Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gingrich Bites The Dust Before He Even Starts Running

The stories about Newt Gingrich's presidential aspirations are about to come to a close. After dropping hints for the last few months about a possible bid, he has officially bowed out before even announcing a campaign committee. Last week he pledged that if he could find $30 million in donations he would enter the fray that he sees as no match for the Clinton machine. Personally, it would have been great to have seen Newt run, the possibilities to attack him are endless. Instead, Newt is taking the easy way out by offering lame excuses.

From The Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will not run for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore a bid and remain as head of his tax-exempt political organization, a spokesman said Saturday.

"Newt is not running," spokesman Rick Tyler said. "It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president."

Gingrich decided "to continue on raising the challenges America faces and finding solutions to those challenges" as the group's chairman, Tyler said, "rather than pursuing the presidency."

Too bad for him, at least we still have a bunch of miscreants to take down as the clock to election day slowly ticks down.

Bill Maher Mocks Bill O' The Bigot

The hot topic (or one of them) was Bill O'Reilly's comments about black people after eating at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem. It wasn't that he was trying to be racist, it was just that the subtle racism of his remarks speaks volumes about our society. Well Maher had a few ideas on how Bill can open his mind.

Army Blogger Annihilates Rush The Phony

There is no one better to harp on Rush Limbaugh for his outrageous comments than an actual soldier. According to Rush, Alex Frisco is a phony soldier. Well Alex decided to proclaim his phoniness in a post that uses brilliant sarcasm. He talks about his initial rejection from the Army (like Rush got) and how he got in anyways because he wanted to serve (like Rush didn't). Well Alex has learned a thing or two since he went to Iraq for a fifteen month deployment. It turns out he now sees himself as a "phony soldier."

From Army of Dude:

As a phony civilian hoping to be a phony soldier, I tried to enlist in the military after I graduated high school in 2003. In 2002 I had a Nissen fundoplication operation to repair a hiatal hernia caused by severe acid reflux, preventing esophageal cancer later in life. I was immediately flagged on my attempt to enlist because of this surgery, as there was a chance that a physically stressful job such as Army infantry would complicate it. I had to be cleared by the surgeon general before entering the service. As the war kept on, so did I. I waited for a little over a year to get my results back: I would finally be able to join despite the surgery I had two years prior. As Rush found after dropping out of his first year of college at Southeast Missouri State University in 1969-1970, he found himself on draft status. Nothing that a claim of an old football injury or a boil on the ass can take care of, though! The medical deferment he was referring to was a pilonidal cyst, which apparently is a clump of severely ingrown hairs. That barred him from enlistment, and I'm sure he was ecstatic. After all, there was a war on. Here's a first hand account of the surgery that was done to correct it. She claims that in eight weeks, it was perfectly healed. Rush is willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans in Iraq but not his own ass (literally) in a simple surgery. I waited a year to get in, and he didn't try. Boy, do I really give an effort at being a phony soldier!

There are plenty of examples of "phoniness" that Alex found in Iraq. Read his post and see for yourself. If this doesn't convince everyone of the idiocy that Rush encompasses, I don't know what is going to save you from your delusions.

Senate Dems Demand Apology From Rush

When Rush Limbaugh heard that people might be offended by his remarks calling troops against the war "phony soldiers" he must have been taken aback. Being Rush, he promptly edited the tape so that he could say he was taken out of context. And of course he never apologized to the majority of our troops that do want out of Iraq. Too bad for him, Media Matters had recorded the conversation in its entirety. Now the Senate Democrats are getting involved and are looking to pass a resolution condemning his behavior, similar to Republicans going after the "Betray Us" ad presented by MoveOn. Here's what they had to say.

From ThinkProgress:

The letter, signed by Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA), states that Limbaugh’s comments were “outrageous” and “unconscionable”:

Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh’s recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as “phony soldiers” is such an outrage.

Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.

Yesterday, ThinkProgress asked whether lawmakers who voted to attack a MoveOn newspaper ad would now condemn Limbaugh. The Senate leadership is challenging all their colleagues to demonstrate whether they can show principled condemnation by signing onto the letter. It specifically calls on Clear Channel to issue an apology and demands Limbaugh do the same:

Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh’s unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast. We trust you will agree that not a single one of our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends serving overseas is a “phony soldier.” We call on you to publicly repudiate these comments that call into question their service and sacrifice and to ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments.

Clear Channel gives Rush a free pass because he makes them oodles of cash. I personally know one of his former handlers (you can ask me who if you are curious) and he would bend over backwards for Rush. Anything from looking over carpet patterns for his wife to wiping Lord Rush's ass. It is time to hold them accountable for his actions too. If it weren't for the radio scion, we wouldn't have to listen to his garbage. Condemning Rush and Clear Channel is the right thing to do.

Texas Legislature Votes Against Fraud While Committing It Themselves

This video more than speaks for itself:

Saddam Wanted To Give Up, Bush Wanted War Anyway

The stories that detail the sickness of George Bush never cease to amaze me. Vowing to keep health care out of the hands of millions of children is disgusting. The Bushisms that come out of his mouth are jaw dropping. Now the fact that Bush knew Saddam was willing to give up and decided to send us into an occupation that has killed hundreds of thousands and cost us hundreds of billions is just downright unconscionable and a war crime to say the least.

From Crooks and Liars:

How much money does Bush think a US soldier’s life is worth? How much money does Bush think the lives of our allies’ soldiers or innocent Iraqis are worth?

As we’re finding out, not very much. On March 17, 2003 President Bush issued the warning: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing ,” yet now thanks to a transcript leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, we learn that more than three weeks prior to that Bush had told former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that “The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion …” When confronted about the leaked transcript yesterday, Whitehouse spokeswoman Dana Perino did not dispute its accuracy.

Just last week we learned from former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan that the real reason behind the war in Iraq was oil , and now we are finding out that the entire war could have been averted for letting him get away with $1 billion. That’s just than one tenth of 1% of what this insane invasion and occupation of Iraq, that continues claim the lives of our country’s bravest men and women, has now been forcast to cost. Think about that just for a second. Every single death, Iraqi and American coalition alike, could have been saved and Bush could have had Saddam’s oil, but apparently he didn’t even seriously consider it. Topping that, he then lied in public to the entire world about it just so he could have his war regardless. How’s that for compassionate conservatism?

Bush does not put a price on anyone's life but his own. He cares nothing for any individual let alone our country and the world. All he wanted was war, death, destruction and mayhem. The war in Iraq was not going to stop in March of 2003 and everyone knew that. The fact that despite knowing this information he went forward and lied the American people into this mess constitutes more than just a high crime against the country. What Bush deserves for this is far beyond what any criminal court in the world can deliver. He will pay. If not from the cowardly Democrats in Congress, then it will happen at some point. Karma is not kind to inhuman beasts such as our President.

Dana Perino tacitly admitted this when confronted by the press. How does she or any other White House tool live with themselves knowing what George Bush has led us into? How do we live with ourselves knowing that we still have this man in a position of great power. The madness needs to end. Kucinich's proposal to go ahead with impeachment (of Dick Cheney or Bush) is sounding like a fantastic idea right now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

CA Election Initiative Dies An Inglorious Death

One of the Republicans' dirty tricks has officially failed with more than a year to go before election day. The mysterious group of supporters wanted to assign California's electoral votes to be divided by Congressional district. The initiative would have enabled Republicans to win up to twenty of the Golden State's 55 electoral jewels. Unfortunately for them, infighting and a lack of funds brought the operation down. The efforts by the Courage Campaign didn't do them much good either.

From The LA Times:

Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California's 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday's print editions, The Times' Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot.

Aww, the poor little Republicans didn't get their way. Maybe they can try to campaign on their (lack of) ideas and upstanding moral character to win back California next time. LMAO!

Shocking Behavior At Sylvia's Restaurant

Absolutely hilarious!

9/11 And Jesus Make Giuliani's World Go Round'

Rudy Giuliani has no problem judging people, New Yorkers have lost count how many times he opened his inappropriate mouth when he was Mayor. Now that he is in the spotlight for his adulterous sins, he proclaims the words of Jesus (even though he technically misquoted the New Testament story about the adulterous woman despite four years of theology) to defend himself.

From The Huffington Post:

"I'm guided very, very often about, `Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.

"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."

In the New Testament story, related in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not actually hold stones. The Pharisees bring Jesus a woman charged with adultery, reminding him the punishment for adultery is stoning. They are testing Jesus in an effort to charge him with breaking the law.

Well its a good thing Rudy didn't live in the Roman Empire, he wouldn't have lasted long without the help of a certain Jew. Of course, this isn't about adultery. It is about Giuliani trying to claim moral superiority over everyone for having been Mayor of New York on September the 11th.

He excused his phone call with his third wife during the middle of a speech to the NRA because of 9/11. Are we seriously supposed to believe that? If Giuliani was a decent human being then one can be mushy from time to time but his track record shows he is a cold and callous individual.

Everything about Giuliani comes from ego and wanting to be elected. He has no clear positions other than that he wants to "kick ass." That's great if you want to join the Delta Force, but we are talking about the next leader of the free world here. Heaven knows we do not need another "shoot from the hip George W. Bush" figure.

Si Se Puede FreshDirect

First off, I have to admit I love FreshDirect. I started using them after my accident and I couldn't move from my apartment last year. The service is fantastic and my food always arrives in pristine condition. The only time I had a problem with delivery was when that massive early morning thunderstorm paralyzed the city back in July. Even then they gave me a discount for my next order. So I was sorry to see an article on them this morning about conditions in their warehouse out in Long Island City. Company efforts to stop workers from unionizing pissed me off as well.

The truck drivers have already unionized last year, becoming part of the local UFCW. As expected with a union, their working conditions have improved and receive adequate benefits. However, 900 warehouse workers are still getting shafted with low wages and bad conditions at the headquarters in Long Island City. Union proponents claim that two organizers were fired once their efforts were made public. The company disputes that but thats what companies do when presented with bad press.

These workers deserve better. Let FreshDirect know that all their employees should have access to unionize without intimidation. With the decreasing power of unions across the country, their resurgence can only come with more workers getting together to fight for fair compensation and decent working environments.

Si Se Puede FreshDirect!

How Larry Craig Found His Bathroom

Whenever I am looking for the men's room in airports, I'll be sure to avoid rooms with this sign on the front:

Image from Crooks and Liars

Chickens Can't Distinguish Phonies From Real Soldiers

Rush Limbaugh is one hell of a guy. He claims to support our troops but reality has a way of showing what he truly means by that. Rush only likes troops that supports his narrow view of the world. If our soldiers want out of that terrible mess in Iraq, he slams them for being "phony." How the hell would he know what a phony soldier was, he chickened out of going to war in the first place. All those drugs in the last few years must have also scrambled that fat little head of his as well.

From Media Matters:

During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers." He made the comment while discussing with a caller a conversation he had with a previous caller, "Mike from Chicago," who said he "used to be military," and "believe[s] that we should pull out of Iraq." Limbaugh told the second caller, whom he identified as "Mike, this one from Olympia, Washington," that "[t]here's a lot" that people who favor U.S. withdrawal "don't understand" and that when asked why the United States should pull out, their only answer is, " 'Well, we just gotta bring the troops home.' ... 'Save the -- keeps the troops safe' or whatever," adding, "[I]t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people." "Mike" from Olympia replied, "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller, who had earlier said, "I am a serving American military, in the Army," agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers."

Rush was immediately countered by such real soldiers as Jon Soltz, founder of VoteVets. Jon knows what it is like to be in combat in Iraq, since um, he was there. Rush is simply a vocal representative of a certain sect of the population that needs to puff up their chests with phony machismo to look tough, even if they are little cowards on the inside. If these chickens really want to be tough, they should pluck their feathers and start enlisting.

Of course, you know that ain't happening.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Taximan's Last Stand

Well the half-hearted strike didn't do much to the city earlier in the month and the city hardly batted any eye, but taxicabs are still trying to fight the installation of GPS trackers in their cars. Their last stand will be before Judge Richard M. Berman in the U.S. District Court here in Manhattan. While the cabbies whine about invasion of privacy and the trackers being too expensive, their case seems to be built more so out of cards than bricks.

From The New York Times:

Joseph Sanscrainte, a lawyer who specializes in privacy matters at the law firm Bryan Cave and is not involved in the case, said he believed the city had the stronger legal argument. Consent to the G.P.S. system is implied by the drivers’ agreement to take part in the highly regulated taxicab industry, he said.

“New York courts have already determined that there’s a reduced expectation of privacy on the part of the drivers,” Mr. Sanscrainte said, citing a 1993 case in which a state court found that “any person who displays an official shield has a reduced expectation of privacy.”

City lawyers also claim that the information is being processed by contractors that will not monitor off hour driving. When a cab is working, its a different story. As one Cityroom reader wrote in the comments, many employees in different lines of work have their computers monitored and some have to do drug tests.

So, the case law is on the side of the city and their complaints about the fourth amendment seem to be much ado about nothing. So what is the real reason? Sounds like they just do not want to be held accountable to me.

UPDATE (9/28/07 - 2:04 PM): The judge makes it official, the cabs will be required to have GPS trackers as of Monday, October 1st.

Cheney Knows Why We Shouldn't Have Gone Into Iraq

He may be a full fledged supporter and architect now, but back in 1992 he had a slightly cooler head that saw the folly in overthrowing Saddam and occupying Iraq. His followers may claim that "9/11 changed everything" but the Middle East did not change much on that day, only the attitudes here in the United States.

Bloomberg Compares Iraqi Insurgents To American Revolutionaries

Mayor Bloomberg didn't sound like a Republican, or Democrat when he sat down with Tom Brokaw two nights ago down in Cooper Union. Instead of framing them as our enemy, he took a third party perspective and saw them as revolutionaries. I believe we shouldn't even be there in the first place, our absence would immediately release them from enemy status. They want to take control of the country without our interference and are doing so without any care of American (or other Iraqis) lives. Bloomberg did surprisingly well in the interview, even if it riles many in the American mainstream.

From The NY Post:

Bloomberg said the comparison occurred to him when he visited his mother recently and was driving through Lexington, Mass., where a scrubby group of farmers rose up against a well-trained militia more than 200 years ago.

"We're the British," the mayor said during an interview with Tom Brokaw at Cooper Union, part of a series featuring potential presidential contenders hosted by former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

"I'm not suggesting the motives are the same. But I'm just pointing out that this was an insurgent kind of attack on trained, disciplined, uniformed soldiers who fought in a rigorously planned way. And we're trying to adjust to that."

Of course the scenario isn't the same but the comparison is an interesting one to examine. We currently occupy Iraq as did the British over their colonies and our then to be future homeland. The British were thought to be militarily superior and so are we in Iraq. The Continental Army was a ragtag bunch at first who ultimately won with help from outside entities (as we suspect the Iraqis are from neighboring countries, whether that be Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia).

Now the Iraqis have entrenched themselves in a civil war while American soldiers are continuously caught in the crossfire. This differs from the story 230 years ago, but the current conflict isn't a replication of that 18th century war. Nonetheless, Bloomberg's words are interesting to ponder.

Craig Votes For Hate Crimes

Believing Larry Craig's assertion that he isn't gay is like talking to a cow that says she doesn't have udders. He can say whatever he wants, but you know, actions speak louder than words. In his delusional state he still clings to hating himself and other homosexuals that deserve equal rights and legislation that protects every minority from hate crimes. Today he proved that self-hate by voting against the Matthew Shepard Act.

From Pride Depot:

In a 60-39 vote the Senate today passed the Matthew Shepard Act as part of the appropriations bill to fund the Iraq war. Bush has threatened to veto the bill but now that it is tied to funding the Iraq war that remains to be seen. Sen. Lindsey Graham says, “The president is not going to agree to this social legislation on the defense authorization bill."

As predicted our toe-tapping senator carried a huge bucket load for the GOP and voted against the measure. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who is using the ACLU to defend his right to free speech to withdraw is guilty plea for soliciting anonymous sex from an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport last June, apparently feels that he can say and do what he wants but LGBT people, according to Craig, apparently do not deserve to be protected by law from violence. This guy just gets slimier by the day.

Craig has been slime since the beginning. When a Republican makes a stand against equal rights and protection from violent forms of bigotry, they are too thick headed to step out of the hole they are digging for themselves. Bush may veto it anyway, but sometimes, no, you must vote for your principles all of the time.

Instead, Craig, Bush and thirty-eight other Republicans are going to vote for fear, hate and bigotry. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

Now There's A Ron Paul Girl?

First it was Obama. Then Romney and Hillary got girls of their own and now Ron Paul's got a slightly less talented (although a little more salacious) YouTube actor on his side.

Will it help the longshot candidate? Probably not, but all of these girls are certainly amusing.

We Just Got A Little More Liberty Today

We can all thank Ann Aiken in Oregon for her decision to rule certain parts of the Patriot Act unconstitutional today in her U.S. District Court. It has been obvious to most legal scholars that the law passed in the fury after 9/11 was largely unconstitutional. A democracy must not give too much authority to one person. This isn't the Autocratic States of America and Judge Aiken reminded us of that today.

From The Washington Post:

A federal judge in Oregon ruled yesterday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional, marking the second time in as many weeks that the anti-terrorism law has come under attack in the courts.

In a case brought by a Portland man who was wrongly detained as a terrorism suspect in 2004, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Patriot Act violates the Constitution because it "permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success," Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. "A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised."

When Republicans talk about activist judges, this is what it all boils down to. When the judiciary wants to protect the Constitution from their overreaching executive authority Republicans get mad. They would rather have less liberty for the illusion of safety. They would rather give more power to Bush to do whatever he wants than keep our democracy intact.

Well they haven't won that war yet, and with courageous women like Ann Aiken, it won't be theirs to win either.

Bush Hates Children Because They Aren't Profitable

This week we saw the expansion of SCHIP pass the House with 265 votes (mostly Democrats in favor) but short of a veto-proof majority. SCHIP stands for the State Children's Health Insurance Program which insures millions of underprivileged kids. Congress wants to expand the successful program to cover an additional three million young Americans. So why does George Bush vow to veto it?

Rockridge Institute explains:

The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly for an expanded children's health care program (SCHIP), 265-159. President George W. Bush has said he will veto any expansion of the program, and supporters fear they will fall short of votes necessary to override Bush's veto. And what's Bush's reason for the veto? Well, SCHIP works, and because it works it may lead the nation toward (gasp!) a health care security plan that doesn't measure the nation's health or moral standing by the size of private health insurance company profits.

Bush has a point. If 10 million American children are made healthy through a government managed program, the next thing you know some more of the 100 million or so uninsured or under-insured Americans might recognize that their health has been sacrificed on the altar of a private insurance industry that didn't even exist 70 years ago.

That's right. The property and life insurance industry didn't want to get into health insurance because they couldn't figure out how to make a profit. Insuring houses was a piece of cake. Only a few burn down, after all. And the companies get all those premiums from all those people whose houses don't burn down. Life insurance worked because premiums paid to a company over a lifetime could be invested, earning more for the company than would have to be paid in death benefits. But health? Heavens, everyone gets sick, everyone ages and weakens. Benefits would be paid continually to everybody who paid premiums. Where's the profit in that?

Ultimately it comes down to the money. Forget the welfare of helpless children, they don't make money for his buddies in the insurance industry. Not only that, but evidence of a good government program doesn't mesh with the typical Republican talking points of less government and the mantra that the market takes care of everyone. Bush doesn't just hate children, he hates programs that work for Americans in general.

Bill Clinton Slams Republicans For "Outrage" At MoveOn

If anyone knows how low Republicans can go to smear a Democrat, it is Bill Clinton. He sees right through the Republicans feigned anger at the MoveOn ad that called the Petraeus report into question.

Blackwater's Trigger-Happy Mercenaries

Iraqis are furious at Blackwater USA over the incident involving them and several dead civilians, but the animosity did not start overnight. This rogue force (paid for by American taxpayers) was recorded to be in more firefights than any other "contractor" that provides similar services. There is no reason to believe that they are higher-priority targets than the rest of the mercenaries out there, so why are they so damn trigger happy?

From The New York Times:

The disclosure came as the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had sent a team of officials to Iraq to get answers to questions about the use of American security contractors there.

The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq. Officials familiar with the internal State Department reports would not provide the actual statistics, but they indicated that the records showed that Blackwater personnel were involved in dozens of episodes in which they had resorted to force.

The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq.

Since the information came through Bush Administration officials, we'll never learn why the statistics are so different between Blackwater and the rest. Blackwater officials obviously declined to comment as well.

The NY Times goes into more detail about their aggressive corporate culture, founder Erik Prince's ties to the Republican party and the subsequent lack of accountability. Blackwater employees get to do whatever the please without any repercussions. Of course nothing is 100 percent certain, but it seems that being a wealthy contributor to the Bushes and Republicans in general goes a long, long way towards getting whatever you want. Erik Prince certainly has learned that lesson quite well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rudy Money Woes Are Worse Than $9.11

The story about a Giuliani houseparty raising $9.11 per person hasn't even gone away when a fresh one is sending the campaign spinning. Anne Dunsmore is leaving the campaign right before the upcoming third quarter report and she happens to be his chief fundraiser. I wonder what that means?

From The Daily News:

In a sign of potential money woes, Rudy Giuliani has fired his presidential campaign's chief fundraiser and brought in a top rainmaker for President Bush, The Daily News has learned.

Anne Dunsmore, who took control of Giuliani's day-to-day fundraising operation in May, has been replaced by Jim Lee, a Texas money man and Bush ally who is already one of Giuliani's national finance co-chairs.

"Anne Dunsmore is no longer working on our campaign," Giuliani communications chief Katie Levinson confirmed. "We thank Anne for her service and the departure is amicable."

Amicable is such a nice word when you spin it right. Of course reality portends other things. It will definitely be interesting to see his third quarter numbers, and just how bad they are. Fundraising prowess for Republicans is down across the board and it isn't surprising that Rudy is affected by it as well.

Is Hillary Even A Real Person Anymore?

Jon takes a look at Hillary's appearances on the Sunday Talk Show circuit and wonders aloud about all of her laughter. What the hell is she chuckling about anyways? Do her consultants complain that she seems to robotic and not funny enough? Don't they realize these spontaneous outbursts of laughter just compunds the problem?

Hmmm, guess not.

Tales From The Pool Boy....At Kennebunkport

James Razsa is not your ordinary pool boy. He didn't have an affair with the lady of the house, that would just be disgusting, especially since it is Barbara Bush we are talking about. He did however get a brief glimpse into the lives of one of the most powerful families in America. There are few clans that have done more harm to the world than the Bushes. Now that pool season is over up in Maine, he tells Salon and subsequently the San Francisco Gate all.

From The SF Gate:

"Seeing so much power accumulated in the hands of one person was just so weird," he says of his first time inside, about five months ago. "These people were just concepts in my head before this."

As for actual sightings, the Bushes have been elusive. At one point Barbara zipped by on a golf cart; at another, George indicated from afar that the pool looked terrific. (Note to communications staff: Would be funny if he said, "Read my lips" when communicating at a distance.) Otherwise the ex-president and his family have kept out of sight.

For Razsa, his job -- the only one he could find -- put him directly in touch with the very sort of power he holds partly responsible for his, and other people's, hard times.

"I look at the biggest middle finger in the world all day," is his more succinct explanation.

I ask Razsa if he has a monologue loaded up, in the event that his next encounter was at closer range. To my surprise, the idea doesn't appeal.

"What do you say? 'Thanks for School of the Americas, and Iran-Contra, and NAFTA, and shipping all those jobs overseas, and arming Saddam, and funding the Taliban?' What do you say -- 'You're a jerk?' There's nothing that can be put into a sentence that would capture the lives these people have taken, and the way of life that's been taken."

The whole article is a great little read, but I won't copy any more than what is above, so check it out. Rasza may be just a pool boy, but he has great insight into what the Bush family means in America.

I have to agree with him when it comes to getting a face to face with George. What do you say to that man? There are too many atrocities to list and besides, what difference would it make? How can one regular American affect the Bush crime family. It won't happen poolside, that is for sure. It must be a collective action, and it would be unprecedented in modern times.

2nd Avenue Subway Gets Huge Boo$t

Congress has come through for Manhattan's East Side in a big way. Though they suck in general, providing $1.3 billion for the future T line is a tremendous boon for the city. Like many Eastsiders, I hate having to use the Lexington local at rush hour. If you are so lucky, you have to pack yourself in with the herd to get a spot on the 4, 5 or 6 trains. If not, its another couple of minutes wait to try again with the next cattle car. The line has been overcrowded for years and is only getting worse.

The promise of a Second Avenue line has been a dream for nearly eighty years now. Funding woes have been the primary reason that we haven't been able to wake up to the T line. Little things like the Great Depression and the bankruptcy of the city in the 70s have hampered the effort. Now with federal funding, all we need to do is get it built.

As a selfish New Yorker, I would love to have it started down here in the Murray Hill/Gramercy area, but I am glad progress is being made. Perhaps by the time I am eighty it'll work its way down here.

Giuliani's Loaded Flip Flops

Cenk Uyugr rants about how Giuliani changes his mind about gun control so that he can run for President outside of New York City.

NJ Town Learns About The Role Of Immigrants The Hard Way

Riverside, New Jersey is finally relenting in its push to alienate undocumented immigrants. The town made headlines when it passed a law banning businesses from hiring the immigrants. Now that the town treasury has been drained from legal woes and a local economy that is suffering from lack of immigrants. See, the town leaders were deluded in their misguided hate towards these people that they failed to recognize the vital part our new residents play in society. And it doesn't only apply to Riverside.

From The City Room:

The town of Riverside, N.J., passed a law banning businesses from hiring illegal immigrants. It led, as expected, to an exodus of Brazilian and Mexican immigrants from the town, but somewhat unexpectedly, also severely hurt retail businesses. With the local economy suffering, and the town’s budget drained by fighting a lawsuit that some immigrant advocacy groups brought against the town, Riverside decided to repeal the law. As Ken Belson and Jill P. Capuzzo explain, other towns may follow suit.

Nine day laborers represented by a clinic at Yale Law School are filing a federal suit against the mayor and chief of police in Danbury, Conn., today, challenging the constitutionality of a sting operation that led to their arrest on immigration charges last year. The suit contends that the arrests were part of discriminatory and illegal local attempts to enforce federal immigration law after the mayor lost his effort to have State Police officers deputized as immigration agents. Nina Bernstein examines the legal issues at stake.

Danbury will ultimately have to relent in their quest to expel those who are different from local legislators as Riverside just did. Sometimes, xenophobia masks the importance of immigrants in our country. For close to two hundred years now, America has formed into the powerhouse that it is (or was) from new groups of immigrants that come here to make a better life for themselves. These new Americans take jobs that they can not find in their native country and our "natives" decline to sign up for themselves. This went on with the Irish, the Chinese, Eastern Europeans and many, many other ethnic enclaves.

Refusing to acknowledge this history and embrace what is to come is only delaying the inevitable.

UAW Strike Spurred GM Into Quick Action

Apparently General Motors didn't think Ron Gettelfinger would actually pull the trigger and send tens of thousands of auto workers off the production line and into picket lines. Well they guessed wrong, and the decision sent ripples through the North American auto world. Less than two days later, GM came back and started talking about issues they refused to acknowledge before the deadline. Although the UAW made concessions, GM ultimately caved to their demands concerning job security.

From The Detroit Free Press:

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger announced the agreement at a 4 a.m. news conference at the union's national headquarters in Detroit.

He said the agreement included a historic plan to shift oversight of retiree health-care benefits to the UAW, removing more than $50 billion in long-term obligations from GM's books.

The company had sought such a plan, called a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, to help lower its fixed costs and make it more competitive with rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp., which does not have such so-called legacy costs. The costs are said to add more than $1,000 to the cost of each vehicle made by domestic companies.

It wasn't known how much money GM would put into the VEBA up front, but Gettelfinger said projections showed that it would be solvent for at least 80 years.

Other details included $3,000 dollar signing bonuses for employees, a two-tier wage system for new employees based on whether they work directly with vehicles and no wage increases at the moment. The big item in the news is the voluntary employee beneficiary association that will defer costs from GM to the UAW, something both sides finally agreed on. GM has a right to be cost-efficient, but first the security of its employees had to be ensured.

Employees and employers are happy this is over, but most importantly, it showed that a strike still wields the power it had commanded years ago.

Will Mitt Endorse This Ad?

Being patriotic in the Romney family sets the bar extraordinarily.....low. So Slate Magazine decided to enter Mitt's ad contest and throw their hat in the ring:

Condi Hearts Murderers Of Civilians

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to Rice yesterday to stop interfering with his work and that of Congress. Specifically she is hindering the investigations into Iraqi government corruption and the infamous Blackwater USA.

In case you don't know, Blackwater was almost thrown out of Iraq a few days back for an unprovoked attack on civilians, killing several. The Iraqi people are furious, but the U.S. (i.e. Condoleezza Rice) is pressuring them not to expel Blackwater from their large mercenary contracts. Blackwater is one of many "contractors" that make up an international force that outnumbers our troops in Iraq (roughly 180,000).

Rice does not want all this business to end, draining our treasury seems to be a prerogative of hers. Not only that, but many day to day operations would cease to exist because Blackwater does so many jobs. So she must have to work pretty hard with that political savvy of her in order to trick Congressman Waxman. So how is that going?

From The Washington Post:

"The scope of this prohibition is breathtaking," Waxman wrote to Rice, describing yesterday's staff interview with Vincent Foulk of the State Department's Office of Accountability and Transparency as "virtually worthless." The committee has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow on Iraqi government corruption.

A separate hearing, on Blackwater, is scheduled for next Tuesday. After reports last week that Blackwater employees guarding a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad had killed 11 Iraqi civilians, the committee asked the company for documents and requested the testimony of Erik Prince, chairman of Blackwater's parent company.

In a Monday letter, Blackwater attorney Stephen M. Ryan told the committee that the State Department had directed the company "not to disclose any information" regarding its Iraq security contract without prior department authorization in writing. "This contractual direction from the DOS is unambiguous," Ryan wrote.

Ryan enclosed a Sept. 20 State Department letter to Blackwater reminding that "all documents and information generated in the course of performance" of its contract "are fully subject to the control of the State Department."

Calling the department's position "wholly inappropriate," Waxman wrote that "unless the President is prepared to make an assertion of executive privilege over the Blackwater documents, the State Department has no authority to prevent their transmission to Congress."

Well technically thats true. Rice has no authority to pull this shit. Nevertheless, we don't really live in a democracy anymore. No matter how much kvetching Henry does, I doubt Condi or the White House will ever let him see the documents he (and the American people) desire.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Edwards Understands The UAW Strike

The UAW strike is getting big headlines because, well, 73,000 people do not go on strike collectively every day. The Presidential candidates, especially the Democratic ones are saying and definitely not doing much except for one. Both John and Elizabeth Edwards are endorsing the UAW's efforts, not just with words, but actions.

From John Edwards' Blog:

John Edwards will walk the UAW Picket Line tomorrow with members of U.A.W. Local 774 in their picket of GM's Powertrain plant in Buffalo.

Elizabeth quoted the labor motto, "Injury to one of us is injury to all of us." She stated that, "When people have to come to the streets in order to provide for job security, to make sure that when they retire they'll have the health benefits they deserve, that's an injury to all of us. And all of us ought to be indicating our support."

Yesterday, Edwards issued a statement of strong support for the striking UAW Members:

Edwards Statement In Support Of Striking UAW Members

I offer my strong support to the striking auto workers and look forward to a fair and speedy settlement that will improve the lives of these hard-working UAW members. And I call on General Motors to do what is right and realize that it has a responsibility to negotiate fairly and move quickly to settle a contract that respects the health, safety and economic security of the auto workers and their families. I also salute the courage of the auto workers to go on strike. Their fight for fair wages, safe workplaces, affordable health care and a secure retirement helps raise standards for workers all across America.

"Sadly, the issues on the bargaining table between General Motors and the United Auto Workers are not unique to Detroit - they represent the larger failures of Washington and public policies that have weakened unions and the middle class. The truth is now, more than ever, it's time for America to go in a new direction and start doing much more to strengthen America's unions and protect the rights of working Americans."

His strong words are being backed by equally strong actions. I have yet to see Hillary or Obama walk a picket line. This is more than just some photo-op, its about changing the status quo in our country today. John's presence tomorrow and Elizabeth's walk already sends a message to corporate America that the middle class deserves better than to be pushed around like commodities that can be bought and sold depending on which worker is cheaper to maintain. Getting business done is important, but people must be put first.

The Island Of Manhatta

Can you imagine what Times Square would look like if the Dutch didn't settle the island of Manhattan? The Manhatta Project is using historical documents to see what our little town might have looked like four hundred years ago and before.

Prez Eh Dent Ehh Dee Ott

Sometimes big words are hard to pronounce...when you are in fifth grade. Some names like Ahmadinejad are tough for most Americans, but the President of the United States should know how to say Mugabe and Caracas. Unfortunately, our bumbling ehh dee ott doesn't know some of the simplest words, even if they are in English.

From ABC News:

ABC News' Ann Compton and Jennifer Duck report: Never before has the White House released a draft version of the President's speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly.

But this year, a glimpse of how the President sees his speeches was accidentally placed on the UN website along with the speechwriters' cell phone numbers.

Pronunciations for President Bush's friend French President Sarkozy "[sar-KOzee]" appeared in draft #20 on the UN website. Other pronunciations included the Mugabe "[moo-GAHbee] regime" and pronunciations for countries "Kyrgyzstan [KEYRgeez-stan]" and "Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]."

I seriously couldn't make this up if I tried. Can the qualifications for President be amended in the Constitution so that a thirty-five year old man or woman have some sort of education?

How Congress Is Wasting Your Time And Tax Dollars Today

We already know that the weak-kneed Democratic Congress is too scared to live up to the will of Americans to end this ridiculous war. It has costs us hundreds of billions of dollars and the amount (not to mention deaths and injuries) continues to soar. The health care system in our country is broken. The greedy corporate culture is still being wholly accepted with the campaign contribution-grease that comes from various industries and is spread across party lines. The gap between rich and poor continues to increase and even violent crime is on the rise again. So what is your Congress doing today?

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two rappers, sitting side-by-side in an ornate House hearing room, went in different directions Monday on the need for hip hop artists to expunge their work of sexist and violent language.

One, Master P, apologized to women for past songs that demeaned them, while another was defiant.

Former gangsta rapper Master P, whose real name is Percy Miller, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that he is now committed to producing clean lyrics. The angry music of his past, he said, came from seeing relatives and friends shot and killed.


But rapper and record producer Levell Crump, known as David Banner, was defiant as lawmakers pressed him on his use of offensive language. ''I'm like Stephen King: horror music is what I do,'' he said in testimony laced with swear words. ''Change the situation in my neighborhood and maybe I'll get better,'' he told one member of Congress.

It is often said that it is easier to look at the problems of another instead of at yourself. Congress could be working on the economic disparity in our nation and that very committee could hold hearings that might actually lead to some good, instead they are examining rap lyrics. Rap and Hip-Hop are musical expressions of society, not the cause of the poverty and violence in the ghettos where it arose.

Rapper David Banner gave Congress a heavy dose of truth. Master P can keep his kids away from his songs just as any parent can for their children, but censorship is not the answer (nor does Master P believe in it). We need to address the real issues going on in America, not what people are singing, rapping or crooning about.

Bradley Whitford Speaks Up On CA GOP Dirty Tricks

Peaceful Protesting Still Gets You Arrested In NYC

Things didn't get out of hand like some incidents back in 2004 when the GOP held their convention here (I wonder why they held it in the same city as 9/11, hmmm) but the police decided to arrest protesters today anyways. Bush was speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, mouthing off his usual bullshit in the hall him and his followers detest so much. A few hundred people gathered to protest that BS and the NYPD chose to be....well, the NYPD.

From AM New York:

About a dozen anti-war protesters were arrested Tuesday during a peaceful demonstration of President Bush's speech before the U.N. General Assembly.

The arrestees were among about 400 people opposing the Bush Administration's war in Iraq, and its incarceration in Guantanamo Bay of more than 300 men on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Many in the crowd wore orange jumpsuits in solidarity with the Guantanamo detainees.

The arrested demonstrators were taken into custody by police after kneeling on the sidewalk in an act of civil disobedience at the rally near the United Nations. One of them, 58-year-old Bill Ofenloch of Manhattan, said they were trying to serve an "arrest warrant" on Bush for "high crimes against humanity."

The police should have followed the protesters advice. Protesting the President is part of our basic freedoms. When our leaders are acting against our own best interests (or any interests at all) it is more than our right, it is our duty to speak out. In this day and age the authorities barely allow protest, they use fear and intimidation, from wearing riot gear to treating peaceful protesters as if they were actually rioting.

The police presence is overwhelming at the U.N. Even from my vantage point at 28th and 2nd Ave, their helicopters emit an unending noise to remind us that we should behave. Well, until the President behaves, the NYPD and the President shouldn't expect us to either.

9/11, 9/11, Vote Giuliani, 9/11, 9/11

In the words of Lois Griffin during her candidacy in Quahog, "9/11, 9/11, 9/11." Creator Seth MacFarlane highlighted how three numbers makes the simplistic residents of Quahog cheer for her after actual policy positions bored the hell out of them. Well that type of politics is not resigned to the animated world. Rudy Giuliani heartily embraces it as well. It is the only thing he runs on and as evidenced by his latest fundraiser, he wants to sink the message deep into the brains of Republican voters.

From The Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — A supporter of Rudy Giuliani's is throwing a party that aims to raise $9.11 per person for the Republican's presidential campaign.

Abraham Sofaer is having a fundraiser at his Palo Alto, Calif., home on Wednesday, when Giuliani backers across the country are participating in the campaign's national house party night.

But Sofaer said he had nothing to do with the "$9.11 for Rudy" theme.

"There are some young people who came up with it," Sofaer said when reached by telephone Monday evening. He referred other questions to Giuliani's campaign.

To be fair it wasn't actually Rudy's idea, but his supporters know what they are doing. They are aware of how to reach out to the Republican base and hammer the message of fear over and over again. It is the one thing they know best. Chuck Hagel gets it. John Kerry certainly got it three years ago and so should everyone when they go to the polls next year. America deserves better than that.

Can Shoes Make You Cry?

Can shoes make you sad, angry or do you just shrug your shoulders and look the other way. This isn't about some department store sale, it is about the empty pairs that symbolize the men and women and children that have been killed in Iraq. If you watch this video and not feel something....well, shame on you.

73,000 Hit The Picket Lines

Nearly forty years has passed since the last time GM workers have walked off the job and striked against the American automaker behemoth. Since then 327,000 workers have been let go as General Motors has moved much of its operations overseas, going for reduced costs over the American worker. The Michigan economy is now at the center of what sociologists deemed the "rust belt." So now in 2007, what will this strike accomplish for a diminished union? Everyone seems to have an opinion, both on the internets and in print. Some bash the union, others see this as a looming problem and also as a non-issue for suppliers. How does one tell?

It is true that the union's strength has weakened considerably in the past few decades. Yes, it can be very ugly for UAW members while GM gets pinched somewhat. But lets take a step back here. What is the strike all about? According to UAW head Ron Gettelfinger, its everything that we hold dear for the middle class.

From USA Today:

After negotiating nine days past the expiration of its last four-year contract with GM, the UAW set the strike deadline and told workers to wait to hear from their local leaders. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger began feeling a strike was looming as early as last Thursday, he said in a press conference, when GM stopped bargaining on most issues. Both sides worked through the night Sunday into Monday, but Gettelfinger said GM refused to move its position on all but one issue.

"The company walked right up to the deadline like they really didn't care," he said.

He said job security is his priority, and he stressed that the talks did not break down over a proposed trust to deal with retiree health care, which GM wants to create so it can move about $5.1 billion in costs off its books.

"This is very serious, but there's not a single person here who wanted this to result in a strike," he said. "There comes a time when you have to draw the line. We were pushed into a strike."

That is the problem here. GM (and other multi-national corporations) simply do not care about American workers. In our ever-increasingly competitive world, corporations are trying to reduce costs at the workers' expense. The attitude is that if they don't like it, we'll move somewhere cheaper. Is that what America is about?

Hardly. Those that went on strike starting in the late 1800s were Americans who helped set up the lifestyles we have now. Back then there was no leisure time because everyone was working in sweatshop conditions. Advances in technology along with the securing of benefits from strikes and the increased power of collective unions built the middle class.

Of course, we all know where President Bush will mark his territory on this issue. He cares about those who have given to his campaigns and the Republican party. That goes for the rest of them in the GOP. On an individual level some might be sympathetic to these workers, but many have been blinded by the culture of corporate greed.

Why does that matter? It matters because it is up to our elected officials to set policy that helps all Americans, not just their campaign contributors. Job security is a gold-standard in Japan and they manage to keep costs down. Health care is provided in most industrialized countries so that cuts costs to the employer. (something that would help both worker and employer). In our country we let the "free market" decide who gets health insurance while others make sure their citizens are taken care of.

So ultimately, this is a matter of whether we want to take care of workers or.....the status quo.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Even Miss USA Looks Down On Katie Couric

Miss USA of 2007 has high hopes after winning her crown, but she does have principles. Rachel Smith eventually wants to trade her tiara in for a crack at journalism, reporting on stories and whatnot. One person she definitely does not want to emulate is Katie Couric. Rachel must be following the blogs or at least watching Couric and seeing her failures first hand. Obviously her words reached the sensitive egotistical ears of CBS' number one failure.

From The Daily News:

Miss USA Rachel Smith tells us she wants to get into journalism, but something tells me she won't be applying to the "CBS Evening News."

"I always wanted to be a reporter — maybe some TV. Who knows? Some serious news — but some modeling, too," she said at the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network event last week.

"I just don't want to end up like Katie Couric. I want people to take me seriously."


(Couric's rep later responded: "If she continues to offer such profound insight, she will not have to worry about anyone taking her seriously.")

I for one take Rachel very seriously. She is astute enough to see a pretend journalist when one comes across the screen. Take that Katie!

Rudy's Call: On A Short Leash...Or Just A Staged Act?

I guess it is up to your individual gut reaction, but what serious politician would take a phone call while giving a speech in front of the NRA or any other group. It seems to me like he wants to be seen as sweet and endearing, but when it comes to Giuliani's record, those emotions are far from how he treats his constituents.

For Corruption's Sake, Vitter Defies Separation Of Church And State

Senator Vitter is in the news again today. This isn't about his relationship with prostitutes in Washington or New Orleans, but it certainly ties into the story. See, Vitter has no problem violating one of the ten commandments (adultery that is). That doesn't mean that he isn't willing to defy the constitutional decree of the separation of church and state. Vitter personally earmarked $100,000 for his creationist friends in Louisiana.

From The Times-Picayune:

The nonprofit Louisiana Family Forum, launched in Baton Rouge in 1999 by former state Rep. Tony Perkins, has in recent years taken the lead in promoting "origins science," which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.

The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry.

The group's tax-exempt status prohibits the Louisiana Family Forum from political activity, but Vitter has close ties to the group. Dan Richey, the group's grass-roots coordinator, was paid $17,250 as a consultant in Vitter's 2004 Senate race. Records also show that Vitter's campaign employed Beryl Amedee, the education resource council chairwoman for the Louisiana Family Forum.

The hypocrisy of it all is amazing. The money is absolutely sickening. Creationism can be hyped up all it wants in the church, but keep it far, far away from our government. Our founding fathers are turning in the graves from this news.

Spare Some Change For The MTA?

The long awaited plans of the MTA are finally on the public drawing board. The transit board wants to increase fares across the spectrum, from tolls for cars to bus and subway fares. The MTA wants you to pay an extra quarter per ride with other increases when it comes to weekly and monthly passes. Tolls are also to be raised a quarter for E-ZPass owners and fifty cents for those without. It isn't set in stone yet, as the board is set to vote on one of two proposals in December.

From AM New York:

The base fare would increase from $2.00 to $2.25 under both scenarios proposed at the MTA's finance committee meeting Monday.

In one proposal, commuters who purchase weekly or monthly passes would also see about a 4 percent increase in prices. This proposal would also raise express bus fares 25 cents, from the current $5.00 price.

Under the second proposal, monthly and weekly passes would increase by 6.5 to 8 percent. This option would allow for a discount fare of $2.00 during peak hours if you buy a card with more than $6 on it. Off-peak, non-rush hour fares would be $1.50.

So here we go again with another spike in transit costs with very little to show for it. Our system is still seriously outdated and in constant disrepair. One positive note is that cell service will be coming soon for a whopping six stations. If all goes well with those, the MTA wants to expand the coverage to nearly 300 stations across the city. So when the tunnels flood again, at least you can call and tell your loved ones you'll be late for dinner.

Hooray for mass transit in NYC!

The Autumn Leaves

I didn't post anything this weekend was because I was too busy relaxing up in Vermont for my birthday. My wonderful girlfriend took me to the Northeast Kingdom as it is known up there to see the autumn leaves and a few unique sights, like the Ben and Jerry ice cream factory (Mmmmm) and an afternoon in New Hampshire's Franconia State Park. So to make up for the quiet blogging weekend, here a few of my favorite shots from that beautiful part of the country.

This is just from the parking lot at Franconia State Park.

The path to the famous "Flume."

It was all picturesque.

After taking the aerial tram, we found ourselves on top of a 4180 foot mountain.

At that height, you are literally on top of the clouds.

Sorry, no pics from Ben and Jerrys, too busy eating all that ice cream.

Winning Hearts And Minds With Live Bait

When we went into Iraq the neo-cons told us that we would be greeted as liberators with flowers thrown at our feet. Instead we found I.E.D.s hidden in anything from cars to carcasses. Well now that we are four and a half years into this disastrous mess, it seems the Army has come up with its own improvised devices.

From The Washington Post:

A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.

The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. "Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces."

So basically, if an old man or young child picks up the bait, they could be shot on sight. Just imagine being an innocent Iraqi civilian and seeing something in the road that could be made to kill your friends or family in a market weeks or months from now. You want these awful things off the street and might even be inclined to turn it into the authorities. Instead, as you are walking away with the part in hand, a crack sounds out in the distance and before you even connect what the noise is, your body is lying in the ground, killed by an unseen enemy that was trying to prevent the same event that you were as well.

This tactic has already killed an unknown number of civilians. This is one way we are supposedly helping to stem violence in the streets of Baghdad. Winning hearts and minds, one dead heart and mind at a time.

Doublespeaking The Environment

More is less and less is more. Sometimes I feel like we are living 1984 every single day under George Bush. The President and his Administration have become pros at saying one thing while doing the opposite. The latest episode deals with climate change and Bush snubbing his nose at the United Nation's upcoming conference on what to do with our deteriorating planet. Instead of working together with other countries, Bush is having his own conference-of-one to talk about what he isn't going to do.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Bush’s aides say that the parallel meeting does not compete against the United Nations’ process — hijacking it, as his critics charge. They say that Mr. Bush hopes to persuade the nations that produce 90 percent of the world’s emissions to come to a consensus that would allow each, including the United States, to set its own policies rather than having limits imposed by binding international treaty.

“It’s our philosophy that each nation has the sovereign capacity to decide for itself what its own portfolio of policies should be,” said James L. Connaughton, the president’s chief environmental adviser.

Mr. Bush’s approach sets the stage for a new round of diplomatic confrontation. And it raises the prospect that he could once again put the United States in the position of objecting to any binding international agreement intended to slow or reverse the emissions linked to rising temperatures.

Whether Mr. Bush prevails remains to be seen, but the effort is the last chance in his presidency to shape the debate after years of being excoriated for keeping the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement that limits the emissions of greenhouse gases from most industrialized countries.

Actually, this is just a re-enactment of Kyoto. While other countries are beginning to meet the demands set at Kyoto and are looking forward to more stringent goals, we are going backwards. Snubbing Kyoto at the beginning of his Presidency showed the world that we are not committed to ebbing global warming and this diplomatic error is just another testament to where his priorities lie.

At least we have less than sixteen months of this torture to go.

Who Has The Cutest Kitties?

America versus Canada, which side are you on?

Welcome To New York Mahmoud

New York is going to be a little more painful in the next couple of weeks. The General Assembly of the United Nations is meeting for its annual session and you know what that means, traffic in East Midtown is going to be a royal pain in the ass. It also means that the President of Iran is coming to town today and traffic is an afterthought to many Americans that are examining his visit.

I am a little mixed on the subject. Sure, he is a holocaust denier, hates America and basically a certifiable nut. Yet when it comes to geopolitics and Iran, he has virtually no power when it comes to the religious leaders that govern above him. He is to Iran what the royals are to Britain, only uglier on the outside and inside. Standing in front of a "Death to America" banner on the eve of his trip while symbols of military power rolled by was a charming touch. That poor little ego needed a boost before coming to one of the richest cities in the world I assume.

Not only is he attending the General Assembly, he is being accepted for a talk with the students of Columbia University. Almost everyone is heaping scorn and criticism upon the University, including another certifiable nut named Bill Donahue. Of course Bill capitalizes on the same emotion that Ahmadinejad does which is hate.

So what do we do, meet hate with more hate? Bomb the Iranians for his appearance? Let his security detail composed of the Secret Service and the NYPD drop him off in Flatbush alone? Nah, I say just let him talk. Even if it is just more garbage, at least we can see that garbage up close and personal. I always feel that banning speech (no matter how worthless) gives that speech more power. And who knows, the question and answer after the speech at Columbia might actually be interesting.