Sunday, April 30, 2006

The big 2-4

MANIFESTO

Rinker Bunk has an excellent article in today's Courant regarding Dear Leader's 24% approval rating in Connecticut. A highlight of the article:
Bush's myriad problems are not the kind that go away once memories of a single act recede with time. In addition to the war in Iraq and its assorted side issues -- the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, the $30 billion price tag to rebuild Iraq -- the Bush administration's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the phone calls of American citizens without court warrants has proven widely unpopular. Bush has also presided over a wholesale dismantling of environmental programs and racked up the largest federal deficits and borrowing in history. Even more dramatically, Bush has been paired in a unique co-presidency with Vice President Dick Cheney, whose own popularity ratings had bottomed out in the low 20s well before he was involved in the embarrassing shooting of a fellow hunter during a February weekend on a Texas ranch.
Yet even with this horrid record, El Presidente wants more: He wants to be all branches of government as Charlie Savage in today's Boston Globe so sagely points out:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
This should be the reason for Connecticut denizens—and all Americans—to be so disapproving of Dear Leader's actions. The Iraq War, the deficit, the destruction of the environment are just symptoms of the real disease: the desire on the part of the Bushies for autocratic rule. The Bushies want nothing less than for the US to become—as the cliché goes—a nation of men and not of laws. When this line is crossed—and I and many others believe it was crossed some time ago—it's time to batten down the hatches and hope that mere voting will bring us back from the dictatorial abyss we are so close to descending.

Truthiness, cont'd.

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Atrios points out this riotous episode.

The elephant in the corner

MANIFESTO

Every so often, the specter that is John Rowland emerges to taint yet another political event in Connecticut. This week such an event occurred again, this time affecting the state's judicial branch. To make a very long story short,
William J. "Tocco" Sullivan, who stepped down as chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court on April 15, but continues to sit on the court as a senior justice, ... has admitted that he withheld publication of a controversial decision because he was concerned about its impact on the nomination of his colleague, Justice Peter T. Zarella, to become chief justice.
And the situation
has roots in the cronyism cultivated on the state's highest court by former Gov. John G. Rowland.

Judges and others said Rowland's appointment of fellow Waterbury natives and close friends to be chief justice - Sullivan and his predecessor, Francis M. McDonald Jr. - politicized the judicial branch in an unprecedented way.
Of course, Governor (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil) Rell is now trying to stamp out the flames of this tawdry situation, but even she doesn't look entirely innocent in it all as she tried to railroad Zarella's nomination through the legislature—at least on Tuesday. Now she seems to be a little less enthusiastic.

One of these days, we'll get out from under the cloud that was the Rowland administration, but events like this one demonstrate that it won't be any time soon.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lovely Day for a Walk


MANIFESTO

My wife, a couple friends, and I joined thousands of other protestors who walked down Broadway in an anti-war demonstration today. As always, there was a lot of different groups there, including many who seem to spend more energy trying to vote out the current Democrats than they do George W Bush.

But it was a nice day for it, and there was a good crowd, with people leaving Union Square for at least two straight hours, which suggests to me that it was in the tens of thousands. We joined the march about an hour in, and even stopped for lunch at a diner along the way and were still able to join back in as the march continued.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Oldie but a Goodie

SPORTING GOODS

Watching the grainy footage from Pawtucket of Delmon Young throwing his bat and hitting an umpire a couple nights ago, reminded me of this classic minor league incident from a few years ago involving Sox long-time prospect Izzy Alcantara.

Gotta love Youtube.

Sex for votes?

MANIFESTO

That's how MSNBC is framing it, and is the blogosphere ever in a twitter over it. Certainly, Porter Goss must be a bit nervous about how this is starting to play out. It goes without saying that whenever bribery is involved, something more than money can always be in the mix. This could get interesting.

On another issue, the paternalistic Baby Boomers in the Connecticut legislature
voted Thursday to ban the sale of all soda and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade in public schools.

Only healthy drinks, such as water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice, will be sold in vending machines and school cafeterias starting July 1.

The bill now goes to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who said Thursday night she will sign the controversial measure that she has supported since reaching a compromise more than two months ago with Democrats.
Apparently, this legislation is meant to do something about the rising tide of obesity in school children. This approach is stupid enough, but get this:
While the bill included a detailed list of the few beverages that could be sold in the schools, the legislature did not mandate a similar list of banned junk-food products.

As a result, the legislation would not automatically ban candy and junk food from school vending machines, lawmakers said.
So, no Pepsi for you, but you're welcome to all the Snickers you can stuff in your face.

Give me strength.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Representin' Philly

SPORTING GOODS

In case you haven't seen it yet, I just wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of a "legend in the making" moustache being sported by Sal Fasano, the Phillies' backup catcher.

A great future ahead of them

MANIFESTO

(Yes, I'm aware that the title is redundant.) I attended a session last night at Yale put on by this group, which had as its featured speaker Katrina vanden Heuval (maligned by no less a wingnut than Rush Limbaugh six months ago). A very bright guy, Seth Green, also spoke.

I didn't hear a whole lot I didn't know before, but it was nice to hear people who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. It was also consoling to realize that current college students aren't all neo-fascists.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There's No Need to Fear ...

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

... because Underdog is here!

The great Jason Lee has been cast as the voice of Underdog in the upcoming live-action movie. If you're going to do it, this is the best way.

"Why the Republicans are Screwed"

MANIFESTO

The title of John Dickerson's new article at Slate pretty much says it all. Even if he is wrong, he has some reassuring words for Democrats:
If Republicans manage to hold on to their majorities, it will be because they have perfected the ability to use gerrymandering, pork-barreling, and other toll-keeping powers to maintain themselves in office, much like the Democrats they turned out of office in 1994. Retaining control by a narrow margin will do nothing to solve the struggle at the heart of the party between moderates and social conservatives, neoconservatives, and realists, and between fiscal conservatives and big spenders or fanatical tax cutters. In some sense, if the GOP wins ugly and keeps control, they'll be worse off, retaining undivided responsibility, without much actual ability to do anything, heading into the 2008 election. Even the nomination of Hillary Clinton may not unite the factions. Antipathy toward her husband didn't keep Republicans from a debilitating primary struggle in 1996.
God, I hate these people.

What global warming?


MANIFESTO

I'm always morbidly amused by Dear Leader's "solutions" to social problems. Yesterday, he took aim at astronomical gasoline prices and didn't disappoint.
Facing spiraling gasoline prices, President Bush on Tuesday authorized the temporary elimination of some environmental regulations for refineries ...
It's certainly not surprising that Mr. Harken wants to cut oil companies a break when millions are struggling with what amounts to a gas tax. He's used comparable ploys before and will certainly use them again.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not Soon Enough

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Another critic weighs in on the Too Soon question. New York Magazine's David Edelstein:
It is never too soon for an artist to grapple with a national trauma and its repercussions in the collective psyche. Nearly five years have passed since 9/11, and the events of that day have permeated popular culture at all levels, from the inchoate yearnings of an English physician in Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday, to the burgeoning rage of young terrorists in Syriana, to the torture-first-fill-out-paperwork-later ethos of the hero in TV’s 24. Yes, depictions of 9/11 still dredge up emotions that are difficult to bear. But the process of framing and reframing the tragedy is vital to our healing. We will relive 9/11 anyway, in our nightmares. The best defense is to face it head-on. As Nietzsche wrote, “Dare to be tragic men, and ye shall be redeemed...”

My answer, somewhat modified from above, is that if they truly help us—as the brilliant, tightly focused, and momentous United 93 helps us—to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and to pose more incisive questions, then it is not soon enough.
At Rotten Tomatoes, United 93 has received 94% approval from critics and 100% from the top critics. This is is going to be a movie to be reckoned with come award season.

I Hope He's Fair and Balanced

INSERT JOKE HERE

Fox News anchor Tony Snow has been offered the job of White House Spokesman.

UPDATE: He's in.

A case of Ambrositis

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

So it turns out that perhaps Kaavya Viswanathan isn't so precocious after all.
Kaavya Viswanathan, ... yesterday was trying to explain how about 13 passages similar to those of another author ended up in her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

Viswanathan's novel was ranked 32nd on the New York Times's hardcover fiction bestseller list and reportedly has landed a movie deal with DreamWorks studio. But this week, Viswanathan's college daily, the Harvard Crimson, accused her of using passages similar to those in two coming-of-age novels by Megan McCafferty.
Now, I happen to know just how popular McCafferty's books are with girls of a certain age, and it shouldn't be necessary for the Harvard Crimson to see similarities. One need go no further than the first lines to see plagiarism at work.

From McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts: "Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend."

From Opal Mehta: "Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend."

Cripes. Don't Little Brown's YA editors know what's out there?

Anyway, Ms. Viswanathan's defense is that she
had read and loved McCafferty's books a few years ago, while she was in high school.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words," Viswanathan's statement read. "I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious."
Given this rationale, the budding author may have more problems than simple plagiarism.

Nixonian Numbers

MANIFESTO

From this morning's Courant:
President Bush's job approval rating in Connecticut plunged to a record-low 24 percent this month, one of the most dismal showings in the nation - and a number the president could find difficult to reverse anytime soon.
This morning, I'm fairly proud to be a Connecticut Yankee, but see me in the fall to see if there are repercussions to this. Specifically, will these numbers presage losses for Senator Sanctimony and Rob Simmons? Here's hoping that the doltish duo sink right along with Dear Leader's coattails.

"No One is Going to Help Us"

From David Denby's review of United 93 in The New Yorker:
“No one is going to help us. We’ve got to do it ourselves.” Those plain, unarousing words, spoken by a man ordinary in looks but remarkable in perception and courage, are a turning point in United 93 Paul Greengrass's stunning account of how a group of airline passengers, almost certain of death, decided in the morning of September 11th to fight back against hijackers on a suicide mission...

Greengrass’s movie is tightly wrapped, minutely drawn, and, no matter how frightening, superbly precise. In comparison with past Hollywood treatments of Everyman heroism in time of war, such as Hitchcock's hammy Lifeboat, or more recent spectacle , like War of the Worlds, there’s no visual or verbal rhetoric, no swelling awareness of the Menace We All Face. Those movies were guaranteed to raise a lump in our throats. In this retelling of actual events, most of our emotion is centered in the pit of the stomach. The accumulated dread and grief get released when some of the male passengers, shortly after those few words are spoken, rush the hijackers stationed at the front of the plane with the engorged fury of water breaking through a dam...

A fair amount of distaste for this movie has been building in recent weeks. Would the heroic event—which ended when the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard—be exploited in some way? And why do we need to take this death trip? But United 93 is a tremendous experience of fear, bewilderment, and resolution, and, when you replay the movie in your head afterward, you are likely to think that Greengrass made all the right choices...

By the time the plane got off the ground, the attacks on the World Trade Center were only a few minutes away. In the movie, once the flight is aloft Greengrass sticks to real time, and the passing minutes have an almost demonic urgency. This is true existential filmmaking: there is only the next instant, and the one after that, and what are you going to do? Many films whip up tension with cunning and manipulation. As far as possible, this movie plays it straight. A few people made extraordinary use of those tormented minutes, and United 93 fully honors what was original and spontaneous and brave in their refusal to go quietly.
I, for one, reject the Too Soon mentality that United 93 and other 9/11-themed films face and look forward to seeing it this weekend.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Truth-ism

SPORTING GOODS

Great line by a regular sports old sports guy on one of the local evening news last night:
The Mets were looking to take 3 of 4 from the Padres, but Victor Zambrano stood in their way.
Not good when you are referred to as being in the way of your own team winning.

Old News

MANIFESTO

Many in the blogosphere are pointing out Tyler Drumheller's interview with Ed Bradley on Sixty Minutes last night wherein the CIA veteran maintained that
[w]hen no weapons of mass destruction surfaced in Iraq ... the real failure was not in the intelligence community but in the White House. He says he saw how the Bush administration, time and again, welcomed intelligence that fit the president's determination to go to war and turned a blind eye to intelligence that did not.
Pardon me, but didn't we already know this?

I guess, since the Bushies insist on sweeping this inconvenient set of circumstances under the rug, that it's worth being reminded of this, but, cripes, this was pretty much established three years ago.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Down and dirty with Turdblossom

MANIFESTO

Josh Marshall cites an E.J. Dionne, Jr. column from Friday wherein the Post's pundit articulates a concern I raised on Wednesday: that Karl Rove's move to political consultant can't be good news for the spirit of the upcoming elections.

Or, to paraphrase Bette Davis: Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy six months.

Taking Aim on Deadeye Dick


MANIFESTO

The Los Angeles Times' lead editorial this morning opines that
[s]econd terms are notoriously difficult for presidents. For President Bush, it has been disastrous. His swaggering November 2004 news conference — at which he bragged "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it" — seems from another era. Whatever political capital existed he has squandered with the Iraq war, the Valerie Plame leak inquiry and his ill-advised plan to partly privatize Social Security. His one victory — getting two reliable conservative jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court — is no doubt an enduring one. But there's nothing else.
So, what to do? The Times asserts that no mere rearranging of the deck chairs will do. Rather, something dramatic is necessary in order to regain the kind of traction Ronald Reagan obtained in his second (fairly scandal-plagued) term. Viz.,
[a] far more audacious makeover is needed — one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement.
Well, the paper's position is nothing if not venturesome.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Youtube

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I recently found out about Youtube; apparently it's a very popular site, and the fact that I'm now looking at it every so often no doubt means it's jumped the shark.

Be that as it may, there are some fairly clever and frequently well done videos on it. While much of it is self-indulgent crap, here's one I kind of like.

It Gets By Buckner!

SPORTING GOODS

This is probably only interesting to a very small section of the Daily411 audience but some guy has recreated the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on the Nintendo game RBI Baseball. This brought back memories for me on multiple levels. The first was listening the the great Vin Scully call the game on NBC. It's amazing how ingrained this still is in my mind after 20 years. The other was watching those squatty little baseballers in the game. How many hours I spent playing this game when I was a kid...

Watching (so-to-speak) this infamous half-inning again made me realize how Buckner has taken all the blame when it should have fallen on the shoulders of Boston's ineffectual relief pitchers, Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley. Be sure to stick around for the RBI Baseball theme at the end. Here (and here) are some other rallying music selections.

Who knew Marty Barrett was the Miller Lite Player of the Game?

A full plate

MANIFESTO

Dear Leader's Saturday address of today touched all the bases: "economy, energy prices, the war on terror, and immigration reform." He said nothing of moment on any of these issues, but at least someone's let him know where his current vulnerabilities are.

At any rate, he repeated the same old mumbo jumbo: The economy is strong, but gas prices are too high. (He might give some thought as to how these phenomena can exist simultaneously, but, then, he doesn't give much thought to anything.)

In the most condescending portion of the talk, GI George noted:
I have confidence in the outcome of [the so-called War on Terror] because I know the character of the people who wear our Nation's uniform. On Sunday, I will attend church and have lunch with Marine Corps and Navy personnel and their families at the Twentynine Palms base. I will tell them how honored I am to be their Commander in Chief and express the gratitude of all Americans for their service in the cause of freedom.

Since September the 11th, 2001, the men and women of our military have overthrown a cruel regime in Afghanistan, captured or killed many al Qaeda terrorists, liberated Iraq, and made America more secure from terrorist dangers. We're fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. By taking the fight to the terrorists and bringing liberty and hope to a troubled region, our courageous troops are making the world a safer place.
Give me strength. Going to church ... tell them how honored I am ... fighting terrorists abroad so they don't come marching down Main Street USA. Ho hum.

Finally, like his philosophy of leaking state secrets, Dear Leader wants to have it both ways on immigration, too.
Here's what I believe: America does not have to choose between being a welcoming society and being a lawful society. We can be both at the same time. In the coming weeks, I'll press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that secures our border, enforces our laws, meets the needs of our economy, and upholds our highest ideals.
In other words, clap louder.

Given a performance like this one (And, let's face it, he doesn't give any other kind these days.), it's not surprising that Gorgeous George's current approval rating is lower than any other president save the other Republican who tried to steal the country.

Mac Attack

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Since a number of people who read this blog are Mac fans, it's worthy of note that
[a] Mission Viejo, California, security researcher [yesterday] posted code that exploits a number of newly discovered and unpatched bugs in the Mac OS X platform ...

"There [seem] to be some problems with the claimed solid-as-a-rock Unix OS," [security expert Tom Ferris] wrote on his blog. "Getting Safari to crash in many different spots is trivial, as where Firefox is very tough."

Long considered to be more secure than Microsoft's Windows operating system, Mac OS X has increasingly been the focus of security researchers like Ferris. In February a number of malicious programs, including one called OSX/Leap, were released targeting the Macintosh.
Just a word to the wise. I'm glad to see that Firefox seems to be less vulnerable than the Apple-developed Safari since the former is the browser of choice of most Mac users I know. (I also prefer Firefox's interface for Wintel machines.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

I'm the decider, part deux

MANIFESTO

Whatever you do, don't miss this tour de force by one Paul Hipp. It's an instant classic.

Ozone Man

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The next "Most Controversial Movie of the Year!" will undoubtedly be Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Basically a filmed version of a PowerPoint presentation he has been giving for years, I originally thought it sounded about as exciting as counting butterfly ballots. But when it played at Sundance, it blew the lid off the joint.

Jeffrey Wells:
An Inconvenient Truth is Gore's crowning achievement...the summation of his life...the reason he was put on this earth to become a politican and a stirrer-upper and influencer of public opinion.

Because if people see Truth in sufficient numbers, Gore will have done more to save this planet from ruination than anyone in his realm has ever managed.

It's due out May 24th and my guess it will be a major Talking Point for everybody. It will also bring up a lot of "What If Al Had Won?" ponderings from people on the Left. It's getting hard to image and Gore/Bush comparison working out favorably for the Boy King in anyone's mind except for die hard Righties.

Richard Cohen:

You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat Gore in 2000. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush's initial approach to global warming. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by winning in 2000.

David Remnick:

An Inconvenient Truth is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide ...

The catch, of course, is that the audience-of-one that most urgently needs to see the film and take it to heart—namely, the man who beat Gore in the courts six years ago—does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep. Inconvenient truths are precisely what this White House is structured to avoid and deny ...

It is past time to recognize that, over a long career, [Gore's] policy judgment and his moral judgment alike have been admirable and acute. [He] has been right about global warming since holding the first congressional hearing on the topic, twenty-six years ago. He was right about the role of the Internet, right about the need to reform welfare and cut the federal deficit, right about confronting Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo. Since September 11th, he has been right about constitutional abuse, right about warrantless domestic spying, and right about the calamity of sanctioned torture. And in the case of Iraq, both before the invasion and after, he was right—courageously right—to distrust as fatally flawed the political and moral good faith, operational competence, and strategic wisdom of the Bush Administration.

After six years of The Boy King and his faith-based science, I think people are beginning to cast off the shackles of government-imposed ignorance. Evolution and Global Warming are just two "controversial" subject that have once again gained favor with mainstreamers. Hopefully this trend, unlike the overheating of our planet, will continue when these same folks vote at the polls.

View the trailer here.

Me Like Mike (Piazza Version)

SPORTING GOODS

It was fun and a little sad seeing Mike Piazza play with his new team versus the Mets last night. He’s having a miserable season so far (.231, I HR, 4 RBI) and has a contract that pretty much guarantees he won’t be back in San Diego next year. (He has an $8M team option for 2007.) It’s clear that all the wear-and-tear of being a full-time catcher for so many years has undoubtedly cut short his brilliant career. I think you have to give credit to Piazza for essentially sacrificing a few years and untold millions of dollars by refusing to become a DH. No offense to all you David Ortiz fans out there, but in my mind, all designated hitters should be a little ashamed of themselves. (My NL bias is clearly showing here.)

Nonetheless, it was funny to hear that Piazza was actually “a little nervous” playing against his old team. I forget sometimes that these guys are susceptible to the same pangs of sentimentality as the rest of us. And speaking of being sentimental, it literally warmed my heart when I read Piazza wants to wear a Mets cap when he is inevitably voted into the Hall of Fame. I look forward to August 8-10 when he returns to Shea Stadium for perhaps the last time as an active player.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Desperate Times

MANIFESTO

I was out of town for the past 24 hours and missed the shakeup in the White House. The Hartford Courant calls it nothing less than "a frank acknowledgement of the trouble in which President Bush now finds himself." Certainly, the executive branch is much better without Rove, but the fact that his new position will involve "planning for a November midterm election" doesn't bode well for the tenor of those elections.

And McClellan ... Alas, poor ("I'm givin' 'er all I got, Cuptain") Scotty. Who will be the lucky therapist who makes millions listening to the ruminations of a man who woke up one day and found he was charged with trying to justify the policy decisions of a madman? Itinerant psychologists must be hanging up their shingles in DC as we speak.

BTW, a letter I wrote was published in the Courant today.

Our time!

SPORTING GOODS

As cheesy as it is, I'm a big fan of the old Mets' theme song. But, times change, and the Mets have a new craptacular song, that you can listen to, or even download, by following this link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eminent Domain

MANIFESTO

I have to admit I'm of two minds on this.
The [Connecticut] House of Representatives voted Tuesday to make underage drinking on private property illegal, closing a loophole that has allowed parents to hold house parties for their teens and friends.

The bill passed on a 123-23 vote. It awaits action in the Senate.

The legislation makes it illegal for someone who owns or controls private property to knowingly allow a minor to possess alcohol, or fail to make reasonable efforts to stop a minor from possessing alcohol.

A first offense would be an infraction. Subsequent offenses would carry up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Look. I know times have changed and that alcohol ingestion can affect all of us by raising insurance and health care fees, but I still have a problem with legislatures getting involved with what should be private matters. The Bible thumpers would like to limit methods and frequency of sexual relations; I don't see a lot of difference between that curbing of what should be a private issue and this.

But I'm certainly willing to listen to opposing arguments.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More NCLB Nonsense

MANIFESTO

In this excellent story from Hartford, AP writer Frank Bass discusses another crucial problem with the half-witted No Child Left Behind Act.
Wedged in a poor, gritty immigrant neighborhood, Henry C. Dwight Elementary School harks back to an earlier era of learning. Its ceilings are high, there is a fireplace in the library and students wear uniforms as they dart between classrooms.

The oldest public school in one of the nation's oldest cities, Dwight finds itself at the center of a growing national debate over whether the nation's newest education experiment is — unexpectedly — encouraging school segregation.

That's because the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to demonstrate that students in specific racial, social and economic groups are making annual progress. A school fails if even one group fails. The more groups in a school, the greater chance for failure.

Dwight's population is racially and economically diverse, making its future under the law uncertain even though it is currently meeting its goals.
So how to avoid being designated a "failing school?" The answer isn't surprising.
Many of Connecticut's mostly white, rich suburban schools, which already are succeeding under the law, don't want the same uncertainty. They are resisting efforts to diversify, fearing that taking minority or poor students will hurt their chances to meet the law's requirements ...

"The really rich and ritzy suburbs that don't participate in any form of integration, that turn their backs on all efforts to admit minority kids or low-income kids into their first-rate public schools, those districts aren't going to suffer at all," said Jonathan Kozol, an educator and author of several acclaimed books on race and education.

"They're going to be rewarded for their selfishness. They're going to be rewarded for their racial insularity because they're not admitting any kids who are at any academic risk. They're not admitting any kids who had been previously studying, for perhaps the first six years of school, in a rotten, overcrowded school."
This pretty much is standard operating procedure for the Bushies: Create some piece of legislation (with a flashy name, of course) that has as its ostensible goal an improvement in an area of society, and, then, make the provisions such that it ultimately penalizes the very people it's supposed to benefit.

From the ubiquitous testing to the difficulties in designating "highly qualified teachers" to the de facto segregation the act creates, this is an abominable piece of legislation and is yet another reason to hope that Democrats attain majorities in the two houses of Congress this fall.

I'm the decider

MANIFESTO

A performance not to be missed. Cripes ... Two meltdowns in two days. What're they smoking in the Executive Branch?

At any rate, it's noteworthy to realize yet again that the country's chief executive has the stability of an eight-year-old.

Digby comments on this tirade as only he can.

Me Like Mike

MANIFESTO

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded yesterday and I was thrilled to see the brilliant Mike Luckovich won for "Editorial Cartooning." Luckovich was cited for twenty cartoons he created for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Like any Op-Ed writer, Luckovich takes sides and lets his opinion be known. The Pulitzer board praised him "for his powerful cartoons on an array of issues, drawn with a simple but piercing style."

"Incompetence/Fantasy" is my favorite because it is so dead-on but they are all worth a look. (Don't miss "CBS," "Eat Less Fatso," "Back of the Bus,"or "Why?" either.) I defy anyone to say more with less than Luckovich.

And he wins a cash prize of $10,000!

NOTE: I also want to give the Pulitzer Board credit for having the stones to not give out an award for Drama this year. (There were three plays nominated...hate to be one of those writers.) I find it refreshing that they are willing to admit that some years are better than others and sometimes no one deserves an award. Now if only they would give an award for filmmaking. I guarantee it wouldn't have gone to Crash.

I Spy a Finale

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

For the last five years, Jennifer Garner has been my TV girlfriend. What exactly does this mean? It means that if I could be with any woman currently on television (and had never met my wife), it would be Jennifer Garner. It is not just a sex thing, although she is obviously sexy. It's about attraction which is more complicated. Needless to say, I'd put her #1 in my speed-dial if the opportunity arose. Which it never will.

So set your TiVos everybody because Alias finally returns for its final run tomorrow at 8:00. Despite some major missteps in the last few seasons, Alias is still one of my favorite all-time shows. I still remember the joy of the first episode where bad-ass secret agent Sydney Bristow slinked around in that famous red hair kicking bad-guy butt. Too bad she is not even the best character on the show.

That would be Victor Garber's Jack Bristow. He is one of my three or four favorite TV characters of all time, right up there with Jack Bauer, Tony Soprano, and Dale Cooper. Garber is a terrific minimalist. With his furrowed brow and clipped enunciation, he makes Jack a riviting character without a lot of pyrotechnics. But when he does lose his temper, watch out. I will especially miss his scenes with Lena Olin's duplicitous ex-wife Irina Durevko. They were full of more undercurrents than you can count.

In any case, the final eight hours of Alias will start tomorrow with a two-hour episode and end May 24 with a two-hour finale. In between, Weiss, Vaughn, Will and Irina will all be back for final appearances. I'd love it if Francie popped up but I can't remember if she is dead or not. (Not that this matters on Alias.) Alias was not a perfect show. But when it was clicking (like in the first two seasons), it was truly perfect entertainment.

Psychosis

MANIFESTO

Compare this famous movie speech evincing paranoid schizophrenia,
"[T]hey were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. The crew wanted to walk around with their shirt tails hanging out, that's all right, let them. Take the tow line, defective equipment, no more, no less. But they encouraged the crew to go around scoffing at me, and spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles, and then old yellow-strain. I was to blame for Lt. Maryk's incompetence and poor seamanship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Captain Queeg. Ah, but the strawberries, that's where I had them, they laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that a duplicate key to the ward room icebox did exist, and I've had produced that key if they hadn't pulled the Caine out of action,"
with this comment from the Secretary of Defense yesterday:
There have always been people who have opposed wars. Wars are terrible things. On the other hand, if every time there were critics and opponents to war, we wouldn't have won the Revolutionary War and we wouldn't have been involved in World War I or II, and if we had we would have failed, and our country would be a totally different place if it existed at all, if every time there were some critics that we tossed in the towel. I think we just have to accept it, that people have a right to say what they want to say, and to have an acceptance of that and recognize that the terrorists, Zarqawi and bin Laden and Zawahiri, those people have media committees.

They are actively out there trying to manipulate the press in the United States. They are very good at it.
Whew! This guy has definitely got to change his meds. It's hardly a consoling thought that this obvious lunatic just received another ringing endorsement from the leaker-in-chief.

(Thanks to Atrios for the heads up.)

Clueless Joe makes the cut

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

He's number sixty on a list I'm not on only because I lack celebrity.

Hell freezes over

MANIFESTO

Who wrote the following?
If in November Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives, April 5 should be remembered as the day they demonstrated that they earned defeat. Traducing the Constitution and disgracing conservatism, they used their power for their only remaining purpose - to cling to power. Their vote to restrict freedom of speech came just as the GOP's conservative base is coming to the conclusion that House Republicans are not worth working for in October or venturing out to vote for in November.

The "problem" Republicans addressed is that in 2004 Democrats were more successful than Republicans in using 527 organizations - advocacy groups named after the tax code provision governing them. In 2002, McCain-Feingold banned large "soft money" contributions for parties - money for issue-advocacy and organizational activities, not for candidates. In 2004, to the surprise of no sensible person and most McCain-Feingold supporters, much of the money - especially huge contributions from rich liberals - was diverted to 527s. So on April 5, House Republicans, easily shedding what little remains of their ballast of belief in freedom and limited government, voted to severely limit the amounts that can be given to 527s.

Candice Miller, R-Mich., said that restricting 527s would combat "nauseating ugliness, negativity and hyperpartisanship." Oh, so that is what the First Amendment means: Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless speech annoys politicians.
Richard Reeves? Molly Ivins? Bob Herbert? E.J. Dionne, Jr.? Not even close.

For the surprising answer, look here.

UPDATE — All three of Connecticut's House Repubicans voted for this heinous legislation. A letter pointing this out has been sent to the Hartford Courant.

Another nail in the coffin


SPORTING GOODS

The latest in Barry Bonds' travails can be found here.

Supply and Demand

MANIFESTO

To me, this seems like a no-brainer:
A study in the April issue of the Journal of Finance found that in the three years after a [bank] merger, competition for loans typically declines. Interest rates the bank charges customers for loans rise significantly and borrowers get smaller loans.

The bottom line of the study by University of California-Los Angeles Prof. Mark J. Garmaise and University of Chicago Prof. Tobias J. Moskowitz: Bank mergers may reduce competition in an area. When there is less competition, loan rates tend to be higher.
Just another way the American consumer continues to get screwed while the plutocrats in Washington look on approvingly.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Unsettling words

MANIFESTO

From retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner's appearance on "Democracy Now" earlier today:
[T]he Iranians in their press have been writing now for almost a year that the United States is involved inside Iran conducting and supporting those who conduct military operations, attacks on military convoys. They've even accused the United States of shooting down a couple airplanes inside Iran. Okay, so there's that evidence from their side.

I was in Berlin three weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I asked him a question. I read these stories about Americans being involved in there, and how do you react to that? And he said, oh, we know they are. We've captured people who are working with them, and they've confessed. So, another piece of evidence.

Let me give you a couple more. Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article, said that there are Americans in three locations operating inside Iran. Another point. We know that there is a group in Iraq, a Kurdish group called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, that crosses the border from Iraq into Iran, and they have taken credit for killing numbers of revolutionary guard military people. And the interesting part about that is, you know, we tell the Syrians, ‘Don't let that happen. Don't let people come across the border and stir things up in Iraq,’ but we don't seem to be putting any brakes on on this unit. So, you know, the evidence is pretty strong that the pattern is being followed.

Now, the question that really follows from that is “Who authorized that?” See, there is no congressional authorization to conduct combat operations against Iran. There are a couple of possibilities. One of them is that it's being justified under the terrorism authorization that occurred in 2001. The problem with that is that you would have to prove a connection to 9/11. I don't think you can do that with Iran. The second possibility is that it's being done under the War Powers Act. I don't want to get too technical, but the War Powers Act would require the President to notify the Congress 60 days after the use of military force or invasion or putting military forces in a new country under that legislation, and the President hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran. So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran.
More and more, it looks as if Sy Hersh is absolutely right: that an attack on Iran is a fait accompli. One might ask how this is to be accomplished with no US armed forces to speak of, but these morons keep thinking that if they just keep attacking, somehow they'll get it right.

Of greater concern, of course, is Col. Gardiner's last paragraph: There is no legal justification for such an attack. Thus, not only are the Bushies running roughshod over foreign policy; they've sabotaged the Constitution. Like I've said before: a coup d'etat.

I really didn't think an attack of some kind was a possibility; I should have remembered whom I was dealing with.

Gay gone

SPORTING GOODS

Rudy Gay has announced that he will enter the NBA draft, which puts UConn halfway on the road to having their 2007 national championship hopes decimated. I expect Mr. Marcus Williams will follow suit.

One noted NBA draft site now predicts that five Huskies (including Williams) will be selected in the draft this summer. This is a bit reminiscent of the 2005 North Carolina team, which of course actually lived up to its potential in winning the national title.

Interesting to see that the site predicts Gay will go 5th in the draft now. As he was the consensus number one pick entering the season, his inability to take over meaningful games or assert himself at will has hurt him a bit. I expect that his tantalizing athleticism and "length" will lead to him rising again as workouts progress.

Depending on the decisions made over the next few weeks, it's possible that UConn could be "Josh Boone's team" next year, which for some reason makes me think of the mid-90s Knicks. No thanks.

Monday Natterings

MANIFESTO

Atrios links to this site wherein radio pundit Colin McEnroe is "put to sleep" by Joe Lieberman. While Connecticut's junior senator is certainly one of the most soporific humans on the planet, this was clearly a bit by the esteemed Mr. McEnroe—one I've heard him use on the radio many times.

Be that as it may, I was struck by Senator Sanctimony's contention in the videotape that he was considering a run as an independent only so that the good people of the Constitution State could have a real choice in electing a senator. Apparently, it has nothing to do with Clueless Joe's overweening ego.

On a related subject, I had a chance this weekend to chat with some like-minded friends about the upcoming Democratic race. We all agreed that we had either contributed, or would soon contribute, to Ned Lamont's campaign, which is by no means a quixotic venture as he's already received over $300,000 from contributors. And as he contributes to his own war chest, he should be able to run an eminently legitimate campaign.

Finally, in Big Apple news, I see that
Police are reportedly coming down hard on subway riders who ride or walk between cars.

According to the Daily News, police have issued nearly 600 tickets to people caught walking between cars, in the first three months of this year.
I had no idea such a thing was illegal as I don't think I've ever ridden a subway car where this hasn't occurred at least once.

Well, it's one way to add to the city's coffers.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Drive me Crazy

SPORTING GOODS

You can't win 'em all, and I have been happy/impressed with Tito's moves of batting Youkilis leadoff with Crisp injured, and of going to Papelbon as the closer quickly, before Foulke had the chance to blow several saves.

But my biggest ongoing gripe with Francona has to be his habit of deciding to bench a number of starters when Wakefield is pitching. For those that don't follow the Sox, All-Star catcher Jason Varitek does not catch the knuckleballer, so this year a relative unknown Josh Bard will be in the lineup every fifth day.

That's fine, and unavoidable. With Trot Nixon ailing and Coco Crisp on the DL, that leaves the Sox down three of their usual starters. So why is it today of all days that Francona insists that starters Mike Lowell and Mike Loretta need a day off? That left the Sox with 4 of their opening day starters in the lineup, including Alex Gonzalez who isn't much of a hitter (to say the least).

Not surprisingly, about 2.5 hours after I first complained about Francona's insistence on doing this - well, that was the first time I had complained about it today - the Mariners completed their shut out of the Boston Red Sox in front of a sell-out Saturday crowd. Even as the Sox put together an occasional rally, it would never be long before the Mariners had the pleasure of facing some part of the J.T. Snow - Wily Mo Pena - Josh Bard - Alex Gonzalez - Adam Stern - Alex Cora portion of the lineup.

A pitcher can breeze through a lot of innings with that lineup. And today, that's exactly what Joel Pineiro, J.J. Putz, and Eddie Guardado did.

Loose Ends

MANIFESTO

The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, VA makes an important point regarding the recent Connecticut PATRIOT Act case. Viz.,
Federal prosecutors say they will no longer try to enforce a gag order against Connecticut librarians.

They should say they will no longer appeal a judge’s ruling that already essentially had ordered them to do just that.

There’s an important difference ...

Congress has [already] altered the Patriot Act to add an appeals process by people who might dispute an order that they not disclose their involvement in a federal request for information ...

[T]he government could end the dispute right now by dropping its appeal.

That would be more honorable than saying it will not enforce a practice that already has been [altered].
But, of course, this government has never been known for doing the honorable thing.

And speaking of honorable things,
An Ipsos Poll released this week found almost six of 10 people, 58 percent, say the [tax] system is unjust, a number that is virtually unchanged from two decades ago.

People think the middle class, the self-employed and small businesses pay too much in taxes, the poll found. And they think those with high incomes and big businesses don't pay enough.
Needless to say, people are always going to complain about their taxes, but this outcome seems about right. That is, the system is currently rigged, and it's certainly not in favor of the middle and lower classes.

As he is wont to do, Paul Krugman explained all of this quite nicely in yesterday's Times:
The Treasury Department [recently] put out an exercise in spin called the "Tax Relief Kit," which tries to create the impression that most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income families. Conspicuously missing from the document are any actual numbers about how the tax cuts were distributed among different income classes. Yet Treasury analysts have calculated those numbers, and there's enough information in the "kit" to figure out what they discovered.

... Here's the bottom line: about 32 percent of the tax cuts went to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people whose income this year will be at least $341,773. About 53 percent of the tax cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population. Remember, these are the administration's own numbers—numbers that it refuses to release to the public ...

And what about the people Senator Grassley compared to Hitler, those who say that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive 40 percent of the tax cuts? Although the "Tax Relief Kit" asserts that "nearly all of the tax cut provisions" are already in effect, that's not true: one crucial piece of the Bush tax cuts, elimination of the estate tax, hasn't taken effect yet. Since only estates bigger than $2 million, or $4 million for a married couple, face taxation, the great bulk of the gains from estate tax repeal will go to the wealthiest 1 percent. This will raise their share of the overall tax cuts to, you guessed it, about 40 percent.
Happy April 15th.

UPDATE — Dear Leader's radio address this morning had to do with making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent "for the sake of American workers and their families." Sigh.

Friday, April 14, 2006

For those who got here late

MANIFESTO

Michael Kinsley has a pretty good precís of how the US got to its current ridiculous position in the Mideast.

Hangin' in there

MANIFESTO

Yesterday, yet another former general articulated his feeling that Rummy should get out of town, bringing the number of former generals who share this feeling to at least five.

The king of the chickenhawks has nothing to worry about; GI George this afternoon announced his continued support of the incompetent setuagenarian.

So it goes.

Hey, look over there!

MANIFESTO

From Krugman earlier this week:
Current polls suggest that the Democrats could take one or both houses of Congress this November, acquiring the ability to launch investigations backed by subpoena power. This could blow the lid off multiple Bush administration scandals. Political analysts openly suggest that an attack on Iran offers Mr. Bush a way to head off this danger, that an appropriately timed military strike could change the domestic political dynamics.
This possible (and all too familiar) scenario is something to remember as we head toward the fall elections.

And the fact that the US has no money for another inane international escapade will not deter these politics-driven maniacs.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Less than a full court press

MANIFESTO

From Tristero at Digby's blog today:
[T]he press ... stopped doing its job in November, 2000, when the election was stolen. And ... [w]hy wasn't the country ready for the truth in November, 2000? Because the press covered the 2000 election campaign in an utterly incompetent fashion. And, herdlike, everyone in the press - Krugman the only serious exception - chose to ignore what was staring them in the face. It was too uncomfortable to believe that a major presidential candidate would blatantly lie about his economic program, or that that same candidate actually would steal an American election. It was too painful to imagine that as president, that same incompetent liar would neglect the most dangerous threats to America, an incompetence so spectacular that a bunch of ignorant fanatics could pull off a still unbelievably horrible series of terrorist attacks. It was simply beyond the pale to imagine that this same unspeakable bastard would then lie the United States into a bogus war, causing the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people, American and Iraqi alike, and mind-boggling anarchy.

In short, it doesn't matter what the public is ready for, or what the press corps as a whole thinks is important to report. It's what the real story is. Hersh understands this. Danner understands this. Fisk, too, and a few others. Unfortunately, aside from these few, and what appears to be somewhat more aggresive reporting, what happened with the trailer story is still happening. Even now, the American press as a whole simply is not reporting the real story of this administration when it's still news [sic].
This realization is especially important as the prospect of a nuclear strike against a sovereign nation (ordered by a commander-in-chief whose war policy is supported by a mere 37% of the population) looms.

In omnibus, libertas

MANIFESTO

Speaking as a militant radical, I'm pleased that the thought police have backed off in their attempt to gag librarians as the latter react to the fascistic USA PATRIOT Act.
After fighting ferociously for months, federal prosecutors relented yesterday and agreed to allow a Connecticut library group to identify itself as the recipient of a secret F.B.I. demand for records in a counterterrorism investigation.

The decision ended a dispute over whether the broad provisions for secrecy in the USA Patriot Act, the antiterror law, trumped the free speech rights of library officials. The librarians had gone to federal court to gain permission to identify themselves as the recipients of the secret subpoena, known as a national security letter, ordering them to turn over patron records and e-mail messages.
My thanks to the ACLU for taking on this case and to the American Library Association for making it the issue it deserved to be.

Of course, we can still have our phone conversations listened to ...

Capricorn One redux?

MANIFESTO

A tape identified as the last minutes of the September 11, 2001 United Airlines Flight 93 was played at the Moussaoui trial yesterday.

Needless to say, I'm not entirely sure I'm buying it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Most Expensive Sandwich (yet)

FOOD FIGHT

If you've tired of the crazy, expensive burger, then you'll be pleased to find out you have another way to spend your cash. London's Selfridge's announced their new sandwich, the McDonald Sandwich (after the chef, not the fast food chain). Weighing in at 21 ounces and stuffed between 24-fermented sourdough bread is Wagyu beef (you know, the one massaged with sake), fresh lobe foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, brie de meaux, rocket (arugula I believe), red pepper, mustard confit, and English plum tomatoes. All that for about $150 (85 GBP). Only five have been ordered so far which surprises me actually. Maybe their food director is a little off base..."I think if you are a food lover, this represents great value for money."

Why I hate Viacom, cont'd

MANIFESTO

I've received some e-mails recently from this organization, which is running a campaign to let Viacom know of its dissatisfaction over the network's refusal to run ads having to do with inclusion in the United Church of Christ. I've gotten involved in the organization's astroturf campaign, and I encourage readers of this blog to do the same.

At any rate, it's almost invariably the case that, when network talk shows want to hear a "Christian" perspective, they interview such neanderthals as Falwell, Reed, and Robertson.

Fool me once ...

MANIFESTO

The news that Iran has now "joined the club of nuclear countries" has had a markedly low key response from the usual hysterics in Washington. It was an issue that the king of the chickenhawks, Donald H. Rumsfeld, hardly wanted to touch yesterday:
"I'd rather wait and see what our experts say about it. I've not seen the statement, I've not had a chance to analyse anything that they've said, and nor have I had a chance to talk to the people who have the responsibility in the United States Government for making judgements and assessments with respect to things like that."
I'm of at least three minds on this cautionary statement.

First, it's interesting that Rummy's willing to sit back on this one after he was so hell-bent on invading Iraq, which said it had no nuclear capabilities and really didn't. Now, Iran admits it can enrich uranium and the reaction is tepid at best.

However, it's possible to look at this and feel that these bozos have finally learned their lesson about precipitous military actions and actually will consult with people who know something about the situation—as opposed to ramming some half-cocked policy through.

Third thought: Rummy's lying. God knows he's done so before.

Finally, a few entities have called Iran's new capability a "step in the wrong direction." I suppose this is true if the paternalistic powers that be would prefer that Iran step back into the 19th century.

A gho(st) arises

SPORTING GOODS

Astonishingly, it looks as if the Greater Hartford Open will be resurrected as a summer FedEx event after all.

For a state that's been reduced to grasping at straws vis-à-vis major sporting events, this is, indeed, good news.

(I apologize to the readers of this blog who couldn't give two hoots about golf (or "golf action" as the CBS shills are insistent upon calling it), but this really is the big story in Connecticut this morning.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I did not know that

SPORTING GOODS

I am sure that other contributors to this site knew this, but I just found out that the Mets' starting pitcher today, Brian Bannister, is the son of Floyd Bannister.

Even though Bannister was basically an average pitcher, I remember him, and that somehow is enough for me to think slightly higher of his son. I guess that makes me "nepotistic," as a caller into NY1's sports show once said.

More of this, please

SPORTING GOODS

With Coco Crisp going down to injury, it looks as if Adam Stern will be the medium-term replacement while Coco heals. He is a fine player, killed the US in the WBC for Canada, but at the same time he has gotten spare playing time for a reason.

On Sunday, the replacement for Coco in the field was also his replacement at the top of the order. Fast centerfielder bats leadoff, right?

Well today in the home opener, the Sox will bat the slow, but often-on-base Kevin Youkilis lead-off, followed by Mark Loretta. Stern will bat 8th. Their career On-base percentages? KY: .381 ML: .366 AS: .273

Theo-ball, baby. Stuff like this will win you games over the course of the year. Home opener, let's go!!!

From the mouth of an Ivy Leaguer

MANIFESTO

During a talk yesterday at Johns Hopkins University, the president of the United States was asked to share with aspiring policymakers "some wisdom or some insight" based on his experience with the "very difficult decisions on the use of force and engaging in war."

It's clear that he hasn't learned a blessed thing given his response. He continues to use the same tired platitudes that have already been disproven, and yet he really seems to think that people are actually buying this crap.
"Thanks for the question. I would encourage those of you studying here to be a part of policymaking for our government. It's -- it is a high honor to serve your country. And my first advice is, never use force until you've exhausted all diplomacy. I -- my second advice is, if you ever put anybody in harm's way, make sure they have got all the support of the government. My third advice is, don't make decisions on polls. Stand your ground if you think what you're doing [is] right.
Ignore the fact that he can't articulate an intelligent sentence—the fact that he's still spouting the "diplomacy first, war only as a last resort" is incredible—but, sadly, typical. The Downing Street memo gave the lie to that sentiment some time ago.
"Much of my decision about what we're discussing these days was affected by an event. Look, I -- during the 2000 campaign, I don't remember ever discussing with people what -- could I handle war, or could my opponent handle war. The war wasn't on our mind. War came unexpectedly. We didn't ask for the attack, but it came. And so much of the statements I make and have made since that war were a result of that attack.

"I vowed then that I would use all assets of our power to win the war on terror. That's what I vowed. It -- the September 11th attacks affected me. It affected my thinking deeply. The most important job of the government is to protect the people from an attack. And so I said we were going to stay on the offense two ways: one, hunt down the enemy and bring them to justice, and take threats seriously; and two, spread freedom. And that's what we've been doing, and that's what I'm going to continue to do as the president.
The facts that Osama bin Laden still lives, that al Qaeda is a stronger force than ever, and that Iraq has now descended into civil war shows just how foolish these statements are.
"I think about the war on terror all the time. Now, I understand there's a difference of opinion in a country. Some view the attack as kind of an isolated incident. I don't. I view it as a part of a strategy by a totalitarian, ideologically based group of people who've announced their intentions to spread that ideology and to attack us again. That's what they've said they're going to do. And the most dangerous -- the biggest danger facing our country is whether -- if the terrorists get a weapons of mass destruction to use. Now, perhaps some in our country think it's a -- that's a pipedream; I don't. I think it is a very real threat, and therefore, will spend my presidency rallying our assets -- intelligence assets, military assets, financial assets, diplomatic initiatives -- to keep the enemy off balance, and to bring them to justice.
Still with the weapons of mass detsruction mantra. We all saw how accurate that was in Iraq. And Bush knew it and still attacked.
"Now, if you're going to be the president or a policymaker, you never know what's going to come. That's the interesting thing about the world in which we live. We're a influential nation, and so, therefore, many problems come to the Oval Office. And you don't know what those problems are going to be, which then argues for having smart people around. That's why you ought to serve in government if you're not going to be the president. You have a chance to influence policy by giving good recommendations to the president.

"You got to listen in my line of work, and I listen a lot. Ours is a complex organization that requires a management structure that lets people come into the Oval Office and explain their positions. And I think it's to my interest, by the way, that not everybody agree all the time. You can't make good decisions unless there's a little -- kind of a little agitation in there. And sometimes we have.
Yeah. Sure you have. Just ask Paul O'Neill and Erik Shinseki how much their insights were valued.
"But anyway, good question. I guess, my answer to your question is, is that you got to be ready for the unexpected. And when you act, you base your decisions on principles. I'll tell you one principle -- I'm not going to filibuster, I promise -- but you got me going here, so --. I want you to understand this principle, and it's an important debate and it's worth debating here in this school, as to whether or not freedom is universal, whether or not it's a universal right of all men and women. It's an interesting part of the international dialogue today. And I think it is universal. And if you believe it's universal, I believe this country has -- should act on that concept of universality. And the reason I do is because I do believe freedom yields the peace.

"And our foreign policy prior to my arrival was 'if it seems okay, leave it alone.' In other words, if it's nice and placid out there on the surface, it's okay, just let it sit. But unfortunately, beneath the surface was resentment and hatred, and that kind of resentment and hatred provided ample recruitment, fertile grounds for recruiting people that came and killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And therefore, I believe the way to defeat resentment is with freedom and liberty.
So, once again, it's Clinton's fault: If he'd only embraced the first strike philosophy of the Bushies, we wouldn't be in this mess. He must be kicking himself.
"But if you don't believe it's universal, I can understand why you say, what's he doing, why is he doing that? If there's no such thing as the universality of freedom, then we might as well just isolate ourselves and hope for the best.

"And so -- anyway, kind of rambling here. Yes."
Wow. What a performance. I truly believe that he himself believes this nonsense since he's still mouthing the same tired claptrap he did three years ago.

NOTE — Rewritten to include gloss.

Monday, April 10, 2006

SSS, cont'd

MANIFESTO

Apparently, this is what we in the Constitution State can expect for the next four months.
Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman met with members of the Windsor Democratic Town Committee in the first of two stops Sunday in the state aimed at garnering support for his nomination at next month's state convention.

In addition to a primary challenge by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, Lieberman faces mounting criticism from within the party for his support of the Iraq war and President George W. Bush - including a 34-2 no-confidence vote against him in February by town committee members in Windsor.

Without specifically mentioning the vote, Lieberman's solicitous tone Sunday suggested he was well aware of it and his vulnerability ...

As for the question of his fidelity to the Democratic Party, Lieberman defended himself as a "proud Democrat" and "a strong Democrat," holding up his record as proof.

"I have opposed almost every initiative of this president," he said. "I do what is morally right and what needs to be done."
The senator still doesn't get it. It isn't enough to "have opposed almost every initiative of this president." GI George himself has indicated that 9/11, and its trumped-up effect, the invasion of Iraq, trumps everything. Therefore, opposition to highway bills and resistance to a Dubai corporation buying the Port of New York Authority really doesn't count for much.

As long as Senator Sanctimony continues his support of this senseless occupation and urges Democratics to do the same, he'll continue to have serious problems in the state. And the worst part is that we in the state will have to continue to listen to his pathetic mewlings.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Dropping the ball

MANIFESTO

Atrios earlier today pointed out that Connecticut's junior senator had been silent on the latest Bush contentions—that Dear Leader can pretty much declassify anything he wants any time he pleases.

Indeed, Senator Sanctimony finally showed his displeasure yesterday over the Bushies' autocratic statements of Thursday by releasing the following tepid statement:
Lewis Libby's testimony that he was authorized by the Vice President, apparently with the approval of the President, to disclose parts of a classified National Intelligence Estimate to a reporter is very troubling, particularly because it appears to contradict previous statements they have made against such disclosure. In the interest of public confidence in our government it is important that the President and Vice President publicly respond to Mr. Libby's assertions.
Boy, that'll make 'em shiver in their shoes on Pennsylvania Avenue.
George Jepsen, a former Democratic state chairman, refused to criticize the [Lieberman] campaign, but he conceded that the news was an opportunity to score political points.

"This is certainly an extraordinary opportunity to give a clean, hard shot at the president and Dick Cheney," Jepsen said. "It's one more perfect example of massive deception by this administration."
However, this "extraoradinary opportunity" was also muffed by Clueless Joe's potential primary opponent, Ned Lamont. (Atrios fails to mention this.) In fact,
Lamont ... [passed] on an opportunity to define the issue before Lieberman. His campaign sent no statements to the press, though Lamont and his campaign manager, Tom Swan, condemned the president and vice president when reached for comment Friday.
I hope this doesn't augur how the rest of the campaign will go. Lamont is going to have to be more politically astute. This is an issue that cries for some kind of oppositional statement. Coming up with a comment only after being prodded by the press simply won't cut it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

L'État, c'est moi

MANIFESTO

Yesterday I really was pretty much willing to give Dear Leader the benefit of the doubt in the latest Libby revelation. After all, Libby said nothing more than that the Veep
told him Bush had approved the release of information from the CIA's classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.
I was perfectly willing to believe that Deadeye Dick was lying—that Dear Leader had said nothing of the kind and that Uncle Dick himself was sanctioning such an action.

Today, of course, my opinion has changed because yesterday "the White House did not challenge the prosecutor's account of Bush's and Cheney's role in orchestrating the effort to discredit Wilson." As far as I'm concerned, silence amounts to an admission.

Furthermore, the Bushies would like to add to the insult by maintaining that
Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. [An] official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.
In other words, it wasn't really a leak since it was done for political purposes—to assure the public that Dear Leader really knew what he was doing.

Scott McClellan approves of this view, stating that "there is a distinction between declassifying information that is in the public interest, and leaking secrets that could hurt national security." Well, there sure is, but the horse's mouthpiece seriously confuses the so-called "public interest" and the interests of the Bushies.

These are scary times for this nation. Josh Marshall sees these events as "a grave danger to our constitutional system." Let's call a spade a spade and characterize it for what it is: This is nothing less than an attempt at a coup d'etat.

Come to the park and greet the Mets!

SPORTING GOODS

I know I'm a day late on this, but the new Mets ballpark looks like an amazing place to watch a game. I can't wait.

Mets Geek has the overview, and pictures, here.

Fellow traveler

WHATEVER

One can pretty much count on some big Christian-oriented story to appear once the high holy days loom. Indeed, this year is no exception as a Gospel According to Judas has just turned up. It's kind of an interesting find as it "portrays Judas Iscariot not as a betrayer of Jesus but as his favored disciple and willing collaborator."

Needless to say, a few skeptics are unimpressed with the find, thinking it irrelevant.

It's like giving baseball's MVP Awards out in November: anything to keep the interest up.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hurt So Good

SPORTING GOODS

I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted to last night, and it’s all Michael Kay’s fault.

With my wife out late, I left on the YES network as I drifted off to sleep, only to be jolted awake by the following statement that I’m paraphrasing from Kay:

“You know, back in the ‘90s Frank Thomas looked like a sure-fire first-ballot hall of famer, but at this point you’d have to say he’d be hard-pressed to get in.”

He used the phrase “hard-pressed” and then as Ken Singleton (to his credit) vigorously defended Thomas, Kay somehow found a way to compare Thomas’s hall of fame credentials to Dale Murphy (“but he won 2 MVPs”) and then Don Mattingly (“he was great for nearly a decade before injuries slowed him down”).

So obviously, this jolted me awake as I started yelling at the tv, but now that I’ve had 12 hours to sleep on it…it’s still just about the dumbest thing I’ve heard an announcer say. So Joe Morgan, congrats, you just moved down the list a bit.

I seem to recall reading in about 2000 or so, that Frank Thomas was high in the top 10 in all time OPS+, which takes your OBP + SLG and adjusts it for era and ballparks. This is generally a good measure of comparing offensive firepower, as everyone at this point seems to accept slugging and on-base as probably the most important stats. Thomas was basically surrounded by Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and a few other absolute hitting legends on this list. He’s now “only” 14th, surrounded by guys like Jimmie Foxx and Stan Musial.

And it’s not like people weren’t noticing - Thomas finished in the top 3 in AL MVP voting five times over a ten year period. And nobody was more feared by opposing pitchers and teams during the 90s, no matter how bad he was with the glove.

Quite simply, when you think of offense and the 1990s (and you can’t think of one without the other), you think of Griffey, Bonds, and then Thomas. I can imagine a 17 year old who only remembers 1997 and on questioning Thomas’s hall of fame credentials, but not a baseball “expert” who has been around the game for years.

In looking up Thomas’s numbers, I stumbled across this Hardball Times article that lays out the defense in much more detail than I can. But by every offensive measure, Thomas is a first-ballot hall of famer. Read the article if you want to remember just how good his career has been, but when analyzing Thomas, the comparisons are more Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Rickey Henderson, Eddie Collins, not Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly.

The problem with guys like Kay, is they can only focus on a limited number of career counting stats. How many all-star games? How many home runs? Oh yeah, well this guy has more, and he’s not in! Thomas has a career .427 on-base percentage – only six guys in history are .01 better. And not to spoil the Hardball Times article, but Thomas is the only guy with seven straight years of hitting .300, 20 HRs, 100 RBI, 100 Runs, and 100 Walks. Only guy to do it six straight? Ted Williams.

Frank Thomas is no Ted Williams. But he sure as hell ain’t Dale Murphy.

I promise not to rant this much at every stupid Michael Kay comment, as it would lead to my job firing me, my wife leaving me, and me forgetting to bathe, as it will become a 24-hour a day hobby. But I thought it worth a reminder just how great the Big Hurt’s career was. And even Kay admits, it is widely believed that he did it all without steroids.

Full Face and Profile

FOOD FIGHT

(For those who thought I'd never have a "Food Fight" post, here it is. (I'm kind of surprised myself.))

Apparently, New York City restaurants are leaving little to chance when it comes to reviews and, more importantly, reviewers. Viz.,
[Reviewers] routinely make their reservations under assumed names and deceptive phone numbers to try to ensure they are treated like any other customer.

But restaurants have adopted stealthy countermeasures. That includes compiling dossiers on important food writers and critics to help the staff recognize the reviewers.

The dossiers often include photos, a physical description of the critics (and sometimes their spouses), their culinary likes and dislikes and other identifying behavior.

After all, "you don't want to wake up one day and read your own obituary," said Drew Nieporent, an owner of the popular restaurants Nobu and Tribeca Grill.

A file on one critic described him as having "very bad teeth" - yellow and gray, as if stained by antibiotics. Another dossier reported that the wife of a certain critic had "short old lady hair (helmet head)."
The article includes other not always complimentary descriptions of reviewers. It's pretty amusing.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Highly Qualified

MANIFESTO

The latest wrinkle of the odious No Child Left Untested Behind legislation concerns a piece of the law that has to do with "highly qualified" teachers. Specifically, as of July 1, the legislation will require "that teachers be certified in every subject they teach." This mandate is onerous everywhere, but is certainly burdensome in rural school districts.
[The law] destroys the very system that has kept rural schools running since the beginning of public education.

In small towns across the country, "pitching in" is the tradition. Teachers often teach numerous subjects and multiple grade levels.

Anyone who grew up in a small town remembers the math teacher who also taught PE. But those days are over in June.

Those teachers who "pitched in" no longer have a place in the post-NCLB world, and many of them no longer have jobs.

[Many rural school districts] must now search for teaching candidates with double and triple majors to fill ... empty positions.
Needless to say, this is insanity, and the situation is no better in suburban Connecticut where
[t]housands of ... teachers, including some award-winning educators, could face new job reviews because they do not meet U.S. government standards as "highly qualified teachers," federal officials say.

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a new monitoring report that throws into question the qualifications of more than 13,000 teachers, about 30 percent of the state's public school teaching force, state officials say.
I don't think that there was ever any question that NCLB was anything other than a way to weaken, if not eliminate, public education in the US so that have nots became powerless to improve their stations in life and so Democratic leaning teachers could lose their jobs. This move to decertify 13,000 teachers (and that's only in tiny Connecticut) surely highlights what the Bushies are actually up to in this legislation.

It's beyond irony that the cretins who've given us an unwinnable war, a boost to global warming, a budget deficit that won't be controlled for decades, etc., etc., etc., have the nerve to identify anyone as not highly qualified.

Requiescat in pace

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Gene Pitney.

The Rockville Rocket was certainly one of Connecticut's most celebrated songsters. He had a terrific voice and range and worked with just about everyone in the 60s rock and roll scene—from the Rolling Stones to Phil Spector.

He was a pioneer in the multi-track sound that so many (not least of whom the aforementioned Spector) emulated forty years ago.

By the way, the Spector trial, which was scheduled to begin on April 24, has now been postponed to September. I'll have to reprogram my VCR.