Saturday, May 28, 2005

Airline Missile Defense 

Good move:
In an airplane hangar north of Fort Worth, technicians are preparing to mount a fire-hydrant-shaped device onto the belly of an American Airlines Boeing 767. It is an effort that could soon turn into a more than $10 billion project to install a high-tech missile defense system on the nation's commercial planes.

The Boeing 767 - the same type of plane that terrorists flew into the World Trade Center - is one of three planes that, by the end of this year, will be used to test the infrared laser-based systems designed to find and disable shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles have long been popular among terrorists and rebel groups in war zones around the world; the concern now is that they could become a domestic threat.

We all saw how the airline industry was affected by 9/11, now imagine if a shoulder-fired missile took down a 747 in the U.S. Would anyone feel safe flying again? It wouldn't just be the tourist industry that suffered, who'd want to fly for business trips? $10 billion may be alot of money, but it's just a fraction of the Pentagon's budget. Maybe the Pentagon should put this missile defense system on hold, and focus on keeping airplanes safe.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Light Posting 

Sorry for no warning, but I'm in Florida for a business trip, so I may not have much time to post anything. Back to regular posting on June 2nd. Stop by just in case....


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"The Gulag of our Time" 

Flightsuit Boy's legacy:
"Attempts to dilute the absolute ban on torture through new policies and quasi-management speak, such as 'environmental manipulation, stress positions and sensory manipulation,' was one of the most damaging assaults on global values," the annual report said.


China Hearts Uzbekistan 

Trying to gain influence in Uzbekistan to counter our presence there.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, May 24 - The government of China offered unequivocal support on Tuesday for President Islam A. Karimov of Uzbekistan, who is facing international criticism for the crackdown against a prison break and antigovernment rally in the northeastern city of Andijon earlier this month.

Uzbeks grieved at the body of a relative found Monday in a new graveyard in northern Andijon. They planned a burial at a cemetery on Wednesday.
The support came amid fresh signs that the scale of violence exceeded what the Uzbek authorities have described, and as residents of Andijon and rights groups warned that roundups had begun inside Uzbekistan in an effort to squelch dissent.

With essential facts about the violence still in dispute, China made clear that it would stand beside the authoritarian government of Mr. Karimov, who was to begin a three-day visit with Chinese leaders on Wednesday.

"We firmly support the crackdown on the three forces of separatism, terrorism and extremism by the Uzbekistan government," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said at a news conference in Beijing, according to news agency reports.

Mr. Kong's statement cemented a stark split between the West on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, over the behavior of the Uzbek authorities, who have been accused of firing indiscriminately into antigovernment crowds on May 13, possibly killing hundreds. Several Western governments, NATO and the European Union have called for an independent investigation.
Not that we should expect anything else from the Neo-Fascist Chinese Government, but they're feeling the heat from our friendship with many of their neighbors, so anytime they can create a divide, they will. Even if it means openly supporting Dictators like Karimov.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Publicity Stunt 

This is such an important story, CNN.com had it on it among the main headlines.
NEW YORK (AP) -- First Tom Cruise was head over heels about his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes. Then he was giddy. Now, he's just plain batty.

"I can't be cool. I can't be laid-back," an exuberant Cruise said Monday during a taped appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "Something happened and I want to celebrate it."

A starry-eyed Cruise got down on his knees and repeatedly jumped up on the couch like a Robin Williams comedy act, saying that his love for Holmes was "beyond cool."

Will he propose? His answer did more than leave the door open.

"I'm going to discuss it with her," the twice-divorced actor said. "Honestly, I haven't (had this kind of experience before)."

He loves her so much that he called Holmes "Nic" during the show. Oops. Sure, he's straight.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Tillman and Lynch 

WASHINGTON -- The family of former NFL player Pat Tillman says the Army disrespected his memory by lying in its investigation of his death in Afghanistan last year.

In interviews with The Washington Post, the Army Ranger's mother and father said they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country.

"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did," Mary Tillman told the Post. "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."

Sounds awfully famililar:
Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch said the U.S. military was wrong to manipulate the story of her dramatic rescue and should not have filmed it in the first place.

The 20-year-old private told ABC's Diane Sawyer in a "Primetime" interview to air Tuesday that she was bothered by the military's portrayal of her ordeal.

"They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff," she said in an excerpt from the interview, posted Friday on the network's Web site.

"It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about," she said.

She also said there was no reason for her rescue from an Iraqi hospital to be filmed. "It's wrong," she said.

Two examples why you shouldn't believe anything you hear from Rumsfeld's Pentagon.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Stem Cells II 

DeLay yesterday:
"Once people understand the issue," said the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, "more than 70 percent are against embryonic stem cell research."
At the same time, 57 percent of those surveyed in the Republican-only poll said they favored embryonic stem cell research, with 40 percent opposed. On a follow-up question, 54 percent said it was more of a research issue, while 40 percent said it was more of an abortion issue.
He just makes shit up.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

News of the Weird 

You never know what may wash ashore:
LONDON (Reuters) - A smartly dressed man found wandering in a soaking wet suit near an English beach has baffled police and care workers after he refused to say a word and then gave a virtuoso piano performance.

The man, wearing a formal black suit and tie, was spotted by police in Kent on April 8 and taken to a psychiatric unit where it proved impossible to identify him because he stayed silent.

It was only after he was given a pen and paper that care-givers were given an intriguing clue to his possible background when he drew an intricate picture of a grand piano.

He was taken to the hospital's chapel where he played classical music on the piano for hours.



To make a "significant announcement".


Monday, May 16, 2005

Arrested Development 

Well, it looks like the funniest show that nobody watches, will be renewed on Thursday:
And that can only mean one thing: fall schedule announcements! (And free booze!) Fox doesn't reveal its lineup until Thursday, but word is already leaking that the network has gone and renewed Arrested Development for a third season! Hooray!

Now for god's sakes watch it, you won't be sorry. Best comedy since Seinfeld.


White House blames Newsweek 

For "damaging the U.S. image overseas":
The White House said on Monday that a Newsweek report based on an anonymous source had damaged the U.S. image overseas by alleging that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.

The May 9 report triggered several days of rioting in Afghanistan and other countries in which at least 16 people were killed.

Newsweek's editor, Mark Whitaker, apologized to the victims on Sunday and said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.

"It's puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this instance it was not."

Umm...Let's see what has really damaged the U.S.'s image abroad...

A) The greatly fought, but insanely not-planned aftermath of the Iraq War, which has led to about 100,000 dead Iraqis and 1600 dead(and thousands more wounded for life) U.S. soldiers.

B) Evil Empire-styled secret prisons, where suspects are repeatedly tortured and not allowed a lawyer, who then later turn out to be innocent of most charges. (The sad thing is, because of the secret prisons, I can see how the Koran flushing incident could be true.)

C)A media that doesn't think covering the Iraq War is important enough.

D) Having a President who can't speak English too well (ok, I had to put this one in, but his speaking problems don't help our image either.)



Damn right:
“The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party,’’ he said. “That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.”


Friday, May 13, 2005

Squad Wiped Out 

Terrible News:
Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.

In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.

Every member of the squad -- one of three that make up the 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment -- had been killed or wounded, Marines here said. All told, the 1st Platoon -- which Hurley commands -- had sustained 60 percent casualties, demolishing it as a fighting force.

"They used to call it Lucky Lima," said Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of the company. "That turned around and bit us."

I guess it's not important enough for the big Media networks to cover, because people are more interested in the Runaway Bride epidemic. Perhaps Bush will hold a press conference to declare a "War on Runaway Brides" to get our mind off Iraq and makes us all feel better.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Pardon my Chalabi 

No matter what he does, everything seems to work out for Chalabi:
Iraq's new president has asked Jordan's king to help resolve a fraud conviction that has long hung over Ahmad Chalabi, the one-time Pentagon favourite who is now a deputy prime minister in Iraq.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in newspaper remarks published yesterday that he asked King Abdullah II to resolve Jordan's differences with Chalabi during a weekend meeting.

Chalabi, who was appointed a deputy prime minister in the Iraqi government that took office a week ago, was convicted in absentia in 1992 by a Jordanian military court of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed with about US$300 million in missing deposits.

Chalabi, who denies wrongdoing, was sentenced to 22 years in prison in Jordan but has served none.

Dropping the conviction is Jordan would be a major step in rehabilitating the controversial Chalabi. The former exile opposition leader was once close to the Pentagon but had a falling out over allegations he provided intelligence to Iran, damaging his position while the US dominated Iraqi politics.

I figured he'd wind up like this guy.



Sad. Rumors are that the show may end up being cancelled.
"Chappelle’s representatives have denied that the comedian was abusing drugs"
Well, besides weed.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Stem Cells 

Send this Bill to Bush's desk now, and force him to sign it or veto it, so we really know where he stands. I have a hunch he'd cave in to pressure to sign it. He needs to start working on some sort of legacy (besides the legacy of car bombs in Iraq).
WASHINGTON -- Polling, advertising and grass-roots organizing, the pillars of a strong election campaign, now spill over routinely to congressional battles embryonic stem cell research among them.

The embryonic stem cell issue flared during the 2004 presidential campaign and may soon come before the House. Republicans who dissent from President Bush's policy are circulating a poll designed to show they have the party's voters on their side even if many fellow GOP lawmakers are not.

The survey, taken among 800 Republican voters nationwide, showed 90 percent job approval for President Bush and 88 percent favorable support for Republicans in the House. Both levels far exceed recent results of surveys taken of voters of all political persuasions.

At the same time, 57 percent of those surveyed in the Republican-only poll said they favored embryonic stem cell research, with 40 percent opposed. On a follow-up question, 54 percent said it was more of a research issue, while 40 percent said it was more of an abortion issue.

"Anytime you see a poll like that, that's a strong preference," said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., the leading supporter of stem cell research. "Members of Congress understand polls. I think the other thing that's important is who takes polls."


Back in Action 

Sorry about the unannounced hiatus. I was up in NJ/NYC for most of the weekend/early week for one of my Brothers' college graduation.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

R.I.P. David Hackworth 

Nobody could ever say he wasn't looking out for the average soldier:
HARTFORD, Conn. — Retired Army Col. David Hackworth (search), a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.

Hackworth died Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer. His wife, Eilhys England, was with him.

"He died in my arms," she said. The couple lived in Greenwich.

Hackworth, a Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War (search), worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, where he has been highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

"Most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout," Hackworth wrote in February. "That's not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield."

Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that, rather than personally signing condolence letters to the families of fallen soldiers, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) used a machine.

Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter be hand.

"Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth (search), a California-based veterans group for which Hackworth served as chairman. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."

Hackworth served four tours of duty in Vietnam and was one of the first senior officers to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War. He was nearly court-martialed before he retired from the military in 1971 and gave up his medals in protest.

He moved to Australia and made millions in a restaurant business and a duck farm. His medals were reissued by Brig. Gen. John Howard in the 1980s and he returned to the United States.

Hackworth wrote several books including "The Vietnam Primer," "About Face," and "Hazardous Duty."

Hackworth is survived by his wife of 8 years, a stepdaughter and four children from two earlier marriages, the family said.

England said he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery (search) but said a date has not been set.

Hackworth is also rumored to be the model of Colonel Kurtz in my favorite movie, Apocalypse Now:

It is a part--the self-regarding, self-parodying military macho man--that might have been modeled on former Col. David Hackworth, not unlike the part he's written for himself as America's ballsiest war reporter, "the hot shit dude who tells it like it is." Hackworth is the type known as a legend in his own mind. The colonel's own press materials assert that he is the "reputed model" for Col. Kurtz, the Marlon Brando character in the movie Apocalypse Now...

David Hackworth is a war hero. In 1944, when he was a 14-year-old orphan, Hackworth faked his way into the U.S. Merchant Marine. At 16, he was a U.S. Army private, fighting Yugoslav partisans on the Italian border. At 20, he won a battlefield commission in Korea, then commanded a savage and brilliant Army Raiders unit that wreaked havoc on the North Koreans and Chinese. When he left the Army in 1971, he was the youngest full colonel in Vietnam, winner of eight Purple Hearts, nine Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation Medals, four Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and a chestful of other medals. Today Hackworth calls himself--often--"America's most decorated living soldier."


Gore and the Internet 

Getting the recognition he deserves:
NEW YORK - Al Gore may have been lampooned for taking credit in the Internet's development, but organizers of the Webby Awards for online achievements don't find it funny at all.

In part to "set the record straight," they will give Gore a lifetime achievement award for three decades of contributions to the Internet, said Tiffany Shlain, the awards' founder and chairwoman.

"It's just one of those instances someone did amazing work for three decades as congressman, senator and vice president and it got spun around into this political mess," Shlain said.

Vint Cerf, undisputedly one of the Internet's key inventors, will give Gore the award at a June 6 ceremony in New York.

"He is indeed due some thanks and consideration for his early contributions," Cerf said.

Gore, who boasted in a CNN interview he "took the initiative in creating the Internet," was only 21 when the Internet was born out of a Pentagon project.

But after joining Congress eight years later, he promoted high-speed telecommunications for economic growth and supported funding increases for the then-fledging network, according to the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which presents the annual awards.

He popularized the term "information superhighway" as vice president.

AND, he didn't exactly say he "invented the internet", like the GOP led everyone to believe...


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Saudi Visas 

Despite the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi, and the extreme brand of Islam, Wahabi, comes from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. has decided to ease visa restrictions with Saudi Arabia:
RIYADH, 4 May 2005 — US Ambassador James C. Oberwetter says changes in the US visa process would ease travel between the States and Saudi Arabia.

The ambassador’s comments come in the wake of the Saudi-US Summit and before a high-profile, 63-member Saudi business mission leaves for the US next week.

“Last week’s visit by Crown Prince Abdullah to the United States has given a major boost to the bilateral relations,” said Oberwetter. “I am very satisfied with the outcome of the royal visit,” he said, referring to the joint communique issued after the talks held by Crown Prince Abdullah and the US President George W. Bush.

He also gave details of the Saudi commercial delegation scheduled to visit the United States from May 7-19. The delegates will hold business talks in several cities including Washington, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston.

Oberwetter said once the new system was in place, it will ensure long-term stays for Saudi businessmen or tourists in the US with multiple-entry visas. “It will also reduce the time lag for processing visa applications and interviews,” he said, without detailing the proposed system

Now, what can we do about those high oil prices...


Monday, May 02, 2005

Runaway War 

Hmm let me see, a war plan with "little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action", Intelligence being "fixed around the policy", and a war planned to coincide with an election. Nah, let's stick with the story about some scared bride. Our "Media" is a JOKE.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action...

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Balanced Budget Amendment 

Anyone care to give a good reason why the Dems should not try to do this:

(From Friday's Altercation.)
Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it’s Stupid to return to 1997:

”It’s a temporary setback, but we’re not going to give up...There will be a day of reckoning, if this country goes into recession, several issues will come surging out: failure to control big government, trade issues and failure to pass the balanced budget amendment.”

The words are from then-Senator Connie Mack of Florida upon the defeat of a balanced budget amendment by one vote (66-34). Other Republicans railed at the President for not putting an end to reckless deficit spending. They were correct—just four years too early. Back then the GOP was obsessed with the balanced budget amendment. It was Item #1 on the Contract With America.

Today they never mention it. Never. Imagine how different things would be if the BBA had passed and been ratified. The BBA is like a filibuster on steroids—it forces real compromise in budget negotiations. Had Democrats foreseen how entrenched the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress would become, maybe they’d have stepped back.

Better late than never. I think the Democrats should re-introduce it. Voters still don’t credit Dems with fiscal responsibility. Comparing Dubya’s deficits to Clinton’s surpluses doesn’t work Republicans hide behind 9/11 and make their regressive tax cuts sound righteous. And just imagine the political jujitsu. Sean Hannity saying “you hypocrites—you were always against the balanced budget amendment.”

Response: “You’ve convinced us! You told us for years that a reckless government could destroy our children’s future. We didn’t believe it—we never did it, Reagan never did it, George
HW never did it. Now that you’ve done it, you’ve left us no choice. But fine, don’t believe us—you wanted this for years, go for it!” If it passes, the Dems get credit. If it doesn’t, the Republicans look hypocritical.

And it really is a necessity. Dubya promised a chimera of a $250 billion reduction in the deficit over five years, the current Congressional budget agreement—adds— $125 billion to the deficit in the same time. Without the Constitution nothing stands in the way except a half-dozen allegedly moderate GOP senators. Come back Newt, a little is forgiven!

It seemingly would be a good way to make the GOP eat their words, and beat them at their own game.


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