Monday, January 31, 2005

Yahoo! News - Ex-Envoy Bremer Hails Iraq Vote as Great Victory
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq's former U.S. governor, Paul Bremer, praised Iraq's election as a victory for democracy Monday and said it had proved the skeptics wrong.

Bremer was exuberant over the election Sunday in Iraq, which, while marred by some attacks, had a greater turnout than expected and was immediately declared a success by President Bush.

"It's a great victory for the Iraqi people, for democracy and for the (U.S.) president's message of freedom," said Bremer in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.

Great news there Paul! Now, about that 8.8 billion dollars of Iraqi money that's missing that apparently YOU were in charge of....

Yahoo! News - Iraqis Defy Threats to Vote for Assembly
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis embraced democracy in large numbers Sunday, standing in long lines to vote in defiance of mortar attacks, suicide bombers and boycott calls. Pushed in wheelchairs or carts if they couldn't walk, the elderly, the young and women in veils cast ballots in Iraq's first free election in a half-century.

Uncertain Sunni turnout, a string of insurgent attacks that killed 44 and the crash of a British military plane drove home that chaos in Iraq isn't over yet.

Yet the mere fact the vote went off seemed to ricochet instantly around a world hoping for Arab democracy and fearing Islamic extremism.

The feeling was sometimes festive. One election volunteer escorted a blind man back to his home after he cast his vote. A woman too frail to walk by herself arrived on a cart pushed by a young relative. Entire families showed up in their finest clothes.

But for the country's minority Sunni Arabs, who held a privileged position under Saddam Hussein, the day was not as welcome.

No more than 400 people voted in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, and in the heavily Sunni northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, where Saddam made his last known public appearance in early April 2003, the four polling places never even opened.

The electoral commission said it believed, based on that anecdotal information, that turnout among the estimated 14 million eligible Iraqi voters appeared higher than the 57 percent that had been predicted, although it would be some time before any precise turnout figure was confirmed.

A day of victory for democracy, indeed. But do the ends justify the means? Let's total up the cost, shall we?

- up to 100,000 Iraqi's killed, the country itself in shambles, now a terrorist training ground and more of a "threat to America" than Saddam ever was.
- 1400 American troops killed, thousands more maimed for life.
- the running total adding up- $1 billion dollars a week, and still no plan to pay for all of this. If you told people that their taxes would be raised to accomplish this they would be singing a different tune, I'm sure.
- our armed forces and materials stretched thin with recruitment levels plummeting. The coalition is gone, we will be left in Iraq for years to come, on our own.
- a world that looks at America with distrust and apprehension, scuttling chances for diplomacy over violence in other areas. More people will die because of yesterday. Brutal force will be the method of "freedom."

It was great to see people lined up, happy to be voting. It really was.

But the full cost of those happy pictures is not being taken into account here. We bought those pictures at a huge price, one that I'm not so sure the American people are willing to pay. The totals aren't in yet. Get your wallets out, people. Get your sons and daughters ready to spread some more freedom. King George will be emboldened to repeat this experiment based on yesterday.

How much of this country do we want to give away in the foolish pursuit of advancing our "way of life" to those that might not even want it?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

United Church of Christ News Release: SpongeBob welcomed by UCC
Despite being spurned by James Dobson's Focus on the Family for being too "tolerant" and especially for holding hands with a starfish, SpongeBob knows "all are welcome" in the UCC. Read the full story.

Great pics of Bob entering the UCC in Cleveland. Brought a huge smile to my face. I love these people. They make me want to believe.

Yahoo! News - Iraqis Vote in Election, 17 Die in Attacks
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis voted Sunday in their country's first free election in a half-century and insurgents made good on threats of violence, launching a string of deadly suicide bombings and mortar strikes at polling stations across Iraq. At least 17 people were killed, including five policemen.

Despite the heavy attacks, turnout was brisk in some Shiite Muslim and mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhoods. Even in the small town of Askan in the so-called "triangle of death" south of Baghdad — a mixed Sunni-Shiite area — 20 people waited in line at each of several polling centers. More walked toward the polls.

In a potentially troublesome sign, however, the polls were deserted in heavily Sunni cities like Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra west and north of Baghdad. Sunni extremists, fearing victory by the Shiites, have called for a boycott, claiming no vote held under U.S. military occupation is legitimate.

Good luck people. My heart goes out to you all.

Daily Kos :: Desperate
In the feverish minds of the war apologists, it doesn't matter that no WMDs were found, that torture chambers are still open for business, that this war is now rivaling Saddam's brutality for sheer number of Iraqis killed, that the Army, Marines, and National Guard are all having trouble recruiting, that our equipment is degrading to the point where we're creating a hollow military, that the war is costing us $200 billion and counting, that Israel is not safer as a result of this war, that nearly 1,600 allied troops and counting have died on this fool's errand, that the US's original choice to lead Iraq -- Chalabi -- was an Iranian spy who told our enemies that we had cracked their communications code, that most of Iraq is not under government control, that terrorists are now using the lawlessness in Iraq to recruit and train a whole new generation of terrorists, that our "Coalition of the Willing" is now a mere shell of its former self, that the world hates the United States, that the Euro is suddenly the hot currency, that Europe and Asia are both creating security organizations excluding the US, and that tens of thousands of our soldiers are coming home physically and mentally maimed.

None of that matters to them.

But they see the war getting out of hand. They've see our chances of victory go from little to nothing. And they've got to blame someone. Anyone. And of course, it can't be Saint George, because he's perfect and can do no wrong. So blame Kennedy. Blame Boxer. Blame France. Blame Canada. Blame anti-war bloggers. Because it is they who have botched up the Iraqi campaign to the point of no hope. If it wasn't for them, our troops would still be basking in a flood of rose petals.

Nice rant from Markos. Will the blame game continue to work? Will we have a country full of swift-boaters who will take out their frustrations and cognitive dissonance on us "libruls", the divisions amongst us growing deeper everyday? Sometimes I feel that we are at the beginning of a new civil war right here at home...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Yahoo! News - Sen. Barbara Boxer Steps Into Spotlight
WASHINGTON - Sen. Barbara Boxer has always spoken up, but the California Democrat seems to have gotten a lot louder lately. Her opposition to Condoleezza Rice's secretary of state nomination was so combative that it was parodied on Saturday Night Live. That came on the heels of her decision to sign onto a House member's complaint about Ohio voting problems, forcing Congress to debate them before certifying President Bush's re-election victory.

She's being touted on liberal blogs as the Democrats' best hope for president in 2008. Conservatives are excoriating her as — in House Minority Leader Tom DeLay's phrase — the leader of the "'X-Files' wing" of the Democratic Party.

But Boxer says she is just standing up for what she believes.

"I've always been this way," she says, "and I'm trying to figure out exactly why people suddenly find this to be interesting, you know. Somehow I have touched something inside people, and I have not ever had this happen before. The only thing I can think, after reading what people said, is a feeling that I'm asking the kind of questions and saying the kind of things that they are feeling."

Maybe she's becoming a spokeswoman, or even a symbol, for voters who oppose the Iraq war or feel shut out by the Bush administration. Maybe, with the Democratic Party at sea after November's election losses, some people sense a leadership void and are looking to her to fill it.

Maybe it's not that Boxer's gotten louder but that other Democrats can barely be heard at all. At least, that's what some of her supporters are saying.

Whatever the explanation, Boxer, 64, has never been more in the spotlight. At a time when Republican dominance of Washington politics is nearly complete, a Marin County liberal who drives a hybrid car and opposes almost everything the GOP does has become a newly prominent face of the Democratic Party.

Nice write-up on my new hero. Go Barbara Go! When the wingnuts are calling her "crazy", you just know that she is telling the truth!

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Reports: Sosa Traded To Baltimore
CHICAGO -After months of speculation, a career spanning thirteen seasons has ended on the North Side. The Cubs have traded OF Sammy Sosa to the Baltimore Orioles, reportedly in exchange for INF Jerry Hairston Jr. and prospects.

Executives told the Associated Press the Cubs would pay a good portion of Sosa's $17 million salary this season. Sosa would then void his salary for 2006, which includes either an option for $18 million or a $4.5 million buyout.

Glad he's going to an AL team. Don't want this to bite us on the ass if he decides to have a record year. Wish we could have gotten a dependable CLOSER though. What's up with that, Mr. Hendry?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ice Jam.

The frickin' fish ladder is GONE, man.

Here's more ice, this time in b & w.

A Note From Barbara:

I can't thank you enough for all of your effective work during the recent debate over Condoleezza Rice's nomination as Secretary of State. Your support means so much to me.

More than 94,000 Americans from across the country signed my petition and stood together to demand the truth from Condoleezza Rice. It was truly an overwhelming response -- much more than I could have anticipated.

And you made a difference. You gave me the voice I needed to ask the tough questions during the Foreign Relations Committee's confirmation hearings. And you gave the entire United States Senate the voice it needed to take its "advice and consent" responsibility seriously. In fact, Condoleezza Rice received 13 votes against her confirmation -- the most votes against any Secretary of State's nomination since 1825.

Two weeks ago, who would have thought that Condoleezza Rice's nomination would allow us to have a full debate about our policy in Iraq? Who would have thought that we'd have the chance to truly expose all of the misstatements and misjudgments that led us into that conflict and continue to plague this Administration to this very day?

The Republican Senate leadership intended to easily approve Dr. Rice's nomination in a routine voice vote last Thursday afternoon, after President Bush's Inauguration and before the Inaugural balls got into full swing.

But you didn't let them ram this nomination through the Senate. You forced the Republican leadership to give us the debate we wanted on the floor of the United States Senate, and you gave us the opportunity we desperately needed to hold Dr. Rice and the Bush Administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism.

The American people deserved no less.

As you and I both know, this is just one more of the many battles we'll be having as we fight for our nation's future. So I ask you to stick with me -- we're going to need to work together to make our voices heard and build a better America.

I look forward to standing with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In Friendship,
Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senator

No, Barbara, you made the difference. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and take the heat. Let's hope that your fellow Dems in the Congress will start to do the same. There are going to be many battles to fight. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's All About Comcast:

Think I found a way around my picture problem. I promise to finish my "portfolio" soon, and the other sites will disappear.

Ogie- disregard my e-mail.
Dad- I need my $25 to pay these #@%%!@@!&*&&%!! people. Thanks.

Yahoo! News - 37 Troops Die on Deadliest Day in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. helicopter crashed in a desert sandstorm in the early morning darkness Wednesday, killing the 30 Marines and one Navy sailor aboard. Six other troops died in insurgent ambushes in the deadliest day for Americans since the Iraq war began nearly two years ago.

Only days before Iraq's crucial elections Sunday, militants set off at least eight car bombings that killed 13 people and injured 40 others, including 11 Americans. The guerrillas also carried out a string of attacks nationwide against schools that will serve as polling centers.

In Washington, President Bush called on Iraqis to defy terrorism and go to the polls despite relentless insurgent attacks. He said it was a "very discouraging" day when the U.S. death toll for the war rose above 1,400.

And at his press conference, the son of a bitch looked quite insane. Maniacal. Filled with glee at the thought of "spreading freedom", the cost be damned. Dead soldiers? Just a part of doing business, ya know? Instead of being somber and serious, it seemed to energize him, feed him somehow. The gleam in his eye...very frightening. His actions reminded me of someone hopped up on speed, trying to maintain an appearance of having it together, but you know he's just gonna bust any second.

James Wolcott had an interesting take in this article.

"Comfortable, hell, he's downright enthusiastic about it. He's so cocky now that he can't even fake a semblance of sorrow after hearing news that would have made most presidents turn ashen."

My God, what have we done.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Yahoo! News - Quit Smoking or Quit Your Job, U.S. Company Says
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The owner of a Michigan company who forced his employees to either quit smoking or quit their jobs said on Wednesday he also wants to tell fat workers to lose weight or else.

A ban on tobacco use -- whether at home or at the workplace -- led four employees to quit (thought they were fired) their jobs last week at Okemos, Michigan-based Weyco Inc., which handles insurance claims.

Next on the firing line: overweight workers.

"We have to work on eating habits and getting people to exercise. But if you're obese, you're (legally) protected," Weyers said.

He has brought in an eating disorder therapist to speak to workers, provided eating coaches, created a point system for employees to earn health-related $100 bonuses and plans to offer $45 vouchers for health club memberships.

The 71-year-old Weyers, who said he has never smoked and pronounced himself in good shape thanks to daily runs, said employees' health as well as saving money on the company's own insurance claims led him to first bar smokers from being hired in 2003.

I guess I wasn't so far off when I blogged this yesterday. Glad to hear that overweight people are legally protected. What do you want to bet he finds a way to fire them anyway? What a prick. & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news and weather - KVCC policy forbids managers from hiring smokers into full-time positions
More and more businesses are implementing new policies that forbid managers from hiring smokers, and the practice is legal. A West Michigan community college is no exception.

If you smoke, don't even think about applying for a full-time job at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The new policy went into effect at the beginning of the year. The college will no longer hire into full-time positions individuals who use tobacco products.

Full time employees at KVCC before the policy was implemented are not affected, but the college will be offering smoking cessation programs. The policy also says that part-time employees who use tobacco products can not be promoted to full-time until they kick the habit.

Though some may wonder if the the policy is legal, the college says it's not worried about any legal issues. They say it's not discrimination.

Labor law attorney Bill Fallon says there isn't much smokers can do about it. “It really is legal. There is no protection under Michigan law and no protection under federal law for people who smoke,” he says.

Wow. If this keeps up maybe I won't have to worry about finding a job- I can just go apply for disability because I will be unhirable. Addict, ya know.

Daily Kos :: No on Gonzales
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Lending my name and blog to the fight.

...did something to my personal web pages. Pop, if you want your picture to show up, go into your template and removed the "s" from the "https" part of the address to the .jpeg.

This means all my previous picture links have now disappeared. Huh. Wonder what happened.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Yahoo! News - Democrats Call Rice a Liar and Apologist
WASHINGTON - One Senate Democrat called Condoleezza Rice a liar Tuesday and others said she was an apologist for Bush administration failures in Iraq, but she remained on track for confirmation as secretary of state.

Rice, who has been President Bush's White House national security adviser for four years, was one of the loudest voices urging war, Democrats said. She repeatedly deceived members of Congress and Americans at large about justifications for the war, said Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.

"I don't like impugning anyone's integrity, but I really don't like being lied to," Dayton said. "Repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally."

"There was no reason to go to war in Iraq when we did, the way we did and for the false reasons we were given," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rice is not directly responsible for intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war that overestimated Saddam's nuclear capability, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. "But she is responsible for her own distortions and exaggerations of the intelligence which was provided to her," Levin said.

"Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the administration used to scare the American people," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said.


Barbara had some "nice" things to say also, but this story was written before she got up to speak. Kerry is on later tonight.

The New York Times > Washington > Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The move came as Senate Republicans vowed on Monday to reintroduce the proposed amendment, which failed in the Senate last year by a substantial margin. Party leaders, who left it off their list of priorities for the legislative year, said they had no immediate plans to bring it to the floor because they still lacked the votes for passage.

But the coalition that wrote the letter, known as the Arlington Group, is increasingly impatient.

In a confidential letter to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, the group said it was disappointed with the White House's decision to put Social Security and other economic issues ahead of its paramount interest: opposition to same-sex marriage.

The letter, dated Jan. 18, pointed out that many social conservatives who voted for Mr. Bush because of his stance on social issues lack equivalent enthusiasm for changing the retirement system or other tax issues. And to pass to pass any sweeping changes, members of the group argue, Mr. Bush will need the support of every element of his coalition.

The bigots threatening the thieves. I love it. Let's see how Georgie reacts to strong-arm attempts from within his own party. My guess is that he will blow them off. Let the infighting begin!

Weyco fires 4 employees for refusing smoking test
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Four employees of Okemos-based health benefits administrator Weyco Inc. have been fired for refusing to take a test that would determine whether they smoke cigarettes.

The company instituted a policy on Jan. 1 that makes it a firing offense to smoke -- even if done after business hours or at home, the Lansing State Journal reported Monday.

Weyco founder Howard Weyers said previously that he instituted the tough anti-smoking rule to shield his company from high health care costs.

"I don't want to pay for the results of smoking," he said.

The anti-smoking rule led one employee to quit work before the policy went into place. Since Jan. 1, four more people were shown the door when they balked at the anti-smoking test.

"They were terminated at that point," said Chief Financial Officer Gary Climes.

Thanks for the heads-up on this, Pop.

Wonder if they'll start to fire folks who eat at Burger King for lunch. Open that lunch bag! Is that a Whopper with MAYO??? You're fired!

I can see it now- mandatory weigh-ins, cholesterol checks, fitness tests (on that treadmill, buddy!), and while we are at it, let's run some genetic tests to determine if you are at risk for inherited disease. We don't want to pay for that, either.

How far are we willing to go? Isn't this a form of discrimination?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yahoo! News - Bush to Seek About $80 Bln for Military Operations
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is seeking about $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan pushing the total for both conflicts to almost $300 billion so far.

Administration and congressional officials said the new request, expected to be announced on Tuesday, would come on top of the $25 billion in emergency spending already approved for this fiscal year.

That means funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will total nearly $105 billion in fiscal 2005 alone -- a record that shatters initial estimates of the cost.

Wonder how much health care we could buy for the American people with $300 billion? I sure would love to see an accounting of the money spent so far, becuase apparently it didn't go into equipment for the troops.

John Pike, a defense analyst with, said the Pentagon might need even more money this year "because we just don't know the rate at which the insurgency will grow or subside, and we don't know the rate at which the Iraqi security forces can be stood up."

The funding request is expected to be formally submitted to Congress after President Bush sends up his fiscal 2006 budget on Feb. 7.

Oh, I forgot. This doesn't actually count as "money spent". Silly me.

The White House is bracing for a backlash from Democrats and some Republicans. At nearly $105 billion, total funding for military operations in 2005 would be more than 13 times larger than Bush's budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.

We need more figures like this, something to strike a comparison in the public's mind, especially after domestic programs at home take a huge hit in the upcoming budget. It's hard to grasp the enormous amount of money without a frame of reference.
Those Wacky Bigots:

...are at it again. From my inbox-

The news broke early this morning: Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) is reintroducing the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) on the Senate floor today – making it one of the first items of business in the first full week of President Bush’s second term.
In light of the many serious issues that our country is facing, it is absolutely outrageous that a small group of right-wing Senators would make discriminating against GLBT people their TOP priority right now.
But just as we did during the past two bouts with the Amendment last year, the Human Rights Campaign will fight them every step of the way. Here’s what you can do now to stop this hateful amendment -- again:

1) Write your Senators today, and urge them to oppose the newly reintroduced Marriage Protection Amendment and ANY efforts to put discrimination in our Constitution. Click here to send an e-mail now.

Let's hope that this is defeated again, and quickly. Much more important things to worry about.

Then again, maybe we should just let them ramble on about this. America will soon grow tired of the issue (aren't they already? just how many laws do you need?), and there will be backlash against this unnecessary extremist legislation.

Monday, January 24, 2005

MSNBC - Jan. 24 called worst day of the year
LONDON - Is the midwinter weather wearing you down? Are you sinking in debt after the holidays? Angry with yourself for already breaking your New Year's resolutions? Wish you could crawl back under the covers and not have to face another day of rain, sleet, snow and paperwork? Probably. After all, it's Jan. 24, the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a U.K. psychologist.

Dr. Cliff Arnall's calculations show that misery peaks Monday.

Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.

The model is: [W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x NA

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

Free Prozac for everybody!

Perhaps we should call this "Depression Day" and have a holiday. Happy Depression Day! An oxymoron if I ever saw one.

Speaking as someone who is in the deep well myself, it's hard to say whether "today" is the turning point. My situation is a bit different right now; life events have propelled me to the point where I feel like I'm at the bottom of a HUGE mountain, and I have absolutely NO desire to start climbing it. It's hard enough to even get dressed, let alone actually leave the house and go out into the cold and snow, put on a cheery, positive face, and try to sell myself to some prospective employer. Are you fuckin' kidding me? Seems impossible at this point.

But that's just me at this place in time; a severe loss of hope. Damn, I wish I had some Xanax.

Dems want to raise hourly minimum wage to $7.15 over two years
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Democrats in the state Legislature want to raise Michigan's $5.15 minimum wage to $7.15 over two years, the first increase in seven years.

House and Senate Democrats on Monday plan to announce a package of bills that would increase the state minimum wage by 75 cents in July, 75 cents in January 2006 and 50 cents in January 2007 to bring it to $7.15, The Associated Press has learned.

The proposal also would tie future state minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation so the minimum wage could rise without legislative action.

House Minority Leader Dianne Byrum, D-Onondaga, said Michigan needs to join a growing list of states that have taken the wage issue into their own hands to counter Congress' refusal to raise the federal minimum wage. The federal rate last increased in September 1997.

Since the federal government last increased the minimum wage in 1997, inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the $5.15 hourly wage in Michigan by 16 percent, making it equivalent to $4.33, according to a recent report by the Lansing-based Michigan League for Human Services.

Nice try, but not gonna happen, kids. We wouldn't want to scuttle Betsy DeVos's dream of making Michigan a low-wage state. {/sarcasm}

A search on this brought up an interesting article from 1999- seems this was introduced before. In 1997 the feds raised the rate, Engler said it would "kill job growth"- it did not. The state gained employment. BUT- that was then, in a growing economy. What effect would it have now? Not sure. According to the Freep article, only 3% of Michigan workers make minimum wage as it is- most companies start well above that anyway. How would it stifle growth when companies already are offering starting wages above this level?

Still, it would make the Dems look good. Future ammunition to use. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Yahoo! News - U.S. to Cut Funds to Fix Hubble Telescope-Source
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration plans to propose cuts in funds to fix the aging Hubble Space Telescope, a U.S. official said on Saturday, as the head of the telescope project said he hoped Congress would approve money for repairs.

The 14-year-old orbiting observatory has produced path-breaking science and created a popular appetite for its spectacular images of the cosmos. It is due for a servicing mission to replace its batteries and the gyroscopes that keep it steady, and to upgrade some of its equipment.

Reports on the Web site and in The Washington Post said the Bush administration plans to scrap any Hubble repair mission and eliminate those funds from the proposed budget for fiscal 2006. A U.S. official confirmed those reports.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. official told Reuters the estimated cost of a robotic repair was $2 billion and one feasibility study gave it an 80 percent chance of failure.

"Hubble is in year 14 of a planned 15-year mission," the official said. "Trying to send a robotic mission to extend that time period would be a $2 billion gamble with taxpayer dollars where the odds are 80-20 that it would fail."

No mention here of the telescope that is supposed to replace Hubble in 2010(?). Why not move that project up? Probably because George wants to go to Mars. Stay tuned.

Yahoo! News - Survey Finds Church-Going Americans Less Tolerant
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday.

At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others -- even at the risk of offending someone.

Those surveyed were nearly all Christians, not by design but because the sample reflected the makeup of the population, the group said. A 2002 Pew Research Council survey found that 82 percent of the U.S. populace considered itself to be Christian, while 10 percent identified with no religious group.

On the question of whether elected officials should set their convictions aside to get results in government, 84 percent agreed in 2000. However, four years later that had dropped to 74 percent. There was a sharper decline on the same question among weekly church-goers from 82 percent in the first survey to 63 percent in the second.

In the survey, 32 percent of those who attended church once a week said they were willing to compromise on abortion issues -- a 19-point drop in four years. Among the same group the question of compromising beliefs on gay rights was acceptable to only 39 percent, down 18 points from 2000.

The poll also found that 37 percent overall felt that deeply religious people should be careful not to offend anyone when they "spread the word of God," a decline from 46 percent four years earlier.

Didn't need a survey to tell you this. They've turned me off from Christianity so much that I don't even read the "Religion" section in the paper anymore. In my personal dealing with the fundies I've known, I've always found it amusing (and disturbing) when they say something to the effect of "those gays are always in my face", but yet they have no qualms about pushing their religion, and their judgement, on me. They always have to make it known that they don't agree with my "lifestyle". (whatever that is) I wonder if they do that with everyone they find "sinful". Do they come right out and say things to divorced people? How about greedy people? The obese? Those full of pride? Doesn't it become tiring to have to point out everyone's "sins"?

The turnoff comes when it seems to be always about judgement, rarely about love. So busy worrying about other people's lives, never a focus on their own.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

For the Love of Cats, Milk, Nicotine and Superstitious Lottery Purchases: A Report from the Blizzard of '05


Main roads have had one pass with a plow. Side roads are damn near impassable. The snow is up to my knees- granted, I'm short, but that is beside the point. If this starts to blow and drift- and the winds are picking up- driving will become impossible.

Sorry, no pictures. I guess that makes me a bad photojournalist, but I was afraid for my camera in this temperature. Pictures would be solid white anyway. Maybe later.

Hunker down with some hot coco and the TV.

My damn cats better appreciate me.

Yahoo! News - Blogger Influence Raises Ethical Questions
NEW YORK - When Jerome Armstrong began consulting for Howard Dean's presidential campaign, he thought the ethical thing to do was to suspend the Web journal where he opined on politics.

The growing influence of blogs such as his is raising questions about whether they are becoming a new form of journalism and in need of more formal ethical guidelines or codes of conduct.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 27 percent of adults who go online in the United States read blogs. And blogs have greater impact because their readers tend to be policy makers and other influencers of public opinion, media experts say.

So far, many bloggers resist any notion of ethical standards, saying individuals ought to decide what's right for them. After all, they say, blog topics range from trying to sway your presidential vote to simply talking about the day's lunch.

I think the growing influence of blogs is a reflection of the lack of depth in mainstream journalism, or, as I like to call it, the "McNews". Except for the few, rare people that are close to the action, bloggers are mearly editorialists, not journalists. It is not their fault that people are so desperate for content that they turn to the Internet.

The biggies in the blogging industry will adopt "ethics" if they want to be contenders. Question is, will those same standards be held to the "biggies" in the networks, say, Fox News for example?

"Now, to some degree, bloggers are going through the same stages that professional journalism went through at the beginning of the 20th century," said Jay Rosen, a blogger and professor of journalism at New York University. That was when newspapers started becoming independent and severed ties with political parties.

In some sense, bloggers already have informally adopted norms that go beyond what traditional journalists do, Rosen said. For instance, bloggers who don't link to source materials aren't taken seriously, while traditional news organizations have no such policies.

Dan Gillmor, a former newspaper columnist now studying citizen-driven journalism through blogging, said bloggers who want an audience will voluntarily adopt principles of fairness, thoroughness, accuracy and transparency.

"No one's bound by these rules," Gillmor said, "but I think some norms will emerge for people who want to be taken seriously."

My point exactly.

Think of blogging as one big editorial page, and, for good or for bad, this is the direction that "journalism" in America in general is heading. The big news operations show bias all the time, even if it is subtle. All news is taylored to a market, blogs will be no different. Why should we be held up for scrutiny, while corporate media goes wherever the dollars take them?

Check out this site, Media Matters, for reports on media bias. It's an eye-opener. We are returning to the days of yellow journalism. Now, I'm not saying that two wrongs should make a right, but I don't see it that way. Bloggers are but a million voices in the wilderness, the ones who do the job well as far as accuracy will begin to stand out. They already do.

Yahoo! News - Bush to Seek Cuts in Medicaid, Benefits
WASHINGTON - President Bush is readying a new budget that would carve savings from Medicaid and other benefit programs, congressional aides and lobbyists say, but it is unclear if he will be able to push the plan through the Republican-run Congress.

White House officials are not saying what Bush's $2.5 trillion 2006 budget will propose saving from such programs, which comprise the biggest and fastest growing part.

But lobbyists and lawmakers' aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, say he will focus on Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income and disabled people. Medicaid costs are split between Washington and the states.

Many expect him to propose giving states more flexibility in using the $180 billion in federal Medicaid funds each year, but to limit the program's growth on a per-patient basis — in effect forcing the states to find ways to save money.

Bush may also propose trimming doctors' reimbursements or weeding fraud from Medicare, the health insurance system for the elderly and disabled, the aides and lobbyists said.

You heard it here first. The poor are about to get poorer.

Friday, January 21, 2005

You are a Folkie. Good for you.

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Yahoo! News - Right wing warns of gay SpongeBob
The jovial cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants continues to soak up real-life criticism from Christian conservatives who believe he is gay and a harmful influence on children.

The latest incident involves a "pro-homosexual video," featuring SpongeBob and other popular children's TV characters, that, according to Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, will be mailed to U.S. elementary schools.

The producer of the children's video, Nile Rodgers and his We Are Family Foundation (WAFF), said the video promotes the togetherness implied by the word "family." Though WAFF supports a policy of nondiscrimination that includes sexual orientation, the video does not address sexuality, Rodgers said.

According to the WAFF Web site, characters in the video sing a version of the song "We Are Family," which Rodgers wrote. The song was also a disco hit for Sister Sledge in 1979 and has since become a Gay Pride anthem.

Creators of the "SpongeBob SquarePants" show, which airs on Nickelodeon, have said the show is about tolerance and that SpongeBob is not gay, despite the fact that he often holds hands with his friend Patrick, a starfish.

Apparently we have a new mental disorder that we have to come up with a name for. What shall we call people who are obviously obsessed with finding homosexuality in cartoon characters? Cartoonohomophobia? How about just plain 'ol paranoid? This has gone beyond ridiculous and crossed into dangerous delusion. Perhaps we should look into court-ordered psychiatric treatment for these poor gentlemen.


Hey kids! Tsunami's are fun! Hey adults! Your tax dollars in action!

To be fair, I guess this was put up after the Alaskan tsunami a while back. But still, I don't think it's very appropriate right now...and it's not a very good game, either. The graphics suck.

Bush by the Numbers
By the Numbers: The U.S. After 4 Years of Bush

Poverty Rate
2000: 11.3% or 31.6 million Americans
2003: 12.5% or 35.9 million Americans

Stock market
Dow Jones Industrial Average
1/19/01: 10,587.59
1/19/05: 10,539.97

1/19/01: 2,770.38
1/19/05: 2,073.59

S&P 500
1/19/01: 1,342.54
1/19/05: 1,184.63

Value of the Dollar
1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros
1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

2000 budget surplus $236.4 billion
2004 budget deficit $412.6 billion
That's a shift of $649 billion and doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Cost of the war in Iraq
$150.8 billion

American Casualties in Iraq
Deaths: 1,369
Wounded: 10,252

The Debt
End of 2000: $5.7 trillion
Today: $7.6 trillion
That's a 4 year increase of 33%.

And here come the budget cuts. Watch for an increase in poverty, an increase in homelessness, an increase in uninsured working people...someone has to pay for all of this, and it's going to be a poor, or disabled, or elderly person near you!

Yahoo! News - Thousands Protest Bush's Inauguration
Thousands of people in dozens of cities across the nation walked out of work and school, held mock coronations, intoned the names of the Iraq war dead and held candlelight vigils to show their disapproval of President Bush as he was sworn in for his second term.

About 1,000 people rallied in Seattle, more than 2,000 in Portland, Ore., and several thousand gathered in downtown San Francisco, where protesters waved signs and carried banners with slogans such as "Not Our President," "Drop Bush Not Bombs," and "Hail To The Thief."

There were dozens of smaller rallies, marches and walkouts as well. Two hundred protesters filled a city block marching through downtown Atlanta, 150 marched on the state capitol in Lincoln, Neb., and in Denver, several hundred demonstrators were joined at the state Capitol by a group of women wearing witches' hats who chanted "We've been under a spell." The crowd cheered when they added "But we are waking up."

In Santa Cruz, Calif., about 250 marchers followed a 20-foot-tall Statue of Liberty puppet to the Town Clock in a demonstration where former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern was the featured speaker.

But the real action was in DC, where the pepper spray flowed freely....

Mock Coffins and Jeers as Bush Sworn In
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Flag-draped coffins and jeering anti-war protesters competed with pomp and circumstance on Thursday at the inauguration of President Bush along the snow-dusted, barricaded streets of central Washington.

As the president's motorcade made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House amid the tightest security in inaugural history, thousands of protesters along the parade route and nearby downtown streets booed, chanted slogans and carried placards condemning Bush's policies at home and abroad.

In one area, police briefly sought to disperse with pepper spray demonstrators who hurled bottles, trash and snowballs at officers while trying to break through a security fence holding them back from the parade.

At least one snowball hit Vice President Dick Cheney's limousine, and Bush's limousine sped up to get past the commotion.

All that money can't stop the force of a determined snowball...

Police said there were at least 13 arrests, two for assaulting an officer and the rest for disorderly conduct or other violations. One was a man who embarrassed police four years ago by sneaking past security to get a handshake from Bush. He did not get a chance for another grip this inauguration.

Police also scuffled with about 30 protesters two streets away from the parade route, using pepper spray and batons to disperse the group of self-styled anarchists, who wore bandannas to hide their faces.

It's heartening to see the turn out here, all over the country, all over the world.

And again, my apologies to the rest of the world. Half of this country didn't want it to be this way. We are truly sorry. Please forgive us.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


I can't totally black out this blog because it might screw everything up, but I thought I'd post a short reminder- don't buy anything today, don't go to work if you can possibly afford not to, and, most of all,

stop and think about all the men and women and children who have lost their lives because of George W. Bush.

Have a thought for them as you watch the glitz and glamour that will be Washington DC today.

I've said it before, I'll say it again- George W. Bush is a liar, a murderer, a bigot, and a thief. Let's hope that we can minimize the damage that the next four years may bring.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Yahoo! News - Democrats to Delay Rice Confirmation Vote
WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats intend to delay Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as secretary of state at least until next week rather than grant her Inauguration Day approval, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"There are a number of Democrats not on the committee that want to have a chance to debate her nomination a couple of hours," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

He said Democrats would not seek to prevent Rice's confirmation as the nation's top diplomat, and he predicted her approval within a matter of days. Rice cleared the Foreign Relations Committee earlier in the day, 16-2, a lopsided vote that belied hours of skeptical questioning by Democrats critical of President Bush's foreign policy and his conduct of the war in Iraq.

Now Barbara! See what you've gone and started? Or, I wonder if Carl Levin's written "pop quiz" had anything to do with it? Or, could the Democrats actually be growing a SPINE? Wonders never cease.

Yahoo! News - Senate Panel Approves Rice as Secretary of State
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be secretary of state.

Despite Democrats' criticism of Rice's role in forming U.S. policy on Iraq, the Republican-led Senate is expected to confirm her nomination on Thursday.

The only "no" votes in the 18-member committee came from two Democrats -- Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Bush's opponent in the 2004 election, and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who was Rice's fiercest critic in two days of confirmation hearings.

John! I never knew you had it in you. Watch out for the "sour grapes" catcalls sure to come from the right. ***yawn***

Couldn't watch this morning, the boredom quotient became too high. I'll wait for the movie to come out.

Cubs agree with Farnsworth, Patterson
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs agreed to a $12 million, three-year contract Tuesday with catcher Michael Barrett and one-year deals with center fielder Corey Patterson and reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

The Cubs avoided arbitration with all three. Farnsworth got a raise from $1.4 million to $1,975,000. Patterson, who made $480,000 last season, received an increase to $2.8 million.

Barrett, who made $1.55 million last season, had asked for $3.9 million in arbitration while the Cubs offered $3 million before the multiyear deal was reached.

Two mil for Farnsie? *scratches head*. The biggies are coming up-

The Cubs also exchanged figures with two other arbitration-eligible players, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

Let's nail these two down right now with long term contracts. They will be vital to long term success.

Petition: Donald Rumsfeld Must Resign ::
"Mr President-

I was surprised and disappointed that you told the Washington Post last week that no Bush administration official should be held accountable for our failures in Iraq. As the situation worsens and more American lives are lost and troops deployed to the region, it's time to stop rewarding incompetence and to start demanding accountability. For the sake of our men and women in uniform and their families here at home, I urge you to start by replacing Donald Rumsfeld. His record of failure and his inability to play it straight with the American people and our troops overseas make him unfit to serve as Secretary of Defense for one more day, never mind four more years."

Courtesy of John Kerry. I love signing these things. Do they make a difference? Maybe not now, but in the long run every drop of water can wear away the rock. Keep pluggin' John.

Yahoo! News - Rice on the Defensive Over Iraq, Integrity
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Condoleezza Rice gave little ground to senators lambasting U.S. policies in Iraq on the first day of her confirmation hearing to be secretary of state and will return on Wednesday for a second round of questioning.

President Bush's national security adviser defended herself on Tuesday against a charge she put loyalty above truthfulness in making her boss's case for going to war against Iraq and clashed with senators over an exit strategy.

In the most heated exchange, California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer all but accused Rice of lying to argue the case for war.

"I personally believe ... that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth," Boxer told Rice, citing statements about how fast former dictator Saddam Hussein might acquire a nuclear weapon.

Rice responded: "I have never, ever, lost respect for the truth in the service of anything.

Her voice appearing to quaver with emotion as she looked directly at Boxer, she repeatedly asked the senator not to question her integrity.

I'm a bit disappointed that this story did not include the juicy bit that she condones torture for those that "Geneva doesn't apply to", or something to that effect. Both the AP story and this one fail to mention the exchange where Christopher Dodd told her to "go talk to John McCain" to understand what torture really means to a serviceman.

Hmmm. Can I stand to look through hours of transcripts to find it? It's hard enough to actually listen to these 15 minute "questions" from our Senators, don't know if I have the patience to read them also.

Edit: I found it- here ya go.

The New York Times > Washington > Transcript: Confirmation Hearing of Condoleeza Rice, Continued

SEN. DODD: Let me just come back to the point. I just want to make this simple question.

MS. RICE: Yes.

SEN. DODD: Is it your view, as a human matter, that water- boarding and the use, as we saw, in prisons in Iraq of nudity -- is that torture in your personal view, as a nominee here for the --

MS. RICE: Senator, I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques, but let me talk about Abu Ghraib, because that was not acceptable.

SEN. DODD: I'd like to just get your views on just a simple matter. It's a simple question I'm asking. I'm not --

MS. RICE: Well, you asked me about the incidents in Iraq, and --

SEN. DODD: (Off mike) -- asking about some very specific techniques that were used, whether or not you consider them to be torture or not.

MS. RICE: Senator, the determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques. I don't think that would be appropriate, and I think it would not be very good for American security.

SEN. DODD: Well, let's leave it, if that's your answer, there. It's a disappointing answer, I must say. The face of U.S. foreign policy is in the person of the secretary of State, and it's important at moments like this to be able to express yourself aside from the legalities of things, how you as a human being react to these kinds of activities. And with the world watching, when a simple question is raised about techniques that I think most people would conclude in this country are torture, it's important at a moment like that that you can speak clearly and directly without getting involved in the legalisms questions. I understand these involve some legal determinations, but as a human being how you feel about this, about to assume the position and be responsible for pursuing the human rights issues that this nation has been deeply committed to for decades, is a very important moment.

MS. RICE: Senator, I maintain the commitment and will maintain the commitment of the United States to norms of international behavior and to the legal norms that we have helped to --

SEN. DODD: Let me ask you this, then. What would happen if someone did this to an American? What would happen if we saw on television that a captured American was being subjected to these kind of activities? How would you react to it?

MS. RICE: Senator, the United States of America -- American personnel are not engaged in terrorism against innocents.

SEN. DODD: I wasn't asking you what they have been charged with. I'm asking whether or not, if you saw an American be treated like this, how would you react?

MS. RICE: We expect Americans to be -- because we are parties to the Geneva Conventions, we expect Americans to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

SEN. DODD: Of course we do. And do you consider these kinds of activities to violate the Geneva Conventions?

MS. RICE: We believe that there are certain categories of people, the al Qaeda, for instance, who were not covered by Geneva, that in fact it would have been a stretch to cover them under Geneva, would have weakened Geneva to cover them. But the president said that they had to be treated, as military necessity allowed, consistent with the application of Geneva.

SEN. DODD: Do me a favor. At the end of all of these hearings, I'd like you to spend about 15 minutes with John McCain and talk to him about this stuff. I think you'll get some good advice when it comes to the subject matter, someone who has been through this, about what the dangers are when we have sort of waffling answers about these questions and then Americans can be apprehended and what happens to them.

Let me move on, because I don't want to take up the committee's time on this particular point, but I'm troubled by your answer.

Sheesh, I think I need some ibuprofen now. Here's some more from Boxer later in the day-

SEN. BOXER: No, no, you're -- you're missing -- you're not listening to the question. You said you don't want to extend these international laws to all prisoners. However, it is extended in the defense bill. And this was just extending it to the intelligence officers. Now you're -- so that's why I'm asking you, since you said you can't extend it, do you support it in the defense bill? Whether the president signed it, I'm asking your opinion.

MS. RICE: Of course I support it in the defense bill, Senator.

SEN. BOXER: But you've gone in the intelligence bills and --

MS. RICE: No. Senator, we think the intelligence are covered in the defense bill. It was unnecessary to have it in your bill.

SEN. BOXER: But then you go to say that these -- that these agreements are not covered.

MS. RICE: I was making -- I was making a broader point, Senator, which is that the Geneva Conventions should not be extended to those who don't live up to the obligations of the Geneva Convention.

SEN. BOXER: Okay. Okay. Well, let me just say this, Mr. Chairman. The person who wrote this, Dick Durbin, Senator Durbin, senior senator from Illinois, he offered the language to the Defense Department bill. He then said the Senate Intelligence Reform Bill would have simply extended these requirements to the intelligence community.

Now, I'm getting two messages from you. One is you -- we didn't need this because the intelligence community is already covered. If that was the case, why not leave it in, so the world can see that we're not only willing to put it in the defense bill, but in the intelligence bill? Because obviously, colleagues here -- John McCain kind of knows what he's doing in legislation, and so does Senator Lieberman. They're the ones who did this -- a hundred to nothing, it was passed through the United States Senate. I think people felt it was important in light of Abu Ghraib to stand up and be elegant on the point. And I'm going to read it one more time, if you'll hold it up, because what they said was quite elegant. And it doesn't have, you know, any extra words at all: "In general, no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." And everyone in the Senate, Republican and Democrat, it was a shining moment for us.

And then in a letter -- and it just comes to light last week -- that you write, you ask that this be stricken. And I have to say that's the problem I have. There are beautiful words, and then there's the action.

MS. RICE: Senator, it's --

SEN. BOXER: (Inaudible word) -- there's contradictions. And I don't think --

MS. RICE: Senator, it's the law of the land.

SEN. BOXER: -- that you have explained it, because by saying we didn't need it, it was in the defense bill, A, people don't agree with that in the Senate; and B, so what if it was duplicative, that we said it twice that torture is wrong and we will obey international laws?

I think it just shows that this is not an issue that you feel very comfortable with. You had an opportunity when Senator Dodd asked you, you had an opportunity to say how you felt personally about it. You had a chance to embrace this language, which was embraced by Senator McCain and Lieberman and every member of the Senate. And yet you write a letter, and as a result, it's dropped. And I just think it's a sad day for us. That's how I feel.

Thank you.

There you have it. Condi condones torture under certain circumstances. Wish this was being reported a little more in the news, but, hey, we've got Brad and Jen and inaugural fashions to worry about.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Just Had to Say This:


She damn near came out and called Condi a liar.


Stole this from a poster at Kos-

The Boxer

I am a Progressive
and a Democrat for now
I have squandered contributons
on Senators who won't ask
the hard questions
of the failures
who Bush wants to confirm
I might be leaving
might be leaving
if the lessons they won't learn.

In this hearing stands Barb Boxer
She's a fighter by her trade
And she's asking all the questions
that makes Condi Rice afraid
to answer honestly

All lies and jest
Still the media hears what it wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

Lie lie lie.
Watch Rice lie lie lie lie lie
Lie lie lie.
Watch her lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie.

Spectrum closes detoxification center
GRAND RAPIDS -- Spectrum Health will close its Health Recovery Center at the Kent Community Campus at the end of the month, leaving fewer local beds for detoxification and intensive medical treatment of substance abusers.

The closing cuts in half the number of short-stay, in-patient beds and leaves Turning Point Substance Abuse Services, run by The Salvation Army at Ferguson Hospital, as the only program. The closest similar programs are in Lansing and Brighton.

Spectrum officials say the 36-bed unit, managed by an outside contractor until 2001, recently has been only half full. And reimbursement pressures helped them decide to stick to medicine and leave behavioral services to others.

It is too expensive to provide substance abuse services in a hospital setting when they can be provided more cheaply in outpatient programs, said Lori Portfleet, president of Spectrum Health Continuing Care.

Those with severe substance abuse problems need someplace to get inpatient treatment before they are ready for an outpatient program.

The closing will force hospital emergency departments to provide detox treatment if no local beds are available. It also will put pressure on Pine Rest's inpatient units, which house patients with both mental illness and substance-abuse issues.

"There is a great need for the beds here," Holwerda said. But many insurance companies are unwilling to pay for the short-stay services, he said. And cuts in Medicaid coverage also have put short-stay treatment at risk.

Give a list of NA/AA meetings and send 'em on their way. And put yet more pressure on the hospital ERs, there's an idea. This subject is way too close to my heart right now so it's hard not to go off on a rant...all I can say is that it's going to result in more dead addicts and/or drunks. It's that simple.

Help Boxer Hold Condi's Feet to the Fire
On Tuesday, January 18th and Wednesday, January 19th, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a confirmation hearing for her appointment as Secretary of State.

Dr. Rice's confirmation hearing must not be a rubber stamp of President Bush's appointment. The Senate must take its "advice and consent" role seriously.

That's why, as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I intend to stand up and ask Condoleezza Rice the tough questions that Americans deserve to have answered. Questions like:

*Why did the United States go to war in Iraq based on misleading -- if not false and fraudulent -- evidence?

*Why did we divert valuable resources and intelligence personnel to Iraq, taking them away from Afghanistan and the pursuit of Osama bin Laden?

*Why did you mislead the American people into thinking there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida before September 11th?

We must hold Condoleezza Rice accountable for her misleading statements leading up to the Iraq war and beyond before we can even consider promoting her to Secretary of State.

So I ask you to join with me: Lend your voice to the chorus of millions of Americans across our great land who are demanding that Condoleezza Rice tell the truth about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, the search for Osama bin Laden, the fight against Al Qaida, and the war on terrorism.

I urge you to sign my petition, so I can take your voice with me to the committee room and the floor of the Senate in the pursuit of the truth from Condoleezza Rice.

I doubt Barbara is going to get very far but it will be fun to see how Condi responds. Expect the usual blather and obfuscation. Still....better to speak up and get it on record. Maybe we can use something when we prosecute these bastards in the future for war crimes. (ha!)

Yahoo! News - No Country Can Attack Us, Iran Says
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has the military might to deter attacks against it, its defense minister said in remarks published on Tuesday, one day after President Bush said he would not rule out military action against Iran.

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said the Islamic Republic, which has seen U.S. forces topple regimes in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq in the last three years, did not fear attack.

"We are able to say that we have strength such that no country can attack us because they do not have precise information about our military capabilities due to our ability to implement flexible strategies," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Shamkhani as saying.

Bush said on Monday that Washington would not rule out military action against Iran if it was not more forthcoming about its suspected nuclear weapons program.

OK, this is insane. I can't help but think that Bush is baiting them somehow, maybe trying to provoke them into action so he can have an excuse to carry on with his policy of aggression. The billion dollar question is: Will the Chinese, who have huge oil contracts with the Iranians, step in at some point? We have already launched sanctions against some Chinese companies, and they are not happy about it.

Or is this another "wag the dog" attempt to drum up so-called "war time" support for Bush so he can continue dismantling this country's domestic programs? I'd sure like to know what the hell these people are thinking.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Yahoo! News - Pentagon Faults Iran Raid Report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Monday criticized a published report that said it was mounting reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify potential nuclear and other targets.

"The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organizations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides in the New Yorker article titled "The Coming Wars," the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, said in a statement.

Um, doesn't DiRita prove Hersh's assertions with this very sentence?

Hersh's article, published on Sunday, was "so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed," DiRita said.

Hersh reported that President Bush had signed a series of top-secret findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces military units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as 10 nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

DiRita did not comment on that assertion.

Instead, he said, Hersh's sources fed him "rumor, innuendo, and assertions about meetings that never happened, programs that do not exist and statements by officials that were never made."

Asked whether U.S. military forces had been conducting reconnaissance missions in Iran, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable said, "We don't discuss missions, capabilities or activities of Special Operations forces."

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The Fake Crisis : Economist Paul Krugman explains Bush's latest con -- Social Security
To save Social Security, Bush wants to destroy it -- replacing government-guaranteed retirement benefits with private accounts that will be subject to the whims of the stock market. It's an expensive plan. Allowing workers to divert even a small portion of their payroll taxes into private investments, as Bush is proposing, would require the government to borrow at least $2 trillion to make up the immediate shortfall. It's also completely unnecessary, according to Paul Krugman, a prize-winning professor of economics at Princeton University. In a blistering series of columns in the New York Times, Krugman has marshaled the economic data to show that Social Security is not only solvent, it's in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government. "The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons," Krugman wrote recently, "are now trying another bum's rush."

Nice Q & A article on the so-called "crisis". I love the part where he identifies the real crisis- Medicare, Medicaid, and the growing number of uninsured workers. Why aren't we focusing on that? Because they haven't figured out a way to make a big buck on it yet?

George W. Bush’s reĆ«lection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush’s reĆ«lection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America’s support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

Here's a direct link to the story that broke yesterday. This is some scary shit.

New Amendment Used In Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges
Some attorneys are attempting to use Ohio's new gay marriage amendment to defend unmarried clients against domestic violence charges.

The constitutional amendment took effect on December first. It denies legal status to unmarried couples.

In at least two cases last week, the Cuyahoga County public defender's office has asked a judge to dismiss domestic-violence charges against unmarried defendants. The attorneys in the two cases argue that the charges violate the amendment by affording marriage-like legal status to unmarried victims who live with the people accused of attacking them.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence have worried about the effect of the amendment since it passed in November. They fear defense attorneys around the state will copy the tactic used in Cuyahoga County.

What happens when you pass amendments with discriminatory language? The predators and thieves will take full advantage of your second-class citizenship. A quick check of Michigan's domestic violence laws show that "any dating relationship" is covered, but I wouldn't be surprised to start hearing of court cases here also that site our amendment as a way to deny someone legal/ financial protection.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Yahoo! News - Report: U.S. Conducting Secret Missions Inside Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

Ladies and gentlemen, start your draft board engines!

Foggy path. Another one from the other day.

Yahoo! News - US Agency Prepares to Sound Social Security Alarm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Social Security Administration is set to publicize its financial problems and promote partial privatization of the government pension system as part of a solution, despite the objections of many agency employees, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Agency internal documents include a "tactical plan" for making the case that Social Security is in serious trouble and requires immediate action, the Times said on its Web site.

Social Security officials say the agency is carrying out its mission to educate the public, including more than 47 million beneficiaries, and to support the privatization agenda of President Bush, the newspaper reported.

But many employees at the Social Security Administration have complained to agency officials of being dragged into a battle over the program's future.

They question the accuracy of recent statements by the agency and say that money from the Social Security trust fund should not be used for such advocacy, the Times said.

"Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 50,000 of the agency's 64,000 workers and has opposed private accounts.

Brilliant. Use SS money to dismantle SS. I have to admit, these people are professional thieves. Seems like they are stealing to promote yet more stealing.

Bush insisted on Saturday that the retirement program was in peril and he had a moral responsibility to fix it.

"Saving Social Security is an economic challenge. But it is also a profound moral obligation," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Oh God, there's that word again. Let's see if he can figure out a way to link this to the "terrorists", too.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

On This Day...: 1981 - The police series "Hill Street Blues" premiered on TV.

I still miss it.

Yahoo! News - Air Force proposal sought gay sex weapon
The Pentagon briefly looked into making a weapon that would render enemy troops sexually attracted to one another, according to an official document uncovered by a watchdog group that monitors research into biological and chemical weapons.

The proposed aphrodisiac was part of a weapons development plan circulated in 1994 at the U.S. Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. An outline of the plan was discovered by the Sunshine Project and posted on its Web site.

The six-year plan included development of several "non-lethal" chemical weapons, including one that would inflict "severe and lasting halitosis" in enemy combatants and a "sting me/attack me" chemical that would cause bees to become more aggressive.

The aphrodisiac chemical would be designed to make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. The resulting widespread homosexual behavior, the proposal suggests, would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal blow" to morale.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense stressed that the 1994 outline was strictly a proposal that was never approved.

Gay sex, bad breath and killer bees! That'll teach 'em! Um...somebody was actually paid for this?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Yahoo! News - European Space Probe Makes Safe Titan Landing
PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - Europe's Huygens space probe landed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on Friday, sending back signals that it made a safe descent and its scientific experiments in the mysterious atmosphere had gone as planned.

Parachutes designed to smooth its approach deployed on time and Huygens survived on Titan's hostile surface for at least two hours after landing, surprising delighted scientists.

"We can say this afternoon we have ... a scientific success," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director-general of the European Space Agency, in a press conference from its operations center in Germany monitored on NASA TV.

CNN has a picture up. Very cool stuff!

Yahoo! News - Military Has Discharged 26 Gay Linguists
SAN FRANCISCO - The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military — at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers — is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

"The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security," said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. "It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job."

But others, like Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the discharged linguists never should have been accepted at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey in the first place.

"Resources unfortunately were used to train young people who were not eligible to be in the military," she said.

I'm not sure how one answers raging stupidity such as this, except to point it out and pray that those messages that are piling up (FBI story link- their hiring policy claims it does not discriminate, but gays apparently can't get security clearance) doesn't translate into the loss of NYC or Washington DC.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Daily Kos :: For The Record, Here's What They Said.
Yes, we've all heard the search for WMDs is over. What really amazes me is how little our lazy ass media or "pundits" and the willfully ignorant American public remembers about the full court press leading up to the war selling a bill of goods that we are under imminent threat.

See how many you can get through before your eyes start to hurt and your head starts to hurt and your heart REALLY starts to hurt.

I want all these people prosecuted.

Perrspectives: Name That Bush Scandal Contest
Every administration has its scandals, those political quagmires and ethical fiascos that change our culture and forever mar presidential legacies. Among others, Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, and Clinton had, um, Lewinsky.

Yet George W. Bush, whose scandals have been the most frequent, severe and damaging, has emerged largely unscathed. Uniquely among modern presidential outrages, Bush’s have gone unnoticed, unexplored, underreported, unpunished and most of all, unnamed.

That is, until now.

To commemorate George W. Bush’s second inauguration, is holding its first ever “Name That Bush Scandal” Contest. If Reagan had "Iranamok" (Iran/Contra) and Clinton had "Bimbroglio" (Lewinsky scandal), what should Bush's contributions to posterity be? Simply send us your suggested names for any or all of the Bush scandals below and you could win great prizes like an Apple Mini iPod, gift certificates, and international acclaim. More important, you could earn the eternal thanks of a grateful nation.

Hurry! Entries must be received by Jan. 20th!

Fog tree.
Hey D!:

I suppose that we have to work on defining the "wolf". Maybe that was a bad analogy?

Point being: Bush will use these scare tactics (Iraq is a threat! Marriage is under attack! Social Security will collapse!) to get his way unless we point out that he is full of shit. It's time to start framing the issues as they are in reality- Iraq was not a threat, marriage is not under attack, Social Security will not collapse if we make a few minor adjustments to it.

I hope this country will burn-out on the adrenaline rush of fear. There has got to be a point where it just doesn't work anymore.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Yahoo! News - Bush Paints Grim Outlook to Sell Social Security Plan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush warned younger workers on Tuesday of a grim future for their Social Security benefits but critics accused him of exaggerating the retirement system's problems to try and sell his plan to change it.

Bush used the word "bankrupt" five times at a White House forum to raise alarms about the financial state of Social Security decades into the future.

"By the time today's workers who are in their mid-20s begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt," he told an audience invited to a Social Security forum.

"So if you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act right now."

Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Bush was just trying to scare Americans into supporting his plan to let workers shift part of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts.

"There is a challenge here," Levin said. "There isn't a crisis."

Let's make Bush the "boy who cried wolf". Let's point out his erroneous statements about Iraq and Saddam that proved to be totally inaccurate. Hell, let's point out all his statements about everything that turned out to be totally inaccurate.

Here's a site that points out the vast difference between George's rhetoric and the truth. That's just for starters. There are many, many sites of quotes online that I can't even begin to list them all. Google "Bush lies" and see what you find.

Why should anyone believe a word that comes out of his fear-mongering mouth?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
While one person deciding not to work or spend for a single day won't make a noticeable difference, there is strength in numbers. 49% of this country - at least - voted against George W. Bush, his wars, his neglect of the lower and middle classes, his assault on the environment, and his disregard for the rights and liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. That's 49% of the population who could - if they wanted - take the day of George Bush's second inauguration to let him know in no uncertain terms that they're sick and tired of being exploited, sick and tired of unjust wars waged in their name, sick and tired of having their grandchildren's legacy squandered through ballooning deficits, sick and tired of seeing their country's natural resources plundered by his corporate pals.

On January 20th, people across the country will join together to speak in one voice. By staying home from work, by not buying products from chain stores, by turning off their cable TV, by not buying (or using) gasoline or other oil-based products, by not making long-distance phone calls - in an infinite number of ways, Americans will send George Bush a message he sorely needs to hear. America expects accountability, transparency, humanity and justice from an administration which has, up to now, provided little in any of these areas.

For one day, why not keep your power where it belongs: In your hands. Pass this message along to your family, friends, and co-workers, and let them know that they can make their voices heard too. On January 20th, let your voice join with thousands of others in rising from a whisper to a shout - a shout that the Bush Administration can't ignore.

And wear black, too. Pass it on.