POLITICS - Kerry's Message

From Senator John Kerry's speech at the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting Washington, DC October 3, 2003 :
Five thousand years ago, Moses said, "Hitch up your camel. Pick up your shovel. Mount your ass. I will lead you to the promised land."

Five thousand years later, Franklin Roosevelt said, "Light up a Camel. Lay down your shovel. Sit on your ass. This is the promised land."

Today, George Bush will lay off your camel, tax your shovel, kick your ass and tell you there is no promised land.

Has Kerry stolen Dean's message? I'm not sure, when was the last time Dean said this:
Some people have asked me the important question: Can a man be president of the United States without a prostate. Well, I just answer them by saying, "Why not? We've had a lot of Republican presidents who didn't have a heart."

How can Kerry possibly defend his nay vote on the $87B supplemental? Sounds like he has a good soundbite waiting to be unleashed.
Last week, Joe Biden and I -- or just the other day -- stood up on the floor of the Senate and said we don't think it's right to ask for $87 billion for Iraq, that it ought to be paid for, without getting rid of those lavish tax cuts at the top.

How can the president tell reservists spend another year in Iraq, but we're not going to tell the wealthiest in America to contribute to this cause.

Why should we be paying $87 billion for Iraq, cutting back health care, cutting back education? It is wrong to open up firehouses in Baghdad and shut them in cities in the United States of America.

But what, in this October 2003 speech, would make me choose Kerry over Dean as the 2004 Democrat Presidential nominee?

He has respect for the establishment. It may not be perfect, but it was built by thousands of liberals and conservatives alike. It may not be perfect, but it's a perfect statement about the character of America. (Take what you will out of that sentence...) But it is clear that Kerry wants to lead the Democrats over the next four years. All of them. I'm not sure that some of the other candidates share this desire.
I have confidence that we will win next year if we deserve to win. And I ask all of you, the backbone of the Democratic Party, the DNC, I say to you and I say to activists all across this country, have faith in who we are and what we believe, stand up for our values, have the courage to make the choices that are right for our nation. Let's go out and do the work. Let's put America back to work by putting George Bush and Dick Cheney out of work. Let's go get it done.

POLITICS - Botox Kerry

Now this rumor is just bizarre. For the benefit of the doubt, let's just say that Kerry is using botox. So what? Is the message that we can't vote for a metrosexual? If so, then good luck trying to sell that message! Is the message that he's superficial and vain? Do we buy that one either? Regardless of what the message is, it begs the question, is this the only "dirt" opponents can find on Kerry? Are these the kinds of rumors that these parrots succumb to these days?

While I don't know for sure if this is true or not, I do know that I would never fault a man for wanting to look less Entish. If men are finally feeling the pressure of physical looks that women have been enduring for decades, then I say Hurray! I personally don't care what a person looks like, but it is common knowledge that public figures are held to higher standards. If we are a society that urges women to stuff their chests full of plastic, then why should any of us care if Kerry is using botox? No double standards, guys.

POLITICS - All Eyez On Kerry part I

A couple days ago I mentioned that I would post a little about the pending attacks on John Kerry's record. I don't want to be in the position of responding to every attack on every Dem candidate, but I do think that us lifelong Dems should defend our best candidates against unscrupulous personal attacks.

When I sat down to write this post, I came across this article in the National Journal about the Top 10 issues where Kerry will face attacks. Read This Article. It will give you a good idea of Kerry's many nuanced positions.

While there's way too much to pull out and quote, here are a couple nuggets about Kerry that haven't been highlighted in the media or the debates. Since this article fairly examines the areas where Kerry will be attacked, I'll put off my planned post for a day or two. In particular, I'd like to look at his stance on the Gulf Wars, the global war on terror, and his insatiable lust for botox. But let's just look at this article and establish the ground rules a bit (since this is the weekend, I think I'll add a couple snarky notes for fun!)
War -
Kerry's national security issues coordinator, Rand Beers, worked on the National Security Council under Reagan, Bush I, Bill Clinton, and Bush II ("three Republicans, one Democrat," Beers noted) before resigning in protest over Iraq. "The group that is advising Kerry," said Jon Wolfsthal, a former Clinton official and one of those advisers, "is firmly grounded in traditional, internationalist, bipartisan foreign policy."
But Beers bristles at the idea that his man is a mere mushy mainstreamer: "You're trying to fit John Kerry in boxes," he protested. To be sure, in one key area, Kerry was well ahead of the mainstream. In leading investigations into the shadowy global webs of the BCCI scandal, the Iran-Contra affair, and the Contra-drugs connection, and in authoring a 1997 book, The New War, "Kerry began focusing on transnational threats -- drugs, terrorism, proliferation -- [years before] 9/11," said Beers. Kerry's anti-money-laundering legislation, a key weapon against terror groups, was incorporated into the USA PATRIOT Act. His plan of attack as president would emphasize international law enforcement and intelligence rather than unilateral military action. Kerry is betting that his nuanced approach will outperform Bush's crusades -- and despite its ambiguities, will resonate with voters.

(This will be Kerry's toughest battle. The Repubs control the language of this particular debate. Kerry needs to flip the script and point out that Bush stated in the SOTU that we need to use the Patriot Act to pursue terrorists like criminals. Kerry (and the Dems) have to point out that this was the Clinton policy. The war on terror is primarily a legal battle, to be supplemented by the military. Bush can't use the military to prevent Al Qaeda from attending flight schools in Florida. Bush can't use the military to pursue international money launderers. Bush can't use the military alone to promote democracy in the Middle East. If the Dems can control the language of the debate on terror, they'll win the war of rhetoric. )
East Coast Liberal -
He was a leader in the effort to put 100,000 cops on the streets, for example, and, as a prosecutor, he sent people to jail for life. He was also one of the first Democrats to show concern about government red ink by backing the 1985 Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law. Kerry also supported welfare-reform legislation in 1996 -- a measure that many liberals loathed.

Still, Kerry's record provides plenty of ammunition for critics who charge him with reflexively backing liberal social legislation. They point to his repeated votes against banning so-called "partial birth" abortion; his opposition to the death penalty; his vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman; as well as his support for higher taxes, especially higher gas taxes.

(Yes, there are critics who dislike liberal social legislation. There are also millions of Americans who support this legislation. 99% of Americans, including conservatives, want decent public education, assistance with health care, and equal rights. Yes, there are some peripheral debates, but Americans want liberal legislation. There is no question about it. Conservatives will continue to slander liberalism, but I wonder if that rhetoric continues to hold favor with the American public. I'm not sure that it does anymore. Especially when the Bush Administration is now back-pedaling on Iraq WMD threat, and now want us to believe that we invaded Iraq (and sacrificed 500+ of our citizens) for one of the purest liberal causes in history, the spread of democracy and human rights. )

Environment -
Critics say that although Kerry's strong environmental positions may play well in New England and in a handful of states elsewhere, they will hurt him in a national campaign. "I think his appeal west of the Adirondacks to the general electorate is significantly less than that of Michael Dukakis," said Myron Ebell, an analyst with the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. "He has a lot of left-wing baggage, particularly on the environment."

Kerry's proposals to crack down on energy companies and to protect federal lands could also energize Bush's core business supporters and attract more industry money to the Republican campaign. As an oil-industry lobbyist put it: "John Kerry isn't a friend of the industry."

(Heh. Does Bush want to use that line in one of his commercials?
"John Kerry isn't a friend of the oil industry. But George W. Bush was raised with oil lobbyists in his cradle. Please America. Vote for the candidate who consistently sells his principles to the highest amount of oil money. Vote George. W. Bush in 2004."
I think that this "left-wing baggage" is going to look pretty nice once the public realizes that global warming is such a serious threat that the Pentagon is about to release a report documenting the pending concerns. This sounds like "right-wing" baggage to me. A lot of it.)

Friend of Lobbyists -
During his Senate career, Kerry has irked segments of K Street on various occasions: He has co-sponsored legislation that would mandate higher fuel-efficiency standards for autos, including gas-guzzling SUVs; rejected contributions from political action committees; and generally backed the expensing of stock options. Kerry, who teamed with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on the unsuccessful fuel-efficiency effort, has also worked with the Arizonan on other bills that have riled corporate lobbyists. One example: a measure that would terminate dozens of inequitable corporate subsidies. A lobbyist calls Kerry, who sits on the Senate Finance panel and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, a leader in this area with "constructive ideas."


MUSIC - The Last DJ

The RIAA has sunk to a new low. They are now confiscating DJ mix cds because they are technically illegal because djs don't license the individual tracks.

As a techno dj, I find this personally offensive. DJs use mix cds to promote themselves. Record producers need the free promotion of their work. It's a symbiotic relationship that is based on reciprocity. One will fail without the other.

Why do dance record producers rely on underground djs to spread their work? Because the record companies are only interested in promoting mainstream acts, and there is no market for emerging artists. If the record labels aren't going to promote new artists, if the radio stations refuse to promote new artists, then the artists have to rely on the DJ.

If electronic music producers have to rely on the RIAA to ensure a paycheck, they might as well pack up the synthesizer and drum machine.

The electronic music industry has been in a downward spiral since the government now regulates night life in American clubs. DJs and producers can no longer rely on income from live shows. The music industry ignores them. Now the RIAA is cracking down on the only source of promotion left. What's next? Tracking license plate numbers of customers at record stores? (Oh, wait. That's been done.)

DJ Mag sums it up well:
This latest attack by the RIAA is therefore hypocritical – they claim that their pursuit of copyright infringement is primarily in the interest of the artist, yet most dance producers actually approve of and rely upon this illegal distribution.

The dance scene relies upon these ‘illegal’ ways to survive, and it seems that the only people who actually care about this particular copyright infringement are not the artists themselves but the record companies – who are only involved in the dance scene for profit.

So what can bedroom djs do? Keep on banging the beats and the mixtapes. That's for damn sure.

But we have to see where the dust settles. How far can the RIAA seriously pursue this? Electronic music is pressed on vinyl specifically so DJs can play them in clubs and on mix cds. Early white vinyl pressings (dubs) are distributed to the nation's top DJs and vinyl stores several months in advance, specifically so they can be used in promotional mixes. It's an established system that has existed since the days of Disco, and I have yet to hear a complaint from a single music producer. Even during the Napster controversy, producers and DJs have consistently stated that mix cds are our bread-n-butter. Without them, the industry suffers, the fans suffer.

And, of course, respect for the RIAA continues to fall to an all-time low.

SITE NEWS - New Stuff

The BBC decided to sex up our weblog with a new logo. I think it's better than what we had before a logo.

There are some new links to Science/Technology/Post-Humanism and Texas Politics. Enjoy.

Gloral is a particularly exciting new find. Enjoy.

The comments might be a little funky for a while, too...



This is truly breath-taking. Pending paperwork, a new Texas state record and an International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record was set two weeks ago. This blue cat weighed in at 121 lbs, 8 oz, and measured 60 inches in length, caught by Texas angler Cody Mullennix at Lake Texoma. I guess it's true what they say, everything IS bigger in Texas!

POLITICS - Dean Dot-Com

Tapped has some great commentary on the outing of Joe Tripping from the Dean campaign. The Columbia Journalism Review connects the dots a little further...

The bottom line:

After beginning the primaries with the largest war chest ($30+ million), the Dean Organization can barely cover operating costs and its debts. Trippi bet the house on winning Iowa and New Hampshire, and it didn't work. To be fair, Trippi would be a hero today if Dean had won first in Iowa and New Hampshire. (But Dean would still be broke.)

There seems to be a decisive split in the Dean campaign between the people who want to run a full-state campaign and the people who want to focus on a few key states. Trippi was keen on a national assault, while the frugal Dean wanted to play a bit more stragically. With Trippi gone, the focus is now on winning a few key states and running a "delegate" campaign.

Trippi has been replaced by Roy Neel, former Telecom lobbyist and long-time Gore advisor. Some are saying that Gore is trying to protect his only endorsement, because a non-Dean nominee will render Gore's future endorsements less persuasive. In Gore's defense, I'd say that his own interests in computer science coincided with Dean's internet model, and he endorsed that model as the future of political participation. It's too bad that it was tethered to Howard Dean.

What does all this mean for the future of the Dean campaign? Well, let's just say that you can't have a campaign without pain. His tirades against Washington insiders will now ring slightly hollow because he has sought coordinated assistance from a circle of "insiders". It's tough for him to be serious about balancing budgets when political chatter is centered on a $30 million bust in Iowa and New Hampshire. It's tough to talk tough about NAFTA when you're endorsed by a key NAFTA supporter like Gore.

I hate to be a Monday morning quarterback and talk about Dean's prior actions. From this point on, he has to establish a national image beyond the "Anti-War Guy". His attempts in IA and NH weren't effective enough to convince voters to vote his way. The attacks against Kerry are coming, and Dean has to be able to play them to his advantage. If he can't get voters to choose him over Kerry in a tie, then he has to hope that the media (and other candidates) throw something up against Kerry in the next couple weeks.

In the near future, pundits will scour Kerry's position over the Iraq War(s), and his voting (and attendance ) records. I'll be posting on the status of these attacks sometime this weekend.

NEWS - Kristof the Pimp

NYTime's columnist Nicholas Kristof has a heartbreaking audio/video feature about sex slaves in Cambodia, and his efforts to buy two women out of their "contracts". But if you can buy a prostitute her freedom, will she accept it? It's a heartbreaking situation, and a social disorder that is ignored in America. (I say that we ignore the social problems inherent to prostitution, I'm very aware that America loves to pay attention to prostitution.)

The NYTimes Magazine ran an article by Peter Landesman this previous weekend about sex slaves and trafficking. It's another heartbreaking piece that has met with a little bit of controversy. Jack Shafer disputes some of the claims in the NYTimes Mag, but concludes
None of this is to dispute the existence of sex slaves in the United States. Women, girls, and boys are transported into the country and pressed into sexual service. In the Plainfield, N.J., case, which Landesman features in his lede, two people got 17-year sentences for enslaving four Mexican girls.
But Landesman's story fails on every level to convince me—and 95 percent of Press Box readers who sent me e-mail, I might add—that "perhaps tens of thousands" of women and children are spending the night as sexual chattel. I await real evidence.


POLITICS - Just Another Day At The Office

Fried Catfish, the other resident blogger here, should be making more appearances in the near future. Hopefully there will be a regular blogging schedule, but who knows.

Another rough day in Iraq. Six US soldiers killed, two CNN employees killed. This situation is getting worse, and the non-stop Democrat Primary coverage is providing good cover for the Bush Administration.

Tuesday's killings brought to 519 the number of Americans who have died since the Iraq war began. Most occurred after President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
- Washington Post

The Bush Administration is doing a fine job of spinning David Kay's failure to find WMD. "Everybody else thought there were WMD, too, even the Clintons!!" seems to be the new neo-con excuse. This stems from the neocons passive infatuation with Bill Clinton, but it is also an attempt to fog the issue. Clinton may have believed that Hussein might have WMD, and regime change was certainly supported by Clinton (and especially by the neocons); but Clinton never suggested putting troops on the ground. But that's a different issue.

Bush is going to try and blame the US intelligence agencies for the disputed WMD claims, and you can already hear that spin from the right side of the media. Bush wants to claim that everybody agreed that Saddam had WMD. This is clearly a distortion of the truth. Calpundit has an excellent collection of quotes from analysts and politicians that disputed the claims of Saddam's grave and gathering danger.

Karl Rove desparately wants to control the language of the coming election. Conservatives know that the public wants to discuss the intelligence failures behind 9/11 and the Iraq war, and they are already trying to lay the foundation of the future arguments. Don't let this happen.

When you hear the claim "Everybody thought Saddam had WMD", you can say "Bullshit". Everybody understood that Saddam had some type of WMD program related ability, but many groups of inspectors and analysts believed that the threat was contained and not a gathering danger. Bush built his claims on intelligence that was admittedly weak, and communicated the worst possible case scenario to the American public.

When you hear the claim "Bush never called Saddam an 'imminent' threat", you can say "Bullshit. He said that it was a 'gathering' threat, which is a synonyn for 'imminent'. If you look at a thesaurus entry for 'imminent', you will see many of the words used to describe Iraq. Dan Drezner had an excellent bipartisan debate about Bush's coy wordplay during the buildup to war. Drezner concluded that Bush clearly implied through language that Iraq was an imminent threat, and many administrative figures like Cheney and Rumself clearly stated that Iraq was an imminent threat.

Progressives need to watch the language of the debates and the media commentary.


TEXAS POLITICS - Tuition Deregulation

Coming as no surprise, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has just released a report, appropriately titled, "Responding to the Crisis in College Opportunity."
In 2003, states (directly or indirectly) and public colleges and universities replaced most lost state revenues by increasing tuition. The consequence was that the major burden of reductions in state higher education budgets was borne by students and families in the forms of reduced college opportunity, steep tuition increases, and increased debt.

In response, Texas lawmakers have expressed shock at the Board of Regents Tuition Gone Wild scheming. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has feigned concern that recent tuition hikes were higher than expected when the lege voted to deregulate tuition.

Where did this sudden concern come from, and why didn't they have it when students across the state and country were lobbying their congressmen prior to passage of this bill? How was it that we saw this consequence, and they didn't? Students from the major public universities to the private colleges to even community colleges rallied at the Capitol. Nor was this a partisan issue - even the Young Conservatives opposed deregulation. Stacks of petitions were signed, and countless letters were sent to politicians, but our cries of distress fell on deaf ears.

Students across the country are experiencing drastic tuition increases. They are either ratcheting up enormous debts, or being forced to drop out, as this report confirms. Windows of education opportunity for poor people, especially minorities, are being shut across the nation. Perhaps this will help start the wake-up call to get college students to vote, the group with the lowest voter turnout. We need legislators who will restore the state government commitment to higher education.


This fish has been out to sea, and has finally washed ashore. Out of the tank, and into the Frydaddy, if you will. Fried Catfish here, and I hope to be contributing to this blog regularly. I am in my final year at UT, and have lots of writing assignments this semester, but I think I can hang in there. Hot Tuna does an excellent job of covering national and international politics, so I will mostly be bringing it down to a local level. I have a keen interest in Texas politics, as well as issues that face college students, particularly the ones here. Austin and this campus are hotbeds for political discussion, so I hope to be giving glimpses into that fray.


POLITICS - New Hampshire Debates

There's plenty of debate coverage on the political blogs in the links list, and I don't have much to add.

Dean's in trouble. Some of the Deaniacs would like us to believe otherwise, but he is. If his youthful, wired grass-roots campaign was capable of delivering votes, we would've seen it in Iowa. His anger at the Beltway Insiders didn't connect with the young vote, and his anti-war message didn't matter to people who opposed the war. With or without his rebel yell, he'd still be stuck where he is right now. His message has carried to the people who care to listen, and I doubt that his Diane Sawyer or David Letterman interviews will attract any swing voters. He argued against traditional politics, but now he's taking every traditional step possible: gather endorsements from established leaders, run a positive "results" campaign, and do fluff-ball television interviews. He can't win with this strategy, and has been effectively neutered.

Kerry looked pretty good. He's a little dry, a little stiff, and that's going to hurt him. Kerry's Vietnam experience touches millions of Americans, and some people are beginning to realize that we basically have the '92 election again. It's the OLD conservative establishment vs. the baby boomers. This is a dynamic that didn't exist in 2000, because Bush seemed like a baby boomer. Now we see that he is Reagan in a new diaper. Now it is back to the Old v. Young. Something that can attract the youth and the aging baby boomers. Even though Kerry and Dean come from similar affluent backgrounds, Kerry's fought for the working class every step of the way.

Dean fans say they won't vote for him because he's "boring". Great. Didn't those losers learn their lesson last time when they voted for Nader? I think that the rest of the Dems will line up behind the guy, though. He didn't have to hit any home runs at the debate, just make sure nobody crept into his territory. I don't think they did.

Clark is a fish out of water here. He debates well, but he will have a tough time competing with Kerry at a national level. Clark would've done well against Dean, because we can clearly see the difference between the two candidates. If Kerry comes calling, I hope that Clark will consider a VP billing. (Yeah, I know Clark said he only wanted the top slot on the ticket, but he could waffle.)

Edwards really flopped on the Defense of Marriage Act question. Other than that, he was charming and didn't do anything to hurt his campaign. But that's not enough to displace whoever sits at #1. I'd sure love to see a Kerry/Edwards ticket, too.

Lieberman, Kucinich, Sharpton? Buh-Bye. I hope this is the end of the line for all three, because I hate debates with more than five speakers.

I'm not completely prepared to call the coming primary. Today, I'd come up with Kerry, Clark, Dean, Edwards....

MOVIES - Kil Bil

A teaser trailer is available for Kill Bill Vol.2. There's not much, but any look at the Mighty Uma is worth something.


POLITICS - Mess-o-Potamia

Washington Post has another update on Iraq. There's good news and bad news. Let's look at the real bad news first.
"I worry that the recent street demonstrations in support of Sistani and direct elections could turn into widespread anti-American and anti-Governing Council demonstrations by Iraqis disgruntled with other issues -- no jobs, heat, power, chickens, Mercedes," said Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst for Iraqi affairs.

Sounds like things are tough all over. But seriously, here's the good news.
After a shaky summer marked by finger-pointing among intelligence officials about a raft of failures, especially in the coordination of data, the U.S. intelligence effort in Iraq was revamped in October and November. The overhaul has made operations much more effective, officials said.
The U.S. military's Central Command, headed by Abizaid, spent an additional $11 million on the intelligence restructuring, a senior official said, and in the process forced far greater cooperation between regular military forces, Special Operations units, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA. All those entities now use a common database that, for example, enables suspected fighters to be tracked as they move from city to city.

But there's always a caveat...
Some military experts, including officers fighting in Iraq, continue to worry about the Iraqi insurgency, which they regard as surprisingly resilient and adaptive. Some fear that the resistance could be regrouping and planning new attacks, and is quiescent now only because it is studying the changes in the U.S. force structure and searching for new vulnerabilities. Some point out that attacks on Iraqi security forces have increased in recent months.

It's an interesting article, and the Army clearly shows an ability to adapt to new terrains and duties. That's great news. We're under a heavy troop rotation right now, so we may be in a brief calm before a storm. We're failing to insure women's rights, and the country might be slipping toward a theocracy. How effective is Bremer as a diplomat among the different factions? What's going wrong in the Governing Council?


Thinking about changing the colors a little bit....

POLITICS - Schedule Change

Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno was on CNN a second ago. He says that the insurgents are down on their knees, and that he would need six months to stabilize his region...

That would be around July 22? Didn't we just note that Bush wants to have troops home by the Summer? Bush plans to be out by June 30 or sooner. Will UN or Nato offer peace-keeping support, or has this surpassed their abilities?

POLITICS - Oh, That's Why

Bush's SOTU address is a little interesting. He doesn't say anything specific about the current situation in Iraq, and the only firm committment is to help the UN and the Iraqis "prepare for a transition" in June. If we can't make that timeline, surely the UN must be to blame, not the US. If everything goes downhill from now, there's nothing in the SOTU that we can hold him to.
From Today's Seattle Times
CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said yesterday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.
The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.
These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national-security aides and the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.
Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.

Bush was definitely discussing this issue during the week of the SOTU, and it's very likely that this has been a hot button issue over the last few weeks. What exactly would it take for the US to go back to the UN? The possibility of some type of civil unrest and/or war definitely can't be on this Administration's hands alone. That's why Bremer has been to the UN, and the above meeting this week is certain to include our "progress" at the UN.
One option being discussed informally is to delay the transfer of power until later in 2004, which might give the United Nations time to organize some sort of elections, one official said. But that is almost certain to be opposed by White House political aides who want the occupation over and many U.S. troops gone by summer to bolster Bush's re-election chances, the official said. "It's all politics right now," he said.

Other options are to go ahead with the June 30 turnover as planned, whatever the fallout, or to accelerate it by handing over power to the Iraqi Governing Council in March or April, he said.

I'd expect to hear a lot more about this in the next couple weeks. Today, IslamOnline noted
The question of Iraqi sovereignty and the nearing division of the country into disparate regions came to the fore last week when Kurdish peshmerga killed five Arabs and wounded 16 others during a 2000-strong Arab-Turcoman peaceful demonstration calling on Kirkuk to remain within Iraqi sovereignty. Iraqi intellectuals both in and outside Iraq have been warning for months that a civil war may be brewing in Iraq; the Kurdish-Arab conflict highlights the dire predicaments that a post-Saddam Iraq will produce.

February is supposed to be the month that the Kurds will practice civil disobedience, and professor Juan Cole believes that major Shiite demonstrations may be on the horizon. If Bush cuts and runs in April or June, this could be a disaster of Biblical proportions. I have to admit, I never thought Bush would be capable of that. System of checks and balances, indeed.


From George Bush's speech in New Mexico today:
America is safer because the Taliban doesn't exist.

The Taliban doesn't exist? Maybe we should look at the whole paragraph:
They have written a constitution, the people of Afghanistan have written a constitution which is -- guarantees free elections, freedom, full participation in government by women. Things are changing. Freedom is powerful. The people of Afghanistan are opening up health care centers and new businesses. Times are changing because they have been liberated. America is safer because the Taliban doesn't exist. America is safer because Afghanistan is now free. And we stand strongly with the freedom lovers in Afghanistan. (Applause.)

But... Didn't he mention the Taliban just the other night in the SOTU?
With the help from the new Afghan army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against the surviving members of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

So what's going on, Mr. Bush? You seem a little confused. Let's get another opinion from the Guardian:
In recent months Afghanistan has seen its worst violence, on both fronts, for nearly two years.

Hitting-and-running into the south from their safe havens in Pakistan, the black-turbaned Taliban are rallying. American officials report more attacks on the coalition's 11,500 troops in the past three months than the previous 12.

A recent battle in southern Zabol province featured 200 Taliban fighters.

On the mosque doors of Kandahar, the Taliban's former stronghold, edicts forbidding "moments of happiness and other occasions containing music" appear overnight. The Taliban's white flag flutters in outlying villages.

The Taliban have reason to celebrate. When they ambush coalition troops, they invariably come away bloodied. But with a new and repellent tactic, they appear to be scoring a major hit. In March, Taliban fighters shot dead an El Salvadorean Red Cross worker in southern Oruzgan province. In the past three months, 12 local aid workers have been murdered, causing most agencies to withdraw from southern Afghanistan.

This article seems to imply that some type of "Taliban" is operating in Afghanistan. It's almost as if the President just doesn't know what he's talking about... Or The Guardian hates America.

Let's go with that. As long as nothing else about Afghanistan or Iraq is incorrect in the SOTU, we'll just have to accept that The Guardian hates America.

POLITICS - How Much Is That Gas In The Window

Fox is running several clips featuring a reporter quizzing Kerry and Edwards about the current price of gasoline. Of course, they don't know how much gas costs in New Hampshire, so they are labeled "out of touch".

How ridiculous can you get? Do you think that most Washington politicians know what gasoline costs? Their chaueffers might have a clue.

However, there are a good number of intelligent Americans who don't know the current price of gasoline. From PublicTransportation.org
An estimated 14 million Americans ride public transportation each weekday and an additional 25 million use it on a less frequent but regular basis.

This doesn't include the American who bike or walk to work every day. I'd like to see journalists press one of these points once in a while, but I guess they only have a one-track mind.


POLITICS - Blogger's Denial

Last night's SOTU should be a big slap to the face of the Log Cabin Republicans. Their party stood firm last night and said, "We do NOT like gay people or gay sex or gay marriage. Get the hell out of our lives. (But please vote for us)."

Ultra-Confused Advocate, Andrew Sullivan, looks for the silver lining.
If gay people have dignity and value in God's sight, why are we unmentionable? Why are we talked about as if we are some kind of untouchable? Why in three years has this president not even been able to say the word 'gay' or 'homosexual'? The reason: because Bush will not confront bigotry outright. He wants to benefit from it while finding a formula to distance himself from it. That's not a moral stand. It's moral avoidance. Still, the good and important news is that the president hasn't endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment. The Family Research Council is mad as hell.

Oh, the life of a homosexual conservative. The desire of tax cuts is even more important than the defense of your own minority group. Tough times ahead, buddy, especially if Bush gets re-elected.

The Family Research Council is mad? Yeah, they won't be happy until the round up the gays for a new Sodom & Gomorrah BBQ. That can hardly be of any comfort to somebody who actually cares about human rights equality. Bush obviously left room for a constitutional process to ban gay marriage, including the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Andrew does come around in his next post:
Whatever else this president is, he is no believer in individuals' running their own lives without government regulation, control or aid. If you're a fiscal conservative or a social liberal, this was a speech that succeeded in making you take a second look at the Democrats. I sure am.

Bush's address played extremely close to his fundamentalist base, and I suspect that there will be some renewed interest in the Democratic candidates' messages. Emperor Bush hasn't had any clothes since the day he stepped into office. Andrew has a tough road ahead, because he has received considerable attention from the conservative press. (Gay republicans stick out like a pink thumb.) But I, as a South Park Democrat, would be glad to have him on the good side.


POLITICS - State of the Intersect

Bush delivered his 2004 State of the Union Address. It was an emotion-drive appeal to his core constituency (and only four explicit September 11 references), but I wonder how well it will play in any of the swing states. I posted earlier about Bush's inability to follow-through on his SOTU proposals.

One interesting note: He didn't make one mention of the space plans.

Here are a couple quick replies to this lunacy.

Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11th, 2001 -- over two years without an attack on American soil. And it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting -- and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated. (Applause.)

Bush really doesn't understand that there are important ideological differences behind the 9/11 terrorist organization and those that operate against Israel. His claim that this danger (of terror) can truly be defeated is comforting, but false. It's an offer that will be accepted by pushovers who have been forced to gasp in horror at every 9/11 reference. (But how many of these naive voters are still out there who haven't signed on to Bush already?)

Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give our homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists. (Applause.)

Conservatives accuse the Clinton Administration of treating terrorists like criminals. That's where this war rhetoric originates. They believe that bin Laden's fatwa was a declaration of war. However, bin Laden is not a representative of a recognized state, only an ideology-driven organization. Declaring war on an organization only adds to its credibility and ability to represent itself. That's why the US should have continued to treat them as international criminals. Bush hasn't recognized this, and wouldn't admit it if he did, but he is certainly adding strength to any Democratic response.

As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. (Applause.) The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom. (Applause.)

Let's hope that this democracy doesn't quickly turn into a theocracy. Bush didn't have any post-invasion plan for Iraq, and there isn't any evidence that they have one now. This is really a fly-by-out-seats President, who is politically guided by savvy figures. We're not out of the woods yet in Iraq, and Bush didn't have much to say about his turnaround policy with the UN.

Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictatator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims, terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq -- where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands -- would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place. (Applause.)

Bush goes all over the place here. I'm glad to see Hussein's regime gone. But it has cost us too much. Way too much. And it didn't have to.

You'll notice that WMD has now become "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities". No explanation for the addendum. I'm sure that Bush believes that his core constituency is naive, and doesn't understand the difference between the notorious 45-Minute WMD Threat and now WMD-related program activities (none of which he'll name).

In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent. (Applause.) This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years. (Applause.)

Cut the deficit in half in the next five years. This should be the very definition of fuzzy math. I can't wait to see this new miracle budget! (I'm guessing that we'll invest the next tax cuts in "miracle specialists".)

By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care. To protect the doctor-patient relationship, and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits. (Applause.)

What planet does this guy live on? The majority of current patient medical records are computerized, even in rural areas. It's possible he could be talking about biometrics, but that would surely suggest evolutionary trends that this President's science council are reluctant to acknowledge.

In my budget, I proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I proposed an additional $23 million for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you. (Applause.)

Drug testing for high school students? A conservative President proposes a multi-million dollar proposal to invade personal rights? I thought he was starting to lose touch with reality here, but then I realized he was shooting for the moon...

The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message -- that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now. (Applause.)

... until he makes a Presidential Declaration against Steroid use. You wanna talk about shortcuts to accomplishment? How about getting accepted to an Ivy League college with a 600 SAT score? How about losing the popular election and securing your job through an underhanded court decision? If there was ever a poster child for shortcuts to accomplishment, George W. Bush would be it. Give me a break. But after Bush shoots for the Moon...

Each year, about 3 million teenagers contract sexually-transmitted diseases that can harm them, or kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents. In my budget, I propose a grassroots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases. (Applause.)

... he goes even further out to Mars. Federal funds for high school abstinence programs? Holy crap. Was there something wrong with the Magic Bean proposal? That money would be better spent if it was thrown into a paper shredder and used for fertilizer in the Rose Garden. At least there would be a possibility of getting some kind of return on the investment.

Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage. (Applause.)

Rick Santorum leaped out of his chair on this one. This is obviously an allusion to a Constitutional Amendment declaring marriage must be a union between a man and a woman. Will this go anywhere in the mainstream public? Will it become a major campaign issue?

"Dear George W. Bush. If there's anything you know, I, Ashley Pearson, age 10, can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country." She added this P.S.: "If you can send a letter to the troops, please put, 'Ashley Pearson believes in you.'" (Applause.)

Dear Ashley,
Enjoy paying off my deficits! I believe in you!

GAMES - Snipe Hunt

Jakub Wojnarowicz, Games Editor at FiringSquad, touches on a volatile subject in the gaming community. Sniping rifles.
That sniper rifles are the bane of first-person shooters is an indisputable fact, yet people choose to dispute it anyway. Why?

Since it's a rant, I understand why he only states what he dislikes, without providing any resolution. I can't really comment on the issue, because I'm super-poor and can only afford to play Enemy Territory and America's Army. These games are pretty fair in weapon and class balance. He mentions Enemy Territory and BF1942 as two games with fair and balanced snipers, but I think that AA is pretty fair, too.

Have snipers become the new rail-guns (or rocket launchers)? I guess so, but I'm not sure if there's really going to be an answer to the "Finger of God" syndrome. Players want to be a "God", that's the appeal of games in the first place. Developers have to stimulate the imagination of gamers, and give them powers that are somewhat incredible.

However, Sniper players are a little different than the rail players of the past. "Campers" are damned annoying, but I don't think that they are "ruining" the game. Most maps have particular spots that attract snipers, giving them a vantage point over the three or four main travel routes. We can address this problem without resorting to removing sniper rifles (or rails or rockets).

The answer is for level designers to give more cover on the main routes, and to provide routing alternatives. BFVietnam will give regular players much more cover with jungle foliage, which can provide a deterrent to traditional sniper players. Another way to deter snipers is to use some type of natural distraction, something that occasionally distracts a sniper. Steam vents, fog, birds, moving vehicles. A level designer can use these as subtle ways to prod a camper into revealing themselves through repositioning.

Developers also have a responsibility to analyze play-testing trends, and provide options to players. Let players run servers that filter out certain weapons. If you don't want to pigeon-hole the players, then weaken the sniper classes and provide better armor to the other classes. Restrict the power of snipers, and drastically slow their reload speed.

The current generation of games indicate that many designers are listening to the gaming community. I agree with Jakub's rant, but there will be alternatives for the players who want to play fair games. Players will always find some way to exploit maps and weapons, and developers have to find ways to limit these options and prevent them from becoming game "killers".

POLITICS - Fill In The Blank

Fill in the following blank with one of the two names: Bush or Clinton

President ______ has used his three State of the Union addresses to set ambitious goals, but the Republican-dominated Congress has balked at large segments of his domestic agenda over the past three years.
- Washington Post

If you guessed Clinton, you're wrong.


Many congressional aides interviewed for this report acknowledge that several of the White House's proposals have little chance of passage this year, no matter how hard the president pursues them.

I suggest reading the entire article. Basically, it seems as if the majority of Bush Administration domestic proposals are based largely on rhetoric, but no substance. Bush proposes Moon bases or changes in Social Security, but doesn't deliver anything on paper that they can try to push through Congress. Even after all the talk about social security during his 2000 campaign, he has yet to write up a draft of his proposals.

Tonight, you can expect Bush to ratchet up the terror hyperbole. Rove knows that Bush's re-election chances will be stronger if we're in a state of perpetual fright. Will the nation buy his snake oil again? We'll see, but moderates must be getting a little wary of bush-speak by now.


Viva New Mexico !!

Si Se Peude !! Si Se Peude!!
Si Se Peude!!

Are these quotes from Santo, Mexican Wrestler/Crime Fighter?

No, they are from Dean's reaction to the caucus vote last night, where many were afraid that he was literally about to "Hulk-Out" on the crowd. If you're interested, check out the C-SPAN video around the 14:40 mark.

(I might be mistaken, but I think that Si Se Peude means "United, We Stand". Any spanish-speakers want to confirm?)

POLITICS - State of the Intersection

Time to get ready for the State of the Union address tonight. What should we expect? Here's a brief run-down. In addition, here's a link to the SOTU Drinking Game

War and Terror will comprise the first half. BushCo will put their best spin on these topics:

The war on terror has not been very successful. Taliban are regrouping in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda 3.0 are proliferating in remote Asia.

The Iraq Invasion has been a disaster. Notice that the US is now begging for the UN to come clean up our mess.

Moammar Kadafi has told us that he disarmed. Of course, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe him without invading his country.

North Korea has told us that they will give up their nuclear ambitions. Of course, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe Kim Jong without invading his country.

Domestic Agenda - Bushco will be setting the stage for their second term. This should be the fun part.
Bush's Space Program - Is this a serious proposal from Bush, or is it a smokescreen to divert NASA's resources to the military? If Bush doesn't mention the new space proposal, then we'll know it's smokescreen. I hope I'm wrong, and that he spends a lot of time discussing space and a renewed dedication to the sciences. We'll find out tonight.

Health care - Expect to hear a lot of hot air about America's uninsured. Unlike the Dems, who actually care about providing health care to America's 40+Million uninsured, Bush is expected blame spiraling health care costs on medical malpractice suits. The Wall Street kids should be happy, but what about ordinary Americans?

Those Silly Gays - Bush will stop short of discussing a Constitutional amendment to declare marriage a union of man and woman. (Y'know. Like Ben and J-Lo, or Britney and Jason, or Neil and Sharon Bush. Strong, faith-based marriages...I'm kidding, of course. Bush knows that the strongest public marriage in America is Bill and Hillary Clinton. I'm sure he'll use them as an example real soon.)

Expect Bush to announce his $1.5 Billion proposal to strengthen marriage, and beg to make his tax cuts permanent.

But here's the big question? How many times will Bush rape (did I say rape, I mean invoke), how many times will Bush invoke the memory of September 11, 2001? Off the top of my head (which means this is probably wrong), I think that there were eleven explicit 9/11 references in the 2002 SOTU, but only three in 2002. Bush knows that his approval ratings are in trouble, so I expect between three to six explicit references to 9/11 tonight. You know... Just a little slap in the face every couple minutes to keep our attention from wandering.


POLITICS - Kerry Wins

That was quick. CNN is projecting Kerry to be the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, with Edwards in second, Dean in third, Gephardt in fourth.

Two surprising points:

Dean's numbers are low. Much lower than anybody expected.

Polls indicates that the caucus-goers opposed the war resolution, but have overwhelmingly supported Kerry and Edwards, two candidates who voted for the resolution, but opposed the $87 Billion supplemental.

We'll talk numbers after the offical tallies are available, but I think that these are pretty good signs for the Dems.

POLITICS - Iowa Cauc Party

The big Iowa Caucus is finally here. DailyKos has the best coverage right now, if you're interested in the day-to-day specifics. Dean is still the wild card in the race, and tonight we'll find out what type of support he really has. I don't want to make any predictions (what the heck: Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Gephart), but I'll give a brief rundown of thoughts on the top four in Iowa.

John Kerry - I like this guy. He voted yes on the war, but no on the $87B supplemental request. Is this waffling? It depends on your capacity to debate issues. If you are only capable of binary thought processing, it could be waffling. If you realize that this is a muddy, dynamic issue, then you can attempt to understand Kerry's nuanced position.

In addition, he is pro-choice, opposes the death penalty, and supports civil unions. He opposes marijuana decriminilization, but so do all the other main candidates. I'd love to see him take the first or second slot in Iowa, and I'd personally love to see him get the nomination.

Richard Gephardt - I don't want to dislike him. He's a decent, hard-working man. He shares a common background with millions of Americans. But he was a key Democrat supporter of establishing the Department of Homeland Defense and helped author the resolution to go to war. I do admire that he reversed his ideology in the 80s to become a vocal supporter of women (reproductive) and gay rights. But I am slightly bothered that he waited so long in his life to realize the importance of those issues. That's why I can find reasons to support other candidates before Dick.

John Edwards - My views on Edwards are close to Kerry's. He supported the war resolution, but not Bush's "blank check" supplemental request. His policy proposals are well-researched and logical. I'm just not sure if he's ready for "prime time" or not.

John Dean - I like Dean, but he needs to find some Pepto Bismol, because he's got a bad case of vocal diarrhea. He's not my first choice for the nomination, even though he might be the candidate that the Dems need right now.

A Common Dream

Today we recognize the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. In recognition, I provide a brief section from his last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? :
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.


Spading Gray is officially a missing person today. If you aren't familiar with the name, don't worry. You're not alone.

Spalding is a theatrical monologist, best remembered for his movies Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box. These are not traditional movies, though. They are ninety minute monologues, featuring only Gray sitting at a desk talking about life, specifically his life. The movies only offer a glimpse into his theatrical work, though. While monologues are common (and somewhat popular) today, his work was considered experimental, and somewhat narcissistic, thirty years ago.

It's difficult to classify or discuss the nature of Gray's performances. His mother committed suicide when he was young, and he has grappled with issues of suicide, depression, spirituality, and self-worth his entire life. Humans have long faced these subjects, including myself. While most of us struggle internally, Spalding's inner dialogue was laid bare on the stage every night. Old age appeared to have mellowed Spalding a little bit, but he was badly injured in a car accident on his 60th birthday. He was slow to recover physically and emotionally.

I hope that Spalding is alive and well, but the chances are slim if he has been exposed to the frigid weather in NY over the past week. That's why this post is titled "Officially Missing". If he's alive, then that is his public status. If he is no longer alive, then that is my personal feeling. I'll miss the guy. For the millions of depressed people in the world, Spalding was a symbol of hope and victory. If he has succumbed to the disease, then there's a little less hope. And a statement that the effects of depression can strike anytime, even at older ages, the "golden years".

Here are a couple links from some Gray interviews and newspaper articles about his missing status:

IO Magazine
io: Is there a certain religion you subscribe to?
SG: I'm a doubter.
io: That's your religion? Doubt?
SG: I'm afraid it is. That and cocktail hour.
io: There's a certain amount of spirituality in that.
SG: Yes, spirits.

Interview with the Harvard Gazette:

Q: New York Times critic Mel Gussow called you a writer, reporter, comic, and playwright. I’m going to add actor to that catalogue. Can you arrange those in order of importance to you?

A: Is author in there? Writing and the performing go hand-in-hand. They’re the important ones because I’m creating the piece in front of the audience, I’m making the sentences, they’re not [always] pre-written. There are the keywords and then I speak it, so it’s a form of oral writing. It’s definitely an oral composition, storytelling in the Irish sense of first-person present talking about your own life. I suppose acting is probably at the bottom of the list. Although I do act, when I perform I’m acting myself. [Then] I’d say humorist. Or humanistic humorist reporter.

Q: As you’ve noted on several occasions, humor comes out of an enormous pain.

A: Often.

Q: Is your work a means of therapy for you?

A: To some degree.
[later in the interview]
Q: Would you talk about your accident?

A: [It happened] June 22 in Ireland. God, I don’t remember the territory. Just northeast of Dublin, dairy country. We were five adults in the car stopped to turn right on this very narrow road and this guy came around the corner in a van. He hit us. I was in the back seat and [my partner] Kathie was driving. I flew forward, impacting my head on hers. Her seat came back. The engine went right into the cabin. I think what happened was the seat pushed my femur, dislocated my hip and fractured my [skull]. Next thing I know I was in a puddle of blood on the road. It was an hour before the ambulance came. It changed my life, the accident. Everything was fine and then five seconds later, I was lying in a puddle of blood.

From the NYPost:

A week after she reported his disappearance, [his wife Kathie] Russo remains hopeful her celebrated husband is still alive - although [today] he officially becomes a missing person.
"I can't rule out the possibility that he's out there walking around in a daze," she told The Post.
What she can't believe - as has been speculated - is that he took his life by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry.

From CNN:

"He was a pioneer in saying that the border between the private and public is a very blurry boundary," says Richard Schechner, founder of The Performance Group, a downtown Manhattan theater troupe Gray joined in 1970. Schechner directed the actor in off-Broadway productions of "Mother Courage" and Jean Genet's "The Balcony," among others.
But while Gray has acknowledged insecurities in his monologues, he never conveyed the depths of his periodic depressions, Schechner says.
"His theatrical persona was of someone who always saw the humor and irony in life, but as an actual person, he battled depression and fears," he says.
A particularly low period came after Gray's auto accident in Ireland in 2001, when a van plowed into a car he, his wife and three others were in during a vacation to celebrate his 60th birthday. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken hip and nerve damage, injuries from which he has yet to recover fully.


POLITICS - Moon Patrol, part 3

I've mentioned my skeptiscism about the Bush plan here and here.

I was mistaken about the $11B shift in NASA's budget. It will be over a five year time, not one single year. (Duh.) So it is a shift of $11B out of $86B. Well, we already have the first casualty. There will be no more maintenance/upgrade missions to Hubble, one of NASA's most successful projects.

From the NYTimes:

Savor those cosmic postcards while you can. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration decreed an early death yesterday to one of its flagship missions and most celebrated successes, the Hubble Space Telescope.

In a midday meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., two days after President Bush ordered NASA to redirect its resources toward human exploration of the Moon and Mars, the agency's administrator, Sean O'Keefe, told the managers of the space telescope that there would be no more shuttle visits to maintain it.

But another article from the NYTimes certainly reinforces some of the ideas that I mentioned previously about NASA becoming much more sympathetic to the goals of the Department of Defense.

Mr. Bush announced a commission of non-NASA experts to be led by Edward C. Aldridge Jr., a former secretary of the Air Force, that will make recommendations on how NASA should use the new mandate. The commission is to report by the end of the summer.

In the reorganization, NASA named a retired Navy rear admiral, Craig E. Steidle, as associate administrator in charge of the new Office of Exploration Systems. Among the office's tasks will be developing the crew exploration vehicle, the craft that is to carry astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, and Project Prometheus, which is developing nuclear propulsion systems for deep space probes.

"The idea," a spokesman for NASA, Michael Braukus, said, "is to have a better concentration in the technology area and to have an office specifically dedicated to exploration."

NASA should share its resources with any government agency that needs assistance. However, I think that these agencies should be prepared to pay for NASA's services, or should be prepared to offer something in return. It seems like the Hubble and International Space Station programs will be scrapped over the next five years. What all will NASA do in that time? Will Congress authorize the necessary funds for the Moon and Mars trips, in addition to new aerospace technology to send us there? I hope so, but I'm mighty skeptical. The first Bush didn't deliver on his pledge to take us further into space, and I would hardly suggest that Bush 2.0 is any better prepared to take us there.



The URL switch has been successful. Added an About link and an E-mail Link on the Right Panel. Have fun. All of the archives should be ported over to the new URL, but some of the posts may reference old URLs. Everything should still point to the right place, until the cannedsalm0n pages are removed.


The URL is changing to reflect the new name, Fresh Catch. The new URL is


POLITICS - Moon Patrol, Continued

I've already mentioned my skepticism of the Bush Space Plan. It will hand more control of NASA to the military, and these Mars/Moon plans will get killed by Congress.

The current issue of the Austin Chronicle has a great article, by William Adler, detailing the future of US nuclear ballistics. He linked to the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, something that I remember skimming sometime last year when debating the Iraq war.

So I re-read the document, thinking about this new proposal from Bush. (Keep in mind that the space proposal creates a new commission, chaired by a former Secretary of the Air Force, that directly advises the President on future NASA programs. NASA will now report directly to the President, as well.)

In the Nuclear Posture Review, there is a section titled DoD Infrastructure issues.

"DOD has identified shortfalls in current infrastructure sustainment programs far nuclear platforms. These include the following: solid rocket motor design, development and testing; technology for current and future strategic systems; improved surveillance and assessment capabilities; command and control platforms and systems; and design, development, and production of radiation-hardened parts." (p. 30)

I believe that NASA's resources could be applied in all of those categories, and patch up some Defense "shortfalls".

Under the section titled Ballistic Missile Defense, subsection Intelligence, we find these entries:

"To provide continuous and persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of critical regions, the Department proposes to develop in its FY03-07 FYDP a "system of systems that consists of space, airborne, surface, and subsurface capabilities. Sensors for this system will include a mix of phenomenology, allow for agile and flexible response, and operate across the electro-magnetic spectrum." (p. 28)

"New concepts for persistent surveillance - from air- and space-based platforms - including hyper-spectral imaging, are proposed in the FY03 budget. (ibid).

Given enough resources, the Defense Department could patch its infrastructure and develop these programs on its own. Given enough resources, that is. Today, they might be stretched thin by the past two wars, in addition to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

To drive this all home, go read this article from 2002 that foreshadows this discussion.

Civilian interests under NASA are bowing to the new realities of the military setting the agenda. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe revealed that the agency's top budget priority for fiscal 2003 will be to spend close to $1 billion in nuclear propulsion, exploring both radioisotope thermal generators such as those used for Cassini, as well as possible mini-reactors for deep-space missions. O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary and Pentagon comptroller, also reiterated how well NASA had served the Pentagon in providing imagery for the Afghan war, such as SeaWiFS and Terra spacecraft images provided to the Navy. O'Keefe said that NASA was looking forward to providing agency resources for the "war on terror."
The few European attendees at Space Symposium were showing noticeable unease at the level of chutzpah coming from military space leaders. Jeff Harris, a former NRO director who now is deputy of Lockheed's Space Systems Company, said that the U.S. now must act regularly in a pre-emptive and proactive way around the globe, using space-based resources for local skirmishes. He said that the U.S. military should make all potential adversaries "unquestionably afraid of U.S. capabilities."

While O'Keefe of NASA made some nominal gestures toward internationalism, particularly for keeping a multinational role active in the International Space Station, Teets made sure not to talk of NATO or burden-sharing or anything else that smacked of multilateralism. He said that the U.S. should be proud of its unilateral capabilities, and should exploit "our space supremacy, our space dominance, to achieve warfighting success."

WACKO - Jackson Defense

Today's world-wide Jackson rallies were a bit of a dud, but there is a gem of a quote:

"There's no doubt that he is innocent!" exclaimed Anya Loginova, a 17-year-old student. "I have been listening to his songs since as long as I can remember, and based on them I can assure you that he did not do what he is being accused of!"

ENRON - You Can't Eat Just One

With the Fastow plea deals, the Enron case is about to heat up again. The Houston Chronicle says that Ken Lay is about to lay the grounds for his defense.

Former Enron Chairman Ken Lay will publicly address the company's scandal within a few weeks, his attorney vowed Thursday.

Lay's public discussion of what occurred at Enron likely will begin with a "white paper," or a newspaper opinion piece, his attorney said.

The move appears to be part of a well-thought-out strategy by Lay's defense lawyers, former federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel of Washington, D.C., said Thursday.

POLITICS - Keep the Dream Alive

The day after Bush crashed MLK ceremonies in Atlanta, Georgia, he nominates Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. I only wish Dr. King was still here, because he could find a voice to protest this hypocricy.

From the NYTimes:

President Bush bypassed Congress and installed Charles Pickering on the federal appeals court Friday in an election-year slap at Democrats who had blocked the nomination for more than two years.

Bush installed Pickering by a recess appointment, which avoids the confirmation process. Such appointments are valid until the next Congress takes office, in this case in January 2005.

Democrats have accused Pickering of supporting segregation as a young man, and promoting anti-abortion and anti-voting rights views as a state lawmaker.

But who is Charles Pickering? The National Organization of Women provides this short list (click the link to read the rest):

Pickering was renominated by President Bush on Jan. 7, 2003, just hours after Republicans took control of the Senate.

Long known as an opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Chaired the Human Rights and Responsibilities Subcommittee of the Republican Party Platform Committee that approved a plank in the party platform protesting the Supreme Court's decision in Roe and calling for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

As a state senator, Pickering repeatedly voted against measures that would expand electoral opportunities for African Americans after passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Pickering used identical language in his opinions in the racial discrimination cases Seeley v. City of Hattiesburg and Johnson v. South Mississippi Home Health, describing each as having "all the hallmarks of a case ... filed simply because an adverse employment decision is made in regard to a protected minority."

POLITICS - The Cosmic Candidate

Cannabisnews has a great feature on Dennis Kucinich. I'd sure love to see a guy like Dennis become the President, but it is never, never, never going to happen.

The smell of incense and cinnamon hangs in the air during a reception for Dennis J. Kucinich at a country mansion outside this "meditation community," a town of 9,500 and the home base of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Natural Law Party.

"Oh, he'll never win the Democratic nomination," says one elderly woman to her friend as she slips off her shoes to enter the Fairfield event, mandatory behavior among the crystals-and-hugs New Age set. "But I have to vote for him to follow my heart."


MEDIA - What Time Is it?

Just a reminder. Real Time with Bill Maher starts again this Friday with guests Rep. Darrell Issa, Actor and political activist Ron Silver, and Presidential candidates Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) and Rev. Al Sharpton.

I very rarely encourage anybody to watch Larry King Live ... but... Ann Richards will be his guest tonight, sharing her opinions about Shrub. Should be a fun show... And tomorrow will be an all Michael Jackson panel. Those are always fun. I can only hope Majestik Magnificent, Jackson's personal magician, will be in attendance. (He's probably got a contract with MSNBC, though.)

POLITICS - You Go, Girl

Not much of a surprise, but Shaquille O'Neal's favorite Democratic candidate, Sister Girl, has dropped out of the bid for the Democrat Presidential Nomination. The real bad news is that she is going to endorse Dean.

(I'm just kidding with the Sister Girl tag here. When Shaq was on Real Time w/ Bill Maher, he said he was proud that a black woman was running for the nomination. Of course, he didn't know her name, so he kept referring to her as "Sister Girl". I always get a laugh when I think about that show.)

POLITICS - Dude, Where's My Head

Here's some good news from the NYTimes. It appears that some American officials were forced to remove their heads from their anus. Now they seem to be aware of one of the basic facts that liberals have known all along. Good for the Bush Administration. They finally discovered global warming last year, and now they discovered that the UN is actually one of our global allies. Now if they can just learn about the separation of church and state, and that deficits do matter.

Both Iraqi and American officials now appear to think that a significant United Nations role would not only give the process legitimacy in the eyes of the world, but might also defuse opposition among some Iraqis, including leaders of the majority Shiite sect, who favor direct elections over the current plan.

POLITICS - One Dean To Rule Them All

Dean, Dean, Dean.

What are you going to do to this election. Or what are your supporters going to do?

The latest tracking polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show Kerry, Gephardt, and Clark closing in on El Deano. Which is good. I'd rather vote for one of those three, instead of "The Angry Jerk". Dean's latest remarks about Wesley Clark's party affiliation is a low, dirty hit. Especially to someone like Clark who voted the Democrat ticket in the last three presidential elections. If Dean can't say anything nice, well, he can find an angry remark that effectively puts his foot square in his mouth. (As in, the Vermont Democrats accused Dean of being a Republican, too. And they actually know the guy.)

But what will happen if Dean doesn't get the nomination? Specifically, what will happen to the immense groundroots support? Will the Deaniacs back another candidate, or will they become the "Nader" bloc in the 2004 election? We're in the calm before the storm right now, and I'm afraid that the Democrats could basically write themselves out of the election without some serious effort from the DNC to reign in the losing caucus campaigns. In other words, we can't stand to lose the Clark or Dean people if Kerry or Gephardt (or Edwards) get the nod, and vice versa.

And then there's the question that nobody really wants to answer. "Is this election even worth winning?" The Republicans have delivered a fiscal train wreck to the next President, and the American public is likely to blame the next guy for the seeds of ruin planted by the Bush Administration. Should we leave them in office and let them be held accountable? If not, then we may see the Repubs right back in 2008. If Bush gets re-elected, and reaps what he has sown, then there's no way the Repubs will keep the office in 2008.

Boy, we are in an ugly situation. I can see why I'm so addicted to the alternate realities offered by video games. There's something nice about the politicos-free reality in Clive Barker's Undying (a great game that I pulled out of the vault recently).


POLITICS - Moon Patrol

I don't feel like writing a fancy, grammatically correct post. But I would like to make a few comments about Bush's Spaced Out Proposal.

NASA has an annual budget of about $15 billion USD. It has tight purse strings, and there aren't any real "pet" projects or useless projects. Shifting $11B in a $15B budget is not easy... in fact, it's not possible without a serious restructure of the entire program. If you have a fifteen dollar meal budget for your entire family, how easy can you shift around eleven bucks?

Boeing's rough estimate of developing a replacement for the space shuttle is $20 Billion. Bush wants to scrap the shuttle, but has not commented on where the R&D funds for the new craft would come from.

The Bush Administration would like to scrap the International Space Station right now. The ISS is underfunded, and its six man research crew has been reduced down to a maintenance crew of two. If Bush really wanted to show committment to the space program and the future of space research, he would find a way to send up the other four ISS crew members.

I don't know how to classify Bush's space proposals. "Out of this world" is apt, but so is "out of his freakin' mind". If Bush has refused to commit the resources to complete and staff the ISS, what makes anybody believe he's interested in building a base on the moon? A trip to Mars was estimated to cost $400-$500 Billion in 1990. Such an estimate now would tip the scales at close to $1 Trillion, and that doesn't even include a COSTLY moon base (perhaps over a trillion). I'd be surprised to see the American taxpayers open their wallets for that.

It's important to note that under this proposal, the Department of Defense will be working much more closely with NASA. I hate to think that an unnecessary restructuring might shift money towards DoD space programs, instead of traditional NASA research (which isn't entirely devoted to the study of moon rocks and asteroids).

American conservatives have long wanted to tinker with NASA and recreate it into an agency whose goals are "sympathetic" with the Army. Slip this proposal through Congress, let them pull out the expensive Mars stuff, and give NASA over to the DoD. I'm afraid that is the goal here, and it has been disguised by Bush's "aw shucks" snake oil.


SOCIAL SCIENCE - German Washing Mobiles

Laymen people often see homeless people standing on the corners, feel the tug in their heart, and wonder, "What could I do for these people?" Work in a soup kitchen? Nah. Hand out money? Nah. Clean them up? Hell yeah! Kudos to this German for devising an innovative way to help the homeless.


POLITICS - Too Much? Not Enough? Or is it just right?

Mother Fucking Fucker
In the past three days, at least 80 Iraqis and Americans killed/wounded in three separate attacks. Got that? Three attacks.

US Wounded - 35
US Dead - 10
Iraq Wounded - 39
Iraq Dead - 4
Total: 88 in those three attacks alone.

Rumsfeld says we lack the metrics to know if we're winning the war on terror. Here's my question. What metrics do we have that can gauge success or failure in terms of dead/wounded Americans?

There's an easy way to find this metric. Here's how you do it.

Let's say we have 100,000 troops in Iraq.
If every single one of them are killed, that has to be labeled a failure, no matter what else happens.

OK. So we know what IS a metric for a failure.
Now divide that 100,000 in half. Would the loss of 50,000 troops be labeled a failure? You're goddamned right it would be.

So divide that 50K in half, and keep asking the question. At some point, a qualified military leader can look at a number and say whether it is an acceptable casualty rate. At a certain point, you can say that a loss of 5000 would be too much, but a loss of 2,500 would be acceptable.

So what's the acceptable number of casualties in Iraq before we can agree that this is a miserable failure? 500? 1000? 2000? 4000?

Are we going to have to find out the hard way?

Mortar Attack on Wednesday

Thirty-five U.S. soldiers were wounded Wednesday in a mortar attack west of Baghdad, military officials said.

Rocket Attack on Thursday

A U.S. Army helicopter crashed Thursday near this village in west-central Iraq, killing all nine soldiers on board, and a military transport plane carrying 63 people made an emergency landing in Baghdad after being hit by groundfire, according to U.S. military officials.

Those officials declined to specify what caused the crash of the helicopter, a UH-60 Black Hawk used for medical evacuation, but witnesses said rocket fire brought it down.

Bicycle Suicide Bomber on Friday

A suicide bomber killed at least four other people after Friday prayers at a crowded Shi'ite mosque in Iraq, underscoring the threat of religious conflict in a land already racked by an anti-U.S. insurgency.

Officials at a nearby hospital said at least 39 people were wounded.


Be sure to watch Wolf Blitzer's CNN show today. He'll tell you how to avoid mountain lion attacks...

My post on Al Sharpton was prompted by his appearance on CNN's Crossfire, but I really enjoyed Paul and Tucker's suggestions for who should be sent to the moon.

Rush Limbaugh - He'd still have the same bloated mass, but he would weigh less. Also, he's already high enough to reach moon to begin with.

Dennis Kucinich - He's the most cosmic candidate to begin with, it's possible he originated from the moon, and he'd bring peace to space (not a giant astro laser).

POLITICS - He's Sharp

I know this may surprise some people, but I really like the Al Sharpton campaign. I specifically like his Right To Vote ammendment, I like his proposal to provide voting rights or statehood to the 600,000 residents of Washington D.C., and I like his rhetoric. He constantly speaks about supporting and strengthening female and minority rights, and he speaks from the heart on these issues, not because his campaign manager wants to secure a voting bloc.

Does Sharpton have a chance? Probably not. Does he have a couple fugly skeletons in his closet? Probably, er, definitely.

But there's something about him that I like, which is remarkable because I hate preachers and ministers. I get the sense that he is honest, and is willing to tell you the truth about a bad situation. (Unlike most preachers I've met)

I really like one of his statements that went something like "I pray to Jesus, but I don't expect to hear Jesus talk back." That's the type of faith that I want to see from my national leader, not some bullshit about "God talks to me and made ME the President."


POLITICS - Bush On Mars

Damn, that was quick! Where to now? Uranus?

GAMES - Deus Ex: Invisible War Review

If you're a Deus Ex fan, check out my ShackReview for Deus Ex: Invisible War.


Excerpt from Conclusion:

Has Ion Storm delivered a sequel that takes the 2000 “Game of the Year” to the next level? In my opinion, not exactly. This sequel takes advantage of the work done in the first game, and it does provide a good 10-20 hours of escapist entertainment. It’s a game that’s as good as most first person adventure games on the market, maybe even better. But after completing DX:IW, I never felt satisfied like I did after completing the original game. I’m not completely disappointed with DX:IW, because it did meet my lowest expectations.

Unfortunately, competing with other standard shooters isn’t enough for the sequel to a “Game Of The Year”. With the delays of HL2 and Doom3, the true sequel to Deus Ex should be the undisputed FPS champion of 2003. Instead, Invisible War seems like a console spin-off in the Deus Ex universe. It’s not a bad game at all, and it’s not a bad way to spend a weekend (or maybe weekday). It just isn’t another GOTY that will suck you in for a month or longer.

GAMES/POLITICS - Maybe it was SOCOM Cosplay....

Whew. I was actually worried that we were going soft on terror.

From the Register UK via Atrios updated via Greenfield Recorder :

An innocent inquiry to a Staples store clerk about a computer software program that teaches how to fly an airplane by instrumentation brought a surprise visit this holiday season to a local family from the state police.

"At first, I felt a little angry and violated" about someone telling authorities about her inquiry, said Julie Olearcek, a 15-year Air Force Reserve pilot. "But now that time has gone by, I realize it may take someone like that, who's a little nervous, who may save the day." Olearcek's husband, Henry, is also a flier, currently on active duty, and frequently away from home these days.

"He was disappointed because there was military stuff, but it was all fighting stuff, so I asked the clerk, and he was alarmed by us asking how to fly airplanes and said that was against the law," Olearcek said. "I said I couldn't imagine that, but, because (the clerk) was a little on edge ... I left." But "what saves us, is people are paying attention," she said.