Thursday, August 31, 2006

Drop out of college - The Electoral one

Six months ago I read this short column in New Yorker magazine and thought, "This is a great idea but it won't happen." Turns out it might. I'm talking about changing the way the 18th century construct called the Electoral College works, or as we saw in 2000, doesn't work. How is it that you can win the popular vote of the country, like Al Gore, but lose the Presidency? Because the Electoral College says so. The idea to change the way this completely flawed and farce of democracy works (or doesn't work) is so rational and fair that that's the reason why it hasn't happened yet. But now it might.

Hendrik Hertzberg explains it better than I can, "The idea behind their initiative is this: that the President of the United States should be elected by the people of the United States. This idea is neither new nor outlandish, but for most of the past couple of centuries it has been dismissed as unachievable. The Electoral College is enshrined in the Constitution itself, so getting rid of it would require the concurrence of two-thirds of both houses of Congress plus three-quarters of the state legislatures. That’s not going to happen.

But maybe it doesn’t have to. The promoters of the Campaign for a National Popular Vote, as they’re calling themselves, have come up with an elegant finesse. Instead of trying to change the Constitution, they propose to apply it, one bit in particular: Article II, Section 1, which instructs each state to “appoint” its Presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Here’s how the plan would work. One by one, legislature by legislature, state law by state law, individual states would pledge themselves to an interstate compact under which they would agree to award their electoral votes to the nationwide winner of the popular vote. The compact would take effect only when enough states had joined it to elect a President—that is, enough to cast a majority of the five hundred and thirty-eight electoral votes. (Theoretically, as few as eleven states could do the trick.) And then, presto! All of a sudden, the people of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia are empowered to elect their President the same way they elect their governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen."

Another benefit of this new arrangement is that candidates would have to fight for every vote in every state and not simply go to the handful of so-called "battleground states". Whether a state is red or blue won't matter anymore since every vote actually counts towards getting elected president not just the ones to get you to 50.1% in a state allowing you to collect that state's entire Electoral votes. Today if you are in a safe "blue" state or a safe "red" state - so-called "spectator states" - you can ring doorbells, hand out leaflets, pursuade a neighbor or two and put up yard signs but the outcome is already determined so what's the point? Any chance Texas votes for Hillary, Kerry or Gore any time soon? What about blue New York and California? Think their voting a Republican for president in 2008? Over time people participate less and less in elections since their efforts and votes don't matter at all. That's bad for keeping democracy healthy. Hertzberg calls it, "the death of participatory politics in two-thirds of the country...Widening your ticket’s margin of victory or narrowing its margin of defeat is equally pointless. In this sense, our Presidential campaigns are not only not national; in most of the country they’re not local, either. They’re just not."

What a concept - direct elections for President. The same way we do it for hey elect governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen. It's such a good idea that has no downside, except for those who like over 200 years of distorted democracy, that that's why it might not happen but why it should. Here's hoping we drop out of college - the Electoral one.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where am I?

The President held a press conference and was asked about spending billions of dollars on oil and gas subsidies which amounted to welfare for the rich. Another reporter, although not from Fox News, stood to ask a question of the President and simply said "I was hoping when you arrived I would share my pain with you. Now I have no pain in my heart, only happiness." Sound like a typical press conference at the White House? Guess again. It's from Tehran and the President is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Back in this country, or at least what I think is this country, well actually Salt Lake City, Utah which is really another country, a local defense attorney is going to hold a "Death to Israel" demonstration. The lawyer, Robert Breeze, 52, said his goal is to protest "the torture and murder inflicted on Muslims by Israel and the penetration of the U.S. media by Israeli intelligence." While he said his group - the Center to Prevent Corporate Media Lying - has other members and financial donors, Breeze wouldn't name them.

Then of course there is Republican Congresswoman Mullah Katherine Harris (R-FL), who, while setting new standards for imploding political campaigns, recently said, "We have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers." Guess God voted early for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Asked to explain why Baptists in Florida should care about the election, Harris said the fate of Western civilization depends on it, telling the religious publication, "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin. And that will take Western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God, and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don't know better, we are leading them astray and it's wrong."

She has tried to back away from those comments but stuck her other annointed foot into her mouth when she was asked whether the U.S. should be a secular country, Harris said: "I think that our laws, I mean, I look at how the law originated, even from Moses, the 10 Commandments. And I don't believe, that uh . . . That's how all of our laws originated in the United States, period. I think that's the basis of our rule of law." Uh-huh. I guess if you worship a statue of Shiva while watching Da Bears on a Friday night and shout "Jesus Christ!" in anger while disobeying your parents to turn off the game all the while coveting your neighbor's wife and plasma screen you are breaking many, many laws since:

1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. You shall not worship idols.
3. You shall not take the Lord's name in vain.
4. You shall keep the Sabbath holy.
5. You shall honor they mother and father.
6. You shall not covet your neighbor's house or wife.

I'd say you should get the death penalty but "Thou shall not kill" right?

So I ask again. Where am I? Iran or the U.S.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What a shock

Last Wednesday, I wrote about the JonBenet Ramsey traveling and flying circus (apologies to Monty Python) that winged its way from Bangkok, Thailand to California to Boulder, Colorado. So now it turns out that science triumphs over faith again. Having faith in science rather than believe in the science of faith will always be the truth that sets you or John Mark Karr free. And what does science have to say? Turns out that Karr's DNA did not match the DNA found at the murder scene so he is eliminated as the killer even though the voices in his head keep insisting the opposite. Didn't it seem odd that the guy claimed to be obsessed with JonBenet Ramsey before she was murdered even though no one knew who she was before she was murdered? She was the 6-year-old daughter of some guy in Boulder who happened to be in kiddie beauty pageants. (The girl not the guy.) What fame did she have to interest Karr before she was killed? None, which is why he couldn't have been interested in her before she was killed. Seemed obvious to anyone not interested in blathering on cable for 25-hours-a-day.

What a shock that the thin, beady-eyed, limp boned whacko, John Karr, who practically wore a "Ask me how I killed JonBenet" button for the last ten years didn't have anything to do with the girl's death. What a shock that the media went to "11" on their coverage of most celebrated murder case since O.J. The coverage was a disgrace. Now we will get coverage on the coverage to heap disgrace on top of disgrace.

I know it seems I'm following the story but I'm really not. It's just in your face everywhere I turn and at some point it's worth commenting on. Hopefully this story will go back into the closet until the real killer is found. Maybe he's rooming with the guy who killed Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. I'm sure the media would be in orgasmic rapture if that were true. But being truthful isn't important anymore with the media or with politicians and government officials. The only thing important to them is that you are first to say something, anything on any subject even if you have no facts. Actually, having no facts is even better for them since they can't be wrong about wild speculation, baseless conjecture and rank opinion. Being right is just an afterthought.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Justice Scalia - activist liberal Democrat

"I'm very disappointed in our justice system. There doesn't seem to be justice."

That's the "unbiased" opinion on one Tom Delay. And it's not some random or obscure Tom Delay, it's the former Republican Majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. He resigned from office because he wanted to spend more time with his criminal defense lawyers and tried to manipulate the ballot by removing his name from it. That way some hand-picked Republican could win his seat. But there was a little teeny, weeny problem. (Not the one in his pants). There are things called state election laws and they said Delay and the scheming Republicans couldn't do that. But why let some irritating state laws get in the way of a good scheme? So when they tried to violate state election laws the Democrats sued to prevent Republicans from trying to game the system again.

So the U.S. District Court in "liberal" Austin, Texas ruled in favor of the Democrats and against Tom Delay. Then Delay appealed and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the Democrats and against Tom Delay. Then Delay appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court and that "activist liberal" judge, Justice Antonin Scalia refused to block the appeals court's ruling, meaning he ruled in favor of the Democrats and against Tom Delay. Game over and trying to game the system over.

So what does the former Republican Majority leader of Congress say? Does he say, "the courts have all ruled against me and I accept the decision"? Does he say, "I respect Justice Scalia and so I have to respect his decision"? Nope. He says, "I'm very disappointed in our justice system. There doesn't seem to be justice." Translation: "I didn't get the result that I wanted so I will claim an injustice was done by activist judges." Another chance for the bully Tom Delay to play victim. For him to attack the court system only because he lost and lost in front of every judge that looked at the case.

So there you have the definition of "injustice" and "activist judges." It's when a Republican doesn't get his way. It's alien to Delay who has bullied and steamrolled and gamed the system in Congress his entire tenure there. When he can't do that with the courts he shows his true colors as a petulant child who doesn't understand why his bullying didn't work yet again. Good riddance Mr. Delay. Or should I say, good riddance criminal defendant on money laundering charges Delay?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Only a matter of time before he "Sharts"

I don't quite know what to make of this story from the Boston Herald but it is stunning as much as it isn't. I'm going to reprint it in large chunks because it's hard to improve on the original text.

"Maybe if Iraq were going better, I’d chalk this up to some cowboy thing.“Blazing Saddles Does D.C.” As it is, I worry that the supposed leader of the free world is trapped in the body of a 7-year-old and hiding a Whoopie Cushion under his bed. Has Dubya lost it? Anyway, here’s the news, such as it is. U.S. New & World Reports’ Paul Bedard says our commander in chief “loves flatulence jokes . . . can’t get enough of fart jokes. He’s also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides.” In an interview yesterday, Bedard, who writes “Washington Whispers” for the weekly newsmagazine, also said he’s heard about Bush’s full-salute “Austin Greeting.” That’s when new aides come in for their “meet and greet.” 'Word is,' says Bedard, 'he likes to gas a couple, and then bring the aide in and see what the kid’s face looks like.' Naturally, the aide can’t accuse the President or grimace or hold his nose. This dilemma apparently drives the presidential funny bone wild...Imagine the scene with Bush. Some nervous, excited and unsuspecting 25-year-old - male, let’s hope - is about to shake hands with the most powerful man on earth, and then, well, George makes his own unique contribution to global warming."

It's truly getting harder and harder to know if newspaper or internet stories are from The Onion (today's headline, "National Organization for Women turns 39 Again"), The Daily Show or The Borowitz Report (today's headline, "Saddam: "I killed JonBenet"). But I take The Boston Herald at its word. So all that talk in 2000 about restoring the dignity to the Oval Office was just that, talk. I remember that after the scandal of pants coming off (or at least around the ankles) in the Oval Office the new rule was the same as under Reagan -- suit jackets (along with pants obvisouly) wouldn't come off in the Oval Office, period. As for me I'd vote for pants to stay on, jackets to come off and cutting the cheese to be confined to the White House kitchen. Guess I'm not presidential material.

UPDATE: On Monday I wrote about the Hitler-theme restaurant that opened in India. Hitler's Cross opened five days ago and serves pizza, salad and pastries. Reports of a franchise being opened in Tehran were false -- at least for now. Well, after five days the owner has decided to change the name and remove the Nazi swastikas from billboards and the menus, after meeting with Bombay's Jewish community leaders. The bad news is the new name of the restaurant is Osama's Bar and Ground Zero Grill.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bread and Circuses and JonBenet

If the JonBenet Ramsey case isn't enough of a circus already it just got another ring under the Big Top. The relatives of John Mark Karr, the self-proclaimed child killer, have offered the movie and book rights to the family's story in hopes of hiring a high-level attorney to defend the schoolteacher against charges he killed 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. This is of course before we even know if Karr murdered JonBenet.

Not to sound cruel but really what difference does it make if Karr killed JonBenet or not? What difference would it make in anyone's like outside his and the Ramsey's family? Since this either mentally ill killer or just mentally ill nutbag turned up in Thailand to proclaim his "love" for the little girl he says he was with when she died there has been non-stop coverage on cable. It's like every other channel is the "JonBenet murder" channel. But ask yourself this - if Karr did kill her so what? How does this have an impact on child murder rates, child safety issues, crime rates, crime prevention, your own childrens' safety, your community, anything? Zero. So why does it get such wall-to-wall coverage? It's just more of the circus of celebrity crime or crimes that become celebrated. Think about that. Celebrating crime.

When I see anything about JonBenet or John Karr on t.v. I turn the channel as fast as if I ran across Sabado Gigante. No point in watching since I can't understand it and it has zero impact on my life. So how is the Ramsey murder case the biggest story in the nation? Because we are fascinated with crime and sex and death and punishment, especially punishment by death. And what about our complicity in turning America into ancient Rome, before the fall, with its foreign military adventures stretching the nation too thin and celebrating the bread and circuses of the Coliseum? Ask me later, I'm too distracted watching cable from the bleachers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Better a shoplifter than a lesbian

A couple of fridays ago I wrote about Kathleen McFarland who is running is the Republican primary in New York for the U.S. Senate. She's a piece of, I'll say "work" since this is a family blog. Well her campaign is now over. Well not over but she is canceling campaign events and that's a problem since the primary is September 12. What was the straw that broke the camel's back? McFarland's 16-year-old daughter was arrested and charged with shoplifting in New York's Suffolk County. Actually shoplifting from two stores so arguing "mistake" is probably out.

"I will resume active campaigning only when I am certain that my daughter is O.K. and getting the help she needs," Ms. Farland said in a statement. This is the lady who wrote to her parents saying why she had cut off contact with her brother Michael, who was gay and died of AIDS-related illness. "Have you ever wondered why I have never had anything to do with Mike and have never let my daughters see him, although we live only 15 minutes away from each other? He has been a lifelong homosexual, most of his relationships brief, fleeting one-night stands." Yes, keep the innocent waifs from your brother who was a homosexual because why exactly? You feared your daughters would want to start dating Ellen DeGeneris? Based on that logic what shoplifter did you let hang around your 16-year-old daughter? Oh, now I remember. Maybe it was this guy, Claude Allen, former Assistant to the Dear Leader George W. Bush for Domestic Policy and almost Federal Appeals Court Judge. (I mean holy moly.) On Allen's resume is congressional campaign aide, Senate staffer, state Cabinet secretary, domestic policy advisor, federal appeals court nominee and shoplifter. At least he's not gay right Ms. McFarland?

Unless she was born that way it must have been bad parenting that led McFarland's daughter to steal. Since I'm sure "Thou Shalt not Steal" was in her face seven days a week since age 3, from pre-school through high school as well as church, it's hard explain how this happened. And since we don't know for sure if she hung around Claude Allen it must be the parents who didn't raise here right. But that admission would take some personal accountability on McFarland's part and we know that gene isn't in Republican DNA. The only question is when did Kathleen McFarland get exposed to the resume challenged, mean-spirited and cruel person she turned out to be?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't mention the war

Today was the fastest time between firing up the internet and finding my blog topic. One click, one insane headline, one second to check and make sure I wasn't on The Onion website. "India's Hitler-themed restaurant draws fire" MSNBC's site bullet-pointed. Sort of sums up why the world is doomed.

In Mumbai's financial district a new restaurant named after Adolf Hitler and promoted with posters showing the German leader and Nazi swastikas, has infuriated the country’s small Jewish community. Hitler’s Cross, which opened last week, was named after Der Füehrer to "stand out among hundreds of Mumbai eateries. We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people’s minds,” owner Punit Shablok told Reuters. We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different.” The interior of the small restaurant is decorated in the Nazi colors of red, white and black. A huge portrait of a stern-looking Füehrer greets visitors at the door. Diners eat in booths that resemble train boxcars and arrowed sign posts declaring "Auschwitz 300 km" adorn the room. I made up that last part about the booths and sign posts but why couldn't it be true? Not a great leap from "Hitler's Cross" and Hitler portraits to waiters dressed as Waffen SS and Mengele meringue pie for dessert.

“This place is not about wars or crimes, but where people come to relax and enjoy a meal,” said restaurant manager Fatima Kabani in what can only be described as one of the strangest sentence ever spoken. Reminds me of another meal with Hitler references:

From "The Germans" espisode of "Fawlty Towers":

Younger Herr: May we have two eggs mayonnaises, please?
Basil: Certainly! Why not, why not indeed? We are all friends now, eh?
Elder Herr: A prawn cocktail.
Basil: All in the Market together, old differences forgotten, and no need at all to mention the war. SORRY! Sorry. What was it again?
Elder Herr: A prawn cocktail.
Basil: Oh, prawn! That was it! When you said "prawn", I thought you said "war".Oh, y— Oh, the war! Oh, yes, completely slipped my mind! Yes, I'd forgotten all about it. Hitler, Himmler, and all that lot...Oh, yes, completely forgotten it, just like that.
[He looks around for a moment in confusion.]
Basil: Sorry. What was it again?
Elder Herr: A prawn cocktail!
Basil: Oh, yes, Eva Prawn. Yes, of course. And Goebbels too, he's another one I can hardly remember at all.
Younger Herr: And ein pickled herring!
Basil: Hermann Goering, yes, yes, and, uh, von Ribbentrop, that was another one.
Elder Herr: And four cold meat salads, please.
Basil: Certainly. Well, I'll just get your hors d'oeuvres... hors d'oeuvres vich must be obeyed at all times vithout qvestion! Sorry! Sorry!
[Polly enters the dining room.]
Polly: Mr. Fawlty, will you please call your wife immediately?
[Basil looks around frantically.]
Basil: Sybil? Sybi— She's in the hospital, you silly girl!
Polly: Yes, call her there!
Basil: I can't! I've got too much to do. [whispering loudly] Listen, don't mention the war! I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it alright.
[Basil returns to the Germans.]
Basil: So! It's all forgotten now, and let's hear no more about it. So that's two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering and four Colditz salads.
[The younger Frau is sobbing openly now, consoled by the elder Herr.]
Basil: Now, wait a minute. Well, I got a bit confused here. Sorry! I got a bit confused 'cause everyone keeps mentioning the war. So could you - what's the matter?
Elder Herr: It's all right.
Basil: Is there something wrong?
Elder Herr: Will you stop talking about the war?!
Basil: ME?! You started it!
Elder Herr: We did not start it!
Basil: Yes you did — you invaded Poland.

And I thought Fawlty Towers was farce and fiction. Turns out Basil is running a new restaurant in Mumbai.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Republican-itis is catching

Yesterday I wrote about some of the verbal diarrhea coming out of the mouths of Republicans. To be fair a Democrat, Andrew Young, whom I would label formely prominent, seems to have also been infected. Young, the former mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. was hired by Wal-Mart boost its image especially in the black community which felt the giant company had marginalized them. Well he did do something for its image.

Talking to an African-American newspaper Yound said that Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners had “ripped off” urban communities for years, “selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables.”...“You see those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of the owners of the small stores, “and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs...”. Later Young accused Jews of starting all the wars in the world. He then asked the reporter if he was Jewish. "No?" said Young, "you look Jewish." Yound resigned from the Wal-Mart funded image boosting group shortly thereafter.

Oh, but it gets better. In an attempt to explain himself the Civil Rights leader said, "I was speaking in the context of Atlanta, and that does not work in New York or Los Angeles." That's a reverse of "if it plays in Peoria." If it's racist and ignorant in New York or Los Angeles it's not in Atlanta? Huh? Did he just insult Atlanta too? Did he just say it's acceptable to be a ignorant racist in Atlanta but not in NYC or L.A.? Yes, I think he just did.

Young is just another mental midget who has held top leadership positions in this country and now gets rich trading off those former jobs. Maybe my problem is I'm not ignorant or racist enough to truly be successful in this country.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Diarrhea of the mouth and other Republican illnesses

There is a virus sweeping Republicans that leads to political diarrhia of the mouth. It's always been there, sort of like the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chicken pox that can remain dormant until it reactivates and causes shingles a painful nerve and skin malady. The virus in Republicans is reactivated when there is fear of loss of power or a of fear of not ascending to power. To wit:

First there is Tramm Hudson, the current front runner in the GOP primary in FL-13, the Congressional District being vacated by the imfamous Katherine Harris. Hudson had an attack of Republican-itis with his confident claim that blacks aren't good swimmers or can swim at all. It needs to be seen to be believed. Then of course there is Sen. Geroge Allen (R-VA) who called a volunteer for his opponent a "macaca" on videotape and now claims he is too stupid to be a racist. Not all Republicans are racist, but all racists seem to be Republicans.

Then there is Sen. Orrin Hatch, "who continuously decries the bitter partisanship in Washington, explained this week that Democratic success in November's election could result in terrorist attacks on America. Hatch was quoted in Tuesday's Tooele Transcript Bulletin as saying Middle East terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again." Hatch has been infected with the dormant Republican diarrhia of the mouth virus for awhile. In September 2004 he told the Washington Post that al-Qaida members wanted Democratic challenger John Kerry to defeat President Bush. Terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry," Hatch said. Now who which party was in control of the White House and House of Representatives on 9/11? I forget. Must be a virus clouding my memory.

Then there is patient zero, Dick Cheney, who smirks and speaks out of the corner of his mouth as he says just about whatever is on his mind no matter what the facts or reality are. Another attack of Republican political diarrhea of the mouth happened to Cheney while campaigning in Montana for Sen. Conrad Burns. Explaining that a vote for Democrats is a vote for another 9/11, Cheney croaked, "Here in the U.S. we have not had another 9-11," the vice president said. "No one can guarantee we will not be hit again. But the relative safety in recent years is not an accident." Meaning, "Vote Republican or die."

Used to be "Live free or die." Now it's "Vote Republican, live in fear or die." Good thing an education has made me immune from either the disease or the attempt to infict me by listening to verbal diarrhea. Vote Democratic to eradicate this disease.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Heaven on Earth

For those of you having withdrawal symptoms because my post hasn't gone up today -- I feel your pain but now the wait is over.

I spent the day at the PGA Championship golf tournament being held this week at the Medinah Country Club. (Upper left photo). It's the last of the four golf major tournaments and since the British Open and Masters will never be held around Chicago it was worth taking off work and delaying my daily blog post to go see the best golfers on earth. (Sergio Garcia at right).

From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. I was cut off from the real world. Unplugged from The Matrix. No cells phones or radios allowed in during the Wednesday practice round. (I did smuggle in my Nokia and a friend's Motoroal RAZR so so much for security). I wasn't able to check email or watch cable. The weather was perfect and world-class golfers were everywhere, (Davis Love III left) including a wife or two. (Rory Sabatini's wife below right). But no news. It was like being on Fantasy Island. I knew a major golf tournament was special and the weather was perfect but I think what made the day even more blissful was that the fetid buzz of news in the background was gone. Blocked out by the walls protecting the golf course. It was like heaven on Earth. Blue skies, low humidity, comfortable temperatures, superstar and obscure golfers alike practicing for a Superbowl-like golf tournament and no Fox News. No internet reminding me that the world is sour and violent and depressing. No Ann Coulter calling Bill Clinton a "latent homosexual." Just peace and quiet and golf played at the highest level ever achieved.

After a day at the PGA Championship I found out that I can be uncranky for more than a few nanoseconds. I found out that the next closest major to Chicago is in 2008 - the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills near Detriot - and that tickets don't go on sale until August 2007. I also found out that some sick dude got arrested in Thailand for the rape/murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Crap. The real world's tide of monsters is hard to fully hold at bay. In the word's of Marlin, Nemo's dad, "Good feelings gone."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who are these people

I've read the first couple of articles from Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter kidnapped and held for 82 days in Iraq and it's hard to imagine the constant terror she endured. At one point she begged her captors to kill her with a gun and not a knife. "You're my brother, you're truly my brother," [Carroll] said in Arabic [to her captor]. "Promise me you will use this gun to kill me by your own hand. I don't want that knife, I don't want the knife, use the gun."

In an ambush on her car her translator was murdered and she was taken hostage. Gun-wielding men jumped into her car and sped away. "Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!" my abductors shouted, joyful. "Jihad! Jihad!" They quickly drove [the] Toyota onto the highways of western Baghdad and surrounding farmlands, going in circles, apparently to kill time. Their "success" was granted by God, they believed, and they issued thanks repeatedly. "Allah Akbar," they said. "God is greatest." "They're going to take me out into a field and kill me," I thought. They seemed to read my thoughts, perplexed that I was afraid amid their jubilation. "Why you worried?" they asked. "No, no, no, [this is] jihad! [We are] Iraqi, Iraqi mujaheddin! Why you worried?"

At the first place she was held, a small house, Carroll was given a new set of clothes. "They took pains to explain they wouldn't take the $100 in cash they'd found in my pockets. 'When you return to America, this with you,' said one, waving the $100 bill. Who were these people? Kidnapping was justified, but taking money was not? And less than an hour after killing [my translator]".

She was moved often. On one car trip she sat blindfolded in the back seat. Soon she realized there were children next to her. "A cassette blared a recitation of the Koran and every few minutes the nervous men would mutter 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,' as we drove through the darkness. Then one of them said in Arabic, 'What are you? What are you?' A tiny voice next to me replied, 'I'm a mujahid,' a holy warrior. It was a boy - I'd learn that his name was Ismael, and he was 5 years old. Just a child, already indoctrinated."

Carroll asked "who were these people?" Indeed. Who are these people? They kidnap journalists. Behead aid workers. Car bomb children, mosques and gun down each other with reckless abandon. Kill shepards for not puting goat diapers on their flock lest they tempt amorous men passing by and proudly proclaim they get their dignity, and as Tom Friedman says, their "buzz" from killing Israelis, translation: Jews. It's a pathology that only Arabs, Muslims and Islam can correct. Nothing Israel or the U.S. does or doesn't do won't change that. This is pure distilled evil. 200 proof. And given the choice of protecting or defending people who love life and their children and their children's future or not I'm going for the former. Because until those who stand on the rubble of Lebanon and declare "victory" decide dignity comes from building things other than longer range missles I'm for turning them into rubble too.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Corruption, low taxes and personal profit a.k.a. The Republican Party

When California Republican U.S. Rep. Gary Miller sold 165 acres to the city of Monrovia in 2002, he made a profit of more than $10 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed in Congress. Ordinarily, he would have had to pay state and federal taxes of up to 31% on that profit. Instead, Miller told the IRS and the state that Monrovia had forced him to sell the property under threat of eminent domain. That allowed him to shelter the profits from capital gains taxes for more than two years before he had to reinvest the money.

But there is a problem with Miller's claim: Monrovia officials say that Miller sold the land willingly and that they didn't threaten to force him to sell. Miller, whose 42nd Congressional District includes chunks of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, claimed the same exemption in two subsequent property transactions, allowing him to continue sheltering his profits from the Monrovia sale. And in each of those cases, the purchasers say eminent domain, which allows a government agency to force a sale if it's in the public interest, was neither used nor threatened. For Miller, a millionaire land developer and a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, repeated use of the forced-sale exemption, IRS Code Section 1033, has enabled deferment of capital gains taxes through at least 2009.

Miller has described being threatened by Monrovia during the bargaining process and said the city gave him no choice but to sell. "The base of the deal was either you sell to us or we'll have to condemn it," Miller said. But records and interviews in Monrovia show that the sale of Miller's land was voluntary. Glen Owens, a member of Monrovia's Planning Commission, said the city could not have used eminent domain to purchase Miller's property, because it was acquiring the undeveloped hillside land for a wilderness preserve using state funding that specifically prohibited forced sales. "The state doesn't go along with eminent domain," he said. "You have to have a willing seller." A letter from then-City Manager Don Hopper at the time of the sale confirms that use of state funds blocked the city from considering eminent domain. A videotape of a February 2000 City Council meeting, packed with people pushing the city to protect the hillside, shows Miller pleading with city officials four times to buy his land. "Why don't you buy my property? I've asked you repeatedly," Miller said.

Another good example of Republican corruption and thirst for personal gain and using their position to game the system everyone else has to play in honestly. The desire to pay little or no taxes is consistent with Republican economic philosophy that deficts don't matter and only the little people pay taxes. Little people, W-2 income workers certainly not the richest 7,500 families or Republican congressmen in insider land deals. My only question is how did Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) miss the IRS Code 1033 dodge in his sweetheart land deal?

BONUS HYPOCRISY POST: From Andrew Sullivan's blog today, "According to the Times of India, the Sri Lankan government just killed 43 children in an anti-terrorist action, when airstrikes repeatedly hit an orphanage in a rebel-held area. 60 girls were also wounded. I await the international condemnation. Maybe if the Israelis had done it, someone would care. But, hey, the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world aren't they? And all the child casualties of anti-terror campaigns.

Friday, August 11, 2006

More family values compassionate conservatives

Kathleen Troia McFarland, a former official in the Reagan-era Pentagon and John Spencer, a former mayor of Yonkers, the two sacrificial lambs beating each other up in the Republican primary to win the chance to get slaughtered by Hillary in november, kicked it up a notch at their recent televised debate. McFarland, also known as sacrificial lamb number 1, repeatedly brought up Spencer's extramarital affair with a city worker while he was mayor and for raising taxes. "[W]hen you were mayor of Yonkers," said McFarland, "you had an affair with your secretary while your married to someone else." How else would have an affair? At least give him credit for doing it right. McFarland continued, "You tripled her salary and made her your chief of staff. You were living with her. You doubled your own personal income. You got financial gain from that. And you had two childrem." Ouch.

Mr. Spencer, better known as sacrificial lamb number 2, answered back saying the woman he had gone on to marry was not a "secretary" but "a career professional with 22 years of working for three former mayors and city managers." The question is what kind of "professional" was she?

Oh, but Mr. Spencer had his ammunition. Even before the debate the campaign has been vicious. Ms. McFarland's family has been an issue. New York magazine published a letter she wrote to her parents saying why she had cut off contact with her brother Michael, who was gay and died of AIDS-related illness. "Have you ever wondered why I have never had anything to do with Mike and have never let my daughters see him, although we live only 15 minutes away from each other? He has been a lifelong homosexual, most of his relationships brief, fleeting one-night stands." Nice lady.

"This [debate] was more like a Tom and Jerry cartoon than a Senate debate," said a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "I don't think that anyone expected this to devolve into a cross between 'Dr. Phil' and 'Days of Our Lives,' said a Republican strategist working for the state's Conservative Party.

And why are they peeling each other's skin off? To lose by 30 points in november? I don't get it. I guess that's why I'm here typing away in anonymous solitude while McFarland and Spencer are embarrassing themselves publicly. Maybe they're auditioning for a job with Ken Mehlman or Karl Rove. maybe it's a cry for help. Whatever the case it did produce a blog entry. Thanks lambs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sen. Joe Cheney

"I'm not George Bush" said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) during his televised debate with recent Connecticut Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont a month ago. "I know George Bush. I've worked against George Bush. I've even run against George Bush. But Ned, I'm not George Bush," Lieberman said during the debate, televised nationally.

Take a quick trip back in time with me...

Two months before the 2004 presidential election, Vice-President Dick Cheney warned warned that if John F. Kerry were to be elected, "the danger is that we'll get hit again" by terrorists." In Des Moines back then, Cheney went beyond previous restraints to suggest that the country would be more vulnerable to attack under Kerry. "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again," the vice president said, "that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we are not really at war."

Meanwhile back to the present...

Just yesterday, Sen. Lieberman said Lamont winning in November would be a victory for the terrorists. "I'm worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don't appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us -- more evil or as evil as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet communists we fought during the long Cold War," Lieberman said. "If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again."

Hmmmmmmm. Maybe Lieberman isn't George Bush. But sounding exactly like Cheney's hysterical fear-mongering before the 2000 election isn't something to be proud of either. "Lieberman: More like Cheney than Bush" isn't a slogan that will get Connecticut voters to leap from their couches and run to the polls to vote for Mr. "Well I did come in second and not by that much." Really an embarrassing way to end 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Didn't I see Curly do this once?

In Rio De Janeiro, a Brazilian man died when he tried to open what police believe was a rocket-propelled grenade with a sledgehammer in a mechanical workshop. The workshop was destroyed and several cars parked outside caught fire. Police found several unexploded army issue rocket propelled grenades in the workshop. They believe the ammunition had been brought there by scavengers wanting to sell them as scrap metal, but they also are investigating a possible link to Rio's heavily armed drug gangs who often raid military bases.

If that guy hadn't died, given his lack of skill handling weapons and the total lack of planning including an exit strategy if things went badly, he might have been appointed as Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor or Secretary of State for W. That is if W had time on his vacation to do some work like reading through resumes. I mean, why should what some are calling "World War III" get in the way of getting away?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


"I used to think of (Hezbollah leader) Nasrallah as the smartest politician in Lebanon, but this last operation changed my mind," said Roula Haddad, a 33-year-old administrative secretary, shopping at the upscale ABC mall in the predominantly Cristian Ashrafiyeh neighborhood. "It was a huge mistake and he is solely responsible for all the destruction. He proved that he does not care about Lebanese interests; he revealed his true Iranian skin."

At least there is hope in Lebanon and maybe other parts of the Arab community after reading this quote in the New York Times yesterday. Yes Hezbollah has built schools and hospitals and paid people's bills and bought them medicine and paid for medical care and school supplies. The accounts receivable for Hezbollah were the sons of Lebanese Shiites to be the Lebanon division of the Iranian army. Reports are that Iran sends $40 million a month (of our money straight from the gas pump) to Hezbollah to buy off the poor of south Beirut and Lebanon. That's on top of the weapons sent to Hezbollah from Tehran and from the description in Newsweek they are equipped as well as the Israelis. Make no mistake about it, this is the AAA league of the Iranian army and Israel is doing the Western world's work for it.

Lebanon was not free before Nasrallah started this war with Israel. It was on loan to the Syrians and the Iranians. The Iranians are now collecting on their investment. Ultimately it will be up to the Lebanese people to decide whether to be the guest house of Iran or whether they, including Hezbollah want to be Lebanese first. Either way, Israel is making it clear that there is a heavy price to be paid to be the outsourced Iranian army invading Israel to start wars.

Monday, August 07, 2006


On July 12, Hezbollah invaded Israel (yes, invaded ) from Lebanon into Israeli territory, and killed seven Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two. After Israel decided not to play nice and trade a 1,000 Hezbollah murderers, including Samir Kuntar who, while also invading Israel, shot and killed a dad in front of his four-year-old daughter and then smashed her skull in with his rifle butt against a rock. Mom, trying to hide in the attic and keep quiet accidentally smothered her two-year-old daughter in the process. These are the "courageous" bloodthirsty Jew-killers that Hezbollah calls heros. Not scientists or inventors or artists or playwrights or engineers but baby-killers whose mission is to smash as many skulls, preferrably infants, as possible. When Israel kills civilians it's an operational failure. Just look at the worldwide public relations fallout. That's of course when photos aren't being digitally altered by Reuters. When Hezbollah kills civilians it's a mission success for them. But I digress.

So after starting a fight and not liking the progression of events ("courageously" shooting over 3,000 missiles into Israel to kill civilians at random) Hezbollah is talking about a cease fire. No doubt to go online and order another 13,000 missiles for the next time they want to kill Jews who refuse to turn the other cheek. I wonder if their Amazon wish list reads more like an armory inventory. In any event, one of the conditions Hezbollah is insisting upon is that all israeli soldiers leave Lebanon. And so i was just wondering. Does this also include the two IDF soldiers who were kidnapped on July 12. If so then why didn't they just release them a long time ago? Not good for business I guess. The business of killing Jews and destroying countries. Worse is better for these death-loving maniacs. If they want to die and see Allah so badly, I hope the IDF is working hard to arrange the meeting. One thing is for sure, I wouldn't by looking at Hassan Nasarallah's Amazon wish list for his birthday. I think his last cake had all the candles he'll ever need.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Just made it

It might bye the nd of the world. You know, the Rapture, End of Days and iI'm not talking porno or the latest Arnold movie. No I'm talking about the big "A." Armaggedon. As in "I'ma gedon" tired of all the end of the world, come to the big mixer to meet Jesus stories on cable. Jon Stewart just covered this topic inluding Paula Zahn's talk about the "Rapture meter" hitting "156!" I kid you not. But I'm not talking about the war in the Middle East but of the "Masturbate-a-thon" going on in London. And again, I kid you not.

Marie Stopes International, which is hosting the event with HIV/ AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said it expected up to 200 people to attend the sponsored masturbation session in Clerkenwell, central London, on Saturday. "It is a bit of a publicity stunt but we hope it will raise awareness," a Marie Stopes spokeswoman told Reuters. "We want to get people talking about safer sex, masturbation and to lift taboos." Participants, who have to be over 18, can bring any aids they need and can take part in four different rooms -- a comfort area, a mixed area, along with men and women only areas. However, the rules on the event's Web site states there can be no touching of other participants nor are people allowed to fake orgasms. "The amount you raise will be determined by how many minutes you masturbate and/or how many orgasms you achieve," the Web site said. The Marie Stopes spokeswoman said local religious groups had been initially outraged, but after people had heard what the event was about, most had approved it. Similar events have been staged in San Francisco for the last six years raising $25,000 for women's health initiatives and HIV prevention. If successful, Marie Stopes said it could take place elsewhere in mainland Europe next year.

One way or the other, Middle East war, AIDS, Bird Flu, Global Warming, Masterbate-a-thon, whatever your pleasure, it is the end of the world. I'm just glad that when that happens i won't be the only one eternally cranky.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unoriginal Thursday - But still good

I am unoriginal today having to (happily) be the man-servant to cranky jr. (3-and-a-half years old), cranky jr. jr. (3-and-a-half days old) and Cranky's Wife (natural childbirth without any drugs!) Between pre-school camp drop-off and pick-up, lunch, pillows and soothing gel circles (ask a young mommy), I haven't had time to be original. But I share a few things with you:

Quotes of the day thanks to Andrew Sullivan of Time:

Bill Maher of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on Hezbollah and Israel with a little Mel Gibson thrown in to make the point:

"As I watch so much of the world ask Israel for restraint in a way no other country would (Can you imagine what Bush would do if a terrorist organization took over Canada and was lobbing missiles into Montana, Maine and Illinois?) - and, by the way, does anyone ever ask Hezbollah for restraint. you know, like, please stop firing your rockets aimed PURPOSEFULLY at civilians? - it strikes me that the world IS Mel Gibson.

Most of the time, the anti-semitism is under control, but that demon lives inside and when the moon is full, or there's been enough alcohol consumed, or Israel is forced to kill people in its own defense, then it comes out."

Guess who this is and it's not from The Onion:

"America's armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay ... A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming ... I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect ... We're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back ... to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible. So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to ... uphold the laws of our land ... I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it ..."

Governor George W. Bush, Republican National Convention speech, Aug. 3, 2000

And if you still haven't laughed yet try this link but have a few minutes, a tissue and a change of underwear before you watch the video. I laughed, I cried, I wet my pants.

What? Still not laughing? O.k. try this link and again have those extra boxers ready.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I can't resist

Except for weekends and holidays I haven't missed a day of blogging since I started this site. And even though I am hip deep in newborn diapers I have a loyal and demanding readership that has made its wishes clear - they need their daily dose of crankiness from an expert. I won't let you down.

Imagine if you ran a large school filled with children of all ages. Imagine your neighbors, some of who talk to you, some who don't, some who are friendly and some who want you to move, have large packs of crocodiles that are allowed to roam free. You've asked them to cage the lethal creatures who might sun themselves most of the day but from time to time crocodiles come into your school and kills and/or takes away some of the children, to eat later. Further imagine that after the crocodiles leave your neighbors' backyards and does this one too many times you decide to pick up a gun and go into your neighbors' yards, in hot pursuit, to eliminate the ongoing threat of the crocodiles. After killing some of the reptiles you are then brought before the U.N. Security Council for condemnation by the very neighbors who did nothing to stop the crocs from using your school as a buffet. Sound familiar?

I know I am inviting another blog flare up in my comments sections but I can't resist. The fact is Hezbollah are a bunch of crocodiles and no neighbor should have to worry when the crocs get hungry. Hezbollah wants to destroy Israel and Israel wants to destroy the terrorist capacity and threat of Hezbollah. Hezbollah doesn't have the ability to destroy Israel (unless Iran slips them a few nukes which they might if they had them) but Israel probably has the capacity to destroy the military threat of Hezbollah. Even if they don't, Israel has severely damaged them and based on the lastest news they are significantly expanding their ground campaign. This may cripple Hezbollah for a long time perhaps setting back their terrorist army capabilities for years. In any event, it seems that the real complaint is that Israel might achieve their goal of de-fanging or caging a lot of the crocs in Lebanon.

Hezbollah's goal is to destroy Israel. Israel's goal is to destroy Hezbollah as a terrorist threat. I can't help but wonder, after listening to the pundits and bloggers, that the real anger behind the critcism of Israel is that Israel might actually achieve their goal and Hezbollah won't.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Temporarily uncranky!

A hot summer night in July has welcomed another cranky junior into this crazy world. Between the impending sleep deprivation and bi-hourly feedings I will try to blog when the news demands it. Hope you will check back here to see when I come up for air. Don't worry, I will be back and cranky as ever very soon.

The Daily Curmudgeon