Friday, December 31, 2004

Now Playing: "Time Passages" - or - "Good Riddance to 2004":
Al Stewart's "Time Passages" is on the compilation disc I grabbed to play this morning. Coincidence or unconscious choice?

I decided not to make any resolutions today. Well, I have a few, but I'm not going to publish them. Let's just say they are vague ideas of doing what I'm going to have to do anyway to survive. 2005 might be the "Year I Get My Shit Together", we will see. But no more promises in print; I just looked at last year's and realized that I didn't accomplish any of them, and that bums me out. So screw it.

I could play Sally Sunshine and list all the good that happened this year, but basically I think that 2004 really sucked as far as a period of time in my life. The only good thing is that it went so fast.

I sit and worry that I tempt the Fates when I say stuff like this.

"Oh yeah?", the Fates would say, "I'll show you pain!" and then they kill my parents or something horrible like that. Or burn down my house. Or wipe my town out with a tsunami. You know, the really tragic, awful things that befall people and make you realize how good your life really is and maybe you should shut your whiney white-girl ass up right now before it really hits the fan.

Bah. So good at survivor guilt. It's my specialty. But holding it in produces the paralysis that compounds my depression, so, what do you do?

I'm going to go quietly into 2005 and hope for the best, because hope is the one thing that I still have. It's the thing that keeps me going- underneath all the fear is a solid foundation of hope: that good will triumph, the sun will shine, the team will win, the darkness will be banished. Where does that come from? Is it something taught or something innate in people? I don't know. Right now I don't care.

Here's to Hope, with a capital "H", for 2005.

Yahoo! News - Mont. Court: Gays Due Benefits Others Get
HELENA, Mont. - A divided Montana Supreme Court declared Thursday that the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection extends to gays, and ruled that the state university system must offer same-sex couples the same health benefits available to heterosexual ones.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices struck down the university's policy of denying benefits to employees' gay partners.

The high court said the policy violates the Montana Constitution's guarantee of equal protection because unmarried heterosexual partners could get the benefit by signing a common-law marriage affidavit, while unmarried gay partners could not.

The ruling, which reversed a 2002 lower-court decision, did not address the issue of gay marriage, which is barred under the Montana Constitution.

Activist judge(s) alert! Man the battle stations!
What the Hell is wrong with the Associated Press?:

Here is the list of the "Top Stories" this morning. See if you can spot the two that make me want to drop them as a news source-

Tsunami Death Toll Surpasses 119,000
Argentina Club Fire Kills at Least 174
Powell to Visit Nations Hit by Tsunami
Israel Missile Strike Kills Palestinians
U.S. Releases New Memo Defining Torture
FBI Probes Lasers Aimed at Plane Cockpits
Snow, Winds Beset Storm-Weary California
Hilton Arrives Late for Fla. Club Opening
Report: Stewart Loses Contest in Prison
D'backs, Yankees Reach Deal on Johnson

This is beginning to be an everyday occurrence. Did Murdoch buy them?

They also have had wild, contradicting headlines- Reuters will report "Jobless Claims Up, Economy Sluggish" while the AP will have something to the effect of "12000 Jobs Created, Shows Economy on the Mend" or some such shit. Total opposite of what everyone else is reporting.

Did I miss something?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Cubs to welcome youngest fans in 2005
The Chicago Cubs will be extending a special welcome to babies born at three Chicago hospitals in 2005. Newborns at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital and Illinois Masonic Hospital will be presented with their first baby beanie cap courtesy of the Chicago Cubs. Each pink and blue striped cap contains the Cubs logo on the front to announce the little one's allegiance to their favorite baseball team. The first baby born at each of the hospitals in 2005 will also receive a gift basket of Cubs baby attire from the team.

Ah, yes, get them while they are real young and don't know any better! Doomed to a life of anguish before they even leave the hospital! LOL! There oughta be a law.... & WOOD TV8 - SBC Michigan is phasing out its time of day service in the state
(Lansing-AP, December 29, 2004, 8:10 a.m.) Michigan residents soon won't be able to hear `At the tone the time will be ...' by phone.

SBC Michigan is phasing out its time of day service in the state after 75 years.

A spokeswoman for the San Antonio-based telecommunications giant said the service isn't being used because people have so many other ways to get the time -- by radio, T-V, cell phones and the Internet.

Spokeswoman Liz Whelan says Michigan is the last state of the company's five-state Midwest region to lose the service.

Some smart business should pick up the "459-1212" number and stick an ad in front of the time. Surprised that SBC didn't go that route. I still called it whenever I lost power.

Yahoo! News - Candidate in Wash. Gov. Race Seeks Revote
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Edged out of the closest governor's race in state history, Republican Dino Rossi urged his opponent to accept a revote, saying the uncertainty surrounding the back-and-forth election was bad for the state. Democrat Christine Gregoire's camp immediately rejected the idea as "irresponsible."

Rossi's request came hours before the Secretary of State was scheduled Thursday to certify Gregoire as the winner by a scant 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast.

Tell the Repugs that we will do a revote here if we can do a revote in Ohio.

What? No? Didn't think so. Too bad then.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Yahoo! News - Race to Bury Asia's Dead as Toll Nears 70,000
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - Thousands of corpses rotted in Indonesia's tropical sun on Wednesday as many who escaped death in the worst tsunami in recorded history faced a fight for survival against hunger and disease.

Rescuers scoured remote coastlines across the Indian Ocean for survivors of Sunday's giant waves that killed more than 68,000. The United Nations mobilized what it called the biggest relief operation in its history.

The ocean surge was triggered by a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake, the biggest in 40 years, off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It spread in an arc of death across the Indian Ocean, striking from Indonesia to Sri Lanka and beyond to Africa.

U.S. scientists said the quake that set off the killer wall of water had permanently moved tectonic plates beneath the Indian Ocean as much as 98 feet, slightly shifting islands near Sumatra. It may also have made the Earth wobble on its axis.

No words for this.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Yahoo! News - Ohio Recount Ends, Shows Vote Closer
TOLEDO, Ohio - Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio on Tuesday, with the final tally shaving about 300 votes off President Bush's six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term.

The recount shows Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over John Kerry, according to unofficial results provided to The Associated Press by the 88 counties. Lucas County, home to Toledo, was the last to finish counting.

Oddly enough I took my Kerry sign out of my front window today. I had actually forgotten it was there; it was behind some blinds that I keep closed (window has three different sections). When I went out to the store I noticed it and decided to take it down. It's kinda like leaving Xmas decorations up past their time- gets tacky after awhile I think.

Yahoo! News - Steinbeck's Hometown to Close Libraries
Facing record deficits, the City Council voted Dec. 14 to shut all three of Salinas' libraries, including the branches named after Steinbeck and labor leader Cesar Chavez. The blue-collar town of 150,000 could become the most populous U.S. city without a public library.

Salinas, nicknamed "salad bowl to the nation" for the lettuce and broccoli fields nearby, is the 1902 birthplace of the Nobel Prize-winning author of "Cannery Row" and "Of Mice and Men." Steinbeck, who died in 1968, described the region as "pastures of heaven" and memorialized Salinas in his 1952 novel "East of Eden."

But after voters Nov. 2 rejected a half-cent increase in the sales tax to preserve city services, Salinas has drawn the scorn of bibliophiles around the world. Editorials in newspapers from New Zealand to London have condemned the closings.

Here is the crux of the problem. Nobody wants to pay for the services they now take for granted. What kind of quality of life will we have in this country if this continues?

"The reality is that we live in a blue-collar community where people are struggling, and they're afraid of new taxes," Mayor Anna Caballero said. "I don't think they realized the enormity of what we were facing."

Libraries nationwide are struggling. According to an April study by the Chicago-based American Library Association, libraries in 41 states absorbed more than $50 million in funding cuts in the past year. More than 1,100 libraries have reduced operating hours or cut staff.

Some residents are hoping a private donor will rescue the library. Librarians are considering seeking corporate sponsorship.

Danger! Danger Will Robinson! Corporate sponsorship can lead to corporate censorship, better get some safeguards in place right now if you go down that road. Can you imagine WalMart sponsoring a library with their current store policies? *shudder*

Cubs, Hollandsworth agree to one-year deal
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs agreed to a $900,000 one-year deal with outfielder Todd Hollandsworth on Monday, avoiding arbitration.

"I fell in love with the city, the team and the organization," Hollandsworth said. "You have this dying passion to help this team get over the top and help them get back to the World Series."

The former NL Rookie of the Year did his part last year, his first in Chicago, until an injury ended his season on June 27. He hit .318 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games.

Another piece of the puzzle. More pieces should fall into place now that contracts have been offered to the others eligible for arbitration. With all these one year deals, we had better win it all next year!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Reading Hangover:

Is that possible?

Ever since Xmas day I have had my nose in the books Mom gave me.

America (The Book)- by the folks from the Daily Show. Finished it in one day. If you liked National Lampoon's Yearbook parody (and I am dating myself with that one), you will love this. Funny stuff.


Faithful- by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King. Relive the year the Cubs should have had. I think only diehard baseball fans (and maybe only diehard Sox fans) will truly appreciate this. O'Nan tends to get into a little too much detail on midseason games while King provides color commentary that only a seasoned cynic could write. Being a Cub fan I can understand where he was coming from. Still, a good read- took me back to summer and that felt good.

Now my head hurts, and I have to go read the paper.

Yahoo! News - Asia Tsunami Toll Tops 16,400, Rush to Find Bodies
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Rescuers scoured the sea for missing tourists and soldiers raced to recover bodies amid fears of disease as Asia counted the cost on Monday of a tsunami that killed more than 16,400 along coasts from India to Indonesia.

The wall of water up to 10 meters (33 ft) high flattened houses, hurled fishing boats onto coastal roads, sent cars spinning through swirling waters into hotel lobbies and sucked sunbathers, babies and fishermen off beaches and out to sea.

At 6:40 it was 21,000. Everytime I refresh the browser it goes higher.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Yahoo! News - Anonymous Man Gives $35K to Homeless
DENVER - Residents of Samaritan House didn't know what to expect when the bearded, middle-aged man parked his sport utility vehicle in front of the downtown homeless shelter Christmas Eve.

The man walked into the building, pulled out a thick roll of $100 bills and began passing them out to each of the approximately 300 residents. When he was finished, he had given out $35,000.

"It was like seeing Santa Claus and God all at once," said William Chengelis, who has lived at the shelter since November. "You hear about stuff like that but you don't think you'll be there when it happens."

As a crowd gathered, the man said he had once been homeless and knew what it was like to be in need. He did not identify himself and said only that he lived in Denver and had also distributed money at a Las Vegas shelter.

Cool story. I'd like to think that I'd do stuff like this too, if I had the money.

Yahoo! News - Worker Shortage Snarls U.S. Airways Flights
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bankrupt US Airways late Saturday blamed more than 300 canceled flights and thousands of pieces of stranded luggage on the aftereffects of a heavy winter storm and large numbers of workers who called in sick during the crucial holiday travel period.

The disruption to thousands of travelers on troubled US Airways had the carrier scrambling and caught the attention of the U.S. Transportation Department, which told the airline to quickly straighten out its operations and its labor shortages.

The company and unions say there was no organized "sick out," but workers at the seventh-largest domestic airline are bitter about huge wage and benefit cuts the company says are needed for the airline to survive. They are also angry at how the company has been managed through two bankruptcies in two years.

I had a dream last night about a situation where all the low wage workers in America went on "strike"- nobody came to work at the fast food, the grocery, retail, housekeeping, etc etc, and the country was practically shut down. Funny this story came up- I did not see the news except for a brief bit of 13 local at 6, and they were doing the typical story of "people who work on Christmas". Maybe that's what gave me the idea.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Tree lights.

The cool things you can do with a long exposure and camera movement!

Have a great day today!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Now Playing:

If your looking for seasonal music that isn't the standard Christmas fare, may I suggest On A Winter's Night, a compilation put out by Imaginary Road (Polygram) way back in 1997. Very light jazz/new age with a touch of Xmas- it's a peaceful album that is perfect for a dark, snowy Christmas Eve. Sip your hot chocolate and stare at the winter landscape. A favorite of mine ever since I took the promo from whatever music store I was working for at the time (given the release date, it must have been Best Buy).


Yahoo! News - Cloned Cat Sale Generates Ethics Debate
SAN FRANCISCO - The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the United States is named Little Nicky, a 9-week-old kitten delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years.

The kitten cost its owner $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved cat, named Nicky, who died last year.

Yet while Little Nicky, who was delivered two weeks ago, frolics in his new home, the kitten's creation and sale has reignited fierce ethical and scientific debate over cloning technology, which is rapidly advancing.

The company that created Little Nicky, Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone, said it hopes by May to have produced the world's first cloned dog — a much more lucrative market than cats.

I'm of two minds on this. While I think that $50k for a cat is a bit excessive, with so many unwanted cats being put to sleep or going homeless, I can see the benefits to cloning endangered animals. (Not that housecats are endangered animals, but what the hell, better that than say, a Hummer.) Research on clones will also offer a lot in the way of "nature vs. nurture" studies.

Wait till they clone a monkey. The ethical debate will really fly far until they clone a human? Fascinating and creepy all at the same time.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy Festivus Everyone!:

Today is Festivus, although I wouldn't advise hanging around aluminum poles in this kind of weather.

Some hip folks in Florida (believe it or not) have put Festivus right up there with a nativity scene. Let's hope someone claims it before they take it down.

"A Festivus for the rest of us!" & WOOD TV8- Controversial nightclub to be built in Grand Rapids
The city of Grand Rapids has issued a building permit to Showgirl Galleria to create an adult nightclub and retail space. It is a controversial project, and the man behind it says a change in city zoning actually made it possible for him to build this facility here.

Mark London is no stranger to the adult entertainment industry. He is the owner of Sensations Showgirls in Grand Rapids and is now just carving out a bigger piece of the market for himself.

London’s latest venture, Showgirl Galleria, will be a full-nudity nightclub with a juice bar, plus two retail stores, selling accessories as well as hardcore videos and DVDs.

The biggest in Michigan! Yea for us! This should go over well with all the church group conventions that come to DeVos Place. Is For Republicans / Attention, liberal shoppers! Next year, screw those GOP-supportin' companies, and try buying blue

And the site, called (along with its more detailed but less intuitively named counterpart,, spawned a mini movement and the mini movement spawned this very column and now you are right now encouraged to go see for yourself and discover the moderately shocking truths regarding which big shiny companies suck up to the happy sneering homophobic enviro-slappin' warmongering Repubs and which give thousands to the whiny limping kick-us-when-we're-down Demos.

And then what? Just what are you supposed to do with this information? Well, like any good American living in a gutted economy that's trillions in debt, all while a massive bogus unwinnable war is being waged by the most irresponsible cadre of pseudo-leaders this nation has ever known, you go shopping.

No! Not Red Lobster! Whatever shall I do? I'll say Mom made me go. It's also interesting to note that "Hooters" gave 97% Pub. Lotsa good family values there. Heh heh.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Yahoo! News - Iraqi City in Lockdown After U.S. Base Blasted
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces sealed off entire districts of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday and raided homes in a hunt for suspects following a guerrilla attack that killed 18 Americans and four Iraqis.

Mosul's governor issued an order banning use of the five bridges that span the River Tigris in the city, and said anyone breaking the order would be shot. Residents said Iraq's third city was a virtual ghost town, with no one in the streets.

Mosul, an ethnically mixed city of Arabs and Kurds, has slid into chaos over recent months, especially since guerrillas routed the U.S.-trained police in mid-November, as U.S. troops were concentrating on storming Falluja, west of Baghdad.

In the past two months alone nearly 200 people have been found dead, most of them Iraqis, in a city of two million.

This is no Falluja. If the "insurgents" have set up shop here, we cannot storm or evacuate a city of two million as we did there. Kids, this is not going to get better, even after the "elections". Can you say quagmire?

Yahoo! News - Gay activists blamed for Salvation Army ban
Christian conservatives are demanding that shoppers boycott Target after the chain store banned Salvation Army bell ringers this year from store property. The conservative groups believe Target has bowed to pressure from gay-rights groups upset with the Salvation Army for not offering domestic-partner benefits to employees.

While not addressing the issue of homosexuality, Target said it was simply unfair to other charities to exempt The Salvation Army from its non-solicitation policy and told them at the beginning of 2004 that bell ringers would no longer be allowed to operate at Target stores.

"It's wrong to kick them out," said Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association in a quote published in the Washington Post. "It wouldn't surprise me if homosexual groups are behind this," he added.

I'm sure homosexuals will be the culprits everytime the "Christians" don't get their way. After all, we are behind every sinister, devious plot to destroy "family values" in America today! Kinda makes ya wonder why we fought so hard to join the ranks of "family" if we are trying to tear it down.

So far, no LGBT group is taking credit for The Salvation Army's exit.

Soulforce, an interfaith gay rights group that had protested the Salvation Army's policies, told the Washington Post it had not contacted Target and did not know of any other LGBT rights group that has urged Target to ban the charity.

Maj. George Hood, a spokesman for The Salvation Army, says the boycott "puts us in a weird position," because the charity does not support the boycott.

"We do not want to be the facilitator or be the source of any boycotts of Target or any negative assault against Target," Hood told the Washington Post. "They've made a business decision that we have to respect and move on."

Much ado over nothing. There are plenty of businesses that don't allow the Army, Best Buy being one of the biggest names, but I don't see them being boycotted.

Perhaps we should make a list of all the Fortune 500 companies that offer domestic benefits, and insist that the Christians boycott them, too. Pretty soon they won't be able to leave the house, and the country will be safe from their tyranny.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Yahoo! News - Pro-gay Arnie: GOP should move left
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the Republican Party should move "a little to the left," according to a German newspaper interview published Saturday.

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Schwarzenegger said, "The Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle."

"I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center," the paper quoted him as saying. "This would immediately give the party 5 percent more votes without it losing anything elsewhere."

In September, Schwarzenegger signed his first major gay rights legislation, requiring insurance companies to provide coverage to domestic partners. Later that same month, Schwarzenegger signed a hate-crimes bill that included offenses motivated by a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Schwarzenegger also supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, according to Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, in a Dec. 6 interview with the PlanetOut Network.

I have to hand it to Arnie. I guess it will take someone like him, working within the Repub party, to pull them away from the Radical Right and towards progress. Quite frankly, he's got my governor beat hands down at this point (on this issue, anyway).

Sorry Jen. California is lookin' pretty good to me. Too bad it's so expensive to live there.

Happy Winter Solstice Day!
"The precise moment of the 2004 solstice will be December 21, 2004 at 7:42 A.M."

For me, the real "reason for the season" is the return of the sun. Maybe I should look into becoming a real pagan.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Yahoo! News - Report: U.S. Rentals Unaffordable to Poor
WASHINGTON - Most Americans who rely on just a full-time job earning the federal minimum wage cannot afford the rent and utilities on a one- or two-bedroom apartment, an advocacy group on low-income housing reported Monday.

For a two-bedroom rental alone, the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour — nearly three times the federal minimum wage, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in its annual "Out of Reach" report.

That figure assumes that a family spends no more than 30 percent of its gross income on rent and utilities — anything more is generally considered unaffordable by the government.

Yet many poor Americans are paying more than they can afford because wage increases haven't kept up with increases in rent and utilities, said Danilo Pelletiere, the coalition's research director.

I can't think of a time in my life when I didn't pay at least half of my take-home towards rent and utilities, even when I was living with a roomate. I'm glad I got (and refinanced) my house, because my mortgage is now a lot cheaper than the average rental cost around here and I can deduct the interest on my taxes. Good deal. I'm one of the lucky ones.

Yahoo! News - Senators Hesitant to Replace Rumsfeld
WASHINGTON - The chairmen of two key Senate committees are countering statements of no-confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld voiced by a growing number of lawmakers over conduct of the war in Iraq.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the Armed Services Committee chairman, said a change of civilian leadership at the Pentagon now would be too disruptive, given the scheduled Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. "We should not at this point in time entertain any idea of changing those responsibilities," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, added, "We really can't go through that ordeal" now of finding a successor. Rumsfeld "should be held accountable, and he should stay in office," Lugar said.

But Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said he had no confidence in Rumsfeld, although he stopped short of calling on the secretary to step down. "I find it astounding. ... Things are worse than they've ever been" in Iraq, Hagel said on CBS' "Face the Nation." He said it was up to President Bush whether to replace Rumsfeld.

Seems 'ol Rummy is the lightning rod at this point, what with more media stories such as the "auto-pen controversy" coming out all the time. I wonder if they leave him in there for that very reason, drawing attention away from Bush, who, ultimately, should be held accountable.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Cubs' Spring camp opens Feb. 16
CHICAGO -- It's cold outside, so it's time to think about Spring Training. Cubs pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training on Feb. 16, with the first workout on Feb. 17.
Position players will report to Fitch Park in Mesa on Feb. 21, and the first full-squad workout will be the next day.

It's a beautiful, sunny 7 degrees outside right now, so I thought I'd post this to make myself feel a little warmer. Need more plastic on my windows!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Gamer buys $26,500 virtual land
A 22-year-old gamer has spent $26,500 (£13,700) on an island that exists only in a computer role-playing game (RPG). The Australian gamer, known only by his gaming moniker Deathifier, bought the island in an online auction.

The land exists within the game Project Entropia, an RPG which allows thousands of players to interact with each other. Entropia allows gamers to buy and sell virtual items using real cash, while fans of other titles often use auction site eBay to sell their virtual wares.

Earlier this year economists calculated that these massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have a gross economic impact equivalent to the GDP of the African nation of Namibia.

Sorry, Pop, you are not getting this for Xmas. Maybe next year.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Yahoo! News - Fla. County Reverses Christmas Tree Ban
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The Christmas tree decorations were being rehung at Pasco County buildings Friday after the reversal of a county attorney's finding that the trees were unacceptable religious symbols.

Trees had been removed from county buildings Wednesday after the initial decision, which allowed them only in "semiprivate" areas such as personal offices.

That decision drew angry reactions from residents and the American Center for Law & Justice, a law firm founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.

The initial decision had been a response to a man who wanted to display a menorah at a county building.

Wooden said a menorah could be displayed with a Christmas tree if a sign was added to the display reading: "Salute to Liberty. During this holiday season, the (government entity) salutes liberty. Let these festive lights remind us that we are the keepers of the flame of liberty and our legacy of freedom."

Ah, now I get it. I hadn't really read the story until now. While a menorah, technically, is a religious symbol, and a xmas tree, technically, is not, this was a response to someone else besides a "Christian" wanting to display their religion, and as you know we can't have that.

(Edit: The more I think about it, I would say a Xmas tree is a religious symbol. After all, it is an object put up in the celebration of Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ, correct?)

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Red Sox sign Clement to three-year deal
BOSTON, Massachusetts, (AFP) - The World Series champion Boston Red Sox signed righthanded pitcher Matt Clement to a three-year deal in a move designed to address the loss of Pedro Martinez.

According to a number of reports, the Red Sox and veteran Clement have come to terms on a 25.5 million dollar deal on Friday.

On the same day the team signed All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria, the club attempted to fill the void created by the departure of Martinez, who signed with the New York Mets on Wednesday.

Good for you Matt. Glad that you ended up on a winner.

Yahoo! News - In U.S., 44 Percent Say Restrict Muslims
ITHACA, N.Y. - Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll.

The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim Americans.

"It's sad news. It's disturbing news. But it's not unpredictable," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society. "The nation is at war, even if it's not a traditional war. We just have to remain vigilant and continue to interface."

This is so creepy I don't even know where to begin with it. So much for the "land of the free".

Friday, December 17, 2004

100 Mistakes for the President to Choose From - Center for American Progress

During a prime time press conference on April 13, President Bush was asked to name a mistake that he has made since taking office and what he has learned from it. Bush, who was unable to answer the question, admitted "maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with [a mistake]." But weeks later, Bush still hasn't answered the question. In the interest of assisting the President with this surprisingly difficult task we've compiled this list of 100 mistakes he has made since taking office:

This is a bit old, but here's a handy list to refer to- and expect it to keep growing.

Yahoo! News - Bush Considers Domestic Spending Freeze
WASHINGTON - President Bush is considering asking Congress to freeze domestic spending next year or cut it slightly, even as he prods lawmakers to allow younger workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts.

The two plans, which promise to be dominant issues next year, share a common thread: massive federal deficits that have set consecutive records, peaking at $413 billion last year. The shortfalls have prompted Bush to seek savings from non-defense, non-domestic security programs, and have limited his options for shoring up Social Security for the looming retirement of baby boomers.

"I look forward to working with Congress on fiscal restraint," the president said. "And it's not going to be easy."

HAHAHA! For you or for them?

As long as you get your money for your pet projects for the wealthy, everything will be fine won't it, Georgie?

House and Senate aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the White House was considering cutting such programs as housing, grants for community development, purchases of new equipment for the Federal Aviation Administration, and Army Corps of Engineers water projects.

Even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an administration favorite, was facing an increase of just 1 percent, pending appeals to the White House by outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, a lobbyist said.

"This tells you the administration's priority is tax cuts over fiscal responsibility and providing central services to the American people," said Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee.

This is what you elected America. More tax cuts for the rich, a SS scheme which will favor Wall Street and cost a fortune to implement, and less money for your community! Expect your local taxes to rise some more, or maybe just get rid of your fire department. You have a hose, don't you?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY: On the virtues of idleness
A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. Like any religion worth its salt, it shapes our world in its image, de­monizing if necessary, absorbing when possible. Thus has the great sovereign territory of what Nabokov called "unreal estate," the continent of invisible possessions from time to talent to contentment, been either infantilized, ren­dered unclean, or translated into the grammar of dollars and cents. Thus has the great wilderness of the inner life been compressed into a median strip by the demands of the "real world," which of course is anything but. Thus have we succeeded in transforming even ourselves into bipedal products, paying richly for seminars that teach us how to market the self so it may be sold to the highest bidder. Or perhaps "down the river" is the phrase.

This piece puts into eloquent words the disquiet I feel inside as I search for the next employer that will ultimately use me, abuse me, and discard me- eating away at my life for the few pennies that will keep my broadband internet going. :-)

It's a long piece, but worth the read.

(BTW, I hold that my country is neither competent nor efficient enough to be truly fascist, but we are certainly heading down that road.)

Yahoo! News - Washington Mayor: Baseball Deal Nearly Dead
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The deal to bring baseball back to Washington, D.C, was described by Mayor Anthony Williams as close to dead Wednesday after the City Council changed the plan to require private financing, a move Major League Baseball (MLB) called unacceptable.

The City Council late Tuesday approved a financing plan for a new waterfront stadium to host what would become the Washington Nationals team, but added a requirement the mayor find private financing to cover half the construction costs.

Taking out infrastructure and investment fund costs associated with the $1 billion project, the total amount needed in private financing for the stadium's construction would be about $140 million, Councilman Jack Evans said.

Without private financing in place by June no stadium would be built under the amendment proposed by Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp and approved by the council.

You'd think that they would have had all of this settled before they decided to move the team there. Oh well, I'm sure Vegas will take 'em.

Yahoo! News - Hardee's, Carl's Jr. Cash in with Backlash Burgers
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The parent of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's burger chains is cashing in on consumer backlash against healthier fast-food fare with new premium burgers that make Big Macs look like rabbit food.

While many of its competitors have downplayed traditional burgers in the last two years while scrambling to add lower-fat salads and grilled chicken offerings to their menus, CKE Restaurants Inc. has taken a different approach.

Carl's Jr. on Wednesday introduced the Breakfast Burger, a hamburger topped with a fried egg, hash browns, bacon and cheese, that weighs in at 830 calories and 46 grams of fat.

The Monster Thickburger has hit a nerve with consumers weary of so-called "food police," said Brad Haley, executive vice president of marketing at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's.

"We don't make what we want to sell, we make what people want to buy," Haley said in an interview. "There is sort of a backlash against political correctness in food."

I want one! How come we don't have any of these around here?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Yahoo! News - Spring Coming Earlier Than It Used To
In one of the most comprehensive studies that plants in the Northeast are responding to the global warming trend, Cornell scientists and their colleagues at the University of Wisconsin found lilacs are blooming about four days earlier than they did in 1965.

David Wolfe, a plant ecology professor at Cornell whose research will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Biometeorology, said nature's calendar is changing due to an increase in greenhouse gases.

"It's not just the weather data telling us there is a warming trend going on. We are now seeing the living world responding to the climate change as well," Wolfe said Tuesday.

See? Global warming doesn't have to be a bad thing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Yahoo! News - Companies Rapidly Cutting Health Benefits
WASHINGTON - Many companies are dropping their promise of health benefits for future retirees, who now might have to stay on the job longer and rely on government health care in their old age.

Eight percent of employers with at least 1,000 workers said they had eliminated subsidized retiree health benefits for some workers this year, and 11 percent more said they probably would do so next year, according to a study released Tuesday by the benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates and the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Um, you guys might want to check the story I just blogged earlier today about the government cutting those programs. We are in some mighty deep shit here.

One of my images made the Top 50 (#24) of the past week. What's funny about that is that it's been downloaded only four or so times, meaning that it doesn't take much to get in that category. Here it is-

I'm not sure what's so special about it, but it's nice to see myself in a top seller list.

Yahoo! News - Leavitt to Lead HHS, Could Cut Programs
WASHINGTON - Michael Leavitt, President Bush's choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services, may have to cut billions of dollars from the government's mammoth health programs for the elderly, poor and disabled to pare the budget deficit.

The Medicare and Medicaid programs, consuming nearly $500 billion a year and growing quickly, could be vulnerable in the context of last year's $413 billion budget deficit, the ongoing war in Iraq, costly domestic security commitments and administration plans to revamp Social Security without raising taxes.

Here it comes..."Freedom's on the march", right over the bodies of the poor and disabled in our own country. So very sad and disgusting.

Yahoo! News - New York Art Shuttered After Bush Monkey Portrait
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A portrait of President Bush using monkeys to form his image led to the closure of a New York art exhibition over the weekend and anguished protests on Monday over freedom of expression.

"Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido, created the stir at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show that was scheduled to stay up for the next month.

The show featured art from the upcoming issue of Animal Magazine, a quarterly publication featuring emerging artists.

"We had tons of people, like more than 2,000 people show up for the opening on Thursday night," said show organizer Bucky Turco. "Then this manager saw the piece and the guy just kind of flipped out. 'The show is over. Get this work down or I'm gonna arrest you,' he said. It's been kind of wild."

In New York City?? Watch for the Chelsea Market to obtain new management. No way will artists put their work in there after this.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Holy Shit!:

...a search of "wizardkitten" on Google turned up a link to this blog for the words "y**ng g*y s*x pic" on "", whoever they are. It linked back to an archive of Jan. 2. (oops! Words edited because I don't want this to turn up again! Doh!)

WTF? If you are here searching for that particular brand"entertainment", I guarantee you that it is NOT here, and I don't know how this link came about. Please go away now.
It's All About The Snow:

I decided it's probably best not to try to drive my poor little Saturn into the heart of a winter storm. Too much risk for little reward- if the snow is still flying it's hard to get clear pics anyway. Guess I'll wait for a windy summer day.

Chicken! But better to be wise. And warm.

Yahoo! Sports - NFL - DREW SHARP: Mooch's hopes were gone with the wind
This franchise's never-ending saga of spontaneous combustion is liberally sprinkled with good intentions turned horrifyingly bad. Green Bay's 16-13 comeback win was but another chapter of the same old story.

You walk away from another blown opportunity and wonder, what the heck were they thinking?

I haven't blogged much about the Lions (for good reason) but yesterday took the cake. It was almost as if the teams switched uniforms at half time. The fact that sloppy GB is sitting in first place just shows how mediocre this division is.

The Lions committed seven penalties in the third quarter -- five on the Packers' first drive alone. They gave Green Bay 55 yards in penalties on that drive. That's more than half the length of the field that the Lions nicely gift-wrapped for the Packers on an extremely windy day.

Shaun Rogers was nailed twice for 15-yard personal fouls. And the Lions got two personal fouls on one play when Jared DeVries couldn't keep his mitts off Brett Favre's face mask and Rogers couldn't keep his big yap shut, complaining to the officials.

*sigh* Go for the draft picks, boys. This one is over.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

It's All About The Weather:


Hello from Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Joe Sullivan. A cold blast is on the Way! ***A Lakeshore Flood Watch has been issued for Sunday Night to Monday Evening*** This has been issued for waves reaching 12-18 feet overnight Sunday night and through Monday. Beach erosion and damage to vessels or structures along the beach is possible. Winds may gust up to 45 to 50 mph along the Lakeshore and 35 to 40 mph farther inland.

Wonder if I dare try to go and take pictures. Heh heh. Let me think about it. I hate being cold! Do I even have a hat that covers my ears?

Yahoo! News - New York City Hawk Fans Intensify Protests Over Eviction
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Incensed bird lovers intensified their protests on Saturday outside the ritzy Upper East Side apartment building that removed the nest of famed red-tailed hawk Pale Male even as meetings were set to discuss bringing back the hawk's home.

It was the fourth day of protests outside the building, which on Tuesday abruptly took down the hawk's nest and metal spikes that supported it.

Pale Male became a local attraction in 1993 when he built his nest on a window cornice 12 stories above Central Park. Metal spikes, which were supposed to deter pigeons, provided support for the nest and protection from the wind.

The hawk inspired a book, a documentary, and fans that watched Pale Male and his mates raise more than 20 chicks.

Stories like this restore my faith in mankind.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Here's A Thought:

If I was in a straight marriage, and I had the money, it might be fun to sue for the right to have a "civil union".

I would ask for the word "marriage" to be removed from any and all paperwork, license, whatever legal papers that pertain to my relationship, because after all, "marriage", by the new definition in the state of Michigan, is an institution that discriminates against certain people.

Would you belong to an all-white country club? Go to a school that didn't allow Jews? The state is now forcing you to belong to an institution that discriminates. Think about it.

Now, I don't know exactly what a marriage license says, but I believe it actually says the word "marriage", and not "union", right? (Straight folk, help me out here- I know the federal tax forms do say "married")

I would want the right to have that word stricken, since it is now a tainted word in my eyes. Let the bigots keep it, I would want no part of it. Goes against my moral values.

And the publicity would be delicious, especially if you got a whole bunch of couples together as kind of a class action thing.

David Kelley could have a field day with this!

(for those who don't know who David Kelley is- if you've seen any TV show in the last 20 years that centered around lawyers, chances are David wrote it.)

Yahoo! News - Wal-Mart Sued Over Evanescence CD Lyrics
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which promotes itself as a seller of clean music, deceived customers by stocking compact discs by the rock group Evanescence that contain the f-word, a lawsuit claims.

The hit group's latest CD and DVD, "Anywhere But Home," don't carry parental advisory labels alerting potential buyers to the obscenity. If they did, Wal-Mart wouldn't carry them, according to the retailer's policy.

But the lawsuit claims Wal-Mart knew about the explicit lyrics in the song, "Thoughtless," because it censored the word in a free sample available on its Web site and in its stores.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court, seeks an order requiring Wal-Mart to either censor or remove the music from its Maryland stores. It also seeks damages of up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music at Wal-Marts in Maryland.

Damn! No wait, uh....Darn! Need to rush out to Wal-Mart and see if I can find anything with a swear word in it. Maybe two things. Could be set for life.

Yahoo! News - Bush Homeland Security Nominee Kerik Withdraws
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush's pick to become homeland security secretary, former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, abruptly withdrew his nomination on Friday due to what he said were questions over the immigration status of a housekeeper and nanny he employed.

Kerik, 49, nominated by Bush little more than a week ago, said in his withdrawal letter to the president that he discovered the problems about his housekeeper and nanny while completing documents required for Senate confirmation to the post, whose duties include enforcement of immigration laws.

Kerik's is the latest high-level nomination since the 1990s derailed by tax and immigration issues related to domestic help.

You'd think those rich folk would have learned this lesson by now.

The announcement also came after news organizations raised questions about some of Kerik's business dealings, including his profitable membership on the board of Taser International, the stun-gun maker which is seeking to sell more of its devices to the federal government.

So? Resign. Hard to believe that this is a problem, what with Dick's buddies at Halliburton making billions off of us. Suddenly it's an issue?

I wonder if there is more to this withdrawal besides "nanny problems" that we aren't being told. Odd time for the administration to develop scruples.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Had a hit from, aka, the House of Representatives, today. Hope it wasn't Tom DeLay or somebody evil like that.

Wonder why they use Windows 2000 and not XP.
Disturbing, In A Way:

E-mail from the MoveOn folks the other day. I often wondered what direction they would take next - and confrontation seems to be it. While I'm all for confrontation, I think they could have chose to go the route of tact, instead of turning on the very people that they once championed.

"For years, the Party has been lead by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers. In the last year, grassroots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the Party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive. Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."

While I agree with the sentiment, I can't help but think that had Kerry won the election, all would be well with the folks at MoveOn. I also don't like the "we bought it, we own it" mentality. Seems to me that's a Repub trait. A party should be for all the people, not just those who "bought" it.

"MoveOn includes Republicans, Greens, and independents. But all of us who are struggling for health care, clean air, decent jobs, and a sane foreign policy can agree on one thing: we're better off with a vibrant, populist Democratic Party that's strong enough to challenge the extreme-right Republican leadership.

Why haven't we had one? Under outgoing DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, the Party cozied up to many of the same corporate donors that fund the Republicans -- drug companies, HMO's, media conglomerates, big banks, polluting industries. The result was watered down, play-it-safe politics that kept the money flowing but alienated traditional Democrats as well as reform-minded independents in search of vision and integrity. And so the Party lost ground

While I agree with part one of the above, I don't like the slam at head cheerleader Terry McAuliffe. MoveOn certainly didn't make this a point before the election, why attack now? Because they lost? This only seems like sour grapes at this point, and it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. So much so, that I came back to blog it. It's been bugging me.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for radical upheaval of the whole system. But, I also know that, being realistic, it isn't going to happen anytime soon - it will take a major catastrophe, probably economic, to bring that about. Further splinting the Democratic Party at this point isn't going to help.

MoveOn was certainly ready to ride the Democratic coat-tails into power, this sudden shift makes me question what their real desire is all about. Time will tell.

Yahoo! News - Government Says Terrorists May Use Lasers
WASHINGTON - Terrorists may seek to down aircraft by shining powerful lasers into cockpits to blind pilots during landing approaches, federal officials are warning in a bulletin distributed nationwide.

The memo sent by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department says there is evidence that terrorists have explored using lasers as weapons, though there is no specific intelligence indicating al-Qaida or other groups might use lasers in the United States.

"In certain circumstances, if laser weapons adversely affect the eyesight of both pilot and co-pilot during a non-instrument approach, there is a risk of airliner crash," the agencies said.

Steve Luckey, a retired airline pilot who is chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association (news - web sites)'s national security committee, said pilots are concerned about a recent increase in laser incidents, but do not know what to make of them. He said he has learned of two or three cases in the past 90 days.

"The most recent incidents appear to be aimed at pilots in the vicinity of airports," Luckey said. "A few seem to be intentional, and we're wondering why and what's going on."

Huh? How in the hell could you even aim at and expect to hit a pilot and a co-pilot on a moving plane, unless you had two lasers and guided tracking? Bizarre.

Yahoo! News - Canada to Move on Gay Marriage After Court Ruling
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada gave the federal government the go-ahead on Thursday to legalize gay marriage, prompting Prime Minister Paul Martin to announce plans to introduce a redefinition of marriage early next year.

But the court refused a government request to say the constitution required the legalization of gay marriage, stripping away a political weapon that would have made it easier to push its draft bill through Parliament.

It did rule that the constitution allowed the proposed redefinition of marriage as "the lawful union of two persons," while protecting the right of religious organizations to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

"Canada is a pluralistic society," the court said. "Our constitution is a living tree which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Yahoo! News - Five Die in Ohio Heavy Metal Band Shooting
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - A man charged on stage and opened fire on a heavy metal band at a crowded bar in Columbus on Wednesday night, killing four people and wounding two others before being killed by police, officials said.

Among the dead was "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, guitarist for the band Damageplan, who witnesses said appeared to have been singled out by the gunman and shot several times at close range, local media reported.

Abbott, 38, and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, were previously with Texan thrash metal band Pantera, which formed in the early 1980s.

I've had stuff thrown at me before (things like beer, coins...all in good fun, for them anyway) but nobody ever starting shooting. Must have been pretty scary.
A Big Thumbs Down: Comcast, who was off-line all morning long. Don't they know I'm addicted? Bastards.

Yahoo! News - Bush, Rumsfeld Try to Soothe Angry U.S. Troops
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush said on Thursday U.S. troop concerns about inadequate equipment for Iraq combat are being addressed and he did not blame soldiers for raising the issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

A day after he was bombarded with criticism from U.S. soldiers based in Kuwait, Rumsfeld promised more would be done to protect forces and that steps were being taken to deal with explosive devices, a lead cause of death in Iraq, where more than 1,000 American soldiers have been killed in action.

Meeting with troops in Kuwait on Wednesday, Rumsfeld heard a complaint from Spc. Thomas Wilson that U.S. forces were forced to dig up scrap metal to protect their vehicles in Iraq because of a shortage of armored ones.

"I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know, and that's a good thing. I think it's a very constructive exchange," Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him on Thursday in India, another stop on his regional tour.

Try that one again, Don. This time in English.

A former platoon leader in Iraq and founder of an advocacy group for troops called Operation Truth said Rumsfeld's comments in Kuwait showed he was out of touch with reality.

"Mr. Rumsfeld really doesn't understand the reality on the ground that the troops are facing," said Paul Rieckhoff.

"All he keeps giving us is excuses. We don't want excuses, we want solutions," he added.

We've got the same problem here, soldier. Good luck to you all.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 & WOOD TV8- Jay Van Andel had a quest to cure cancer
(Update, Kent County, December 7, 2004, 7:23 p.m.) Jay Van Andel, a co-founder of Amway, passed away of natural causes Tuesday morning.

Van Andel’s friends and associates will tell you there is another important aspect to his legacy: he wanted to cure cancer. That is why he founded the Van Andel Research Institute.

His efforts and money help pay for the scientists who labor in the labs and hope to find a cure for cancer. They are making progress in that effort as this year the institute launched its first drug development and discovery program.

Gotta give Jay credit for this one. This might be the most important thing to come out of the pyramid scheme that is (was) Amway. That, and the Van Andel Arena, without which I never would have seen Shania Twain, who is, like, incredibly hot.

Yahoo! News - House Passes Sweeping Intelligence Reforms
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a sweeping overhaul of U.S. intelligence agencies, ending weeks of wrangling over the Pentagon's power under the reforms demanded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The bill, sought by some of the families of Sept. 11 victims, would implement key recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission and create a new director of national intelligence with strong budget powers to oversee 15 U.S. spy agencies. It also creates a new counterterrorism center that would plan and help oversee counterterrorism operations.

It would also create a civil liberties oversight board to ensure privacy and civil liberty issues are considered in writing regulations and implementing the law.

I'm not sure if "more bureaucracy" is the answer to our intelligence problems. How about changing our aggressive and greedy foreign policy so people don't want to blow us up? Hmmmm?

And who will appoint this "civil liberties" board? I hear John Ashcroft is available. ;-)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cubs agree to terms with Walker
The Chicago Cubs today agreed to terms with infielder TODD WALKER on a one-year contract for the 2005 season. Walker, who filed for free agency on October 28, originally signed with the Cubs as a free agent in December 2003.

Walker, 31, appeared in 129 games in his first season with the Cubs, batting .274 with 15 homers and 50 RBI.

YEA!!! OK, I'll stop now.

Yahoo! News - Cubs Agree to Terms with Garciaparra
CHICAGO (Sports Network) - The Chicago Cubs Tuesday agreed to a contract with shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. As per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Garciaparra, who filed for free agency just after the season ended, came to the Windy City after being acquired from Boston in a four-team deal just prior to the trading deadline.

The 31-year-old appeared in 43 games with the Cubs this season and batted .297 with four homers and 20 RBI.

YES!!! & WOOD TV8 - Amway co-founder Jay Van Andel has died
The 80-year-old passed away at his home in Ada due to natural causes. He had been in declining health for a number of years.

Van Andel became the co-founder of Amway Corporation, a staple in West Michigan, in 1959.

Better shut down the city.

Here's another one from the other day.

Yahoo! News - CIA Paints Pessimistic Iraq Picture -- NY Times
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The situation in Iraq is unlikely to improve anytime soon, according to a classified cable and briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The assessments are more pessimistic than the Bush administration's portrayal of the situation to the public, government officials told the newspaper.

The classified cable -- sent last month by the CIA's station chief in Baghdad after the completion of a one-year tour of duty there -- painted a bleak picture of Iraq's politics, economics and security and reiterated briefings by Michael Kostiw, a senior CIA official, according to the Times.

I thought we got rid of all the pessimists at the CIA?

Winter Sun.

No adjustments to this pic- this is what Michigan actually looks like in the winter. Gray, dark, all the trees bare and spooky. This was taken 12:28PM!

Cubs face deadline on free agents
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs may have their middle infield combination of Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Walker signed on Tuesday.

Tuesday is the last date for teams to offer their declared free agents arbitration. If a club refuses to make an offer, it loses the right to re-sign the player until May 1, and also loses its right to receive draft picks back from the signing team.

Oh please, please, please make this happen Jim.

Apparently they are going to let go of Clement, which I think is a bad idea. We will know by tomorrow.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Onion | New Social Security Plan Allows Workers To Put Portion Of Earnings On Favorite Team
WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush signed an ambitious Social Security plan into law Monday that will allow citizens to bet a third of their payroll taxes on their favorite sports teams.

Under the new plan, participating citizens will be asked to list their favorite teams on their W-2 forms. At the start of each major sports season, program participants will visit their local Social Security booking offices to review point spreads and sample playoff trees. Citizens' team selections will be subject to approval by their employers, who contribute a percentage of wages to the employee Social Security Earned Benefits Fund, or "pot," under the new system.

"The risk is greater, but so are the potential payouts," said commission member U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who has long argued that sporting organizations have higher standards of oversight, accountability, and strategic transparency than the federal government. "Why, a Boston-area resident who placed 2 percent of his lifetime earnings on the Patriots or the Red Sox this year would have tens of thousands of dollars in his retirement fund. That's a lot of squeeze, even after taxes."

As Jon would say, "I got nothing" this morning...

Sunday, December 05, 2004

New Government Hits:

...on this blog. This fascinates me for whatever reason. How are they finding it, pray tell?

BBN Technologies-"Our software powers every North American tactical IP military network."

Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory-"As a national security laboratory, LLNL is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable through application of advances in science and technology."

Air Force-This hit came from somewhere overseas.

There may be others but these are the ones I recognized right off the bat. Seriously, people, don't you have better things to do?

Yahoo! News - Bush Downplays Thompson's Terror Worries
WASHINGTON - President Bush played down on Saturday a stark warning from his resigning health chief that the nation's food supply is largely unprotected from terror attack.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a speech Friday announcing his coming departure from the Bush Cabinet that he worries "every single night" about a possible terror attack on the food supply.

"We're a large country, with all kinds of avenues where somebody could inflict harm," said Bush, asked about the issue after an Oval Office meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. "We've made a lot of progress in protecting our country, and there's more work to be done, and this administration is committed to doing it."

Despite dramatic increases in inspections of food imports, only "a very minute amount" of food is tested at ports and airports, Thompson said.

"For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," Thompson said. "We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

Bush likes to ignore such warnings, or hasn't anyone noticed that yet? While I believe it would be damn near impossible to inspect every little thing (or person) that comes into this country, here is another top level official who is pointing out yet another problem and Bush downplays it once again.

That's OK, soon the cabinet will be full of "yes" men so he won't have to answer the critics anymore- they will be dismissed as outsiders, or sore losers, or the "loony left", or whatever deflection the administration can come up with so it won't have to address any "problems". Let's hope one of those "problems" doesn't rise up and bite us on the ass.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Daily Kos :: This is what John Kerry did today:

The pictures speak for themselves.

Damn. We were so close.

Boing Boing: MSN Spaces: seven dirty blogs
Earlier today, I posted comments from a BoingBoing reader about the fact that MSN Spaces, Microsoft's new blogging tool, censors certain words you might try to include in a blog title or url. If you can't speak freely on a blog, what's the point of having one? This demanded a full investigation.

Funny. Don't use MSN.

Yahoo! News - Baseball Facing Crisis as Steroids Scandal Deepens
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) was facing one of the biggest crises in its long history on Friday, after the name of Barry Bonds was added to a growing list of Most Valuable Players (MVP) linked with steroid use.

One day after the San Francisco Chronicle reported excerpts from closed-door grand jury testimony from New York Yankee Jason Giambi in which he admitted using steroids, Bonds's lawyer told reporters the San Francisco Giants slugger had unknowingly taken substances that could have contained steroids.

"The use of these substances continues to raise issues regarding the game's integrity and raises serious concerns about the health and well-being of our players," said MLB commissioner Bud Selig in a statement on Friday.

Say it ain't so, Joe. I have a hard time looking at this, being my sacred cow and all. When it led the NBC news last night my heart sank. I also have a hard time believeing that Bonds, or any of the others, didn't know what they were taking. If your body makes you millions of dollars a year, you don't randomly throw chemicals into it on "blind faith".

Friday, December 03, 2004

An open letter from Governor Granholm :


I am writing today to clarify confusion caused by a series of inaccurate news headlines.

Yesterday’s news carried stories claiming that I removed domestic partner benefits from a contract between the state and the United Auto Workers. The implication that my administration is backing away from these benefits is off base; the assertion that we have “removed” these benefits is just plain wrong.

First, my position on this issue has not changed. I continue to support domestic partner benefits. In fact, one of the very reasons I opposed Proposal 2 here in Michigan was because I feared that its passage had the potential to take away those benefits – benefits that have been recognized by Fortune 500 companies as critical tools for attracting and retaining a world-class workforce.

Second, we continue to have an agreement with the UAW and other state employee unions to move forward with domestic partner benefits if they are allowed by law. However, with the passage of Proposal 2 in Michigan, a legal cloud now surrounds the question of whether the state can move forward. In order to enhance the likelihood of ultimate approval of these benefits, the Office of State Employer and the UAW reached an agreement not to move forward until the legal uncertainty surrounding this issue is resolved. Since these new benefits were not scheduled to take effect until October 1, 2005, we look forward to resolution of this issue so that these benefits can be implemented as planned this coming October. Let me be clear – if (Emphasis mine) and when a court finds these benefits lawful, we will move forward with their implementation.

The UAW has been equally strong in responding to the inaccuracies of yesterday’s news. I hope you’ll visit their Website at for additional information.

I regret the pain that these inaccurate news stories have caused and am especially disappointed that it comes on the heels of an election outcome that many of us felt so strongly about. I appreciate that so many friends have taken the time to contact my office to voice support for these benefits and to seek clarification on the status of this issue. I hope you will continue to keep in close contact in the future.


Jennifer M. Granholm

Uh, Jen? I don't see how the news had it wrong. How does "not moving forward", as opposed to "removing" them, enhance the likelihood of them being implemented? Sounds like semantics to me. Wouldn't it be better to implement them first, and then let the court decide?

(Upon further investigation, it seems the contract is placed before the Civil Service Commission for ratification, and apparently they can just "remove" the provision. Huh. How is it they can just "remove" provisons from union contracts? That in itself is kind of bizarre, if you ask me.)

The UAW had an interesting take on this-

"If the language is ruled unconstitutional, the Union will invoke Article 48 of the contract which calls for both parties to enter into bargaining for the purpose of arriving at a mutually agreed satisfactory replacement for the invalidated provision."

Which I take to mean- "We will get some sort of benefits for our people, whether the voters like it or not" Don't fuck with the UAW. They still have some pull in this state.

Yahoo! News - Bush's Ohio Win Was Closer Than Thought
TOLEDO, Ohio - President Bush's victory over John Kerry in Ohio was closer than the unofficial election night totals showed, but the change is not enough to trigger an automatic recount, according to county-by-county results provided to The Associated Press on Friday.

Bush's margin of victory in the state that put him over the top in his re-election bid will be about 119,000 votes — smaller than the unofficial margin of 136,000, the county election board figures showed. That means Kerry drew closer by about 17,000 votes.

The Kerry campaign and two third-party candidates are seeking a recount in Ohio. The Green and Libertarian parties said they have raised enough money to cover the cost. The Kerry campaign said it is not disputing the outcome of the presidential race but wants to make sure any recount is "done accurately and completely."

A hearing on the recount request began in federal court in Columbus on Friday afternoon.

The narrowing of Bush's margin only increases the possibility that the election results could be changed, the Green Party said. "Who knows what else will turn up when we examine the discarded ballots?" Green spokesman Blair Bobier asked.

This could get interesting. Stay tuned.

Very, Very Dirty Pictures / You want explicit? You want raw and uncensored and free of media bias? Here you go

(Note to Mark: Shorter titles, please)

This is what you won't see on CNN or on MSNBC or CBS News or on any major media Web site anywhere and especially no goddamn way ever in hell will you see it within a thousand miles of Fox News.

You aren't supposed to see. You aren't supposed to know. You are to remain ignorant and shielded, and, if you're like most Americans, you have been very carefully conditioned to think Bush's nasty Iraq war is merely this ugly little firecracker-like thing happening way, way over there, carefully orchestrated and somewhat messy and maybe a little bloody but mostly still patriotic and good and necessary and sponsored by none other than God his own angry Republican self.

So then. Here is your uncensored truth: Real pictures from Fallujah. Real pictures of war. Brutal and explicit and shocking and just one site of many. Be warned: this is very graphic content. Horrific and deeply disturbing. No censorship. No suppression. No Photoshop. No bogus shots of happy Iraqi children running in the streets begging for candy from American soldiers. No night shots of Marines in bitchin' night-vision goggles bustin' down the door of some palace and then cheering.

Because if you think that's what it's all been about, if you really think war is just this tragic but necessary evil that contains some unfortunate violence and regrettable death but is nonetheless still full of righteous democratic American truth, you have been wildly misled and deeply deceived and might want to consider a nice intellectual emetic. You and Dubya both.

I swear this man is roaming around inside my head. I had just been to this site recently, and here he is, writing about it. It's almost creepy sometimes.

Gay book ban goal of state lawmaker
MONTGOMERY - An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

Give 'em an's obvious that these people won't stop with marriage, or books, or whatever....I guess my father's idea of the "pink armbands" isn't too far off. It will make it easier to round everyone up and cart 'em away to the "re-orientation camps". You know, for the sake of the children, we MUST keep these people off the streets.


Where will it end? Won't anyone stand up and put a stop to this?

Yahoo! News - Mich. moves to revoke partner benefits
Because of an announcement from the governor's office late Wednesday, contracts for Michigan's state employees won't contain domestic partnership benefits as originally planned.

Gay employees were supposed to get the benefits added to their contracts for the first time this year. The contracts are supposed to be adopted by the Civil Service Commission on Dec. 15. But before they could be approved, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's office made an announcement that the office had decided to hold off on the benefits in light of the voters passing the anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution, known as Proposal 2.

Gov. Granholm had opposed the marriage amendment in the November election. But Proposal 2 passed with 58.6 percent of the vote in Michigan. The courts are now considering the legality of the amendment.

"The governor's office and the union representatives are being overly cautious," said Jeffery Montgomery, the executive director of the Detroit-based gay rights group, the Triangle Foundation.

"Proponents of Proposal 2 kept telling voters it was only about marriage, the amendment wasn't about domestic partnership benefits, and people believed it," he said. "But this decision shows that just wasn't true. We warned them. Eliminating domestic partnership benefits from the current contract exposes those people who backed Proposal 2 for the deceitful scoundrels that they are."

Perhaps Jen is using this as a way to force the issue within the courts, but I would have rather she left the language in the contract and have the Prop 2 backers try to sue the state. I don't know. Will investigate further.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thanks again to Hoos at the dreaded USP. Funny stuff.

Another one from yesterday. I'm running out of titles for these things.

Yahoo! News - Networks Bar Church Ads That Welcome Gays
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two leading U.S. television networks angered gay rights groups on Thursday by refusing to carry an ad by a church welcoming gays to their congregations, a message the networks found too controversial.

The United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination which has about 1.3 million members, said the 30-second commercial was aimed at making gays feel included and they were disappointed by CBS and NBC's decision to reject it. Cable networks have accepted the ad.

In the ad, heavy-set bouncers stand behind a red velvet rope line outside a church and with bells chiming in the background, hand-holding gay couples are turned away.

"Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we," is the message of the ad.

In a written statement to the church, CBS, a unit of Viacom, said the fact that the Bush administration had proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman made the advertisement "unacceptable for broadcast."

NBC said the ad violated a long-standing policy of the network not to allow commercials that dealt with issues of public controversy. NBC is part of NBC Universal, which is 80 percent owned by General Electric Co., with the rest owned by Vivendi Universal .

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination said CBS, in particular, needed to answer for what the group said was a disturbing response to the ad.

"CBS saying that they wouldn't run it because the message conflicts with anti-gay legislation put forward by the White House does call into question their actions and business practices," said GLAAD spokesman Michael Young.

Lambda Legal, a group fighting for recognition of full civil rights of gays, called the decision surprising, particularly as these networks ran countless controversial ads during the presidential election campaign.

"I think it's appalling that two major networks have decided that a message of love and acceptance is in any way controversial," said Lambda senior counsel Heather Sawyer.

Let's boycott CBS. Oh, wait, I don't watch anything on CBS anyway, except maybe 60 Minutes here and there. So it won't be that hard to do.

Yahoo! News - ACLU Says FBI Spying on Religious, Protest Groups
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday accused the FBI and local police of spying on political and faith-based groups and formally asked the government for information about such FBI surveillance.

In Freedom of Information Act requests filed in 10 states and Washington, D.C., the ACLU sought information about the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and local police for what it called political surveillance.

It pointed to some documented examples of task forces' involvement in the investigation of environmental activists and anti-war protesters.

"The FBI is wasting its time and our tax dollars spying on groups that criticize the government, like the Quakers in Colorado or Catholic Peace Ministries in Iowa," said ACLU associate legal director Ann Beeson.

"Do Americans really want to return to the days when peaceful critics become the subject of government investigations?" she said. The ACLU is America's most prominent independent advocacy group for civil liberties.

I'm the ghost of Richard Nixon, and I approved of this message.

Yahoo! News - Bush Seeks Canada's Help in Iraq, Mideast
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - President Bush asked Canadians on Wednesday to move beyond their deep opposition to the Iraq war and get behind his vision of democracies blooming from Baghdad to the West Bank.

"Sometimes even the closest of friends disagree, and two years ago we disagreed about the course of action in Iraq," Bush said, standing at the side of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

But, Bush said, "there is no disagreement at all with what has to be done in going forward. We must help the Iraqi people secure their country and build a free and democratic society."

Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien refused to send Canadian troops to Iraq, and polls show more than 80 percent of Canadians still support that decision.

It took Bush nearly four years to make an official visit to Canada, though he's been twice before for global summits. He did not make Canada his first foreign visit, as many of his predecessors did.

It takes Bush four years to visit, three years to say "thank you" for their help on 9-11, and he wants them to pony up money and or troops for his plans of Middle East domination? Riiiiight. Way to make friends there, George.