Monday, July 31, 2006

Democrats Unite on Iraq Withdrawal Demands

I found this off The Washington Post:

Twelve Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have urged President Bush in a strongly worded letter to begin withdrawing the 130,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end, a sign that Democrats may be uniting on a key election-year issue that has divided the party.

"U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your Administration searches for a policy" in Iraq, said the letter, signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), and 10 other party leaders.

"Over 2,500 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice and over 18,000 others have been wounded," the letter said. "The Iraq war has also strained our military and constrained our ability to deal with other challenges."

Bush's "open-ended commitment" to Iraq should be abandoned, the letter asserted, in the interest of "American national security, our troops, and our taxpayers."

"We believe that a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq should begin before the end of 2006," the letter said.

It is interesting that the Democratic leadership in Congress is finally waking up towards opposing Bush's war in Iraq. President Bush's and the Republican Party's option of "staying the course" has been a complete disaster for the U.S. The American people are clamoring for an exit strategy from Iraq. The Republicans are ignoring the American people. If the Democrats are smart, they can take this issue, define it according to their own terms, and force the debate on the Republicans according to the Democrat's rules.

That's how you win elections.

Now what are the Republicans saying about this? Well, here's what RNC chairman Ken Mehlman has to say about it:

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said in a statement early this evening that the Democrats' withdrawal strategy will "embolden the enemy, encourage more terrorism, and make America less secure."

Mehlman added that the Democrats' letter "underscores the critical choice facing the American people in November: In the face of jihadist attacks on civilians in Baghdad, Mumbai, and northern Israel, Democrat leaders propose to cut-and-run from the central front in the War on Terror."

Same crap from the Republican side. Of course, America is certainly not safer now after five years of war in Iraq.

Hat tip to Americablog.

Israeli Airstrikes Resume

This is off CNN.Com:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Security Cabinet has approved an expansion of the ground campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Israeli officials said early Tuesday.

The announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his military was inflicting heavy damage on Hezbollah and rejected international calls for a cease-fire until Israel has pushed the Shiite Muslim militia back from its borders.

The Israeli Security Cabinet last week rejected a call from military leaders to widen the Lebanon offensive but authorized a call-up of about 15,000 reserve soldiers. There was no immediate explanation for the reversal.

Reuters, quoting Israel Radio, reported 15,000 reservists would be called up, but it is not clear whether those troops are the ones already authorized or extra troops.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday directed his country's military to heighten its readiness, vowing to back Lebanese resistance against Israel, the state news agency SANA reported Monday.

Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said he was "not really worried" by Monday's Syrian declaration.

You know, I'm starting to wonder when a shooting war is going to start between Israel and Syria. Israel has been pushing hard against the Hezbollah milita units in Southern Lebanon, using both airstrikes and a limited ground invasion into the country. The Bush administration has given Israel its tacit approval in continuing this war, while at the same time trying to blame Syria and Iran for their support in arming Hezbollah. The Bush administration refuses to negotiate with Syria, Iran, or Hezbollah, and any supposed negotiated cease-fire agreement has to be linked to a wider Mideast peace agreement--in other words, the Bush administration has no intention of stopping Israel in its war against Hezbollah.

I've been reading some rumors through both Americablog, and Talking Points Memo on how the Bush administration may be encouraging Israel to take its war into Syria. I don't know how much of this is true or not, but it is frightening. If a war breaks out between Israel and Syria, we're certainly going to see an increased outrage against both Israel and the U.S. within the Arab world. Violence in Iraq may just increase against the American occupation forces. Terrorist forces in Syria may just cross into Iraq to conduct operations against U.S. forces. And who knows how long Iran will stay out of this conflict?

President Bush may just get his own Third World War in the Middle East.

Bush Cites Objectives for Mideast Deal

Umm....What objectives? From the Los Angeles Times:

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- President Bush insisted anew Monday that any Mideast cease-fire be conditioned on a wider agreement and said he would look to the United Nations to act to establish "a long-lasting peace, one that is sustainable."

As Israel cut short a halt in bombing and launched new strikes in southern Lebanon, Bush spelled out a series of what he called "clear objectives" to accompany a halt in the fighting.

"Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon," Bush said in a speech at the Port of Miami.

All I can say is that Iran and Syria will refuse to comply with any dictates from this Bush White House. The war in Lebanon will continue to rage on.

Florida Republicans will not support Harris

Poor Katherine Harris. She's just having one problem after another problem in her misguided senatorial campaign. This is from Yahoo News:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state Republican Party bluntly told Rep. Katherine Harris (news, bio, voting record) that she couldn't win this fall's Senate election and that the party wouldn't support her campaign, a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press shows.

Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan made a last-ditch attempt in the confidential May 7 letter to force Harris out of the race for the nomination to challenge Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record). But the next day, Harris turned in paperwork to get her name on the Sept. 5 Republican primary ballot.

The letter came as Gov. Jeb Bush was trying to get state House Speaker Allan Bense into the race. Bense announced later that week that he would not enter the race.

Harris rose to national prominence as Florida's secretary of state during the bitter presidential election recount in 2000 that gave the White House to
George Bush. She was elected to the U.S. House in 2002.

I will say it is interesting how the Republican Party is trying to force Harris to pull out of the race, while also trying to court Florida's House Speaker Bense to run. The Republicans know that if Harris wins the September 5th Republican primary, they will have handed Florida's senate seat to the Democrats on a platter. So the Republicans are trying to force Harris out of the race by withdrawing all Republican Party support. Continuing with the letter:

The letter was also signed by national committeewoman Sharon Day and national committeeman Paul Senft.

"Katherine, though it causes us much anguish, we have determined that your campaign faces irreparable damage," the letter said. "We feel that we have no other choice but to revoke our support."

"The polls tell us that no matter how you run this race, you will not be successful in beating Bill Nelson, who would otherwise be a vulnerable incumbent if forced to face a stronger candidate," it said.

Since the letter was written, three political newcomers have entered the race against Harris: LeRoy Collins Jr., son of a former Florida governor; Peter Monroe, a developer who helped manage the government's savings and loan bailout; and lawyer William McBride.

The state Republican Party confirmed the letter's contents Monday. In a statement, Jordan said she was "disappointed" that the private letter had been made public but added that "our concerns about the race and Congresswoman Harris' campaign still exist."

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, Harris had a comfortable lead in the GOP primary race but was behind Nelson by 37 percentage points in a general election matchup.

What an incredible self-destruction of the Harris campaign and the Republican Party in Florida....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Judge dismisses phone records lawsuit

Here we go back to Wing-Nutty Land. This is from Yahoo News:

CHICAGO - Citing national security, a federal judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T from giving telephone records to the government for use in the war on terror.

"The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities," U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

Kennelly ruled in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on behalf of author Studs Terkel and other activists who said their constitutional rights were violated because of a National Security Agency program of gathering phone company records.

Justice Department attorneys had argued it that would violate the law against divulging state secrets for AT&T to say whether it had provided telephone records to the supersecret spy agency.

The ACLU argued that the practice was no longer secret, because numerous news reports had made it clear that phone records had been given to the agency.

But the judge said the news reports amounted to speculation and in no way constituted official confirmation that phone records had been turned over.

He also said Terkel and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which sought class-action status, had not shown that their own records had been provided to the government. As a result, they lacked standing to sue the government, he said.

I just love this judge's reasoning. Since the disclosure of AT&T's giving domestic phone records to the NSA for domestic spying was actually speculation created by the news media, no official confirmation of this illegal government program was confirmed by the government, and no phone records were ever turned over to the NSA by AT&T. As a result, this lawsuit should be dismissed because if it would go on, it would endanger American lives and the Bush administration's GWOT by divulging classified information through this lawsuit trial and the media coverage of this trial. This insane logic of the old Soviet Union's Pravda news stories, where Pravda would twist the details of a news event to fit their government-sponsored propaganda--propaganda that nobody believed in. Now we've got this dismissal of a lawsuit based on a line of reasoning that borders on the absurd.

Welcome to Wing-Nutty Land.

U.S. playing "musical chairs" by shifting troops in Iraq to Baghdad

I found this off The Washington Post:

President Bush said today the U.S. military will move troops to Baghdad from other parts of Iraq in an effort to quell the rising sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.

"The violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and therefore there needs to be more troops," Bush said at a White House news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is on his first visit to the United States since becoming prime minister.

Bush said the unknown number of troops would be deployed in the "coming weeks." He said Maliki had recommended adding more U.S. troops alongside Iraqi troops in the violence-wracked Iraqi capital and "we're going to do that."

Bush said the deployment of additional troops in Baghdad "will better reflect current conditions on the ground in Iraq."

The current level of violence has shown few signs of decreasing and has eroded support for the war in both the United States and Iraq. Two men were gunned down inside their car in Baghdad today, news agencies reported, and the bodies of six people were found shot dead in different districts of the capital.

An estimated 100 people a day are being killed in Baghdad. The crimes, attributed largely to sectarian death squads, go largely unsolved.

"There need to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account," Bush said.

So the president is going to pull U.S. troops out from other parts of Iraq to bolster the forces currently in Baghdad, which has been facing a high level of violence. I have a question for you Mr. President. If you pull troops out from other parts of Iraq to stem the violence that is wreaking Baghdad, then those other parts of Iraq will have a decreasing level of security due to the decreased number of troops stationed in those other parts of Iraq. The Iraqi insurgents will certainly recognize that, and may just start increasing the level of violence in those other parts of Iraq that have sent troops to Baghdad. How will the U.S. military respond to this possible adaptation? You may end up stemming the violence in Baghdad, but at the expense of increasing the level of violence in the other parts of Iraq.

Have you considered this scenario Mr. President?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rice makes surprise visit to Lebanon

The laughs just keep coming. This is from CNN.Com:

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced stop in Beirut on Monday to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora about the crisis in the Middle East.

"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," Rice said upon meeting Siniora, according to The Associated Press.

The premier kissed her on both cheeks and said Lebanon is hoping to "put an end to the war being inflicted on Lebanon," the AP reported.

After meeting for more than an hour, Rice and Siniora left without speaking to reporters, the AP reported. Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh emerged and told the press, "Nothing to say," according to AP.

WOW! Secretary of State Condi Rice made a surprise visit to Lebanon! Were you surprised?


As I've said in my previous post here, Condi Rice's Mid-East "peace trip" is a waste of jet fuel. First, she takes off on this trip a week after Israel has been bombing the crap out of southern Lebanon--if the Bush administration was serious about stopping this latest war, Condi Rice should have been sent out to the Middle East the day after Israel started their bombing campaign. Second, we get this talk of a "surprise" visit to Lebanon. Surprise visit? Southern Lebanon is where all the fighting is taking place. I would expect Rice to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora since the fighting is taking place in his country. Of course, all this talk about an "unannounced" trip to Lebanon by Rice makes pretty headline stories in the corporate media about how the Bush administration is doing all it can to solve this latest crisis--we're talking more PR spin here. The real surprise would have been Rice going to Syria:

Rice did not plan to meet with Hezbollah or with Syrian leaders during her trip.

Although Syria is thought to hold much influence with Hezbollah, the Bush administration has argued that direct talks with Syria would be pointless.

If the Bush administration was serious about stopping this war, Condi Rice could have gone to Syria for direct talks. But that's not going to happen. If anything, the Bush administration blames Syria for supporting Hezbollah terrorists. Consider this story Bush slams Syria, Iran over Hezbollah:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Saturday slammed Syrian and Iranian support for Hezbollah and underscored U.S. support for the Israeli reaction to the provocations by the Shiite guerrillas in Lebanon.

"For many years, Syria has been a primary sponsor of Hezbollah and it has helped provide Hezbollah with shipments of Iranian-made weapons," Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

If the President Bush believes that Syria is one of the main supporters for Hezbollah, he could have sent a strong message to Syria with Rice, forcing Syria to exert pressure on Hezbollah to accept a cease fire agreement with Israel. But instead, we get this Bush administration claiming that talks with Syria would be pointless. Instead we get a situation where the U.S. is trying to "outsource" its Mid-East diplomacy to other nations.

What a screw-up.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Looks like Congress is back on the job--debating abortion?

I found this off Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - The Senate reopened the abortion debate Friday in advance of the midterm elections, this time over a bill that would make it a federal crime to take a teenager across state lines to end a pregnancy without a parent's knowledge.

Supporters of the bill say such incidents often occur when a girl, or the man involved, wants to evade homestate parental consent laws. Opponents say the bill would make criminals of well-meaning confidants, such as relatives and clergy members, who might help a pregnant teen whose parents are abusive.

Much of the discussion Friday concerned how to balance a parent's right to know with a woman's right to end a pregnancy as spelled out by the 1973
Roe v. Wade decision.

Is there any social wedge issue for this congressional term that the Republicans haven't brought up? Stem cells? Gay marriage? Flag burning?


Israel troops massing on Lebanese border

Israeli troops and tanks line up on a road near the Israeli town of Avivim, near the Lebanese border, Friday July 21, 2006. Israel massed tanks and troops on the border, called up reserves and warned civilians to flee Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon as it prepared Friday for a likely ground invasion to set up a deep buffer zone.(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Well, expect the Israelis to start invading Lebanon--again--in the next couple of days. From Yahoo News:

BEIRUT, Lebanon--Israel massed tanks and troops on the border, called up reserves and warned civilians to flee Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon as it prepared Friday for a likely ground invasion to set up a deep buffer zone.

The army's chief of staff said forces would conduct ground operations as needed in Lebanon, but they would be "limited." Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz also said nearly 100 Hezbollah guerrillas have been killed in the offensive in Lebanon.

Expect to see the Israeli invasion to take place over this weekend--perhaps Saturday or Sunday when the news will be slow. Of course, the timing of this invasion will depend on how fast the Israelis will be able to position its men and equipment along the Lebanese-Israeli border, but I would be that they have been planning this ever since hostilities erupted against Hezbollah a week ago. So far, the Israeli military has been trading rocket, artillery and air strikes against Hezbollah militia's rocket strikes in southern Lebanon. And while there may have been some cross-border raids by both sides, the Israelis have yet to march across the Lebanese border in sufficient force.

The real question here is what is going to happen once the Israelis cross the border? Will the weak Lebanese army try to defend Lebanon from this Israeli invasion? Will Syria be drawn militarily into this war? How will Iran react to this Israeli invasion, of which the obvious goal is to destroy Hezbollah--which has allied itself to Iran?

I don't know the answers.

UPDATE: I found some more information regarding this invasion preparation on

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Thousands of Israeli troops are massing on the Lebanese border as Lebanon's president warned Friday his army is "ready to defend" the country should Israel launch a full-scale ground invasion.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was calling up to 6,000 troops for reinforcements along the border as leaflets were dropped urging Lebanese residents to leave their homes and move north of the Litani River 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Israeli border.

About 1,000 Israeli troops have so far been sent across the border for what commanders call pinpoint operations against Hezbollah strongholds, sources said.

Any invasion threatens to pull Lebanon's army into the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told CNN the Lebanese army is "ready to defend" his country's territory.

"Of course, the army is going to defend its land," Lahoud said.

While the army "cannot be strong enough to be against Israel on the frontier," he said, "inside Lebanon, they can do a lot."

"We are not going to let anybody take our land. We are not going to let them come back and take it," he added.

So we can expect Lebanon to mobilize its army to defend itself against the upcoming Israeli invasion. Of course, the Lebanese army is also stuck between the Israelis and the Hezbollah militia units. So I'm not sure how effective the Lebanese will be in defending their country. In fact, I'm wondering if the Lebanese army will link up with Hezbollah militants and conduct guerrilla operations against the Israelis.

Finally, if the IDF is calling up 6,000 troops for this invasion, you can bet that they are going to move in 25-30 miles into southern Lebanon to create another security buffer, as well as wipe out whatever Hezbollah militants are sitting there waiting for this invasion. It is looking more like the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Rice outlines US strategy for peace in Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, left, meet with the three-member U.N. team that just returned from Israell and Lebanon at the Waldorf Astoria Friday July 21, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, Pool)

I have to laugh at this story. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out a quick "false promise" cease-fire in the Middle East Friday and defended her decision not to meet with either Syrian or Hezbollah leaders in her upcoming visit to the region.

"Syria knows what it needs to do and Hezbollah is the source of the problem," Rice said at the State Department as she previewed her trip, which begins on Sunday with a first stop in Israel.

Rice said she would work with allies to help create conditions for "stability and lasting peace."

Asked why she didn't go earlier and engage in quick-hit diplomacy to try to end the death and destruction that has gripped both Lebanon and northern Israel, she replied, "I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do."

Hezbollah "extremists are trying to strangle it in its crib," Rice said of the Lebanese government, which has been a less potent force in the fractured country than the politically savvy and well-armed Hezbollah guerrillas.

In her briefing for reporters on her trip, Rice said the United States was committed to ending the bloodshed, but didn't want to do it before certain conditions were met.

The United States has said all along that Hezbollah must first turn over the two Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles into Israel.

"We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the root causes of that violence," she said. "A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo."

Rice said that it was important to deal with the "root cause" of the violence, echoing what has been the U.S. position since last week.

President Bush, asked what he hopes Rice will achieve on her trip, said he would discuss it with her when he returns to the White House on Sunday.

So Condi Rice is not going to talk to Hezbollah or Syrian officials. Any sort of peace agreement is conditional upon dealing with the "root cause" of violence by allowing the Israeli military to destroy Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah are the evil bad guys in this fiasco. Condi Rice decided it wasn't worth it playing "shuttle diplomacy," once the violent hostilities erupted between Israel and Hezbollah. And finally, Bush doesn't have a clue as to what he expects Rice to accomplish on this Middle East trip, claiming he'll talk to Rice once she gets back to Washington.

My question to Condi Rice is this: Why are you even wasting jet fuel going to the Middle East if you're not even going to talk to two of the main parties involved in this crisis--Syria and Hezbollah? Who are you going to meet there--Israeli officials from one side, and not the Syrian or Hezbollah officials from the other? Why are you even going on this "peace" mission, when the U.S. is obviously giving the green light for Israel to march into southern Lebanon? Seems to me like this is another wasted trip, designed to play partisan politics by the White House spin-meisters for the midterm elections--President Bush is serious about diffusing this latest Middle East crisis! Look--he's sending Condi Rice to the Israel on a peace mission! Now please send more money to the Republican Party.

Bush sees step to peace in Mideast violence

U.S. President George W. Bush waves to the press as he walks to the Oval Office with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, July 20, 2006. Rice intends to travel to the Middle East as early as next week to press for a political solution that helps reduce fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, her spokesman said on Thursday. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

This WaPost story is just insane:

President Bush's unwillingness to pressure Israel to halt its military campaign in Lebanon is rooted in a view of the Middle East conflict that is sharply different from that of his predecessors.

When hostilities have broken out in the past, the usual U.S. response has been an immediate and public bout of diplomacy aimed at a cease-fire, in the hopes of ensuring that the crisis would not escalate. This week, however, even in the face of growing international demands, the White House has studiously avoided any hint of impatience with Israel. While making it plain it wants civilian casualties limited, the administration is also content to see the Israelis inflict the maximum damage possible on Hezbollah.

As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.

Did it ever occur to President Bush's limited mode of thinking that by destroying Hezbollah, you open up another power vacuum for an even more extremist terrorist group to step in? According to Wikipedia, Hezbollah "was formed primarily to combat Israeli occupation following the 1982 Lebanon War." By forcing the PLO to withdrawal from Lebanon, Israel opened southern Lebanon up for other extremist Palestinian and Muslim groups to conduct their own terror operations against Israel with complete autonomy. In other words, extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas stepped into the power vacuum that Israel created after smashing the PLO in the 1982 Lebanon War. Now we come to today. Israel's massing troops on the Lebanese border, preparing to launch another full-scale invasion against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Israeli tanks line up on a road near the Israeli town of Avivim, near the Lebanese border, Friday July 21, 2006. Israel massed tanks and troops on the border, called up reserves and warned civilians to flee Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon as it prepared Friday for a likely ground invasion to set up a deep buffer zone.(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Israeli tanks near the Israeli town of Avivim, along the Lebanese border, July 21, 2006. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

There is a good chance that Israel will pretty much destroy Hezbollah, if they move in. But destroying Hezbollah isn't going to bring peace into the region--not when the deep cultural, social, political, and religious divisions between Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab societies still remain. Israel is just creating a new power vacuum for a new group to step into and launch their own terror operations against Israel.

Now we come to this interesting little White House quote:

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."

Excuse me Mr. President? Are you saying that Hezbollah is the root cause of the violence that has affected the Middle East? I would say that Hezbollah is not the root cause, but the symptom of an even greater cause--the mistrust and hatred that exists between Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab societies. This is a clash of societies--a class of civilizations, born out of mismanagement by European colonial rule. Destroying Hezbollah will not bring peace to the Middle East. It will just bring more death and destruction to the people living in Southern Lebanon, bring more hatred of Jews and Israelis by Palestinians and Arabs living there, and more blood on your own hands.

Friday Fun Stuff--Willy engaged in a life of crime

Willy, a 1-year-old cat is photographed Thursday, July 20, 2006, with a display of several pairs of garden gloves that he took from unknown yards in his neighborhood in Pelham, N.Y. Willy has brought home nine pairs of gloves and five singles over several weeks laying them on his owners' front or back porches. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

For your summer mystery reading pleasure, I found this Yahoo News story titled Feline felon suspected in glove thefts:

PELHAM, N.Y. - A pink-and-white gardening glove was missing Thursday morning from Jeannine Goche's front porch. But there was absolutely no mystery about who had taken it. Willy, the cat who loves gloves, had struck again.

"It has to be him," said Goche, an attorney. "I've heard about him."

As if the gardeners of Pelham don't have enough to worry about, with the rocky soil and the slugs and the big trees casting too much shade, a feline felon has been sneaking into their back yards and carrying off gardening gloves.

Goche's flower-patterned number may soon take its place on the clothesline that's strung across the front fence at Willy's home, which he shares with Jennifer and Dan Pifer, their 19-month-old son Hudson and a mutt named Peanut Chew.

Above the line is a sign that says, in words and pictures, "Our cat is a glove snatcher. Please take these if yours."

On Thursday morning, nine pairs of gardening gloves and five singles were strung up, nicely framed by the Pifers' flourishing tomato and basil plants. Willy, looking innocent, was playing with a beetle under the Subaru in the driveway and occasionally dashing after Hudson.

"This all started about the time people began working in their gardens, I guess March or April," Jennifer Pifer said. "Willy would just show up with a glove, or we'd see them on the front steps. I guess it's better than if he was bringing home dead birds."

Some of the gloves really are gift-worthy.

"A lot of these looked brand new," said Pifer. "Some of them are really nice."

She doesn't know how far afield Willy goes to find a glove, but she has learned it takes him two trips to bring home a matched pair.

Willy, born to a stray last spring and taken in by the Pifers as a newborn, stays out some nights but seems to assemble his collection in daytime raids.

"Mostly it happens on weekends, I guess when people are out gardening," Pifer said. "Can't you just imagine people saying, `The gloves were right here, where'd they go?'"

In winter, when gardening gloves are hard to find, Willy switches to his offseason prey, dirty socks, which he brings from the laundry room.

"We find them in the hallway, on the stairs," she said. "I used to think, `Oh, I must have dropped it on the way down.' But now I know better."

Despite his criminal nature, neighbors get a kick out of Willy. Cassone said the cat likes to accompany the mailman up and down the block, all the way to each front door. Willy also likes to climb trees and bat at the heads of people below.

What a criminal mastermind this ferocious feline is--stealing gardening gloves under people's noses! Willy must be caught--and there is only ONE man capable of bringing such a feline felon to justice:

We MUST find that feline!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Senator Thune claims he will distance himself from Bush

**FILE PHOTO** President Bush and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., wave to the crowd at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., Oct. 31, 2002. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Now this is interesting. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Freshman Sen. John Thune, the Republican hero two years ago for ousting the Senate Democratic leader, said Wednesday that if he were running this year, he'd distance himself from President Bush and his agenda.

In 2004, the White House political operation recruited Thune to challenge Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. He dealt the Democratic Party a major blow, edging Daschle in South Dakota as Bush captured a second term.

Thune, a conservative who rarely breaks with the GOP or Bush, said Wednesday that if he were up for re-election this year, he'd adopt a different strategy.

"If I were running in the state this year, you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda," Thune told reporters at the National Press Club. He said the
Iraq war is Bush's biggest problem.

You've just got to love this. Thune is so worried about his own ass getting kicked out of the Senate this November, that he is now openly claiming that he will distance himself from the Bush political agenda--even though for the past two years he's been a White House lapdog. So I have a question for you Senator Thune. If you are re-elected, how and when are you going to distance yourself from the Bush White House? What political policies are you going to openly disagree with the Bush administration? Because when I look at you Senator Thune, I see both a whore and a hypocrite--a whore to the lowest common political denominator for the South Dakotan voters in lying to them regarding this outrageous statement so that South Dakotan voters will not see you as the incompetent Republican senator that you are. And you are a hypocrite in that once the midterm elections are over, and if you still have your Senate job, you will happily ignore your campaign promise to your South Dakotan voters and continue on being the White House lapdog that you really are.

House passes bill protecting Pledge from courts

A class of fourth and fifth graders at Pelham Road Elementary School say the Pledge of Allegiance Friday Oct. 12, 2001, in Greenville, S.C. The House voted to protect the pledge from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase 'under God.' (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, FILE)

Nice to hear that the House Republicans are back on the job protecting our country and performing their civic duty as the "people's" representatives in our democratic government. This is from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - The House, citing the nation's religious origins, voted Wednesday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase "under God."

The legislation, a priority of social conservatives, passed 260-167. It now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain.

The pledge bill would deny jurisdiction to federal courts, and appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to decide questions pertaining to the interpretation or constitutionality of the pledge. State courts could still decide whether the pledge is valid within the state.

The legislation grew out of a 2002 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

The Supreme Court in 2004 reversed that decision on a technicality, saying Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow did not have legal standing to sue on behalf of his daughter because the mother had custody of the child. Newdow has since revived the case and last year a U.S. District Judge ruled in his favor.

Yes Sireee! Got to protect the Pledge from them evil pinko-commie libural activist judges....


Okay kids--let's play "Count with The Count!" Can you help The Count Von Count count up the number of wars to determine The War Number of the Day?

Put on your thinking caps!

Let's count:

ONE! Iraqis: U.S. shares blame for death toll:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi officials said Wednesday that U.S. and coalition forces as well as an increase in sectarian violence were behind the surge in civilian casualties cited in a U.N. report.

The report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq said nearly 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in May and June in a wave of assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, torture and intimidation.

However, deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie blamed U.S. and other coalition forces for much of the violence, saying their troops were responsible for about half the deaths due to "raids, shootings and clashes with insurgents."

"They came to protect the people and democracy and all the problems we have today are because of them. It is a loss for Iraq," said al-Zubaie, a Sunni Muslim.

TWO! Israeli warplanes blast Beirut bunker:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - A wave of Israeli warplanes blasted a bunker in south Beirut thought to hold Hezbollah's top leaders Wednesday, intensifying an offensive against the guerrillas despite mounting international pressure and an appeal from Lebanon to spare the country further death and devastation.

The strike was the most dramatic action on a day that saw Israeli troops punch into south Lebanon to clash with the guerrillas and launched strikes that killed an estimated 40 people.

Israel broadcast warnings into south Lebanon telling civilians to leave the region, a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation.

Hezbollah, undeterred, rockets slammed into the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, killing two Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, as they played outdoors.

Thousands of foreigners fled in one of the largest evacuation operations since World War II, including 1,000 Americans who arrived in Cyprus early Thursday on a rented cruise ship.

THREE! Turkey moves forward on push into Iraq:

ANKARA, Turkey - The Turkish military is moving forward with plans to send forces into northern Iraq to clear out Turkish Kurdish guerrilla bases, the prime minister said Wednesday.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said officials were holding talks with the United States and Iraq in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Diplomats and officials have said repeatedly that Turkey's threats to send troops into Iraq were largely aimed at pressing the United States and Iraq to take action against guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, whose fighters have killed 15 Turks in the southeast in the past week.

Any Turkish cross-border operation is likely to inflame tensions with the United States and destabilize one of the only calm regions of Iraq. A push into northern Iraq could also threaten ties with EU countries, which have been pressing Turkey to improve minority Kurdish rights as a step toward reducing tensions in the largely Kurdish southeast.

And there is the possibility that Kurds in largely autonomous northern Iraq could fight the Turks if they enter the country. The guerrillas are mostly based in the Qandil mountains that straddle Iraq's border with
Iran, about 50 miles from the Turkish border. They infiltrate southeastern Turkey from those bases to attack.

FOUR! Ethiopia prepared to invade Somalia:

NAIROBI, Kenya - Ethiopia is prepared to invade neighboring Somalia to defend its U.N.-backed government against what appeared to be an imminent attack by Islamic militiamen, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

The militiamen, who hold most of southern Somalia, deployed hundreds of fighters outside the town where the largely powerless government is based and said they planned to seize it.

"We have the responsibility to defend the border and the Somali government. We will crush them," Ethiopia's Minister of Information, Berhan Hailu, told The Associated Press.

Seizing the town of Baidoa would give the Islamic militia — which the United States has linked to al-Qaida — the uncontested authority over most of Somalia.

Somali transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is allied with Ethiopia, and has asked for its support. Ethiopia has intervened militarily in Somalia in the past, and hundreds of Ethiopian troops have been spotted along the countries' border in recent weeks.

The Somali Islamist militants are allied with Muslim separatists in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.

FIVE! Uganda rejects ceasefire with LRA rebels:

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Ugandan negotiators have rejected a ceasefire call from Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels as a first step in talks to end one of Africa's longest conflicts, officials said on Wednesday.

A ceasefire was the first item on the agenda at tentative discussions between the two sides that began on Sunday in Juba, capital of neighboring southern Sudan.

The south's regional government says it wants to broker an end to the LRA's two-decade insurgency, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted nearly two million people in northern Uganda and destabilized southern Sudan.

But both sides appear completely at odds: the government offering amnesty in return for LRA surrender, and the rebels demanding compensation and the disbandment of Uganda's army.

SIX! World powers press Sudan on Darfur U.N. force:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Sudan resisted pressure from world powers on Tuesday to accept a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur to replace an African Union force that has been unable to stem violence that Washington calls genocide.

Sudanese officials, who stressed before the meeting they continued to reject a U.N. role, were not available for comment.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2.5 million forced into exile in three years of fighting in lawless Sudan.

Violence erupted in Darfur in 2003 when non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Arab dominated government, accusing it of neglect. Khartoum responded by arming a mostly Arab militia which stands accused of rape, murder and looting.

Sudan has rejected U.N. troops in Darfur, likening it to a Western invasion that could attract jihad militants and cause an
Iraq-style quagmire.

SEVEN! Colombia fighting forces civilians to flee:

BOGOTA, Colombia - Fighting between the army and leftist guerrillas in western Colombia has forced hundreds of civilians from their homes and trapped others in their villages, the United Nations said Tuesday.

In Narino province, near the southern border with Ecuador, more than 1,300 people have fled since fighting broke out last week between the army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America's oldest and best-equipped guerrilla force.

SEVEN! Lucky number SEVEN is The War Number of the DAY! HA! HA! HA!

Now I know there are more than seven wars going on in this world--not to mention the insurgencies, revolutionary movements, counter-insurgencies and such--I certainly haven't mentioned Afghanistan for example. But going through the Yahoo News website, I found story after story devoted to some aspect of one war or another war. And much of these wars are taking place in either Africa, or the Middle East. If the stories are not about the actual fighting taking place between combatants, then they are about civilian evacuations, casualty reports, or stories of diplomatic failures to contain the fighting.

There is another thing I've noticed about these stories--the interconnectivity of each of these wars. They are connected to one-another, like spokes to a wagon wheel. And at the center of this wagon-wheel connection is the US war and occupation of Iraq. For example, the U.S. occupation of Iraq allowed for the Kurds to create their autonomous region in northern Iraq. This autonomous region would certainly have stoked the fires of an independent Kurdistan among the more militant Kurds, prompting guerilla attacks against Turkey, and thus forcing Turkey to develop plans for invading northern Iraq. Here is one spoke. How about another spoke? The U.S. occupation of Iraq has certainly inflamed anti-American hatred among the Muslim population in the Middle East, and hatred against America's long-time ally Israel. This hatred is certainly a boon for terrorist organizations in the Middle East. When the Palestinian elections take place last year, Hamas takes over as the main political party for the Palestinian Authority, prompting both the U.S. and Israel to cut off relations with the Palestinian government. We then get this kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, resulting in another full-scale Israeli invasion into Lebanon to take out Hezbollah guerilla units. Finally, we get stories coming out about American and European civilians trying to get out of Lebanon on cruise ships.

But what about Dafur? Ethiopia? Uganda? Columbia--they don't have anything to do with the U.S. war in Iraq. Do they? Since the Bush administration has all but declared itself to have every right to invade any country--to use any means at its disposal in fighting terrorism, they have allowed for a precedent to set for the leaders of smaller nations to follow. Thus, the Ugandan government has rejected calls of a cease-fire by the rebels, or fighting continues between the Columbian and FARC, or even Ethiopia's intent to invade Somalia again. Forget diplomacy. Forget the United Nations--let's just go in, guns a-blazing! The Bush administration has exported its own form of cowboy diplomacy throughout the world, and some world leaders are taking a liking for it.

Is it time for another war?

Turkey plans to enter Iraq

I've seen this posted on Americablog, Shakespeare's Sister, Suburban Guerrilla, and I'm pretty sure a bunch of other blogs are picking this up. The actual source of the story is an Associated Press story on The story is titled Turkey Signals It's Prepared to Enter Iraq:

Turkish officials signaled Tuesday they are prepared to send the army into northern Iraq if U.S. and Iraqi forces do not take steps to combat Turkish Kurdish guerrillas there - a move that could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States.

Turkey is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed fighting the guerrillas in southeastern Turkey in the past week.

"The government is really in a bind," said Seyfi Tashan, director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Bilkent University in Ankara. "On the one hand, they don't want things to break down with the United States. On the other hand, the public is crying for action."

American officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have repeatedly warned Turkey against entering northern Iraq, one of the few stable areas of the country.

A Turkish push into northern Iraq could also threaten relations with European Union countries, which have been pressing Turkey to improve rights for minority Kurds.

The Turkish Kurdish guerrillas are mostly based in the Qandil mountains, an area 50 miles from the Turkish border with Iran. From Iraq, the guerrillas infiltrate southeastern Turkey to stage attacks.

Turkey has long had some 2,000 troops in northern Iraq near the border monitoring the area. But if Turkey sent in military units they would have to travel through territory controlled by Iraqi Kurds.

If Turkey invades Northern Iraq, you can bet that the Kurds will ask for U.S. assistance in stopping this invasion. If the U.S. gives assistance to the Kurds in Northern Iraq, this certainly puts the U.S. on a military collision course with its NATO ally Turkey. If the U.S. refuses to assist the Kurds and allows Turkey to move into Northern Iraq, the Kurds will turn against the U.S. We'll have a Kurdish insurgency in Northern Iraq, a Sunni insurgency in the Golden Triangle, and a Shiite movement in Southern Iraq that is becoming more under the influence of Iran.

Then again, I wonder if this is just the Turkish government posturing as a means to satisfy the domestic pressure it is facing after its guards and soldiers have been killed in southeastern Turkey?

Either way, it is a complete clusterfrack.

Ralph Reed concedes in Georgia primary

I will say, I have to crack a smile at this CNN story:

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, unable to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, conceded defeat Tuesday in Georgia's Republican race for lieutenant governor.

Reed was making his first bid for elective office after working for years as a behind-the-scenes campaign strategist and leading the Christian Coalition and the state Republican Party.

He vied with state Sen. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination in a primary race that appeared closer than expected in recent months because of Reed's work with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption earlier this year.

In attack ads and televised debates, Cagle hammered away at Reed's connections to Abramoff, and asked whether Reed could face criminal charges for accepting more than $5.3 million from two Indian tribes. Reed has not been charged with a crime and has said repeatedly that he regrets the work he did with Abramoff. Reed said he was vindicated by a two-year Senate probe.

The ultimate, conservative, Washington political insider was defeated in his first primary bid for an elected office--Georgia's lieutenant governor. And it was a state office--not a nation office such as a U.S. senator, or House representative. Reed was defeated because he allowed himself to become entwined in the Abramoff scandal. Ralph Reed was corrupted by the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Who is to say that he would become corrupted by lobbying and special interest groups if he had become Georgia's lieutenant governor?

But there is something else about this story that I have to wonder. Are we starting to see cracks in the Religious Right's hold over the Republican Party? Ralph Reed was head of the Christian Coalition--one of the most influential conservative Christian lobbying groups on the Republican Party. Reed held enormous political power within the Republican Party, but had no sway or influence among moderates, liberals or progressives. Reed probably became power-hungry for national political power that could be found only in a higher political office of a U.S. senator, House representative, or even the presidency. And in order to move onto the national political scene, Reed needed a political office that can be used as a springboard. Hence, the Georgia lieutenant governor's office.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Continuing with the CNN story:

With 69 percent of precincts reporting, Cagle had 148,456 votes, or 56 percent, and Reed had 115,125, or 44 percent.

Reed's campaign prompted some Democrats to cross party lines Tuesday to keep him off the GOP ticket. Lifelong Democrat Randy New, 52, of Atlanta said he cast a ballot in a Republican primary for the first time for one reason -- to defeat Reed. He added that he sent out an e-mail to friends and business associates this week encouraging them to do the same.

In Georgia voters may request a ballot from either party in the primaries.

Democrats were voting to keep Reed off the ticket! This wasn't a vote for Cagle, more than it was a vote against Reed. For this election year, we've seen the Republicans go back to their social issues agenda of gay marriages, flag burning, and now the stem cell debate as a means of creating support among the Evangelical Christians, and hard-lined conservatives. As the former head of the Christian Coalition, Reed would have certainly been influential in framing the debate on these issues from the Republican Party's standpoint. And while our Republican-controlled Congress is debating these issues, the real problems of the budget deficit, the Iraq war, jobless recovery, high energy prices, have all been ignored. It is no wonder that Congress's approval ratings are down in the gutter, and that Americans prefer a Democratically-controlled Congress over that of the Republicans. We've seen in this CNN story that Democrats voted in the Republican primary to keep Reed off the ticket. But I would first like to know how many of those Cagle votes were from Democrats. And second, I would like to know is how many of those Cagle votes were from registered Republicans? How many moderate conservatives were sickened by Reed's corruption and his ideological views--moderates that would either vote for a Democrat, or would choose not to vote, had Reed been elected in the primary? I can't say.

Bush plans to veto stem cell bill.

This is off MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - President Bush readied the first veto of his presidency to stop legislation to ease limits on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Bush planned to sign a veto message Wednesday afternoon without any ceremony or photographers to record the historic moment. "He doesn't feel it's appropriate," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

But the president was to speak about the issue later in the White House East Room, surrounded by 18 families who "adopted" frozen embryos that were not used by other couples, and then used those leftover embryos to have children. "The message there is that an embryo can create a human being," Snow said.

While both the GOP-run House and Senate defied Bush in passing the measure to expand federally funded embryonic stem research, supporters do not appear to have the two-thirds vote margin needed to override such a veto.

I don't know which is worst--the fact that Bush is only now using his veto after five years in office, or that he is using his veto on a socially and politically-charged bill such as stem cells? You can bet that the White House spin-meisters will be using this veto as a means to prop up a Republican-controlled Congress that is slipping down in the polls. And, of course, Bush uses his veto with the smug knowledge that Congress will be unable to over-ride his veto--thus instituting a major check on his "dictatorial" powers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush blocked Justice Department's anti-terror probe

I don't know when the madness will stop here. I found this off Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.

Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without access to the sensitive program, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility closed its investigation in April.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., the committee chairman, asked Gonzales.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales replied.

Later, at the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said the eavesdropping program is reviewed every 45 days by senior officials, including Gonzales. The president did not consider the Justice unit that functions as a legal ethics watchdog to be the "proper venue," Snow said.

"What he was saying is that in the case of a highly classified program, you need to keep the number of people exposed to it tight for reasons of national security, and that's what he did," Snow said.

So the Justice Department lawyers, who were suppose to look into constitutional violations by senior Justice Department lawyers and White House officials that created this program, were denied security access to information regarding this eavesdropping program by President Bush himself on the grounds of national security. And the people who are reviewing this eavesdropping program are the same lawyers and White House officials who crafted this program in the first place. In other words, there is no ethical watchdog looking into whatever this administration is doing. Congress has refused to perform any investigations into the Bush White House, under a cowed Republican leadership. The Supreme Court has avoided taking any of these cases. Whatever rulings the Court has handed down--especially regarding the Gitmo prisoner's lack of counsel and trial, the Bush administration has pretty much ignored them. And now any Justice Department watchdog investigations into White House constitutional and ethical violations are being quashed by the same White House on the grounds of "national security."

Can you say George Bush = Der Fuhrer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bush curses Hezbollah during G-8 luncheon

U.S. President George W. Bush, right, gives the thumbs up during a meeting at the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday July 17, 2006. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called Monday for the deployment of international forces to stop the bombardment of Israel from southern Lebanon. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, pool)

I'm not sure what to say about this. This is from Yahoo News:

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance--including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel.

Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.

Here's the link a CNN Video of that Bushism quote, from the CNN story. Continuing with the Yahoo story:

He [Bush] told Blair he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen." He suggested Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice might visit the region soon.

The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.

America--This is who you elected as your leader! This is a man who has no clue as to how to formulate policy, or to use diplomacy--unless it is diplomacy by the gun! This is a man who doesn't even realize the hypocrisy of what he had just said. Consider this--President Bush ignored the United Nation's pleas to postpone the U.S. invasion of Iraq for more diplomatic negotiations, weapons inspections, and such. And yet now that Israel has invaded Lebanon, and has been feeling the heat of world condemnation, President Bush expects the U.N. take the lead in applying pressure on Syria to stop Hexbollah from making its attacks on Israel? How does President Bush expect Syria to respect the United Nations when his administration has contempt for the world organization?

Then there is this:

Bush expresses amazement that it will take some leaders as many as eight hours to fly home — about the same time it will take Air Force One with Bush aboard to return to Washington.

"You eight hours? Me, too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country," Bush said, at one point telling a waiter he wanted Diet Coke. "Takes him eight hours to fly home. Russia's big and so is China. Yeah Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving."

I guess it shows just how intelligent President Bush really is.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Fun Stuff--And how would you like your lobster?

A rare two-toned lobster is seen in this Thursday, July 13, 2006, photo taken in Bar Harbor, Maine. The lobster caught by Alan Robinson in Dyer's Bay is a typical mottled green on one side; the other side is a shade of orange that looks cooked. Robinson, of Steuben, donated the lobster to the Mount Desert Oceanarium. Staff members say the odds or finding a half-and-half lobster are 1 in 50 million to 100 million. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Abigail Curtis)

I found this off Yahoo News, titled Maine lobsterman pulls up rare lobster:

BAR HARBOR, Maine - An eastern Maine lobsterman caught a lobster this week that looks like it's half-cooked.

The lobster caught by Alan Robinson in Dyer's Bay that is a typical mottled green on one side; the other side is a shade of orange that looks cooked.

Robinson, of Steuben, donated the lobster to the Mount Desert Oceanarium. Staff members say the odds or finding a half-and-half lobster are 1 in 50 million to 100 million. By comparison, the odds of finding a blue lobster are about 1 in a million.

Robinson, who has been fishing for more than 20 years, said he didn't know what to think when he spotted the odd creature in his trap.

"I thought somebody was playing a joke on me," Robinson said. "Once I saw what it was ... it was worth seeing."

Bette Spurling, who works at the oceanarium, said lobster shells are usually a blend of the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Those colors mix to form the greenish-brown color of most lobsters. This lobster, though, has no blue in half of its shell, she said.

Bernard Arseneau, a former manager at the oceanarium's lobster hatchery, said lobsters also have a growth pattern in which the two sides develop independently of each other.

The oceanarium has received only three two-toned lobsters in its 35 years of existence, staff members said.

And how would you like your lobster prepared?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Creating a new website--Solace Skin Rejuvenation

I've been a little busy over this last weekend, creating a small business website. It is actually the first time I've ever created a small business website. My sister-in-law, Kirra Hopp, is starting her own facial and massage business--the beginnings of a day spa. She asked me to help create a business site, where she could provide a list of facial and massage services, and the prices of those services.

So why not? At least I can add web design to my list of skills.

The site is called Solace Skin Rejuvenation. The website link is I went online to download some free web templates, after which Kirra selected a template that best suited her style. I adapted the template to include her content, and the site was finally uploaded to the internet late last night. I will say that it isn't a bad start for a first-time small business website. And Kirra....Well, she's just as pleased as ever.

So go take a peek at Solace Skin Rejuvenation. Escape from the insanity of Iraq, President Bush, Katrina, and all the other crazy news stories to enjoy the total wellness of being.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Secret Service: More Abramoff visits to the White House

I found this off the New York Times--yes, it is another exciting episode of The Jack Abramoff Show! The Times article is titled Secret Service Reveals More Abramoff Visits:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Secret Service on Friday revealed four more visits to the White House in 2001 by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including one to see a domestic policy aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The newly released records of Abramoff's access to the White House bring the total number of his known visits to seven.

One Abramoff White House visit, according to Secret Service logs, was on April 20, 2001, to see Cesar Conda, at the time Cheney's assistant for domestic policy.

Five days after the Conda meeting, one of Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues, Patrick Pizzella, was nominated by the president as assistant secretary of labor. The Secret Service logs do not state why Abramoff met with Conda.

Talk about a coincidence here! Abramoff visits the White House to see Cesar Conda, Cheney's assistant for domestic policy, and then five days later we get a former Abramoff lobbying colleague Patrick Pizzella to be nominated by the president to be the assistant secretary of labor? And it was just a coincidence? Abramoff's meeting had nothing to do with Pizzella's nomination to a top White House job?

Oh, and does anyone remember this little Abramoff friend who was appointed to a White House job:

A former White House aide, David Safavian, was convicted in a trial last month for covering up his relationship with Abramoff. Safavian was the Bush administration's top procurement official until his arrest last year.

The stench is getting pretty bad here!

Friday Fun Stuff--DeLay dispute moving up through the courts

Former House Majority Whip U.S. Representative Tom Delay (R-TX) walks from the U.S. Capitol building to his office in the Cannon House building on the day that his resignation goes into effect on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 9, 2006. REUTERS/Evan Sisley (UNITED STATES)

For today's Friday Fun Stuff, I couldn't help but smile at this latest exciting episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! Come to think of it, we haven't had an episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour for a while. This is from ABC News:

AUSTIN, Texas Jul 7, 2006 (AP)--With state election deadlines closing in, the legal fight over whether to keep indicted former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot moves next to a higher court.

The Texas Republican Party plans to appeal federal Judge Sam Sparks' ruling Thursday that DeLay must remain on the ballot even though he resigned from office and isn't actively campaigning for re-election.

At issue in the federal court case is the U.S. Constitution wording stating that a member of Congress must be an "inhabitant" of the state where his or her district is at the time of election. Also central in the dispute is the Texas Election Code and its provisions for scratching candidates from the ballot.

Democrats acknowledge they want to keep DeLay's legal troubles in voters' minds as Democrat Nick Lampson, a former congressman, seeks the 22nd congressional district seat in suburban Houston. DeLay, the former House majority leader, faces money laundering and conspiracy charges connected to the financing of Texas legislative campaigns in 2002.

DeLay won his March primary and then announced a month later that he would be leaving office and moving to Virginia. DeLay left Congress on June 9.

Republican Party state chair Tina Benkiser said under state law she could declare DeLay "ineligible" for the ballot because she received proof of his move out of state, thus allowing a party committee to name a new nominee. Had DeLay simply "withdrawn," the party wouldn't be allowed to replace him in the race under state law.

This is an interesting political case here. I think what we have here is a Republican Party that has been thrown into chaos due to DeLay's own selfish political ambitions. DeLay originally believed he could fight these money laundering and conspiracy charges, while at the same time campaign to keep his seat on the House of Representatives. DeLay was unwilling to step down, and allow the Texas Republican voters choose a new candidate during the Texas primary. DeLay won the Republican nomination for House rep in the 22nd congressional district. But then a funny thing happened. With Tom DeLay campaigning for his seat, details of both DeLay's money laundering scheme, and DeLay's connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal, started to stick to his campaign, thus eroding his support. It is also no wonder that Democratic opponent Nick Lampson relentlessly attacked DeLay on the issue of corruption. Tom DeLay's chances of getting re-elected were going up in smoke.

So what can the Republicans do? Their top candidate is falling behind in the polls, while facing criminal charges. The Texas primary is over. If Tom DeLay formally withdrawals from the race, the Republican Party cannot replace him with a new candidate. So we get this Republican end-run around Texas election laws, where DeLay is announcing that he's moving out of Texas and into Virginia, thus making him ineligible to run, and allowing the Republicans to replace him with a new nominee. DeLay wanted to keep his House seat while fighting the criminal charges against him. When he realized he couldn't do both, he had to find a way to resign his congressional seat and withdrawal from the race in such a way so that the Republicans can appoint a new successor to his seat. The Republicans know that if they do not have a replacement candidate on the ballot to challenge Lampson, the seat will go to Lampson. That is why we have this Republican circumvention of Texas election law. In fact, there is no telling whether DeLay will actually stay in Virginia, or move back to Texas after the November elections. Consider this detail on the DeLay dispute from Yahoo News:

Democrats contended that Texas law did not override the U.S. Constitution, which only requires a candidate be a resident on election day of the state where the congressional district is located.

As proof of his move, DeLay, in a hearing in Austin last week, produced a driver's license, a voter registration card and an income tax withholding form from Virginia and said he planned to live in that state indefinitely.

Democrats argued DeLay's wife continues to live in their Sugar Land, Texas, home.

"There is no evidence that DeLay will still be living in Virginia tomorrow, let alone on November 7, 2006, the only day that matters under the qualifications clause of the U.S. Constitution," Sparks wrote in his ruling.

Tom DeLay still has his Sugar Land, Texas, home, where is wife still resides at. And while DeLay produced a Virginia driver's license and voter registration cards as his "proof" of being a Virginia citizen, it is still too easy for DeLay to move back to Texas to set up a new election campaign to retake his seat in the 22nd congressional district--that is, if DeLay is not found guilty of the criminal charges filed against him.

This case now moves up to the Fifth Circut Court of Appeals. It is going to be interesting to see how the Fifth Circut rules on this case.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In the wake of a Fourth of July week....

There has been so much going on, that I haven't had a chance to really update this blog. So I thought I would comment on some of the top stories that occurred over this Fourth of July weekend.

I'll start with Ken Lay's death. I'm not sure what to say about Ken Lay's death. Here was a man who took a small energy trading company named Enron, grew it into the seventh largest company in the U.S., before spectacularly flaming out with Enron's bankruptcy and causing billions of dollars of losses for both investors, and Enron employees who had their retirement savings tied completely to Enron stock. According to CNN, Lay was found guilty "on 10 counts of fraud and conspiracy related to the collapse of the company he founded." He was to be sentenced on October 23, 2006.

Former Enron Chairman Ken Lay arrives at Federal court in Houston, April 24, 2006. Lay, who was convicted last month of fraud and conspiracy for his part in the Houston-based company's collapse, has died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Colorado, a Houston television station reported on Wednesday. (Tim Johnson/Reuters)

There is one thing I would have to wonder about. What secrets did Ken Lay know about Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force? According to the CNN story, Enron and its executives donated more than $600,000 to George W. Bush's campaigns for Texas governor, and president. In the 2000 election, Lay gave Bush more than $100,000, allowing Bush to easily outspend and defeat Senator John McCain for the Republican nomination. This sort of money buys presidential access, so I would not be surprised if Lay was intimately involved in Cheney's Energy Task Force. What did he know?

I can't even speculate on that.

North Korea fired ballistic missiles in a Fourth-of-July firework's test. You could say this is a little North Korean saber-rattling to the United States and the world, saying, "We're still here! We're still a threat!" I'm not even sure as to why the North Koreans launched their missile tests on July 4th, America's Independence Day. Were the North Koreans expecting to frighten the U.S. into agreeing to one-on-one talks with North Korea on their nuclear program, rather than the six-party talks that the U.S. has been advocating?

Graphic on North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile plus information on the missile's range.(AFP/File/Martin Megino)

So now that the North Koreans have launched their long-range missile tests, what is the Bush administration's response? To be honest, I doubt there is anything the Bush administration could do--besides flapping their mouth. The Bush administration has isolated the United States with their "go-it-alone," American-style imperialism--which includes their disastrous war in Iraq. The Pentagon doesn't have the resources to fight both a war in Iraq and a war in North Korea. The North Koreans have faced decades of economic sanctions to varying degrees, and they have somehow been able to survive. Any talk of economic sanctions will have to involve the cooperation of China and Russia--and so far both China and Russia are refusing to accept economic sanctions against North Korea. So there is little that the Bush White House can do regarding North Korea.

And now there is this squeaker of a story on the Mexican election. From CNN.Com:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- A final count gave conservative Felipe Calderon a razor-thin victory Thursday in Mexico's presidential election after four days of uncertainty.

Felipe Calderon, presidential candidate for the National Action Party (PAN), smiles during celebrations at the PAN's headquarters July 6, 2006 after the Federal Electoral institute announced he had secured the most votes in last Sunday's election. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (MEXICO)

Leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed that there were irregularities in the vote count and vowed to fight the results in court. He called for a demonstration by his supporters Saturday in Mexico City, where he was the popular mayor before seeking the presidency.

Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party, won 35.89 percent of the vote compared with 35.31 percent for Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

The difference between the two candidates was just 0.58 percent, or about 244,000 votes out of about 42 million cast, based on the institute's figures.

The Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) gives a press conference in Mexico City. Conservative Felipe Calderon won Mexico's presidential election by a razor-thin margin, according to official results posted, which Obrador said he will challenge in court.(AFP/Luis Acosta)

And there is some talk of voting irregularities. This is from The Washington Post:

Calderon led by one percentage point after preliminary counts. But on Wednesday, Mexico's electoral commission began an official count of tally sheets attached to sealed packets of votes from all 130,000 polling places in the country. Lopez Obrador called for a vote-by-vote count, but Luis Carlos Ugalde, head of the electoral commission, said it was against the law to open any package unless its tally sheet appeared to be altered or damaged.

On Thursday, in the Colonia Caracol neighborhood behind Mexico City's soccer stadium, teams of vote counters battled each other under bare fluorescent lights in one of the country's 300 counting centers. Their final results helped explain why Lopez Obrador's standing had been improving: The populist candidate's total jumped from 110,685 during the preliminary count to 118,246 after the official count, which came after 70 suspicious packets were opened and their ballots counted.

And this irregularity was reported from The New York Times:

Mr. Lopez Obrador said the election had been riddled with irregularities and the official count could not be trusted. He and the leaders of his Party of the Democratic Revolution complained that, during the official tally on Wednesday and Thursday, local election officials had ignored demands that boxes of ballots be recounted from polling places that they thought had unusual results.

Aides to Mr. Lopez Obrador said he would argue in court that a recount was needed because poll officials had tossed out large number of ballots--904,000--because they could not tell the intention of the voters. These null votes could be enough to change the results of the election, they said.

Mr. Lopez Obrador is also likely to point out that, in the few cases where election officials did recount votes during the official tally, mistakes had been found. Many of those mistakes hurt Mr. Lopez Obrador and benefited Mr. Calderon, they said.

A member of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) carries a ballot box for a recount in Mexico City. Mexico's leftist candidate took a thin lead that plunged to a fraction of a percentage point, as a recount of the presidential election's vote tallies neared completion(AFP/Luis Acosta)

So what does this mean? We could have a situation in Mexico that is similar to the U.S. presidential election in 2000, where the presidency was decided by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court that picked conservative Republican George W. Bush to be president in a close election that was fraught with its own voting irregularities regarding Florida "butterfly" ballots. The 2000 election left the U.S. electorate polarized, where half the country still believes that George Bush and the Republicans "stole" the White House. With the Mexican election this close, and reports of irregularities and fraud surfacing, will the Mexican courts be forced to choose a president? A president who will be accepted as legitimately elected by only half the country--regardless of who is chosen? Continuing with the NY Times article:

[The] decision will likely fall into the hands of the Electoral Tribunal, a court of seven magistrates who are nominated by the Supreme Court and approved by the Senate for 10-year terms. Created 15 years ago to review complaints about state and federal congressional elections, its powers were expanded in 1996 to cover presidential elections, and its findings are final.

The tribunal's decisions have made sweeping changes on the political landscape. In the last 10 years, the court has annulled gubernatorial elections in the states of Tabasco and Colima, and it has imposed multimillion-dollar fines for illegal campaign financing.

But challenges to presidential elections are unprecedented in Mexico, so this, like many parts of electoral law, will be tested for the first time.

Legal scholars say there is nothing in the election law providing for a recount, but there is nothing prohibiting it either. The tribunal has the power to order any number of ballot boxes opened to make its decision.

There's more to come on this Mexican election.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Fireworks explode over the Detroit River, as seen from Historic Fort Wayne, during the International Freedom Festival on Wednesday, June 28, 2006, in Detroit. The Ambassador Bridge, foreground, links Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)

What can I say, but Happy Fourth of July! Hope you're celebrating America's birthday with the obligatory BBQ and fireworks display. That's what I'll be doing--munching on turkey burgers and hot dogs with the family here. So enjoy this celebratory weekend, and tomorrow I'll be back to look at our weekend's news events. Enjoy the fireworks display!