Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Best of the Best of 2003

I had really planned to come up with a "Best of 2003" post. But by unstinting prevarication, I can now link to everybody else's and quote the best parts. Such a deal!

Anyhow, Tim Blair gets first place with his detailed recap of the best (and worst) - Best of Quotes 2003. Thanks, Tim, for reminding us of:
"We believe that in the wake of September 11, the only sane foreign policy for the US and all its allies to pursue is to examine just what caused that level of extreme hate, and act in a manner which will reduce it." -- SMH columnist Peter FitzSimons plans his Islamic conversion
"He can roll up his sleeves all he wants at public events, but as long as we see that heart tattoo with Neville Chamberlain's name on his right forearm, he's never going anywhere." -- Dennis Miller on Howard Dean
"Might I offer a couple of small suggestions to those British citizens who would prefer not to stand trial in military tribunals where the punishment for some crimes can be execution? Don’t join terrorist organisations that fly planes at skyscrapers, and don’t dedicate your life to mass murder." -- Stephen Pollard
"I want to thank the Australian people who supported our cause when they demonstrated against the policies of George Bush." -- Bali bomb builder Sawad
"after reading your site for an hour even i could see you were a troubled young help tim buy a travel book or even take some heroin and watch a documentry on dolphins then you can come join us.your missing out tim,when your lying on your deathbed gasping for your final breath your gonnae think of all the things you never done and your gonna cry,your gonna cry like a baby tim,and your final words will be ‘can i start again please daddy’ then its lights out tim." -- reader Anne M.
Then there's the Media Research Center's The Best of Notable Quotables 2003 where the Quote of the Year was:
“If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.” – Charles Pierce in a January 5 Boston Globe Magazine article. Kopechne drowned while trapped in Kennedy’s submerged car off Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, an accident Kennedy did not report for several hours.
And Mark Steyn's STEYN'S YEAR
I’m writing this a few hours before deadline. So by the time you read this Saddam may have won.

That would seem to be the upshot of the BBC coverage we get over here, not to mention dear old Reuters. As Douglas Hamilton reported, "U.S. military prowess suffered another setback in Iraq on Monday and another omen that bullets rather than liberators' garlands may await the invasion force when it finally reaches Baghdad."

“Omen”? Well, speaking as someone not privy to the entrails of the Reuters chicken, let me go out on a limb here: the Anglo-Aussie-American forces will win.
The Spectator, March 29th
One woman bore a picture of some female genitalia – possibly hers, the provenance was obscure – over the caption “This Bush Is For Peace”. Another waxed eloquent: “Trim Bush.” Out in Marin County somewhere, other bushes for peace disrobed, lay down on a hillside, and formed the words “No War”. I wonder if there are any conflicted nudists, with a bush for Iraq and a rack for Bush.
The Spectator, January 25th
If we have to have an incoherent, self-loathing “peace” movement, then women showing off their hooters in support of a culture that would stone them to death for showing off their ankles is about as good as it’s gonna get.
The Daily Telegraph, March 8th
With these being so great, I didn't even mine my old posts for anything tasty. But I always liked this one:
Somethings's changed but I can't figure out what!

Baghdad beforeBaghdad after
Follow the links for much more.

UPDATE: Don't miss John Hawkins The 10 Worst Quotes From The Democratic Underground For 2003. But don't forget your tinfoil beanie and lots of disinfectant.
Now cough!

In the Washington Post, Marjorie Williams reveals what she doesn't like about Howard Dean - The Doctor Factor:
At long last, the revelation I've been waiting for: the reason why -- beyond the prospect of epic, McGovernesque defeat -- I feel so uneasy about Howard Dean.

The man is a doctor. This is the least-examined chapter of his career. But suddenly it all makes sense: Where else but in medicine do you find men and women who never admit a mistake? Who talk more than they listen, and feel entitled to withhold crucial information? Whose lack of tact in matters of life and death might disqualify them for any other field?

As it happens, I've spent almost two decades observing politicians, whom on balance I quite like, and more recent years observing doctors, who . . . . Well, let's just say that mine is a grudge tenderly nurtured over two and a half years of illness, encompassing roughly 32 doctors in six hospitals, plus scores of the medical students, fellows, interns and residents in whom we can see the doctor in larval form.

A doctor who has told you one thing at Appointment A might propose an entirely different course of action at Meeting B. Fair enough -- except for the pretense that nothing has changed. It is the very rare doctor who will say, "I've changed my mind," or, "Sorry, I was wrong when I said X at our last meeting." Usually, what he said last time has simply become . . . inoperative.

Now let's turn the clock back to September, and watch Dean answer George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" about his 180-degree turn, over the years, on the North American Free Trade Agreement:

GS: "On NAFTA, you used to be a very strong supporter of NAFTA."

HD: "George, you're doing it again. I supported NAFTA and wrote a letter to President Clinton in 1992 supporting NAFTA. That's different than 'you used to be a very strong supporter of NAFTA.' "

GS: "You were a strong supporter of NAFTA."

HD: "I supported NAFTA. Where do you get this 'I'm a strong supporter of NAFTA'? I didn't do anything about it. I didn't vote on it. I didn't march down the street demanding NAFTA. I simply wrote a letter supporting NAFTA."

Dean was not in the least abashed that he had described himself on the same show, eight years earlier, as "a very strong supporter of NAFTA."
While I've had some physicians that don't fit Marjorie's profile, I recognize the type.
But I have enough brusque, irritable doctors in my life without sending one to the White House. My most memorable brushes have been with an eminent surgeon whose method is to stride into the examining room two hours late, pat your hand, pronounce your certain death if he can't perform an operation on you, and then snap at your husband to stop taking notes, he can't possibly follow the complexity of the doctor's thinking. Dr. X swats away questions like flies. He spends five precious minutes swearing at the wall-mounted phone, which decades of surgical experience have not equipped him to operate, and then finally pronounces that he can't perform the surgery. "Unless you want me to. But there's a 50-50 chance I would kill you."

Why is it, I ask my husband on the way home, that I'm the one who's sick, but they're the ones who are allowed to have the big, operatic personalities?

I have the same concern about Dean.
So do we all, Margie. More by following the link.
Not these asshats again!

Yep, it's those crack "intelligence agents", Joe "Sweet Mint Tea" Wilson and "Secret Spouse" Victoria Plame. You know, the ones with their photo in the January 2004 Vanity Fair:
The photograph, by Jonas Karlsson, was taken Nov. 8 and "styled by" Ann Caruso. Hair, makeup, and grooming by Terri Grauel for T.H.E. Artist Agency.
Anyhow, the usual suspects are still whining about the supposed "outing" of La Plame as a CIA employee and the Justice department investigation - Democrats Divided Over CIA Leak Probe. What I want to know is when we'll get an investigation into why these two goofballs were on the CIA payroll in the first place? I figure any outing of these two is covered by the whistleblower laws.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Asshollah Ayatollahs

The Guardian surprises with David Aaronovitch's article - Why did so many have to die in Bam?
The Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday managed to get to Bam, three days after the earthquake which may have killed 30,000 of his fellow Iranians. The president, Mohammad Khatami, followed soon afterwards. Khamenei had words of dubious comfort for survivors when he told them that "we will rebuild Bam stronger than before". Given the collapse of 80% of the buildings, from the old fortress to the new hospitals, the Iranian government could hardly make the new Bam as weak as the old one.

Some will see this as simply a natural disaster of the kind to which Iran, according to Khatami, is "prone". Four days earlier, however, there had been another earthquake of about the same intensity, this time in California. In which about 0.000001% of the buildings suffered serious structural damage and two people were killed when an old clocktower collapsed. So why the polar disparity between Bam and Paso Robles?
Hmm, I can think of a reason.
The same question was being asked back in the queue outside the clinic. Fariba Hemati told the Guardian what she thought of official efforts, "Our government is only preoccupied with slogans: 'Death to America', 'Death to Israel', 'Death to this and that'. We have had three major earthquakes in the past three decades. Thousands of people have died but nothing has been done. Why?"
The answer to Hemati is that, after a quarter of a century, Iran is still being ruled by a useless, incompetent semi-theocracy, which is fatalistic, complacent, unresponsive and often brutal. And such a system does not deliver to its citizens one fraction of what the Great Satan, for all its manifest faults, manages to guarantee to ordinary Americans.
Yep, that's the reason.

Best line:
What, I wonder, has Arundhati Roy to say now about the superiority of traditional building methods over globalised ones? Some Iranians might think that it's a shame there wasn't a McDonald's in Bam. It would have been the safest place in town.
In case, you don't know ole Arundhati, she's an Indian ecoweenie and "anti-globalist." She likes mud huts.

Ruh Oh!

There's a hoot in the Guardian - Castro as Hitler on Cuban front page sparks hunt for mystery satirist
The Cuban authorities have launched an inquiry into how the official newspaper of the Communist party ran a front page photograph of Fidel Castro which appeared to have been doctored to make him look like Adolf Hitler.

When the edition of Granma hit the streets this month party officials began to retrieve as many copies as they could, an operation which appears to have deterred foreign journalists based on the island from reporting the story.

The picture appeared above a story which reported President Fidel Castro's meeting with North American students. Close examination of the photograph shows that the image of the Cuban leader has been subtly altered to make him look like the Nazi leader.

Underneath banners proclaiming Cuba's opposition to war and terrorism, President Castro is seen in full military uniform, but the world's most famous beard has been replaced by history's most striking moustache, while his grey hair now has the faint hint of a black comb-over.

Although details of what happened remain unclear, what is known is that someone or some group at the newspaper appears to have risked all in the name of political satire.
I hope they took it on the lam - the Fidelista thugs aren't going to be real forgiving. Follow the link for the photo, but frankly it's rather hard to see.
Blofeld update!

Bush takes on Soros: Fund-raising e-mail urges support to counter billionaire's campaign
The campaign to re-elect President George W. Bush has taken aim at his 10th rival in the race – non-candidate George Soros.

Staffers fired off an e-mail to Republican supporters in an effort to counter the billionaire-financier's campaign to oust the incumbent, reports the Independent.
Let's see. A billionaire currency speculator who thinks 9-11 was no big deal and says he wants to be known as the man who brought down the government of President Bush. That ought to energize the troops. On the other hand, FDR and Truman must be spnning in their graves over what the Democrat party has become.

The article also has a nice summary of Blofeld's activities:
WorldNetDaily reported the Hungarian-born philanthropist seeks to raise up to $75 million and has pledged more than $15 million of his own money to prevent Bush from staying in the White House.

He committed an unprecedented $10 million to "Americans Coming Together," or ACT, which plans to mobilize voters in 17 states regarded as battlegrounds in the 2004 election.

WorldNetDaily reported Soros also pledged up to $5 million to mobilize anti-Bush activists and voters online. He and other wealthy donors are financing the Internet political-mobilization project, founded by a California millionaire in 1998 to defend President Clinton from impeachment.

As part of its "down with Bush" campaign, the group recently launched a competition to find the best 30-second television spot that highlights perceived Bush failures. The winning spot is targeted to air during the week of Bush's State of the Union address. The Independent reports the "Bush in 30 Seconds" competition is partly run by Soros's son, Jonathan Soros.
Nice to see that he's bringing the kid into the family business. Hmm, maybe they'll run some James Bond films that week too.
Soros distributes $400 million annually through his Open Society Institute.
The Open Society Institute is the SPECTRE front operation with tentacles around the world. Hmm, maybe I can get a franchise!

Everyone's picking on Howie!

Brendan Minter at the WSJ - Backsliding Dean: Does he have a firm stand on anything?
All candidates develop a reputation with the media. In 2000 the story line on Al Gore was his wildly exaggerated claims. Mr. Gore may not have said precisely that he "invented the Internet," but his propensity to tell "whoppers" got him tagged with the line nonetheless. Unfortunately for Mr. Dean, that's the kind of story line that's now emerging about him.

After building a campaign on the anger of the Democratic electorate, the former Vermont governor can now be called "Backsliding Dean." He leaps forward with a bold statement aimed at pleasing his core supporters, but ultimately is forced to slide back because of the ludicrousness of his position.
Lie down with wing nuts, come up with fleas.

But there's more - Infighting Between Dean, Rivals Gets Ugly:
Infighting between Howard Dean and some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination has gotten so nasty of late that Dean called on party chairman Terry McAuliffe to step in and tone things down. In the process, Dean managed to insult McAuliffe.

Republican strategists, meanwhile, are watching it all with barely contained glee.

"They are beginning to really gouge this guy," Republican pollster Bill McInturff said about Dean, chuckling. "Look at Howard Dean and, as a Republican, think about the advertising we're going to run."

McInturff said Republicans could use John Kerry's quotes about Dean wanting to tax the middle class, or the "wonderful attack" from Wesley Clark about Dean's draft status or the "terrific comments" from Joe Lieberman about Dean's stance on Saddam Hussein's capture.
Lieberman said he was surprised by Dean's sensitivity, noting that the former Vermont governor fired the first volleys with a negative ad about his rivals, called members of Congress "cockroaches" and party leaders "prostitutes," and referred to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council as "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party."

Dean also warned Sunday that hundreds of thousands of his supporters would be unlikely to back anyone else in November if he is not the Democratic nominee.

Kerry called the comment "divisive and threatening" and said it fit with Dean's pattern.

"He was the first candidate to attack in this campaign and the first to run negative ads and he has been attacking Democrats and their accomplishments during the Clinton years from day one of this race," Kerry said.

Gephardt accused Dean of now wanting to change the rules of the game "as he makes a series of embarrassing gaffes that underscore the fact that he is not well-equipped to challenge George Bush."
Boys, boys! Can't you behave?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Steel Cage Match Alert!

The previous post was about Howard Dean whining that the other candidates were kicking sand in his face. Now they respond - Rivals hit Dean for criticism of Democratic Party boss
"That struck me as outrageous coming from Howard Dean, who launched the first negative ads of the campaign who has repeatedly and divisively attacked the Democratic Party, other Democratic candidates and the Democratic leadership," Sen. Joseph Lieberman told reporters Monday.

The Connecticut senator said Dean has responded to criticism with personal insults and invective.

"What does he do now that he's being substantively challenged? He goes complaining to the party chairman that we're being mean to him," Lieberman said.
Good one, Joe!
"Howard Dean has spent the last year criticizing me and other candidates at every opportunity," said Gephardt, who is making his second bid for the White House. "Now, as he makes a series of embarrassing gaffes that underscore the fact he is not well-equipped to challenge George Bush, he suddenly wants to change the rules of the game."

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts issued a statement saying Dean's comments lead him to wonder "if he's worried about our party's chances for victory or his own personal political future."

"It's time Howard Dean realized this campaign isn't about him, it's about our country," Kerry, of Massachusetts, said Monday.
Kerry had criticized Dean sharply on Saturday, raising questions about what he called Dean's misstatements on a variety of subjects.

"We need more than simple answers and the slip of the tongue," Kerry said in a speech in New Hampshire. "Our world is complicated, and the challenges we face demand a president who knows what he's saying and knows where America needs to go. It raises serious doubts about both his realism and resolve."
But the line of the day was:
Craig Smith, Lieberman's campaign manager, said Dean's criticism "is like the mad cow calling the herd rabid."
Darn! And all along I just thought he looked like Dilbert's boss!

Mad Howard Dean or the Pointy Haired Boss?
Oooo! Ow! Oooooo!

Howie says, "That smarts!" - Dean Wants Party Leader to Slow Rivals' Attacks
Complaining about the torrent of attacks raining down on him from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean on Sunday criticized his party's national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, for not intervening to tone down the debate.
Bwahaha! Shall we dance?
"Right now those guys think we're the front-runner, so they're saying all this stuff, `He can't win'," Dr. Dean said. "How are they going to win?

"What I'm saying is I think we're the best and most capable candidate of beating George Bush because we're the only one that is exciting the party," he said.
Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see Howie? And the first person plural? Is that the royal "we", Dean-o?

In related news:
The United Nations Security Council today took up discussion of a resolution to protect Democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean from White House rivals John F. Kerry, Wesley Clark and Joseph I. Lieberman, whom Mr. Dean has dubbed the 'axis of Smeagol'.

"Like the two-faced character in the Lord of the Rings movies, Clark, Kerry and Lieberman make a show of party unity while verbally savaging me behind my back," said Mr. Dean. "Only the United Nations has the legitimacy to intervene for my protection. My own party has failed me."
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he is hopeful that the Security Council will "leap to Mr. Dean's aid within the decade."
It's ScrappleFace.
It had to happen

(Via The Corner) The French Chapter of Indymedia (natch) features The Racist Tapestry of Lord of the Rings! Lots of rich nutty goodness and a few fruitcakes too:
The reason that Western medicine has not advanced to the enlightened technological level as Chinese herbal medicine and why most Western technology is diametrically opposed to all life on this planet, poisoning our air and water and causing widespread disease and death is for the simple fact that the Freemasons and the Church have not yet let go of the death grip they have on each other's throats. In other words, the enlightened knowledge that the church has attempted to destroy that the Freemasons attempted to save and capitalize on with Western patents has turned into a death struggle that has created destructive technological paradigms here in the West that are now being forced on the populations of the entire earth destabilizing life and bringing with them the pollution of the air and water that once existed only in Christendom.
I love a Freemason conspiracy.
Pond scum news

George Soros is worse than pond scum

So 9-11 was no biggie eh, Georgie? He's worse than pond scum. And then there are his scum sucking minions. Byron York has the details.
Howie threatens to take his ball and go home

Dean says his supporters won't easily back another
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont said yesterday that the people drawn to politics by his campaign might stay home if he doesn't win his party's presidential nomination, thereby dooming Democrats in the fall campaign against President Bush.

"If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go?" he said during a meeting with reporters.

"I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician," Mr. Dean said.
It just gets better.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Fer sure, man!

Dean Issues Clarification
Presidential candidate Howard Dean issued a clarification of his remarks published yesterday in the Manchester (NH) Union-Leader, in which he was quoted as saying "if I were to meet Osama bin Laden face to face, I would roll a big fatty and get totally baked with him."

"I in no way meant to imply I would share my best stash with an international bad guy like bin Laden," Dean told the AP in a phone interview. "I would only do so in an effort to get him to narc on the real culprits behind 9/11, Cheney's Halliburton cabal. And I would also totally not let him bogart."
It's Iowahawk. Also check out Dapper Dogpatch Dandies Dig Dem Dean.
Our beamish boy, Howie

George Will has some musings on the ski bum today in Tough Pill For the Democrats
Arthur Goldberg was a fine public servant -- secretary of labor, Supreme Court justice, ambassador to the United Nations -- but a dreadful candidate for governor of New York in 1970, when it was said that if he gave one more speech he would lose Canada, too. Howard Dean is becoming Goldbergean.
That's too polite.
Regarding foreign policy, Dean recently said not only that America is no safer because Saddam Hussein was captured but that America is "no safer today than the day the planes struck the World Trade Center." Well.
That's way too polite.

But being Howie, he covers all sides of the issue.
He says he supported the war to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan, although he thinks it made us no safer. And even though he says the war in Iraq made us no safer, he says he would "not have hesitated" to attack Iraq if the United Nations had given us "permission."
Logic isn't his strong suit, I guess.

But wait, there's more:
Because Dean's foreign policy pronouncements have been curiouser and curiouser, his recent speech on domestic policy did not get the attention it deserved for its assertion that America is boiling with "anger and despair." Republicans are, Dean says, trying to "dismantle" the welfare state -- presumably when they are not enriching Medicare's entitlement menu -- and they aim "to end public education."
Who knew?
How'd I miss this one?

The T-Shirt That Launched 1,000 Quips
As if things weren't going badly enough for John F. Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts has been bitten by a Psycho Chihuahua.

The attack occurred 10 days ago in Hopkinton, N.H., when Kerry went to speak to a class at Hopkinton High. This appearance resulted in a most unhelpful photo for the onetime front-runner for the Democratic nomination, snapped by Concord Monitor photo editor Dan Habib. The image is of Kerry making an earnest point to student Mark LaGuardia, who, unbeknownst to the candidate, is wearing a T-shirt that proclaims on the back: "Your mouth keeps moving but all I hear is 'BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.' "
Picture here.
Another Fine Mess for Howie

Dean criticizes Cheney task force, but had own secret energy group
Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean has demanded release of secret deliberations of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force. But as Vermont governor, Dean had an energy task force that met in secret and angered state lawmakers.
In 1999, Dean offered the same argument the Bush administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret.

"The governor needs to receive advice from time to time in closed session. As every person in government knows, sometimes you get more open discussion when it's not public," Dean was quoted as saying.
I guess he wasn't trolling for campaign issues in those days.
There's nothing like Reuters

Six Killed, Including 'Terrorist,' in Kabul Blast
KABUL (Reuters) - Five Afghan security officials were killed in the capital Kabul on Sunday when a "terrorist" they had detained blew himself up, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
I guess they use " 'terrorist' " when they mean murdering psychopath.
About time

Ralph Reiland in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (12/21) - Return of the Special Forces:
The real story in Saddam's capture is that the Bush administration has turned loose the Special Forces to fight a covert, no-holds-barred war in Iraq.

"A revitalized Special Forces mission is a policy victory for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who has struggled for two years to get the military leadership to accept the strategy of what he calls 'Manhunts' -- a phrase that he has used both publicly and in internal Pentagon communications," writes Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker's Dec. 15 issue. "According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq."
What that means is no more Mr. Nice Guy. It means our first priority will not be to arm American troops with paint rollers each morning, to get everything looking more spiffy in Baghdad. Instead, we're talking about what some in the Pentagon call "pre-emptive manhunting" -- more intelligence, more captures, and more assassinations of Baathist insurgents. The paint can wait.
Despite the whiners, you finish the job and then worry about the paint job.
We're so damn diverse

S. Lynne Walker at the Copley News Service is trying hard for the "Welcome the new neighbors" award - Black-market IDs a fact of life for many:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three of a four-part Copley series reflecting on a changing America. The series highlights the changes in Beardstown, Ill., where the closing of a factory precipitated a cultural change as a new factory brought in many immigrant workers and turned the all-white town into a culturally diverse community.
They misspelled "illegal alien".
BEARDSTOWN, Ill. — As Beardstown residents struggled to find common ground with their new neighbors, one issue kept them apart: Many of the Hispanics working at Excel Corp.’s slaughterhouse were living illegally in the United States.
They actually said it!

Hit the link for the details, but it's the usual sordid tale. The company winks at the illegal aliens, helped by the fact that many have illegal IDs. But there's a new problem - "illegal alien cabin fever"!
Other Hispanics, who were working at Excel without legitimate documents, could never let their guard down. Fearful of being deported, they spent most of their off-work hours at home.

“I feel trapped,” sighed a 49-year-old woman who left Acapulco in 1999 and crossed the border illegally.

“Every day I’m here, here, here,” she said, sweeping her arm in the direction of the two-story home she and her husband bought. “We almost never go out. I feel very lonely.”

As she remembered her home in Mexico’s famous beach resort, she sighed again.

“Right now, our mango tree would be full of fruit. I miss the coconuts, the breeze from the sea,” she said. “I tell my husband, ‘Let’s go back.’
Sounds like a plan.

And saving the best for last - after explaining how the illegal IDs are obtained and that the best ones are those of real people:
The dual identities filled the town’s school records, health records, police records and voter registration lists with inaccuracies.

Excel employees working with false identities didn’t want to use their real names — or their children’s real names — on official documents. School officials repeatedly assured parents their records wouldn’t be turned over the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“We are not the INS. We do not plan to be the INS,” said school Superintendent Jim Lewis. “Our mission is not to turn people in, but to help the families.”

Pregnant mothers were urged to give their real names when they arrived at local hospitals to deliver their babies. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to prove they were the children’s real mothers.

At the Cass County Clerk’s office, irregularities cropped up on voter registration lists. A single social security number was sometimes used by as many as four registered “voters.”

Few voted, however. In Beardstown’s April 2001 mayoral election, fewer than 20 of the town’s 120 registered Hispanics cast ballots.
Er, nice theory, if true; but how do they know? Since election fraud is a felony, I don't think they are going to get too many of the "new neighbors" owning up to it. And looking for Hispanic surnames on the registration lists obviously isn't going to cut it.
Quagmire alert!

Milosevic Poised to Win Parliamentary Seat
BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - It looks like another rough day for Serbian politics Sunday - four indicted war criminals are running for parliament.

The elections could result in seats for at least two of them, Slobodan Milosevic and a former associate. They won't be taking those seats, since both are in jail in The Hague, awaiting trial. But their election will deal a prestige blow to U.S. and European hopes of fostering a pro-Western democratic leadership.

Three years after Milosevic was overthrown and a decade of Balkan wars neared their end, Serbians have become disillusioned with democracy. That's evident from their failure, three times in a row, to get a big enough turnout to elect a president.
Another swell example of the efficacy of multilateralism.
Pot, Kettle, Black

Kerry Paints Stark Contrast Between Dean And Himself
PORTSMOUTH, N.H., Dec. 27 — Senator John Kerry delivered a withering attack Saturday on Howard Dean, trying to frame the presidential campaign in New Hampshire as a two-man race and saying voters here faced a choice between Dr. Dean's "confusion and contradiction" and his own "steady and consistent hand."
And he did it with a straight face!
News you can use

Get wife's permission for harem, Ugandan men told. I'd suggest getting a hard hat first.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Meanwhile, over in Sweden, things are less cool

Swedes fear aid system is overtaxed: Generous benefits are burdened by an aging population and sick-leave abuses.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - In the happy chaos of their two-bedroom apartment in central Stockholm, Mika and Carolina Laine interrupt each other in their enthusiasm to describe the cozy embrace of the Swedish welfare state.
Be still my heart!
As 4-year-old Georg plays Robin Hood and 2-year-old Annie learns to skip, the Laines talk about everything from generous paid leave for new parents to free tuition and generous stipends for university students.

"Even if we pay a lot in taxes, we get a lot," said Mika, 34, a middle-school teacher.
Funny how that works.
But like many Swedes who fret about the world's highest tax burden, worrisome demographic trends, and a puzzling explosion in sick leave, the Laines wonder how long it can last.

"I want the system to work and keep the standards we have today," said Carolina, 33. "But I'm afraid it's impossible."
You mean I have to buy a beer to get a free lunch?

But before we get to that part, how about some more bennies?
Income taxes top out at a marginal rate of 55 percent, compared with 38.6 percent in the United States, and high rates apply at much lower incomes. If retail prices seem high, that's partly because a walloping 25 percent value-added tax is built in.

In fact, 51 percent of Sweden's gross domestic product is consumed by taxes, the highest rate among the 30 developed countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. At 29 percent and falling, the United States vies with Japan, South Korea and Ireland for the developed world's lowest tax burden.
Oops, here are the bennies:
The Laines offer a typical case. After each of the children's births, the couple split more than a year of state-paid parental leave. Now they collect monthly payments to help support each child.

When the children need a vaccination or run a fever, their medical care is free. Their subsidized day-care center, a 10-minute walk away, has four trained adults for 17 children.

Such benefits hugely ease the strains of parenthood, they say. Carolina said a Swedish friend recently married an American and moved to Minnesota. "But they plan to move here when they have children," she said.

True, Mika pays 30 percent of his $40,000 teaching salary in income tax. But that money might be said to recycle to his wife, a full-time student of clinical psychology at Stockholm University. Not only does she pay no tuition, but the government also pays her a stipend to cover living expenses.

"I do have to pay for my books," Carolina said.

Another young Swedish mother, asked about views of the Swedish welfare state, surveyed her social circle.

"I spoke to a few of my friends and said, 'Come up with something about the system that's bad,' " said Esther Goldman, 24, mother of a 10-month-old son. She got few complaints: "Everybody said we get so much, it's kind of cheeky to complain."
The fact that even the well-to-do receive tangible benefits from the system has preserved its broad popularity, said Agneta Karlsson, deputy secretary of the ruling Social Democratic Party, which has held power for most of the last seven decades.

"The Swedish idea is everybody pays and everybody gets something," said Karlsson, 41. "If only the poor receive something, the poor will be stigmatized, and the rich will say, 'Why should we pay?' "
What a great con - the government takes huge whopping hunks of their income but they're happy because they get "benefits". Muggers ought to try it - "Give me your wallet, but I'll give you 20 bucks." The only problem is when there is no "20 bucks".
More than 800,000 people - about a fifth of the workforce - are either on sick leave or early retirement for medical reasons, a rate far higher than in other European countries, according to government figures.

Fabian Wallen, an economist with the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, faults what he considers to be lax rules for determining who is ill.

"In Sweden you can be on sick leave basically forever," Wallen, 29, said. "You don't really have incentives to go back to work."
Not that there was much incentive in the first place. Hmm, maybe I can become an honorary Swede?

And there's more good news:
Similarly, in a sign of anxiety about the future, the Laines recently began paying about $30 a month into a private retirement account. They worry that state pensions might not survive the graying of the population, which will place a huge burden on a shrinking working-age population.
If sick leave is the short-term threat to the system, demographics pose a long-term danger. While the growing number of retirees poses problems for the United States, Sweden's generous benefits make the age shift potentially more catastrophic.

Wallen says the looming demographic challenge makes it essential that Sweden find ways to enlarge the economic pie that is being so equitably distributed.

"The basis for any society besides having a just legal system and all that is to have some kind of wealth creation," Wallen said.
Lotsa luck.
Yet another fad I missed

Japan's Empire of Cool: Country's Culture Becomes Its Biggest Export
TOKYO -- In the supercharged air of Shibuya, Tokyo's fiercely hip teen quarter, music videos by Japanese pop stars topping the charts throughout Asia boom from towering, outdoor liquid-crystal display screens. The streets below are clogged with hordes of young women wearing the Japanese schoolgirl look -- streetwalker's makeup, sexy stockings and plaid miniskirts -- styled by international fashion magazines as the height of child-delinquent chic.
We don't see many of those around here.
Under a galaxy of neon, cubicle-sized stores sell trendy trinkets, including phone mascots -- cute characters first dangled off cell phones here years ago, now common in Seoul and Hong Kong and seen in Sydney, New York and Paris.
Those either.
In the cacophony of cool, foreigners mingle with streams of Japanese descending by a cave-like hole into the entrance of Mandarake, the world's largest Japanese manga -- comics -- and anime department store. They buy original celluloids, or cels, from Japanese animation, most at about $30 each, along with comic books, action figures, posters and CDs. Hundreds of online orders come in daily to operators speaking Japanese, English, Spanish, French and Korean.

Company President Masuzo Furukawa, whose office is entered through an anime-like tube with round, orange electronic doors, is direct about the reason: "If it's Japanese, the world wants it. Japan is hot."
If I said that to any of the locals, they'd think I'd been spending too much time with a jug of corn squeezin's.
Even as this country of 127 million has lost its status as a global economic superpower and the national confidence has been sapped by a 13-year economic slump, Japan is reinventing itself -- this time as the coolest nation on Earth.
I'm sure that's a great consolation.

More than you want to know by following the link.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Flip Flop Howie

First it was Dean: Bin Laden guilt best determined by jury, but now it's Dean: Death To Osama. Deano's "base" isn't going to be happy.
Media News Flash From Burpelson Air Force Base

(Via FR) Weasley's got a new video puff piece:
Award-winning producer Linda Bloodworth unveils her newest film. The biopic, "American Son" is about the life and times of Wes Clark. This moving account features Clark's family, life-long friends and the men and women who served under his command. It details Clark's accomplishments and tells the story of this true American hero.
Warning - the above link will try to start playing it. Barf bags are in the seat back pocket in front of you.

But hold on a sec, the name "Linda Bloodworth" sounds very familiar. Oh yeah, I remember - Linda Bloodworth-Thomason - famous Hollywood friend of the Clintons who produced The Man from Hope amongst other Bubba puff pieces. She and her husband Harry are also famous for:
Getting the Clinton White House travel business for a company they partially owned after the civil service employees were fired by the Clintons.

Coaching Bubba on his "I did not have sex with that woman" delivery.

Giving Bubba's brother Roger a job to keep him gainfully employed and out of sight during Bubba's stint in the White House.

Bubba calling CBS on their behalf to resolve a billing dispute for one of their shows.

Arranging for Bubba to appear on the Johnny Carson show for a little image repair after his bomb at the 1988 Democrat convention.

Serving as perpetual makeover consultants for Hillary.

Producing another video puff piece for Hillary's 2000 Senate campaign.

Putting together a film apologia for Bubba entitled Hunting the President which will premiere in 2004. (Something to look forward to, I'm sure.)
And more that I can't be bothered to dig up. So one can't help but wonder why ole Linda is lending her propaganda talents to Weasley. But one can guess (Hat tip: Freepers):

He's my sock puppet!

Unfortunately, Linda left out some of the best parts of the Weasley saga (Hat tip: Broken Newz)

It's all about my precious bodily fluids!
We don't see many preachers like that around here

But the best part is that some of the Kool-Aid Drinkers (1, 2) think Howie was way out of line for mentioning religion at all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas to all!
Be prepared!

The Center for Consumer Freedom is on top of things with You'd Better Watch Out ... for Christmas Lawsuits! They suggest that you cover your butt Santa-wise with a Christmas Cookies Indemnification Agreement.
The agreement includes a number of "clauses" designed to protect you and your family from possible liability. By signing it before he eats your cookies, Kris Kringle agrees not to sue you on the basis of:
1) Failure to provide nutrition information and a list of ingredients (the "Grandma's Secret Recipe" clause);

2) Failure to caution of the potential for overeating because cookies taste too good and are provided at no cost;

3) Failure to advise that walking, biking, and jogging will shed pounds, but riding around on a sleigh will not;

4) Failure to warn that Christmas lights, lawn ornaments (plastic reindeer, snowmen, etc.) and other holiday decorations may constitute manipulative marketing to lure Santa into over-consumption.

5) Failure to offer "healthier" cookie alternatives (e.g., tofu bars);

6) Failure to counsel that cookies may be habit-forming and/or irresistible; and

7) Failure to notify that eating way too many cookies may lead to even greater levels of obesity for St. Nick (the "Sanity Clause").
No word on any required warning stickers.
Whew, that's a relief!

Bay Area faces holidays without little silver balls on baked goods
Procrastinators are in for a shock when they set out to make those last-minute holiday cookies, cakes and gingerbread houses. Store shelves are almost bare of the beloved, tooth-crunching decorations called dragees -- better known as "those little silver balls.''

Because of a Napa lawyer's lawsuit alleging that the shimmery mini-orbs are toxic, stores such as Sur La Table and Spun Sugar are selling off their last remaining stocks, and wholesalers and Internet suppliers simply won't sell sugar decorations filmed with silver, gold or copper to anyone in California.
No word on how many billion dragees you have to eat to suffer any deleterious effect from the silver content.
Distributors and retailers said they've settled with Pollock not because they believe their dragees are toxic but because a trial would cost far more than settling. But, like Beryl Loveland of Beryl's Cake Decorating and Pastry Supplies of Virginia, they're angry and think a trial would have proven that there's nothing wrong with a few dragees now and then.
At Spun Sugar, a candy- and cake-making specialty store in Berkeley, owner Linda Moreno is selling off the few sizes and shapes of the metallic decorations she has left, and says she can't get any more -- although she has no trouble getting the silver and gold leaf used in Indian sweets.

"It's the same stuff everyone's had for an eternity," she said. "I was always more worried about someone breaking a tooth."
Linda, don't give the lawyers any ideas!
It beats a new pair of socks. But not by much.

(Via Gizmodo) A Santa snowglobe computer mouse. They also have some with fish and dolphins.
A nice holiday story

Henry Miller at TCS provides Al Gore, Our Christmas Fruitcake:
The New York Times editorialized that more medical information about Vice-President Dick Cheney should be made public because where the president and vice-president of the United States are concerned, "privacy concerns are less important than the public's confidence that its leaders are fit." [22 December]

Fit? Fit? Where were the Times' concerns about the fitness of politicians in the face of Al Gore's obvious personality disorder and poor reality testing while for eight years he was a heartbeat -- and later, a few electoral votes -- away from the presidency?

While a Senator, Gore was notorious for his rudeness and insolence during hearings. A favorite trick was to pose a question and as the witness began to answer, Gore would begin a whispered conversation with another committee member or a staffer. If the witness paused in order that the senator not miss the response, Gore would instruct him to continue, then resume his private conversation, leaving no ambiguity: Not only is your testimony unimportant, I won't even pay you the courtesy of pretending to listen to it.
There's more by following the link, but I don't care for fruitcake.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Today's Hoot

Mujahid-Dean, General Zod, and Le Big Q-Tip
Too bad!

Ralph Nader Rules Out Green Party Run
Nader called party officials Monday to inform them of his decision, said Ben Manski, a Green Party co-chairman and spokesman. Nader's reasons were not clear, Manski said.
That's par for the course.

But there's still hope that Ralphie will come to the dance:
Nader, who garnered nearly 3 percent of the national vote in the last presidential election, has not ruled out running for president as an independent and plans to make a decision by January.
I guess that makes a lot of sense - to Ralphie.

And the Greenies have high hopes too:
Six people have already declared their intentions to be the party's nominee, including Green Party general counsel David Cobb and Peter Camejo, the party's candidate in the California recall election. McLarty said a front-runner will likely emerge before the party's convention in Milwaukee in June.
Maybe we'll have the best of both worlds: a Green candidate and Nader running as an independent. Don't forget that Ralphie is asking for your advice. Help the poor confused fellow out.
I wondered what rock Danny had crawled under

Danny Glover to Appear in Kucinich Ads
In one ad appealing to young voters, Glover says: "If pre-emptive war continues to drive our foreign policy, if our volunteer troops are stretched thinner and thinner, you could be facing compulsory draft. All young Americans deserve a would (sic) without end — not a war without end."

Kucinich is the only image in the ad. As the camera focuses in on Kucinich's eyes, Glover says, "The eyes that see through the lies."
Thanks Danny! Who knew?

Silly me, I thought those were the eyes that scan the skies ... for his saucer.

But here's an odd note from Kuku's web site where the ads are front page news:
To: All Kucinich Supporters
From: George Lois, New York Adman

In October, The New York Times asked nine leading designers to create a visual statement for one of the Democratic Presidential Candidates. We were not allowed to select the candidate of our choice. When Gail Collins, the editor of the Time's editorial page, informed me that I had drawn Dennis Kucinich, the mighty-might (sic) from Cleveland, Ohio, I marveled at my luck. My wife and I had studied each of the candidates during the debates and Kucinich's message, plans, mind and heart continually surprised us and totally won us over.
My poster was featured in the Times Magazine section on November 30 sporting the headline "The Eyes That See Through The Lies." This is a bold statement that Kucinich was running against a bunch of candidates who had allowed themselves to be conned and/or Bushwhacked into a future of unending pre-emptive, un-American wars that are jeopardizing our economy, our Democratic way of life, the future of our youth, and indeed, the future of our planet.

Responding to my poster, Congressman Kucinich called me from Iowa and asked me to create his ad campaign. When the man who I believe is the one candidate that can inspire the world once more thanked me - I thanked him for being there when America needs him.
Sounds like ole George has been been hitting the Kool-Aid jug. But it sure is nice of the NY Times to help out the Donk candidates like that.
More on the Deano-Clinton Turf War

The NY Times article quoted in the post below also had this:
At a town hall meeting in Exeter, N.H., on Monday afternoon, Dr. Dean referred to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council as "the Republican part of the Democratic Party" even while talking about the need to bring unity among Democrats.

Jay Carson, a Dean spokesman, said the candidate was "joking," noting that the leadership council has been among the most aggressive opponents of the Dean candidacy.
Since the DLC means Bubba, it looks like Howie is back to Bubba-bashing. William Saletan has the latest in Slate - Jihoward: Howard Dean, suicide bomber:
Last Thursday, Howard Dean declared, "While Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party—not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families." Clinton alumni, naturally offended, fired back. Bruce Reed, Clinton's former chief domestic policy adviser, called Dean's remark "a cheap shot at Clintonism."

Friday, the Dean campaign denied that Dean had meant to slam Clinton. "If he is the nominee, Governor Dean would ask for President Clinton and former members of his Administration to be a very active part of his campaign," said the campaign. The Dean aide who had written the offending line in Dean's speech, Jeremy Ben-Ami, insisted that the line was "not intended in any way to pick a fight with the Clinton legacy." Rather, it was "intended to pick a fight with the Washington Democrats in power."

Washington Democrats in power? You mean, as opposed to Clinton, the last Democrat who held power in Washington? The guy in whose White House, located in Washington, Ben-Ami worked as a domestic policy adviser? The guy Howard Dean defended against "liberals" when, in 1996, he joined Republicans in supporting welfare reform legislation, aiming simply to limit the damage it might inflict?
But wait, there's more:
Sunday morning, the Deaniacs were at it again. On ABC's This Week, Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said Dean was running against the Democratic "establishment." Pressed to define the members of this "establishment," Trippi bobbed and weaved. Eventually, he said, "I'm talking about Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman."

You mean, Dick Gephardt, the guy for whose presidential campaign Trippi worked in 1988? The guy who shepherded Clinton's economic plan through the House in 1993 and hasn't held power in Washington since he stepped down as minority leader last year? You mean Joe Lieberman, the presidential candidate who has most fiercely defended and most faithfully extended Clinton's centrist Democratic agenda?

You get the point. Either all this stuff from the Dean campaign about the establishment is an attack on the Clintonian center, or it's the usual meaningless blather that politicians toss to crowds to make themselves look nonpolitical. Either way, it's fake. I think it's blather, but the more Dean talks about it and applies it to various issues, the more it looks like an attack on the center. And if that's the mission Dean has in mind, Democrats would be well-advised to jump off his truck before he blows it up.
And one more:
Dean's jihad is even crazier than Gore's. It's almost completely undisciplined. Three weeks ago on a national radio show, Dean brought up the "interesting theory" that Bush had been warned beforehand about 9/11. Last week, Dean defended that remark by telling reporters, "I acknowledged that I did not believe the theory I was putting out." When the Washington Post exposed several Dean comments that didn't fit the facts, Dean scoffed that voters could believe him "or they can believe the Washington Post." No word yet on whether voters must choose between believing Dean and believing the Los Angeles Times, which issued a similar analysis of Dean's whoppers last Thursday.
Howie, stop rushing it! You're scheduled to implode after you get the nomination.

UPDATE: I already mentioned the Washington Post article and the LA Times article is here. I like its polite phraseology - they say that Deano is "a candidate whose off-the-cuff style has sometimes led him to take contradictory positions." I guess that's the way folks in LaLa Land describe someone that around here we would call "full of more crap than a Christmas goose."
The Whole Family is Nuts

Let me see if I have got this straight. Howard Dean's brother, Charles, fresh from George McGovern's anti-war campaign in 1972, uses Dad's money and takes a road trip to Laos where he is executed in 1974 by the Communist insurgents he wanted to help. Sounds like a Darwin Award nomination, doesn't it? I haven't mentioned it because it really had nothing to do with Howard and, hey, even Darwin Award nominees have families.

Now flash forward to Dean Rebuked for Statement Implying Brother Served in Military:
Howard Dean came under criticism from an Iowa newspaper last weekend for an answer to a questionnaire in which he implied that his brother was serving in the military when he disappeared in Laos 29 years ago. His brother had been traveling in Southeast Asia as a tourist.

Asked by The Quad-City Times, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, to complete the sentence "My closest living relative in the armed services is," Dr. Dean wrote in August, "My brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead."
His answer to the newspaper's question, published on Dec. 14 as part of a regular feature on The Quad-City Times's editorial page in which the Democratic presidential candidates respond to questions intended to probe their persona, drew complaints from readers and a rebuke from the newspaper's editorial board on Sunday.
Mark Ridolfi, editor of the paper's editorial page, noted that the question had specifically asked about the armed services and said of Dr. Dean's reply, "It certainly is not an accurate response."

Mr. Ridolfi said the question, one of 20 that the candidates answered in writing in August, was intended to get at candidates' personal connections to the military. "When you have a family member currently involved in the military," he said, "you think of things differently."

After hearing Dr. Dean's explanation during a meeting at the newspaper's office on Friday, Mr. Ridolfi ran an editorial in Sunday's editions describing Dr. Dean's original answer as "unusually revealing."

"Charlie Dean's capture and death in Southeast Asia certainly shaped his brother's opinion about the American military," read the editorial, which pointed out that the younger Dean opposed the Vietnam War, worked on George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign and visited Laos during a yearlong trip around the world.

"Knowing that story tells us something about the candidate," it continued. "So does inaccurately implying a direct family connection to the armed services for the 72,000 Quad Citians who received Sunday's newspaper."
Needless to say, Howie's knickers are in a twist:
Dr. Dean called the editorial, which referred to his brother as a "renegade," "one of the greatest cheap shots I've ever seen in journalism."

"It's offensive and insensitive not to understand what the impact of this is," he said, "writing about this in such a tawdry way."

Dr. Dean also wrote a letter to the paper, saying he was "deeply offended" by the editorial.
He really doesn't get it, does he? He thinks that an apologist for Communist thugs getting offed by the very same thugs is equivalent to the death of people serving their country. I'm surprised he didn't also list his service on the "ski patrol."

By way of contrast with Howie, here's how the other candidates answered:
Seven other candidates responded to question about the armed services. Mr. Kerry said, "They're all retired now," while Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who has since dropped out, cited his brother, Bill, who was in the Air Force in World War II. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina mentioned his father-in-law, a retired Navy pilot, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman named his nephew, Adam Miller.

Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois wrote, "I come from a small family and I do not currently have a relative in the armed forces."

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio listed his brothers Frank (Vietnam) and Gary (Japan) as well as his sister Beth, who "served stateside." Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri noted that he himself had been in the Air National Guard, "but currently I don't have any relatives in the service."

See Howie, it isn't hard to tell the truth. Or maybe it is - for him.
Don't tell PETA!

Kathy Kinsley alerts us to Australians urged to have kangaroo for Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Inflatable Robert Fisk?

That's actually the answer. Tim Blair has the question.
It just gets better!

Harris just released a new poll and among Democrats and Democrat leaning independents it looks like this:

     Howard Dean           21
     Joe Lieberman         10
     Wesley Clark           7
     Richard Gephardt       7
     Carol Moseley-Braun    6
     Al Sharpton            6
     John Kerry             4
     John Edwards           3
     Dennis Kucinich        1
     Not sure              34

If I were the ketchup guy, I'd think twice about mortgaging my house.
The Wisdom of Howard Dean - part 2

The Big Fella points to a Deano quote that I almost missed from an interview with Newsweek:

Moonbat Howard Dean - "Where's my saucer?"

Q: What would you do to restore relations with our allies?

A: If I win, I'm going to go, before I am inaugurated, on a world tour of the countries we desperately need to repair our relations with. And not just in Europe, but also in Asia and in Latin America. We're talking a little presumptuously here because the votes haven't been cast in one primary yet. But I've thought about this a lot.

Did it hurt?

Or as Allah opines:
Grovel Tour '04! "Hello, Paris. Anyone here tonight think my country sucks? Yeaaaahhhhh!!"
Has Jimmy Carter been advising Deano?
Everyone's traveling for the holidays!

Castro to visit Venezuela ally Chavez
CARACAS: Cuban President Fidel Castro will fly to Venezuela tomorrow (ed. note: Monday) to talk co-operation with his biggest regional ally Hugo Chavez at a time when the Venezuelan president is facing a campaign by foes to vote him out of office.
I like the old fashioned kind of Santa who doesn't wear fatigues better. Hmm, I wonder if Hugo has been naughty or nice?
Under a three-year-old energy accord, Venezuela sends Cuba up to 53,000 barrels per day of oil – about one third of the island's consumption.
And Venezuela isn't getting paid for it. I guess Hugo's been nice.
They are sure to discuss the political situation in Venezuela, where foes of Chavez filed with electoral authorities Saturday more than three million signatures requesting a referendum on his rule next year.
Fidel: How many times do I have to explain it, Hugo?

Hugo: Please! One more time!

Fidel: You have all the names of the counter revolutionaries on the referendum petitions. Now you send out your thugs, er, Bolivarian Circle members to re-educate them.

Hugo: Thanks! I'm glad I left out milk and cookies for you!

Fidel: Got any rum?

Letter to the editors of Time

Over at LGF, Charles notes - Dear Time Warner ...
Am I the only one who thinks it’s more than a little weird that TIME Magazine names “The American Soldier” as their “Person of the Year,” only days after publishing a story by a TIME reporter who’s hangin’ out with the mujahideen trying to kill that same “Person of the Year?”

No, I’m not the only one: Mudville Gazette: Dear Time Warner...
And while you are at the Mudville Gazette, check out the related Perky Colon news:
Katie Couric about 2 seconds ago (Today, 22 Dec 2003): "Tell me why there's no woman on the cover?"

Jim Kelly from Time: " That is a Woman."

Katie: "Oh."

Me: "Idiot".
Hmmm, maybe there really is no liberal media bias and what we see is merely arrogant stupidity.
Howie Disses Bubba!

What with Wesley "Precious Bodily Fluids" Clark threatening to "beat the sh*t" out of people and Joe Lieberman sitting on Santa's lap, I missed out on the big Demo campaign story of last week - The Era of Big Clinton Is Over. At least according to Howard Dean.
Now Dean is using the Clinton economic program as his latest doom and gloom target in stump speeches around the country, and Clinton isn't happy about it.

Dean has been telling just about any audience listening to him that Clinton's claim that the era of big government is over was in essence a betrayal of basic Democratic values. That Clinton got into bed with Republicans to cut back government, and in turn hurt poor families who needed more of what Dean think government should be giving them.

In classic Dean fashion, he riles up his crowds with those kinds of ideas, then turns around and tells the press that his remarks aren't intended as shots across Clinton's bow, even though Dean has told campaign staffers that Gore, for one, told him that those remarks about the Clinton Gore economy were spot on target, and confirmed Gore's belief that Dean was the straight talker the party needed.
According to a Dean staffer in Iowa, Clinton has sent Dean a message through intermediaries to stop using him as a political scratching post on the campaign trail. Dean, though, as late as last Friday was still using Clinton as an example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.
More in a similar vein in Slate and Newsday.

Better watch it Howie! Picking on the Ole Horndog is one thing, but if Her Heinous decides to step in, you're going to be in a world of hurt.
Do they really not get it?

Lawrence F. Kaplan at the WSJ Opinion Journal - Liberal Warfare: The Democratic foreign-policy establishment has nothing to offer but clichés
Their most recent effort, on display Monday in a much-touted Dean foreign-policy speech, is an attempt to transform the candidate from an angry leftist with bad ideas into an angry centrist with no ideas. Mr. Dean's foreign-policy tutor, Ivo Daalder of Brookings, reports that President Bush has set in motion a "revolution" by relying on "the unilateral exercise of American power rather than on international law and institutions," the premise being that America consistently has done otherwise in recent history. Likewise, former Clinton secretary of state Warren Christopher scores the Bush team for slighting the U.N. and presuming that the U.S. does not require "consensus to work its will in the world." There speaks the man who, unable to secure such a consensus for action in Bosnia, dismissed the slaughter there as "a humanitarian crisis a long way from home, in the middle of another continent."

Along with his own experience, what Mr. Christopher seems to have forgotten is that in sidestepping the U.N. on the eve of military action, the Bush team did exactly what its predecessor--and its predecessor and its predecessor--did repeatedly before it. Yet the robotic admonitions to heed the will of the "international community" persist as if nothing has been learned and nothing remembered, even from the past few months. Asked recently what America should do "if international forces don't show up" in Iraq, presidential aspirant John Edwards replied, "Well, I don't accept that premise."
It's hard to tell if they don't have a clue or are just lying crapsacks. Actually, it's probably both.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

No bad idea goes unpursued

Daniel J. Mitchell in Capitalism Magazine - Radical U.N. Tax Plans Threaten America
Many politicians seem to think that the answer to every alleged problem is higher taxes. Howard Dean, for instance, has said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts -- even though this would boost the average family’s tax burden by nearly $2,000. This initiative sounds radical, and it is. But some proposals out there are even worse.

The United Nations, for instance, wants to create an International Tax Organization (ITO) that would have the power to interfere with national tax policies.

This idea first surfaced two years ago in a report from the world body’s “High-Level Panel on Financing for Development.” Since then, the U.N. has been working to turn it into reality. For instance, U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan recently called for the creation of a global tax commission. But no matter what it's called, an international bureaucracy with power over tax policy would be an assault on American sovereignty.

An international tax organization, of course, would mean higher taxes and bigger government. Indeed, U.N. officials have been quite open about their intentions. The chairman of the U.N. panel that first endorsed the creation of an ITO said that it would “take a lead role in restraining tax competition.” According to this mentality, it's unfair for America to have lower taxes than places such as France and Germany, especially if it means that jobs and investment flee Europe's welfare states and come to America.
That's certainly good news. Even better news is that our taxes pay for them to think up this kind of stuff.

But there's more:
The U.N. also wants the power to levy its own taxes. The original report looked at two options, a tax on currency transactions and a tax on energy consumption. Both of these proposals would hit America hardest. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the past, the U.N. has endorsed new taxes on the Internet, including a tax on e-mail. Again, the U.S. economy would pay the lion’s share if this reckless idea took effect.

But the prize for the worst U.N. idea probably belongs to the proposal to give governments permanent taxing rights over emigrants. You see, the U.N. thinks it’s unfair when talented people leave high-tax socialist nations and move to places such as America. But since even the U.N. realizes it would be unacceptable to prohibit emigration, the bureaucrats are instead proposing to let governments tax income earned in other nations.

This scheme is a direct attack on American interests because of our high levels of immigration -- particularly the well-educated portion of the immigrant population. For instance, if a doctor from the Caribbean moves to America, his home government would get to tax income he earns here. If a Chinese entrepreneur moves to Silicon Valley, the Chinese government would get to tax his U.S. income.
I know, I know - they spend all their time thinking up annoying stuff like this.
There is an understandable temptation to dismiss these U.N. proposals as silly. After all, the United States can veto any bad initiatives. But this passive approach is a mistake. What would happen, say, if Howard Dean were president when the U.N. was voting whether to create an International Tax Organization? Could we trust him to veto this nutty scheme?
Could we trust any Donk to veto it?
Fortunately, some members of Congress are trying to address this. For example, Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., has introduced legislation that would end U.S. funding of these bureaucracies if they insist on pursuing policies that undermine America.
How about ending all their funding regardless?
Steel Cage Match Alert!

John Ellis says it's going to be Rudy versus Hillary in 2006.
We don't see many of them around here

Karen Robinovitz provides a laugh in the NY Post with Get the 'Man' out of Manicure:
Bring back the real men! New York women are sick of competing with - and dating - men who fuss over their hair, skin, nails, teeth, clothes and cuisine.

"I can't stand metrosexuals!" cries 23-year-old saleswoman Lauren Levin, who has written "metrosexuals need not apply" on her profile. "I want to get manicures with my girlfriends, not my boyfriend."

If there was a buzzword of 2003, it was "metrosexual" - used to describe the alarming amount of straight men who delight in traditionally female pursuits like yoga, pedicures, facials and sample sales.

The backlash has begun.
Ruh Oh!
Levin recently went on a date with Alexander Vorgias, a chiseled 23-year-old commercial real estate agent. Within minutes she knew that he was not for her.

"First," she begins, "he ordered plum wine. He wore so much gel in his hair. His tan was perfect. His suit was Armani."

After he asked about her breasts ("Are they real or fake?" is how Levin recalls it) he confessed he was surprised she went out with him, since, when they first met, he wasn't immaculately dressed.
Just damn!
"You're such a metrosexual!" she blurted.
"I haven't been tanning in three weeks!" he shot back. He did, however, admit to using concealer to cover a bruise he got while playing paintball.

She ordered two more sakes.
I hope they were tall ones.
Vorgias, a born-and-raised New Yorker, is still confused by Levin's reaction. "Maybe it's a byproduct of urban Manhattan life, but suddenly I'm being called a metrosexual," he says. "I care about how I look. I tan every few weeks. I buy Aramis creams and under-eye lotions. But the word 'metrosexual' is not manly."
Much more by following the link. There's also a photo of these two.

Since my big grooming decisions for the day are "flannel lined or regular" and "Dial or Irish Spring", I'm sympathizing with the ladies on this one. I guess there's hope for regular guys:
Theresa D'Amato, a 25-year-old legal assistant, recently dated her metro guy, an entertainment industry exec, for a month. "He was so soap-opera good-looking - he had perfect hair, skin and clothes," she says. "But he bought more beauty products than I did."

After the break up, she swore off metrosexuals. Now, she's dating a tattoo-covered cop.

"He's built. He can fix my car. I have to beg him to shave sometimes. Who would have thought I'd love to lounge on a La-Z-Boy and watch the game on TV?" she asks. "But I do!"
I can't believe they got it right

(Via Kathy Kinsley) I'm not a big fan of Time magazine or their "Person of the Year" series, but I can't argue with their choice this year - The American Soldier. You can't read it it all without a subscription, but I hope the coverage is worthy of the idea. And I hope they found the room to thank the soldiers of our friends as well.

UPDATE: I'm reminded of this line:
"Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Today's Hoot

Rod Dreher at The Corner:
A fellow Louisiana expat points out that our alma mater LSU has just produced its first graduates in Women's and Gender Studies. The story says LSU is the last major Southern university to reach this allegedly important milestone. Humph. My friend gets it right when he says, "You know what the next thing we're gonna here from these gals is? 'You want fries with that, you male chauvinist pig?'"
Someone 'splain this to me

Latino Lawmakers Press Fed To Drop Fannie, Freddie Study
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, at Fannie Mae's urging, are pressuring Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan not to release a controversial study that is expected to denounce the company's benefits to consumers.

"It's an important issue to their constituency," said Fannie Mae spokeswoman Janice Daue, who confirmed a meeting between the company's lobbyists and members of the caucus late last month as well as Fannie's input on their letter to Greenspan. "We talk to Congress all the time. It is our job; we're congressionally chartered to talk to Congress."
The Fed paper, which is expected to be released as early as Monday, is said to conclude that the housing GSEs don't lower mortgage costs much for consumers, and that their federal subsidies, valued at more than $15 billion a year, are largely unnecessary.

Similar reports by the Congressional Budget Office and others say the $15 billion in estimated annual federal perks given to Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Bank System only lower mortgage rates for consumers by one quarter of a percentage point, at the most - not enough to price anyone out of a home if the subsidies were removed. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has made similar comments publicly, telling lawmakers in February that the companies' effect on mortgage rates is negligible.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been heavy contributors to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the nonprofit affiliate founded by its members, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Inc.

Fannie this fall donated $1 million to the Institute, to help launch a two- year CHCI research program targeting 63 congressional districts where Latinos comprise 25% of the population, the institute confirmed. The nonprofit Institute, unlike the CHC, isn't subject to restrictions on so-called soft money donations from corporations.

The Bush administration is pushing legislation that would strengthen the federal regulators of all three housing GSEs, possibly consolidating them under one agency within Treasury.

Fannie, Freddie and the 12 FHLBanks are exempt from most securities disclosure laws and don't pay state or local income taxes. Fannie and Freddie additionally have a $2.25 billion line of credit with the U.S. Treasury. Their debt also enjoys an implied federal backing and government "agency" status in the markets, giving all three a lower cost of capital.
Let's see if I have this straight. We've got a bunch of quasi-governmental "businesses" that don't pay taxes, compete with real businesses, and haul down $15 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies not to mention a $2.25 billion credit line. And they spend a bunch of money on lobbying and contributions to politicians who want to quash a study which indicates that their efficacy is negligible.

It's good to know the taxpayers are so flush with cash. Follow the link if you want to read more self-serving puffery from these bozos.
More than you wanted to know about the ease of identity theft

Dumpster-Diving for Your Identity. There's too much to summarize, but here's a brief snip.
Massey began hanging out with a much younger crowd of meth addicts, called ''tweakers,'' and forging checks to feed his drug use. It was during this time that he began to wonder if he could hijack people's identities for profit. He stumbled onto the answer soon after, when the meth-heads invited him to go ''Dumpster diving'' for junk. Massey and the teenagers piled into his Ford Explorer and drove to the outskirts of Eugene.

''It was the first time I had ever been to the dump,'' Massey recalled, wrinkling his nose. ''I said, 'I'm not going to get dirty,' so I wandered over to a shed where the recycling was stored. I notice there's a big barrel for recycled paper that's full of discarded tax forms from an accounting firm.'' Each form had the person's name, date of birth, Social Security number -- all the information necessary for taking out a line of credit.

''The wheels started turning in my head,'' Massey said, smiling. ''The guys profiled here were pulling in $800,000 a year. So I told the tweakers to get all this stuff in the truck. Now! I said, 'This is worth five million right here.'''
Some identity thieves do go straight to the Internet, hacking into databases or using ''phisher sites'' -- phony Web pages that mimic real banking and e-commerce sites in order to entice victims to hand over sensitive information. But those cases remain the exception, not the rule. For the most part, obtaining dates of birth and Social Security numbers still begins off line, and often in the trash.
You all be careful out there. And it's nice to know that the two crooks featured in the article got minimal jail time when they were caught.
Ernst Blofeld is going to be ticked!

Democrats' new campaign funding groups may face regulation
WASHINGTON -- Democrats who have been forming groups to avoid spending restrictions in the campaign finance law may face bad news: The government's new chief election regulator is warning that their activities could be reined in.

Bradley Smith, the Republican chosen yesterday as chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said he believes a recent Supreme Court ruling may require his agency to limit the groups' activities.

"If so, it's a huge issue. And it means there are a lot of groups already out there that would have accepted contributions beyond their limits," Smith said.
Democrats, however, say the new law provides for an exemption for special tax-exempt political groups, known as 527s, and they formed several of them. The goal is to use the groups to help Democrats better compete with Republicans, who enjoy a significant edge in raising small contributions allowed under the law.
And that's where Ernst Blofeld and SPECTRE with their deep pockets come in.
Smith's word of caution brought an expression of surprise from Laurence E. Gold, a lawyer representing three of the new Democratic groups. "I think it would be a dramatic change in the law that can only come from Congress to do that, and that has not occurred," Gold said.

Smith said that while he has not formally made up his mind, he believes the court's ruling may require the FEC to treat the new groups like regulated political committees. That would mean the groups would be limited to accepting no more than $5,000 in donations from each individual, and would be banned from taking corporate or union money.

It also would require them to disclose their finances and spending to the FEC.

Smith said the court ruling seems to eliminate the "express advocacy" standard, which meant the FEC could regulate groups that spent money calling for a candidate's election or defeat.

If the FEC decides that the Supreme Court ruling expands its ability to regulate and limit election activities, the new groups could be forced to return the big checks they have collected.
Blofeld doesn't want his money back - he wants control!

What part of "illegal alien" don't they understand?

Mexico Prods State on Driver's Licenses: Fox asks California to restore a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to hold the permits.
MEXICO CITY — President Vicente Fox called Thursday for the restoration of a California law that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, saying it would benefit more than 1 million Mexicans who are "working people … decent people."
But unfortunately took a wrong turn and ended up across the border?

And here's more good news:
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks stalled Fox's effort to negotiate a deal with the Bush administration to expand guest worker programs for Mexicans and legalize some of the millions of undocumented Mexicans living in the United States.

Since then, however, Mexico's 45 consulates in the United States have worked quietly to issue more than 1.5 million matriculas consulares — fingerprinted photo ID cards — to illegal Mexican immigrants.
And those are the ones who actually signed up.
Mexican officials hope to influence the drafting of a new bill by convincing Schwarzenegger that the matriculas consulares are virtually forgery-proof and should be accepted as a valid ID statewide.
There are few things I find more conceptually exciting than an illegal alien ID card.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Whew, that's a relief!

The BBC has cleared up a nasty matter of etiquette reports The Telegraph - Saddam not a dictator at BBC
Spy recently reported confusion at the BBC over what to call Harrods boss Mohamed (al) Fayed. Now, I hear that descriptions of Saddam Hussein are the latest target of a corporation diktat.

"An email has been circulated telling us not to refer to Saddam as a dictator," I'm told. "Instead, we are supposed to describe him as the former leader of Iraq.

"Apparently, because his presidency was endorsed in a referendum, he was technically elected. Hence the word dictator is banned. It's all rather ridiculous."
Hmm, wasn't that the referendum where he got 100% of the vote?
The Beeb insists that the email merely restates existing guidelines. "We wanted to remind journalists whose work is seen and heard internationally of the need to use neutral language," says a spokesman.
Surely they jest?

It's our Axis pals again

(Via InstaPundit) Freeh Links Iran To Khobar Bombing: Tehran Directed Attack, He Says
Former FBI director Louis Freeh testified yesterday that he believed there was "overwhelming evidence" that senior Iranian government officials financed and directed the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Freeh testified as a key witness on behalf of the families of 12 Americans killed in the bombing, who are suing the government of Iran.
This comes out in a civil trial in late 2003?
He said he spent nearly two years trying to persuade Saudi diplomats to let FBI agents interview six Saudi citizens whom the Saudi government considered the bombing's perpetrators, and he ultimately succeeded.

"They admitted they were members of Saudi Hezbollah," Freeh said. "They admitted complicity in the act. And they implicated senior Iranian officials in the funding and planning of the attack."

Robinson repeatedly questioned what led Freeh to his conclusion that Iran was responsible, other than the confessions of six Saudis.

Freeh responded that other witnesses and evidence corroborated their stories. He said they also named leaders in the Iranian military and information agency who helped select the target site and pay for the group's training and explosives.
Two years plus 1996 means they had the information in 1998. So what did Bubba do about it?