Saturday, February 24, 2007


Now why would anyone want to take this down?

Do Not Marry A Muslim Man

Free speech is a cherished practice in our country despite the constant attacks on the First Amendment that are going on in America right now (Patriot Act, etc). If someone told me to not to marry another person because of their religion, I would promptly tell them to get out of my face. I believe that I am intelligent enough to make the decision on my own and base it on the person, not their faith.

When a faculty member invites someone that purports to represent Christian morals and denounce the Islamic culture to a class of 9th graders that is a serious problem. Passing handouts titled "Jesus not Muhammad" and "Do Not Marry A Muslim Man" is a slap in the face to parents that entrust their schools to teach a secular curriculum without offending people of faith, no matter what faith that may be.

From of all places, Fox News:

The father of a North Carolina ninth grader who was given "anti-Muslim" literature in class says the material handed out is not an issue of free speech, but of slander and defamation.

"First of all, it slanders, things like, Mohammed is a 'criminal,' is 'demon possessed' ... that just made my blood boil," said Triaq Butte, whose daughter, Saira, participated in a ninth grade orientation seminar at Enloe High School in Wake County, N.C., where the material was distributed.

Butte is a non-practicing Muslim; he said his wife is Christian and his children are taught to accept and respect all religions.

"So for a person like me to feel like that — I've never been to a mosque — to feel like that … for me to feel such hideous attacks, they were not just pointing out failures or weaknesses in Islam or Muslims, they were just attacking."

This is definitely an attack. The pamphlets were incredibly misleading and deliberate in their attempt to shun Islam and those that adhere to the faith. This is another example of the hateful rhetoric that comes from certain sections of the religious right to impose their idea of a Christian nation on all of us.

So who and what is Kamil Ministries?

Kamil International Ministries Organization is dedicated to teaching the truth about Islam. We love Muslims but we believe that Islam is not a Divine faith, Muhammad was not a prophet from God and the Koran is not the Word of God. Our mission is to raise an awareness of the danger of Islam among Christians and equip them to share Jesus with Muslims. We will be glad to impart historical and factual information about Islam.

Their brand of 'truthiness' does nothing but foster hate and divisiveness between Christianity and Islam. The emotional appeal in the pamphlets are nothing short of disgraceful.

From the FoxNews link above:

It warns women not to be lured into marrying a Muslim, even for his "dark good looks, education, financial means, and the interest he shows in you."

"You may be excited that you found the 'tall, dark, and handsome man' you have been looking for. His sweet words and attention may blind you regarding the power, importance, and influence of his culture and Islamic faith," the pamphlet says. "Because in the United States, we have freedom of religion, he may agree that you can remain a Christian and you may think there will be no problem with such a marriage. But do not be fooled and become a victim of his religion, Islam, which has very oppressive rules regarding women's status and rights. Such marriages will never be out of trouble."

This shit is being distributed in a public school in Raleigh, NC. The principal simply stated that they respect free speech and the diversity of opinion. The school invited Kamil Solomon to speak on the topic of religion without any opposing views available. Students brought the material to their parents which provoked considerable outrage and ultimately out into the press.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations came out against the school's actions:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the school system will have created a "discriminatory, hostile learning environment," violating federal civil rights law, if it does not investigate the incident and apologize to students.

The complaint stems from a guest appearance last week in several classes by Kamil Solomon, a Raleigh-based Christian evangelist, who urged students to shun Muslims.

"When you bring in somebody to distribute hate-filled literature without an opportunity for rebuttal, you have a disturbing situation," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the national council, known as CAIR. "These students are obliged to be in the classroom and listen to this speaker who is presented as an authority figure by the teacher."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the school system will have created a "discriminatory, hostile learning environment," violating federal civil rights law, if it does not investigate the incident and apologize to students.

Debating religion is always a tricky matter. What Enloe High School did was not a debate. It was a one-sided attack on Islam that had no business being inside a public school. Apologies are definitely in order here.

Make Poverty History

Julian Beever drew this incredible piece of art in Edinburgh, Scotland in advance of the G8 summit. Incredible work Julian!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Techno Ted (Stevens) At It Again

Senator Ted Stevens, who also goes by 'Techno Ted' and Mr. 'The Internet is a series of tubes' has yet another whacko moment. On his campaign website, an interesting message appears. What on Earth, or outside of this planet can it be?

"Through a series of highly sophisticated and complex algorithms, this system has determined that you are not presently authorized to use this system function. It could be that you simply mistyped a password, or, it could be that you are some sort of interplanetary alien-being that has no hands and, thus, cannot type."

But wait, it gets even better....

Also from the site as noted by the WaPo blog:

"If I were a gambler, I would bet that a cat (an orange tabby named Sierra or Harley) somehow jumped onto your keyboard and forgot some of the more important pointers from those typing lessons you paid for. Based on the actual error encountered, I would guess that the feline in question simply forgot to place one or both paws on the appropriate home keys before starting. Then again, I suppose it could have been a keyboard error caused by some form of cosmic radiation; this would fit nicely with my interplanetary alien-being theory."

Who could even make this crazy random shit up?

Stevens' staff members Aaron Saunders and Tim McKeever didn't know either. McKeever admitted to not knowing much about the internet, saying his teenage son was much more adept at the tubes. In fact the site isn't really up yet. So who posted that mysterious message? Perhaps Stevens took an internet course to find out about the truth of internet after all? Nah.

Mary Ann Akers who wrote the blog post did ask that question:

So who left that whacky message on the campaign site, and why? We thought the tabby cat reference a bit curious, considering Stevens had a pet cat who died recently. How mean to tug at the senator's heart strings that way! Though we hear the senator's cat was named Tigger, not "Sierra Harley."

Senate Democratic political operatives professed innocence. Though they were down right gleeful over having an excuse to dredge up "Techno Ted," as Sen. Stevens came to be known after his Internet speech in which he declared, among other musings, that the Internet is "not a big truck."

"Unfortunately, this is the least crazy thing Ted Stevens has said about the Internet," said
Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

It seems that these days almost anything out of the 85 year old Stevens is crazy. The guy is one of the captains of pork laden earmarks and zany comments.

Presidential Forum Series Kicks Off

Brought to you by Politics TV, blogger-reporters Taylor Marsh and Jonathan Singer covered the event hosted by AFSCME in Carson City, NV.

Giuliani: All Talk And No Walk

Despite the 'America's Mayor' theme being trumpted by the candidate and the press for several years, it seems this character might not be ready for primetime. The last few campaign stops have been in very friendly territory with useful backdrops such as firehouses. The questions hurled at him sound more like a fan club interview rather than a chance to test a Presidential candidate.

From The NY Times:

SPARTANBURG, S.C., Feb. 21 — In a swing through South Carolina this week, Rudolph W. Giuliani chose to campaign at a fire house, which is a little like Derek Jeter meeting with Yankees fans — a most unlikely forum for hostility, or even much skepticism.

Instead of the sometimes barbed give-and-take endured by the other candidates, Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, fielded a few questions from the firefighters and police officers who gathered to hear him here. The questions, which began with comments like, “Being in your presence here is just unbelievable,” stuck almost entirely to issues on which Mr. Giuliani is most comfortable, like airport security and border control.

More than the other major presidential candidates, Mr. Giuliani has limited himself to events with narrowly defined, friendly audiences, avoiding the kind of uncomfortable interrogations his rivals have occasionally faced. Aside from a couple of brief swings through diners, including one yesterday in Delray Beach, Fla., he has done little of the politicking that exposes candidates to random sets of people — at shopping malls or train stations — who might be of any political stripe, and can raise any issue.

Rudy might be afraid of what those questions entail. Perhaps someone might ask him about his failed marriages and that girlfriend on the side. Maybe someone will bring up the fact that he was one of the most divisive mayors New York City had ever seen. There's a chance someone might bring up that video of him in drag while Donald Trump comes on to him. The voters that he needs to win in the Republican party care about these issues and Giuliani is scared to face them.

Even Hillary took on unfriendly audiences as she tours the country concerning her stance on the war. Democratic voters care deeply about Iraq (as do many others regardless of party affiliation) and to her credit she was there to at least face them, even if she did spin her answer. In fact all of the major candidates have held rallies that were open to everyone with a wide assortment of views and possible questions about issues.

Mr. America's Mayor may lead in a few polls at the moment, but it is all about the past. Voters are going to get to know him and it is up to him on how he is going to address issues and concerns. If he hides in firehouses and police stations with a carefully selected audience, very few people will get to hear what he has to say and more about him from his rivals from the right and the left.

Weiner Explores A Second Run For Mayor

The 2009 mayoral election seems like eons away, especially with the Presidential nominations for 2008 receiving a tremendous amount of press. However it isn't too early for Congressman Weiner (D-NY) to file papers with the Elections Board in preparation for a possible run.

From The Empire Zone:

“I’ve got a great job now, and I’m committed to a lot of the same issues I talked about in 2005 and that still keep me up today,” Mr. Weiner said in a telephone interview today, citing education reform and the high cost of living. “It’s becoming a tougher and tougher place for many New Yorkers to live.”

A member of Congress since 1999, Mr. Weiner said he had not made a final decision on whether to run. “I’m not eager for a three-year campaign,” he said.

I wouldn't be eager for a three year campaign either. One of the key reasons for the Democratic failure to hold the Mayorship is that party infighting has held them back on several occassions. One of those was used by Giuliani to sneak in as mayor in order to become the most divisive stewards of the city New York has ever seen (that is until, 9/11 of course).

Nevertheless, Weiner would be an excellent candidate with plenty of credentials. Now in his 4th term as the Congressman from New York's 9th district in Brooklyn, Weiner has fought for Democratic values with tremendous charisma and conviction. His recent speech in Congress was incredible to say the least. Drum Major Institute gave him an A grade on his votes concerning the middle class and except for an announced regret for voting for the war in 2002, his record has made progressives proud.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fox Misleading Its Viewers Yet Again

What our buddies over at Fox fail to mention is that poll is taken by a Republican polling firm that asked skewed questions in order to achieve those 'results'. Funny how the only two media outlets that used the poll was the NY Post and Fox News, both owned by GOP supporter Rupert Murdoch.

Merck, Gov. Rick Perry and $45,000=?

There has been a lot of talk as to why Gov. Rick Perry came out in support of a mandatory vaccination of Guardasil for teenage girls ages 12 and up in Texas schools. Well forget the rank hypocrisy of those that pander to the religious right and forget about advocating for the safety of teenagers. You can also forget about the debate over teen promiscuity and if this action encourages it.

What it all boils down to is the money. It really is that simple with this Republican governor.

From Rawstory:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) says that it's just a coincidence that he and eight other lawmakers received donations of $5,000 each from Merck lobbyists just a few days before mandating the drug giant's HPV cervical cancer vaccine for all females in Texas ages 12 and up.

"There's been a lot of pressure about the implications of vaccinating young girls against sexually-transmitted diseases," says CNN's Ali Velshi in the video below, "some people thinking that that encourages promiscuity at that age."

He reports though that "this thing is coming undone by word, rumor and report of connection between Rick Perry's office and Merck."

Governor Perry says that is just a coincidence that he received $5,000 from Merck along with eight other lawmakers days before his decision came down. It is also just another coincidence that his former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck.

How many coincidences does it take for people to get what is going on here. All we need to do is follow the money and the connections. Merck now realizes the folly of their actions and is pulling back from lobbying the drug. The question is if they are backing down quick enough to avoid the consequences of being seen as the dirty drug dealers that they are.

Weapons? What weapons?

The Daily Show takes on the Bush Adminstration and its claim that Iran has weapons.

If Charles Barkley Says It, You Better Believe It, Punk!

My fondest memory of Charles Barkley was at a Los Angeles Clippers game a number of years ago. We (the crowd) taunted him so much that he threw his shoe up into the audience. He isn't one to mess with to be sure. So when Sir Charles says that the GOP is bogus, you know it has to be true.

As a potential gubernatorial candidate in Alabama three years from now, the basketball player turned politician has to get his game on and this is one way to do it. Speaking out against the war and the GOP in general has become a very popular thing to do and Charles is playing to his audience yet again.

Barkley went on CNN yesterday with Wolf Blitzer:

"I want to be a politician," Barkley said. "I think I understand how the system works, I think a lot of politicians are corrupt, and it's about time we put some people in there who are going to look out for the majority of the people instead of the rich people."

When asked about the war in Iraq, Barkley replied that the situation was simple, "It's an easy call for me. We've got to get out of Iraq. [Saddam Hussein] is dead. That situation hasn't gotten better. So, anything that the Republicans say about the war in Iraq -- it's just bogus. I mean, it's a terrible situation. We've got a lot of innocent kids getting killed over there, and we're never going to be safe over there."

Barkley labeled himself as an Independent, a change from his Republican status not too long ago. He isn't a big fan of Democrats either but he knows the Republicans are far, far worse. He credited the Republicans with losing the 2006 elections and not the Democrats winning it. Perhaps he should look more closely at the party with an actual plan to lead the country and enacting a tremendous amount of legislation with two months. However, since he is a political novice, he has a couple years before he runs to get the facts straight.

Animals For Edwards?

I've heard of a lot of different groups that come out and support various candidates, but this is a first:

Click here to see it in full.

Big Brother Is Watching New York

From and excellent post by the Gothamist:

In the wake of a federal judge criticizing the NYPD's videotaping procedures last week, I-Witness Video looks at what the NYPD actually uses to record public events and calls it "360 degrees of surveillance," best illustrated by what the police used during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Officers used "lipstick cameras" which are easily concealed, as well as helicopters with "military-style infrared imaging." And Fuji lent the NYPD its BlimpCam, and I-Witness Video describes the blimpcam footage from August 27, 2004:

The first scene on the clip shows people from the antiwar group Not in Our Name lying on the grass in Central Park, spelling out a giant "NO" with their bodies. Every so often the camera operator focuses on some young women lounging nearby who do not seem to be part of the antiwar event. The hovering blimp cam seems almost to float above this tranquil scene. It might even be a pretty picture if it were not for the fact that we are viewing this all through what appears to be a military targeting scope superimposed on the frame...

When the camera zooms out, what seems like half of the island of Manhattan comes quickly into focus. The blimp cam has a truly awesome depth of field and range...

The NYPD Fuji blimp continues downtown to Union Square Park where it floats above the assemblage of parkgoers and bicyclists gathering for the Critical Mass ride... A man stares directly up at the blimp, giving rise to the insight that staring directly at an aerial observation platform allows a perfect view of your face.

There are videos of each kind of surveillance, which we recommend you to check out - all the footage converges on the Critical Mass ride that resulted in hundreds of arrests. Photoblogger Mike Epstein from Satan's Laundromat was arrested and wrote about his experience.

The NYC Camera Surveillance Project has mapped and located over 2,000 video cameras in Manhattan. As they note, spotting these cameras is a task far from over. As a resident of New York City, it has become tacitly accepted that we live in a 'police state' where many of our moves are documented. Although it may not be as bad as Orwell predicted in his masterpiece 1984, Manhattan and many other cities (especially London) is increasingly under surveillance both by private and public enterprises. The 'big brother' feel of this can and has lead to arrests of protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights. Time will tell how invasive these cameras will get, but as many psychologists will tell you, the best way for people to feel comfortable with invading their privacy is to do it nice and slow so as to not alarm the populace.


After a week of ice and snow on the ground, the thaw begins as the weather warms up. Seems like winter lasted about a month or so, I enjoyed it since it seems to be decreasing in length every year. The timing is actually perfect for me as I am flying JetBlue on Friday out of JFK. It is always better to have an ontime flight than be stuck in a restless plane for over ten hours, if you know what I mean.

Tips to Raymond for the cool photo!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You Think Health Care Costs Are Bad Now?

Health care is a tremendous boon to a few wealthy CEO's in the industry, one of the largest source of jobs for the middle class and an incredible burden for the rest of us. With insurance companies finding every way to cut costs and subsequently the level of care for the consumer, people are taking on large amounts of debt to pay for their medical bills. The way things are going, they will be getting much worse, to the tune of $4.1 trillion a year by 2016.


Health spending in 2006 was projected at $2.1 trillion, or 16 percent of the GDP.

"There is a relatively modest and stable projection for 2006 to 2016, with an average growth rate of 6.9 percent," John Poisal, deputy director of the National Health Statistics Group at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said during a Tuesday teleconference. He noted that with projected growth rates falling slightly in 2006 and 2007, "that would result in five consecutive years of slowing growth."

But the projected decelerations didn't impress outside experts.

"We haven't solved the health-care cost problem," stated Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. "There was a lot of feeling when the 2006 numbers came out and we were growing at about 7 percent a year, that maybe it wasn't a continuing problem. But, I think even growing at 7 percent a year you see that by 2016 we are going to be spending 20 percent of the nation's economy on health care. I think it says we've got to get serious about doing something that really improves the efficiency of the health-care system and not just shifting money."

The cost of Medicare is also steadily rising, nearing the one trillion dollar mark by 2016. The problem is that President Bush wants to cut funding for Medicare and other related health care programs to pay for more important things, like giving the Walton family a 32 billion dollar tax cut. Shocked at such an assertion? Just remember, people like the Waltons are his base.

JetBlue Apologizes For Their Colossal Mess

The apology is nice and hopefully their promises will come true so that passengers are not stranded on airplanes for 10 hours or more. Especially since there were mothers tearing clothes to make more diapers for their children while the rest of the plane couldn't relieve themselves due to overflowing toilets.

A JetBlue Passenger Bill of Rights is a great idea, but more must be done to assure that the passengers have legal rights while onboard any airline that keeps their customers cramped in planes that sit on tarmacs for several hours. Several other carriers are guilty of abusing their passengers in this way and the government needs to step in after years of mistreatment while nothing has been done. Perhaps something like this would be in order.

Speaking Of Fox News

I am still pissed about the Nevada Democratic Party's move and justification to allow Fox News to corrupt one of our Presidential debates. Fox News continually gives us examples on why they are the most unbalanced news network of all time. Last night right-wing radio talk show host Neal Boortz went on HANNITY.....and Colmes to spout off his vitriolic views. His latest gripe was about teachers' unions. The unions that represent the men and women who have one of the most important jobs in the country and get paid a paltry sum for their contribution to society.

From Crooks and Liars (Links to the video provided here):

On Hannity and Colmes last night, Neal Boortz told an agreeable Sean Hannity that teachers unions are more dangerous to America than terrorists armed with nuclear weapons because a nuke could only wipe out 100,000 people but public schools are "destroying a generation."

video_wmv Download (157) | Play (122) video_mov Download (73) | Play (73)

“Look, Al Qaeda, they could bring in a nuke into this country and kill 100,000 people with a well-placed nuke somewhere. Ok. We would recover from that. It would be a terrible tragedy, but the teachers unions in this country can destroy a generation.”

Imagine for a second if a "liberal" (read: non-reality-denying) guest had said this to Hannity instead:

“Look, Al Qaeda, they could bring in a nuke into this country and kill 100,000 people with a well-placed nuke somewhere. Ok. We would recover from that. It would be a terrible tragedy, but President Bush's war in Iraq is, according to the NIE, radicalizing a whole new generation of Islamists that will hate America for at least 40 years.”

Just another example of how Fox News reports the talking points of the right. The only way the viewer can decide to make a balanced, thoughtful opinion is to turn the noise off.

Nevada Nuttiness: Fox News And The Democrats

Yesterday it was announced by the Democratic Party of Nevada that Fox News will televise their Presidential debate on August 14th. Despite being known as a propraganda outlet of the Republican Party and all that is right-wing-nuttery, the Nevada Dems chose them anyway. Why would they do such a thing to shoot the Presidental candidates in the feet in such a way?

According the Nevada Democratic Party:

"FOX News' viewership in Western states and across the country does not always get to hear directly from Democrats in an unedited and uninterrupted fashion. The August debate in Reno will allow the Democratic Presidential candidates to speak to the Fox audience who may be hearing from them for the first time for ninety minutes unfiltered and directly."

Are you kidding me? This is Fox News we are talking about. The home of ultra-conservative talking heads, frequent appearances by wingnuts like Ann Coulter on spiteful and misleading shows such as 'Fox and Friends', 'Hannity and Colmes' and the newest disgrace 'The Half Hour News Hour.' The cable news network recently ran a hit piece on Obama even after it was throughly debunked by CNN and others. Nevada may believe that Fox can be fair and balanced, but they really should take a look at the history of Fox News and Democratic debates.

From The Petition Site:

For an example of how disrespectful and counterproductive such Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates are, consider the September 9, 2003 Democratic debate in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by Fox News in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus. Fox News graphics, as well as a banner over the stage, titled the event as the "Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate," a misconstruction of "Democrat" used as an an epithet. Fox News then summarized the debate with a story titled, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America," continuing with such jabs as, "The depiction of the president as the root of all evil began at the top of Tuesday night's debate...." Controversial questions included the accusation that Howard Dean had a racist gun policy by Fox News analyst Juan Williams. There were also multiple interruptions by protesters throughout the debate, leading to four arrests.

If you agree with me and think that this utter nonsense and needs to stop before it starts, go to the petition site and tell the Nevada Democratic Party that this is the wrong move to make. Giving credibility to Fox News is a slap in the face to Democrats that have suffered their false and misleading attacks ever since the network was started by ideologues like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

Remember This Guy?

At last night's National Press Club's bash against bloggers, none other than Jeff Gannon (to the left of the man with the camera) showed up to hear Tony Snow et al to hear the complaints against the blogosphere. Our incessant attacks on their lack of journalistic ethics has really gotten to the D.C. establishment. Gannon certainly has his gripes against us, especially after he was outed as a White House shill and operator of several gay porn sites. Welcome back to the D.C. cocktail circuit Jeff.

Dick Cheney's Delusions

To our impeachable Vice-President escalation is a good thing while de-escalation by the British is also a good thing. He tells us that we will not retreat while an overwhelming majority of Americans support getting out of Iraq. The White House (Dick Cheney) calls the British 'retreat' a success because Iraqis are beginning to stand up, or something like that. The only thing the Iraqis are standing up to is for a fight against their neighbors that believe in a different sect of Islam.

Tony Blair may nod his head in tacit approval as the Republicans play a political war of ideas at home, but the truth is far from GOP talking points. The British people are sick of losing their men and women on the battlefield and they letting their leaders know it. Blair is in his year of office and his Labor Party has suffered tremendously due to Tony's role as Bush's sycophant. The Brits have been heard and their government is acquiescing.

If only our government would heed the will of the people, we might catch up with the rest of the world where many countries have pulled out of the Middle East or are on their way to do so. The Danish government recently proclaimed their troops would be gone by this year as well.

Dick Cheney will never listen and as his pet, Bush will never cede his will to the majority of Americans either. It is time to get rid of these guys, the sooner the better. Memo to Congress: You have the power to end this war by pulling the funding and the means to rid our democracy of leaders that disobey the constitution with careless disregard.

Libby Trial Ends With Fireworks

The defense repeats the argument that Scooter is a busy man. However Fitzgerald lays it down in the end. Take it away ladies:

Marty Markowitz Owns The Crowd

On a much warmer Tuesday morning, Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz addressed a crowd at Prospect Park regarding the soon to be constructed Lakeside Recreation Center in the park. Replacing the 46 year old Wollman rink, this center would return the landscape to what it looked like when the park was created and add an additional ice skating rink. It is always nice to hear when one of our parks are restored and renovated, but this event turned out to be more about Markowitz than anyone else.

From The Empire Zone:

“Marty, have you spent a lot of time on the rink here?” Mr. Bloomberg asked, deadpan.

Seemingly impromptu, Mr. Markowitz replied, “In my day, if I had attempted a double lutz, they would have called me a triple yutz.”

“No, klutz,” Mr. Bloomberg joked.

“Klutz, yutz, it’s all the same,” Mr. Markowitz replied. “Now, after all that Junior’s cheesecake, I don’t think this is the kind of figure they’re talking about. I have more in common with Zamboni. And I want to issue a challenge today: when the Lakeside Center is complete, I will race the mayor in a new pedal boat for the right to call Brooklyn a city again.”

The potential 2009 mayoral candidate got a few chuckles from the remarks that stole the show from Bloomberg, but the finale really got the crowd going:

Let me tell you, it doesn’t get any more Brooklyn than Wollman Rink. Nowhere in the world, not even at the Olympics, will you find the diversity of skaters, figure-eighters and Icecapaders on display here. From African-American and Caribbean to Russian and Haitian, from Polish to Pakistani, from hipster to Hasidim, this rink, I might add, has always been, and will remain, one of the city’s most popular dating spots. Bet you a lot of you don’t know that. In fact, so many couples have fallen in love skating at Wollman Rink that having two rinks and being open year-round might just signal a population boom down the road. But hey, the more Brooklynites, to me, the merrier, and I know you feel that way, too. And I’m confident that for Prospect Park and for Brooklyn, double the ice will be twice as nice.

Marty certainly knows Brooklyn well and how to get the locals rolling in laughter. It will be interesting to see how the competition in 2009 shapes up and how Marty will take his place in that race. If anything, he seems to be able to run circles around the opposition, easily besting Bloomberg at this community event.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

FAT Tuesday And N'Awlins Jazz

I love the Crescent City and today is a special day down in New Orleans. Here is a taste of N'Awlins jazz with sights of the city included:

The Spotlight Is On You Freshman

The Democratic Party swept into power this past November with over thirty brand new freshmen, one of the biggest swings in quite sometime. Some races were predicted long before election day and others seemed to magically appear in very 'red' districts. One of these districts was in upstate New York, where the incumbent was tossed out in favor of Kirsten Gillibrand. New York's 20th Congressional district has over 80,000 more Republicans than Democrats, making the win improbable and ultimately at the top of the list for Republicans to take back in 2008.

In order to hold on to her seat she will have to campaign mercilessly from now till election day and prove to her constituency that she is worth their votes. Giving the New York Times free range to cover her for a few months and follow her around certainly has the opportunity to show NY-20 that re-electing her is a no-brainer.

From the NY Times:

As she takes on this new role in Congress, Ms. Gillibrand has agreed to let The New York Times follow her during her first few months on the job, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the new Democratic freshmen and the challenges that she and her party face in locking in the victory of 2006.

Moving to bridge the partisan divide in her district, the congresswoman shuns party labels — she calls them “irrelevant” — and has embarked on a series of campaign-style events she has called “Congress at Your Corner.” The challenge is simple: to convince a heavily Republican constituency that she can represent their interests. “What I hope to do over the next two years is to have the people in my district get to know me,” she said.

Bridging the partisan divide is exactly what the Congresswoman needs to do. She must follow through on her campaign promises and deliver for her district, all the while learning the ropes on the Hill and establishing herself in Washington. As the Republicans look for every advantage to knock her off next year, the Democratic Party and especially Nancy Pelosi will be allowing her to shine in order to keep the brand new majority.

Another Question Tony Snow Can't Answer

This time David Gregory of NBC asks Tony what the President is going to do about the tragic story over the weekend that showed the deplorable conditions for amputee victims at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Tony has plead the fifth on hundreds of topics in the past and here is another one about the ignorance of the White House. For all the talk about supporting the troops and how the Democrats don't, the facts seem to tell a different story when it comes to the Bush Adminstration and his Department of Defense.

Update: There is something that you can do, Crooks and Liars talked to the Medical Family Assistance Center and asked them what the soldiers needed right now. Any type of calling card (international is a high priority) and black back packs would be greatly appreciated. If you can help, send them to:

Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Medical Family Assistance Center BLDG. 2, Third Floor, Room 3E01.

6900 Georgia Ave NW

Washington, DC 20307

Student Joins Forces To Fight ProselytizingTeacher

Matthew LeClair was just a normal teenage kid going to school in New Jersey until he saw that one of his teachers was proselytizing Christianity to his class. Matthew recorded some of the teacher's statements and a giant storm was unleashed. After complaining to school board got him in hot water with other students and the school him and his parents took further action. He might have left it alone, though death threats can spur some to make a change in how the system works.

Mr. LeClair has some big names behind him now to fight back against the school board, including People for The American Way and possibly the ACLU. Matthew's lawyers have already begun to take action.

From The NY Times:

The LaClairs filed a torts claim notice on Feb. 13 against the school board, Mr. Paszkiewicz and other school officials. Such a claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed in New Jersey. “The school created a climate in which the students in the school community held resentment for Matthew,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the A.C.L.U. in New Jersey. She said Kearny High School had “violated the spirit and the letter of freedom of religion and the First Amendment.”

Ms. Jacobs added that the A.C.L.U. would support the LaClairs if they sue the school board and might join the action.

Richard Mancino, a partner with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, which is representing the family, said he did not understand why school officials would not “stand up for this student, who had the guts to raise this constitutional issue.” Instead, Mr. Mancino said, they appear “to have adopted a shoot-the-messenger policy.”

The school claims that the matter has been resolved and they looked into the matter by themselves with the help of a former director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Edwin Stier. Meanwhile, the teacher, Mr. Paszkiewicz continues to teach at Newark's Kearny High School. If the school will not work with Matthew, it seems that larger forces might make headway on his behalf.

John Edwards Lays Out His Health Care Plan

At a town hall in Dubuque, IA John Edwards lays out his plan to have universal health care coverage. As you can see in the post below this, we need desperate help to stop the corporate criminals that abound in the system.

NY Hospitals Sue UnitedHealth Group Under RICO Act

In what maybe a brand new way to hit back at the insurance companies that pillage hospitals and patients alike, a lawsuit was filed by two different hospitals in Queens, N.Y. today.

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center filed a joint suit that charges United Health Group and Oxford Subsidiaries violated the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by implementing an illegal business plan that enriched the insurance giant and their extremely wealthy CEO William Mcguire among others.

From the Queens Chronicle:

The hospitals, in their RICO suit, accuse United Health Group and United HealthCare and other subsidiaries of implementing a “rogue business plan” on a “national level” that, for more than three years, “has contributed to UHG’s profits, which, in turn, have been utilized in attempts to justify outlandish compensation to Maguire and to enhance the value of illegally backdated options for UHG stock” which were given to Maguire, other UHG senior executives and to managers of its business units.

These included “the individual defendants who controlled the operation of the Insurer HMO Enterprise to encourage the generation of excess profits by any means — including the violation of New York laws, violation of their contracts with service providers such as plaintiffs, and even the violation of their duties to their members.

David Rosen, president and CEO of both hospitals, said: “UHG, United and Oxford have clearly established and refined a pattern of deceitful practices and myriad means to improperly retain money they owe to service providers, and to arbitrarily and unjustifiably deny payment for their members’ medical services under their plans.

The lawsuit covers all the grievances that the hospitals have incurred from UHG. David Rosen is pissed off and going after the insurance behemoth with a tremendous amount of ammo. The suit accuses them of wronful denial of coverage due to repeated lying to members of the insurance group, economic pressure to influence doctors at the hospitals, not fulfilling contractual obligations, fraud and 'unjust enrichment.'

The New York State government has also gotten involved in trying to bring UHG et al. to justice:

The Attorney General of the State of New York, in a recent “consent decree,” concluded that United Health Care of New York had committed both “fraudulent business practices” and “deceptive business practices” in providing inaccurate information about the network status of approximately 141 participating providers. These acts either improperly shift to the health insurer’s members financial obligations properly belonging to the insurer or to deprive service providers of payment for services properly rendered.

The New York State Department of Health suspended United’s Certificate of Authority to do business in New York for certain important lines of business for repeated citations by Health Department over just an 18 month period for providing inaccurate information concerning the network status of service providers.

These companies have been guilty for a long, long time and using the RICO Act just might be the case to break through their tangled web.

Finish What You Started

Matt Bors' take on Iraqi's "opinions" of the war:

Hollywood Embraces Obama

Barack Obama is taking a break from Washington this weekend to rest and relax out on the Left Coast. Well resting and relaxing may not be on the top of his agenda because it seems that the Senator is set to raise a huge amount of cash. A million dollars to be precise.....just in one night.

Huffington Post has the full schedule:

Along with a public rally to be held at a L.A. recreation center, Obama will also be attending a series of fundraisers, including a breakfast in Hancock Park, a lunch hosted by members of an investment group, a star-studded reception at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and a small dinner party with the fundraising co-chairs of the Beverly Hilton event to be held at David Geffen's Beverly Hills house.

The cocktail reception is expected to bring in over $1 million dollars. Among those contributing $2,300 (the allowable maximum donation) are actors Jennifer Aniston, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy and Tom Hanks, studio chiefs Michael Lynton (Sony), Brad Grey (Paramount), Ron Meyer (Universal), Peter Chernin (Fox), Richard Cook (Disney), and producer Brian Grazer, as well as Jim Wiatt of William Morris, and Richard Lovett of Creative Artists.

The dinner at Geffen's home is for people who helped raise at least $46,000 for the event. About 40 people, mostly part of the Hollywood contingent, will get the chance to get up close and personal with the candidate.

It seems that many big celebrities are gaga over Barack and are willing to put up the cash to back the enthusiasm. As you can see by the slew of names, those supporters include Hollywood insiders along with celebrities like Denzel, Hanks and Eddie Murphy. Steven Spielberg's political adviser, Andy Spahn is impressed by the turnout. To him, these are 'Bill Clinton numbers.'

And just so the rest of us who can't shell out a quick $2,300 for a candidate, you can attend his rally in Los Angeles tomorrow if you happen to be in the L.A. area. It may not be hob-nobbing with the rich and famous, but political rallies are always a scene for a good time.

Kayakers Delight

I am proud to feature my cousin's homemade kayaking video. Set to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Venice Queen, the video takes the viewers on a ride through the rivers of Maryland, Sasketchwan and Chiapas.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Forget Atlantic City, The Action Is In The Catskills

Governor Eliot 'Steamroller' Spitzer made the news again today by giving the go-ahead for a $600 million dollar casino up in the Catskills. It isn't a done deal yet, since the St. Regis Mohawk tribe's lands are farther upstate and the ultimate approval needs to come from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Dick generally disapproves of granting permission for Native Americans to run casinos outside of tribal lands. However, having Eliot behind them is a big boost in the effort to begin building the vegas-style spot that began 13 years ago.

From the NY Times:

Proponents contend that the casino would revive the economy of the old borscht belt, attracting six million visitors a year and generating 3,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In a series of concessions by the tribe, the Mohawks have agreed to provide $20 million a year to the county and to Monticello to offset the impact of the casino and to collect and remit taxes from sales of liquor, cigarettes and other retail items at the casino.

But the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sullivan County Farm Bureau and several other groups filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan last week challenging the casino on environmental grounds. And the project still needs final approval by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the former governor of Idaho, who opposes Indian casinos on nonreservation land. The Mohawk casino would be built more than 400 miles from the tribe’s Akwesasne reservation, which straddles the Canadian border near Messena, N.Y.

Still, the Mohawks were optimistic about the project yesterday, and Governor Spitzer said he would lobby Mr. Kempthorne in person when he is in Washington next week for the national governors meeting.

Construction of the gambling edifice is far from advancing beyond the drawing board. Though with enough charm and persuasion, Spitzer might just get the Interior Secretary to allow for a Catskill revival. The region's popularity has waned considerably since it's heyday fifty some years ago and the somewhat odious gaming industry would almost certainly get the old remaining hotels and B&Bs stocked with gamblers and tourists alike.

Bush Is No Washington

George Bush may live at the beautiful White House in Washington for the next couple of years (minus a few months of vacations in Crawford and Camp David) but for him to compare his illegitimate war with the Revolutionary War against the British is absolutely preposterous. The man is living in a state of delusion that is becoming increasingly dangerous for Americans and the world at large.

From Alternet:

Standing before the Mount Vernon mansion and sharing the stage with an actor dressed as Gen. George Washington, Bush said Washington's Revolutionary War leadership inspired generations of Americans "to stand for freedom in their own time."

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone," Bush said.

"He once wrote, 'My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom,'" Bush said.

As I said, the man is delusional. Americans should stand for freedom against tyranny and for freedom, freedom from Bush the Tyrant. George Washington fought for our freedom from a hegemonic power that unjustly ruled over the American colonies. The brave citizens that rose up to fight the Redcoats were doing so because they wanted a change in the way their homeland was governed. Bush's war wants to change a far off land into a subservient democracy where the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds have no intention of working together cohesively. The Revolutionary War that occurred over 200 years ago was one for country, this one is for oil, greed and pride. There is nothing alike about them.

PCs To Republicans As Macs Are To Obama

Apple Computers frequently advertise their product with two guys that represent each side in the 'computer wars.' Now we have the political version of the commercial, Obama style:

Would You Like Some Lead With Your Lunch

With Grover Norquist claiming he wants the government drowned in a bathtub, it seems lie he is getting his wish. The federal government could not and still will not respond to Hurricane Katrina adequately. The Bush Administation has neglected the poor, those without health insurance and pretty much anyone that isn't his 'base.' Now we have a new travesty wrought upon our kids.

From CNN:

(AP) -- In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunchboxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe -- and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that they found "no instances of hazardous levels." And they refused to release their actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

That data was not made public until The Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.

Not telling the public the truth is a mantra of the Bush Adminstration, from the very top to the organizations under the umbrella of the government. Twenty percent of those bags tested showed lead levels above federal safety regulations. The CPSC's excuse was that in the tests, the more you wipe the bags there is less lead that shows up. So, moms and dads out there, make sure to wipe your kids' lunch bags extra furiously....since your government sure as hell doesn't care that they are safe in the first place.

John Murtha VS. George Bush

We report, you actually decide, then pick a side.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

For everyone in Beijing, here in New York and across the world. Happy New Year to all that celebrate and everyone enjoy the Year of the Pig!

"Scrotum" Is Now A Bannable Word

In a society that is obsessed with sex, so many Americans are afraid of it and the words that are associated with the act, including parts of the genitalia. More open societies would barely even blink an eye, but here in the United States it seems a huge uproar can be caused by such a word, just one word.

Everyone knows what a scrotum is. If you are young and don't know yet, you'll learn in a biology or SEX-ED class sooner or later. So when a Newbery award-winning children's book is published that tells a special story, it is condemned by many school librarians as having 'Howard Stern-type shock value'. Why the harsh criticism and widespread censorship? All for one written word singled out of thousands.

Winning the Newbery Medal is no small feat. The honor of being presented with it is akin to receiving a Grammy, Tony or Academy Award in literature. To be selected for the award requires writing a book of great magnitude that can deeply affect the reader and have a lasting impact. This is exactly what happened to Susan Patron last month with her book, "The Higher Power of Lucky."

From SouthCoastToday:

Susan Patron readily admits that she always dreamed of winning the Newbery Medal, the "Academy Award" of children's literature.
In fact, Patron, a Los Angeles librarian, thought she had a chance to win with her latest children's novel, "The Higher Power of Lucky" (Simon & Schuster, $16.95), which details how a feisty 10-year-old girl named Lucky finally comes to terms with her mother's untimely death. But the book, published in November, generally didn't elicit wows from reviewers, and Patron decided it just wasn't her time to win a Newbery Medal.

So Patron, 58, was both surprised and incredulous to receive a telephone call early on the morning of Jan. 22 from the Newbery Medal Committee, informing her that she had indeed won the top award.

"When the phone call came, I asked the committee (on speaker phone), if they were sure," Patron said in an interview. "I thought they meant I'd won a Newbery Honor. I couldn't quite assimilate what they were saying.

As you can tell, she was very excited about the news. The article goes on to describe the book in more detail and I highly suggest you check it out or even buy the book (Amazon link) to see it for yourselves. She wrote the book over the course of ten years while working as a senior children's librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. Susan has heard nothing but praise from literary critics. Unfortunately this is not the case for many other librarians like herself, all because of that one word.

When censorship rears its ugly head, its proponents single out ideas in certain books or a "bad word" which, in this case, was taken out of context. In the book, "the word" comes up when the main character (Lucky) hears the other character say that their dog was bitten by a rattlesnake on the scrotum:

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

Don't you just want to burn the book on the spot?

From the NY Times:

The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books. The controversy was first reported by Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine.

On electronic mailing lists like, dozens of literary blogs and pages on the social-networking site LiveJournal, teachers, authors and school librarians took sides over the book. Librarians from all over the country, including Missoula, Mont.; upstate New York; Central Pennsylvania; and Portland, Ore., weighed in, questioning the role of the librarian when selecting — or censoring, some argued — literature for children.

Many libraries have banned the book already and others are considering it. They have a strange fear about telling their children the names of body parts, which causes them to only focus on this point, completely neglecting the merit of the book in its entirety. Here is what a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee had to say:

Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, said that declining to stock the book in libraries was nothing short of censorship.

“The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole,” she said. “That’s what censors do — they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Pat. This is a case of blatant censorship and these 'monitors' need to quit banning books that have 'icky' words in them. I'm not a librarian but I do love to read and am always glad to see people expanding their minds by reading all different types of material, especially books which win high honors. It seems that these censors need to grow up and deal with the fact that scrotums exist in the world by the billions, and not try to hide it from anyone, including children.

Music By Muse

There is some conspiracy stuff highlighted in the video but it is a powerful five minuted and eleven seconds nonetheless.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sen. Krueger: Change Is In The Air

Intrepid Liberal Journal sat down and did a podcast interview with State Senator Liz Krueger recently. After losing a close race to the incumbent in 2000, she won a special election after Roy Goodman (the incumbent) left for a position within the Bloomberg Administration in February of 2002. In the last five years, Liz has been fighting for her constituents (including me!) just as hard as when she was 'merely' a tireless social advocate.

From ILJ:

For the previous two election cycles, Senator Krueger served as the Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC). Democrats have gained under her leadership and following the recent special election of Craig Johnson in Nassau County, the Republican majority is a mere two seats.

In recent weeks there have been persistent rumors two Republicans may switch parties and deliver the Senate to Democrats. Ironic, because in 2002, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said casting a vote for Krueger was a waste due to the Republicans entrenched majority. Instead, Krueger’s efforts have the Democrats poised to assume one party rule in the state’s capitol. In five years the onetime outsider has increased her influence and remained an agent of change.

Senator Krueger agreed to a podcast interview with me and among the topics covered were: her experience as a reformist outsider and campaign leader of Senate Democrats; the possibility of future gerrymandering favoring Democrats in New York State; Governor Spitzer’s adversarial relationship with the legislature; the Governor’s proposed budget and whether New York might move up their presidential primary date to help the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Guiliani.

Link to ILJ's Podcast interview. The interview covers women in legislative politics, how she came to serve in the State Senate as a reformer, talking about taking back the legislature for the Deomcratic party and many other important issues.

Sunday Funnies

FNC's Chris Wallace Throws Feith To The Wolves

I would have never expected Chris Wallace to practice actual journalism over parroting Republican talking points over at the Fox Noise Channel. However it seems he may just have done that this morning. The victim of journalism just happened to be be former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Something in my mind says that there is something behind this. Ailes would never let one of the Bush Adminstrations goons to be placed in the fire, would they?

From RawStory (w/video):

During this morning's edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace follows up an interview with Douglas Feith which aired the previous week and points to a Weekly Standard article from November 2003 in order to debunk Feith's claim that he never connected Iraq with al Qaeda.

After airing a clip of last week's interview, in which Feith claims that "Nobody in my office ever said there was an operational relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Wallace goes on the offensive.

"But it turns out he did make that case," says Wallace, "in a memo he sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee in October of '03." Wallace then quotes a Weekly Standard article which describes the memo as saying, "Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003."

Chris mentioned that he did this because many viewers wanted him to check out what Feith told Wallace on last week's show. Perhaps even people on the right see through the thick mounds of bullshit that spew from this moron's face. Yet I'm still skeptical honestly, why would they cast that spotlight on Feith?

Obama Teaches A Lesson To The Press

Score one for Obama against the lazy traditional media yesterday. He was sick and tired of the media directing the narrative of his campaign and struck back in their faces. When a young girl asked him about education, he gave an honest and sincere question to her. The next moment he told the press to take notes from her.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Summed up, he went on, the narrative says that "I can deliver a pretty good speech" but that it's all rhetoric and no detail.

Not true, said Obama.

"I have the most specific plan about how to get out of Iraq of any candidate," Obama said, also mentioning his proposals regarding education, health care and energy. Plus, he pointed out, he has written two books "that give more insight into how I think and feel" about important issues.

"The problem isn't that the information's not out there," Obama told reporters.

"You've been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit," he said, a reference to the recent publication of pictures of him on a Hawaiian beach and subsequent commentary about it.

The media just doesn't get it. They are the ones who look for fluff and forget substance. This shit happens all the time and it is getting old. Maybe if they would do some investigative reporting you might find out Obama is more than just a guy in a bathing suit that attended a madrassa church on Chicago's South Side.

As he left the room, Obama paused to answer the question of a teenage student who attended the press conference. She asked about education.

Obama answered her, then pointed to the reporters leaning in to listen.

"Take some notes, guys," he said. "That's how you do it."

The children our are hope for the future indeed.

How Many Days In February?

Sometimes I ask myself...self, is George Bush really stupid or is he just playing stupid to make his buddies rich while he pulls a fast one on Americans that pick their President like they choose their drinking buddies? When I watched this video, I leaned a little bit towards the former.