Saturday, April 30, 2005

Daily Kos :: While No One Was Looking...
Written by a self-professed former "dittohead", advisorjim lays out the budget dollars in ways that a simpleton like me can understand. Good stuff.

Do you ever find yourself wondering what's really going on while the Administration is putting on a dog and pony show? I'm pretty sure this whole Social Security `Bamboozlepalooza' tour was about distracting us from the absurd budget that the Senate narrowly passed yesterday.

One of the comedy highlights of the past 12 months was Bush's 10-year plan to halve the budget deficit. Now, remember, he created this budget deficit all by himself in 2 years. He's admitting that he's done so much damage that it'll take a decade to fix it.

That's not even the funny part. The funny part is his plan to cut the deficit in half involved not having his tax cuts made permanent, and it involved NOT privatizing social security. So as long as we band together and put a stop to Bush's fiscal irresponsibility...then Bush gets what he wants!? That doesn't feel very satisfying.

The comedy reached new heights yesterday when the Senate narrowly approved a $2.6 trillion budget for FY 2005. Just to put this in perspective, Bill Clinton's final budget $1.789 trillion, so under the "fiscal conservatism" of Bush government spending has grown by 45%. To put it another way, in terms of absolute dollars it took Clinton 8 years to increase spending as much as Bush has increased it in one year.

Last year's budget was a paltry $2.3 trillion. How did we pay for it? Well, times have been tough under Bush. For the first time in U.S. history (at least since 1900) federal revenues had declined for three straight years. That's funny! I thought tax cuts were supposed to magically increase federal revenue. There's another great theory shot to hell in the crucible of reality.

So after passing around the collection plate in `ought-four' we only had $1.880 trillion. No biggie. We just need to borrow some. We started by borrowing from old people (the $151.1 billion Social Security surplus for the year), and then we borrowed the rest from our rich Chinese uncle.

What's that you say? Reagan proved deficits don't matter? Well, no and no. Reagan proved you can borrow money and it won't kill you, but Reagan didn't sell the country to just anybody. In his last year in office total Federal Debt was $2.6 trillion, and all but $500 billion of it was publicly held. Last year total Federal Debt was $7.4 trillion with only $4.2 trillion of it publicly held. To summarize: Foreign ownership of U.S. debt under Reagan-19%. Foreign ownership of U.S. debt under Bush: 44% and rising. It is likely that by the time Bush leaves office a majority of our debt will be held by foreign governments. Call me crazy, but I've always kind of wanted to own my own country. I guess that's more of a `Blue State' value.

Here's what we're looking at for 2005. We've got a $2.6 trillion budget. Last year we collected $1.880 trillion in revenue, and economically this year looks like it's going to be about as crappy as last year. So we can expect about the same level of revenue, right? Well...we WOULD have...but somehow congress saw fit to include another $100 billion in tax cuts to this budget bill. That makes sense. If you can't afford to pay your mortgage, one of the first things you want to do is march into your boss's office and demand a pay cut, right?

Nixon's treasury secretary, William Simon, best summarizes my thoughts on the subject. Admittedly Mr. Simon was talking about the labyrinthine tax code of the 1970s, but I think it applies equally well to this year's budget. "It should look like someone designed it on purpose."


I've copied the whole damn thing here because I feel it is important to try to grasp just what is happening with the nation's financial health. Most people (including me) can't understand just what is going down and the dangers that lie ahead. From my mathematically-challenged perspective it looks like we could bankrupt the whole system if we continue on this path.

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Cubs 3, Astros 2
Might be the last time you see something like this, unless these two meet again (and again and again, because both of them look like they could pitch for years to come)

HOUSTON (AP) -- Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens lived up to the hype surrounding the first matchup of 300-game winners in nearly 18 years.

For sure, Maddux will have a very long time to savor this victory.

"Looking back, years from now, it will be a special game,'' said Maddux after outpitching Clemens in the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night. ``I was going to do whatever it took tonight to win this one.''

Jeromy Burnitz went 3-for-4, including a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning to send the Cubs to a victory over their bitter NL Central rival that passed them up in the final week for a wild-card berth last season.

Maddux (1-1) got his 306th career win and first since the Cubs' 2004 season-finale against Atlanta. He lasted six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Maddux was lifted in the seventh for a pinch-hitter, and Michael Wuertz, Will Ohman and Roberto Novoa combined to pitch two scoreless innings before LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save.

Hmmm. Seems we are pushing our luck on the "LaTroy in the ninth" situation here, Dusty. Better watch it.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bush Offers New Social Security Plan - Yahoo! News
As one astute observer put it, "The clothes have no emperor". I think George managed to piss off just about everybody last night.

WASHINGTON - After nearly 60 days on the road pitching Social Security changes, President Bush is offering a new plan to fix its finances by cutting benefits of more prosperous future retirees. Democrats still aren't buying it.

In a prime-time news conference, Bush refused to back off his desire to carve private retirement accounts out of Social Security. Democrats say those personal accounts are a deal-breaker that would keep most of them from supporting Bush's revisions.

But for the first time he proposed changes under which Social Security checks for low-income workers retiring in the future would grow faster than those for people who are better off.

"By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire in poverty," Bush said.

The White House said Bush's proposal could be accomplished with a "sliding-scale benefit formula." That would mean lower Social Security payments for future middle- and upper-income retirees than they are currently guaranteed — a fact Bush himself did not mention in his 60-minute session with reporters.

Bush would "gut benefits for middle-class families," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said in a joint statement.

They reiterated their opposition to Bush's desire to let younger workers divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts. "All the president did was confirm that he will pay for his risky privatization scheme by cutting the benefits of middle-class seniors," Pelosi and Reid said.

Heh heh. I can hear the screams of middle America already.

Bush held his first prime-time televised news conference in more than a year as he scrambles to generate momentum for his stalled Social Security plans and to calm anger over $2-a-gallon gasoline prices. Those two issues have dragged his approval ratings down.

The president appeared at ease in the East Room of the White House as he fielded questions from reporters after a 7-minute opening statement. At times, he twisted the toe of his shoe on the carpeted riser.

On domestic topics, Bush said he understood that motorists and businesses were unhappy about gasoline prices that are expected to stay above $2 a gallon through summer. Increasing world demand for oil, particularly from fast-growing nations like China, and lack of new U.S. refineries are putting upward pressure on prices, he said.

He pledged to encourage oil-producing nations to maximize production and promised to protect U.S. consumers. "There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America," Bush said.

He spoke on the same day the world's largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp., announced that its profit for the first three months of the year had risen 44 percent to $7.86 billion from the corresponding quarter a year ago.

He prodded Congress to get an energy bill to his desk by summer but acknowledged that measure was "certainly no quick fix" for high fuel prices. The House has passed energy legislation; a companion measure awaits Senate action.

Yes, the same energy bill that would give billions in tax breaks to companies that are announcing record profits. Good, George. Keep going, one more group to piss off-

Bush disagreed with the conservative Family Research Council's contention that his judicial appointments were being held up in the Senate because of their religious faith. "I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated," he said. "Some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view."

Back away from your most rabid supporters. Delicious.

Let's recap- cuts to Social Security benefits to give money to Wall Street, no relief at the pumps while the oil companies rake in billions to go along with their tax breaks, backing away from the Rabid Right who thought they were driving this bus.

Watch those poll numbers tank now.

Operation Truth-Who supports the troops?

Last Thursday, the Senate agreed to an amendment (mentioned on the blog) to change the Emergency Supplemental to provide an additional $213 million in funding to produce armored Humvees.

Take a lookee at this list. Notice all the R's that voted against armor for Humvees. Good show, Mr. Frist. Guess you didn't want to be President after all.

Congress Approves $2.6 Trillion Budget - Yahoo! News
More tax cuts for the rich, deeper deficits for the country, destruction of the environment, death to the poor. Are you feeling the love yet?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress on Thursday approved a $2.6 trillion budget plan for next year that calls for new tax cuts and spending reductions over the next five years.

Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate pushed through the budget blueprint without the support of a single Democrat.

That bodes well for campagin ads in 2006. Man, I could make some doozies now.

Among the key components are proposals for up to $106 billion in additional tax cuts over five years coupled with $35 billion in spending cuts over the same period.

Tax cuts could include the extension of lower capital gains and dividend tax rates. Details would be worked out later.

Included in the spending savings is a controversial plan to reduce the growth in funding for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. The budget proposes $10 billion in savings over four years to the program that is run jointly by states and the U.S. government.

But some senators speculated that Congress might find a way to dock programs other than Medicaid, such as Medicare, a federal health care program for Americans over 65.

Yeah! Get the seniors! I can see the ad- *Black and white-Pan over a dingy apartment to an old lady trying to cut her last pill in half as she coughs and struggles with her arthitis* "Senator Joe Blow thinks that the elderly can get by with less..." *Pan to the window and zoom outside, change to color, to a couple of well-dressed and healthy, laughing guys throwing their golf clubs in a convertible. As they drive away, show a family in rags on the street, standing in front of a closed soup kitchen- follow the car as it goes down the road, past the gas station with incredible high prices* "But at the same time, Senator Blow thinks they need more. Senator Blow, bad for seniors, bad for families, bad for America"

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, said the budget embraced by Republicans "essentially freezes discretionary non-defense spending over the next three years and does it with enforcement mechanisms which are pretty effective."

Democrats countered that the plan would add $167.5 billion to U.S. budget deficits over five years.

They argued that budget deficits will swell in part because rising costs for the Iraq war are not included in Republican deficit estimates; nor are the costs of Social Security reform sought by Bush. Republican-backed tax cuts also would contribute to budget deficits, according to Democrats.

"Like the president's budget, (Congress') budget ... cuts funding for key services such as Medicaid that Americans rely on," said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.

Spratt, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the budget also "makes room for new tax cuts likely to be targeted largely to those who need help the least."

The new budget plan also advances Bush's drive to allow oil drilling in the environmentally protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Although further legislation would be needed, language included in the budget could speed its passage.

Budget-deficit worries have been growing in Congress. (No shit? Then why pass all these tax cuts? -ed.) Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan expressed his concern last week when he told lawmakers that continued deficits "would cause the economy to stagnate or worse."

Besides Medicaid reductions, the budget proposal includes $3 billion in cuts to U.S. farm programs over five years and $6.6 billion in savings for a deficit-ridden federal program that insures corporate pensions.

Get the farmers too! And eliminate corporate pensions! Man, these ads are just writing themselves here.

Question is- will it be too late?

Republican Leader Offers Compromise on Judges - Yahoo! News
If I'm reading this right, the compromise is -"We will keep the filibuster as long as you don't use it." Which effectively bans the filibuster. Screw that. Stick to your guns, Harry.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist offered a compromise in a battle over President Bush's judicial nominees, but a top Democrat called it a "wet kiss" to the right wing.

Frist's proposal seeks to avert a showdown over Republican threats to change Senate rules in order to ban procedural roadblocks known as filibusters against judicial nominees.

Democrats have filibustered 10 of Bush's candidates whom they have deemed "right-wing ideologues," and have vowed retaliation in response to any ban on the filibuster, which permits unlimited debate.

Frist, the Senate majority leader, said he would "guarantee" up to 100 hours to debate any nominee to the appeals courts or U.S. Supreme Court. But Frist also said he would require that they all get a confirmation vote, meaning filibusters against these candidates would be banned.

"It may not be a perfect proposal for either side, but it's the right proposal for America," said Frist as he stood in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called the proposal a "big wet kiss to the far right," which has pushed to ban judicial filibusters and get more conservatives on the bench.

Under Frist's proposal, filibusters would still be permitted against district-court nominees. But that could change, an aide said, if Democrats start to filibuster them.

So far, Democrats have limited their judicial filibusters to appeals-court nominees, having blocked 10 of them during Bush's first term.

The president renominated seven of them after winning reelection in November, and Democrats have said that they would again filibuster these candidates.

Smackdown time. I hope the Dems don't cave of this.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Cubs 8, Reds 7
Happy Cubs blogging for a change. Great comeback win to keep pace with those nasty Cards.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Derrek Lee had to share his big day with Corey Patterson.

Lee hit two home runs and tied a career high with six RBIs, and Patterson hit a game-winning homer to give the Chicago Cubs a wild 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

The Cubs (11-10) won the series to move a game ahead of the Reds for second place in the NL Central. Lee was on-deck when Patterson ended it in the ninth with his fifth homer.

Lee, traditionally a slow starter, went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth inning and a three-run shot in the seventh that tied the game at 7. Lee's .430 average, seven homers and 27 RBIs all lead the National League. Before this season, Lee was a career .230 hitter in April with 89 RBIs in 166 games.

"It's not easy, man,'' Lee said. "It's just one of those times where you're seeing the ball well and get in a zone. It seems like pitchers make more mistakes and you take advantage of them.''

LaTroy Hawkins (1-1) got the win, striking out two in a perfect ninth.

And LaTroy didn't blow the game this time! I hope that's a sign of good things to come...

CBS News | Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors
This is actually an old story, but since CBS brought it up again I thought I would too. Let's keep the Nazi's in the spotlight and expose their agenda. Anyone got any marshmallows? Seems there could be quite a big book burning in Alabama.

(CBS) A college production tells the story of Matthew Sheppard, a student beaten to death because he was gay.

And soon, it could be banned in Alabama.

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

"I think it's an absolutely absurd bill," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship.

"It's a Nazi book burning," says Potok. "You know, it's a remarkable piece of work."

But in book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda,"
and he's alarmed.

"It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal."

If this guy sees the "homosexual agenda" in book after book, well, he's got more issues than I can shake a stick at. Dude needs to stop repressing; it's obvious that he has something on his mind....

Thank God I'm not in the South. Jeebus, what a buncha wackjobs.

House OKs Bill Toughening Abortion Consent - Yahoo! News
Chip, chip, chipping away at Roe vs. Wade. More Republican intrusion into your personal life.

WASHINGTON - After an easy House victory, the latest push to curb abortions moves to the Senate where Republican gains increase the likelihood of making it harder for minors to cross state lines to end pregnancies without telling a parent.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., intends to bring such a bill to a vote this summer as one of his top 10 legislative priorities, according to spokeswoman Amy Call.

If enacted, it would be the fifth law passed to reduce abortions since President Bush took office in 2001.

And yet, abortions have increased under Bush. Curious, that. Guess that abstinence education doesn't work after all.

No one knows how many minors cross state lines for abortions to circumvent laws in their home states requiring parental consent. But like many who oppose abortion rights, Frist told reporters this week that that there's more at stake than the number of abortions prevented.

"No matter how few people it affects, it's an important bill on the principles," said Frist, a Tennessee Republican and doctor who is considering seeking his party's presidential nomination in 2008.

Abortion rights advocates say the bill would cut off an escape route for pregnant girls and make criminals of the relatives, friends and doctors who try to help them.

"It certainly reflects a lack of compassion toward teens and in particular to their health," said Louise Melling of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It reflects a willingness of Congress to override or trump states' policy decisions."

The Senate is to consider a bill very similar to the measure approved by the House 270-157 Wednesday. The Senate bill would make it a federal crime punishable by a fine, jail time or both for an adult to take a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion in contravention of state parental notification requirements.

So instead of addressing the root of the problem, (economics, education, lack of access to birth control) let's create more criminals. Let's make kids resort to their own methods. That will work. Chip, chip, chip....

House Clears Way for Anticipated DeLay Probe - Yahoo! News
Hear those footsteps Tom? They're coming for youuuuuuu....

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday dropped new ethics rules opposed by Democrats, clearing the way for another anticipated probe of their majority leader -- embattled Texan Tom DeLay.

On a vote of 406-20, members rescinded those rules -- pushed through in January by Republicans -- to end a stalemate that has prevented the House ethics committee from operating this year.

Despite Republican claims that the rules would make the ethics process fairer for all, Democrats had argued that they would make it more difficult to investigate any member, and had prevented the committee from formally organizing.

Admonished by the House ethics committee last year on three separate matters, DeLay, a Republican, has faced new questions in the past several weeks on ties to lobbyists and foreign trips funded by outside groups.

DeLay, who has denied any wrongdoing, repeated on Wednesday that he would welcome the opportunity to put the matter before the committee and "set the record straight."

In rescinding the new ethics rules drafted by Republicans, the House returned to its old rules, crafted on a bipartisan basis.

406-20? That's quite the flip-flop. Hmmmm. Wonder what other crappy legislation we should revisit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The New York Times > Washington > Medicaid Panel Is Said to Be a Key to a Deal on Budget
Americans are going to die for lack of medical care. It's that simple.

WASHINGTON, April 26 - Republicans in Congress said Tuesday that they were near agreement with the White House on a proposal to break an impasse over the federal budget by setting up a commission on the future of Medicaid and by cutting the growth of the program by $10 billion over the next five years.

Administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress said they hoped that a deal on Medicaid would clear the way for a broader agreement on the contours of the federal budget - a budget resolution, in the language of Capitol Hill. The House and Senate last month passed competing versions of a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, but spokesmen for the budget committees in both chambers said Tuesday night that they were close to reconciling those differences.

"There is a broad outline of consensus," Sean Spicer, spokesman for the House Budget Committee, said, adding "There are details that still have to be worked out."

The sticking points included not only proposed cuts to Medicaid, which provides health insurance for more than 50 million low-income people, but also questions of how far to extend President Bush's tax cuts and whether to include a provision clearing the way for oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.

Medicaid is the biggest point in dispute.The Bush administration first opposed the idea of a study commission, seeing it as a way to postpone decisions over how to rein in the program's explosive growth.

Aides to Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, said administration officials had agreed to accept Mr. Smith's demand for a commission in hopes of securing support from him and other moderate Republicans for $10 billion worth of cutbacks in projected Medicaid spending over the next five years.

Democrats denounced the proposed cutbacks. "The Republican leadership knew they could not defeat a motion to protect Medicaid," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. "They negotiated behind closed doors to include Medicaid cuts in the final budget report, regardless of how the majority in both houses vote."

Federal and state spending on Medicaid, the nation's largest health insurance program, has grown an average of 10 percent a year over the last five years and now totals more than $300 billion annually.

Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, has been negotiating with Mr. Smith for two weeks. Under the deal proposed by the administration, President Bush would accept a commission and Mr. Smith would agree to cut $10 billion from projected Medicaid spending over five years.

Mr. Bush proposed $13 billion in Medicaid savings over five years. The House version of the budget envisioned Medicaid savings of $15 billion to $20 billion.

More and more coming to Medicaid everyday because they can't afford insurance. And when they get there in the future- nothing.

I'll say it bluntly and boldly- what this administration, and the fuckwads in Congress are proposing, is a death sentence on thousands of Americans.

Meanwhile, the rich get to keep their tax cuts. The coporations get to keep their tax breaks. Your tax breaks? Well, we will be looking at that soon. Apparently there are too many. Ha ha. Suckers.

But at least those gays can't marry. Happy now America?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Yahoo! News - Inspectors Find No Proof Iraq Hid Weapons in Syria
Yet another wingnut theory shot down.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.-led group that scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has found no evidence Iraq hid such weapons in Syria before the U.S. invasion in March 2003, according to a final report on the investigation.

The 1,700-member Iraq Survey Team, responsible for the weapons hunt, also said in a report released late on Monday it found no Iraqi officials with direct knowledge of a transfer of weapons of mass destruction developed by former President Saddam Hussein.

President Bush and other U.S. officials cited a grave threat posed by Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and Baghdad's efforts to acquire a nuclear arms capability as a justification for war. No such weapons were found but U.S. officials said it was possible Saddam sent them to Syria for safekeeping.

The report said the WMD investigation had gone as far as feasible and there was no reason to continue holding many of the Iraqis who had been detained in the process.

"After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing on the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted," the report said.

It noted there was a risk some Iraqi scientists might share their skills with insurgents or terrorists. The report added the pool of scientists who still possessed potentially dangerous expertise was shrinking.

Care to expound on that comment? What did you do, kill them?

It will be interesting to see what happens when Saddam comes up for trial. Prediction- this administration will still crow about the "grave threat" he was to America, even though that has proven to be untrue. And the media will happily parrot that line also. Just a hunch.

Yahoo! News - Bush Adds DeLay to Social Security Tour
A match made in....Hell?

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush is adding a helper to his Social Security road tour: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing allegations of ethical improprieties but is seen by the White House as crucial to pushing Bush's plans through Congress.

In Galveston, Texas, on Tuesday, Bush was discussing his proposal to add private investment accounts to Social Security. DeLay was scheduled to attend the event with the president and, along with a few other Republican members of Congress from Texas, fly back to Washington with him on Air Force One.

DeLay is facing questions about the source of funding for some of his foreign trips, political fundraising for Texas elections and his ties to a lobbyist under federal criminal investigation.

DeLay also has attracted criticism for his comments on the judiciary after the death of Terri Schiavo in Florida last month. DeLay has urged investigations and even possible impeachment of "activist" judges, a label conservatives apply to those they believe are failing to strictly interpret the Constitution.

Bush counselor Dan Bartlett pointed to DeLay's role in House passage of a Bush-backed energy bill.

"I think actions speak louder than words," Bartlett said in an interview. "The House leadership, and specifically Tom DeLay, have not changed. He is a very effective leader who's getting work done on behalf of the American people."

I don't even known where to begin with this one, except to say- I can't think of a better crook to be the face of the SS privitization scheme.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Yahoo! News - GOP Stressing Constitution in Judge Battle
What do we want? THEOCRACY! When do we want it? NOW! Oh wait, maybe not. The big talkers in the GOP are backing off of that rhetoric, at least in front of the press. Seems it didn't poll well.

WASHINGTON - Buffeted by poor poll numbers, Senate Republicans are stressing the Constitution rather than religion or retribution against activist judges as the reason to deny Democrats the right to block votes on President Bush's court nominees.

The Republicans framed their rhetoric several days after receiving the results of a private poll that showed only 37 percent support for their plan to strip Democrats of the ability to filibuster judicial appointees. Opposed were 51 percent.

"What I do not want to do is cross the line and say those who oppose these nominees are people who lack faith," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told "Fox News Sunday." "I don't believe that. I don't think that's appropriate."

The same survey indicated only about 20 percent believe the GOP claim that Bush is the first president in history whose court appointees have been subjected to filibusters, a tactic in which opponents can prevent a vote unless supporters gain 60 votes.

Republicans held a Senate majority for six of President Clinton's eight years in office and frequently prevented votes on his court appointments by bottling them up in the committee.

Yet another incidence of "Do as we say, don't do as we do". Or did. Uh-huh.

So, as they back off on one hand, at the same time, they continue to pander to the Radical Right, voicing support at the "Justice (Just Us) Sunday" event. Actually, Frist "taped" in his appearance, and interestingly enough left out religion in his remarks. Let's watch Bill play both sides of the fence.

Frist, speaking at an event organized by Christian groups trying to rally churchgoers to support an end to judicial filibusters, also said judges deserve "respect, not retaliation," no matter how they rule.

A potential candidate for the White House in 2008, the Tennessee Republican made no overt mention of religion in the brief address, according to his videotaped remarks played on giant television screens to an audience estimated at 1,700 in Louisville, Ky.

Instead, Frist seemed intent on steering clear of the views expressed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and other conservatives in and out of Congress who have urged investigations and even possible impeachment of judges they describe as activists.

"Our judiciary must be independent, impartial and fair," said Frist, who was not present at the event.

"When we think judicial decisions are outside mainstream American values, we will say so. But we must also be clear that the balance of power among all three branches requires respect — not retaliation. I won't go along with that," Frist said.

But Bill, that's not what these people want! And I think you know that. What they want is this-

Putting more evangelicals on the court will mean rulings more in tune with the religious convictions of churchgoers, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

"We are not asking for persons merely to be moral," Mohler said. "We want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ."

So, which is it Bill? Hmmmm? Do you believe in the tone set at this event? You knew what these folks are all about. If you believe in an "independent" judiciary, WHY did you appear? Or, are you just USING these people yet again to justify your hypocritical power grab?

Man, these guys are slippery.

Yahoo! News - Hybrid Car Sales Rise 81 Percent in U.S.
If you build it, they will come. Are you listening, Detroit?

DETROIT - Hybrid vehicle sales nearly doubled in the United States last year as gas prices soared and a wider variety of models attracted consumers.

New hybrid vehicle registrations totaled 83,153 in 2004, an 81 percent increase over the year before, according to data released Monday by R.L. Polk & Co., which collects and interprets automotive data.

Still, hybrids represented less than 1 percent of the 17 million new vehicles sold in 2004. But the U.S. hybrid market has grown by 960 percent since 2000, when 7,781 were sold, according to the Polk data, and major automakers are planning to introduce about a dozen new hybrids during the next three years.

Lonnie Miller, director of analytical solutions for Southfield-based Polk, said federal and state tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles have helped spur hybrid sales. More people also are buying into the idea that driving a hybrid is socially responsible, he said.

And, of course, innovation is leading the way. While American manufacturers complain about costs, the competition will continue to eat our lunch.

Toyota Motor Corp., which was the first automaker to commercially mass-produce and sell hybrid cars, continues to dominate the market. The Toyota Prius, which went on sale in the United States in 2000, occupied 64 percent of the U.S. hybrid market last year, with 53,761 new Prius cars registered, Polk said.

The Honda Civic hybrid was second with 31 percent market share. Honda Motor Co. also sold several hundred Accord and Insight hybrids, which each commanded 1 percent of the market.

Detroit's refusal to change and grow is killing us, especially here in Michigan. I hope these numbers wake some people up. We could be leading the way in new technology and creating good jobs if only they would stop dragging their feet.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Another one from last weekend. Brooks Colvin slides safely into 2nd while the Kernels practice the Hokey Pokey.

If I had to leave right now I would have to brush SNOW off my car.

Ahhh, spring. I remember it well.

Bleed Cubbie Blue :: Bring Me The Head Of Dusty Baker
I love this blog. This guy is actually at the (home) games, and keeps up with the day to day developments, whereas other blogs are kind of spotty on the coverage.

In today's (yesterday's) episode, he says exactly what all frustrated Cub fans are thinking- it's time to take a long, close look at Dusty.

That makes me sad. I was ecstatic when they got Dusty- and consequently ignored the warnings about him. Now I see what Giants fans were complaining about.

That's it, I'm off the bandwagon.

Or maybe I should say, I'm ON the bandwagon -- the one ready to ride Dusty Baker out of town.

You can give a million reasons why a manager is well-loved by his players, because he supports them, gives them confidence, retains that confidence -- but when a manager pigheadedly, stubbornly, refuses-to-listen-to-reasonly continues to do something that costs his team games, it's time for someone, whether it be a player, coach, Jim Hendry, Andy MacPhail, or me, to say to Dusty Baker:

"Dusty, LaTroy Hawkins is not a closer. He's a very good relief pitcher who can get outs in the seventh or eighth inning, but somehow, when that scoreboard reads "INN 9", he just can't finish it. So, try someone else there."

It really is that simple, and you know the depressing end result today, another one-run, 4-3 loss to a really bad Pirates team. That's Hawkins' second blown save, to go along with three saves, a really bad ratio.

What I absolutely could not fathom was seeing Jose Macias pinch-hit for Jason Dubois.

Excuse me? After Dubois was 2-for-3? And so what if Salomon Torres, a righthander, was still in the game. Of course, the minute Macias was announced, in comes John Grabow, the lefthander, turning Macias around.

And the next time I see the name "Macias" in print or online, I want to see the words "waived for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release" next to it.

It's pretty sad when Lloyd McClendon outmanages Dusty Baker. Naturally, Macias grounded out, though Derrek Lee, who had doubled, advanced to third, where he stood and watched Burnitz strike out. Burnitz had a really bad day, hitting into a double play and striking out three times.

We know what must be done. Send LaTroy, who IS a good pitcher -- just not in the 9th inning -- back to the 8th, and let Mike Wuertz close. Or Jon Leicester. Or Glendon Rusch. Or Mike Remlinger. Or Rod Blagojevich. Or Oprah. Or ANYONE else.

I hope Dusty proves us all wrong. I really do. But when I hear stuff like this...- from the comments-

He had this to say after the game:

"LaTroy has the stuff. I can't figure it out. I don't want to think about it tonight."

Well get over it and think about it tonight, damn it. Think about the fact that Hawkins blew 9 of 12 one run games last year and has blown 2 of 3 one run games this year. Then think about your overall managerial stratagies, your unwillingness to deal with reasonable statistical analysis and your tendency to make bad moves. tells me that nothing is going to change. The Cubs will sink further into the middle of the pack in the division, try to play catch-up with St. Louis all year, and in the end will fall short again, thanks to too many games such as this that should have been won.

Prove me wrong, Dusty. Please. I'm begging you. Bush's Most Radical Plan Yet
Dismantling the federal government for fun and profit, mostly profit. Imagine what kind of country this would be without any regulations on corporations. We might just find out. The heading of this article-"With a vote of hand-picked lobbyists, the president could terminate any federal agency he dislikes."

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program -- it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

Without many of those programs, however, American consumers, workers and investors would be left to the mercy of business. "This is potentially devastating," says Wesley Warren, who served as a senior OMB official in the Clinton administration. "In short order, this could knock out protections that have been built up over a generation."

Others note that the provision goes beyond anything attempted by conservatives in the past. "When you look at this," says Marchant Wentworth, a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, "it's almost like the Reagan administration was a trial run."

Go read the whole story. It's chilling.

How bad does this have to get before the people demand a change in direction? Do we have to lose everything that gives us "quality of life"? Perhaps we do.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Yahoo! News - Microsoft's switch on gay bill stirs anger
Very scary development. Hope for equality lies within the business community. If the Radical Right is successful at reaching into private business policies to go along with their persecution in public legislation...where does it end? If a powerhouse like Microsoft is this easily swayed by these bullies, smaller companies don't stand a chance.

Who will stand up to these people? And, emboldened by their victories against gays, what changes will they demand next? Next time, it could affect you.

Shame on you Microsoft.

What was supposed to be a quiet withdrawal of support for a gay rights bill is turning into a major public relations headache for Microsoft, a company long regarded as being at the forefront of fostering equality.

The company twice supported bills that would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, insurance and jobs in Washington state. This year, however, the company withdrew its support for a similar bill, House Bill 1515, and did not reveal the change until after it was reported this week by The Stranger, a Seattle weekly newspaper.

The bill was defeated during a surprise vote on Thursday, which added to the anger felt by many in the LGBT community.

Further embarrassing to Microsoft was a report that it bowed to pressure from Ken Hutcherson, pastor of the 3,500-member Antioch Bible Church, located a few blocks from company headquarters in Redmond.

Spokespeople from Microsoft told the New York Times yesterday that their decision to withdraw support for the bill was not due to the minister's threats, but rather a "desire to focus on a limited number of issues that directly affect our business."

Hutcherson, however, bragged to the Times that he met with company officials several times this year and told them repeatedly that he would organize a national boycott of the company's products if they did not withdraw support for the bill. The Times also reported that Rep. Ed Murray, an openly gay Democrat and sponsor of the bill, was told by Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel that he was concerned about the reaction to company support of the bill among its Christian employees.

The supposed Christian-vs.-gay tug-of-war was especially troubling to the Human Rights Campaign. In an open letter to Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, HRC Executive Director Joe Solmonese expressed his "profound disappointment" with the company's stance as well as its reasoning.

"The reported rationale that Microsoft officials were afraid of offending 'Christians' is itself deeply offensive to the many Christians who believe in non-discrimination and were proud of Microsoft's previous position," the letter said. "Further, giving in to threats from a small group fighting to impose their own view of religion on the company and the state will only encourage more such threats. We urge you to work to change this perception."

I keep hoping for the backlash to start. What's it gonna take until people stand up and say "no more"?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - No Nomar, no offense?
The interesting thing about this column is that it is written by Ryne Sandberg. While it doesn't provide any earth-shattering analysis or predictions, I think it's cool that Rhino has found gainful employment. :-)

The injury to Nomar Garciaparra is a big blow to the Chicago Cubs.

Nomar was swinging one of the hottest bats in the spring, and the Cubs were counting on him to contribute out of the three spot in the lineup all year long. Also, with this season being his contract year, I felt he would get back to his superstar status on the field.

In all likelihood, Garciaparra – despite his cold start to the season with a .157 average – was going to be an All-Star this year. Now, the Cubs may have to play the rest of the season without their starting shortstop.

Garciaparra suffered a torn left groin on Wednesday and is expected to miss at least two to three months. But any groin injury is very difficult to come back from during a season. There are so many movements on the baseball field that can affect that area of the body. Sometimes a groin injury, especially a groin tear like Garciaparra's, can last for more than a year.

The Cubs still could have a good offense with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Jeromy Burnitz in the heart of the lineup, and Hairston has a chance to add a spark in the leadoff spot when he's playing second base. But even if the rest of the team stays healthy and the starting rotation pitches up to its ability, it'll be tough for the Cubs to ease the pain of losing their starting shortstop for most of the season.

Damn, I will miss Nomar. This really sucks.

Yahoo! News - House Approves Broad Energy Bill
PLENTY of money for the oil companies! For the poor, the sick, the, not so much.

WASHINGTON - The House approved a far-ranging energy bill Thursday that would open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling and shield makers of a controversial gasoline additive from environmental lawsuits — both issues likely to meet strong opposition in the Senate.

The bill also would funnel more than $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies. Opponents of the legislation said it would do little to foster less energy use. A proposal to require higher fuel economy for cars was rejected.

The administration embraced the legislation, although a White House analysis expressed reservations about the size of the incentives to the oil and gas industries, especially a $2 billion subsidy for developing oil and gas in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (Probably thought it wasn't enough.-ed.)

After two days of debate and amendments, the legislation was approved 249-183 with 41 Democrats joining the GOP majority.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said the size of the Democratic support was a sign that this year's legislation might fare better in the Senate than the bill two years ago that died there.

As with the bankruptcy bill before, the Pubs hide under the claim, "Lookee here! The Democrats support it, too! So it's alright!" Damn those Democrats, whoever they are.

To foster less energy use, the House bill calls for extending daylight-saving time by two months and offering tax breaks for homeowners to install more energy efficient windows and insulation. The bill's supporters also said that provisions requiring refiners to use more corn-based ethanol in gasoline and allowing oil drilling in the Alaska refuge would reduce U.S. reliance on imports.

Most Democrats denounced the bill as a giveaway to energy industries.

It is "clearly designed to help energy companies make more money, not help the American people save money," said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She called it "anti-consumer, anti-taxpayer, anti-environment" and said it fails to address major concerns of people across the country: high gasoline and other energy costs.

The MTBE gas additive issue brought the most dramatic moment as the House closed in on its final vote Thursday.

House Republican leaders had tried to prevent a floor vote on the issue. Democrats said GOP leaders wanted to shield not only MTBE manufacturers from lawsuits, but also lawmakers from having to vote on a matter involving drinking water contamination in communities in their districts.

So let's recap. Billions upon billions of dollars for the oil and energy companies. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Poison in the groundwater A-OK. Fuel efficiency standards, nah, don't need 'em. Consumer relief, here's a couple more hours of daylight for a few months and some duct tape for your windows. That will solve our energy problem.

Hanging my head in shame this morning. Energy problems? Throw billions at the energy companies! Bankruptcy and credit problems? Throw billions at the credit card companies! Health care problems? Throw billions at the pharmaceutical companies! Social Security problems? Throw billions at Wall Street! Have we noticed the pattern here yet? Hello? Anyone?

Why is it every problem that we have is solved by giving money to mega-corporations?

Here's a big FU to all the Democrats who are going along with this.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Chicago Cubs : News :Nomar leaves game with groin injury
My heart is first I thought he just tripped...

ST. LOUIS -- Before Wednesday's game, all Nomar Garciaparra had to worry about was his hitting slump. That all changed after he took two painful steps in the third inning.

Garciaparra had to be carried off the field Wednesday night after injuring his left groin. The severity of the injury was unclear, a Chicago Cubs official said.

The shortstop will undergo an MRI on Thursday. He was examined by the St. Louis team physician on Wednesday.

"When I left the box, I don't know if my front foot kind of slipped coming out of the box," Garciaparra said. "Right when I took that first step, I felt my groin just go. That's when I went straight down. It was pretty painful. I've strained my groin before, but I've never felt anything like this before."

Asked if he thought it was torn, Garciaparra said, "That's my fear."

Nomar is a stand-up guy. You could see the anger and disappointment mixed with the pain as they carried him off the field. What's really sad is that this comes after he made a wonderful gesture, showing that for him, team comes before ego. Refreshing.

He had been injury-free this year, but hurting at the plate, entering Wednesday's game batting .163. He said he didn't want Dusty Baker to worry about his feelings if the Cubs manager wanted to drop the shortstop in the order. On Wednesday, Garciaparra batted sixth for the first time. He had been hitting third.

"I said, 'If you switch me, it's not like you're going to hurt my feelings,'" Garciaparra said before Wednesday's game. "I want to win here. 'If you feel you have to do that, it doesn't bother me. You make the decisions. Don't make the decision on how I'm feeling or how I'm going to take it.'"

Garciaparra gave the message to Cubs bench coach Dick Pole after Tuesday's game.

"[Garciaparra] said, 'Hey, man, I'm not helping us now. Just relay to Dusty that if he wants to move me down in the order, then that's what he'll do,'" Baker said. "He just wants to win and I know he feels badly about not contributing. I know it's eating him up. He hasn't struggled this much in a long time."

I hope that it's not as bad as it looks. Get well soon, Nomar.

Yahoo! News - Connecticut Approves Civil Unions for Gays
I guess "seperate but equal" is better than having benefits ripped away from you. A step in the right direction.

HARTFORD, Conn. - Gay rights proponents had been hoping that Connecticut would follow the lead of neighboring Massachusetts by allowing same-sex couples to marry.

That's why they were pleased but still unsatisfied Wednesday when Connecticut offered civil unions to gay couples, becoming the first state to do so voluntarily, without being forced by the courts.

"As important as the rights are, this is not yet equality," said Anne Stanback, executive director of Love Makes a Family, a statewide gay rights organization.

Vermont is the other state to allow civil unions, which carry the rights and privileges of marriage without the marriage license. Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. But those changes came about after same-sex couples won court battles.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, signed the bill about an hour after it was approved 26-8 by the Democrat-controlled Senate. The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, includes an amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Civil unions are reserved only for same-sex couples.

"I have said all along that I believe in no discrimination of any kind and I think that this bill accomplishes that, while at the same time preserving the traditional language that a marriage is between a man and a woman," Rell said.

Still, the bigots are unhappy with this. And they're not going to shut up.
Opponents had hoped to persuade Rell to veto the bill, saying civil unions are essentially gay marriage.

Roman Catholics and pro-marriage activists plan a rally Sunday in opposition to the bill.

Marie Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said the civil union proposal "got more legs than we ever hoped it would get." About 44 percent of the state's 3 million residents are Roman Catholic.

Brian Brown, head of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said his group intends to keep the issue squarely before the public.

"From now until 2006, our mission will be to let every person know in the state of Connecticut which lawmakers voted to redefine marriage, and which lawmakers voted to protect marriage," he said.

Ahhhh, but it's not marriage...didn't you hear the lady? So, your argument there is a bit moot, isn't it? You're going to have to come right out and tell it like it is- this is not about "protecting marriage", that smokescreen you like to hide behind, this about is persecuting gay people any way you can. Period.

Now, go away. Surely there are better things to do with your time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Yahoo! News - Liberal U.S. Catholics Dismayed at Choice of Pope
Meet the new Pope...same as the old Pope...

BOSTON (Reuters) - Liberal U.S. Catholics on Tuesday expressed dismay at the choice of a conservative new pope and doubted he will heal an institution racked by disillusionment and tarnished by a sex abuse scandal among the clergy.

The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI rankled those who advocate married priests, a bigger role for women within the church and softening its policy on homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia and abortion.

Since taking over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Roman Catholic Church's chief ideologue, Ratzinger has denounced homosexuality and even branded other Christian churches as deficient.

"Gay and lesbian Catholics are going to be very hurt by this election because Cardinal Ratzinger was the lightning rod for so much of the anger they felt under the previous pope," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the New Ways Ministry, a national ministry for lesbian and gay Catholics.

Under the Pope John Paul II, American Catholics' attendance at weekly Mass declined as many were put off by what they saw as increasingly conservative Vatican doctrine.

The sense of alienation deepened with a well-publicized scandal over pedophile priests, which erupted in 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston as court documents showed bishops shuttled pedophile priests from parish to parish.

Let's wait and see what he does. If the Catholic Church wants to keep losing people and render itself irrelevant, by all means stay on this course. Eventually they will be forced to grow and change. But for now, the current Catholic 15 minutes should be OVER.

And Dad, once again I must say, "THANK YOU, thank you, thank you, for not raising me a Catholic. Liberal Catholics go through so much anguish and grief and GUILT, and as you know, that is my natural state anyway. It would be twice as bad if I were Catholic. So, thanks.

Yahoo! News - Democrats: HSD Omits Right-Wing Threats
ALF and al-Qaida? I just don't see it.

WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department is focusing on possible terror threats from radical environmental and animal rights activists without also examining risks that might be posed by right-wing extremists, House Democrats said Tuesday.

A recent internal Homeland Security document lists the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front with a few Islamic groups that could potentially support al-Qaida as domestic terror threats.

The document does not address threats posed by white supremacists, violent militiamen, anti-abortion bombers and other extremists that Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., called "right-wing hate groups."

ALF and ELF "are the left-leaning groups that they identified," said Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "But they absolutely left out any of the other groups."

"If your responsibility is to protect the homeland from these domestic terrorists, then you have an obligation to identify all of them — not just some of them," Thompson said.

Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the internal document — which was not meant for public distribution — identifies only general categories of threats and vulnerabilities, and is not meant to be a comprehensive list.

"Other classified threat and vulnerability assessments that guide our day-to-day operations and planning are more specific and identify more detailed information," Roehrkasse said.

Thompson said he reminded Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff of threats by right-wing groups in a letter sent to the department Thursday — the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. That attack, which killed 168 people, marks the worst act of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil.

ALF and ELF are accused by the FBI of committing hundreds of acts of arson or other attacks on property in the United States, causing millions of dollars in damages. None of their attacks, however, have caused human deaths.

Makes me wonder what will happen the next time the right falls out of power.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yahoo! News - Rice Attacks Putin Over Grip on Power, Media
HAHAHA! No END to the hypocrisy. Why these people don't tell us to just fuck off I'll never know. Of course, maybe that's what the bomb threats are all about.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday called the Kremlin's tight grip on power and the media "very worrying" and urged Russian President Vladimir Putin not to cling on to power beyond his present term.

Rice made some of the sharpest U.S. criticism to date of the Kremlin's record on democracy at the start of a visit to Moscow, the first by the former Soviet specialist since being confirmed as President Bush's foreign minister.

Her two-day trip got off to a shaky start when a bomb threat forced her motorcade to divert as it took her to her hotel from the airport.

"There was a bomb threat called into the hotel. She has gone to the ambassador's residence," the official, who asked not to be named, told reporters.

Security services checked the hotel, but no bomb was found, a U.S. official said.

With meetings scheduled with senior Russian officials including Putin Wednesday, Rice told reporters on board her plane as she flew in to Moscow: "Trends have not been positive on the democratic side."

"The centralization of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like the Duma (parliament lower house) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying," she added.

That's rich. Has Condi been out of the USA lately? Someone better slip her a newspaper or somethin'.

Even more pointedly, she also said it "would not be a positive development" if Putin changed the constitution to be able to run for a third successive term.

Somebody write that last quote down. It might come in handy.

WWMT - City of Kalamazoo stops same sex benefits
*sigh* Back to court. Let's waste more time and money while we hurt working families.

KALAMAZOO (NEWS 3) - The city of Kalamazoo has decided to stop offering benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

But, the city will spend thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to go to court and fight the Attorney General's decision.

The City Manager decided to follow his own lawyer's advice and comply with Attorney General Mike Cox's opinion that same-sex benefits violate voter approved Proposal Two.

"Whether or not I agree with the Attorney General is irrelevant. The highest law enforcement official in the state has rendered an opinion on our policy," said Pat Digiovanni.

Digiovanni called it a difficult decision, but one meant to protect the city financially.

Several residents expressed their displeasure in the decision, but the city manager said that he must uphold the law.

Only Commissioner Mary Balkema voted against going to court. She pointed out that there is already a lawsuit in Ingham County, and three Kalamazoo employees are part of that suit.

With tonights decision, five current city employees will lose benefits for their partners at the end of this year.

Disturbing to lose your security over bigotry, of course. Also disturbing is that fact that cities will lose talented employees who will go elsewhere- Michigan loses, everyone loses on this, except for the few sanctimonious assholes who can smugly smile knowing they've hurt other people in the name of their religion. Jesus must be so proud.

But then I look around and realize that a lot of people are losing benefits on the basis of "saving money" alone. Grand Rapids Public Schools, for example. Bus drivers were ready to concede their families benefits just to keep their jobs. Didn't work- and now their positions will be eliminated and they will have to re-apply with Dean Transportation and take a huge pay and benefit cut.

All in all, bad times in Michigan. Lower pay, less benefits, good jobs going bye-bye. Makes me sad. Just when are those tax cuts going to start benefiting us, anyway?

Dean Says Democrats Will Make Schiavo Case an Election Issue
I don't like how this is worded. While I agree with the sentiment of holding this case up as an example of one of many Republican intrusions into people's private lives, to "use" Terri Schiavo was a bad choice of words on Howard's part.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.

Dean, who has called congressional intervention in the Schiavo case "political grandstanding," singled out House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for his leading role in the matter.

"This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008," Dean told about 200 people at a gay rights group's breakfast in West Hollywood, "because we're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' "

Dean, a practicing physician until he became governor of Vermont in 1991, added: "The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?"

There, Howard. That's it. Hammer on that, not just Schiavo. There are many examples of this to talk about. School prayer, teaching evolution, religious displays on public grounds, theocratic tests for judges, pharmacists and birth control, gay rights, etc. etc. on and on. It's not just about Terri. It's the whole assault on freedom from religion. I want to hear the word "theocracy" over and over again.

Here's the funny kicker in all of this-

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Dean's "outrageous remarks help underscore why Dean is the leader of the minority party."

"Terri Schiavo was never about partisan politicking, but instead about a woman's life," she said.

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Florida) resigned this month after acknowledging he had written a memo calling the Schiavo case "a great political issue" for Republicans.

HAHAHA! Do you guys ever listen to yourselves?

Yahoo! Sports - MLB - Reds 7, Cubs 6
My oh my, do I miss Matt Clement. And I have to say- I think Dusty Baker is one of the worst when it comes to managing pitchers. Don't give me the "tired bullpen" spiel. It's only April, for chrissake.

I have some serious doubts about this team after last night.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Not even four Cubs homers were enough for Kerry Wood in a city where he's never lost.

Adam Dunn hit two solo homers off Wood, and the Cincinnati Reds rallied for an improbable 7-6 victory Monday night against a pitcher who is almost always at his best when Chicago comes to town.

"It's definitely not fun being down 4-0 to a guy like him, but when we got back to the dugout, it was exactly like it always is,'' Dunn said. "We know we can score runs.''

Derrek Lee hit the longest of the Cubs' four homers, a shot that bounced off the batter's eye and out of the ballpark, as Chicago went up 5-1 after three innings. In the past, that would have been a sure thing for Wood, who is 10-0 in 12 career starts in Cincinnati.

Not this time.

Wood was hampered in spring training by a sore shoulder and isn't yet back in form. He got a little closer on Monday, but remained winless in three starts with a 6.38 earned run average.

And it was obvious that he was tired and losing it in the sixth, but Baker left him in. You could see it coming. The thing that pissed me off was he put Rusch in the next inning anyway. Why didn't he pull Kerry and stop the bleeding?

"That's such a tough one to lose,'' said Cubs reliever Glendon Rusch, who was limited to one inning because of a strained groin. "Sometimes it's a cumulative bad day. Today is one of them.''

Jon Leicester (0-2) walked the first two batters in the eighth and hit Wily Mo Pena, loading the bases. After Aurilia grounded into a third-to-home double play that kept it tied, Jason LaRue doubled to the wall in center for a 7-5 lead.

I didn't know that Rusch was hurt, but I was plenty ticked when it was obvious the Leicester just didn't have it, walking the first two batters and hitting the third, and was left in. It was the most frustrating game...

I couldn't get the radio to come in. I hope Ronnie Santo is OK. Someone should check on him.

Perhaps we could rent Steinbrenner for an hour or so.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ian Ostlund warms up before the game.

Brent Dlugach waits to apply the tag as Brooks Colvin looks on in the Whitecaps 4-1 victory Sunday. Glad they finally won a game I attended; I was beginning to think that I am a jinx or somethin'.

Yahoo! News - Ted Nugent to Fellow NRAers: Get Hardcore
I doubt many people are listening to what this lunatic says anymore, but I find it very disturbing when a has-been rock star gets up and openly advocates shooting people. Glad he doesn't have any pull with the youth of today. What if he were popular?

HOUSTON - With an assault weapon in each hand, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent urged National Rifle Association members to be "hardcore, radical extremists demanding the right to self defense."

Speaking at the NRA's annual convention Saturday, Nugent said each NRA member should try to enroll 10 new members over the next year and associate only with other members.

"Let's next year sit here and say, 'Holy smokes, the NRA has 40 million members now,'" he said. "No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member. Do that in your life."

He drew the most cheers when he told gun owners they should never give up their right to bear arms and should use their guns to protect themselves if needed.

"Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em!" he screamed to applause. "To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."

This shit gives me the chills. Is Ted gonna pay the lawyer fees when one of these happy assholes makes a mistake and shoots the wrong person? How many Columbine or Red Lake incidents do we need?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Yahoo! News - DeLay Finds Friendly Audience With NRA
Those subtle threats keep on a comin' from 'ol Tom.

It was a joke, ha ha? Yeah, right.

HOUSTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, under fire for alleged ethics violations, accused liberal Democrats and the national media of giving him a hard time in a keynote speech at the National Rifle Association's annual convention Saturday evening.

DeLay only briefly mentioned the ethics accusations, telling members of the gun-rights group that he appreciated their support.

"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good," the Republican from nearby Sugar Land said.

I'm picturing a scene of Tom in a compound at Sugar Land, guns in both hands, screaming, "You'll never take me alive!"

Actually, he'll probably have his minions do the fighting for him, while he cowers in the corner.


Out at second.

Still have focus problems.

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Bill Frist's Religious War
The last stand or the beginning of the war? You decide. I, for one, hope this is their final over-reach, the assault that turns people off and away and pushes these folks back to the fringe minority that they are. If not, well...get ready for the new Dark Ages. Those who scoff and say, "it can't happen here" need to look around and see that it IS happening here. Right now.

Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans. But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.

Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern. The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.

It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance. It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans. Unfortunately, Senator Frist and his allies are willing to break down the rules to push through their agenda - in this case, by creating what the senator knows is a false connection between religion and the debate about judges.

Senator Frist and his backers want to take away the sole tool Democrats have for resisting the appointment of unqualified judges: the filibuster. This is not about a majority or even a significant number of Bush nominees; it's about a handful with fringe views or shaky qualifications. But Senator Frist is determined to get judges on the federal bench who are loyal to the Republican fringe and, he hopes, would accept a theocratic test on decisions.

Senator Frist has an even bigger game in mind than the current nominees: the next appointments to the Supreme Court, which the Republican conservatives view as their best chance to outlaw abortion and impose their moral code on the country.

We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values." Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country. President Bush owes it to Americans to stand up and say so.

First they came for the gays (amendments to state constitutions creating second class citizenship, taking away rights they already have), then they came for the Hollywood and the press (huge fines for "indecency" and owning the corporate media), they've always had it in for the Muslims (40% think that they shouldn't have civil rights), then they came for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the children (cuts to all programs that help these people rise up in life), don't forget the educators (laws that say the conservative viewpoint "must" be represented), and now they're coming for the judges so they can complete their assault on the women (reproductive rights).

They have successfully created the villains that are a "threat to our way of life". Does any of this ring a bell? Hint: Think Germany, 1930's. All we need is the economic collapse and the pieces are in place.

When will they come for you?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's All About Me:

Here's a shocker....

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.

It's All About Me:

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Blade of Kindness. What's yours?

Thanks to the fun folks at Kos who have gone totally ballistic on Frist's call for a religious war. Seriously. Those that identify as Christian are totally pissed. It's fascinating reading, being on the outside and all.

Yahoo! News - Senate Leader Urged to Withdraw from Telecast
Didn't Bill just say that he thought the judges were fair in the Schiavo rulings? So why would he participate here? Playing both sides of the field?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Democrats urged U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday to withdraw from an upcoming telecast organized by Christian conservatives that portrays Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's judicial nominees.

Democrats complained that Frist, a Tennessee Republican and potential 2008 presidential contender, was improperly injecting religion into a high-stakes political fight.

"God does not take part in partisan politics," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "I would hope Senator Frist ... would not participate in this.."

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy added, "I hope Senator Frist will decide not to participate in this blatant assault on the fundamental principle of separation of church and state."

Frist aides said he had no plans to withdraw from the event, scheduled for April 24 and billed as "Justice Sunday."

The telecast may come just days before a Senate showdown over Republican threats to change the chamber's rules to ban procedural hurdles known as filibusters that Democrats have used to block 10 of Bush's judicial nominees while helping confirm 205 others.

Organized by Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, the telecast is to being offered to churches and Christian radio and television networks nationwide, a spokesman for the group said.

A flier for it includes the message: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."

A half century ago, Senate filibusters were used to block civil rights legislation. Democrats have used them the past four years to block 10 conservative judicial nominees they cast as "right-wing extremists."

That has angered the religious right, which wants to make the federal courts more amenable to its views on such issues as abortion, gay marriage and public prayer.

This same group of "religious" folks used the filibuster to block civil rights in the 60's. They also used it to block Clinton's appointees. Now, they are ready to jettison one of their most effective weapons because they can't have 10 judges. Does this behavior remind you of anything?

They are like a bunch of two year olds- egomainiacs shrieking at the top of their lungs whenever they don't get their way, acting like it's the end of the world. "Waaaaa! If we don't get what we want you must be against God!". It's tiring, and frightening, too. Like two year olds, they seem to have no self-control. And they are prone to violence. But instead of threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue, they more than likely will lash out with guns and bombs and justify their actions, like domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph did the other day.

The Crusades go on here in America. I'm getting really sick of the Christians playing the victim every time someone says "no" to their radical agenda. I hope everyone else is, too.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Yahoo! News - 10,000 Fugitives Rounded Up in Dragnet
While I'm all for rounding up violent criminals, I'm curious about the numbers here. 162 murder suspects in this sweep- this tells me that they knew where these guys were, but didn't go get them before this? Why not?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. law enforcement officials captured more than 10,000 fugitives around the country in a week-long drive to round up some of the most violent criminals who had previously evaded justice.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Thursday a total of 10,340 fugitives were captured by an operation led by the U.S. Marshals Service between April 4 and April 10 -- about 10 times as many fugitives who were arrested the same period a year ago.

"Fugitives belong behind bars, and the arrests of 10,340 fugitives translates into safer communities," said Ben Reyna, director of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Operation FALCON, which stands for "federal and local cops organized nationally," marked the first time the marshals teamed up with state and local law enforcement in a concentrated, nation-wide effort to round up fugitives.

A total of 162 murder suspects, 553 rape or sexual assault suspects and 154 gang members were picked up during Operation FALCON. In addition, 638 of those arrested were suspected of armed robbery while 68 kidnapping suspects were detained.

That's 1575. What about the others? Parking tickets?

I suspect an ulterior motive here (like usual- the tinfoil hat works just fine, thank you)- and I believe it's this-

But while the marshals reeled off their list of accomplishments, they also admitted that they were hampered because there is no complete, central depository in the United States for all warrants.

That is why it is difficult to keep track of how many fugitives were on the loose around the country. It also makes it difficult to disseminate information on wanted fugitives, in case they are detained for another reason outside the jurisdiction in which they are wanted.

"At some point it would be very important to get all warrants into (the national database)," said Bob Finan, the marshals' assistant director for investigations.

Whaddayawanna bet that there soon will be legislation and funding proposed for a complete and thorough national database of all citizens? (And, for that matter, why not ask ChoicePoint? Heh.)

Seriously, I get a little nervous of "massive roundups" of citizens, even if they are so-called "fugitives". It's way too easy to call someone "criminal" and have them disappear, maybe send 'em to Gitmo under the guise of "national security". We'd better watch this closely.

Yahoo! News - Bush Isn't Ready to Reveal Soc. Sec. Fix
Georgie plays "I've Got A Secret" while the rest of his party twists in the wind. This tells me he is going to stick to his method of "fear-monger first", and, so far, that hasn't worked. The more he talks, the less people like it. So, keep it up George!

WASHINGTON - President Bush signaled Thursday he is not ready yet to reveal how he would fix Social Security's looming insolvency, saying he has to first persuade people there is a problem.

"I got a lot more time to tell people that there is a problem," Bush said in a speech to newspaper editors.

Bush spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors after a Republican lawmaker called him to disclose precisely how he would fix the retirement program's inevitable insolvency problem.

Bush has talked for weeks about his proposal to create a system of private investment accounts for Social Security but has acknowledged that those accounts would not solve the program's financial problems. He has not said how he would address the insolvency issue but has invited members of Congress to propose solutions.

Bush said that some members of Congress would rather not tackle Social Security because it is a politically sensitive subject. He said the political consequences would be worse if lawmakers failed to address the problem.

How so, George? You keep saying this, but right now it sounds like empty threats. Sounds like you're trying to bully Congress into coming up with a plan because you actually don't have one of your own, besides the "give the money to Wall Street" one that you are touting. This is not about "fixing Social Security", it's about stealing more money from the poor to give to the rich.

Here's some other fun things from his address-

He has ordered a review of plans to tighten re-entry rules at the Mexican and Canadian borders. He said a requirement to show passports could "disrupt the honest flow of traffic." Bush said he first learned about the new rules by reading the newspaper and his first reaction was, "What's going on here?"

Uh, George, I thought that you didn't read the newspapers. Someone must have taught him how to read. Good deal.

Said there is no inconsistency between his support of the death penalty and his espousal of "a culture of life," which he invoked in trying to get federal courts to intervene in the case of Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who was at the center of a heated political, legal and medical battle. "The difference between the case of Terry Schiavo and the case of a convicted killer is the difference between guilt and innocence," he said.

Ah, so it's OK to kill "guilty" people. Gotcha. And that takes, what, a whole fifteen minutes to decide? Plenty of time to "err on the side of life".

The government has to judge the need to protect its citizens against the right of people to demand access to government documents. But he said the presumption ought to be that citizens should know as much as possible about government decision-making. Bush said he does not use e-mail because he wants to protect his privacy when communicating with his daughters and others.

Bye bye Freedom of Information Act. That pesky little thing.

Sigh. Isn't it time for another vacation, George?

Thursday, April 14, 2005 | 04/13/2005 | Violent flu strain mistakenly sent to labs
Paging Mr. King....Mr. King, clean up on aisle 5....

A dangerous strain of the flu virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 1957 was sent to thousands of laboratories in the United States and around the world, triggering a frantic effort to destroy the samples to prevent an outbreak, health officials revealed Tuesday.

Because the virus is easily transmitted from person to person and many have no immunity to it, the discovery has raised alarm that it could cause another deadly pandemic if a laboratory worker became infected, officials said.

As a result, health authorities were urgently working to make sure all samples are destroyed and to closely monitor anyone who may have come into contact with the virus for signs of illness, officials said.

The problem arose when Meridian Bioscience Inc. of Cincinnati, a private company, sent a panel of virus samples to about 3,700 laboratories, some in doctors' offices, to be tested as part of routine quality-control certification conducted by the College of American Pathologists. An additional 2,750 laboratories, all in the United States, received the samples and were asked to destroy them, CDC spokesman Dan Rutz said.

The panel samples usually include only strains of the flu virus that are relatively benign, Stohr said. ``We would consider this an unwise and unfortunate decision.''

The samples were sent out beginning last fall, primarily to labs in the United States, although 14 were in Canada and 61 were in 16 other countries, Stohr said.

The mistake came to light March 25 when the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, identified the virus. 'They were doing this routine testing and identified this virus and said, `This shouldn't be here,' '' Rutz said.

Sent out last fall and only now discovered? Wow. Glad you guys are keeping close tabs on this stuff.