Monday, October 31, 2005
The grumble from within the ranks is that Democrats are disunited and lack a true platform.
Dems are clearly not united on all issues, but the GOP can hardly claim a monopoly on unity. That’s never been truer than in recent times. Just look at what the Miers nomination, John Bolton, Iraq, gay marriage, Social Security reform and Plamegate, for starters, have done to their much-ballyhooed harmony.
The GOP’s unity is not to be envied. There are some issues they seem overwhelmingly united on – tax cuts for the rich, laws that favor businesses over employees or individuals, etc. That’s NO model for Democratic unity, because the GOP are united on bad ideas. The Machiavellian notion that “unity is unity” is below us and should always stay there.
Also referred to as “unity” is the GOP tendency to unquestioningly defend their guilty, or at least to downplay their transgressions, while attacking their detractors. The smearing of Tom DeLay’s prosecutor Ronnie Earle, even though DeLay has repeatedly been censured for ethics violations and Earle has prosecuted many more Dems than GOPs, is a perfect example.
The most egregious instance is undoubtedly their shrugging off of Plamegate – with its documented connections to the deceptive rationale for war in Iraq – even though they impeached a president for a far lesser offense.
At the heart of American political disunity is our two-party system. We are actually a very diverse people in terms of values and viewpoints, yet we give ourselves basically two choices on election day. Is it any wonder our politics is so contentious most of the time?
In certain respects the GOP are indeed united - in spreading half-truths and distortions about their challengers, in handing our law books over to corporations, and in undoing many basic protections and freedoms we take for granted. They’re no standard for Democrats to aspire to when we grow up.
If the state of today’s GOP passes for unity, I’ll take chaos.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
“I do not recall.”
That’s also the tactic “Scooter” Libby’s defense team seems to be dusting off to counter his five indictments for his role in Plamegate.
Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, said in reference his client, “…a person's recollection and memory of events will not always match those of other people, particularly when they are asked to testify months after the events occurred."
The evidence against Libby is overwhelming, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is not easily smeared. Faulty recall is about all that’s left in the defense bag of tricks. And it’s not much of a defense.
Still, it’s useful because it’s hard to disprove. You can prove a person said or did something, but not that they remember saying or doing it.
So, we’re back to the old 80’s standby excuse. President Reagan couldn’t recall his involvement in Iran-Contra; the same year Austrian President Kurt Waldheim couldn’t remember being a Nazi Stormtrooper (typically the kind of thing you don’t forget).
Now Libby says he can’t remember what he said to whom, and when. That’s a bigger crutch than he’s using for his broken foot.
Friday, October 28, 2005
One such leader’s tenure was marked by an unpopular military campaign, ill-equipped troops dying in alarming numbers, incompetent cronies in high places, skyrocketing prices, scarce jobs and a growing chasm between the upper and lower classes of society that left the latter angry and discontented.
Surely the man must have seen trouble coming from all this – even his political allies warned him that changes were needed. But he chose to ignore their advice. It’s possible that a life of privilege simply rendered him incapable of hearing anything but what he wanted to hear.
The leader described above was Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and the unpopular military campaign was the Russian invasion of Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion.
Nicholas II later personally led the Russian Army through World War I, a conflict which resulted in the deaths of millions of Russian soldiers. While many were killed in combat, many simply starved to death.
During that war Nicholas II chose his wife Alexandra to govern the country in his stead. A devotee of crackpot healer Rasputin, Alexandra was also quite an inept leader.
Nicholas II’s regime ultimately collapsed, and he was forced to step down. He and his entire family fell to bullets and bayonets the next year.
History holds some harsh lessons for those in power. Still, some leaders aren’t much for history, or any other troublesome subject.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Fitzy, who rarely speaks to the press, said it was a Sunday morning talk show that brought about his change of heart.
“I’m watching Meet the Press, and Tim Russert’s got Kay Bailey Hutchinson on there,” says Fitzy. “Well, she said some things that really made sense. And I thought to myself, ‘You know, this lady is right. Perjury isn’t really that big of a deal.’ So I made ending the investigation my first priority when I got back to work this week.”
Fitzy was referring to a statement by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), who said to Meet the Press host Tim Russert, “I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
Fitzy says it wasn’t solely Hutchinson’s words that led him to his decision, however.
“I also read a quote about me from an unattributed source,” Fitz says. “It described me as ‘vile, detestable, moralistic, with no heart or conscience.’ That really hurt. But it did make me think that maybe what Paddy Fitzgerald needs to do right now is focus on making Paddy Fitzgerald a better person.”
To that end, Fitzy, a lifelong bachelor, has recently signed up for Match.com, and is hopeful he’ll soon meet the girl of his dreams.
“I’m chatting with this one woman who is kind of cool. I don’t know what’ll happen, but it’s looking good. I’m just glad I’ve found something constructive to do with myself after wasting the last two years of my life.”
Incidents of pharmacists choosing not to dispense certain drugs to customers – typically based on their own religious or moral beliefs – are becoming increasingly common. Many of the refusals involve the “morning after” pill, or Plan B, which stops conception from occurring up to 72 hours after the act. This shouldn’t be confused with the abortion pill, RU-486.
Shouldn’t be, but is. Some people give equal moral weighting to preventing conception and terminating a pregnancy early on. Unfortunately, some of them also wear a name tag and work behind the counter at your local pharmacy, which means they stand between you and your pills.
Even the FDA has gotten in on the obstructionist act, stalling the OTC release of Plan B, even though it has been proven safe and effective.
What apparently hasn’t occurred to “pro-life” pharmacists and public officials is that a woman may well turn to abortion if she can't get Plan B in time. Perhaps they ought to weigh that possibility against their own moral objections.
Some stores have a policy that their pharmacists must hand off a prescription to someone else, or refer the customer to another pharmacy, if they object to dispensing it. Still, some objectors are steadfast.
There are ways to get pharmacists to dispense with their "moral" objections and dispense Plan B to those who need it, though. For example, municipalities could raise taxes in order to provide for any unplanned children, from birth through the age of 18, who were born as the result of a pharmacist’s refusal to dispense Plan B. This, if anything, would no doubt put the fear of God into them.
But holding pharmacists to their responsibilities should begin well before they’re behind the counter. On day one of pharmacy college, instructors should make every student aware that he/she may one day have to dispense a drug they find objectionable, whether an existing one or one yet to be developed. Perhaps they already do this, but, if so, they’re not getting their point across.
Those who don’t feel they’ll be able to keep their beliefs out of their work should probably try another field of study. People need to be able to expect they’ll get the medicines they need from an unbiased professional – not a lecture from an armchair ethicist – when they go to the pharmacy.
Watch for more controversy when Gardasil, a miracle vaccine that’s been proven 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer, debuts next year. Some “family” groups have already said that the vaccine, which also prevents HPV, a common STD, will simply encourage promiscuity. We may well hear stories about women encountering pharmacists who tell them, “Sorry, I don’t sell to sluts.”
Friday, October 21, 2005
MB1: Brownie here.
MB2: Sir, it’s Marty Bahamonde. Sorry to interrupt your dinner. Listen, the situation here…
MB1: No problem, but let’s make it quick because I’m roaming.
MB2: Well, uhh…
MB1: (inaudible) the salt and pepper please, baby?
MB2: As I was saying, sir, the situation here is desperate and getting worse. There aren’t enough shelters and huge groups of displaced people are gathering at the convention center and the Superdome. They have nowhere else…
MB1: I saw the Super Bowl at the Dome one time. Say, how are those Saints looking this year?
MB2: The Saints? Sir, please, you must let me explain. Things are looking very bleak for New Orleans. There’s little food or water, no room in the shelters and no medicine for a lot of these people. And there are thousands…
MB1: Jesus, you’d think these people had never heard of a hurricane before. See, when a storm’s coming your way, the smart thing to do is pack the family into the car, hightail it out of there and find a hotel until the storm passes.
MB2: I understand that but a lot of these folks are too poor. They don’t own cars and don’t have anyplace to go if they did.
MB1: Are there no workhouses? No prisons?
MB2: Sir, I don’t …
MB1: Look, put them all on buses or something and get them out of there. I’m sure a bus will feel just like home.
MB2: All the local buses are underwater.
MB1: Where are the state authorities? It's not the federal government's job to deal with these state issues.
MB2: They don't have all the resources...
MB1: Well, I don’t know what you want me to do about it.
MB2: I’d like for you to arrange some relief services for the short term, and possibly follow up with transportation out of town sufficient for several thousand people.
MB1: Hang on a second. (inaudible) this medium rare. MEDIUM rare. Sorry, Marty.
MB2: Sir, I don’t think you understand the magnitude…
MB1: Transportation. Yes, we’ll have to arrange something. Say, Marty, do realize that before there were buses people used to get around town in horse-drawn carriages?
MB2: Yes, but let’s try to…
MB1: Do you like horses, Marty? I do. Have you ever seen an Arabian up close? Beautiful animal. Graceful, proud, exceptional muscle tone. I’ll tell you, Arabian semen in worth its volume in gold.
MB2: We’re having a lot of problems here, sir. I’d appreciate if you’d send whatever help you can right away. And I think you should come see the situation for yourself.
MB1: Seems like everybody wants Brownie’s time right now. Look, I’ll try and swing through there in the next few days.
MB2: I imagine there will be many dead by then, sir.
MB1: Hmm. Have you ever seen one of those Dixieland funerals they have in New Orleans, Marty? It’s the damnedest thing. The mourners carry the coffin down the street walking like zombies. Then all the sudden they break out into a jam session. It’s actually kinda cool. You should try and catch one of those while you’re there.
MB2: It looks like I’ll have plenty of chances.
MB1: OK, Marty, I need to eat my dinner, and my wife is giving me a dirty look because I’m not paying any attention to her. I’ll see what I can do about getting some decommissioned army buses out to you.
MB2: I appreciate that, sir, but the first priorities should be food, water and medicine.
MB1: Can’t you just hold them off with some canned food until we get something better set up? Look, my cell battery’s about to die.
MB2: That’s what I’m trying to tell you, sir. There’s little canned food where I am, and no MREs have arrived as of yet.
MB1: No MREs? Then let them eat crawdad gumbo. (inaudible, line goes dead)
MB2: Sir? Sir?
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
A commonly cited reason is economic: They’re poor, they don’t have jobs, they have no hope in life. So, since the afternoon soaps aren’t all that good over there, they have nothing better to do than stand around in male-only groups in the street, pound their fists in the air, brandish pictures of their favorite clerics and shout violent anti-West rhetoric until their number is called.
We have all sorts of poverty in the US, too. Joblessness, homelessness, slums, housing projects. And our federal government is blamed – often justly – for contributing to or doing little to alleviate much of it. That said, we’ve not seen anything akin to a group of housing project residents or a cadre of the homeless hijacking an airliner and using it as a missile against the federal government to draw attention to their grievances.
Another prevalent explanation for anti-West hatred is our “conquest” of or intervention in their lands. While this may be valid, other peoples have experienced the same treatment and reacted very differently.
For example, we’ve not seen any modern-day Native American radicals launch terrorist attacks against the government for taking away their land and forcing them onto tiny casinos. Nor have we heard anything about aborigines planning an attack on the Sydney Opera House during the fat lady’s aria. Nor the Yanomamo trying to disrupt Carnivale in Rio with hand-carved WMDs.
While the anti-West crowd may have legitimate reasons to be mad, how they choose to respond to that anger speaks to a lot more than unemployment or real estate disputes. There’s something much more fundamental to the makeup of those individuals at work here.
What could it be?
Why is it that the people who tell you having a cat de-clawed is cruel are the same people who tell you the first thing you should do to a male cat is have his balls sliced off?
Ask a male of any species which “set” he’d rather lose and the answer will be the same every time.
To those who do think de-clawing is cruel, let me point out a few facts:
· Cats are put under anesthesia when the procedure is done. You send them to a vet to have their nails pulled out, not to the Vietcong.
· De-clawing wouldn’t be necessary if cats wouldn’t use our skin or our furniture as scratching posts. Remember, those are the real victims here.
· The random, unprovoked claw swipes some cats dole out are unjustifiably cruel to their victims, so de-clawing is really proactive self-defense. (Why must some people focus on the perpetrator instead of the victim???)
I must also say I don’t buy this notion of de-clawing indoor cats only. The argument that cats won’t be able to defend themselves in a street fight misses the important point that they shouldn’t be fighting in the first place. Do you make sure your kid has a switchblade before heading out to school? Putting cats out on the street armed with two Freddie Kruger gloves only encourages cat-on-cat violence.
Also on the topic of indoor cats, and to return to my original point, why does anyone need to neuter an indoor cat? Who are they gonna knock up, your kids’ stuffed animals? Indeed, they may practice on them, but the chances of “Hello Kitty” dropping a litter are infinitesimal.
So, to sum up, castrati cats bad, clawless cats good.
Now, if only someone could develop as simple a procedure to deal with cats’ OCD, ADD, hyperactivity, paranoia, bi-polarism and stimulant abuse.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
From victim Robert Davis’ description of the incident, some very storm-weary cops let their tempers and superiority complexes get the best of them. You can see and hear the frustration and anger in the officer who roughed up the journalist. These guys ought to go cool off in those newly reopened strips clubs, and not use whatever aggressions they’ve built up to re-victimize hurricane victims.
Though Davis himself does not believe the beating was racially motivated, it can’t help the image of the area where the health and safety of blacks was seemingly forgotten during Hurricane Katrina.
This is also a nation that’s seen deadly riots result from the acquittal of police officers who were videotaped beating a black suspect. Let’s hope the only outcome of this latest incident is punishment for the guilty, and a renewed commitment from law enforcement to respect the civil rights of all Americans.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Gannon’s cover organization, Talon News, was one of the outlets that published the identity of former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, in an effort to discredit Wilson for discrediting the White House’s case against Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuke-u-ler aspirations.
Legitimate journalists Matt Cooper, Judy Miller and others whose surnames aren’t necessarily occupations from the Middle Ages (and who aren’t necessarily legitimate), like Robert Novak, have thus far gotten all the glory in Plamegate. But Gannon may yet regain front page coverage, as his purported inside knowledge of Plame's identity runs afoul of federal espionage laws.
From Joe Conason (Salon): “…the special counsel (US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald) is seeking to determine whether anyone transmitted classified material or information to persons who were not cleared to receive it -- which could be a felony under the 1917 Espionage Act.”
Fitzgerald’s investigation may be expanding, though we still don’t know the extent to which Rove is being investigated. But this question arises: Was there some quid pro quo between Messrs. Rove and Gannon, given that the former was probably responsible for leaking the Wilson-damaging story to the latter’s employer for publication? We know what Rove got out of the deal, but what about Gannon?
If Karl Rove has a blue tie, someone ought to check it for stains.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Increased oil drilling within the US – in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, etc. – has long been touted as a way to help reduce our dependence on foreign (i.e. Middle Eastern) oil, so we no longer have to look to terrorist states to put gas in our tanks.
But foreign dependence is only part of the problem. Indeed, the problem is oil itself. It’s a non-renewable energy source (there are only so many dead dinosaurs) that pollutes the planet and eats away at our ozone layer. We need better choices.
With respect to new oil drilling, common sense dictates that the way to advance new energy sources is not to create more ways to get the old ones. It’s like trying to get someone to switch from cigarettes to chewing gum and having them tell you, “Ok, I’ll do that, but first I need to buy a few more cartons.”
We have seen some positive shifts away from completely oil-dependent cars in recent years, however. Some of the new gas-electric hybrids get 50 or 60 miles to the gallon. They still use gas, but they go farther on it.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Hummers on the road getting 12 or 13 miles per gallon. These immense, gas-guzzling, road-hogging, two-parking-space-usurping SUVs are very popular, even with single people who ride in them solo while chatting on their cell phones. Yet, even with the war in Iraq and climbing gas prices, Congress still refuses to compel automakers to increase fuel economy.
Also on this end of the spectrum are slick, flip-flopping governors who change sides on an issue that the populace clearly does not favor. Jeb would be wise to proceed carefully on this one. Fighting for oil rigs off Florida is a slippery slope, and he could fall and break something – like his political career.
Though getting a flu shot is recommended (not by me – my last inoculation made me sick), one everyday measure you can take to prevent the flu, as doctors have been suggesting for years, is to simply wash your hands regularly.
Yep. Wash your hands. Quit passing germs around with everything and everyone you touch. Seems like a reasonable practice, considering the benefits. Still, flu viruses come back in force every year, stronger and smarter. Not only can they mutate to fool flu vaccines, they’re politically savvy; they know how to make themselves an issue in a close election.
But the flu isn’t the only reason you should wash your hands regularly…
Eat shit and die.
Two short years ago, a handful of people died after contracting hepatitis (A) at a Mexican restaurant in Pennsylvania. 650 in all were infected. Initially the cause was thought to be improper post-potty break hand washing by the kitchen staff, but a full investigation showed the cause to be shit-soaked scallions from Mexico. The point is, health experts made it known that by failing to wash your hands after doing your business, you could potentially sicken or even kill hundreds.
Paltry protection against poultry.
Now, to be sure, hand washing isn’t effective against all strains of the flu – such as the disease du jour, avian (bird) flu. I don’t know if birds get it from eating Mexican, but you should probably stay away from McNasty McNuggets and birds with runny noses to avoid catching it. And don’t visit China.
Be a good “influenca.”
Parents, you’ve been put on notice – make sure your kids wash their hands regularly. Remember, a future shortage of flu shots may be your fault. Good hygiene habits start at an early age. And, despite what some may say, regular hand washing is not a symptom of OCD. It’s a sign of civilization.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Gee, all you used to have to do for free iTunes was open up a Pepsi!
To sweeten the deal, the ANG is giving those who actually enlist a free iPod nano.* The catch is, these new gadgets have a screen that's easily broken. You see, the US military's not big on giving out anything with a strong protective casing - body armor, Humvees, etc.
*Offer not valid within the United States.
During England’s court-martial, her attorney, Captain Jonathan Crisp, consistently portrayed her as a naïve young woman so smitten with Charles Graner (the father of England’s lovechild and convicted ringmaster of the Abu Ghraib Gulag) that she was incapable of choosing between right and wrong, and was manipulated into participating in the abuse and concurrent photo sessions.
A clinical psychologist testifying on her behalf stated, “It (England participating in prisoner abuse) was very much like a little kid looking to an adult for what to do and what not to do."
Even Graner, leader of the Abu Ghraib Gang and serial philanderer, called England “young” and “suggestible.”
If these are accurate characterizations of England, how did this slow-talking, oxygen-deprived, learning-disabled “kid” get into the military in the first place?
How did England end up being deployed to Iraq? Who made the determination she was mature enough to understand what she was getting into before enlisting? Don’t the military screen their cadets? Seriously, there seem to more stringent criteria to get into an R-rated movie.
With the current shortfall in military recruitment, those criteria are not likely to get any higher, either. I expect recruiters will begin calling on England’s 11-month-old child any day now.
Monday, October 03, 2005
The potential outcome of this court ruling is the removal of the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, which has heartened church-state separatists and riled the religious right, who believe this is another case of activist judges and liberals attempting to bar all traces of religion from public life in America.
This legal saga began in 2002 when athiest Michael Nednow sued to have the phrase “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, which his young daughter was compelled to recite in school. In 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that, as he was not the child’s primary guardian (Michael and her mother are divorced), Nednow could not launch the legal action on her behalf.
After his initial defeat, Nednow obviously sought out more solid legal advice, and sued again on behalf of himself and other like-minded Elk Grove parents. They won.
Nednow’s case has seen much coverage in the press, and as a result has brought to light a largely forgotten fact: The words “under God” were not originally part of the pledge, but were added in 1954 during the midst of the McCarthy Era. Pushed by the Catholic mens’ group Knights of Columbus and a few members of their own ranks, the United States Congress signed the new wording into law as an effort to distinguish capitalistic (i.e American) faith from communistic (i.e. Soviet) atheism.
UPDATE: Communism was officially declared dead years ago after a series of significant events; chief among these were the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 11, 1989, and the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party and leader of the USSR, on Christmas Day, 1991.
In the context of these historical events of the late 80s and early 90s, the question comes to mind: If Godless communism was the impetus for the addition of “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, why wasn’t that phrase removed after its fall?
I can almost imagine Ronald Reagan circa 1992, no longer president, but still the man widely credited with bringing communism to an end, speaking to Congress before a huge banner reading “Mission Accomplished.” Afterward everyone would enjoy handshakes, pats on the back, cigars and jellybeans in the foyer.
“Under God” is as much a relic of the Cold War as the idea of a nuclear missile “shield” protecting the US. Perhaps it is time to bring our pledge up to date.