Saturday, December 31, 2005

Nine lives

Ahmed Chalabi rises again.
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 -- As a fuel crisis deepened in Iraq, the government replaced its oil minister with controversial Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, whose poor performance in the Dec. 15 elections was a setback in his recent attempt at political rehabilitation.
He provides BS about WMD, he spies for Iran, and he can't get anyone to support him at the polls, yet he now takes one of the top 3 important jobs in the whole country. Astounding.

Bushisms of 2005

Here is a list of amusing statements from the not-always super articulate Mr. Bush. Number 1 on the list is an easy guess and will live forever. My favorite and one that I had not heard before--
"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda," Bush said in explaining his communications strategy last May.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Tiger fact

Link.
Stat of the week: The points difference between Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh at Nos. 1 and 2 in the world ranking is equal to the difference of Singh and Peter Lonard at No. 46.
I hope people appreciate how amazing this guy is.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Political cartoon of the day

Year in review

I have always enjoyed "year in review" type news specials and articles. Here are a couple from today.

Noonan: "'05's Big Five"

Broder: "A look back at year's errors, misjudgments on all fronts"

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Knee jerk libertarianism

I saw somewhere today (I can't find it now) an opinion that there was a "knee jerk libertarian" reaction by many to the domestic eavesdropping news. I won't object to that statement because it certainly describes my initial reaction.

My initial reaction has not changed significantly, but it has softened. Suffice to say that many opiners (with special mention to the authors of this column) caused me to rethink some issues. I will accept that this is a close call.

At this point, current policy is clear for the world: Bush is going to continue what he has been doing. If the policy is not a secret anymore anyway, I see no reason not to have a political debate about it and where to draw the very tricky line.

(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)

Eric Alterman is a putz

Link.
Daniel Dennett has some pretty smart and bold things to say here about why we need to make up God and religion and the like.
What an arrogant prick (I mean, putz).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Discrimination in China

Link.

A rule that women applying for government jobs in central Hunan province had to show they had symmetrically shaped breasts sparked a public uproar last year and calls for stronger legal protection against job discrimination.

Hunan scrapped its requirement, but China still does not have clear-cut laws ruling out such hiring prejudices.

Ah, yes, a Worker's Paradise indeed.

A long fall

1987 World Series.

October 25, 1987 at Hubert H Humphery Metrodome (Minnesota Twins)

In the deciding game, neither team gave an inch. Though St. Louis came out with a 2-1 lead in the 2nd inning, the Twins marched back with runs in the 5th, 6th and 8th innings, and Twins closer Jeff Reardon came out in the 9th to bring down the curtain on the Cardinals, and on the '87 Series.

Career stats: 367 saves, 6th most all-time.

Yesterday.
Former major league pitcher Jeff Reardon is charged with robbing a Palm Beach Gardens jewelry store.

Police said the 50 year old walked into Hamilton Jewelers at the Gardens Mall about 11:50 a.m Monday.

He's accused of handing an employee a note that said he had a gun and the store was being robbed.

Reardon fled the store with an undisclosed amount of cash. Police found him at a nearby restaurant, recovered the stolen money and charged him with armed robbery.
How sad.

Chutzpah

Story.
GAZA (Reuters) - The Palestinian mastermind of the Munich Olympics attack in which 11 Israeli athletes died said on Tuesday he had no regrets and that Steven Spielberg's new film about the incident would not deliver reconciliation. . .

Mohammed Daoud planned the Munich attack on behalf of PLO splinter group Black September, but did not take part and does not feature in the film.

He voiced outrage at not being consulted for the thriller and accused Spielberg of pandering to the Jewish state.

I must say that I am surprised that the Israelis did not take this guy out a long time ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fundraiser for cancer

If you are a regular visitor here, you know that Paula, my assistant, passed away last week from complications from lung cancer that was discovered only earlier this month. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that she was so young.

Paula was the happiest, most optimistic person around and she had a gift for causing her happiness and optimism to infect those around her.

In honor of Paula and in connection with my relatively last minute decision to participate in the Phoenix Marathon next month, I am going to raise funds for American Cancer Society. I have set a goal of raising $5,000.

If you are able and willing, please click here to make a donation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Moving towards acceptance

Paula's funeral was today. It appropriately focusd on celebrating her life more than mourning her death. The personal statements were all unbelievably moving. And the crowd was big.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good legal case, bad political case

Cheney.
He said he believes the American people support President Bush’s terror-fighting strategy. “If there’s a backlash pending,” because of reports of National Security Agency surveillance of calls originating within the United States, he said, “I think the backlash is going to be against those who are suggesting somehow that we shouldn’t take these steps to defend the country.”

Cheney talked about terrorism and national security amid a burgeoning controversy at home over President Bush’s acknowledgment of a four-year-old administration program to eavesdrop — without court-approved warrants — on international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the United States with suspected ties to the terrorist network al-Qaida.
Poll.

President Bush's approval rating has surged in recent weeks, reversing what had been an extended period of decline, with Americans now expressing renewed optimism about the future of democracy in Iraq, the campaign against terrorism and the U.S. economy, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

Bush's overall approval rating rose to 47 percent, from 39 percent in early November, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. His approval rating on Iraq jumped 10 percentage points since early November, to 46 percent, while his rating on the economy rose 11 points, to 47 percent. A clear majority, 56 percent, said they approve of the way Bush is handling the fight against terrorism -- a traditional strong point in his reputation that nonetheless had flagged to 48 percent in the November poll.

My initial reaction has not changed and, in fact, I became even more skeptical of Bush's eavesdropping arguments than ever once I learned that the court approval could be sought retroactively if he were willing to follow the letter of the law. This is a debate worth having and an investigation and congressional hearings are warranted.

Still, most people seem to think (1) I'm not a bad guy so the government isn't listening to my conversations, and/or (2) I'm not doing anything wrong so I wouldn't care if the government did listen to my conversations. Add that general indifference to the Cheney drumbeat (“it’s not an accident that we haven’t been hit in four years”), and the good legal arguments against Bush are likely to be overwhelmed politically by the fact that a core segment of the American public does not take for granted that we haven't had a building, a bridge or an airplane blown up recently.

The Democrats should win the battle over the legal issue on the merits, but Bush seems unlikely to be punished politically as a result.

Intelligent design

Story.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- A Pennsylvania school district cannot teach in science classes a concept that says some aspects of science were created by a supernatural being, a federal judge has ruled.

In an opinion issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Jones ruled that teaching "intelligent design" would violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.

"We have concluded that it is not [science], and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," Jones writes in his 139-page opinion posted on the court's Web site. (Opinion, pdf)

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions," Jones writes.

Another activist judge. Thank goodness.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hearts and minds

Story.
Long a stronghold for Islamic extremists and the world's second-most populous Muslim nation, Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11, while support for al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed 87,000. The U.S. pledged $510 million for earthquake relief in Pakistan and American soldiers are playing a prominent role in rescuing victims from remote mountainous villages.
Story.
In Tal Afar, according to the president, military success had been followed by the restoration of law and order and the implementation of reconstruction projects to give "hope" to its citizens. . .

More remarkably, the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap, something not seen since the invasion of spring 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kick in the stomach (part 3)

A little over two weeks after my relatively young assistant was diagnosed with lung cancer, she passed away on Friday night. Not surprisingly, I am feeling more "ba humbug" than "Merry Christmas" at the moment.

I am going to be staging a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in her honor in connection with my participation in the Phoenix Marathon next month. Please check back this week for more details if you would be willing to make a contribution.

UPDATE: The obituary is here.

Kristof

Many times in the past I have sung the praises of Nicholas Kristof. Here is another spot on piece from him (excerpt only is available unless you are willing to pay the NY Times for the privilege of access to the whole article).

Look, I put up a “Christmas tree,” rather than a “holiday tree,” and I’m sure Mr. O’Reilly is right that political correctness leads to absurd contortions this time of year. But when you’ve seen what real war does, you don’t lightly use the word to describe disagreements about Christmas greetings. And does it really make sense to offer 58 segments on political correctness and zero on genocide?

Perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to religious hypocrites because I’ve spent a chunk of time abroad watching Muslim versions of Mr. O’Reilly - demagogic table-thumpers who exploit public religiosity as a cynical ploy to gain attention and money. And I always tell moderate Muslims that they need to stand up to blustery blowhards - so today, I’m taking my own advice.

Like the fundamentalist Islamic preachers, Mr. O’Reilly is a talented showman, and my sense is that his ranting is a calculated performance. The couple of times I’ve been on his show, he was mild mannered and amiable until the camera light went on - and then he burst into aggrieved indignation, because he knew it made good theater.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Eavesdropping

My gut reaction is that this whole eavesdropping thing is no good. This is a slippery slope.

John Spencer - RIP

I liked John Spencer in L.A. Law, the Negotiator and, most recently, the West Wing. Last year he had a heart attack in his role as Leo McGarry. Yesterday he had a heart attack for real. Shame.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Meaningless poll

This poll is meaningless because of the timing, but the results are interesting nevertheless.

(CNN) -- If the results of a recent poll pan out, voters will see two big names from the Big Apple on the ballot in November 2008.

Those names are Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday indicated Clinton and Giuliani were the early favorites to win their respective party's nomination.

But those polled said they believe the former first lady would have a smoother path to the nomination than her GOP counterpart. . .

Clinton snared the majority of the Democratic voters polled. And with more than two years before the primaries, she was ahead of her two nearest potential competitors by nearly 30 percentage points.

Giuliani, on the other hand, edged out Sen. John McCain of Arizona by only 8 percentage points, 30-22.

Another 18 percent of those polled selected Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, despite her repeated assertion that she has no plans to run.

Picture of the day

Thursday, December 15, 2005

McCain and torture ban

McCain.
"We've sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists. We have no grief for them, but what we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are," McCain said. "I think that this will help us enormously in winning the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world in the war on terror."
This is good policy and important to shore up our international support. It also another amazing political feat by John McCain. He is the right man for "The Job" when it is open in 2008. I have never been involved in campaigning of any sort but, if* McCain runs, I may break that streak.

* I don't think that there is any doubt that he intends to run right now, but a lot of things can happen in 2-3 years, particularly when you are in your 70s.

Quote of the day

From Morgan Freeman.
NEW YORK - Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous."

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history." . . .

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What is in the water in Massachusetts?

I guess there must be some rule that if you are elected Governor of or a Senator from Massachusetts, you are required to make a bid for President. The latest is here.

The day has arrived

Polls will open soon and I am optimistic that things are going to go well. It appears that Sunnis have made a collective decision to participate in the voting this time and, for reasons I don't really understand given their brutality and indiscriminate killing up to now, at least some of the Sunni insurgent groups have promised not to attack polling stations.

Anyway, this chart explains what Iraq's new government will look like on New Year's Eve.






















Source: MSNBC.com

Enough about that. I need to go find out more about how Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq so that he could start a war in which we would never find WMDs because he just assumed that no one would notice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

It ain't all bad

Howard Dean says.
The "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."
But wait.

Dec. 12, 2005 — Surprising levels of optimism prevail in Iraq with living conditions improved, security more a national worry than a local one, and expectations for the future high. But views of the country's situation overall are far less positive, and there are vast differences in views among Iraqi groups — a study in contrasts between increasingly disaffected Sunni areas and vastly more positive Shiite and Kurdish provinces.

An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, includes some remarkable results: Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.
Sounds to me like success may be more likely than ever right now, despite the gigantic screwups that have occurred along the way.

December 15 is going to be a very big day.

I guess I am an elitist . . .

. . . because I think that this guy, who purports to describe life on the farm in Georgia generally, is a Deliverance-style deviant.

Picture of the day

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ramius' angel






























Last July, Thor got sick and we didn't know what was wrong for sure, but it seemed like he might die very quickly. He lasted 2 months. We soon started the search for a new puppy. My wife was very interested in a Whippet. My son wanted a Golden Retriever. In the end, there was no conflict because there was not a Whippet available within 500 miles, as far as we could tell. So we got Fenton, and he has been and will always be a great and obedient dog.

As I wrote here, our other dog, 10 year old Ramius, developed a lump on his chest just before Thanksgiving and was soon diagnosed with cancer. We were told that he would most likely live 1 to 2 weeks. The day after his diagnosis, a local Whippet breeder called and told us that a puppy had become available. He said the pick of his August litter, a dog he had selected specially for his aunt, had been returned because of a changed living circumstance for his aunt. Were we interested?

Feelings of fate overcame feelings of guilt of even considering a new dog just when Ramius needs more of our attention, and we went to see the puppy and her breeder on Thanksgiving morning. Named "Crimson" for her red coloring, she was so sweet and loving and, best of all, she went into a very calm mode within minutes of the arrival of 4 new people, including 2 children. She is just a few weeks younger than Fenton, and was born on the day before my daughter's birthday.

We decided that there was an element of fate that was too strong to ignore, but told the breeder that our major problem was that Ramius was sick and that we thought that he needed our attention right now. We thought that it might be unfair to Ramius to bring the second new center of attention in 2 months into the house just as he was going to start getting worse. He understood completely, and we agreed that we would wait 3 weeks to pick up the dog.

After Ramius made it through the first week of his death sentence in good shape, we decided to bring the Whippet home a week earlier than planned. We renamed her "Scarlett," and she immediately fit in perfectly. She plays rough with Fenton. She is generally very calm (when not playing with Fenton). She sits in the kids' laps. She is already sleeping through the night in my daughter's bed and they snuggle all night. And she loves Ramius.

As the pictures above indicate, Ramius has a new best friend. Rather than make his final days less pleasant (as we feared it might), it appears that the arrival of Scarlett was a very positive thing. Oh, and today marks the start of the fourth week since he was diagnosed. At this point, I'm going to predict that Ramius' new little angel is going to help him get through the end of the year.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pat Oliphant is a putz

I used to appreciate Oliphant's cleverness, but he has unmistakeably moved from an interesting liberal cartoonist to a blind anti-Bush propagandist. How do we know that his transformation is complete? Click here. Hint: Bush = Hitler.

Holiday link

"It's a Wonderful Life" in 30 seconds reenacted by bunnies.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Picture of the day

Jaywalking in D.C.

For whatever reason, I have a vivid memory of the warning I received during orientation at college in Washington, D.C. regarding how aggressively the D.C. police ticket for jaywalking. But I never believed that they would be this strict.
WASHINGTON - A 73-year-old man who received a $5 jaywalking ticket after he was struck by a car later died from his injuries, police said Monday. . .

Although witnesses said he was badly injured and unresponsive at the scene, police issued him the ticket. His family found it with his belongings when they went to the hospital.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kick in the stomach (Part 2)

I finally was able to speak with my secretary today, and I had hoped to get some news that would allow for optimism. I didn't get it. She is in stage 4 of lung cancer. (See here for information on stages of lung cancer.) I can only imagine how scared she must be.

I suspect that light blogging will continue this week as my thoughts are mostly elsewhere right now.

Stupid criminal of the day (personal edition)

Last week, my wife was having lunch with a friend. During lunch the manager approached and asked the friend whether she still had her billfold. She checked and it was, in fact, gone. The manager called the police and the rest of the story turned into a column in the StarTribune. See here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Kick in the stomach

My secretary has been sick for about 4 weeks. The original diagnosis was pneumonia. Then it switched to "we don't know." The word today: lung cancer.

Crap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Headline of the day

Will Bush heed his call to (jury) service?

Light blogging

As you may have noticed, blogging has been lighter than usual this week. Work demands have kept me from spending much time this week exploring the wonders of the Internet. Next week should be better.