sex scenes showing a naked breast, masturbation and sadomasochism aren’t the usual Broadway fare, but "Spring Awakening" has become the surprise hit musical of the season while being hailed as tastefully erotic.

Adapted from German playwright Frank Wedekind’s then-scandalous 1891 play, "Spring Awakening" looks at the angst of high school students and their sexual awakening in repressed 19th-century Germany.

With song titles such as "The Bitch of Living" and "Touch Me," the show opened on Broadway last month to glowing reviews that compared its contemporary rock song score to that of the prize-winning "Rent." Its run was recently extended.

When considering a Broadway musical, "probably nobody thinks: pure sex. That might just change," said New York Times critic Charles Isherwood, calling the show "a straight shot of eroticism" as it tastefully deals with provocative topics such as abortion, homosexuality and abuse.

"’Spring Awakening’ makes sex strange again, no mean feat, in our mechanically prurient age," Isherwood said.

OTHER ENTERTAINMENT NEWS:  The nominees for the annual Razzie Awards (the unofficial "WORST OF" in films) were announced today.

New York Times Tackling The Important Issues

The perils of pornography in high definition

Yup.  Apparently, many performers in the porn industry aren’t exactly embracing high-definition technology, where every wrinkle of cellulite becomes, well, obvious:

“The biggest problem is razor burn,” said Stormy Daniels, an actress, writer and director.

Ms. Daniels is also a skeptic. “I’m not 100 percent sure why anyone would want to see their porn in HD,” she said.

Ooooo-kay.  And then there’s this:

Jesse Jane, one of the industry’s biggest stars, plans to go under the knife next month to deal with one side effect of high-definition. The images are so clear that Ms. Jane’s breast implants, from an operation six years ago, can be seen bulging oddly on screen.

“I’m having my breasts redone because of HD,” she said.

The stretch marks on Ms. Jane from seven years ago when she gave birth to her son are also more apparent. But she deals with those blemishes in a simpler way: by liberal use of tanning spray.

I’m not well-versed in the erotic arts, so I have no opinion on the whole high definition porn issue.  I just brought it up because I just love that quote: "I’m having my breasts redone because of HD".  It’s one of those sentences that — if I lived to be one hundred years old, I would never have expected to hear.

Sorry, New England. My Bad.

I have this superstition: if I watch an important football game, the team I’m rooting for loses.  So I usually try not to pay attention to important football games.

However, today I watched — really watched — the Patriots-Colts game.  Especially the second half.

Oops.

SUBSEQUENT THOUGHT:  On the plus side, the Patriots’ loss means I can forego the silliness and hype of the Super Bowl.  I probably won’t even watch it, except for maybe Prince.

Even Alanis Morissette Couldn’t Envision This

0020The President who unilaterally started a war and refuses to end it despite all the death, destruction, and misery caused to U.S. soldiers, their surviving families, not to mention thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children…

…has declared this Sunday to be "National Sanctity Of Human Life Day, 2007".

The AG Purge

This is blatently unethical:

Last month, Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Eastern District of Arkansas, received a call on his cellphone while hiking in the woods with his son. He was informed that he had just been replaced by J. Timothy Griffin, a Republican political operative who has spent the last few years working as an opposition researcher for Karl Rove.

Mr. Cummins’s case isn’t unique. Since the middle of last month, the Bush administration has pushed out at least four U.S. attorneys, and possibly as many as seven, without explanation. The list includes Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney for San Diego, who successfully prosecuted Duke Cunningham, a Republican congressman, on major corruption charges. The top F.B.I. official in San Diego told The San Diego Union-Tribune that Ms. Lam’s dismissal would undermine multiple continuing investigations.

In Senate testimony yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to say how many other attorneys have been asked to resign, calling it a “personnel matter.”

In case you’re wondering, such a wholesale firing of prosecutors midway through an administration isn’t normal. U.S. attorneys, The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, “typically are appointed at the beginning of a new president’s term, and serve throughout that term.” Why, then, are prosecutors that the Bush administration itself appointed suddenly being pushed out?

The likely answer is that for the first time the administration is really worried about where corruption investigations might lead.

Fox, meet henhouse.

“230 Dead As Storm Batters Europe.”

If you get an email with that subject line, delete it.

That’s the subject line of an email Trojan Horse which is hitting personal computers globally today, according to this breaking news article:

Storm Worm," one of the larger Trojan horse attacks in recent years, is baiting people with timely information about a deadly, real-life storm front, security researchers said Friday.

Over an eight-hour period Thursday, malicious e-mails were sent across the globe to hundreds of thousands of people, said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for F-Secure.

People who open the attachment then unknowingly become part of a botnet. A botnet serves as an army of commandeered computers, which are later used by attackers without their owners’ knowledge.

Storm Worm carries the subject line "230 dead as storm batters Europe," Hypponen said, noting the unusual twist to the e-mail.

"The e-mail was started 15 hours ago, when the storm was peaking in Central Europe," Hypponen said. "This is unusual in that it was very timely."

Storm Worm is a Trojan horse with an executable file as an attachment. Cybercriminals took advantage of social engineering, using the news of the European storm to get people to open the attached malicious file, which promises more news on the weather emergency. The recipient must open the file for it to execute.

The file creates a back door to a computer that can be exploited later to steal data or to use the computer to post spam.

Storm Worm is already close to being as large as the bigger attacks of 2006, Hypponen said, though it’s still smaller than Sasser and Slammer.

Hypponen also noted that this Trojan horse is unusual because most attacks these days tend to be smaller and targeted, as criminals seek to pilfer personal information for financial gain, rather than fame.

Though Storm Worm is widespread, the damage may ultimately be minimal in the U.S. because most tech security companies will have already added it to their blocking list before people get into work, he added.

Other e-mail subject lines for it include "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza…" and "A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and…"

Instant Message Shorthand For The Middle-Aged

Thanks, L.A. Times:

BELATEDLY, I’VE LEARNED that LOL means Laughing Out Loud, and POS means Parent Over Shoulder (i.e., change the subject, fast). Young people invented this shorthand for e-mail and instant messaging, and you can hear their attitudes and concerns in it — for example, DYHABF (Do You Have A Boyfriend?), W/E (Whatever) and UW (You Wish).

I haven’t been 20 for a long time now, and my thoughts don’t always lend themselves to electronic communication; but they’re common enough to deserve concise acronyms of their own. So feel free to use any of these abbreviations as needed:

Aging and memory loss

TMYNA: Tell Me Your Name Again

GU2P3XLN: Got Up To Pee 3 Times Last Night

WROMH: Where’s the Rest Of My Hair?

SMB/SWU: Stiff Morning Back/Struggling With Underwear

*

Middle-aged Zen

MKDKWAPI: My Kids Don’t Know Who Al Pacino Is

TCLTM: Teenage Cashiers Look Through Me

SIH-&gt;NM: The School I Hated Has Become a Nostalgic Memory

JL40WD (WHUA): John Lennon Was 40 When He Died. (What Have You Accomplished?)

ROTFC9: Rolling On The Floor, Call 911

*

Homeownership

SHBASH: Should Have Bought a Smaller House

SHSLY ({circ}M): Should Have Sold Last Year (at Top of the Market)

NNRB: Need New Roof, Boiler

MIRPAA: Must I Really Paint Again, Already?

*

Exercise

YGONTRTAFAM: Young Guy On Next Treadmill Running Twice As Fast As Me

HHDD: Hope He Drops Dead

PSY/NMI: Played Softball Yesterday, Need More Ibuprofen

NTFS/BO: NordicTrac For Sale (Best Offer)

*

Old friends

EBYATT2: I’m E-mailing Because You’re Annoying To Talk To

AHSR-SOOP: At High School Reunion, Saw Only Old People

GOFAM: Googling Old Friends After Midnight

Signing Off, Sideways

(||8{lsaquo}/)

America’s Dumbest Criminals

I admit it — I love stories like these:

GPS devices lead to suspects’ home

LINDENHURST, N.Y. –Three thieves who allegedly stole 14 global positioning system devices didn’t get away with their crime for long. The devices led police right to their home.

Town officials said the thieves didn’t even know what they had: they thought the GPS devices were cell phones, which they planned to sell.

According to Suffolk County police, the GPS devices were stolen Monday night from the Town of Babylon Public Works garage in Lindenhurst. The town immediately tapped its GPS system, and it showed that one of the devices was inside a house. Police said that when they arrived there, Kurt Husfeldt, 46, had the device in his hands.

Husfeldt was charged with criminal possession of stolen property. His 13-year-old son also was arrested on grand larceny charges.

Town officials said the boy committed the burglary with Steven Mangiapanella, 20, also of Lindenhurst. He was charged with grand larceny.

Babylon installed 300 GPS devices in snow plows, dump trucks, street sweepers and other vehicles last January.

We’re Better Than This

A nation of laws?

The Pentagon set rules Thursday for detainee trials that could allow terror suspects to be convicted and perhaps executed using hearsay testimony and coerced statements, setting up a new clash between President Bush and Congress.

The rules are fair, said the Pentagon, which released them in a manual for the expected trials.

The rules are not fair.  If they were, then hearsay and coerced statements would be allowed in all our trials.

Let me paint a picture.

Suppose the police picked you up because they thought you might know something about the a crime which had taken place, or was about to take place.  In my scenario, the police are allowed to beat you.  So they do.  They beat you and torture you.  You say (in all honesty) that you know nothing about the crime.  So they beat and torture you more — and harder.  You still claimsto know nothing.  So the beatings and torture get even harder, and you are brought to the brink of death.  Furthermore, you know that nothing bars the police from killing you, since there will be no retribution for that.

Now, if you’re that guy, and you want to, you know, live — what are you going to do at that point to get them to stop?  You’re going to give them a name.  Any name.  Anything just to make them stop torturing you.

Now imagine your the person who was named.  And based on the coerced "confession" of the suspect, you are now facing trial.  Do you think it is "fair" for that evidence to be used to convict you, and to (possibly) execute you?

It comes down to this: If you have to rely on hearsay and coerced evidence in order to get a conviction, then perhaps you really don’t have a case after all.  And there’s not a lawyer or law enforcement official who disagrees with that.

Speaking of bizarre anti-American twists of law, what Carpetbagger says:

I haven’t seen independent confirmation of this, so consider it an unofficial transcript, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked yesterday about the constitutional right of habeas corpus during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. If accurate, his reported response was one for the ages.

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn’t say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

According to one reporter, Specter responded, “You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense.”

That’s an exceedingly polite way of telling Gonzales that his interpretation of the Constitution borders on lunacy. Americans don’t necessarily have the right of habeas corpus, Gonzales reportedly argued, because the Constitution merely insists that the right not be “suspended.”

I’ve spent far too much time trying to wrap my head around such an intentionally obtuse argument, and I’ve given up. It’s akin to arguing that Americans don’t necessarily have the right to free speech; the Constitution merely prevents laws that would prohibit free speech.

Mr. Gonzales, Harvard Law School called. They want their diploma back.

Making Fun Of The President And He’ll Cry

The White House Correspondents Association’s annual bash is typically hosted by a comedian who, truth be told, makes fun of the President while the President is sitting there.  It is not unlike a Dean Martin or Friar’s Club roast, and every President has been "subjected" to it — Clinton sat there as Lewinsky jokes were flying about, and so on.

Bush, it seems, can’t handle it, and the compliant press corps is making sure that he won’t hear anything scathing.  That’s why, this year, the emcee is the tame (and obsolete) Rich Little (compare: last year’s was Stephen Colbert).  And Little has been asked not to make fun of the President:

Rich Little won’t be mentioning Iraq or ratings when he addresses the White House Correspondents’ Dinner April 21.

Little said organizers of the event made it clear they don’t want a repeat of last year’s controversial appearance by Stephen Colbert, whose searing satire of President Bush and the White House press corps fell flat and apparently touched too many nerves.

"They got a lot of letters," Little said Tuesday. "I won’t even mention the word ‘Iraq.’"

Little, who hasn’t been to the White House since he was a favorite of the Reagan administration, said he’ll stick with his usual schtick — the impersonations of the past six presidents.

Poutyad3"They don’t want anyone knocking the president. He’s really over the coals right now, and he’s worried about his legacy," added Little, a longtime Las Vegas resident.

Poor baby. 

He’s worried about his legacy, but at least he can live and breathe.  Meanwhile, there are over 3,000 U.S. servicemen and women for whom that is no longer an option.

UPDATE:  The silly gets sillier — the White House Correspondent’s Association is calling Rich Little a liar

Bush Busted In HUGE Lie About Cancer Research Funding

President Bush, yesterday:

“First, I’m pleased that we’re funding cancer research. We’re up about 25 percent or 26 percent since 2001; it’s a commitment that I made when I first came to Washington, it’s a commitment we’re keeping. And the reason why it makes sense to spend taxpayers’ money on cancer research is that we can make some good progress, and have.”

ABC News Medical Editor Timothy Johnson, a few hours later:

“[W]hen the administration tries to take credit for increased spending, per se, I think they’re misleading. It is true that the total budget for the National Cancer Institute has gone up by $1.2 billion since 2001. But most of that occurred in those early years under a Clinton initiative. The budget was actually cut last year and the projected budget for this year is to be cut even further. So, I think it’s a real tragedy that we are cutting the budget for the National Cancer Institute at a time we’re on the verge of many exciting discoveries.”

[Link provided by me, not, Dr. Tim]

Just so you know, Dr. Timothy Johnson is no anti-Bush liberal.  What’s more, he’s an ordained minister from the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The Obama Smear Campaign In Its Early Stages

Bigstory20070117obama_1

Here’s my attempt at an answer:

Look, with all that is going on in the world, and with the importance of the next President affecting your finances and (in many ways) your life, if a candidate’s smoking habits (or lack thereof) operate as a relevant factor for you, then you should simply be denied your right to vote.  Plain and simple.  You’re not a serious enough citizen to exercise your franchise.  We’ll let you vote for American Idol contestents on your cell phone, but that’s it.

Of course, the issue here isn’t Obama’s smoking habit (which, unlike Bush’s lack of intellectual honesty, can be permanently terminated) — it’s the right-wing media attempt to tarnish Obama with, you know, something since he is becoming the Great Hope of 2008.

Expect to see a lot more of this fear-mongering from the right.  Some of it will be outright lies:

Note that Obama’s biological father from Kenya was a terrorist-espousing Muslim. His mother is an avowed atheist. Obama spent two years as a youngster in a terrorist-oriented Muslim school. He spent two other years in a Catholic school.

The basis for these allegations?  Well, there is none.  This is a question of differing interpretation — this is just plain, unadulterated bullshit. 

The truth: Obama’s biological father was a Muslim, but — like most Muslims — not "terrorist-espousing".  In fact, he had disavowed the Muslim religion before Obama was even born.  His biological father and mother divorced when Obama was two, and his biological father had little influence on him thereafter.

Furthermore, although Obama attended a "Muslim school" for two years, it was one of many schools he attended as a child.   While living in Indonesia, Obama attended several schools, including a Catholic one (for two years), and the Muslim one (for two years).  The reason?  His mother wanted him to have the best education possible.

His mother, by the way, was an atheist, but saw value in religion.  That’s why she gave Obama a wide religious education (which included the Muslim faith, but also Catholicism and — well, you name it).  She took him to Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Hawaiian burial grounds, etc. so that he might be exposed to all religions, rather than become indoctrinated into one.

"Facts" about Obama like the ones seen in the above-linked column typically come from Internet emails, and have been thoroughly discreditted.

But that’s not going to stop them from trying.  So future voter, beware.  You’re going to be lied to — again.

Bush: The Unpopular Ex-President, Too

Not only is Bush’s current approval rating lagging in the sub-40’s — the worst treand of any President in modern times — but he’s not very popular as a soon-to-be ex-President.

The Bush Presidential Library [insert "My Pet Goat" joke here], like all presidential libraries, is intended to serve as a respository of all the great things and writing of the Bush presidency [oh, the jokes are everywhere, aren’t they?].

What’s more, it is supposed to serve as a "think tank" in which the Bush policies are (it is hoped) further advanced into the future politics of American. [Good luck with that].

And it’s supposed to be housed at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

Well, Methodists have a huge problem with an association of their university and their religion to Bush and started an online petition today directed at the SMU Board of Trustees to stop the project/library.  Some comments already from petition signers (including a vast number of clergy):

It is unconscionable that a man who boasts about his Christianity can not only advocate war as a first option in his foreign policy actions toward Iraq, but also actively authorize and condone the torture of individuals. A Christian institution like SMU should condemn these actions, and should not seek to put a Bush Library anywhere on its campus.

Wesley United Methodist Church, Rochester, NY –John Wesley is spinning in his grave. Bush’s policies have diametrically opposed Wesley’s vision of social outreach, equality, justice and peace.

Policies of the George W. Bush administration run counter to the principles of the United Methodist Church. UMs reject war, do not condone torture, support human and civil rights for all, and recognize care for the environment as a sacred trust. It would be inappropriate for a UM institution to glorify the Bush presidency by hosting a library, museum and think tank.

We are Christians who attend local Methodist churches and believe that what Bush’s view of Christian life is, …is so awful. Torturing people, incarcerating w/out representation, starting war based on lies, and simply being mean to others who may have a different view is not Christian.

Grace United Methodist Church I think George W. Bush is an abomination to our faith as Methodists. I have been born and raised into the Methodist faith my entire life and confirmed all my children in my Church as such. He does not have the same Christian grace, conscience and philosophy that I was taught and consequently taught my children along the way as good Christian believers. Nothing could be further from the truth from this Administration. They are a disgrace. Let another University and faith claim them. We should not.

And so on and so on….

UPDATE:  The SMU faculty is protesting, too.