Monday, July 31, 2006

The Slur strikes back

If we ever needed more proof that politicians are not coming close to paying attention to what's going around them, we recently received it. No, not the United States attitude towards Iraq, or Israel, or even Iowa. No, we got confirmation in the form of Massachussetts governor Mitt Romney. And, actually, it does tie into Iowa, because it was in front of a group of Iowa Republicans that Gov. Romney proved that those who don't learn from history (or even pay attention to the fact that something happened) are doomed to repeat it.

Apparently on Saturday, during a fundraising speech (Romney wants to run for President) in Ames, the Governor was talking about the Big Dig tunnel project, a project that has had problems almost since day one. Well, in describing the project, he made mention of the fact that maybe he shouldn't have taken responsibility for it, and referred to the project as a "tar baby".

Wait a minute.... haven't we experienced this before? Oh, that's right. Back in May, Tony Snow got into some hot water after the press conference where he made mention of "hugging the tar baby". He quickly came under fire for making a potentially racist comment, and for the overall lack of sensitivity required to make the comment. Romney, by making the same connection in describing a different situation, proves that he wasn't aware enough to look back three month to the last time a politician got into hot water over the same word choice.

Almost enough to make me wonder which public figure is going to be the next to make some potentially racist slur and be forced to apologize, shortly after another figure has made a similar slur. Seems like the next one on the chopping block would be disparaging comments against Jews. After all, we can't let Mel Gibson stand alone. Two men have to enter before one man can leave.

Friday, July 28, 2006

They're just like real people

Celebrities, I mean. After all, even though they are definitely the cultural figures that so many emulate, it's nice to see that, every once in a while, they get brought back down to earth.

Take for example, Mel Gibson. The man behind "The Passion of the Christ" may have found himself a new passion. That new passion, at least temporarily, unites him with rockstars through the ages, as well as far too many club kids. That's right... Mad Max got himself a DUI. The bail, which would be a little high for many, I'm sure is barely even a drop in the bucket that is the Gibson piggy-bank. Of course, as Kate Moss was able to recently prove, little problems with substance abuse (even alcohol) don't necessarily mean the end of the party. And, with at least four upcoming projects, there shouldn't be a worry that this Patriot will be able to ride high again.

The same may not be able to be said for Lindsay Lohan, the target of an irate letter from one of the producers for her current project, "Georgia Rule". Apparently, little Miss Lohan has been skipping work, and showing up late when she does make it in. Well, time is money and all that jazz. But to the people behind "Georgia Rule", when you decide to work with one of the most notorious party girls currently on the scene, you need to be aware that your schedule may just not meet their schedule. You don't want to deal with potential headaches for your film because of potential hangovers for your stars? Don't hire Lohan. Or Hilton. Or most of the actresses out on the scene currently.

Finally, what do you do when the whole world is falling apart around you, and you're a political leader? Apparently, if you're GDub, you decide that, once you've had a little chat with PM Blair, you meet with some of the real movers and shakers that can motivate people. That's right, you invite this year's American Idols over. It just goes to show that there is no issue in the world, no matter the size and the possible repercussions, that our President won't overlook it for a moment to shine himself in a more favorable light. I just hope that tonight will also feature a call-in show where we get to vote off one of them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lead by example

Unfortunately, when the example being set is similar to what the United States is doing right now with regards to global relations, maybe it's better to lead by getting the hell out of the way.

After all, for a while now, North Korea has been threatening to put together missles capable of travelling long distances and carrying a potentially nuclear payload. The war with Iraq took a turn for the worse right around the time that the US military removed Saddam from power and was unable to quell the civil war that sprung up around them (contrary to what "Gin" Rummy thinks, Iraq is definitely embroiled in a civil war). Relations with China and Russia have gotten weaker as our Cowboy in Chief has made it clear that he expects the world to follow his skewed vision, without regards for what's best for their country or the rest of the planet. And, with the war raging between Israel and Hezbollah, the United States is among the few, if not the only, nation not calling for an immediate cease-fire and a peace-keeping force.

In a prime example of how the US is not making the global situation better, after United Nations conferences in Rome were unable to reach an agreement on how to stop the Israel/Hezbollah fighting (coincidence that the US, one of the few countries that doesn't think Israel has been a bit heavy-handed with its retaliation, is also one of the few countries with UN veto power?) Secretary Rice travelled to Malaysia (Really?) to meet with leaders of the Asian world. And to play the piano... probably some Brahms, "something that is in accordance with (her) serious mood." Meanwhile nations of the world realize how much influence the US has with Israel, and, due in no small part to the targetting of an embassy in Lebanon, are stressing that the United States needs to put pressure on the Israelis to stop the fighting.

The problem that lies therein is that, while the US does hold a large amount of sway with Israel, there's absolutely no indication that we will urge them to stop bombing Lebanon. After all, if they look at our example, they only need to focus on the tragic attacks of September 11, and our retaliation to that. And no, I'm not talking about the movies.

Actually, maybe they should look at how the US decided to exact vengeance for the attacks on our soil. If they did, then the fighting against Hezbollah would stop, and someone who may only be loosely tied through similar beliefs would be the subject of Israel's misguided rage. Could be bad tidings for Syria...

Oh, and in a note related to yesterday's post, apparently Michael Steele doesn't actually feel that being a Republican will make his campaign more difficult to run. In fact, he refers to GDub as his "Homeboy". Makes you wonder if somewhere the ghost of John Kerry's presidential campaign will bite Steele on this one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From Washington to Chicago

Welcome back for another shotgunning session.

First up, it looks like even certain members of the GOP are starting to realize just how the public is currently viewing the Republican party. In fact, a Senate candidate in Maryland is acknowledging that his party affiliation alone could make it difficult to win the election. In fact, Michael Steele is so disillusioned with his own party that he doesn't want GDub to entertain the notion of campaigning for him, and that he feels that the GOP-led Congress needs to start getting more accomplished to help the country. Of course, Democrats feel that Steele isn't playing hard enough with the Republican party, and are trying to make him appear weak in standing up to the President. Maybe I'm completely offbase here, but wouldn't being too weak to stand up to the President and the GOP make someone a Democrat?

Moving on, Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report" was recently called into question by the hard-hitting reporters on, um, Good Morning America and NBC's Today Show. Right, the same people who devote half-hour segments to the newest fashion in baseball caps have started to wonder why politicians (or anyone, for that matter) would bother to appear as guests on "The Colbert Report". So, of course, Stephen fired back. As for why politicians (or anyone) would want to appear on "The Colbert Report" or "The Daily Show", well, they're both incredibly hip programs that appeal to younger voters. They both have charismatic hosts that are also good interviewers. They both give an opportunity to show that you have a sense of humor about the subjects being asked. After all, people in the public spotlight have to be aware of these programs, and the tones of such. Well, except for Pat Robertson. But he's still waiting for the Rapture to take him away to the place where all little hate-mongers go.

Finally, the city of Chicago is taking drastic steps to curtail unhealthy, annoying, or immoral activities. Sure, outlawing cigarette smoking in public places makes good health sense, and even smokers will eventually go along with the plan. Stopping the use of trans-fat by restaurants also leads to good health results. And banning the use of cell phones while driving will cut down on the number of accidents and should help ease traffic in an overly congested city. But seriously, banning foie gras? Because of how it's harvested? This particular measure seems a little drastic. I mean, has Chicago found a way to prevent all crime? (Nope.) Was there maybe something else that could use the focus? (The scandal in City Hall, maybe.) Is micromanaging every portion of a citizen's life through laws really in the best service of the people of the city? (Apparently Chicago thinks so.)

But maybe I'm being a little drastic. Maybe what will result from the foie gras ban is that Chicago will become a more enlightened city, a shining beacon glimmering against the oppression and hate that is the world outside of Illinois. Or maybe, just maybe, they'll realize that they've started down a slippery slope that can only end with a law preventing people from trimming their toenails on Thursdays during Must See TV.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


What do you call it when your public relations people decide to plant a little of their own moralistic views into an announcement about your feelings? If you're the Bush White House, you get that same public relations person to say, "Sorry."

For those that may have missed it, apparently, Tony Snow overstepped his bounds a bit by saying that GDub feels that stem cell research is akin to murder. This was Snowjob's way of explaining why a President who hadn't issued a single veto his entire time in office decided to use that power on a medical issue. But no worries. Snowjob felt just awful about the whole thing.

Here's the real catch, though. Why did Snow apologize? Did he truly feel he'd overstepped his bounds? Well, maybe, but the biggest reason is because he gave Josh Bolten, the WH Chief of Staff, a headache to deal with.

Although one question from the whole debate keeps not getting asked. If we can't use embryonic stem cells because those embryos may one day become a fully grown human, can we use cells from convicts on death row? After all, Texas, where the Great Decider hails from, apparently doesn't hold the same regard for human life once it's been convicted of crimes as they do when said life is barely started, and is stored in freezers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A cease-fire on talks about a cease-fire

The United Nations is strongly urging a cease-fire to be declared between Israel and Lebanon. The United States, however, is standing firm against the notion, even while claiming that they would like to see the fighting stop. Given that the US is one of the few nations who has the ability to override a UN resolution with a veto (and hey, GDub just learned how to use his after five years), any amount of dragging of heels on our behalf can quickly squelch any talks.

But why is the United States so resistant to allowing this way of thinking to carry through? In the immortal words of Tony Snow, "at this point, there's no indication that Hezbollah intends to lay down arms." Which is technically true. But given that Israel has responded to Hezbollah's actions with force that most of the world views as excessive, there's not a whole lot of reason for them to lay down their arms. For their part, Hezbollah doesn't recognize Israel as a state, which, up until the mid-1940's was completely accurate. Meanwhile, Israel has aggressively waged campaigns with the intention of trying to dismantle and destroy opposing nations, even while being forced to defend its own borders.

Ultimately, it should come as no surprise that the United States is throwing its support and weight behind Israel in the current conflict. After all, the Israeli state was largely supported and bolstered by the United States ever since its inception, and the US knows that, if Israel falls completely, they will lose footing and face in the Middle East.

Now I am by no means condoning the actions of Hezbollah, nor am I decrying Israel as purely the enemy and the evil face of this war. One cannot justly deny that Hezbollah brought Israel's wrath down upon itself by kidnapping Israeli soldiers, and holding them hostage. One also cannot deny that Israel has mounted a far more aggressive campaign than is justified, and has had little concern for the casualties they are causing. After all, there is evidence that Israel not only encouraged people to evacuate Beirut, but that they then bombed the caravans leaving the city.

Of course, through this conflict, we've had GDub swearing into microphones, acknowledging racism in his first appearance at the NAACP (after multiple invitations), and improperly groping the German Chancellor. If that isn't an acknowledgement of a cowboy who's intent on leading with bravado and not reason, I'm not sure what is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Compassionate reporting

Elizabeth Smart, the young woman who was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City back in 2002 (and recovered in March of 2003) appeared recently on CNN's "Nancy Grace" show to discuss the new national sex offender bill that she is championing. Host Nancy Grace seemed interested in holding a very different interview.

Basically, what we have here is a complete and utter failure to communicate. Elizabeth, who had already dealt with numerous interviews over the past three years regarding her abduction, has moved on as best as she possibly can. She has decided to use the experience to fuel her desire to push the new national legislation. Nancy Grace, on the other hand, made the determination that she would garner more viewers, and milk sympathy out of those that were watching by once again trying to get answers to inane questions about the abduction. Even when Elizabeth made it clear that she was appearing for a different reason, Nancy nodded, pretended to understand, and pressed ahead with further questions about what the captivity was like.

Mind you, this is coming from the same network that, while Israel and Hezbollah were shooting missles at each other, kept wondering "Middle East: Brink of War?" CNN used to be an official news organization, but with reporters like Grace, and an unwillingness to call a war when they see one, the question has to become whether or not they're still viable in covering the news, or if they've fallen down the same slippery slope that has plagued the other 24-hour news networks since their inceptions.

Looking at the website for the program has me already picturing what the conversation with Yvette Cade (who was horribly burned by her husband) may contain. For example:

NG: So, exactly how did the odor of burning flesh affect your sense of smell.
YC: It was awful. But I really don't want to talk about that.
NG: I understand. I know that it's hard for victims to relive their experiences. So, how exactly did the fire race across your skin.

Let's hope that I'm horribly horribly wrong about that potential conversation. If I'm not, then someone please find a way to GET THIS WOMAN OFF THE TELEVISION. Replace her with something wholesome. Y'know, like have an hour of screeching weasels.

You can call it "FOX on CNN".

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

By any other name

The battles between Israel and Hezbollah are definitely causing the world to take notice of the region, and the destructive capabilities contained therein. Unfortunately, the people representing the United States seem to be incapable of actually focusing on the Middle East and what's actually happening.

Take, for example, Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary. First off, when Helen Thomas, whom the Snowjob has bashed heads with before, called into question the US veto of the UN cease-fire resolution, Snow attacked her by thanking her for her "Hezbollah view". Then, in a different press conference, he gets caught in his own double speak, first calling the battle a war, and then quickly correcting himself. It's almost as though Snowjob feels that, if you just refuse to call something what it is, it loses those key properties that make it exactly what it is. We'll try that theory ourselves. For example, I shall stop referring to any debt owed to companies as bills. I'm going to call cigarettes happy fun sticks. And I'm going to call GDub an idiot. Because at least one of these things should still ring true.

But Snow isn't the only member of the press who has a difficult time when referring to the war going on between Israel and its neighbors (lest we forget, they're still attacking Gaza, too). Thankfully, one news source is making sure to call what they see, and they're calling the rest of the news to task on it. Thank you, Jon Stewart.

In other news, it appears that US Airways has decided to start putting ads on their air-sickness bags. Apparently the thinking is that the bags are there, and they may as well get some use (and some financial kick-back) out of them. While not a frequent flier by any means, I'm pretty certain that placing ads on the bags will definitely increase their usage. Maybe come fall I'll jump on an US Airways flight, and fill my Sony brand airsickness bag with some CBS brand egg from my earlier breakfast.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Live from St. Petersburg

By now, pretty much everyone across the world is at least familiar with the "accidental" exchange between GDub and Tony Blair concerning the conflict in Lebanon. And by now, many have established their own interpretations of what happened. Given that the President, when he learned of the mistake, apparently "rolled his eyes and laughed" when shown a transcript of his own words, it seems almost impossible to continue to hope that there will actually be any strong resolution proposed by Washington.

Plain and simple, even if it was truly an accident that the microphone was live, this is another example of the cowboy diplomacy that Bush has engaged in throughout his Presidency, and appears ready to continue following through with. He is the type of leader who feels that he can bully people into doing what he wants, and, like most bullies, he is unable to see his own failings with regards to his goals. Cowboy diplomacy launched the war with Iraq, and now it appears set to cause the conflict to spill out even further into the Middle East. GDub believes that by simply flexing his muscles, he can get Syria and other ME nations to weigh in on stopping this conflict, when all it tends to do is stir the pot more.

What our Cowboy fails to truly realize is that he is stepping into a ghost town, and the rival gang, while not holding the strength in either numbers or dedication, does hold the power of conviction. Bush is a lame duck President, who almost seems driven to push the global perception of the United States into never-before-seen lows, leaving a mess behind for whoever is unlucky enough to take the office in 2008. Without strong and thought-out leadership, America will continue to flounder in the political morass, while conflicts will keep pounding on our doors.

We have a spoiled child as a President, and, before too long, he's going to just get bored, pick up his toys, and walk away.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Leaks: Packaged for your approval

The recent attacks against the NY Times for its role in leaking information regarding the surveillance of financial records have certainly brought a blight to that newspaper, as well as other papers that picked up the story quickly. By making mention of the secret Treasury Department program, the Times brought the program itself under intense scrutiny, and may very well have made the prospect of curtailing terrorist activity that much harder.

Except for one minor, insignificant detail. As it turns out, the Treasury Department was fully expecting the leak, and even had a press plan in place for just such an occasion. Conveniently, this press plan was followed when the Times wanted to go to print with their article.

So what does this mean? Unfortunately, it means far too little. Especially in a world where the leaders of the strongest nations on the planet meet but can't come to a resolution about what to do concerning the Hezbollah/Israel conflict. Especially in a world where former political leaders can outright state that there should simply be a declaration of World War III, so that we can move forward accordingly.

But hey, maybe this means that, in a few short months, we'll see a report that Valerie Plame actually outed herself to Robert Novak in a press release. Actually, given the current administration's tendencies towards veiling the truth from the public, I'm surprised we haven't seen it yet.

But at least we'll be able to get commercials with breakfast, even if we leave the TV off.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The American Way

Welcome to another Friday, and another round of shotgunning.

First up, the whole situation revolving around Valerie Plame is about to take an interesting twist, as she and her husband Joseph Wilson have decided to sue "Scooter" Libby, KRove, and VPFudd, amongst others. Basically, the lawsuit is levying attacks against those that outed her for destroying her career simply to further their own aspirations. What the lawsuit should be about is the endangerment of any operation she has ever done, and put at risk the lives of her, her family, and any of her contacts made while working for the CIA. After all, isn't that what the administration is accusing the NYTimes of being guilty of with regards to leaking the financial surveillance information? Better question, especially in light of the Fitzgerald investigation. Isn't suing these guys kind of like the civil case against OJ Simpson?

Secondly, seriously, Israel, stop bombing people. The area is already bad enough, and tensions are high, without you going around and dropping bombs on Lebanon, Palestine, and anywhere else you feel appropriate. No wonder the leader of Hezbollah is calling you out. Of course, maybe you believe that you're in the right, and you may have some valid points. But there should at least be some consideration for global relations, given that most of the world wants a full cease-fire reached. All except for the Imperial Decider, who has kindly asked that there be a curtailing of violence by Israel. Not a full-out stop, but GDub has asked that they Israelis limit the amount of damage they cause. It'd be nice if they interpreted "limit" as prevent, but we all know that's not going to happen.

Finally, in a piece of press that shouldn't really come as much of a surprise, Pete Coors, former Senate candidate and owner of Coors Brewing Company, was arrested. For DUI. True, he wasn't much above Colorado's .08 limit, but he was above it, and was cited properly for it. Doesn't really seem to fit with the flow of "Drink Responsibly", an ad campaign that, in spirit at least, has been promoted by all alcohol producers for quite some time now. Maybe this means that Coors will have a new campaign, with a picture of Pete being pulled over. Run the tagline "Don't Do What We Did." It might sell.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Losing touch

First off, let's pretend that you're Israel. Okay? Are you pretending? Good. Now...

STOP BOMBING PEOPLE. Especially when you're already on tenuous footing in global views, and the only guy who's on your side is the Decider reviled the world over.

Moving on. Ann Coulter, sometimes referred to in hushed tones as She Who Makes Satan Look Good, also sometimes referred to as Michael Berryman in a wig, has suffered through her trials and tribulations, especially since the release of Godless. The attacks of her views on national news programs and the outcry and accusations of plagiarism immediately leap to mind. Just because she happens to hold viewpoints that make certain infamous people from history look like kitten-hugging hippies (I'm looking at you, Mengele), and just because she decided that she wanted to lift full sentences and then replace a single word, passing it off as her own (you're not escaping my gaze, Viswanathan) doesn't mean she's a bad person, right? Right?

And given that she's obviously not a bad person, is it really fair that newspapers around the country are beginning to wonder if maybe her opinions column is no longer worth printing? Maybe The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, IA was a little hasty in pulling the column ahead of the rest of the nation. Except for the fact that Ms. Coulter has finally started to alienate the only people who were reading her in the first place, the conservatives, and causing the paper to receive complaints, this just seems like a typical knee-jerk reaction from the liberal media.

So does this mean that she's going to finally start keeping herself quiet, or will this harpy take the opportunity to blast everyone yet again with her opinions, and slam the newspapers that once gave her a pedestal from which to spew her vitriol? My bet rests firmly with the second option.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Perking up in the Garden State

The good citizens of New Jersey can rejoice, and it's a good bet that a decent number of them will be rejoicing between the sheets. After a two month hiatus, Medicaid prescriptions in NJ once again cover Viagra and other erectile medications.

In a bold move, aimed at keeping people sexually gratified even if they can't get it up under normal circumstances NJ's Governor Corzine has made efforts to include the drugs once again into programs that help low-income citizens get the prescriptions they need. The biggest roadblock now? Reinstituting the program that weeds out convicted sex offenders from those that are eligible to recieve the pills.

True, there's a quality of life issue at stake here, and the number of men that get prescribed for Viagra or its fellows tend to discover other diseases that they'd never have learned about if they couldn't get it up on their own, but how important is it to include these drugs into the state's drug benefits? After all, education budgets are being slashed everywhere, and NJ is also experiencing less money for municipalities, nevermind an overall increase in taxes. Is it really the best use of money to make sure people can continue having pill-enhanced (or capable) sex while students are given substandard texts?

All in all, it's probably pretty safe to declare New Jersey as Rush Limbaugh's new favorite state.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Better late than never

Although 300 years may be a little much. Even for a witch.

On Monday, the governor of Virginia finally overturned the only witch conviction his state had ever seen. The conviction came after a "water trial", where the suspect in question was believed to be a witch if they were able to float. Given that Grace Sherwood, the woman in question, floated, she was declared as being guilty of witchcraft, although there is evidence that, while she may have been jailed, she also quite possibly lived to die of natural causes.

This news coming out of Virginia yesterday is actually quite interesting, in a number of different lights. First of all, it points out the sheer ridiculousness of the trial itself, as a woman who was "dunked" could be found guilty of witchcraft by simply not drowning. Secondly, it shows a willingness by a politician to alter bad decisions of the past, which could lead to some hope for the country with future elections. Third, it demonstrates the sheer ridiculousness of many of the decrees of current government. After all, while it's a good thing to correct mistaken verdicts, is there ever a need to overturn a ruling of 300 years ago that caused prison time, but not, by many accounts, an overall loss of quality of life?

Of course, there are other examples of government changing things recently that don't necessarily hold such good will. For example, there's Tony Snow's declaration that the Bush Administration is not continuing the policies of the Clinton Administration with regards to North Korea. This should come as a "Duh" to anyone playing at home, especially when one focuses on the fact that during the Clinton presidency, North Korea had no measurable nuclear potential.

But the Snowjob doesn't finish there, as his recent declaration over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo exhibits. He's stating that the change in the way prisoners will be treated and tried isn't a reversal of position by the administration. Which, I suppose, is technically true, given GDub would probably push his ideas further towards the military tribunals had the Supreme Court not shot him down.

Come to think of it, exonerating a witch after 300 years probably isn't such a bad move after all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What warnings?

Back in 2002, the President was warned that the policies he was looking at enacting for detainees at Guantanamo Bay would lead to severe political backlash, along with possible declarations of illegality for the activities. Opponents of the harsh treatments stood firmly on the side of thought that said even terror suspects are protected under Geneva Convention. GDub, and his minions, disagreed, and have been working to establish a legal "outer space". The recent Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court should have theoretically put a stop to the bickering, especially as they stated that putting the detainees up before a military tribunal was illegal and in violation of our own policies.

It didn't, as Georgie took a route different from a semi-expected "let's pick up our toys and go home" approach. Nope. GDub has firmly kept himself in the same spot, it's just that now he's inviting different kids to play with his toys. The Court's decision has led to the President and his political allies doing everything just a few steps shy of calling political enemies traitors for attempting to curtail his powers, and the judges of the Supreme Court are simply an "imperialist judiciary [that believes war] should be within its grasp." Or, at the very least, that's the position espoused by professor John Yoo, who played a large part in the writing of the anti-terror documentation.

And what have we learned from this? We've learned that when the Supreme Court makes a decision in favor of the administration and its policies, they're heroes. When they rule against GDub and cronies, they're traitors and "imperialists". And we've also learned that it doesn't really matter, because there's currently a push going on to rewrite pieces of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the document that made it illegal for Bush to put detainees before tribunals, by giving presidents the power to toss any criminal they feel before a military tribunal.

What else have we learned today? Well, we've learned that potential criminals who are awaiting trial for money laundering could still get elected to office. That's right. Tom Delay is saying that he may have no choice but to run for the position he vacated when the came under legal scrutiny in the first place. Of course, given the (potential) history of money laundering, it probably wouldn't be all that difficult to raise the funds needed to make the run.

Do you smell that on the breeze, America? That's freedom. Or methane gas.

Friday, July 07, 2006

On the 7th day of July

We shotgun, now new and improved with links!

First up, the President has decided to travel the country. He's holding a news conference in Chicago, to kick off his concept of making occasional trips outside of Washington to "learn what's on Americans' minds". Of course, this should strike everyone as being a bit odd. Now he wants to learn what the public is thinking? Isn't this the same guy who decided that poll numbers didn't really matter? Now, I'm not going to say that polls are actually a good representation of what the average person is feeling on any given subject, but it's at least a start in the right direction. Maybe all of this traveling will actually cause the President to see what his policies have wrought across America. Or maybe the audiences will be filled with pre-selected individuals, allowing GDub to bury his head further into the belief that his administration is helping the people.

But even with that, thank goodness that GDub has Tony Snow working for him. After all, the Press Sec'y is well-informed, and can pass along necessary information to the President wherever he should be. For example, Snowjob, during a recent press briefing, was able to talk about the Mexican election. Or not. Psst... Tony? The winner was Calderon. At least until the ballots get recounted. Then it might not be Calderon. Either way, read the paper before you go to a briefing, because you're supposed to be the one passing the information along to the press, not the other way around.

Of course, the world doesn't stop spinning just because Snowjob doesn't have enough facts to keep the spin going himself. In a report by New Scientist we learn that it's possible for nuclear weapons to explode accidentally. Not saying that they could make a big boom unattended, with nothing happening. But they certainly could be detonated by a car crash, or by an attack on a convoy. Given that nuclear weapons are quite often shipped overland for inspection, there is a risk of these "single-point safe" bombs becoming highly dangerous. True, there have to be other failures along the way, but the fact that the UK Ministry of Defence is admitting that the risk exists should cause ears to perk up around the globe. Which also means that we're a relatively short time away from someone in the US declaring the MoD as being panicky, and not supportive of the efforts to curtail violence globally. After all, you can't stop violence without creating more violence, especially if you're in the Pentagon.

And finally, it wouldn't be a fair shotgun of fun if there wasn't at least some bizarre celebrity story. No, not the concept that Suri Cruise may not actually exist (although she'd better, given that Katie Holmes had to suffer through 11+ months of pregnancy to bring the Antichrist to Earth). Nope. We're just going to ignore the lack of proof of A.C. Cruise, just like Messiah Jolie-Pitt shall until the time has come for their final confrontation at the End of Days. Today, we receive word from Paris Hilton, as she declares that “If you see pictures of me out I’m being paid." Which makes her the only person other than Shane MacGowan to make a career out of being drunk 24/7. It's also a thin cover story for the side job that Paris has; prostituting herself. After all, can you think of any other job where you're paid simply for being seen?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I found it on Wikipedia

The recent death of Kenneth Lay has served a number of different purposes. One, it has brought tragedy to a family that was already figuring out how to cope without their patriarch due to a potentially lengthy prison term. Two, it has prompted conspiracy theorists to crawl out of the woodwork to insist that Lay isn't actually dead, but that he faked everything in order to get out of serving any of his sentence. And three, it has pointed out one of the weaknesses in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Now, overall, Wikipedia can actually be a fairly positive thing, as the pooling together of global information, especially when it can be edited by the rest of the online community, should lead to better dissemination of that information. And yet, therein also lies the tragic flaw of the Wikipedia, as there is no actual body of editors or fact-checkers, and anyone can edit the entries therein by simply signing up for a free membership. An entry can be incorrect, fixed by a more reliable source, such as the creator or a close personal confidante, and then returned back to the incorrect form by someone certain that they have the facts right because that's "just the way they've heard it".

For example, Ken Lay's biography had, in less than one hour, seven different causes of death, ranging from the basic ("yet to be determined") to the farfetched ("The guilt of ruining so many lives finally [sic] led him to his suicide"), before it finally settled on citing KHOU-TV out of Houston for the information regarding a heart attack. Had it taken longer to come to an actual cause of death, we may have found Wikipedia entries talking about how Lay died battling aliens in a valiant attempt to save the world from further Enron scandals, all the while letting the Holy Grail slip through his fingers to rest eternally in the embrace of Mother Earth. Or that he'd strapped on some Acme rocket shoes and miscalculated his flightpath.

The free and willing spread of information is a good thing, and it's always positive to see as many different sources working together to get the words out in a highly informative way. That is where the Wikipedia shines. But, without more stringent editorship, or, at least, a willingness to search out authorities on the subjects, then the Wikipedia will never be more than what it currently is. A jumble of webpages, some good, some bad, united under a common theme of "I'm pretty sure it's this way."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The right hand

The Valerie Plame incident just keeps getting more and more tangled, and now, we can't be certain exactly what anyone that may or may not be involved knows. Apparently, during an interview with the prosecutors in the case, President Bush admitted that he had specifically instructed VP Cheney to lead an effort to help discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson, of course, is Plame's husband, and was a large opponent of the war in Iraq. So now we have evidence that GDub was willing to do pretty much anything (up to and including potentially illegal activities) to keep opposing viewpoints silenced.

Of course, this shouldn't come as much of a shock when you look at the current administration's record with regards to signing statements and any other suspicious and questionable activity with relation to presidential powers. It also shouldn't come as much of a shock that Bush claims that, while he may have directed Cheney to release classified information, he wasn't aware that Cheney passed the instructions on to "Scooter" Libby, and then Libby leaked it to the press rather than get it declassified and simply announce it to the American people directly.

So let's get this absolutely correct. Libby is indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush, shortly before the indictment, announced that anyone found guilty of crimes in relation to the leak case would no longer have a place within the administration. We now have evidence that Cheney and Bush were definitely working together (by the Great Decider's own words) to release classified information in what could only be referred to as a leak. Of course, both GDub and Fudd are claiming that they never instructed Plame's name to be leaked, or her status within the CIA, but it's not too hard for one to imagine that, in an effort to discredit someone, casting a suspicious light on their spouse might not be all that bad of a way to do it.

And what will come out of this whole thing? Well, if the past six years have shown us anything, the answer is absolutely nothing. Truth be told, it wouldn't be surprising to see pardons come down on high as soon as the investigation is over and all indictments have been handed out. Worked for Nixon, after all. And to think, a decade ago the country impeached a President for what amounts to being an incorrigable lecher, but there's absolutely nothing being done regarding a President who has made his term of office one that violates and suspends civil rights in order to increase his own power.

Of course, for those that believe 2008 can't come fast enough, realize that a lot of the GOP is looking to Jeb Bush as a potential running mate for their candidates, thus (potentially) prolonging the legacy. True, he's often referred to as the smarter of the two Bush brothers, but how hard can that be when GDub has the IQ of steamed beets?

Monday, July 03, 2006

The world is watching

And they're not horribly approving.

For example, look at the British. They used to admire the United States, and even looked to us as a "beacon of hope for the world". Not quite the case anymore. Now, 77 percent of those polled strongly disagree. Only 12 percent trust the US to act wisely in global affairs. Keep in mind that during Vietnam, that number was hovering right around 25 percent.

To be fair, the British don't really think that all Americans are hopeless. In fact, 70 percent of them like Americans to some extent. Unless you're in power. The American government is looking at the fact that over three-fourths of the people polled think that GDub is a "horrible leader" and two-thirds are fairly certain that the United States has shifted completely from being the isolationist country it was a century ago, into an imperialistic nation looking to expand it's territory. Of course, the British have absolutely no experience with imperialism and expansion of territory.

Basically, this poll points out that a lot of the British have many of the same criticisms as a lot of Americans. There is an overall lack of faith in what the Bush administration is capable of, and the tasks that have been accomplished seem futile in the face of greater issues.

Almost makes you wonder how Americans would rank Tony Blair? Wait... that's a silly question. Far too many Americans would respond with "Tony Who?"

Rest assured, though. The UK isn't the only place where there's discontent with the United States. North Korea is pretty upset about a number of things, including fly-overs (which they believe to be espionage), and the threat of a pre-emptive strike by the US. They've gone so far as to threaten that, if attacked, they will respond with nuclear strikes, with the intention of launching the planet into an atomic war.

And they're just crazy enough to do it.

It's kind of like handing the school bully a box of dynamite, and then yelling at him when he wants to prove that he has it. If you don't handle the situation carefully, he's going to just drop a match into that box and see what comes out of the ensuing chaos. It's just that this time, the bully has a perpetual frown, thick glasses, bizarre hair, and has starred in a Trey Parker movie.

But hey, Happy 230th Birthday, America!