Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don't call it an 'insurgency': Rumsfeld - Yahoo! News
Um, OK Don. I guess I won't call you "sane", either.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued on Tuesday that the guerrillas fighting U.S.-led foreign forces and the American-backed government in Iraq do not deserve to be called an "insurgency."

Asked at a Pentagon news conference why he did not think the word insurgency applied to enemy forces in Iraq, Rumsfeld said he had "an epiphany."

"I've thought about it. And, over the weekend, I thought to myself, you know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld instead referred to the guerrillas in Iraq as "the terrorists" and "the enemies of the government." U.S. military statements also have referred to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces."

"I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe. These people don't have a legitimate gripe," Rumsfeld said.

"They've got a peaceful way to change that government -- through the constitution, through the elections. These people aren't trying to promote something other than disorder and to take over that country and turn it into a caliphate and then spread it around the world."

A few more "epiphanies" from Don and his cheese will have totally slipped off his cracker. Maybe it already has.
GOP leaders try again for cuts on taxes
The Freep gets it right. More than I can say for Ricky "Republican" Albin. And yes, I know I shouldn't expect anything different from Mr. Albin. But this is my blog and I'll cry if I want to. You would cry too if Rick kept happening to you. Due to my C.O.L. (cat on lap) issues, I can't change the channel fast enough.

LANSING -- Republican lawmakers reheated leftovers Tuesday from 12 business tax cut bills Gov. Jennifer Granholm effectively vetoed last week, picking two cuts they said will encourage manufacturers like troubled Delphi Corp. to expand operations in Michigan.

One of the revived proposals immediately would cut the personal property tax on businesses by 15%. Another would give companies 100% credit on personal property taxes for equipment and jobs they move to Michigan in 2007 and 2008.

In addition, the state would continue specific tax breaks for Delphi and Visteon Corp. -- two of the world's largest auto parts suppliers -- which are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

House and Senate GOP leaders chose to temporarily set aside the broader debate over how to overhaul or replace the Single Business Tax (SBT), which is widely viewed as a barrier to attracting new businesses to Michigan.

"Let's have that fight in January; let's pass what we can now," said Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, who sharply criticized Granholm's vetoes last week. He joined House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, in proposing the tax cuts again.

Despite her vetoes, Granholm urged lawmakers to pursue business tax reductions before the end of the year. Her spokesperson, Liz Boyd, said the governor would review the new Republican bills, but would oppose them if they would cause higher taxes for individuals or cuts in state spending.

Sikkema said the latest proposal would not require budget cuts. He said new calculations of state finances show more than $200 million in unexpected funds. He said the state should make tax cuts that spur the state's economy a priority over state spending.

DeRoche and Sikkema noted that Granholm last week signed the same two tax cuts they proposed again Tuesday. However, those bills were linked to other tax bills she vetoed, which effectively killed the entire package.

Granholm accused Republicans of breaking a deal on tax cuts because they insisted on letting stand a current law that will end the Single Business Tax altogether in 2010. That would cost the state treasury about $2 billion a year unless it's replaced with other tax revenues.

Granholm wants the SBT at least extended, to give the Legislature more time to shape an alternative business tax.

Sikkema said regardless of disagreements over the SBT, Granholm should sign the personal property tax cuts.

"Auto companies and auto suppliers are making decisions now as to where to locate," Sikkema said. "Our tax structure is uncompetitive. We're resubmitting word for word the same personal property tax cut that was part of the plan the governor vetoed."

My beef with Mr. Albin is that he always chooses to gloss over the facts that I have highlighted here. It's so much fun to run around yelling "tax cuts! tax cuts!" without explaining the consequences.

And on to Mr. Sikkema. Always the "fight" with the Republicans. Why does it have to be a "fight", Mr. Sikkema? Why can't there be co-operation? I think Mr. Sikkema's choice of words in very telling on the condition of relations in Lansing. Oppose the Governor at all costs, doesn't matter who gets hurt. Deal with the problems later, later, later...spend that money now. Someone else will pay in the end. Fiscal irresponsibility is the new Republican credo.

Ball is back in your court Jen. It will be interesting to see your next move. Perhaps our tax structure does need an overhaul- but at what price? We need to move away from dependence on the auto industry. Now. Too much of our fortune is tied to people that, in my lifetime, act like they don't have the first clue about successfully growing or retaining business.

If I get time today- I will tackle George Will's slam on Michigan in favor of Indiana. Or not. Will bores me to tears, and doesn't take into consideration quality of life issues. He points to a bunch of budget saving cuts- bottled water for state employess, blah blah blah- things that Granholm had already done years ago in Michigan. Will doesn't bother to do the research on that, or anything else when comparing the states, but that's not surprising.

I could pull up facts and figures on why Michigan is a better place to live than Indiana, but to what end. We who live here already know. - IRS complaint filed against Focus on the Family - Nov 29, 2005
Well it's about time.

DENVER (AP) -- A Washington-based group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Focus on the Family or its founder James Dobson violated IRS rules by electioneering.

James Bopp, an attorney for the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group, said the group has fully complied with IRS code.

The complaint, filed Monday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also asked the IRS to investigate whether the tax-exempt status of Focus on the Family should be revoked. Tax-exempt organizations cannot participate in campaigns for or against candidates for public office.

The group alleges that news articles showed Dobson endorsed candidates for Congress before the organization officially formed its separate public policy arm, Focus on the Family Action, in July 2004.

2004? Seems like they have been "campaigning" long before then.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 & WOOD TV8 - Granholm's job approval rating improves; leads DeVos
It's because of my hard-hitting blog reports. I just know it. ;-)

LANSING, Mich. Michigan voters give Governor Jennifer Granholm higher marks for the job she's doing than they did a month ago.

In a poll released today by Lansing-based EPIC-M-R-A, 57 percent gave the Democratic governor a positive job rating, while 43 percent gave her a negative job rating.

Last month, 46 percent gave her a positive job rating, 52 percent gave her a negative rating and two percent were undecided.

Granholm leads DeVos 58 percent to 35 percent now, compared to 53 percent to 30 percent a month ago. Only seven percent are undecided, compared to 17 percent a month ago.

The latest poll of 600 likely Michigan voters was conducted November 20 to 23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

OK, really now, what the hell happened that caused such a huge swing? An 11 pt. uptick? Bizarre. & WOOD TV8 - Republican lawmakers announce tax cuts for manufacturers
No details yet, but it sounds like Jennifer won this battle.

The Republican-controlled Legislature is pushing ahead with a revised plan to lower taxes on Michigan businesses by $500 million over four years.

The cuts are designed to help the state's struggling manufacturing sector.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and House Speaker Craig DeRoche are to announce the scaled-back legislation later Tuesday.

Last week, Democratic Governor Granholm approved similar provisions in a larger business tax-cut package -- but she vetoed others, killing the whole plan.

Manufacturers would get a 15-percent credit for taxes paid on equipment and computers starting in January, plus a 100-percent credit in 2007 and 2008 if they bring jobs into Michigan.

Well, that was quick. Took you a whole day to make these changes? Wow. Makes me wonder why it wasn't done in the first place. Maybe the charges of Dick (or more likely, Betsy) pulling strings and playing games to scuttle the first plan seem a bit more plausible now given the speed of this. Hmmmm.
It's All About Football:

Atlanta 27, Detroit 7 (bye bye Mooch)
Denver 24, Dallas 21 (OT)
Cincinnati 42, Baltimore 29
Carolina 13, Buffalo 9
Chicago 13, Tampa Bay 10 (awww. heartbreaker)
Minnesota 24, Cleveland 12
Kansas City 26, New England 16 (screw you KC. you too, NE)
San Diego 23, Washington 17 (OT)
Tennessee 33, San Francisco 22
St. Louis 33, Houston 27 (OT)
Jacksonville 24, Arizona 17

Miami 33, Oakland 21
Philadelphia 19, Green Bay 14

Seattle 24, N.Y. Giants 21 (OT)
New Orleans 21, N.Y. Jets 19
Pittsburgh 7 Indianapolis 26 (can they go all the way?)

10-6. Again.

Letters for November 28 - Trapped by bad decisions
And they're off! Here comes the letters crucifying the welfare mother for her "choices" and offering no solutions to the problem. To be fair- I don't have any solutions, either, except for access to good education and free birth control. But what do I know.

I found the article on welfare "trap" interesting ("State targets welfare 'trap,' " Press, Nov. 20). It focused on Martell Hughes, who could not get a job or get off welfare. At 16 she was pregnant, married at 17 and now single with six children.

Between 16 and 39 it seems she lacked responsibility for her own actions. The travesty is that Miss Hughes kept having children at the expense of her children's needs. Could this be why half who leave welfare are back on within a year?

Could be. My question is, where are the fathers of these children? Why aren't they ever held accountable for their "lack of responsibility"?

Hold welfare recipients to standards where poor decisions lead to real and drastic consequences. Welfare and societal norms lack condemnation for actions that put people in the Welfare system. Today, if you can't afford a child or children, you get food stamps, subsidized housing, WICK, daycare and welfare. These policies do not work or hold accountability. Taxpayers would be much more likely to support a welfare safety net if they saw that it was for people who hit hard times beyond their control.

Perhaps, solutions should start at home, church and in the local community. Pressure should be put on poor decision making. To make one mistake is human. To make the same mistake again and again without penalty propagates the problem.

What "real and drastic consequences" do you suggest? Take the children away? Jail time for the mother? Forced sterilization? How about free abortions? Probably wouldn't like that one so much, would you? The writer talks of vague "consequences" and complains that feeding and housing don't work. So, do we throw these children into the street to punish their parents "choices"? Stop feeding them?

These letters irritate the shit out of me. Long on blame, short on real solutions. The kids are here. They are hungry. They need a roof over their heads. It really doesn't matter the circumstances of how they arrived. This mother could have been hit with "hard times beyond her control" such as the father up and leaving or lay-off from a good paying job. We don't know, do we? But these sanctimonious fools point their wagging fingers at the Mom, with no thought of the responsibility of the Dad, and no idea of how this woman arrived where she did. And their only answers to the problem seem to end up punishing the children in the end. It's sexist, it's classist, and it's wrong. < /end of rant > - Changes to health insurance plan for some Meijer employees
Down the slippery slope we go.

People who smoke and work at the grocery and retail chain Meijer will soon be paying more for health insurance.

The company says some employees will start paying a surcharge as early as January 1.

Meijer officials say the new health policy will go into effect when each union renews its contract.

The chain has 64,000 employees and offers benefits to both full and part-time workers.

Meijer officials say they want to promote a healthier lifestyle to team members and customers, and hope to decrease healthcare costs.

Some unions will be renewing their contracts at the first of the year.

When the contract is renewed, Meijer workers who use tobacco products will start paying a surcharge, and the cost will depend on what healthcare plan they have.

Why stop there? According to the RAND Corp., obesity now costs more in healthcare than smoking does. If Meijer truly wants to "promote a healthier lifestyle", shouldn't those folks also be singled out for higher premiums? After all, they cost more than smokers do. What about people who drink? All the drinkers I have known frequently hurt themselves. And how about those that are at risk for genetic diseases? Those cost a fortune! While we are at it, how about the people that engage in extreme sports in their off-time? They get injured quite a bit! Those with alot of speeding tickets? Talk on their cell phone when the drive? Live downwind of a major polluter?

Where do you draw the line? And won't this just price more people out of the healthcare market, which eventually costs us more money anyway?

Instead of all this bullshit, why don't we just go to a national healthcare plan like the rest of the civilized world?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Calif. Congressman Admits Taking Bribes - Yahoo! News
Someone should put out a handbook of all the players in the "Culture of Corruption". Seriously. I can't keep them all straight. There's too many.

SAN DIEGO - Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges, admitting taking $2.4 million in bribes in a case that grew from an investigation into the sale of his home to a wide-ranging conspiracy involving payments in cash, vacations and antiques.

Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004. Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.

Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, resigned after his guilty plea. He had announced in July that he wouldn't seek re-election next year.

House Ethics rules say that any lawmaker convicted of a felony no longer should vote or participate in committee work. Under Republican caucus rules, Cunningham also would lose his chairmanship of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence.

After the hearing, Cunningham was taken away for fingerprinting. He will be released on his own recognizance until a Feb. 27 sentencing hearing. He could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

"He did the worst thing an elected official can do — he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. The statement did not identify the conspirators.

I, for one, would really like to know who these people are. Let's get those names and those corporations out there. Isn't it a crime to bribe a public official?
Saddam harangues judge - Yahoo! News
Something quite interesting deep in this story.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein harangued the judge at the second session of his trial on Monday before it was adjourned to grant co-defendants time to find new counsel after one of their lawyers was killed and another fled Iraq.

After less than three hours of hearings, including videotaped testimony from a witness who has since died, Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin ordered a one-week adjournment until December 5, just 10 days before Iraq holds parliamentary elections.

Monday's session began with Saddam displaying the same defiance he showed at the opening of the trial on October 19, when proceedings were adjourned for 40 days.

Saddam, dressed in a white shirt, dark jacket and carrying a Koran, arrived late and then upbraided the judge when asked why.

"They brought me here to the door and I was handcuffed. They cannot bring in the defendant in handcuffs," Saddam rejoined.

Amin ordered the former president and his co-defendants to be unshackled by their guards before they entered the courtroom.

Saddam complained he had had to walk up four flights of stairs because of a broken elevator in the courthouse.

"I will tell the police about this," Amin told him in the cool, polite tone he maintained during several tirades by the former president on the first day of the trial.

"I don't want you to tell them, I want you to order them," Saddam replied hotly. "They are invaders and occupiers and you have to order them."

So Saddam is defiant as ever. Big deal. What I found curious was this-
Saddam then argued with the judge about his rights and his jailers' action in taking away his pen and paper. As his voice rose heatedly, television footage of the proceedings broke away.

The images are being broadcast by U.S. company Court TV with a 30-minute delay to allow officials to censor the footage.

Following the killings of the defense lawyers, security for the trial is extremely tight. TV footage is not showing the faces of any defense lawyers and only one of the five judges.

Does this mean broadcast in Iraq? Or here? I think it means Iraq.

If the case is cut and dried (and it sounds like it is), why the censorship to the Iraqi people? And I'm not buying the "security reasons" excuse when they are breaking away from something as trivial as pen and paper. Which "officials" are censoring the footage? Iraqis or Americans?

They mean to hang him. Period. His defense will not be broadcast.
Lions Reportedly Fire Coach Mariucci - Yahoo! News
Steve, you are better off. Trust me on this.
DETROIT - The Detroit Lions have fired coach Steve Mariucci, a source says.

Mariucci and some of his assistant coaches were fired late Monday morning, said the team source, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team had not yet made the official announcement.

Many have tried, all have failed.

Perhaps it's not the coaches who are at fault here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It's All About the Tough Choices:

I hate it when really bad teams play each other.

Atlanta 27, Detroit 7
Denver 24, Dallas 21 (OT)
Baltimore at Cincinnati
Carolina at Buffalo
Chicago at Tampa Bay (wishful thinking, go Bucs!)
Cleveland at Minnesota
New England at Kansas City
San Diego at Washington
San Francisco at Tennessee
St. Louis at Houston
Jacksonville at Arizona
Miami at Oakland
Green Bay at Philadelphia
N.Y. Giants at Seattle
New Orleans at N.Y. Jets
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis

Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Surveillance Activity
All they have to do is yell "terrorism" and that somehow justifies removing all our rights to privacy.

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States, have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of Congress, who say the Defense Department's push into domestic collection is proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.

"We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview.

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the data-sharing amendment would still give the Pentagon much greater access to the FBI's massive collection of data, including information on citizens not connected to terrorism or espionage.

The measure, she said, "removes one of the few existing privacy protections against the creation of secret dossiers on Americans by government intelligence agencies." She said the Pentagon's "intelligence agencies are quietly expanding their domestic presence without any public debate."

Lt. Col. Chris Conway, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said that the most senior Defense Department intelligence officials are aware of the sensitivities related to their expanded domestic activities. At the same time, he said, the Pentagon has to have the intelligence necessary to protect its facilities and personnel at home and abroad.

"In the age of terrorism," Conway said, "the U.S. military and its facilities are targets, and we have to be prepared within our authorities to defend them before something happens."

Perhaps the prime illustration of the Pentagon's intelligence growth is CIFA, which remains one of its least publicized intelligence agencies. Neither the size of its staff, said to be more than 1,000, nor its budget is public, said Conway, the Pentagon spokesman. The CIFA brochure says the agency's mission is to "transform" the way counterintelligence is done "fully utilizing 21st century tools and resources."

One CIFA activity, threat assessments, involves using "leading edge information technologies and data harvesting," according to a February 2004 Pentagon budget document. This involves "exploiting commercial data" with the help of outside contractors including White Oak Technologies Inc. of Silver Spring, and MZM Inc., a Washington-based research organization, according to the Pentagon document.

For CIFA, counterintelligence involves not just collecting data but also "conducting activities to protect DoD and the nation against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, assassinations, and terrorist activities," its brochure states.

CIFA's abilities would increase considerably under the proposal being reviewed by the White House, which was made by a presidential commission on intelligence chaired by retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). The commission urged that CIFA be given authority to carry out domestic criminal investigations and clandestine operations against potential threats inside the United States.

Perhaps "privacy" is just a quaint little illusion anyhow. Think about it.

Almost everywhere you go in any metropolitan area, there are security cameras watching you. If you use a debit or credit card, your purchases can be tracked quite easily. Your computer has a nice little record of what websites you have visited. Forget the library records- those are open to scrutiny if they so desire. If I'm not mistaken, the Patriot Act has made it legal to tap phone lines without your knowledge.

There are huge data bases on your every move- from shopping, to surfing, to travel, to medical, insurance, banking and employment records, on and on- all they have to do is tie it all together. That's exactly what they are doing, a little bit more everyday. And we call ourselves a "free" country.

Big Brother is here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's All About the Comments:

I had no idea they now go into a moderation cue! Blogger never informed me that I had new comments, or that they changed the procedure. When did they do this?

Anyway the comments are up- thanks!
Republicans Are Deeply Split Over How to Apportion New Tax Cuts - New York Times
I would call these guys "pigs", but I'm starting to think that I should stop insulting pigs. They don't deserve to be lumped in with whatever this species is.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25 - Republicans of all stripes want to cut taxes, but rarely have they been in so much disarray about whose to cut.

If House Republicans and President Bush have their way, more than half of tax reductions over the next five years will go to the top 1 percent of households, those with average incomes of $1.1 million.

House leaders are pushing a $63-billion tax-cutting package that would extend President Bush's tax cut on stock dividends, protect oil companies from a windfall profits tax and shield people caught using illegal tax shelters.

The Republican-controlled Senate, by contrast, has passed a bill that would cut taxes by $59 billion but ignore Mr. Bush's top priority, and that contains two other provisions that have provoked his wrath.

The Senate bill omits an extension of Mr. Bush's tax cuts for stock dividends and capital gains, which are to expire at the end of 2008.

Instead, almost half of the bill is devoted to shielding middle-income and upper-income families from the alternative minimum tax.

The Senate bill has also proposed two revenue-raising measures that Mr. Bush has threatened to veto: a one-year, $5-billion tax on major oil companies and a provision that would make it easier to impose steep penalties on people caught using illegal tax shelters.

The impact of the two bills would be wildly different. According to calculations by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group, about 51 percent of the tax cuts in the House bill would go to the top 1 percent of income earners.

The Senate bill favors upper-income families, but not nearly as much: only about 12 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of earners.

Awwww. How sad. I weep for the wealthy. Surely there are a few more little kids and old ladies we can stick it to.

The enormous gulf reflects more than just Republican disarray. With budget deficits likely to widen again next year, even as Congress cuts money for programs like Medicaid and child support, Mr. Bush and his allies have to choose between warring constituencies.

The budget problems have amplified Republican difficulties. Staunch fiscal conservatives, seeking to attack the budget deficit, forced Republican moderates to vote for politically painful cuts in Medicaid, student loans and child-support enforcement.

But Republican moderates are now balking at tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the very rich.

Democratic lawmakers, hoping to exploit Republican uncertainty, have remained unusually unified and were almost jubilant when Mr. Bush threatened to veto the Senate tax bill because of the tax on oil companies.

"It just shows you how outside the mainstream they are," said Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, a senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "What they should be threatening is to veto a cut in child-support funds, cuts in student loans or cuts in funds for child health care."

Republican leaders betrayed their own anxiety, postponing a vote on the House tax bill just before Congress's Thanksgiving break.

How about "jackals"? Does that work? Or should I just stay away from the animal kingdom all together?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ex-FEMA Head Starts Disaster Planning Firm - Yahoo! News
I have headlines from "The Onion" on my "My Yahoo!" headlines page. I had to double-check and make sure I hadn't clicked on one of them when I saw this story.

DENVER - Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

"If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses — because that goes straight to the bottom line — then I hope I can help the country in some way," Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

Brown said officials need to "take inventory" of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, critics complained about Brown's lack of formal emergency management experience and e-mails that later surfaced showed him as out of touch with the extent of the devastation.

The lawyer admits that while he was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency mistakes were made in the response to Katrina. He also said he had been planning to quit before the hurricane hit.

"Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is," he said.

Coming next week, Ann Coulter starts a "Sensitivity Training" firm, Rush Limbaugh gets into "Methods of a Happy Marriage", Michele Malkin on "Ethnic Relations" and Donald Rumsfeld on "Effective Communication with the Media". Karl Rove could do "How to Make Friends" and George Bush could lead us in "Honesty and Openess in Government".

The jokes just write themselves nowadays.
Guardian Unlimited World Latest Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable
Mixed messages. This story is from Tuesday.

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ``legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ``calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

The conference was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians.

And then comes this story this morning titled, "Iraq says troop pullout will lead to violence".

TOKYO (Reuters) - Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari urged Japan on Friday to keep its troops in southern Iraq, saying an early pullout of coalition forces would lead to more violence by insurgents.

Zebari said his war-torn country had made progress on improving security, but added it faced a crucial period ahead of the December 15 parliamentary election.

"Now, any premature withdrawal will send the wrong message to the terrorists, to the opposition ... that this coalition is fracturing and running, that their policies and strategies of undermining this process is winning."

Which story do you think the Bush administration will seize on? Place your bets.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's All About Thursday Football:

Atlanta 27 Detroit 7 (I'm the turkey now)
Denver 24 Dallas 21 (whew!)
GRATEFULNESS.ORG - A Network for Grateful Living

A site for the spirit of Thanksgiving.

I lit a candle for each of the two families that are on my mind today- a family in NJ missing their Mom, and a family in GR missing their daughter. May peace be with them.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone- and if you are in Michigan, bundle up!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Granholm For Governor: 4 governors, including Granholm, to visit troops in Middle East
Bring your body armor. Bring some for the troops, too.

WASHINGTON (AP) Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and three other governors will travel to the Middle East over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit with troops and meet with senior military and political leaders, Pentagon and State Department officials said Tuesday.

Specifics of the trip, including whether or not they will go to Iraq, were not being released for security reasons.

Of course they are going into Iraq. Don't be silly.
"For Gov. Granholm, this trip is all about visiting our Michigan men and women serving in the Middle East and provides her with an opportunity to talk to them," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. "Being away from home is always difficult, particularly during the holidays. The governor is hoping her visit will bring Michigan a little closer to them this Thanksgiving."

Is she going to bring them some snow?
The four governors include Democrats Granholm and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Republicans Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Sonny Perdue of Georgia. They were meeting Tuesday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I'm not sure what's worse- getting on a plane with Haley Barbour, or trying to have a conversation with Donald Rumsfeld.

Have fun, Jennifer. Another Wyoming business has been robbed
Is it just me, or does it seem like we are in the middle of some sort of crime wave around here all of a sudden?

Another business in Wyoming has been robbed, stretching the total number of similar crimes in the area in recent weeks to ten.

The latest crime took place just before 2 p.m. Tuesday at Supermercado Mexico at 1160 Chicago Drive.

While there are some differences in the string of robberies in the area lately, investigators tell 24 Hour News 8 there are not enough differences to rule out this latest heist as being number ten for the bandits.

Police say the suspects used a handgun instead of a long barrel gun, which has been used in the other robberies.

"I can't say it's not the same people, but what is a little bit different in this particular situation is that there's a person that wasn't masked, and the fact that in some of the previous robberies they wore ski-type masks," said Lt. Paul Robinson of the Wyoming Police Department.

Don't forget the D & W hold-ups.
Walker - The same scene has played out over and over again, at stores around Greater Grand Rapids since early October. Police believe now at least nine robberies in Wyoming, Grand Rapids and Walker are connected.

The latest occurred at the D and W store on Remembrance Road NW in Walker late Saturday night. Police say a group of four armed robbers hit the D and W food store just before it closed at midnight on Saturday. The robbers held four employees and two customers at gunpoint, and took money. Police don't think this is the first time the robber struck.

One clerk who was robbed at the J and R Supermarket in Wyoming in early November said, "They all had masks on and told us to lie down on the floor."

In each of the nine connected cases, three or four masked men with guns entered the stores. Lt. Paul Robinson of the Wyoming Police Department says, “These men appear to be dressed in hooded sweatshirts or jackets with hoods that they wear over these masks. And dark colored clothing."

So it sounds like these are the same guys knocking over the grocery stores. But we also have theft going on in the 'burbs.

Ada Township - Kent County authorities are investigating a number of breaking and enterings and home invasions.

They all happened over the weekend. 3 happened in the 900 block of Sargent Avenue in Ada Township Sunday night. Police say the thieves had broken into two homes, and a garage. In one case, a homeowner was inside when she confronted the burglar. She ran to the bedroom, and hid in a locked closet until the man left.

Earlier in the day, a number of thefts were also reported in Cascade and Vergennes Township. The suspect broke into unlocked vehicles, garages and in one case entered a home.

We also have hotel robberies.
KENTWOOD - Kentwood police are looking for a man accused of robbing a hotel. It happened at the Ramada Inn at 3333 28th Street around 1:00 a.m. Wednesday. Police say a man implied he had a gun. They believe it's related to a number of recent hotel robberies in the Grand Rapids metro area.

This can't be good for tourism.
Active gays unfit as priests: Vatican - Yahoo! News
But you can be "just a little bit" gay, apparently.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Practicing homosexuals should be barred from entering the Roman Catholic priesthood, the Vatican says, taking a strict line on the place of gays in the clergy, an issue that has divided the faithful worldwide.

Um, correct me if I'm wrong, I really don't keep up with the Catholics, but I thought that all priests were supposed to be celibate. So, how is this news?

An eagerly awaited Vatican document said the Church would also bar men with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support gay culture but would admit those who clearly overcame homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

The gay culture? I have yet to figure out what that is, exactly.
The document reinforces standing policy that many in the Church believe has not been properly enforced. Its urgency has been highlighted by the 2002 sexual abuse scandal in the United States, which involved mostly abuse of teenage boys by priests.

The document, which covers one of the most sensitive issues in the Roman Catholic Church, does not affect those men who are already priests but only those entering seminaries to prepare for the priesthood.

So if you are already a raging queen like Ratzinger, you are good to go.

Will the Catholic Church address pedophilia? No? Then what does this have to do with the "sexual abuse scandals"?

The document, only 21 paragraphs long, restates Church teaching that deep-seated homosexual tendencies are "objectively disordered" and that homosexual acts are grave sins.

The official English version of the document then adds:

"In light of such teaching, this dicastery (Vatican department) ... believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture."

The document, an "instruction" by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, makes a difference between deep-seated homosexual tendencies and what it calls "the expression of a transitory problem."

"Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the deaconate," it says, referring to a position just one step short of the priesthood which usually precedes ordination by about a year.

"In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the deaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity," it says.

In other words- don't get caught with Madonna CD's, or singing Broadway showtunes, and make sure hide your flair for decorating.

OK, that's some real bad stereotyping there- but not as bad as the Vatican documents. "Transitory problem" just shows how ignorant the Church really is- and how they obviously won't address the real problems they face. Gays are such a convenient scapegoat. Since it's been estimated that as much as 40% of priests are gay, it would be a catastrophe if they decided they were incompatible with the Church and left. I honestly don't know how they stay as it is. But, that is why the Vatican put all these caveats in here- they realize this fact, too.

So, as long as you are just a little bit gay, or are already a priest, you're fine. Problem solved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas, 11/22/63
A very interesting look at the world then, and the words that still pertain to the world now. These words were never delivered that day, but they ring ever so true all these years later.

Rest in peace, JFK.

This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

< snip >

I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination.

Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

< snip >

Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

< snip >

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions--it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations--it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We in this country, in this generation, are--by destiny rather than choice--the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

Thanks to jillian at Kos for finding this.
Lansing State Journal: Vetoes kill state business tax-cut package
"But, but, but....we wanted to cut revenue now so we could take it out on the poor and the sick and the elderly and the middle class taxpayers later!", said Michigan Republicans.

LANSING - The slow progress toward reducing business taxes in Michigan hit another bump Monday after Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed two bills, killing the entire tax-cut package.

Businesses had hoped the package of cuts and tax credits - some of which would have taken effect Jan. 1 - would make it past the Democratic governor's desk after passing the Republican-led House and Senate.

But Granholm said Monday the two bills she vetoed would have created huge new tax loopholes she could not accept, and blamed Republicans for tying the bills together so that vetoing one or more meant the whole package died.

The governor was able to sign bills setting up a $1 billion investment fund to encourage the growth of high-tech businesses and life sciences companies over the next 10 years.

Republicans had thought the investment bills also were tied to the tax-cut package.

< insert Nelson Muntz > Haw Haw! Gotcha. My Governor be wicked smart.

Now, we shall commence with the belly achin'.

But Granholm said she checked with the office of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox in determining that the investment fund could still go forward because those bills weren't tied to the bills she vetoed.

GOP legislative leaders reacted angrily to the move, blaming Granholm for killing business tax cuts on the same day that General Motors Corp. announced that it will cut about 30,000 of its North American manufacturing jobs and close 12 facilities by 2008, including four in Michigan.

"Major restructuring announcements are expected over the next few months from automakers and their suppliers and Michigan needs to give job providers relief now. The governor had the opportunity today to do something to help manufacturing in Michigan and she failed," GOP House Speaker Craig DeRoche of Novi said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said it was shameful that the governor abandoned immediate tax relief for businesses.

His spokesman, Ari Adler, said the Legislature will return next week as scheduled and begin work on another package of tax cuts.

Sikkema still wants to see tax cuts take place by Jan. 1, Adler said, but that leaves little time for lawmakers to get the job done in the month remaining.

Well, Ken, what's really shameful is that you would write a $2 billion dollar hole in the tax law and not come up with a way to pay for it. Furthermore, you did it after the agreement was announced, so that kinda makes you a weasely little back-stabber. And now you have the audacity to complain about how little time there is when you clowns have had nine months to do something about this.

You tried to pull a fast one on the taxpayers, and she told you to stuff it. Boo fuckin' hoo. Come up with a fiscally responsible plan, and she will sign it in a heartbeat.

But thanks for not taking any credit on the bipartisan investment plan that can move Michigan out of dependence on the auto industry and towards a future that can't be outsourced. You were so busy bitchin' about your failed coup attempt that you missed the opportunity to score some points here. Good job.

And a pox on both your houses for pointing at the GM announcement for political gain. Y'all could have given it a few days- it just didn't seem right yesterday.

So, put down the beer and chips get back to work.
It's All About Football:

Arizona 38, St. Louis 28
Chicago 13, Carolina 3
Dallas 20, Detroit 7
Jacksonville 31, Tennessee 28

Cleveland 22, Miami 0
New England 24, New Orleans 17
Oakland 16, Washington 13
N.Y. Giants 27, Philadelphia 17

Baltimore 16, Pittsburgh 13 (OT) (wtf?)
Tampa Bay 30, Atlanta 27 (YEA Bucs!)
Seattle 27, San Francisco 25
San Diego 48, Buffalo 10
Indianapolis 45, Cincinnati 37
Denver 27, N.Y. Jets 0
Kansas City 45, Houston 17 (I just can't get KC right- 3 pts one week, 45 the next)
Minnesota 20 Green Bay 17


Monday, November 21, 2005

Ex-DeLay Aide Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy - Yahoo! News
Sweeps month continues on that ever-popular game show, "Culture of Corruption!"

WASHINGTON - Michael Scanlon, a former partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.

Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes.

Is everyone associated with DeLay some sort of criminal?

Scanlon, who is expected to cooperate in the investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress, could face up to five years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, Scanlon attorney Plato Cacheris said his client "is regretful for what happened to the tribes" and is trying to do what is right by cooperating with the investigation.

The charge was in a criminal information filed Friday accusing Scanlon of conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes and engage in a corrupt scheme that lavished trips, sports tickets and campaign donations on a member of Congress, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.

Abramoff's lobbying network stretched far into the halls of Congress. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show nearly three dozen lawmakers helping to block an American Indian casino in Louisiana while collecting large donations from the lobbyist and his tribal clients.

Among the documents were private e-mails, released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, in which Abramoff said he had persuaded Ney to attach language to an election reform bill to help an American Indian tribe in Texas reopen a closed casino.

Abramoff directed a Texas tribe, the Tiguas, to donate to Ney's re-election campaign and PAC by e-mail.

Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004 by six American Indian tribes with casinos.

This could get very, very interesting.
But Jen had a little surprise for the tax-cut happy Repubs.

Governor Jennifer Granholm signed most elements of the Single Business Tax cut and jobs development package Monday morning.

She vetoed two items in HB 5047 that would earmark funding for drug discovery and specialty crop grants.

Ms. Granholm, who had said she would veto the bills because Republicans did not do away with a 2009 sunset on the SBT, scheduled an afternoon press conference to discuss her signature of the bills, now Public Acts 212-234. The bill signing announcement did not include HB 5096 and HB 5107, which respectively deal with taxes on commercial real estate and use tax changes.

OK, whatever. But here's the kicker-


Vetoes by Governor Jennifer Granholm of two bills in the single business tax/jobs package scuttled nine other bills that were linked together, sending her and legislators back to the drawing board on crafting tax changes they both say are needed to help Michigan's stalled economy. Ms. Granholm said the intricate tie-bars between the bills means the $1 billion jobs stimulus portion can go forward and urged the Legislature and enact bills to enable the tax bills to also become law.

Ms. Granhom said the announcement by General Motors of new plant closings showed how necessary it is for the Legislature to finish work on a tax cut proposal.

The governor vetoed HB 5096 imposing a tax on commercial property and HB 5107 eliminating some so-called loopholes in use tax applications for telecommunications and drivers education vehicles. She said they created new loopholes that would have transferred the cost of government to individuals.

Ms. Granholm objected to the refusal of the Legislature to include a repeal of the sunset on the SBT, meaning it still is scheduled to expire after 2009.

I can hear the wailing all the way over on the west side here. The accusations will fly now. -- Write To Congress, the President and State Legislators

Go sign up now for MegaVote. They will send you an e-mail of how your Congresscritters voted on recent legislation. It's a great way to keep tabs on them. Just do it. You'll be glad you did. Or not, depending on the vote! (for example, why in the hell did Stabenow vote for the tax cuts?) also provides links to the pending legislation, action alerts, and ways to contact your representatives and the media. (They are the ones who provided the buttons over to the left.)

Nifty site.
State Targets Welfare 'Trap'- GR Press
I hate seeing stories like this. The Press will find one person, highlight their story, and inevitably the "good" citizens of West Michigan will rip this person from limb to limb with a flood judgmental letters to the editor, whining about those "lazy" people on welfare and how they just want a hand-out.

But when the wealthy want a government hand-out in the form of huge tax breaks, not a peep.

Compassion is in very short supply from the conservatives. I don't understand how some people can be so cruel.

The job interview went well enough the other day, but then the employer told Martell Hughes there was one possible hitch: She doesn't have a telephone.

"I can't afford a phone until I get a job," Hughes said later. "If I get a phone, I gotta eliminate the gas or electric."

Hughes, a single mother of six boys, is caught in a trap that ensnares many others. Nearly a decade after Congress passed a welfare reform package requiring recipients to work or at least look for employment, many remain trapped between public assistance and low-paying jobs.

I think it's curious that they paint "welfare" as trap and yet say nothing about the trap that is "low-paying" jobs. More on that later.

"You try so hard to get off, and you can't," said Hughes, 39. "Instead of making us better, it's keeping us in the same spot. You don't want to be on aid. You work for $6.25 an hour -- come on, you can't do it. We need more jobs that pay more, because if they pay more, I can get off the system."

The federal welfare reform law, passed in 1996, removed millions from the nation's welfare rolls, including about 400,000 through Michigan's Work First program. But 211,400 people, including children, remain on welfare in Michigan. That includes 50,367 who have been receiving public assistance for four years or longer.

I would hazard a guess that most of the recipients have children or are disabled in some way. As a matter of fact, I thought that children were a requirement for even receiving any sort of welfare besides physical/mental disability.

Keep in mind we are talking mostly of families with children.

With Michigan's welfare-to-work law set to expire Dec. 31, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration and Republican legislators are working on plans to replace it. While neither plan is in its final form, both are aimed at encouraging more recipients to leave welfare and land jobs.

The difference is in how they get there. During budget negotiations last summer, state House Republicans suggested recipients should lose their welfare benefits after four years. The Granholm administration is adamant that benefits continue indefinitely, as long as the recipient is complying with the program's requirements.

"What we learned from Work First is that it's not enough to just get a job," said Marianne Udow, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. "Our clients clearly need help getting stabilized for longer periods of time.

"Those who have been in the system the longest have significant barriers to independence. It's not enough to say ... that they're not motivated enough and we need to throw them off the rolls."

While the Work First program offers incentives for recipients to find work, most end up back on the welfare rolls, Udow said. Half who leave welfare are back within a year, she said. For those who have been on cash assistance for more than four years, the return rate is even higher: nearly 70 percent.

So what we have here is the chronically unemployable. For whatever reason, these folks up end back on the system. Do we want to look at the reasons why? No. That might entail having to address the conditions that cause this in the first place, and Republicans don't have any simplistic catch-phrases and slogans for that.

But State Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, warned last month that, while the social safety net is designed to help people until they become self-sufficient, it's time "to make sure that safety net hasn't taken on a larger role than was ever intended."

The debate centers on the long-term recipient who continues to languish on $459 a month for a mother and two children, the typical Family Independence Program (FIP) household.

Those are the people Republicans targeted with their proposal to cut off assistance after four years. An eight-member legislative work group, heavily weighted with Republicans, was appointed last month to find ways to move those recipients off welfare and into jobs.

"We need to reform our laws so that able-bodied people become more self-sufficient and are not dependent on welfare for a lifetime," said Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, who co-chairs the group.

Which laws would those be, Jer? How about the minimum wage law? You know, the one that Republican legislators are blocking from leaving committee? The minimum wage law that, due to inaction on the part of our legislature, might have to be a ballot proposal in 2006? Or how about the living wage laws in various Michigan cities that the Republicans keep trying to circumvent?

Those laws, Jer? Because I'm not sure what you are talking about when you mouth the standard Reagan talking points. Perhaps you should be more specific with your allusions of making people become magically self-sufficient.

Why is it that Republicans wail on and on about welfare, and then refuse to do the things that would actually alleviate the need for welfare?

It's easy to just say "reform the laws". Kick 'em off, kick 'em out, ignore the rising poverty and hunger and homelessness. But when it comes to a real plan, the Republicans offer nothing. I start to think that perhaps they just don't care that hungry children end up living in the street.

I expect a multitude of letters about this woman from the rich folk who would implore her to just run out and get her Masters degree or start her own business. Because, you know, that's just so darn easy to do, everyone can do it, right?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Murtha predicts US troop withdrawal - Yahoo! News
Where have I heard this before? Apparently Mr. Murtha reads my blog. Or shares my cynicism.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rep. John Murtha, the Democrat whose call for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq set off a furor last week, on Sunday predicted U.S. forces would leave Iraq before next year's U.S. congressional elections.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker, a Vietnam veteran and respected authority on the military, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he expected more people to come around and share his views and that U.S. troops should be withdrawn in 2006.

Asked if that meant U.S. troops would be out of Iraq before November congressional elections, Murtha said, "You have hit it on the head."

Murtha predicted that more and more Americans, in government and private life, would come to the same conclusion he had, that U.S. military occupation was making the situation in Iraq worse and that a political solution was needed.

"I have never seen such an outpouring in the 32 years I've been in Congress of support and people with tears in their eyes, people walking along clapping when I'm walking through the halls of Congress, saying something needed to be said," Murtha said.

"It's not me. It's the public that's thirsting for an answer to this thing," he added.

Right on, John.
Locked doors thwart Bush's bid to duck question - Yahoo! News
I haven't seen the video of this but it sounds hilarious.

BEIJING (Reuters) - Irked by a reporter who told him he seemed to be "off his game" at a Beijing public appearance, President George W. Bush sought to make a hasty exit from a news conference but was thwarted by locked doors.

At the end of a day of meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials, Bush held a session with a small group of U.S. reporters and spoke at length about issues like religious freedom, Iraq and the Chinese currency.

The final reporter he called on critiqued Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood next to Hu in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.

"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.

"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."

When the reporter asked for "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter "No you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.

The only problem was that they were locked.

"I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work," Bush quipped, facing reporters again until an aide rescued him by pointing to him toward the correct door.

No escape for you, Georgie. We've got three years left to hound your sorry ass.
It's All About Ze Football:

Arizona at St. Louis
Carolina at Chicago (the Bears can't be for real...can they?)
Detroit at Dallas
Jacksonville at Tennessee
Miami at Cleveland
New Orleans at New England
Oakland at Washington
Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (hope I'm wrong)
Seattle at San Francisco
Buffalo at San Diego
Indianapolis at Cincinnati (really tempted to take Cincy)
N.Y. Jets at Denver
Kansas City at Houston
Minnesota at Green Bay

Saturday, November 19, 2005 - Defense official: Rumsfeld given Iraq withdrawal plan - Nov 18, 2005
Further proof that yesterday was a dog and pony show.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.

Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades -- usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each -- begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.

Early next year? Like a couple of months from now? Is George Casey suggesting we "cut and run"?

Rumsfeld has yet to sign Casey's withdrawal plan but, the senior defense official said, implementation of the plan, if approved, would start after the December 15 Iraqi elections so as not to discourage voters from going to the polls.

The plan, which would withdraw a limited amount of troops during 2006, requires that a host of milestones be reached before troops are withdrawn.

Top Pentagon officials have repeatedly discussed some of those milestones: Iraqi troops must demonstrate that they can handle security without U.S. help; the country's political process must be strong; and reconstruction and economic conditions must show signs of stability.

Prediction: Before the mid-term elections, "victory" will be declared and troops will begin coming home. Regardless of what is actually going on over there.
Vital Military Jobs Go Unfilled, Study Says - New York Times
Looks like we are running out of freedom spreaders. Draft, anyone? No? What are ya, unpatriotic?

The military is falling far behind in its effort to recruit and re-enlist soldiers for some of the most vital combat positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new government report.

The report, completed by the Government Accountability Office, shows that the Army, National Guard and Marines signed up as few as a third of the Special Forces soldiers, intelligence specialists and translators that they had aimed for over the last year.

Both the Army and the Marines, for instance, fell short of their goals for hiring roadside bomb defusers by about 20 percent in each of the last two years. The Army Reserve, meanwhile, failed to fill about a third of its more than 1,500 intelligence analysts jobs. And in the National Guard, there have been consistent shortages filling positions involving tanks, field artillery and intelligence.

The report found that, in all, the military, which is engaged in the most demanding wartime recruitment effort since the 1970's, had failed to fully staff 41 percent of its array of combat and noncombat specialties.

Officials with the accountability office, the independent investigative arm of Congress, found that some of the critical shortfalls had been masked by the overfilling of other positions in an effort to reach overall recruiting goals. As a result, the G.A.O. report questioned whether Congress had been given an accurate picture by the Pentagon of the military's ability to maintain the force it needs for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The aggregate recruiting numbers are rather meaningless," said Derek B. Stewart, the G.A.O.'s director of military personnel. "For Congress and this nation to truly understand what's happening with the all-volunteer force and its ability to recruit and retain highly qualified people, you have to drill down into occupational specialties. And when you do, it's very revealing."

Some military experts also said the gaps would be dangerous only if they continued. Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the problems posed by the shortfalls would be eased if the military began to reduce its deployment in Iraq.

"We are taking a gamble here that the Iraq mission can be wound down before the cumulative problems become really serious," Mr. O'Hanlon said.

Apparently Mr. O'Hanlan said this before the follies on the Hill yesterday.
The report found signs of wasted spending. In many cases the military offered enlistment bonuses to people who signed up for jobs that were already overfilled. An Army recruiter in New York, who insisted on anonymity because he had not been authorized to speak to the news media, said it was not uncommon for noncombat positions to be opened up at the end of a tough recruiting month even the Army did not need more people to do the job.

As a result, the report found that shortfalls in many occupations were more severe than overall recruiting totals. The active-duty Army missed its target of 80,000 soldiers by 8 percent last year, but fell short of its goal for human intelligence experts by 35 percent.

The war, several military experts said, has scared many young people away from dangerous work.

Really, no shit? What a surprise.

So what we have here is a weakened military, deficient in the critical positions. Feeling safer now?
House rejects Iraq pullout - Yahoo! News
I think the three who actually voted for this sham of a resolution are going to come out looking very good in the end.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a maneuver to strike at Iraq war critics, the Republican-led House of Representatives engineered a vote on Friday on a resolution to pull U.S. troops immediately from Iraq, which was defeated nearly unanimously.

Republicans, who introduced the surprise resolution hours before lawmakers were to start a Thanksgiving holiday recess, said the vote was intended to show support for U.S. forces.

Democrats denounced it as a political stunt and an attack on Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a leading Democratic military hawk who stunned his colleagues on Thursday by calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as quickly as possible.

This was a stunt. This had nothing to do with the war, or "supporting the troops", and had everything to do with silencing those who would question the direction of our involvement in Iraq. When we ask for a serious discussion, they respond with attacks on character- much in the way a little child would do when caught in a position where they know they have done wrong. This was a display of "government by 2 yr-olds".

I hope everyone remembers this. Not only will the WH attack you for asking hard questions, now they will use the entire House of Representatives to trivialize your concerns. These are your employees, America.

Time for new management. These fools have got to go.

Unlike Murtha's proposal calling for troops to be withdrawn "as soon as practicable," which he expected would be about six months, the Republican resolution said deployment of the U.S. forces should be "terminated immediately."

Democrats said no one advocated an immediate pull-out without ensuring the safety of troops, and that it was a meaningless resolution that ducked serious debate on the situation in Iraq. It was defeated 403-3.

"To take this proposal and trash it, trivialize it, is outrageous," said Rep. John Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Republicans had "stooped to a new low even for them."

Yes, it was a new low. John Aravosis at Americablog summed it up very well.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that the Republicans don't care about our troops. To them, our soldiers are props in one big propaganda war. That's all. So it doesn't matter if our troops are dying. It doesn't matter if the war was a mistake. It doesn't matter if we're losing. They simply don't care. The war was THEIR mistake and politically they can't admit a mistake. And that's what tonight is about."

And now the WH is running around claiming victory on this farce.
"Congress in strong, bipartisan fashion rejected the call to cut and run," White House spokesman Scott McClellan, traveling with Bush in Asia, said a statement.

What a joke. Set up a rigged vote, and then claim "I told ya so". The WH is left to manufacturing petty resolutions that have no real weight. Propaganda war, indeed.

I wish they all would have walked out, but I guess they played it right.

The three who bucked all odds- Jose Serrano of New York, Robert Wexler of Florida and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. Applause for them- They had enough courage to tell the Republicans to "shove it".

And many more....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hotline On Call: GOP Tries To Call Murtha's "Bluff"
Game ON, motherfuckers.

We can now confirm that there will be a "Murtha Vote" later this p.m. Speaker Dennis Hastert's spokesperson Ron Bonjean tells The Hotline that it's a "vote to send a message to our American troops that we believe in their mission of fighting terrorists and we must not retreat and defeat."

Angered by what he saw as House Dems "applauding but then backing off" Murtha's statement on 11/17, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) rose this a.m. at the House GOP Conference and suggested that they call for a vote to force Dems to show "where they stand to the American people," according to his spokesperson Larry VanHoose. Hayworth's call was met with what VanHoose described as "enthusiastic applause" from the rank-and-file GOP.

Pushing aside votes on extending the tax cuts, reauthorizing the Patriot Act and a long-awaited measure on federal flood insurance, the GOP leadership has turned Hayworth's idea into a resolution and will bring it to floor of the House for a vote by 7 pm, according to senior GOP leadership sources.

The question now is what Leader Pelosi and her caucus will do. After keeping her Dems in line on both major fiscal votes on 11/17, does she stick them all in cabs and push them off to DCA, IAD and BWI? Or will some Dems from conservative or military-heavy districts insist on staying and casting their "nays?"

CNN is reporting that Dems are planning on having just Murtha debate the resolution, but it remains to be seen how and if the rest of the caucus votes.

Let's hope the Dems have the stones to stand with the AMERICAN PEOPLE on this. Watch the language of the wording of the resolution- keep in mind that it is NOT Murtha's original, but will be a GOP written, political charged resolution hell-bent on punishing the Dems for bringing this up in the first place.

Don't let me down kids. Stick to your guns.

UPDATE: Yahoo has the story up now. Turn to C-SPAN if you want to see some fireworks. "Disgraceful", "dishonor to the House", "cheap political stunt", all kinds of fun stuff being throw around.
Fitzgerald sees new grand jury proceedings - Yahoo! News
Oh my yes. Keep it coming, Patrick.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Fitzgerald did not elaborate in the document. For two years he has been investigating the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. The grand jury that indicted Libby expired after the charges were filed late last month.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged.

Earlier this week Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward disclosed that he testified under oath to Fitzgerald that a senior Bush administration official had casually told him in mid-June 2003 about CIA operative Valerie Plame's position at the agency.

Fitzgerald's comments about bringing proceedings before a different grand jury were contained in court filings in which he backed off seeking a blanket order to keep all documents in the CIA leak case secret.

Must be that info doesn't hurt any new THAT case, let' see it! Let's see it all! Who did what to who when?
Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout - Yahoo! News
This guy had me in tears. I dare George "AWOL" Bush to call him "unpatriotic" right to his face.

WASHINGTON - One of Congress' most hawkish and influential Democrats called Thursday for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, sparking bitter and personal salvos from both sides in a growing Capitol Hill uproar over President Bush's war policies.

"It's time to bring them home," said Rep. John Murtha, a decorated Korean War and Vietnam combat veteran, choking back tears during remarks to reporters. "Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty."

The comments by the Pennsylvania lawmaker, who has spent three decades in the House, hold particular weight because he is close to many military commanders and has enormous credibility with his colleagues on defense issues. He voted for the war in 2002, and remains the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence," he said. "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

Underscoring the rising emotions of the war debate, Murtha uncharacteristically responded to Vice President Dick Cheney's comments this week that Democrats were spouting "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges" about the Bush administration's use of intelligence before the war.

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there," Murtha said. "I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

Referring to Bush, Murtha added, "I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he criticized Democrats for criticizing them."

Of course, the band of WH chickenhawks move immediately to discredit him in one of the most bizarre comparisons that I have ever seen. These guys are just reeking of desperation, and apparently have Sean Hannity writing their official responses.
"Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

"The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists," McClellan said. "After seeing his statement, we remain baffled, nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer."

You said it all, Scottie. You remain baffled. You guys are the most clueless, incompetent bunch of jerks ever to run a war. Michael Moore? Are you serious?

Anyway, you just keep up with the shit. This guy has got the creds to make you all look like the spinelesss, pathetic little smear machine manipulators that you are.

With a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Murtha retired from the Marine Corps reserves as a colonel in 1990 after 37 years as a Marine, only a few years longer than he's been in Congress. Elected in 1974, Murtha has become known as an authority on national security whose advice was sought out by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

Murtha's shift from an early war backer to a critic advocating withdrawal reflects plummeting public support for a war that has cost more than $200 billion and led to the deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. troops.

Known as a friend and champion of officers at the Pentagon and in the war zone, it is widely believed in Congress that Murtha often speaks for those in uniform and could be echoing what U.S. commanders in the field and in the Pentagon are saying privately about the conflict.

Murtha, who normally shuns the spotlight, said he spoke out because he has grown increasingly troubled by the war and has a constitutional and moral obligation to speak for the troops.

Several times a year, Murtha travels to Iraq to assess the war on the ground, and sometimes he just calls up generals to get firsthand accounts.

His voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as he related stories of one of his visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

One man, he said, was blinded and lost both his hands but had been denied a Purple Heart because friendly fire caused his injuries.

"I met with the commandant. I said, 'If you don't give him a Purple Heart, I'll give him one of mine.' And they gave him a Purple Heart," said Murtha, who has two.

So here we have a grizzly old Marine who is in constant contact with the Pentagon and the troops, ready to give up his Purple Heart to a wounded soldier. And you guys are going question his credibility and compare him to Michael Moore and the "liberals".

Actually, since 60% of the country now believes that Iraq wasn't "worth it", and 63% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war, I guess that makes the majority of Americans "unpatriotic traitors" and "liberals", also.


We are so screwed.
House Passes Sweeping Budget Cut Bill - Yahoo! News
They were literally thieves in the night.

WASHINGTON - House Republicans sweated out a victory on a major budget cut bill in the wee hours Friday, salvaging a major pillar of their agenda despite divisions within the party and nervousness among moderates that the vote could cost them in next year's elections.

The bill, passed 217-215 after a 25-minute-long roll call, makes modest but politically painful cuts across an array of programs for the poor, students and farmers.

The victory on the deficit-control bill came hours after an embarrassing and rare defeat on a $602 billion spending bill for education, health care and job training programs this year. The earlier 224-209 vote halted what had been a steady drive to complete annual appropriations bills freezing many agency budgets.
OK, "spending bills" and "cutting bills" are different creatures. I was very confused when I first read this.

I envision a scene now where they approve the spending first, only to cut it. Gotcha.

The broader budget bill would slice almost $50 billion from the deficit by the end of the decade by curbing rapidly growing benefit programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and student loan subsidies. Republicans said reining in such programs whose costs spiral upward each year automatically s the first step to restoring fiscal discipline.

"This unchecked spending is growing faster than our economy, faster than inflation, and far beyond our means to sustain it," said Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa.

Well, Jim, I guess you have to ask yourself WHY the spending is growing, don't you? It's the unchecked growth of poor people under this so-called fabulous economy, you twit.

The budget plan squeaked through after an all-day search by Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to round up votes from reluctant moderates and other lawmakers uneasy with the bill.

House leaders now face arduous talks with the Senate, which passed a much more modest plan earlier this month. Negotiators face difficult negotiations over Arctic drilling, Medicaid and student loans, among other issues

Those changes and other promises won the votes of lawmakers who had earlier registered opposition to the bill, including James Walsh, R-N.Y., Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., and Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y.

Dammit, Vern. Here I was starting to think you might be one of the good guys.

The afternoon vote was the first time in 10 years the House has rejected a final House-Senate compromise on a spending bill and the episode exposed weaknesses in the GOP leadership team after former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was forced to step down from his leadership post after his indictment on money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Democrats were unanimous in opposing the one-year appropriations bill.

The companion deficit-reduction bill also drew unanimous opposition from Democrats, who objected to both cuts in programs for the poor and the fact that the deficit-reduction bill would increase the deficit when combined with a tax slated for a vote later that would extend tax cuts on capital gains and dividend income due to expire at the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, in the chambers of the other band of thieves, we've got a difference of opinion on the cuts for capital gains, and an interesting tax increase on Big Oil. Will we pay for that at the pump?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved a $60 billion tax cut bill on Friday that would impose a $5 billion tax on big oil companies and provide new tax breaks to help rebuild hurricane devastated regions.

The package, approved on a vote of 64-33, passed the Senate only after provisions extending reduced tax rates for capital gains and dividends beyond their 2008 expiration were dropped. Democrats and some moderate Republicans put up solid opposition to those provisions.

The overall cost of the legislation was reduced by a number of revenue raising measures, including an accounting provision that would raise about $5 billion from big oil companies by temporarily changing the way they value oil inventories.

The bill extends a number of tax breaks for business, education and savings that otherwise would expire at the end of the year. Among them is a $30 billion measure that would keep millions of taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax next year -- a tax originally intended for the very wealthy.

While the Senate bill omitted the measure to extend the 15 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains, which had been backed by the administration, some Republicans have vowed to restore the measure later in the process.

The lower rate on investment income was the centerpiece of Bush's 2003 tax cut and is set to expire at the end of 2008. Unless Congress acts, the tax rate on capital gains would go to 20 percent and investors would pay regular income tax rates on dividends.

The tax legislation is part of a broader effort by congressional Republicans to continue Bush's tax cuts while trimming federal domestic spending to reduce deficits.

Democrats accused Republicans of putting too much of the deficit-cutting burden on the poor while giving generous tax breaks to the wealthy.

"Essentially, they've targeted the most vulnerable in our communities -- children, the aged, the blind and disabled -- for spending cuts that pave the way for tax cuts for the rich," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Republicans argue that the tax cuts will help generate economic growth.

So, where is all that economic growth, anyway? Oh, right. It helps the wealthy grow wealthier, and we call that "growth". I see. Those poor folks just have to wait for it to "trickle down" to them, or just take advantadge of all the wonderful opportunities for the disabled, the sick and the elderly that are out there. Why, all they have to do is get up and work for them, right? Oh, can't work? Well, too bad then. You must be lazy.