Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Schoolhouse Rock--Interplanet Janet

This is a cute and fun Monday Schoolhouse Rock song--Interplanet Janet. Interplanet Janet was the way we GenXers learned our solar system--Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

But that was before the Great Planetary Debate took place back in August 2006. According to this August 24, 2006 MSNBC story, the International Astronomical Union set up a series of guidelines to scientifically define the term planet. According to the IAU, "A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."

Well, this caused a huge controversy between astronomers who accepted the IAU guidelines, and the astronomers who wanted to keep Pluto named as a planet. And if it is bad enough for the astronomers to be fighting over whether Pluto is a planet or not, the controversy has rocked Interplanet Janet and her Comet Team since now the lyrics of the Schoolhouse Rock song has become obsolete.

Or will there be a day when Pluto can rise up and rightfully become a planet again?

Here is Monday Schoolhouse Rock--Interplanet Janet: From YouTube:

Friday, April 27, 2007

Some thoughts on the Democratic debate

I watched the Democratic presidential debate last night on MSNBC. You can find some decent coverage of the debate on The New York Times, and MSNBC, which sponsored the debate, has full coverage here. Here are the transcripts of the debate, and you can find the video here.

My overall impression is that all the candidates did well in the debate. There was no clear winner here, nor was there a clear loser in this first debate. The candidates did what they had to do for this first debate, which really was to introduce themselves to the American public. But I certainly did have some interesting observations regarding the candidates here:

Hillary Clinton: I will admit that Hillary Clinton really looked "presidential" in this first debate. She was articulate, poised, calm, and really didn't make any major mistakes in this debate. But she wasn't really exciting in this debate, almost performing like a robotic politician. And Clinton will still not admit that her vote for the war in Iraq was a mistake, which still pisses off the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Still, this is only the first debate here.

Barack Obama: This is a strange, first impression that I had when Obama answered his first question. When Obama answered his first question regarding the Iraq war was "dumb," all I could think of was that Obama has some pretty big ears! It was a strange, first impression. Obama started out answering his questions with a little nervousness, and perhaps a little unsure of himself here. Then again, Obama is a freshman senator from Illinois, who catapulted into a rock-star, politician status of running for president. So there was a little inexperience here. Obama flubbed the question on what he would do if two American cities were attacked by terrorists. This was really a question of whether he would be decisive ordering a military retaliation against the terrorists. Obama flubbed that question, dancing around with talk of initiating emergency responses and conducting intelligence reviews, instead of actually saying what needed to be said--that the president should act swiftly in retaliation against such terror attacks. Clinton nailed that question, and Edwards responded somewhat in the middle, saying that he would "act swiftly and strongly to hold them responsible for that," while also stressing the importance of strengthening the homeland security system so that such an attack will not take place. Of course, Obama recognized his mistake and went back to the issue saying, "There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military, and in some cases lethal force, to take out terrorists, and at the same time building the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been so lacking over the last six years." But even though he may have been a little inexperienced here, Obama certainly held his own here.

John Edwards: John Edwards was smooth. I found it ironic how Edwards quickly shifted the $400 haircut question into his "Two America's" theme of allowing everyone to have a chance at economic opportunities. And Edwards tossed in his own "Two America's" story, where his father took Edwards and the family into a restaurant, and then left because Edwards' father couldn't afford to eat there. Edwards did a couple of flubs--the first was not including the lack of gas refineries being constructed as a reason for the high gas prices. Edwards talked about the increased demand for oil, but didn't realize there was a supply issue here as well. And Edwards tried to shift the question of high gas prices to the issue of climate change. But the bigger Edwards flub was the time it took for him to decide who his moral leader was. Edwards took about 30 seconds to think about that question, before answering it. And what was his answer? His Lord? His wife? And his father? This is a character-driven question, and the final answer the Edwards gave didn't really bother me. What bothered me about Edwards' answer was that Edwards was trying to think too much like a politician here, trying to please everyone or not piss off too many voters with this question. Edwards should have at least said, right off the bat, that his wife was a moral leader to him and then he could have given a few seconds thought before answering with his father and God. Edwards' flub here really signifies a problem that the Democratic candidates have in talking about their own personal faith, their morals, and their values to the American public. The Democratic candidates may be uncomfortable talking about issues of personal morality, or even the bigger issue of their own personal religious beliefs, because they don't want to anger such voting blocs that do not accept, or agree, with their religious beliefs. In other words, the Democrats do not want to legislate morality. And the Democrats may fear that by talking about morality, such talk may cause the liberal wing to fear that the Democrats will legislate their morality--remember, the Republicans love to legislate morality. If Brian Williams asked this question of who their moral leaders were to any of the Republican presidential candidates, you can bet that every GOP candidate would answer this question with God, and their wives--probably in that particular order. And right after listing the names, the GOP candidates would probably go into a tirade about how America is losing their moral values, and that as president, they would try to re-introduce those moral values back into the country. Mr. Edwards, I don't care if you believe that the Lord is your moral leader, or that you go to church every Sunday, or even if you bow down and pray to Mecca five times a day. You can worship your God in any way you choose. My only concern is that you do not attempt to shove your religious ideology and morals down my throat. It is the biggest problem that I have with the Republican presidential candidates, not the Democratic presidential candidates. So you can talk about religion, your morals, and your beliefs if you want to--just don't try to legislate them on the rest of us.

One thing Edwards did was to clearly state that the Supreme Court is at stake in this election. If a Republican is elected president, then that Republican will select one--if not two--Supreme Court justices over the course of the next two presidential terms (assuming the Republican presidential incumbent is re-elected). This is going to tip the court to a very conservative stance, perhaps to the point where Roe verses Wade will be overturned. That has been the Religious Right's wet dream of outlawing abortion, ever since Roe was declared constitutional.

Mike Gravel: Mike Gravel was such fun on the debate! I think the best thing to do here is to show this YouTube clip on Gravel's comments:

Would I vote for Gravel? Of course not--Gravel is very much a loose cannon to be elected into the Oval Office. But the thing that Gravel brought to this debate was a raw anger that is directed against the politicians for getting us into this war in Iraq. And this anger is certainly not just directed at Bush, but also at Clinton, Edwards, Biden and Dodd for voting to allow Bush to go to war in Iraq. Gravel did a great job at stirring the pot up here, and tapping into that raw anger. I'd love to see him in the next Democratic debate to stir the pot even more.

Joe Biden: Joe Biden gave the best one-line answer in the entire debate, perhaps even the best one-line answer from a politician in any debate. From YouTube:

Doesn't get any simpler than that.

Bill Richardson: Bill Richardson was an interesting candidate. One thing I liked about Richardson is that he clearly stated the policies he would do, as president, on an issue. More than that, Richardson numerically listed his policies--This is what I will do as president for this issue--one, two and three. The other candidates waffled here, talking a little about the issue before giving some quick and dirty policy campaign promises. The details of these campaign promises that Richardson, or the other Democratic candidates presented were very sketchy. And I haven't researched into these promises yet. But it was an easy-to-understand presentation that Richardson gave to the American public.

Of course, this also led to a problem with Richardson's presentation. Richardson would ramble on in giving campaign promise after campaign promise, before running out of time, and having debate moderator Brian Williams to basically tell Richardson to shut up now. While his points were easy to understand, it appeared that Richardson was both hurried and disjointed in the delivery of these points. I don't think Richardson is a strong enough candidate to become president. But I do believe he has the policy skills to work in a cabinet level position within a Democratic administration--I've heard plenty of rumors in the liberal blogosphere about Richardson being selected as Secretary of State, or even as Vice President.

Christopher Dodd: Christopher Dodd nailed it on the abortion question. While Edwards, Obama, Biden and Kucinich talked about abortion in terms of legal, social, constitutional, and policy issues, Dodd stated that abortions are a symptom to a larger policy problem of unplanned pregnancies. Find working policy programs that reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, and you will reduce the number of abortions performed in this country. Provide women with additional choices so that they are not "faced with just the choice they have today."

Dennis Kucinich: Kucinich use to be Democrat's most liberal candidate in the campaign, but after Gravel's lively performance, Kucinich seemed almost a moderate in the debate. It is interesting that Kucinich is the only congressman willing to support an impeachment of Vice President Cheney. Then again, Kucinich is a House Representative, in which the House is responsible for drafting the articles of impeachment against the vice president, while the Senate is basically the jury in the impeachment trial on the vice president. Kucinich was involved in a nice little mini-debate with Obama, where Kucinich told Obama to "quit using war as an instrument of policy....." Obama responded by saying that a war with Iran would be a mistake, but also that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and is a state-sponsor of terrorism. This brought Gravel into the mini-debate, asking Obama, "Who do you want to nuke?" That was a fun mini-debate.

That is a round-up of the thoughts I had on this first Democratic presidential debate. The Republicans debate next Thursday, May 3rd. That should be interesting to watch.

Friday Fun Stuff--Physicist in Space!

British physicist Stephen Hawking is assisted as he floats during a ZERO-G flight aboard a modified Boeing 727 after taking off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, April 26, 2007. (Zero-Gravity Corporation/Handout./Reuters)

Okay, this is pretty cool. From MSNBC News:

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking experienced eight rounds of weightlessness on Thursday during a better-than-expected airplane flight that he saw as the first step toward a trip in space.

"It was amazing," Hawking told reporters afterward, using his well-known computerized voice. "The zero-G part was wonderful, and the high-G part was no problem. I could have gone on and on.

"Space, here I come," he said.

Hawking's host, Zero Gravity Corp. co-founder and chief executive officer Peter Diamandis, said before the flight that he'd claim success if Hawking had just a single half-minute float in weightlessness aboard the company's specially modified Boeing 727 jet. It turned out that Hawking took eight turns with ease.

"He would have flown more if we let him," said Noah McMahon, one of Hawking's coaches as well as Zero Gravity's chief marketing officer. "He was all smiles all the time."

Zero Gravity had originally planned to bring Hawking back to NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility here after six ups-and-downs. "We negotiated and agreed to do two more," Diamandis told reporters jokingly. After the landing, Hawking's fellow fliers gave him a round of applause.

In this handout photo provided by Zero Gravity Corp., astrophysicist Stephen Hawking floats on a zero-gravity jet, Thursday, April 26, 2007. The modified jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first flew up to 24,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow. The plane made a total of eight parabolic dips, including two during which Hawking made two weightless flips like 'a gold-medal gymnast,' said Peter Diamandis, chairman of Zero Gravity Corp., the company that owns the jet. (AP Photo/Zero Gravity Corp.)

Hawking is one of the globe's best-known scientists — not only because of his best-selling works on the mysteries of black holes and the origins of the universe, but also because of his increasing disability due to a degenerative nerve disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He is almost completely paralyzed and can communicate only via facial gestures and a gesture-controlled computer system.

Thursday's flight served an initial test run to see if Hawking had the "Right Stuff" for an even more ambitious journey: a rocket-powered rise to the edge of outer space, perhaps aboard the spaceship now being developed for Virgin Galactic. That craft is due to enter service in 2009 or so, and taking such a flight would check off what Hawking has said is his "next goal."

"I have long wanted to go into space, and the zero-gravity flight is the first step toward space travel," he said before the flight.

I would say that Hawkin is well on his way to taking a trip into space. Then again, you could say that Hawkin has already been in space before--playing poker with Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Commander Data onthe U.S.S. Enterprise:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bush banging the drums

I don't think I even want to try to comment on this YouTube video:

Fox News has the story on this video here:

WASHINGTON — The White House turned its attention Wednesday to preventing and eradicating malaria, a big killer of African children.

But it wasn't all serious business: President Bush pounded on the drums for a West African dance troupe and had some fun at Congress' expense.

The Rose Garden event with Bush and his wife, Laura, was the first time the White House has marked Malaria Awareness Day alongside observances elsewhere in the world.

"On this special day, we renew our commitment to lead the world toward an urgent goal, and that is to turn the tide against malaria in Africa, and around the globe," the president said.

More than 1 million people die each year from malaria. The mosquito-borne disease is the leading cause of death of African children under age 5. Tens of millions of people suffer chronically.

"Defeating malaria is going to be a challenge, but it's not going to require a miracle," he said.

He pointed to Washington's experience prevailing over malaria a century ago. It had been such a problem that many diplomats received extra hardship pay for assignments to the hot, swampy U.S. capital and, Bush said, "Congress would often flee the capital for months at a time."

"Other than that," he said, "the consequences were all negative."

In 2005, Bush undertook a five-year, $1.2 billion effort that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combatting malaria in the hardest-hit African nations. Its aim is to slash the disease's mortality rate by half in targeted nations.


[Bush] ended the event on a much less-severe note.

After a few songs from the colorfully and traditionally dressed KanKouran West African Dance Company, the president and first lady joined the dancers and drummers on stage for a picture.

In no time, it was Bush who was enthusiastically choreographing the moves. Flashing a big grin, Bush pounded on the drums to set the rhythm and led the women and men of the group in a little dance.

Harris Poll: Bush job approval rating falls to 28 percent

This is off The Wall Street Journal:

President Bush's approval rating slipped to new lows in the most recent Harris Interactive survey, but he's not alone: For the first time since the series began, all of the political figures and institutions included in the survey have negative performance ratings.

Of the 1,001 American adults polled online April 20-23, only 28% had a positive view of Mr. Bush's job performance, down from 32% in February and from a high of 88% in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The current rating is his weakest showing since his inauguration.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice garnered the approval of 45% of those surveyed, down from 46% in February, and approval of Defense Secretary Robert Gates slid to 29% in the latest poll, from 32% in February.

Among other individuals included in the poll, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) saw her approval rating fall to 30% in April from 38% in February, shortly after her swearing-in as the first female House speaker. Approval for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) slipped to 22%, from 23% in February but up from 19% a year ago.

Those polled gave Congress an approval rating of 27%, with the Democrats as a group pulling in 35% approval, compared with 22% for Republicans.

When asked which two issues the government should address first, 30% of poll respondents said the war and 13% said Iraq. Domestic concerns rounded out the top spots, with 15% of those polled mentioning health care and 10% pointing to the economy.

I'm not sure what to say about this poll regarding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's numbers. I think the problem with The Harris Poll is how do you interpret the results of these numbers here. Look at this Table 1 from the Harris Poll:

The Harris Poll is placing the numerical values of "Excellent" and "Pretty Good" as a positive result, while also placing the numerical values of "Only Fair" and "Poor" as a negative result. Both Pelosi and Reid have a large numerical values in the "Only Fair" catagory--Pelosi has 33 percent of the public rating her as "Only Fair," while Reid has a 35 percent rating. And since Harris interprets "Only Fair" as a negative rating, this skewers both Pelosi and Reid's numbers as being negative. The "Unsures" are not counted in either the positive or negative ratings. This interpretation also skewers President Bush's job approval ratings to a higher negative value, since 22 percent of the American public rate Bush as "Only Fair." Now compare the Harris poll results to The Polling Report job approval numbers for Pelosi and Reid. Now Polling Report asks whether you approve or disapprove of Pelosi and Reid's handling of their jobs. According to the April 12-15 ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53 percent of Americans approve of Pelosi's job as speaker, 35 percent disapprove of her job, and 12 percent are unsure. The same ABC News/Washington Post poll reports Reid's job performance as 46 percent approve, 33 percent disapprove, and 21 percent are unsure. Polling Report asks a simple question of whether you approve or disapprove of an official's performance, rather than trying to assign weighted values which can be open to interpretation. And it is the same with Bush job performance here as well, where the latest Polling Report numbers show a job approval rating of around 32-38 percent, and a disapproval rating of 54-62 percent. And the numbers have been pretty much consistent throughout April. And as for the year, Bush's job approval ratings have been around one-third of the country approving of his performance and two-thirds of the country disapproving of his performance. So it is certainly interesting how the Harris Poll has interpreted its results here, and how they will contradict the other poll results.

McCain officially launches his presidential campaign

Standing under a Boston Red Sox umbrella during a steady rain Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., addresses a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday evening, April 25, 2007. McCain officially announced his candidacy for president during a campaign rally in Portsmouth on Wednesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Here's the biggest yawn of a news story yet. From MSNBC News:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Republican John McCain officially entered the 2008 presidential race Wednesday, stressing his experience honed in war and Washington as he sought to revive his struggling campaign.

"We face formidable challenges, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them," said the four-term Arizona senator, ex-Navy pilot and former Vietnam captive.

In a speech in the first-in-the-nation primary state, McCain stressed the wisdom he's acquired over time rather than the decades themselves as he sought to make the case that he's the most qualified to succeed President Bush amid challenges at home and abroad.

"I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced," said the 70-year-old who could be the oldest first-term president, drawing cheers. "I know how to fight and how to make peace. I know who I am and what I want to do."

The announcement, seven years after he lost the GOP nomination to George W. Bush, was no surprise; McCain's intentions have long been clear as he has spent months campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Still, the event - and a planned four-day romp through early primary states and his Arizona home - gives McCain an opportunity to restart his campaign after a troubling four-month period. He went from presumed front-runner for the GOP nomination at year's end to trailing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in national polls and ex-Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in money raised.

I watched a little of McCain's official presidential announcement, and the one thing I noticed was that there didn't seem to be much audience reaction to McCain's speech. You can watch the announcement here on YouTube:

And I've got some news photos of the McCain campaign rally here:

US Senator John McCain speaks during a campaign rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. McCain formally confirmed on Wednesday he is running for the White House, seeking to revive a campaign bogged down by missteps, controversy over his support for the Iraq war and lackluster fundraising.(AFP/Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

Judy Mastrocola holds her daughter Anna, 5, as they listen to Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., deliver his campaign announcement address during a steady rain in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday evening, April 25, 2007. McCain offically announced his candidacy for president during a campaign rally in Portsmouth Wednesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (R) greets anti-war demonstrators, who interrupted his speech, at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, April 25, 2007, after McCain formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States earlier in the day. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has a picture taken with a supporter before getting back onto his campaign bus after a McCain 2008 rally in Manchester, N.H., Wednesday evening, April 25, 2007. McCain offically announced his candidacy for president during a campaign rally in Portsmouth Wednesday afternoon. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

I found a small story from James Pindell at The Boston Globe, which reported the crowd size at McCain's announcement to be around 250 people. According to Pindell:

According to Portsmouth police, about 250 people were at the event with plenty of media in tow. Many of those interviewed said they were at the event mainly out of curiosity, not necessarily because they were supporting McCain.

As a result, in this city where local parking issues dog the City Council, there were plenty of parking spots to be had in walking distance of the park about 45 minutes before the event started.

But this has all the signs for a made-for-TV event. There are plenty of McCain signs to wave in front of television cameras., and a large podium on a raised stage with prominent New Hampshire supporters behind him.

And above McCain's head will be a view of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

I find it interesting that the McCain crowd size was around 250 people, mostly coming to the event out of curiosity. In comparison, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's official announcement speech in Springfield Illinois, on February 10, 2007, had an estimated crowd size of over 15,000 supporters. I can understand that both McCain and Obama's announcements were certainly planned, and staged, for the media. But when I look at both speeches, and the crowd reactions to the speeches, I get the impression that Obama is the stronger candidate because of how he worked a large, enthusiastic crowd during his speech, over that of McCain's speech with the smaller crowd.

It is an interesting contrast between the two candidates.

There is one more interesting aspect regarding McCain's announcement. It is McCain's Straight Talk Express PR blunders over the past couple of months. Senator McCain was caught on video singing "Bomb Iran." The Straight Talk Express response? It was just a joke, so get a life! McCain may have thought it was just a joke, but decided to use the video in an attack ad against McCain. A March 26, 2007 Raw Story article reported that on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio show, Senator McCain claimed, "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today...." This boast created a firestorm of criticism against McCain for making this outrageous statement. McCain decided to try to prove his point by taking a stroll through a marketplace in Baghdad, with what seemed like half the U.S. Army in Iraq protecting McCain during his marketplace stroll. Talk about two huge PR blunders here from the McCain campaign! It has been these two blunders that certainly caused the press to speculate on McCain's struggling campaign. This makes me wonder about McCain's low-keyed official presidential campaign launch here. Did the McCain campaign staff decide to make this official launch as a low-keyed, media affair in order to avoid another "Straight Talk Express" blunder? Or has the McCain campaign sunk so low in their own blundering incompetence, that nobody really wanted to show up in Portsmouth? Or is there a third reason--perhaps the American public has already known that John McCain is running for president, therefore there was no reason for them to attend this McCain non-campaign event?

Now I'm getting confused here....

The Second World War meets Robotech?

I found this off ShakesVille, and it is both wild and weird. You can also find this on YouTube.

Here is Part One:

And here is Part Two:

It is certainly an interesting premise, and the CGI animation is certainly pretty good. Enjoy!

Olbermann's Special Comment: Republicans equal life; Democrats equal death?

I've already commented on Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's comments about how American will be at risk for another terrorist attack if a Democrat is elected President. But I do want to include Keith Olbermann's Special Comment here regarding Giuliani. First, here is the April 25, 2007 YouTube video of Olbermann reporting the Giuliani story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

Now let's get to the Special Comment from Olbermann. From YouTube:

And here is the transcript of Olbermann's Special Comment:

Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center, and the breaking of what Sen. Barack Obama has aptly termed “9/11 fever,” it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history’s great ironies.

Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.

And now, that mayor — whose most profound municipal act in the wake of that nightmare was to suggest the postponement of the election to select his own successor — has gone even a step beyond these M.C. Escher constructions of history.

“If any Republican is elected president — and I think obviously I would be best at this — we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it.”

Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was “back ... on defense,” Mr. Giuliani continued: “But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”

He said this with no sense of irony, no sense of any personal shortcomings, no sense whatsoever.

And if you somehow missed what he was really saying, somehow didn’t hear the none-too-subtle subtext of “vote Democratic and die,” Mr. Giuliani then stripped away any barrier of courtesy, telling Roger Simon of

“America will be safer with a Republican president.”

At least that Republican president under which we have not been safer has, even at his worst, maintained some microscopic distance between himself and a campaign platform that blithely threatened the American people with “casualties” if they, next year, elect a Democratic president — or, inferring from Mr. Giuliani’s flights of grandeur in New Hampshire — even if they elect a different Republican.

How ... dare ... you, sir?

“How many casualties will we have?” — this is the language of Osama bin Laden.

Yours, Mr. Giuliani, is the same chilling nonchalance of the madman, of the proselytizer who has moved even from some crude framework of politics and society, into a virtual Roman Colosseum of carnage, and a conceit over your own ability — and worthiness — to decide who lives and who dies.

Rather than a reasoned discussion — rather than a political campaign advocating your own causes and extolling your own qualifications — you have bypassed all the intermediate steps and moved directly to trying to terrorize the electorate into viewing a vote for a Democrat, not as a reasonable alternative and an inalienable right ... but as an act of suicide.

This is not the mere politicizing of Iraq, nor the vague mumbled epithets about Democratic “softness” from a delusional vice president.

This is casualties on a partisan basis — of the naked assertion that Mr. Giuliani’s party knows all and will save those who have voted for it — and to hell with everybody else.

And that he, with no foreign policy experience whatsoever, is somehow the messiah-of-the-moment.

Even to grant that that formula — whether posed by Republican or Democrat — is somehow not the most base, the most indefensible, the most un-American electioneering in our history — even if it is somehow acceptable to assign “casualties” to one party and “safety” to the other — even if we have become so profane in our thinking that it is part of our political vocabulary to view counter-terror as one party’s property and the other’s liability ... on what imaginary track record does Mr. Giuliani base his boast?

Which party held the presidency on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe and the remains of the dead recovered and not being used to fill potholes, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted — the postponement of elections — and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?

Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?

Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik’s organized crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?

Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party rode roughshod over Americans’ rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?

Drop this argument, sir.

You will lose it.

“The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us,” Mr. Giuliani continued to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner last night. “Never, ever again will this country be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us, if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense.”

There is no room for this.

This is terrorism itself, dressed up as counter-terrorism.

It is not warning, but bullying — substituted for the political discourse now absolutely essential to this country’s survival and the freedom of its people.

No Democrat has said words like these. None has ever campaigned on the Republicans’ flat-footedness of Sept. 11, 2001. None has the requisite, irresponsible, all-consuming ambition. None is willing to say “I accuse,” rather than recognize that, to some degree, all of us share responsibility for our collective stupor.

And if it is somehow insufficient, that this is morally, spiritually, and politically wrong, to screech as Mr. Giuliani has screeched, there is also this: that gaping hole in Mr. Giuliani’s argument of “Republicans equal life; Democrats equal death.”

Not only have the Republicans not lived up to their babbling on this subject, but last fall the electorate called them on it.

As doubtless they would call you on it, Mr. Giuliani.

Repeat — go beyond — Mr. Bush’s rhetorical calamities of 2006.

Call attention to the casualties on your watch, and your long, waking slumber in the years between the two attacks on the World Trade Center.

Become the candidate who runs on the Vote-For-Me-Or-Die platform.

Do a Joe McCarthy, a Lyndon Johnson, a Robespierre.

Only, if you choose so to do, do not come back surprised nor remorseful if the voters remind you that “terror” is not just a matter of “casualties.” It is, just as surely, a matter of the promulgation of fear.

Claim a difference between the parties on the voters’ chances of survival — and you do bin Laden’s work for him.

And we — Democrats and Republicans alike, and every variation in between — We Americans! — are sick to death of you and the other terror-mongers trying to frighten us into submission, into the surrender of our rights and our reason, into this betrayal of that for which this country has always stood.

Franklin Roosevelt’s words ring true again tonight.

And, clarified and amplified, they are just as current now as they were when first he spoke them, 74 years ago.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” — and those who would exploit our fear, for power and for their own personal, selfish, cynical, gain.

Good night, and good luck.

Giuliani: America will be safer with a Republican president

This is off The Politico, and I'm going to quote the entire article here:

MANCHESTER, N.H. —- Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.

“If any Republican is elected president —- and I think obviously I would be the best at this —- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what [the terrorists] will do and try to stop them before they do it,” Giuliani said.

The former New York City mayor, currently leading in all national polls for the Republican nomination for president, said Tuesday night that America would ultimately defeat terrorism no matter which party gains the White House.

“But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have?” Giuliani said. “If we are on defense [with a Democratic president], we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”

“I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense,” Giuliani continued. “We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.”

He added: “The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.”

After his speech to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner, I asked him about his statements and Giuliani said flatly: “America will be safer with a Republican president.”

Giuliani, whose past positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights have made him anathema to some in his party, believes his tough stance on national defense and his post-Sept. 11 reputation as a fighter of terrorism will be his trump card with doubting Republicans.

“This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!” Giuliani said in his speech. “Never, ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for [terrorists] to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!”

Giuliani said terrorists “hate us and not because of anything bad we have done; it has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. They hate us for the freedoms we have and the freedoms we want to share with the world.”

Giuliani continued: “The freedoms we have are in conflict with the perverted, maniacal interpretation of their religion.” He said Americans would fight for “freedom for women, the freedom of elections, freedom of religion and the freedom of our economy.”

Addressing the terrorists directly, Giuliani said: “We are not giving that up, and you are not going to take it from us!”

The crowd thundered its approval.

Giuliani also said that America had been naive about terrorism in the past and had missed obvious signals.

“They were at war with us before we realized it, going back to ’90s with all the Americans killed by the PLO and Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said. “They came here and killed us in 1993 [with the first attack on New York’s World Trade Center, in which six people died], and we didn’t get it. We didn’t get it that this was a war. Then Sept. 11, 2001, happened, and we got it.”

I've found some video of Giuliani's speech at the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner. From YouTube:

This is beyond outrageous. This is even beyond anger here. Giuliani is pulling a stale fear page out of the 2004 GOP campaign playbook, hoping to frighten Americans into voting Republican as a means of winning the Great War on Terror--the Democrats will lose The Great War on Terror if they capture the presidency! The terrorists will strike us again! America will be safer with a Republican president! Excuse me Mr. Giuliani, we already have a Republican President in the White House, and a majority of Americans disapprove of the way that Republican President George W. Bush is fighting this Great War on Terror. According to this April 26, 2007 MSNBC News poll:

[The] poll shows that 56 percent say they agree more with the Democrats in Congress who want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus the 37 percent who say they agree with Bush that there shouldn't be a deadline.

What's more, 55 percent believe that victory in Iraq isn't possible. And 49 percent say the situation in Iraq has gotten worse in the last three months since Bush announced his so-called troop surge. Thirty-seven percent say the situation has stayed about the same, and just 12 percent think it has improved.


The pessimism about the war has also likely contributed to the country's overall sour mood. According to the poll, only 22 percent believe the country is on the right track. That's the lowest number on this question since October 1992, when Bush father's was running for a second term — and lost.

So tell me Mr. Giuliani, how will America be safer with you as the Republican president, when our current Republican president has screwed up both this country, and the war in Iraq, over the past seven years? Because looking at this MSNBC poll, and the countless other polls on terrorism and Iraq, the American people have decided that the Democrats in Congress can do a better job fighting terrorism and the Iraq war than the Republicans can.

But then again, who cares about poll numbers? The Giuliani campaign will reject any facts or poll results that does not conform to their political ideology. This is a campaign speech to elicit fear within the American population--especially within the 30-36 percent of hard-lined conservatives and Religious Right that still consistently supports President Bush. Giuliani is pandering to the Kool-Aid drinking, Faux News watching, GOP base here. We have a situation here where rank-and-file Republican voters have become demoralized with their political party, and the current crop of presidential candidates. We can see this demoralization in the contradictions regarding the increased violence coming out of Iraq, and the White House fantasy PR-spin saying the U.S. is winning the war. We can see this demoralization with the continued revelations of the U.S. attorney purges, the politicalization of the federal government, and the scandals that are connecting back to Karl Rove. We can see this demoralization in the Republican voters' lack of enthusiasm over any of these current candidates, and in the GOP dream wish of having either former Tennessee senator and "Law and Order" actor Fred Thompson or even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich enter the presidential race. As the disaster in Iraq continues to get worst, as the scandals continue to plague the Bush administration, and as the Bush White House continue to descend from any sense of reality to fantasyland, you are going to see more of these outrageous, personal attacks against the Democrats by Giuliani, and the rest of the GOP.

Update: Keith Olbermann has a Special Comment on Giuliani. More to come.

Senate approves Iraq war funding bill with timetable for pullout

Well, the Senate has passed the Iraq war funding bill with the withdrawal timetable. This is from MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - A defiant Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation Thursday that would require the start of troop withdrawals from Iraq by Oct. 1, propelling Congress toward a historic veto showdown with President Bush on the war.

The 51-46 vote was largely along party lines, and like House passage of the same bill a day earlier, fell far short of the two-thirds margin needed to overturn the president’s threatened veto. Nevertheless, the legislation is the first binding challenge on the war that Democrats have managed to send to Bush since they reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in January.

“The president has failed in his mission to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq,” said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He later added: “It’s time to bring our troops home from Iraq.”

The $124.2 billion bill requires troop withdrawals to begin Oct. 1, or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks. The House passed the measure Wednesday by a 218-208 vote.

Across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told reporters the war effort likely will “get harder before it gets easier.”

And this is rather ironic:

Democrats said the bill was on track to arrive on the president’s desk by Tuesday, the anniversary of Bush’s announcement aboard the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

“The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001, and still goes on,” Bush said on May 1, 2003, in front of a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner.

You do remember Mission Accomplished--do you?

The war funding bill has passed both houses of Congress, and will be sent to the president's desk. President Bush will veto this bill. I'll even go as far to say that Bush will make it a ceremony to announce his veto, surrounded by Iraqi war veterans and current members of the U.S. military, while blaming the congressional Democrats for not funding the troops, for losing the war in Iraq, and then again demanding that Congress sends him a blank check for funding the Iraq war. This may occur either this Friday or possibly Monday--certainly next week. I'm currently watching the MSNBC coverage of this story, and MSNBC is already parroting the White House spin, saying that the Democrats have made their opposition known, now they must pass a troop funding bill that President Bush can sign, thus placing the blame of this controversy on the Democrats in Congress. That is a bunch of crap. The Democrats have passed a war funding bill for the troops. It is President Bush that refuses to provide money for the troops since this bill contains benchmarks for progress, and a timetable for withdrawal if those benchmarks have not been met. President Bush wants a blank check to fund this war, rubber-stamped by Congress. The Democrats refused to provide that rubber stamp.

That is what this fight is all about.

Update: This is just a minor observation, but Republican presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain did not vote on this war funding bill. Democratic presidential candidates Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted to approve the war funding bill.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scientists unearth Superman's 'kryptonite'

Better make sure that Superman doesn't get near this stuff. From MSNBC News:

LONDON - Kryptonite, which robbed Superman of his powers, is no longer the stuff of comic books and films.

A mineral found by geologists in Serbia shares virtually the same chemical composition as the fictional kryptonite from outer space, used by the superhero's nemesis Lex Luther to weaken him in the film "Superman Returns."

"We will have to be careful with it — we wouldn't want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!," said Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.

Stanley, who revealed the identity of the mysterious new mineral, discovered the match after searching the Internet for its chemical formula — sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide.

"I was amazed to discover that same scientific name written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film 'Superman Returns,'" he said.

The substance has been confirmed as a new mineral after tests by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the National Research Council in Canada.

But instead of the large green crystals in Superman comics, the real thing is a white, powdery substance which contains no fluorine and isn't radioactive.

The mineral, to be named Jadarite, will go on show at the London's Natural History Museum starting tomorrow.

The discovery of kryptonite brings up a new question here--since kryptonite now exists, does that mean we will soon see Superman?

You'll believe a man can fly.

House, Senate compromise on war funding bill

Well, the House-Senate negotiations have reached a compromise on the Iraq war funding bill. Here is the Washington Post article:

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on war-funding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as early as July, setting a goal of ending U.S. combat operations by no later than March.

The $124 billion bill, slated for final votes in the House and Senate tomorrow and Thursday, sets up a veto clash with President Bush by week's end. Some congressional Democrats had considered making advisory all dates for withdrawing U.S. troops in the hopes of persuading Bush to sign the bill, which Democratic leaders said provides $96 billion -- more than the White House requested -- for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with the president standing firm on his plans to veto any language on the timing of the war, Democratic leaders stuck to binding dates for initial troop pullouts.

And here are the details of this war funding bill:

The legislation would maintain House-passed language that set strict requirements for resting, training and equipping troops. But they would grant the president the authority to waive those restrictions, as long as he publicly justified the waivers.

The bill also establishes benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, including the creation of a program to disarm militias. The benchmarks also require reductions in sectarian violence, the easing of rules that purged the government of all former Baath Party members, and passage of an oil-revenue-sharing law.

Unless the Bush administration determines by July 1 that those benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home immediately, with a goal of completing those withdrawals by the end of the year. If benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home no later than Oct. 1, with a goal of completing the troop pullout by April 1.

After combat forces are withdrawn, some troops could remain to protect U.S. facilities and diplomats, pursue terrorist organizations and train and equip Iraqi security forces.

The bill does not say how fast or how large troop withdrawals would have to be, and it would allow troops to stay for training and counterterrorism missions. Democrats said that showed they were trying to force a change in strategy, not an end to the war.

The bottom line here is that President Bush will veto this bill--just as he has promised he would. Bush wants a "blank check" for this war funding bill. The Congressional Democrats have given Bush a war funding bill that contains benchmarks and withdrawal timetables if those benchmarks are failed. The Texas-style showdown between the president and the congressional Democrats is finally here.

Office of Special Counsel to investigate Rove, attorney purges

This is a major story. From The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — Most of the time, an obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel confines itself to monitoring the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.

First, the inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the splintered inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.

"We will take the evidence where it leads us," Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday. "We will not leave any stone unturned."

Bloch declined to comment on who his investigators would interview, but he said the probe would be independent and uncoordinated with any other agency or government entity.

This is big. The Office of Special Counsel was previously involved in investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Now the office is directly looking into Karl Rove's activities, and especially those activities involving the attorney purges. So far, Rove has been able to avoid revealing a direct connection between himself and the White House scandals. I don't know whether Bloch will be able to snag Rove in this investigation, but it is certainly worthwhile to keep your eyes on this.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Afternoon Smackdown--Karl Rove verses Sheryl Crow

That's right! This has got to be one of the biggest smackdowns yet--President Bush's top political advisor takes on a rock and roll superstar. In the right corner, we've got our champion! He is the hard-charging, Turdblossomed, ultimate White House political advisor....Yes, we're about Bush's Brain here--Karl Rove:

Karl Rove

And the challenger--she's sexy! She's sassy! She is the nine-time Grammy winning American blues rock singer, guitarist, bassist, and songwriter! Every Day is a Winding Road for her--Sheryl Crow:

Sheryl Crow

They are in the Smackdown Ring now! And here is the bell!

Let's start with this New York Times article here:

WASHINGTON, April 22 — Put celebrity environmental activists in a room with top Bush administration officials and a meeting of the minds could result. At least that is a theoretical possibility.

The more likely outcome is that an argument will break out, as it did at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday night between Karl Rove, the president’s deputy chief of staff, and the singer Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, a major Democratic donor and a producer of the global warming documentary featuring Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Ms. Crow and Ms. David, who have been visiting campuses in an event billed as the Stop Global Warming College Tour, approached Mr. Rove to urge him to take “a fresh look” at global warming, they said later.


Ms. Crow was at the dinner as a guest of Bloomberg News. Ms. David and her husband, Larry David, a creator of “Seinfeld,” were guests of CNN. Mr. Rove was a guest of The New York Times.

The one thing all three parties agree on is that the conversation quickly became heated.

As Ms. Crow and Ms. David described it on the Huffington Post Web site on Sunday, when Mr. Rove turned toward his table, Ms. Crow touched his arm and “Karl swung around and spat, ‘Don’t touch me.’ ”

Oh what a spat! I guess the last thing you would want to do is place a sassy celebrity environmental activist with the Turdblossom himself. What is even more amazing is how Rove didn't want to be touched by Crow. What would have happened if someone as sassy and sexy as Sheryl Crow touched Karl Rove's arm--would Karl Rove's arm have burst into flaming conflagration, thus consuming Bush's Brain into the fiery depths of Hell? Come to think of it, Sheryl Crow can touch me anytime she wants!

But let's get back to our Smackdown! According to the NY Times:

Both sides agreed that Ms. Crow told him, “You can’t speak to us like that, you work for us,” to which Mr. Rove responded, “I don’t work for you, I work for the American people.” Ms. Crow and Ms. David wrote that Ms. Crow shot back, “We are the American people.”

OUCH! That left hook sent the Turdblossom down on the mat! Is Sheryl Crow an American citizen? According to Sheryl Crow's biography on her website, she was born in Missouri--that's about as country of a country gal that you can get! There are even more details in a Wikipedia biography on Crow's early life:

Crow was born Sheryl Suzanne Crow in Kennett, Missouri. Her parents were members of a local big band in which her father, an attorney, played trumpet. The family was very musical and owned three pianos. In school, she was active in the school choir, athletics, and school plays. She was a drum majorette, a member of the Pep Club, the National Honor Society, the Future Farmers of America, she was the Freshman Maid, the Senior Maid, and the Paperdoll Queen. She was a perfectionist who strove to please her parents. When her prom date was later questioned about her fame, he said that at the time he thought she "would be a doctor's wife someday". She graduated in 1984 from the University of Missouri, where she majored in music education with a concentration in piano and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, Sigma Alpha Iota, and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Looks to me like Sheryl Crow is an American citizen. And since Crow is not a convicted felon, that would mean that she is also an American voter. So Karl Rove does work for Sheryl Crow--that is, unless Rove has decided to embark on career change as rapper MC Rove. And Karl Rove certainly is a public servant. A July 11, 2006 National Journal article lists Rove's White House employment position as Assistant to the President, Deputy Chief of Staff & Senior adviser, drawing a salary of $165,200. I don't think the Republican National Committee paid for Rove's salary here--you, me, Sheryl Crown, and the rest of the American taxpayers are paying for Rove's employment. So Karl--you do work for Sheryl Crow here! And Ms. Crow has every right to criticize you and the Bush administration's failed policy on global warming. But it is obvious that you only want to listen to the 30-36 percent of Kool-aid drinking Bush supporters, Big Oil and Corporate interests--and not the rest of the American people that you supposedly claim to work for.

And our Monday Afternoon Smackdown winner is....Sheryl Crow!

But we've got more on our post-smackdown analysis. Here's the Bush White House PR-spin on our smackdown event:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Karl Rove, political strategist to President George W. Bush, just wanted to have fun at a weekend black-tie dinner, rather than debate global warming with singer Sheryl Crow, the White House said on Monday.

"I think Karl Rove just wanted to have some fun on Saturday night. And I think he wasn't the only one," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, in an apparent reference to lyrics of Crow's signature hit, "All I Wanna Do (is have some fun)."

Did Rove leave the dinner early in a huff over the confrontation? "Rove left to get in the motorcade to go home. That's what we all have to do if we're in the motorcade," she said.

"The president's record on climate change is very strong, Perino said.

Environmentalists have long assailed Bush, a former Texas oilman with close support in the industry, saying he failed to take climate change seriously.

I guess that somebody was a bad spoiled-sport here. Karl Rove just wanted to have fun, but apparently he couldn't handle a spirited debate on the Bush administration's own failed global warming policy. Not only does Rove reject the idea that he doesn't work for 2/3rds of the American public, but he stomps off as a sore loser while having the Bush White House spin another lie that Rove just wanted to go home. In fact, Karl Rove doesn't even give a quote or a comment to the press on this smackdown--the Bush White House has to provide the PR-spin. Then again, what did you expect from the Bush administration.

And as for the post-smackdown analysis from Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, let's go to The Huffington Post:

Last night Thelma and Louise drove the bus off the cliff or at least into the White House Correspondents Dinner. The "highlight" of the evening had to be when we were introduced to Karl Rove. How excited were we to have our first opportunity ever to talk directly to the Bush Administration about global warming.

We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. And it went downhill from there.

We reminded the senior White House advisor that the US leads the world in global warming pollution and we are doing the least about it. Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming which is that the US spends more on researching the causes than any other country.

We felt compelled to remind him that the research is done and the results are in ( Mr. Rove exploded with even more venom. Like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, Mr. Rove launched into a series of illogical arguments regarding China not doing enough thus neither should we. (Since when do we follow China's lead?)

At some point during his ramblings, we became heartbroken to think that the President of the United States and his top advisers have partially built a career on global warming not being real. We have been telling college students across the country for the past two weeks that government does not change until people demand it... well, listen up folks, everyone had better get a lot louder because the message clearly is not getting through.

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unfazed, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."

At that point Mr. Rove apparently decided he had had enough. Like a groundhog fearful of his own shadow, he scurried to his table in an attempt to hibernate for another year from his responsibility to address global warming. Drama aside, you would expect as an American citizen to be able to engage in a civil discussion with a public official. Instead, Mr. Rove was dismissive, condescending, and quite frankly a bully.

Ultimately, we were left wondering what on Earth Mr. Rove was talking about when he said "the American people." If more than 60% of American voters, the Supreme Court, over 400 cities, the US National Academy of Sciences, numerous major US corporations, and others don't constitute the American people, then what does? The truth is, if this administration cared one iota about the American people, they would have addressed this problem long ago, and the sad reality is that this problem has been left to us, all of us, since the current administration has abandoned this issue entirely. In the absence of true leadership, we must guide ourselves. We can solve this, but we had better act fast.

That is it for Monday Afternoon Smackdown. Join us next time for another exciting episode!

Boris Yeltsin is dead at age 76

Russian President Boris Yeltsin greets his supporters during his pre election compaign trip in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Moscow, in this Tuesday, June 11, 1996 file photo. Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy as the country's first post-Communist president, has died, a Kremlin official said Monday, April 23, 2007. He was 76. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

This is a surprise. From MSNBC News:

MOSCOW - Former President Boris Yeltsin, who hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union by scrambling atop a tank to rally opposition against a hard-line coup and later pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, died Monday at age 76.

He died of heart failure at the Central Clinical Hospital, news agencies quoted Sergei Mironov, head of the presidential administration’s medical center, as saying.

The first freely elected leader of Russia, Yeltsin was initially admired abroad for his defiance of the monolithic Communist system. But many Russians will remember him mostly for presiding over the steep decline of their nation.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, summed up Yeltsin’s complex legacy Monday by referring to him as one “on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors.”

The Kremlin said the funeral would be Wednesday, a day of national mourning, and that Yeltsin would be buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery, where many of Russia’s most prominent figures are interred.

“Thanks to Boris Yeltsin’s will and direct initiative, a new constitution was adopted which proclaimed human rights as the supreme value,” said President Vladimir Putin, who was Yeltsin’s handpicked successor. He said his former mentor “gave people a chance to freely express their thoughts, freely elect authorities.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Yeltsin “an important figure in Russian history.”

I think what is important to understand about Yeltsin is that he was one of two central figures which prompted the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev provided the real opening of the Soviet Union through his programs of Glasnost and Perestroika, hoping to change both the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union from within. What Gorbachev did was to unleash powerful social and political forces, suppressed by the Communist Party for decades, which really wanted to remove the stale, stagnant, Party system for something democratic and free. The Communist hard-liners didn't like this, and tried to remove Gorbachev in the August Putsch of 1991. It is here where Yeltsin made his mark in leading the resistance of the Soviet Coup from the Russian White House. It is here where Yeltsin made his famous speech denouncing the coup on top of a Russian tank on August 19, 1991.

Boris Yeltsin, president of Russian Federation reads a statement from atop a tank in Moscow in this Aug. 1991, file photo as he urged the Russian people to resist a hardline takeover of the central government. Seated at right is a Russian soldier covering his face. Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, has died, a Kremlin official said Monday, April 23, 2007. He was 76. (AP Photo/ file)

Here is the transcript of Yeltsin's famous speech:

Citizens of Russia: On the night of 18-19 August 1991, the legally elected president of the country was removed from power.

Regardless of the reasons given for his removal, we are dealing with a rightist, reactionary, anti-constitutional coup. Despite all the difficulties and severe trials being experienced by the people, the democratic process in the country is acquiring an increasingly broad sweep and an irreversible character.

The peoples of Russia are becoming masters of their destiny. The uncontrolled powers of unconstitutional organs have been considerably limited, and this includes party organs.

The leadership of Russia has adopted a resolute position toward the Union Treaty striving for the unity of the Soviet Union and unity of Russia. Our position on this issue permitted a considerable acceleration of the preparation of this treaty, to coordinate it with all the republics and to determine the date of signing as August 20. Tomorrow's signing has been canceled.

These developments gave rise to angry reactionary forces, pushed them to irresponsible and adventurist attempts to solve the most complicated political and economic problems by methods of force. Attempts to realize a coup have been tried earlier.

We considered and consider that such methods of force are unacceptable. They discredit the union in the eyes of the whole world, undermine our prestige in the world community, and return us to the Cold War era along with the Soviet Union's isolation in the world community. All of this forces us to proclaim that the so-called committee's ascendancy to power is unlawful.

Accordingly we proclaim all decisions and instructions of this committee to be unlawful.

We are confident that the organs of local power will unswervingly adhere to constitutional laws and decrees of the president of Russia.

We appeal to citizens of Russia to give a fitting rebuff to the putschists and demand a return of the country to normal constitutional development.

Undoubtedly it is essential to give the country's president, Gorbachev, an opportunity to address the people. Today he has been blockaded. I have been denied communications with him. We demand an immediate convocation of an extraordinary Congress of People's Deputies of the Union. We are absolutely confident that our countrymen will not permit the sanctioning of the tyranny and lawlessness of the putschists, who have lost all shame and conscience. We address an appeal to servicemen to manifest lofty civic duty and not take part in the reactionary coup.

Until these demands are met, we appeal for a universal unlimited strike.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, 1931-2007.

Monday Schoolhouse Rocks--No More Kings

This is just a wonderful song! It is Schoolhouse Rock's No More Kings.The music and lyrics were written by Lynn Ahrens, and she performed the song. What is ironic here is that Ahrens got into Schoolhouse Rock completely by accident. According to

Joining the creative team for the new segments was Lynn Ahrens, a secretary at the [McCaffrey & McCall] ad agency. One day, [McCaffrey & McCall director George] Newall spied her walking through the office with a guitar case, and when he asked her if she played, she performed for him on the spot impressing him so much that the agency made her a copywriter. Not long after, she wrote and sang on "A Noun Is a Person, Place or Thing" and several other classic SHR spots. Since then, Ahrens has gone on to earn five Tony nominations for her work on the Broadway musicals Once on This Island and My Favorite Year.

Talk about an accidental coincidence here! Had Ahrens not brought her guitar to the McCaffrey & McCall office, and Newall not been there to see her, we would not have enjoyed her beautiful music and voice on many of these Schoolhouse Rock songs.

So here is Lynn Ahrens singing No More Kings. From YouTube:

Rockin' and a-rollin', splishin' and a-splashin',
Over the horizon, what can it be?
Looks like it's going to be a free country.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thoughts on Supreme Court ruling on "partial-birth abortions"

On Wednesday April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a total ban on "partial birth abortions." Here are the details on this story through MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's conservative majority upheld a nationwide ban Wednesday on a controversial abortion procedure in a decision that sets the stage for additional restrictions on a woman's right to choose.

For the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, the justices said the Constitution permits a nationwide prohibition on a specific abortion method. The court's liberal justices, in dissent, said the ruling chips away at abortion rights.

The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

Siding with Kennedy were Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health, Kennedy said. "The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice," he wrote in the majority opinion.


In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court."


"Today's decision is alarming," Ginsburg wrote in dissent for the court's liberal bloc. She said the ruling "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.

Ginsburg said that for the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, "the court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health."

She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Now I'm not going to get into a debate as to whether this latest Supreme Court ruling is right or wrong, or whether Roe verses Wade should be overturned or not--there are plenty of bloggers that have posted their opinions on this issue from both the liberal and conservative side. And I will also say that for my own personal opinion on abortion, I am pro-choice.

My interest in this latest abortion debate is the political aspects of this Supreme Court ruling. Look at the MSNBC story again, and note which justices voted in favor of this ban--Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Alito replaced retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. O'Conner was the swing vote in deciding the Court's abortion decisions. According to Ezra Klein:

Abortion is probably the best fitting nutshell you'll find for O'Connor. She preserved the right while offering partial concessions to conservatives. She ended a bright line rule and replaced it with a vague and problematic test. in short, she let the Court swerve right while moderating how sharply it turned, and did so by reformulating the the answer so as to attract centrist support. In short, she legislated the issue out, giving everyone something but nobody much, and standing against radical change.

President Bush replaced O'Conner with a radical conservative in Justice Alito.

This brings us to the real danger on Roe verses Wade. We now have a Supreme Court that has tilted 5-4 in allowing nationwide restrictions on abortion, thus chipping away at the abortion right, and perhaps overturning Roe. Look at who the dissenting justices are on this ruling--Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. This is essentially the court's liberal wing. Justice Ginsburg is now 74 years old. The oldest Supreme Court judge is Justice Stevens, who just turned 87 last Friday. If one of these two justices die in office, or announce their retirement during the Bush administration, you can bet that President Bush will replace them with another hard-lined, conservative ideologue. It will be enough to tip the Court to the right at the point where Roe could be overturned. What is even more important is the results of the upcoming 2008 presidential elections on the Supreme Court. The 2008 presidential elections are not only about Iraq, but also the Supreme Court. The presidential candidate who succeeds George W. Bush will have the opportunity to possibly select replacements for both Justices Stevens and Ginsburg, considering that this candidate will be re-elected in the 2012 elections. If the 2008 elections are won by a Republican candidate, then you could see a Republican president replacing both Stevens and Ginsburg with hard-lined conservative ideologues, thus sending the Court to the far right where Roe would be overturned by a 7-2 vote.

I will admit that this is all speculation, but it is frightening. Remember that the Republican Party is still controlled by an alliance of PNAC neoconservatives, Religious Right evangelists, and corporate interests. The Religious Right evangelists control the social issues that make up the Republican Party's platform, and they will never approve of a pro-choice presidential candidate. The GOP presidential candidate front-runners have already praised the Court's decision to ban partial birth abortions. According to The Hill:

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who in the past has supported a woman’s right to a form of late-term abortion, Wednesday joined in the chorus of Republican presidential candidates hailing the Supreme Court decision upholding the ban of the procedure.

“The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion,” Giuliani said in a statement on the 5–4 decision. “I agree with it.”

When Giuliani ran for Senate in 2000, he said he would not vote to restrict a woman’s right to undergo the procedure.

Now, with social conservatives believed to be a major factor in the GOP primary, Giuliani joined the other top-tier Republicans in applauding the court’s ruling.

“Today, our nation’s highest court reaffirmed the value of life in America by upholding a ban on a practice that offends basic human decency,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said. “This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us.”

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) hailed the decision as “a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary.” The senator added that the ruling also “speaks to the importance of nominating and confirming strict-constructionist judges who interpret the law as it is written, and do not usurp the authority of Congress and state legislatures.”

Giuliani is suppose to be a pro-choice Republican presidential candidate, and yet he is approving of this nationwide abortion ban? If Giuliani becomes president, do you really expect him to appoint a pro-choice Supreme Court justice--especially when the Religious Right folks, such as James Dobson, will be demanding that Giuliani appoint an ideologue who will overturn Roe? The U.S. Supreme Court has been tilted to the conservative side. What the 2008 presidential elections will decide is just how conservative the Court will become. The 2008 presidential elections will decide the fate of Roe verses Wade--the fate of abortion, and the fate of a woman's right to choose.

That is what this election will be about.