Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Business Funny

The Snooze-Leader runs a column on its Business page every Monday titled "Workbytes." It's co-written by one of my former students, Larry Ballard, who works for another Gannett paper, the Des Moines Register. This week's column contained a funny truth.
Let me quote the relevant portion:

And that's where WorkBytes comes in, probably without wiping our feet.

Anyone who reads a morning newspaper -- especially those who read it at 6 and 10 -- knows there is a critical shortage of qualified candidates "impacting" every job field in America.

Had to chuckle at that first sentence..."probably without wiping our feet." Ha!

But the best line is in the next graf. A slam against those news readers called "anchors" on local TV news programs. It's true in Des Moines and it's true in Springfield. Local TV news operations often "report" whatever was in the morning newspaper. No problem with that. Well, other than the TV news reports come after the morning newspaper reports. It's always struck me as rather curious how newspaper reporters learn news a full 24 hours before some TV news reporters.

In any case, go read the column. Makes me very proud of my former student. And no, I don't think I had much to do with his writing ability. This isn't about my ego. Well, maybe a little.

Florida: America's First Police State

Police in Miami have a new plan to combat terrorism: scare the crap out of ordinary citizens.

From the Associated Press:

Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

"This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.

The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said al-Qaida and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.

Police Chief John Timoney said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami. But he said the city has repeatedly been mentioned in intelligence reports as a potential target.

Timoney also noted that 14 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the Sept. 11 attacks lived in South Florida at various times and that other alleged terror cells have operated in the area.

OK, so because certain unsavory individuals once resided in an area all those now living or visiting that area must "show their papers" to the cops on demand? For no reason other than to "let the terrorists know [the police] are out there"? Uh-huh.

Aren't Floridians allowed to carry concealed weapons and to use such weapons to defend themselves if they feel threatened? Will all armed Floridians believe a cop is a cop?

And what provision will be made for those who don't carry their papers with them? Or does Florida now require you to have some form of ID with you at all times, no exceptions? Strange when living in Europe means having more freedom than living in the US.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Missouri Is Test Site For New Guard Recruiting Idea

Is the military having such a difficult time recruiting new victims that is must resort to paying current members to convince young people to join? That's the plan the Army National Guard announced Monday it would begin testing in five states.

Missouri is one of those states, according to the Associated Press:

The Army National Guard believes its best recruiting tool is its members, and that's why it's willing to pay bonuses of up to $2,000 each to Guardsmen who persuade people to join.

The new recruiting initiative will be tested in West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and North Dakota and is expected to be expanded nationwide in five months.

Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, and West Virginia Adjutant General Allen Tackett announced the program Monday in Charleston.

Any Guardsman in the test states who recruits someone to sign up will receive a $1,000 bonus. Another $1,000 bonus will be awarded if the recruit passes basic training.

The initiative comes as recruitment nationwide is lagging for both the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army.

Anyone think the guard members will fight over who gets credit for a recruit? Anyone think guard members might push a kid into enlisting?

Ripped From 'Law & Order'

There is an episode of the TV series "Law and Order" which begins with extra bodies being discovered in a research field. Scientists have placed dead bodies in various positions and locations to study how they decay and what happens to them. A University of Northern Iowa professor wants to build such a facility in Iowa.

Details to a story Ron Davis will enjoy, from KCCI-TV in Des Moines (where I once worked):

A professor at the University of Northern Iowa wants to turn some prime Iowa pasture into a body farm, where human bodies that are buried, stuffed in car trunks or exposed to the elements can be studied.

Biological anthropology professor Tyler O'Brien said the research would provide scholars and criminalists with valuable information about human decay. He said it's information that will help investigators determine how long a body has been dead.

O'Brien is seeking a grant of about $500,000 from the National Institute of Justice and other organizations to obtain the land and set up the project.

If approved, the body farm would be just the second in the nation and closely modeled after the work pioneered by O'Brien's mentor, William Bass III, at the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center. Bass said there is a need for a second location because it is critical to study decay in different climates.

The Midwest offers a flat and open landscape exposed to wind, rain, sun, snow and extreme temperature shifts. It also offers an entirely new spectrum of plants, rodents and bugs, whose life cycle can provide clues to when someone was killed or the body was dumped.

I also taught for three years at UNI, but don't know Dr. O'Brien. I would agree that Iowa offers an open landscape exposed to the elements and extreme temperature shifts. But not all of Iowa is flat. Especially the northeastern portion, where UNI is located. Iowa farm land is great for growing corn and soybeans. Also good for beef and pork.

UNI has its share of ghost stories, including a haunted women's dorm. If this comes about, will greek pledges be expected to spend a night at the body farm as part of their initiation?

Happy F'ing Holidays

Would you believe some cheap bastard stole some of my Christmas lights? I had nice blue rope light strong from my house to a tree to my mailbox, then curled to the ground. Neat effect, very pretty. It was up for two nights. Whoever took it had to undo all that work, including disconnecting the rope light from my house, right next to my front door! Cheap bastard dropped a nearly full pack of Swisher Sweets marked with a buy one get one free coupon. Bastard.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

War Without Reason

Sorry to be such a downer today, but here's one more post about the Iraq mistake. This story reflects the true depths of depravity of Dubya's war. An Army Colonel, an expert on "ethics" commits suicide in Iraq.

From the LA Times:

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

On the Internet and in conversations with one another, Westhusing's family and friends have questioned the military investigation.

A note found in his trailer seemed to offer clues. Written in what the Army determined was his handwriting, the colonel appeared to be struggling with a final question.

How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?

Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President.

Now We're Spying on Ourselves

This is disgusting. The Pentagon is now spying on US citizens. In the US. In your town. The Washington Post has the story.

This is serious, and very disturbing.

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States, have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of Congress, who say the Defense Department's push into domestic collection is proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.

"We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview.

Read that last quote again.
"We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing."

We're supposed to have civilian oversight of military activities. We have laws like Posse Comitatus for a reason, and now the military is becoming judge, jury and executioner against Americans.

Does that sound like America to you?.

What Are We Doing in Iraq?

In his weekly radio address yesterday, Dubya said, "The military families who mourn the fallen can know that America will not forget their sacrifice, and they can know that we will honor that sacrifice by completing the noble mission for which their loved ones gave their lives." Joe in DC at AmericaBlog asks, "Does anyone know exactly what the noble mission is?"

This morning I read this from the Guardian Unlimited:

Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.

'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'

So what is the "noble mission" of which Dubya speaks? Does he know? Does anyone in his administration know? This is the question Cindy Sheehan keeps asking. It is now the question the Iraqi people are asking. Perhaps it's time for Dubya to be more specific and answer the question.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iraq Wants US to Leave

This is a big story. Will the news media play it as such? Not only do Iraq's leaders want us out, they now say it's not terrorism if you attack Americans.

From the Associated Press:

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ``legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ``calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

The conference was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians.

The Bush administration has said repeatedly that if the elected Iraqi government wanted us out, we'd leave. They now want us out. So when do our troops come home?

So will Dick Cheney call the Iraqi government reprehensible for wanting us to withdraw? Does he think that to begin withdrawing from Iraq now "would be a victory for the terrorists"? Does Jean Schmidt think they're cowards for cutting and running?

Iraq's leaders also now say it's not terrorism if you attack Americans. It's only terrorism if you attack Iraqi citizens or Iraqi "institutions."
The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

Why are we still in Iraq?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Disturbing Bush

AmericaBlog pointed us to this story in the Washington Times magazine. The Times is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican party, so it's unusual for them to criticize Bush.

A highlight:

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, administration sources say. The president's reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

Matt Drudge adds:
The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

Sounds like Dubya's having a meltdown. Kind of scary he's running the country, ain't it?

Is Dubya Drinking Again?

There is a great deal of speculation on this. Crooks and Liars provides some video evidence. Sure sounds and looks like Bush has fallen off the wagon. Particularly watch the last bit when Bush steps off Marine One. He normally makes a big deal of his snappy "I was in the National Guard" salute. This time, it looks to me like he's mocking himself. Then watch what he does with Laura. Drunk?

Dubya Plagiarizes Himself

OK, maybe you can't really plagiarize yourself. But Dubya's Vet's Day yelling at America had an amazing ring to it. Seems like we heard it before. SadlyNo proves we had. Wish the mainstream media would start checking and reporting these things. Maybe they'd finally quit covering every one of Dubya's staged events like it was something new instead of the repeat it so often is.

Make Up Your Own Caption

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Iowan's Elect 18-year-old Mayor

Tuesday's election included the mayor of Roland, Iowa, a town of 1300 people. Samuel Juhl lives with his parents, has little work experience, and is still in high school. He takes office in January for a two-year term. And who says young people don't care about politics?

Patriot Act May Be Limited

The Associated Press is reporting that Congress is looking to curb some of the Patriot Act. It won't allow the Patriot Act to expire, but it finally will allow legal challenges to "national security letters giving the government secret access to people's phone and e-mail records, financial data and favorite Internet sites."

Under the 2001 law, the FBI reportedly has been issuing about 30,000 national security letters annually, a hundred-fold increase since the 1970s, when they first came into existence under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

We don't personally know anyone for whom the FBI has issued a national security letter. But then, we have no way of knowing if we know someone for whom the FBI has issued a national security letter. That's one of the worst parts of the Patriot Act (horribly, disrepectfully named): you don't know if you're being investigated, for what, or why, and most importantly, there's nothing you can do about it if and when you find out.

We use to refer to this as a Police State in communist countries.

And don't pull out that BS about one shouldn't be worried if one has nothing to hide. If you truly believe that, I'd like to see your financial records, a list of all the web sites you have visited, your social security number, and a list of all videos you've rented in the past five years.

What's that? It's none of my business? If you have nothing to hide, why won't you share that information with me and the rest of the world? By the way, when may I come inspect your house?

Checks and balances. The founders of our country believed they were extremely important. Why don't Republicans?

Majority of Americans Say Bush Lied Deliberately

...according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Indeed, Iraq — which has emerged as the public’s top priority in the poll — has become a particularly thorny issue for Bush. Fifty-seven percent believe he deliberately misled people to make the case for war, compared with 35 percent who say he gave the most accurate information he had. In addition, 58 percent are less confident the war will come to a successful conclusion, and 57 percent say the United States should reduce the number of U.S. troops there.

Anybody want to place a bet on when the next terror alert will be issued?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Did Bond Leak CIA Torture Info?

On November 2, the Washington Post carried an explosive front-page story about secret Eastern European prisons set up by the CIA for the interrogation of terrorism suspects. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert subsequently called for a Congressional investigation into who leaked information to the Post.

Then Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) revealed that the leak likely came from a Senator or Senate staffer.

Speculation now is on which Republican Senator might have been the source of the leak. [here and here] One name that comes up is that of Missouri's Kit Bond. Why? He's one of the nine senators who voted in favor of torture by voting against the McCain amendment.

We kind of hope Bond was the leaker. But as much fun as it is to watch Republicans eat their own, we're disappointed that the story is shifting from the fact that the United States is engaging in torture to who leaked the info.

There is hope as at least one Republican senator gets what's important. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails.

Side note: Frist seems to have a memory lapse on whether he actually signed the letter calling for the investigation. Curious how his story changed once it started becoming clear a Republican leaked the information to the WaPo.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I may not be a marketing genious, but I think KSFX's latest NEWS promotion spots are stupid. They show the anchors lip-synching the station's "theme" song. "Just you watch, Ozarks Fox." Whatever the hell that means. Why are the NEWS ANCHORS lip-synching this little ditty?

An attempt to appeal to a young demographic?

Maybe if local TV stations quit trying to attract young people as viewers by dumbing-down content and just reported the news, audience numbers wouldn't be so low.

Perhaps if advertisers quit demanding such actions and instead targeted their ads to the demographic that actually watches the news (or would, if the newscasts weren't so flippant, stupid, and irrelevant), television news departments could get back to doing their job--reporting the news.

Whatever happened to that concept?

Matt Blunt's Approval Ratings Below Bush

According to Survey USA, Blunt remains the third least-popular governor in the U.S. with a 33 percent job approval rating. Both Missouri Senators (Bond & Talent) have approval ratings above 50 percent (55 and 51 percent, respectively). Talent's numbers are worth watching as we approach the 2006 mid-terms.

Bush Approval Hits New Low

This isn't breaking news, but I thought it would be good to look at Bush's approval ratings in light of Tuesday's election. These ratings were all reported prior to the election.

A CBS News poll put Bush's approval at a new low: 35 percent.

The latest Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey puts Bush's approval at 36 percent.

That's still higher than Nixon during Watergate. And it's nearly as low as Carter at the end of his presidency.

In Missouri, Bush's approval rating (as of Oct. 17th) stood at 39 percent, down 7 percent since June. At that time, only six states gave Bush approval ratings above 50 percent: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Twenty-five states have Bush below 40 percent. That includes
New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio; states which voted FOR Bush in 2004.

Perhaps Tuesday's election results aren't so surprising, given these numbers.

Bush "Referendum" Fails. Big Time.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a story saying the White House saw the Virginia Governor's election as a referendum on Pres. Bush.

Bush's election-eve foray to Richmond to rally behind Republican Jerry W. Kilgore inserted him into the hottest election of the off-year cycle and will test his ability to energize his party's base voters, according to strategists from both parties. Even in a traditionally Republican-leaning state such as Virginia, polls register disenchantment with Bush's leadership, and Kilgore has had trouble running against national headwinds.

Tuesday election results clearly show the Bush referendum failed. Miserably. Just like his presidency. It wasn't just the Virginia governor's race. Democrats had a really big day yesterday with convincing governor victories in Virginia and New Jersey.

"Intelligent Design" proponents were SLAUGHTERED as voters in Dover, Penn. threw out EVERY SINGLE ONE of the wacko Republican anti-evolution wingnuts who were sitting on the school board. Now that's a mandate.

The St. Paul, Minn. mayor who supported Bush in 2004 was crushed by a REAL Democrat.
The St. Paul race was overshadowed by partisan fury over Kelly's decision to endorse President Bush for reelection in 2004. A number of polls showed Kelly fighting a backlash in the largely DFL town over the endorsement. A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll showed that nearly two-thirds of likely voters said Kelly's decision to campaign for Bush influenced their choice of candidate.

In California, Ahnold was handed a serious slap as well, with all four of his ballot initiatives (Props 74-77) losing.

In Tucson, Ariz., Democrats defeated two Republicans and reverted the city council to Democratic control.

Yesterday was a nice start and sets an excellent tone for the 2006 midterm election.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Local TV Host Can't Pronounce Kiosk

Doubt me? Watch the "All Around Home Shopping Showcase" on Mediacom Channel 14. The host cannot pronounce the word kiosk. He consistently pronounces it Key-Hosk. On one show he compounds the problem by referring to multiple kiosks as "Key-Hosk-Is".

The show runs every day at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Production values are horrible. The host makes inane comments. He can't remember addresses of the businesses. And sometimes the demonstrations don't work.

Local TV never looked so good. Not.

Hyperactivity or Commentary?

Think your kid is hyperactive? Watch this video of a WBAL-TV midday newscast when Mikey came to visit. (thanks to KCCI-TV for the video)

Of course, one might interpret Mikey's behavior as a commentary on the state of local television news.

Cheney Okayed Torture, News Media Yawn

I continue to be disappointed by the mainstream news media. Former Bush administration insider Lawrence Wilkerson dropped another bombshell yesterday. On NPR yesterday, the former chief of staff to the secretary of state said that he had uncovered a "visible audit trail" tracing the practice of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers directly back to Vice President Cheney's office.

Here's the audio of Wilkerson's interview with Steve Inskeep.

Majority of Americans Want Bush Impeached

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Friday Beagle Blogging: Blankey Edition

Baxter napping with his favorite blanket. Yes, he turned his back on me when I got ready to take the photo. I'm telling you, the dog knows what's going on.