Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So if you're a woman from a certain Greek island ...?


Stuff like this always interests me—in a linguistic sense, that is.

The fulfillment of the scriptures


I keep following the Jeremiah Wright/Barack Obama saga with a great amount of interest. Needless to say, I'm pretty disappointed with Obama's "outrage" at the Rev. Dr. Wright's speech of Monday. What, after all, did the senior pastor of Trinity UCC say?
The prophetic theology of the black church is not only a theology of liberation; it is also a theology of transformation, which is also rooted in Isaiah 61, the text from which Jesus preached in his inaugural message, as recorded by Luke.

When you read the entire passage from either Isaiah 61 or Luke 4 and do not try to understand the passage or the content of the passage in the context of a sound bite, what you see is God's desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.

God's desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.

God's desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.
The Luke passage the Rev. Dr. Wright is referring to here is the incident where Jesus of Nazareth, after having been tempted in the wilderness, returns to his home church in Nazareth and states that his mission is
to preach the gospel to the poor ... to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised [and t]o preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
This is nothing less than societal upheaval, and the Rev. Dr. Wright is correct to identify it as such. Barack Obama, now kowtowing to the masses, is "appalled" at this sentiment, while I believe it's one of the few things that gives Christianity any viability at all.

In fact, it's this very passage that I've always thought should have been used when our pious president first identified Jesus as his favorite political philosopher during a 1999 debate a thousand years ago. Immediately all of the other stumblebums on the stage felt compelled to state that, yes, Jesus is just all right me, too.

What I hoped I'd hear in that debate was a reference to the very passage the Rev. Dr. Wright discussed in his speech on Monday: That, yes, if we're talking about the Jesus who wants to effect deliverance, etc., then I'm on board. It would have been interesting to see what Gentile George would've done with that for all of his "He changed my heart" crapola.

And, now, eight and a half years later, the nominal Christian candidates still won't accept the notion of Jesus as a radical, preferring the Sunday School "Jesus Loves Me" nonsense. Jeremiah Wright sees the truth; Barack Obama shows his true character by denying it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Couldn't see this coming


My God, but the Democrats are stupid. Could anyone not see that a protracted primary season would lead to divisiveness?
Democratic Party members increasingly dislike the contender they are not supporting in the bruising nomination fight, an Associated Press-Yahoo News survey and exit polls of voters show. That is raising questions about how faithful some will be by the November general election.
Meanwhile, has anyone seen Senator Septuagenarian recently? Of course not, because it's to his advantage to lie low and let the Democratic contenders continue to do his campaigning for him.

What Will Rogers said eighty years ago is as true today: "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat."

Photo ID


Apparently Democrats are up in arms about yesterday's Supreme Court decision regarding photo id at polling places.

Now, while I understand that this could be seen as a sneaky way to "disenfranchise poorer, Democratic-leaning voters," I just don't see it as a major problem, and here's why: For the last number of years, I've been asked for a driver's license to substantiate my identity where I vote. Connecticut's driver's licenses just happen to have the owner's picture on them, so, as far as I'm concerned, I've been asked for photo id at the polls for some time. There certainly are other ways to disenfranchise voters that have been used with great success by the Bushies in the last two presidential elections; I don't think they—or others of their ilk—need to use a photo id strategy for more larcenies.

Or, am I being naive here?

Surprising news


To my surprise, Thabeet will go on at UConn. The Tanzanian titan made the announcement over the weekend and yesterday gave a rambling discourse about his decision. As near as I could decipher his comments, he'd been told (by scouts and his mother) that it wouldn't be in his interests to go to the NBA at this time. Now, of course, the papers are full of "Beast of the East" columns, so we'll see.

Also, Jen Rizzotti has decided to stay at UHart after being rushed by BC. She's had a terrific career so far and may well be waiting for St. Geno to retire.

And the biggest surprise of the day (in terms of its shock value) is the latest Roger Clemens story. In the funniest line of the day, the Courant posits that "the story could undermine Clemens' reputation." I'm not entirely sure that's possible.

Be advised that this is the last time I'll refer to the sordid liaison.

Monday, April 28, 2008

See you later, Ralphie Nader


I'll never forgive Ralph Nader for essentially single-handedly allowing the worst president in the nation's history to occupy the White House. Nevertheless, aged and egomaniacal or not, Nader continues to talk a good game.
Nader, speaking to about 100 supporters in downtown Waterbury [Sunday], said Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain fail to talk about what he said is the extent of corporate power in the federal government.

"What are these people running for?" he asked. "To get to the White House to get their orders from their corporate paymasters."
Of course, the question, "What are these people running for?" could as well apply to the Winsted Wacko.

Sunday, April 27, 2008



While the Sox finished up their lost weekend in Florida, both Democratic candidates for president managed to irk me today. (See here and here.)

I realize that just about everyone is saying this, but this primary marathon is really more than can be borne.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Changing his tune


Apparently I'm going to get an addition to my checking account on Monday as rebates will be distributed that day to taxpayers who had their refunds deposited directly into their accounts. Not that it'll make any difference as—with gasoline prices up more than 25% and bakery prices, to use just one example, up 14% in the last year—it's pretty clear where this drop in the bucket is going to go.

Even Incurious George admits that
"The money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, the grocery store ..."
But then he also has to add his own cretinous spin to the situation by maintaining that the rebate will
"also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown ... It's obvious our economy is in a slowdown. But, fortunately, we recognized the signs early and took action."
Riiight. The "action" taken is turning out to be fruitless because it's economically impossible to do all of the things he's suggesting. If Americans will be forced to use their extra dollar a day for necessities, it's obvious that the kind of discretionary spending that the Harvard MBA had hoped would get the economy back on track simply can't occur. Of course, he's too stupid to realize that, but more enlightened politicians aren't.
"It's galling to think that taxpayers' stimulus checks will be lining the pockets of OPEC. The sad truth is that the average American family will spend almost their entire stimulus check on higher gas prices this year," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress ...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed that people "need this rebate to cope with the rising cost of gas and groceries."
So this is yet another idiotic economic idea that needs to go back to the drawing board. I've never been attracted to the idea of the nation's populace becoming compulsive shoppers—a psychological disorder, after all—in order to get out of a recession; certainly this rebate—bankrolled by the Chinese no less—won't do anything to boost the nation's very sick economic status.

Voodoo economics redux


I can't say that this report makes Senator Septuagenarian look any too good—or principled.

UPDATE — Josh Marshall explores the senior senator's vacillations in more detail here.



Airline issues are on my mind this morning since Mrs. Monocle and our lovely daughter are winging their way west over the Atlantic as I write this. Anyway, in what the Washington Post describes as a "black eye," the paper reports this morning that
Federal Aviation Administration managers covered up mistakes by air traffic controllers at a Texas facility, making it more difficult for authorities to detect safety hazards in some of the nation's busiest airspace, FAA officials disclosed yesterday.

In revealing the results of a government watchdog investigation, the FAA was also forced to admit that it failed to adequately address similar allegations raised publicly several years ago.

The disclosures come as the FAA has been battered in recent weeks for lax oversight of airline maintenance programs and their compliance with safety mandates. Embarrassed by those revelations, the FAA launched a crackdown on air carriers, resulting in massive groundings of planes and flight cancellations as maintenance workers scrambled to look for potential flaws ...

"The report is disturbing," FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell said in a hasty statement before leaving a news conference without taking any questions.
So it looks like the incredible inconveniences that American Airlines travelers suffered recently were for naught since the FAA, irresponsible "acting administrator" and all, doesn't follow through on safety mandates anyway.

The Bushies, of course, don't care since they don't have to fly in public aircraft. It's a certainty that no safety hazards on "Air Force 1" are being ignored.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two mathematical questions


So, within a thousand, how many documents related to the Bushies' programs of secret detentions, renditions, and torture does the CIA currently possess?

Within one, how many is that august agency willing to turn over to Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, who have teamed up in a lawsuit to procure the papers?

The answers can be found here.

Windows Expertise


Apparently, there's been a hue and cry regarding Microsoft's announcement that it'll stop sales of its XP operating system in a few months.
Fans of the six-year-old operating system set to be pulled off store shelves by June 30 have papered the Internet with blog posts, cartoons and petitions recently. They trumpet its superiority to Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest PC operating system, whose consumer launch last January was greeted with lukewarm reviews.

[Microsoft Corp. chief executive Steve] Ballmer said the customers buying PCs with XP are IT departments who are having trouble shifting old machines to newer technology.
Golly. Ya think? Just how feasible is it for companies, public institutions, and non-profits to convert their machines (and networks?) between now and June, particularly in light of the economic travails everyone seems to be undergoing?

On a more practical level, I've worked with both systems, and I much prefer XP. It seems to me that, for almost any task, from, say, accessing files to setting up a network printer, Vista includes at least one additional level that one has to go through to get where one wants to be. I'm sure these additional mouse clicks have been put in for security reasons, but, as a result, the system isn't exactly user friendly.

I often think that Microsoft's latest gumming up of the works will lead people to adopt the streamlined Macintosh operating system, but such logic has yet to be demonstrated.

Wake up the echoes


The Universities of Connecticut and Notre Dame have just inked a deal wherein they'll play six football games on a home and home basis. However, the devil (Can I say that when referring to the most famous Roman Catholic university in the US?) is in the details.
UConn officials and state legislators announced Wednesday they have reached an agreement that will allow the Huskies to play "home" games in a series with the Irish at out-of-state stadiums ...

The ... contract would cover a six-game series starting in 2011 and ending in 2017. Three games would be in South Bend; UConn's three "home" games would be in New York or New Jersey (most likely the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.) or Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Sen. Gary Lebeau, D-East Hartford, introduced a bill last month that would have prohibited UConn "home" games from being played outside the state. It led to UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway testifying before the General Assembly's commerce committee on March 11.
On the question, would you travel to Foxborough, New York or New Jersey to watch UConn play Notre Dame? Courant reader sentiment is running neck and neck.

The two teams will also play a game, tentatively set for Nov. 21, 2009, in South Bend.

And, BTW, in UConn men's basketball news,
Hasheem Thabeet ... is not ready to shed any light on whether he will return to UConn for his junior season or enter the NBA draft.
I've said before that I don't expect Thabeet to go on at Storrs next year. However, as of this writing, a majority of Courant readers think otherwise.

450 calories for $1


I see that
A federal appeals judge on Wednesday delayed the enforcement of new [New York C]ity rules requiring calorie counts to be posted alongside prices in some restaurants ... The rules had been scheduled to take effect on Saturday.

The delay was sought by the New York State Restaurant Association, which lost its challenge of the new rules in Federal District Court in Manhattan last week.
As one who has severely cut down on his caloric intake in the last 5½ months, I just can't see what harm it would do to post calories in restaurants—they're certainly easily accessible on the Internet. (Because of my winter schedule, this site and this one are in my Web browser's bookmarks.)

Posting such information might decrease sales somewhat, but it's certainly not like downloading shared files, which can be harmful economically.

It's pretty easy to see how indifferent the New York State Restaurant Association is regarding the health of its customers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008



This is just ridiculous:
NEW YORK - A wall-mounted gadget designed to drive away loiterers with a shrill, piercing noise audible only to teens and young adults is infuriating civil liberties groups and tormenting young people after being introduced into the United States.

Almost 1,000 units of the device, called the Mosquito, have been sold in the United States and Canada after the product debuted last year, according to Daniel Santell, the North America importer of the device sold under the company name Kids Be Gone.
The lesson, as always, is that all teens are criminals. Of course, it is more annoying because, despite being nearly 30, listening to music during my commute for the last ten years, and having a family history of hearing loss, I can hear this noise. Try it and let me know if you can.

Where have I been?


In looking this over, I discovered that Jacoby Ellsbury is at least half Navajo. No matter what his heritage, he sure is fun to watch.

I also see that
Chinese Olympic officials have conceded that controversial flame attendants are trained security personnel and declared that they will defend the torch if it is attacked.

[T]he Olympic torch arrived in Canberra yesterday morning for what authorities said had become the city's greatest security challenge, greater even than the visit of US President George W.Bush.
If this isn't the funniest sporting item I've seen since Larry Bowa's April 1 ejection, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day


A mere 38 years ago, the first Earth Day occurred. I remember it fairly well: The Outing Club members were in their element, and it was a day that we undergraduates could get into: On a lovely spring day in central New Hampshire it was easy to love the planet. Walt Kelly's strip on the day's first anniversary contained the famous "We have met the enemy and he is us" punch line.

Little did we know that in fewer than two weeks all hell would break loose.

All the news that fits


It looks like Newsday is about to join News Corps's empire, and I can understand why it's not as big an issue as it might be.
When News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch recently voiced concerns about not being able to nab Newsday, he was talking about federal regulators' raising possible antitrust and trade issues because he already owns the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and two television stations in New York City.

But the financial plight of newspapers in the Internet age may make antitrust issues moot for media moguls who might want to invest in Newsday, legal and media experts said ...

"The newspaper industry is in such economic shambles today that for the government to stand in the way of a newspaper's economic vitality and health would be unsound policy," said Jack Myers, publisher of, a media industry Web site. "The government's role is to support and maintain multiple media voices in the community."
While that's all well and good (And I hate to see economic concerns trump protecting choices for consumers.), the notion of maintaining "multiple media voices in the community" is a provocative one. That is, to be sure, New Yorkers may have a number of daily newspapers available, but the situation may be for naught if one corporation owns three of the major dailies.

Like I say, I can see the argument, but I'm not necessarily swayed by it. Nevertheless, I stopped getting my news from newspapers years ago, preferring Josh Marshall, Duncan Black, Steve Benen, et allia, to mine the news for me. I figure if such an approach is good enough for the POTUS, it's certainly good enough for me.

More slavery


USA Today reports this morning that
The Army has accelerated its policy of involuntary extensions of duty to bolster its troop levels, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates' order last year to limit it, Pentagon records show.

Gates directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service secretaries to minimize mandatory tour extensions, known as "stop loss," in January 2007. By May, the number of soldiers affected by the policy had dropped to a three-year low of 8,540.

Since then, the number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army rose 43% to 12,235 in March. The reliance on stop loss has increased as the military has sent more troops to Iraq and extended tours to 15 months to support an escalation in U.S. forces ordered by President Bush. The increase last month was driven by the need to send more National Guard soldiers to Iraq.

Soldiers affected by stop loss now serve, on average, an extra 6.6 months.
Well, Gates's plan has worked out well, hasn't it? The bottom line is clearly this: The Bushies don't want to have a draft because that'll create fatalities in Republican-inclined suburban areas, and that will never do. Rather, they've created this execrable system where virtually the only people in harm's way are those who see military service as the only option to escape the barrio or ghetto.

Thus, the Bushies kill (pardon the expression) two birds with one stone: They keep their appalling war going while they decrease social services to those who come home in bags.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What are you interviewing me for?


Here's just a little something Comcast is currently running. Don't let this happen to you.

Blue Monday


Passing more than a dozen gas stations on my way to and from work makes this story unsurprising:
U.S. drivers are paying record prices to fill their gas tanks and they could see prices surge as much as 30 cents more per gallon over the next few weeks, according to an industry analyst.

U.S. average retail gasoline prices hit a record $3.4737 per gallon on April 18, up 15.66 cents from the April 4 average, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations.
The cheapest gas I saw this morning was $3.489/gallon. (Every other station was selling it for at least $3.549/gallon.) I wouldn't be surprised to see it go over $3.52 at the same station by the time I drive home.

Related to that is this story:
Consumer prices in the U.S. rose 4 percent in March from a year ago, more than double their pace in August and close to a two-year high of 4.4 percent in November.
In other words, it's likely that people have less purchasing power than they did a year ago. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning (link unavailable) that most consumers have actually lost real money since the turn of the century due to their salaries not keeping up with inflation. And, it's certainly not surprising that "The price of crude oil has risen 86 percent over the past 12 months."

Remember when the oil men taking over the White House in 2001 were going to ensure that a spiral like this wasn't going to happen? Ah, those were the good old days, and we certainly should be shocked—shocked!—that they weren't able to control oil prices during their tenure.

On a more positive note, I have to say that I was impressed with the pope's visit. To be sure, I wasn't overcome with religious fervor like some were, but I thought he touched all the right bases—i.e., discussing the abuse situation and talking with 9/11 survivors—while he was here. He certainly could've swept these things under the rug, and I thought he might do just that, but he was actually quite forthcoming on these issues.

UPDATE — Sure enough, the station with the $3.489/gallon gasoline had increased its price to $3.639 by the time I drove home. The $3.549/gallon stations were all selling gas for $3.649/gallon. The readers of this blog who don't have cars should count their blessings.

Sunday, April 20, 2008



Twenty-three years ago today, Mrs. Monocle, our seven- and nearly-three-year-old children, and I moved into our current abode. We couldn't have asked for a better domicile.

"A little bitter"


The Pottstown Mercury—a newspaper not so near but dear to my heart—endorses Obama this morning.

Bake sales for basics


The Bushies' desire to eviscerate public education is swiftly coming to pass.
[California e]ducators must finalize their budgets for the next school year before Sacramento votes on the state's spending plan. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget would cut about $4.8 billion in education funding this year and next. As a result, potential layoff notices have been issued to 20,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and others.
It's been long known that California is often the US's vanguard in any cultural phenomenon. Thus, this doesn't bode well.

Readers know that I truly believe that the Bushies have wanted to destroy—or, at the least, severely weaken—the country's educational system in order to lessen the political clout of (largely) Democratic-voting educators. However, I also believe that the Bushies are antithetical toward public education in general, wishing to minimize the chances of middle and lower class students for socioeconomic advancement.

And John McCain is right on board with these oligarchs, rejecting the notion of an expanded GI Bill, which would make it easier for the nation's soldiers and Marines—the vast majority of whom are from the middle and lower classes—to attend college.

It's pretty clear that the haves in our society wish to keep the have nots exactly where they are. Starving the beast of education is a simple way to go about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Russian Trophy


A number of newspapers are reporting this morning that Russian autocrat Vladimir
Putin had secretly divorced his wife Ludmilla two months ago and was planning a secret wedding in June. The bride was alleged to be Alina Kabayeva, an Olympic gold medallist for rhythmic gymnastics. On her website, Ms Kabayeva says her hobbies include pets and collecting cuddly toys ... Putin denied that he was planning to marry [the] 24-year-old gymnast ... and told journalists to keep their "snotty noses" out of his private life.
Besides the humorous aspect of this (cf. the tawdry Smith-Marshall affair), there's a dark side: The newspaper that first reported the disaffiliation and liaison, the Moskovsky Korrespondent, has all of a sudden had its publication suspended for "financial reasons." So much for freedom of the press in 21st century Russia.

Once again, Orwell nails it:
No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Saturday morning


Like most Red Sox fans, I'm as superstitious as can be imagined, so I (almost) purposely changed the channel last night in the third inning with the bases full of Sox and the slumping Papi meandering to the plate. Not surprisingly—I'm certain he would've struck out had I been watching—he hit a grand salami, starting the Sox' rout. May this be the start of something big.

And the absolutely unqualified Isiah (I sure do wish his mother had known how to spell) Thomas was finally fired by the Knicks yesterday. I don't really follow the NBA, but it'd be nice to listen to a game on the radio in the dead of winter, as I'm driving back from a high school gymnasium, where the featured team, you know, has a chance to be in it. For the last four years, that was rarely the case.

Thomas's new job—as yet untitled—will be as adviser to the man who fired him. I can't say that that sounds like an ideal working relationship.

Another reason January can't come soon enough


Ed Kilgore on Holy Joe.

The bottom line, according to Josh Marshall:
[O]nce the Dems pad their majority in the Senate this November, he'll be expelled from the congressional party. He's gone well past the point of simply not being acceptable as a Democrat. He's doing and saying things that would make him disgusting as a Republican. He's way beyond the pale.
As I've said before, there really is a difference between "bipartisanship" and inclusion—something I'm sure Connecticut's junior senator is well aware of but which he's still trying to sell to the state's voters.

Friday, April 18, 2008

This just in ...


The Iraq War is a debacle.

We now return to our regular programming.

ABC's Treachery


Since the 1960s I've been of the opinion that anyone who wears an American flag pin in his lapel is suspect. (It drives me to distraction that CBS apparently mandates that its sportscasters wear them. And, of course, this look is beneath contempt.) I've always figured that if Richard Nixon and the present president—two anti-Americans if ever there were any—wore them, I wanted no part of them. In fact, in the days after September 11, 2001, when everybody and his wife was wearing some kind of red white and blue jewelry, I resisted the trend; it seemed just too jingoistic for my taste.

Thus, I was horrified when the issue of the American flag lapel pin came up in Wednesday night's Democratic debate. Why a Pennsylvania voter would care about such a superficial and obnoxious issue was beyond me. Now it turns out that the question wasn't so innocent and earnest after all. Both McClatchy and Josh Marshall have discovered that ABC purposely planted the question from someone whose feelings toward Barack Obama are anything but dispassionate.

Needless to say, George Stephanopoulos—someone who once upon a time had some integrity—is falling all over himself, trying to defend his network's dismal performance of Wednesday evening and denying "that he’d been spoon-fed [questions] by Fox News host Sean Hannity."

What?! Holy smokes. If Sean Hannity's name is even coming up in this episode, things are coming to a pretty pass. Obviously, we haven't heard the last of this hideous telecast.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Old Women over their tea


The Newseum has now been open for nearly a week, and it remains one of the most self-congratulatory buildings ever constructed. (I'm looking at you, Donald Trump.) Its $20 admission fee pretty much reveals what its sponsors—NBC, Fox, et allia—are up to: taking advantage of the public.

I suppose I'd feel a little better about the building and its intent if last night's demonstration of what news and news reporting have become in this country hadn't been so godawful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Aspiring to be Struldbruggs


What is it with the aged public figures of Pennsylvania? First, the octogenarian Joe Paterno wears out his welcome in State College, and now Arlen Specter refuses to call it a career in the US Senate. Even though he's just been diagnosed with a recurrence of lymphatic cancer, Specter has "already announced he will run for re-election in 2010, and he said the cancer won't stop him from that."

It's certainly not unprecedented for someone advanced in years to conciliate his ego serve the people of the Keystone State for a protracted period of time. However, the commonwealth must have somebody else—like, say, mere striplings in their sixties—who could take over for this superannuated duo. It certainly seems like the taxpayers who pay these elderly folks their salaries could do better with some younger personnel.

And lest readers think my aversion to people past their prime relates only to Republicans, let me say that the fact that the nonagenarian Robert Byrd is still serving in the US Senate is an absolute embarrassment to the voters of West Virginia and to the nation.

Joe Ratzinger comes to America


Just to follow up on DarLucky's post ...

It'll come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I'm terribly amused when the Holy Father deigns to come to this side of the Atlantic. The usual hysteria always accompanies him, and presidents (especially the current one) hope to get a photo op with someone who's actually popular with his constituents.

Be that as it may, not everyone is exactly wild with enthusiasm about the Pope's visit. Some Bostonians, especially, are disturbed that he's chosen to neglect their fair city—the epicenter of the priestly abuse scandal—during his trip to the US. Even His Holiness's expressions of regret concerning the incidents have rung hollow for many victims.

It's an episode that'll probably never be entirely resolved to anyone's satisfaction, but the Holy Father might've been just a little more demonstrative about his concern.

By the way, amid all the hullabalo it might be worth noting that
a third of American Catholics say they never attend Mass, and ... a majority of them say they never attend confession either.
UPDATE — I'm glad to see that on Thursday the pope met with various victims of priestly abuse.

More corporate tax breaks


Leave it to the whores in the Senate to, Bush-like, use a bad situation in order to advance their own agendas.
The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks — for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders. The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act ... amount to government handouts to big business.
In other words, while saying they'll assist homeowners keep their houses, senators have decreased the amount of money available for that very purpose.

The whole thing is patently ridiculous as
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and the main author of the Senate bill, said the measure did not live up to its name and that he wanted changes.
Wait a minute. Dodd writes the freaking legislation and sees that it's wanting? Did he write it in his sleep? And, of course, tired old Harry Reid was the sponsor of the bill.

Fortunately, it looks as if members of the House won't be taking this lying down because Democratic leaders have vowed to remove corporate tax breaks from their version.

I've got a fever ...


... and the only prescription is more POPE!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't go west, young man


Apparently, Southern California is doomed.

The verdict is in


What does it say about me that I've become hooked on "Law and Order" and "CSI:Miami" reruns? I can only hope this is a passing fancy.

A nation of shopkeepers


The New York Times this morning reports that
The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.

Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.

But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117, and the jeweler Zales will close 100.
This is truly a horrible story as retail jobs are often the last refuge of the overqualified. For a number of months after graduation from college, I worked in retail—like a few other college-educated males there, I was waiting to see what I really wanted to do with my life—so I know what it's like to work hideous hours under fairly foolish conditions.

Be that as it may, it seems to me that retail has become a place where downsized white collar workers end up. The pay is usually better than McDonald's, and the working conditions aren't terribly taxing.

But now, with these bankruptcies, thousands of people have found or will find themselves unemployed. They can't all work at Wal-Mart. Perhaps they'll have to wend their way to a fast food chain where the pay really is minimal and the conditions really are horrendous. (Full disclosure: I worked the late shift at a McDonald's during the summer of 1969.)

If ever there was a time for these former employees to have "gotten bitter and cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," this may certainly be it.

Catching up


This morning's Courant editorializes anent The Curse of Big Papi, and Chill sends along a column about a certain octogenarian college football coach.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eschew Obfuscation


Dick Cavett wrote a great piece in Friday's New York Times regarding the recent Petraeus/Crocker burlesque wherein he opined,
Never in this breathing world have I seen a person clog up and erode his speaking — as distinct from his reading — with more "uhs," "ers" and "ums" than poor Crocker. Surely he has never seen himself talking: "Uh, that is uh, a, uh, matter that we, er, um, uh are carefully, uh, considering." (Not a parody, an actual Crocker sentence. And not even the worst.)

... Petraeus commits a different assault on the listener. And on the language. In addition to his own pedantic delivery, there is his turgid vocabulary. It reminds you of Copspeak, a language spoken nowhere on earth except by cops and firemen when talking to "Eyewitness News." Its rule: never use a short word where a longer one will do. It must be meant to convey some misguided sense of “learnedness” and "scholasticism" — possibly even that dread thing, "intellectualism" — to their talk. Sorry, I mean their "articulation."
As one who tries to sound as if he has a brain in his head, I enjoyed the column, if not the testimonies, immensely. To be sure, this might well qualify me as an elitist, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Speaking of elitism, it's long been a practice of demagogues to attack intellectuals lest they upset the apple cart of authoritarian rule. From Stalin to Hitler to Huey Long to Joe McCarthy to Richard Nixon (and his felonious henchman, Spiro T. Agnew) to the current executive branch: All have complained about (or imprisoned, or had executed) the rational and objective voices in their societies. To see the Wellesley Phi Beta Kappa and former editor of The Yale Law Review, Hillary Clinton, stoop to such demagoguery is at best disappointing.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

One Man's Opinion


Denis Horgan still seems a little bitter about a certain 1986 incident.

Gimme that old time elitism


First he wasn't black enough; then he was too black; and now, Barack Obama finds himself being called an elitist by no less than she of the $45 million net worth.

Mr. Obama feels the need to "regret" his remarks, but that doesn't mean they're not true. Lord knows the Republicans have run for decades on a Guns, God, and Gays platform, and Mr. Obama's comments do nothing other than give credence to that strategy.

Four years ago, Howard Dean spoke about Democrats' need to appeal to "NASCAR Dads," and people went nuts. Just as then, Obama is simply pointing out the way American politics works these days. To have billion dollar corporations like Fox and multimillionaires like Hillary Clinton denigrate his truth telling is the height of hypocrisy.

UPDATE — A few pundits see things my way. Look here and here. (The latter even includes the phrase, "God, guns, and gays.")

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Wright Card


I'd missed Deadeye Dick's asinine comments on Jeremiah Wright due to some obligations late yesterday, but Digby's post on them brought them to my attention. (Greg Sargent also discusses them here; as good as the post is, the comments are better.)

Regarding the Rev. Mr. Wright, the basis of everyone's complaints against him is that he's at least wrong, and perhaps treasonous. Thus, everybody and his brother have been trying to distance themselves from him. I disagree with these characterizations as I see him continuing in the prophetic tradition of, among others, Elijah, Amos, and John the Baptist—models that Deadeye Dick and the rest of his evangelical coterie certainly shouldn't object to.

No prophet sanctions the status quo; he will always rail against the shortcomings (call them "sins" if you wish) of the society in which he finds himself. It isn't a prophet's job to compliment his culture, and, clearly, Jeremiah Wright sees himself in that role. (Needless to say, pronoun use notwithstanding, this isn't exclusively a role for males.)

Indeed, it's the yes men of the Old and New Testaments who are often derogated most severely. The Saducees and Pharisees of Jesus's time are today looked upon as mere quislings during Rome's rule. Amaziah is just another toady in the Book of Amos. And the prophets of Baal and Asherah are so repugnant that Elijah has them killed.

Clearly, the lapel-pin-wearing Cheney, Bush, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, and the rest of the Bushies are the Ahabs, the Jereboams, the Herods of today. The Rev. Mr. Wright is absolutely correct in pointing this out. His faith and his tradition demand no less.

Thus, while I'm not surprised that authoritarian apologists like Beck, Limbaugh, et allia, are impugning the remarks and character of the Chicago UCC minister, I'd prefer that his parishioner, Mr. Obama, at least acknowledge the tradition that his pastor is following. A prophet has no honor in his own country, which is as it should be; a man wouldn't be a true prophet if he were actually liked by the powers that be.

As Socrates asserted, a prophet is perforce a gadfly. As the gadfly, Jeremiah Wright, has discovered, one will be attacked when fulfilling such a role, but it's crucial to speak out, especially in these times, if the power of the tyrants in charge is to be curbed at all.

Don't Tase me, Bro


I've been following the Clinton, CT faux Taser story out of the corner of my ear for the past few days, but this morning's Courant has a somewhat long story about the incident.

To be sure, the litigious X-gen parents come off looking as if their little darling can do no wrong, but no one looks especially noble in all of this. Al Coviello, the superintendent who's due to retire at the end of the year, is up to his old trick of not returning phone calls, and Officer Dunn (Full disclosure: He's a former student of mine.) may have gotten a little excited.

But, in my view, the most ignoble in all of this are the classroom teachers.
Haughwout took the camera to school and showed his math teacher how the flash mechanism could emit a shock. The teacher told him it was "cool" and Haughwout asked if he could show the other students. When the teacher didn't reply, the teen "thought he was allowed to show the other students," the lawsuit states.

Students tried out "being 'zapped'" by the camera, the lawsuit says, and no one complained. On April 2, students again played with the camera in an English class. One student said he did not want to get shocked so Haughwout "removed it from the area." The student "then backed into" Haughwout's hand and the camera fell to the ground and the flash went off.
I hope you'll pardon me if I indulge myself here: Ninth grade honor student, eh? English class, eh? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out exactly in what class the latter event took place.

Sigh. How the mighty have fallen.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!


A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to C-Train on this notable birthday for her.

Who knew that someone could study at not one, not two, but THREE Ivy League institutions and live this long to tell about it?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Success


Paul Kiel pretty much sums up the US's dreadful position in Iraq by asking,
[H]ow will [we] know whether things are going well ... enough to expect any troop withdrawals before the end of the year? As Gen. David Petraeus made abundantly clear this week, it's not clear.
But wait. GI George is about to state emphatically that "We have renewed and revived the prospect of success"—whatever the hell that means. (This is kind of reminiscent of another loser's attempt to make the best of a horrid situation by gleefully announcing he'd been part of a "three way split decision for third place.")

No siree. Couldn't see all of this coming.

Passing the torch


In a fake that Joe Montana would've been proud of, the Olympic torch was spirited in and out of San Francisco yesterday with few untoward incidents.

Isn't this whole Olympics thing supposed to unify nations? Indeed,
The founder of the modern Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin—a man primarily interested, it's worth remembering, in the pedagogical, moralizing effects of sport ... thought of what he called Olympism as, indeed, a "religion" of sorts: its commandments were the "spirit" of friendship" that the Games would encourage and the idea that gentlemanly cooperation in sporting events would create (as he put it) "chivalry," all expressed in the athletes' creed "of honor and disinterest."
In other words, the Games, and everything associated with them, are supposed to act as a uniter and not a divider. Oh well, we've seen how well that's worked out for someone else who made that claim.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Home Openers


This made me really, really happy.

This made me really, really sad.

PS - for the full Rickroll effect, click on this link (though please don't do so when you are even moderately busy, or at a point where you can't have your computer blasting 80s music for any length of time).

Why Iraq is a better country than the US


At yesterday's Senate hearing with General David Petraeus, Connecticut's own Holy Joe opined:
Hey, let's be honest about this. The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more political reconciliation and progress since September than the American political leadership has. So we've got to give some credit for that.
Oh, that I were making this up.

As Matt Yglesias observed,
America has a heated political debate, but liberals and conservatives aren't shooting mortars at each other and we don't have pitched battles in the streets. To compare the situation in Iraq to the persistence of strong partisan disagreement in the United States is idiotic.
Of course it is, but he's our idiot, and that's why we love him.

Or, think of the "Homer's Enemy" episode of The Simpsons in this. Unfortunately, to complete the analogy, Connecticut's denizens turn out to be represented by Homer.

UPDATE — But at least US campaign officials don't hack their opponents' computer network servers.

The will to govern


Like many others, Rep. Joe Courtney maintains that it's time for Iraq's powers that be to get off the dime and demonstrate that they want to take over legitimate rule. That is, he wants to set a deadline for US troop withdrawals so that Maliki et al will know when it'll be necessary for the country to fend for itself.

I have to admit that I'm not entirely convinced by this argument as I'm not sure if the lack of a US presence will make any difference in the activities of Iraqis. Call me irrational (or worse), but I've discerned nothing in the last number of years in Iraq that makes me feel that it has the capability or desire to change its political or cultural makeup. Thus, with or without US presence, killings, kidnapings, and torture will continue. At this point, while not necessarily perpetuating these activities, US troops are having little effect in curbing them.

Imus in the morning


I discovered this morning while driving into work that WELI in New Haven—the same station that brings to the area such luminaries as Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Idiot Fathead Rush, and Michael Savage—airs Don Imus.

Now, needless to say, Imus has his—ahem—prejudices, but included in them are his beliefs that GI George and his coterie are "morons" and the Iraq debacle is "idiotic."

Anyway, I realized as I was listening to him that a mere three degrees of separation exist between him and me. He was gushing over the new Connecticut Congressman whom he's just "discovered" (modest Mr. Imus isn't) and referred to the legislator as "Patrick" Murphy. Apparently, they're not all that close since the Constitution State's 5th District Congressman is named Chris Murphy.

Be that as it may, I sing in a choir with, and am a golfing buddy of, Rep. Murphy's cousin. So, Imus and me: we're tight.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This should be good


Given the fact that the Olympic torch couldn't get through Paris yesterday, it seems hard to believe that it'll remain in public view for long amid the wild denizens of San Francisco.

The Mystery Tramp


Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, MN was awarded a Pulitzer Prize yesterday for "his 'profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.'" Not bad for a guy who started out trying only to emulate Woody Guthrie.

For those not familiar with the canon, I'm of the opinion that "Positively 4th Street" is the greatest derogation ever put to vinyl.

Talking the talk


Bush apologists General David Petraeus and Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before Congress today and tomorrow to let the legislators know just how swimmingly things are going in that Godforsaken country.

They certainly won't get any argument from the very senior Senator from Arizona, who just yesterday opined
that Congress should reject, as it did last year, calls for what he labeled "a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal of our forces just at the moment when they are succeeding."
Dontcha just love the way these militarists throw around empty words like "succeeding" and "victory" and—God help us—"mission accomplished"? Who knows what Senator Septuagenarian means when he talks about success. He certainly can't be referring to this:
The monthly figure of people killed in Iraq rose by 50% in March compared with the previous month, according to official government counts.

A total of 1,082 Iraqis, including 925 non-combatant civilians, were killed, up from 721 in February.
Or this:
In one of the most intense days of fighting in [Baghdad] involving US troops in recent months, American helicopters fired at least four Hellfire missiles and an Air Force jet dropped a bomb on a suspected militia target as Iraqis struggled to bury their dead amid fierce street battles.

Rockets and missiles launched from militia strongholds pounded US bases around the city, where troops also came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Targets included the Green Zone, where the US Embassy and most Iraqi government buildings are located.

Three more Americans were killed, two from a rocket-propelled grenade and the third by small-arms fire, according to the Associated Press. The US military did not say where the deaths occurred. The latest casualties increase US combat deaths in Iraq to nine since Sunday and 18 since March 25, when fighting spread to the capital after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to launch an offensive against Shi'ite militiamen in the southern city of Basra.
So just what does the senator mean by succeeding?

Monday, April 07, 2008

I think we knew that


Digby points out the bloody obvious.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's People!!


Charlton Heston died last night, and the airwaves are filled with the usual paeans to his efforts. I realize he won an Oscar® for Ben-Hur, but it seems to me that the role most Americans of a certain age remember him for is of a patriarch for whom no historical proof has ever been discovered.

Those are certainly his best roles; another generation of Americans may well remember his worst.

UPDATE — Title changed after Chill's comment.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Republican prima donna


"I want to see your supervisor."

What is this, Wal-Mart?

UPDATE — This episode has now turned into a pissing match.

The Abyss


The New York Times this morning reports that
Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed that "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2003.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.
These are astonishing data. To be sure, I've felt this way since before the millennium began, but for four out of five Americans to have this pessimistic view shows how monstrous our fall from grace has been.

The real concern, of course, is how we get out of the mess that the poll manifests. Certainly, things won't get any better in the next nine months, and it almost seems too much to hope that a new, and more progressive, administration can get the US out of the slough of despond it currently finds itself in. To be sure, here's hoping, but it took the country a while to get to this nadir. It'll no doubt take some time for it to recover.

Word of the day



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Go Jayhawks!


I see that I can win a little money Monday night if Kansas defeats UCLA. I started slowly in this year's pool, but I've rallied—pretty much by having Villanova win the two games I picked them for.

Greeted as liberators


No wonder the Bushies like Maliki. He's every bit as delusional as they are.
[T]he Iraqi operation [in Basra] was not what the United States expected. Instead of methodically building up their combat power and gradually stepping up operations against renegade militias, Mr. Maliki’s forces lunged into the city, attacking before all of the Iraqi reinforcements had even arrived. By the following Tuesday, a major fight was on.

"The sense we had was that this would be a long-term effort: increased pressure gradually squeezing the Special Groups," [Iraq Ambassador Ryan C.] Crocker said in an interview, using the American term for Iranian-backed militias. "That is not what kind of emerged."

"Nothing was in place from our side," he added. "It all had to be put together."

The Bush administration has portrayed the Iraqi offensive in Basra as a "defining moment" — a compelling demonstration that an Iraqi government that has long been criticized for inaction has both the will and means to take on renegade militias ...

But interviews with a wide range of American and military officials ... suggest that Mr. Maliki overestimated his military’s abilities and underestimated the scale of the resistance. The Iraqi prime minister also displayed an impulsive leadership style that did not give his forces or that of his most powerful allies, the American and British military, time to prepare.

"He went in with a stick and he poked a hornet’s nest, and the resistance he got was a little bit more than he bargained for," said one official in the multinational force in Baghdad who requested anonymity. "They went in with 70 percent of a plan. Sometimes that’s enough. This time it wasn’t."
So this operation becomes every bit as ridiculous as the original invasion five years ago. Can you say "cakewalk"? Does the phrase, "You go to war with the army you have," ring a bell?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

All the news is bad today


Even one of the country's wealthiest states is suffering:
A record number of businesses have shut down in the first three months of the year, demonstrating that the national economic slowdown is having an impact in Connecticut, the Secretary of the State said Wednesday.

Nearly 2,800 businesses have closed between January and March, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said. She said it's the highest number of business closings for a first quarter since at least 2000.

The number of business openings in the January-March period, nearly 7,800, also is the fewest in five years.
Meanwhile, the toady Bernanke is finally thinking about calling a spade a spade.
For the first time, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged the U.S. could reel into recession from the powerful punches of housing, credit and financial crises ...

With home foreclosures swelling to record highs and job losses mounting, Bernanke on Wednesday offered Congress an unflinching - and more pessimistic - assessment of potential damage to the national economy.

"A recession is possible," said Bernanke, who is under immense political and public pressure to turn things around. "Our estimates are that we're slightly growing at the moment, but we think that there's a chance that for the first half as a whole there might be a slight contraction."

Under one rule of thumb, six straight months of a shrinking economy would constitute a recession, but Bernanke wasn't getting into that. "A recession is a technical term," he said. "I'm not yet ready to say whether or not the U.S. economy will face such a situation."
Of course he's not ready because he doesn't have a clue what he's doing.
"[H]e didn't offer a clear signal about the Fed's interest-rate intentions from here on ...

"The Fed has pulled out all the stops to rescue both financial markets and the economy and now is probably hoping for the best," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Bank of America's Investment Strategies Group.
Too typical. So now, on both the economic and Middle East fronts, the Bushies are "hoping for the best." For years, those who have brains in their heads have been pointing out that "hope is not a plan," but these morons have nothing else up their sleeves.

It's a hell of a way to govern a country.

(And I won't even talk about the unbelievable Yoo memo.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Yo, Bush!


How's that NCLB thing working out?