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  • June 30, 2005

    Tour de France Preview - Part 2

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    Yesterday we looked at the race basics, the field and the contenders for the general classification (GC). Today we will look at the stages, tactics, and how the race might unfold. The stages consist of:

    • two individual time trials
    • one team time trial
    • eight flat road stages
    • six mountain stages
    • and four transitional stages that have significant climbs, but avoid the true mountains
    Traditionally, the GC will be decided in the time trials and the mountains. The sprinters will contend for the flat stages, and the breakaway artists will try their legs out on the transitional stages.

    The race starts July 2nd with a 19km individual time trial. This short time trial is flat and does not have many technical turns. It is the first chance for the riders contending for the overall to take time from their rivals. Lance Armstrong will be favored, although several of the other GC contenders could also win. Armstrong and Jan Ullrich will want to do well on this stage. Riders like Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo will be looking to limit their losses.

    After stage one, you can take the vacation we talked about yesterday as only the team time trial will interrupt a series of stages unlikely to affect the overall. Stages two and three are flat stages. There will be some early breakaways of riders from small teams going out to leads of several minutes. Because these riders are working hard and are out there alone you will begin to root for them. In the last 50 kilometers, however, they will be reeled in by the group (to your disappointment) and the race will come down to a sprint for the finish line. Don’t be disappointed. After a while you will appreciate the beauty with which the main group, ambling along unconcerned, turns it on just in time to reel in the last of the escapees with 10km or so to go. You will also then appreciate the breakaway artist who has enough gas left in the tank to leave his fellow escapees and hold off the group to win by a minute as occasionally happens.

    Stage four is the team time trial. The riders compete as teams for time bonuses depending on their order of finish. The time of the team is the time of their fifth place rider. Any riders who do not finish with the team get their actual time up to a loss limit. This is a very important stage as the GC contenders can take time from their rivals again. The team that is now Discovery Channel has traditionally done well on this stage, but with two new riders, they may lose some time this year. If they do lose time in this stage, it will be a sign of some weakness in Armstrong’s armor.

    Stages five, six and seven are likely to be sprint finishes with the possibility of a breakaway on stage five.

    Stage eight features the first serious climb of the Tour, it is only a Category 2 climb, but it is near the end of the stage. Most likely the stage will be won by a long breakaway, with the sprinters teams disinterested in chasing because of the finishing climb. With the serious mountains only a rest day away, the teams contending for the GC will also not be interested in chasing a breakaway. Don’t be surprised if the breakaway wins by anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. The GC contenders will undoubtedly hit the climb very hard, and if anybody is having a bad day or is not paying attention, they could lose time on the stage.

    Stage nine features a Category 1 climb 54 km from the finish that should split the field. The riders who make it over the summit together will ride hard the last 54km, all downhill, to keep the field apart to the finish. For the GC riders, this stage is more of an opportunity to lose time than to gain it. It is unlikely that a rider from the main group going over the summit alone can holdout for 54km. It is equally unlikely that a rider dropped on the climb will get back to the main group without a lot of help.

    After a rest day, the real Tour begins. Stage ten (on July 12th) features two Category 1 climbs and the first mountaintop finish. The first climb will split the field. The second climb will separate the contenders from the pretenders. If Armstrong or Ullrich has the lead going into this stage, look for them to react to the other riders attacks or lack thereof. If a rider like Iban Mayo has good form, this will be the first stage to show it. If he is to contend, Mayo will need to gain time on mountaintop finishes like this one. Look for the true climbers to attack hard on the final climb in an attempt to drop Ullrich and Armstrong, or alternately, for Ullrich or Armstrong to establish themselves as the favorite.

    Stage eleven features two brutal Hors Categorie (beyond categorization) climbs followed by a 40km fast downhill to the finish. Only the best of the climbers will stay together on this stage, and it’s possible we will see a climber break away on the first climb and stay away all the way to finish. This stage should pretty well establish the pecking order for the contenders.

    Stages twelve and thirteen give a break to the riders as the first is a transitional stage likely to be won by a breakaway, and the second is a flat stage that will go to one of the sprinters who has survived the mountains.

    Stage fourteen heads back into the mountains with another Hors Categorie climb followed by a mountaintop finish on a Category 1. By the end of this stage the list of contenders should be down to 2 or 3 riders, or possibly just 1.

    Stage fifteen is a brutal stage. There is a Category 2 climb, then four Category 1 climbs, and finally a mountaintop finish on the Hors Categorie Pla d’Adet. For the GC riders this stage is so difficult, it will either be very conservative, with all the contenders waiting for the final climb to attack, or it will be epic, with someone escaping on one of the early climbs, a la Marco Pantani in 1998, and trying to hold out to the end. Don’t be surprised if one or more of the contenders lose several minutes on this stage.

    Stage sixteen is the final mountain stage, featuring the Hors Categorie Col d’Aubisque followed by a 70km descent to the finish. This stage will probably not shake up the GC standings with the climb so far from the finish, and only a small group likely to make it over the summit intact.

    Stage seventeen is a flat stage that should go to one of the sprinters.

    Stage eighteen is a transitional stage that should impact the overall standings only if a rider or his team are too weak after the mountains to defend on a short, but steep, climb at the very end of the stage.

    Stage nineteen is another transitional stage that will likely go to one of the sprinters.

    Stage twenty is the final chance for the contenders to gain time on their rivals. It is a 55km individual time trial that features a Category 3 climb in the middle of it. This will not be to the liking of Jan Ullrich who would prefer a longer, flatter time trial in which he would stand to gain more time. The climbers will need to have gained several minutes to hold off the time trialists for the overall title. At the end of this stage, victory will be assured for someone.

    Stage twenty is a flat stage into Paris ending with eight laps on the Champs Elysees. It is a prestigious stage that all the surviving sprinters will contest.

    So that’s the race. How will it shake out? Armstrong will try hard to get a lead on his GC rivals after the first time trial and the team time trial. If he does so, his team will ride very hard up front to discourage attacks, and he will be able to pick and choose when to follow or attack as his rivals will need to gain time on him and not vice versa. If he is in good form, he will counter the attacks in the mountains, allow no one to escape, and increase his lead in the final time trial ending with a seventh win. This is the formula that has won him six Tours already. So how can he be beat?

    The first way Armstrong could be beat is by a better version of himself. The only rider in the Tour that has ever shown that form is Ullrich. If Ullrich can out time trial Armstrong and stay with him in the mountains, he can win.

    The second way Armstrong could be beat is with some sound team tactics. Several teams have multiple riders who could contend for the overall. If they send one of those riders up the road on the attack they can force Armstrong to react or risk losing time to a legitimate contender. This is a tried and true tactic that has been used amazingly little against Armstrong at the Tour, although when it has, such as with Vinokourov in 2003, it has put Armstrong in trouble. Discovery Channel’s main defense against this will be to ride so hard such attacks are just not possible. Additionally, the other teams will have to work together and not against each other. Armstrong’s team has been very good at finding allies in the past to carry some of the workload.

    Third, Armstrong could be beat by a pure climber. The Tour has not been kind to the pure climbers in recent history, with only Lucien van Impe in 1976, Marco Pantani in 1998, and maybe to a lesser extent Pedro Delgado in 1988 (you gotta like a guy who shows up late to the start of the Tour de France) winning this way. These guys can win because if their form is good, there is no defense against them. Your team can have 9 riders or 900, it doesn’t matter. When one of these guys attacks in the mountains, all the other riders can do is watch and hope they limit their losses. The only rider in the field who has shown that ability in the mountains is Iban Mayo, and his form is suspect heading into this year’s Tour.

    Fourth, simple aggression could win the Tour. The Tour has been kind to riders who take risks and go for it. Being aggressive forces other teams and riders to choose whether or not they want to chase you and potentially weaken themselves against other attacks. The two riders who fit this profile are Vinokourov and Valverde. Look for one or both of these guys to attack whenever they feel good.

    Finally, fortune and the weather could play a role. Armstrong has never had bad luck such as a bad crash or a flat tire halfway up a mountain in this race. In addition several of his rivals have experienced bad luck over the years. An incident beyond his control could cause him to lose time. As to the weather, Armstrong has shown that extreme heat, like the Tour had in 2003, can bother him. A really hot day on say, stage fifteen, could lead to a disaster. Alternately, a cold rainy stretch could leave him vulnerable to a virus or infection, leaving him weakened.

    So who do I think will win? I think T-Mobile and Jan Ullrich will finally get some redemption at the Tour. I just think Ullrich is in good form, and his team is capable of, and serious about, helping him win. Who do I hope wins? A win by Iban Mayo would be great, and the way he would have to win would be spectacular to watch. Alternately a miraculous comeback by Joseba Beloki would be cool, or a super aggressive Valverde would also be fun to watch. My sentimental favorite is Francisco Mancebo (pictured above), as this is the guy I most resemble when I’m riding (without the speed or climbing ability of course).

    So have fun watching the Tour, and hopefully I’ll keep you updated with some insightfully biased commentary. P.S. It has been suggested that people may have a lot of basic questions, so go ahead and shoot. I’ll answer everything I can.

    Read more about the Tour de France

    Posted by BVBigBro at 08:39 AM | Comments (7)

     

    June 29, 2005

    Tour de France Preview - Part 1

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    (Please welcome BVBigBro as a new contributor to Dummocrats. As many of you have probably guessed, BV is indeed one of my big brothers. Although he's a man of many interests, BV's first few contributions will be about the upcoming Tour de France. -Kris)

    Saturday starts the Fourth of July weekend. In addition to celebrating our independence from Great Britain, the 4th or thereabouts annually marks the start of that most American of sporting events: the Tour de France. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, who cares? Well I do, and you should too. In reality the Tour has almost everything an American audience could want; finely tuned athletes, brutal physical requirements, hotly contested finishes, high technology, beautiful scenery, the occasional spectacular crash, for the last six years an American winner, and if you attend in person you can watch for free. It has everything but cheerleaders. Instead you’ll have to settle for a weirdo in a devil costume. Best of all, it lasts three weeks and you don’t have to watch every second of it. You can go to the fridge and get a beer without missing anything. For that matter, if you time it right you can go on a short vacation and not miss anything. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the stages and how the race should develop, and tell you when you can take the vacation. Today, I’ll go over the race basics, the teams, and the contenders.

    The Race

    This years Tour consists of 21 stages. Each individual stage is a race unto itself and is considered a major win for any of the riders. There are two individual time trials, one team time trial, and the rest are road stages varying from flat to mountainous. In addition to having individual stage winners, the Tour awards prizes and jerseys to the best sprinter (the green jersey), the best climber (the polka dot jersey), best young rider(the white jersey), and finally the general classification (GC) also known as the overall (the yellow jersey). The big one is the GC and this is the one that Lance Armstrong has won six times. The GC winner is the person who has the lowest overall time for the combined 21 stages.

    The Teams and Contenders

    This year's tour will be contested by 21 teams of nine riders each. Some of these teams are contenders, others are low budget affairs that will just fill out the field. The teams are:

    AG2R Prevoyance: This is a French team that has one rider, Jean Patrick Nazon, who might win a stage, otherwise this team has nothing.

    Bouygues Telecom: Another French team that has a rider, Thomas Voeckler, who held the yellow jersey for a time last year. Look for them to do nothing this year.

    Cofidis: Another French team, that has one rider, Stuart O’Grady, who could compete for the green jersey and some stages. David Moncoutie is an OK climber, but he should be easily outclassed by this field.

    Credit Agricole: Yet another French team that has two riders, Thor Hushovd and Jan Kirsipuu who should compete for some flat stages. If you haven’t figured it out yet, French cycling is dead.

    CSC: The first of our contenders. CSC has a young Italian, Ivan Basso, who finished third last year and is picked by many people to win this year. This team also has Americans Bobby Julich and David Zabriskie, Norwegian Kurt Asle-Arvese, German Jens Voight and a great Spanish climber, Carlos Sastre. This is a real strong team that ought to finish high in the team time trial and be able to support Basso throughout the tour. Basso can climb with anybody, but although he has improved, he is not a strong time trialist. The big question is whether or not he can avoid bad days like the one in which last month’s Giro d’Italia where he lost 42 minutes on a single stage. If he avoids the bad days, and he team focuses on just him winning, he will finish in the top three again. If you are watching on TV, these will be the guys in the red and white jerseys.

    Davitamon Lotto: A Belgian team that has an Australian, Robbie McEwen, who will be one of the favorites for the green jersey.

    Domina Vacanze: An Italian team that should do nothing.

    Discovery Channel: This is the team of Lance Armstrong and the favorite to win it again. The biggest question is whether Armstrong, who is retiring after the race, is really motivated to win. If he is, he will contend again, if he is not, it should be evident the first time the race enters the mountains. There are no secrets about what this team will do. They will ride solely in support of Armstrong winning the overall.

    There are two big changes to this team. Gone are Slava Ekimov and Floyd Landis. They have been replaced by Paolo Savoldelli and Yaroslav Popovych. Savoldelli has won the Giro twice, is an excellent overall rider, and is the best descender in the world. He could help Armstrong on some of the descents if he can stay with him on the climbs. Popovych is a young rider with a lot of potential, but this is his first Tour. The concern here is that neither is as good a time trialist as Landis or Ekimov. Look for this team to possibly lose time in the team trial this year, an event this team has traditionally dominated.

    On a fashion note, this team will have the ugliest jerseys in the race. It’s a combination blue, white and gray thing that is both boring and hideous. Their otherwise beautiful Trek bikes are equally ugly in the team colors. Given that Discovery Channel is the sponsor, you’d think this would have been a natural for some fashion / art reality show to take a crack at, but then what do I know.

    Euskaltel Euskadi: This is a Basque team that could bring some fireworks to the Tour, but has some question marks. Their main riders will be Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia. Both have done well at the Tour and elsewhere. Mayo won just about everything he raced last year before the Tour. In the Tour he crashed and then got mono and dropped out. This year he has raced little and looked less than spectacular. The theory is he was over raced last year. Mayo is also only an average time trialist. Mayo has planned his whole year around this one race, so he should be motivated. When he is in good form, he is the best climber in the world, capable of dropping the rest of the field, and thus capable of winning the race in the mountains. Anything less than a top three finish will be a disappointment for him. Zubeldia is also an excellent overall rider, but he has been plagued by knee injuries and has not shown that he is fully recovered. Inigo Landaluze won one of the big Tour warm ups, and could contend for some stages, but he will be riding strictly in support of Mayo. You will recognize them in the race from their orange jerseys and from their legion of fans in the Pyrenees similarly decked out in orange.

    Fassa Bortolo: This is the team of the great sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. Unfortunately, Petacchi will not be in the race. Look for Juan Antonio Flecha to take a stage or two and give us that cool victory salute of shooting an arrow into the crowd.

    Francais des Jeux: Another French team. This one has two good sprinters, Brad McGee and Baden Cooke who could contend for some stages.

    Gerolsteiner: American Levi Leipheimer will lead this team, but don’t expect him to do too much. Davide Rebellin should contend for some road stages.

    Illes Balears: With Francisco Mancebo, Vladimir Karpets, and Alejandro Valverde, this team will threaten everywhere. They do an excellent team time trial as well. Mancebo is an interesting rider. You will recognize him as the rider who has his head cocked to one side when he is climbing or hurting. He is very consistent, though, and has gotten better every year at the Tour. Look for him to try and attack in the mountains and to be in the top five or six at the end of the race. Valverde is the great unknown. He is sort of a jack of all trades, master of none, but very good at the all part. That being said, he will be a marked man early in the race, but he could prove a useful decoy for Mancebo.

    Lampre Caffita: This is the team of Gilberto Simoni and the young phenom Damiano Cunego. Because neither one of them will be racing the Tour, this team will be nine guys going through the motions.

    Liberty Seguros: Roberto Heras, who used to ride for Lance, will lead this team. He has won the Vuelta twice and can climb with anybody. Joseba Beloki was once a great rider, but has never recovered from a really bad crash at the Tour in 2003. Heras will have to be in the best form of his life to even crack the top five.


    Liquigas – Bianchi: This team should do nothing.

    Phonak: This is a strong team with Floyd Landis, Santiago Botero and Robert Hunter. They can time trial with anybody, climb very good, and should contend for some high places in the GC. If Botero or Landis are at their best, they could contend for a top three spot.

    Quick Step: Tom Boonen will be favored to take several flat stages with no Petacchi in the race. This team should not contend for the overall although Michael Rogers could surprise.

    Rabobank: Denis Menchov should crack the top ten overall, and Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker could take stages.

    Saunier Duval: A low budget team that shouldn’t contend for the GC, but races hard and has several good climbers. Because they race hard without really threatening anyone for the overall, they could put a rider into the top ten and possibly win a stage.

    T-Mobile: Jan Ullrich heads up what is the strongest team on paper. With Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Kloden and Oscar Sevilla supporting him, he will have no excuses. The most notable name regarding their roster for the Tour is Erik Zabel. Zabel, who has won and contended for the green jersey several times, will not be riding the Tour this year. That means this team has finally committed to just supporting Ullrich for the overall. The big question, though is Ullrich himself. Ever since winning the Tour in 1997, he has been overweight or injured; losing to Marco Pantani in 1998 and then Lance Armstrong. This year, Ullrich looks to be in much better shape. If that is the case, then he can climb with Armstrong, and beat him in the time trials. If not, he will be dropped in the mountains yet again.

    So that’s the field. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the race and how it should all shake out.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 11:51 AM | Comments (10)

     

    Where Have You Gone, Scott Klug?

    [Posted by ]

    The other day James linked to a comment on Volokh that pointed out that the phrase "principled conservative Republican" is in danger of turning into a term that has become unmoored from its etymology.

    Recent events make me think they may be on to something. Whatever happened to those impassioned, principled Republicans who won over the country in 1994 with the Contract with America? Luckily for me, Save the GOP has the answers. Of the 74 members of the famed Republican House freshman class of 1994, only 30 are still in the House, while another six have moved on to the Senate and two are Governors. But many, like my own former Representative, Scott Klug (that's right folks, Madison elected a Republican), have disappeared from politics. It makes me ask another question: is there a place in politics for a principled conservative Republican? I'm afraid the answer may be "No".

    The Class of '94 came into Congress full of energy, new ideas and promises to fulfill. While many of the Contract's bills passed the House, few passed the Senate and even if they did, they still faced Bill Clinton's veto pen (his pen is mightier than a sword - anyone get the Tommy Thompson reference?). Even though American voters seemingly gave the Republicans a mandate for their agenda, they still couldn't push it through.

    I think this caused a lot of good men and women, like Scott Klug, to become disillusioned. Too many of their fellow Congressmen and women were more concerned with their own re-election than with articulating any ideas for America. This atmosphere of entrenchment and political careerism drove away those people who wanted to go to Congress not to start a career, but rather to start a movement back to the ideals of Conservatism expressed by the likes of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Sadly, it may be that a person with principles is out of place in the US Capitol.

    I think the only way to stop this, to stop the good people from giving up on government, is to actually implement Congressional term limits. No one talks about this anymore (probably because McCain/Feingold already solved all of our electoral problems ;-), but it would be one big step towards making sure that our elected officials are in office for us as much as they are in it for themselves.

    Posted by at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

     

    June 28, 2005

    Disapproval Ratings From The Right

    [Posted by ]

    Gerry Daly has more news on President Bush's falling approval ratings. In the latest CNN poll, his worst numbers actually came on the issue of Social Security. Most analysis I've read on Presidential polling in general says that high disapproval ratings are a reaction to the President's policies. So, in other words, they'll claim that this latest poll shows that Americans disagree with the President's plans on Social Security.

    But I'd like to offer another explanation. I disapprove of the President's job on Social Security. Not necessarily because I don't want Americans to have access to private accounts, but rather because he's given up on the issue lately. Same thing with Iraq. I disapprove of the way the President has wavered at times. I think he's in danger of going soft on the War on Terror. That's not why I voted for him.

    Why do pollsters assume that Americans would disapprove of the President over the very policies they just elected him for, rather than disapprove of the fact that, even though he's been given a Republican Congress to work with, he's done damn little? Isn't it likely that some of the new folks that are ticked at the President come from the right?

    The administration should realize that if they want the President's ratings to rebound they don't need to move to the left. They don't need to abandon the things he ran on. They don't even really need to articulate their vision better. They just need to do something. A few good deeds would go a long way.

    Posted by at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

     

    June 27, 2005

    Reality Based?

    [Posted by Laura]

    I'm not sure how liberals get away with calling themselves "reality based" in light of recent events. Ted Kennedy's quagmire description (evidently any situation more dangerous than bailing out of a sinking car) can't be applied to Iraq by any person with reasonable command of the facts - something that takes about 2 hours of Chrenkoff and milblog reading to acquire. He has personally managed to avoid that, but blog readership is way up, which is certainly good news for conservatives. General Casey tried to speak truth to power but I don't think Kennedy got it.

    Congressional Reps visited Gitmo, Sheila Jackson Lee for the third time. (They really enjoyed the food, by they way.) Baldilocks debunks the concept that our troops tidied up the party mess before mom and dad came home, and the idea that "progress" has been made in reducing prisoner abuse. If Lee saw abuse worth reporting on her first two visits, where were the headlines then? The vast right wing media conspiracy must have covered it up.

    And finally, Ellen "I'm not a lawyer but I saw one on TV," Tauchser certainly sets the standard for what I'd expect out of my congressional representation. You betcha.

    I have to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Dems do in the 2006 and 2008 elections. As Shrek said, they're going the right way for a smacked bottom.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 10:05 PM | Comments (24)

     

    June 26, 2005

    Ronald Reagan: Our Greatest American

    [Posted by ]

    I caught the end of the Discovery Channel's Greatest American show tonight. We voted Ronald Reagan as our Greatest American over (in order) Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

    As regular readers know, George Washington won our greatest American competition, although both Reagan and Lincoln gave him a run for his money in the "Politicians" category.

    I love Reagan, but I would have voted for Washington. I feel like he was punished for owning slaves, even though he freed them all by the time he died. Of course, I can't condone that, but I hate to see a "greatest American" competition come down to the same old anti-"dead white male" crap that started the whole PC and campus diversity movements.

    Anyway, back to Reagan. I think he's certainly worthy of consideration as our greatest citizen. He was, in my opinion, the greatest President of the 20th century, as Washington and Lincoln were the greatest Presidents of the 19th and 18th centuries respectively.

    Don't let people mislead you into thinking that Reagan's greatest accomplishment was something like "restoring optimism to America". He did that, but he also freed 50 million people trapped behind the Iron Curtain, revitalized America's economy, effectively advocated the virtues of small government and promoted individual freedom. And, beyond all of that, he was a good and decent man. He wasn't perfect, but America is lucky to have had him in our midst.

    I guess all those Reagan voters really did win one for the Gipper this time ;-)

    Posted by at 09:17 PM | Comments (8)

     

    101 Great Presidential Quotes

    [Posted by ]

    In the spirit of the endless AFI lists, I thought I'd put together a list of my 101 favorite Presidential quotes. Note that these quotes aren't necessarily from when the individual was President, but rather something they said (or wrote) throughout their lifetime.

    I'd tried to pick some that are inspirational, some that are practical, some that are topical and some that are just plain goofy. The top five quotees are:

    1. Ronald Reagan with 16 quotes
    2. Thomas Jefferson with 10
    3. Theodore Roosevelt with 9
    4. Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower with 8 each

    Let the listing commence:

    101. I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.
    -Jimmy Carter

    100. I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. I am President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.
    -George H. W. Bush

    99. Give me a one-handed economist! All my economics say, ''On the one hand… on the other.''
    -Harry Truman

    98. Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.
    -John F. Kennedy

    97. Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    96. Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.
    -Lyndon Johnson

    95. For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the unplowed ground.
    -Lyndon Johnson

    94. It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquillity and occupation which give happiness.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    93. A radical is a man with both feet firmly planted in the air.
    -Franklin Roosevelt

    92. Don't foul, don't flinch. Hit the line hard.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    91. There is no victory at bargain basement prices.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    90. We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
    -Ronald Reagan

    89. If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that 9 will run into the ditch before they reach you.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    88. If you want to make enemies, try to change something.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    87. History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    86. If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and the white notes together.
    -Richard Nixon

    85. How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.
    -Ronald Reagan

    84. No one ever listened themselves out of a job.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    83. In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    82. Yet we can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time. No one can have his own way all the time, and no one is right all the time.
    -Richard Nixon

    81. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    -John F. Kennedy

    80. Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.
    -William Taft

    79. There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.
    -Ronald Reagan

    78. For of those to whom much is given, much is required.
    -John F. Kennedy

    77. There is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed with what is right in America.
    -Bill Clinton

    76. The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.
    -Ronald Reagan

    75. Pessimism never won any battle.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    74. When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer ''present'' or ''not guilty.''
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    73. Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
    -George Washington

    72. The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    71. There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.
    -John Adams

    70. We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    69. We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies
    -George W. Bush

    68. I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    67. Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    66. Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.
    -Ronald Reagan

    65. Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.
    -George Washington

    64. To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    63. There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.
    -Ronald Reagan

    62. I not only use all the brains I have but all I can borrow.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    61. The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    60. As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    59. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    -Ronald Reagan

    58. Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    57. In politics the middle way is none at all.
    -John Adams

    56. No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!
    -Ronald Reagan

    55. Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
    -John Adams

    54. Towering genius disdains a beaten path.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    53. In matters of principals, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    52. Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
    -George Washington

    51. No man needs sympathy because he has to work. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    Oh, we're halfway there. Oh! Oh! Living on a prayer. I hope you enjoyed that short musical interlude. Now it's time for the top 50.

    50. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    49. My country owes me nothing. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance.
    -Herbert Hoover

    48. Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    47. Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    46. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    45. The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.
    -Ronald Reagan

    44. Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    43. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
    -John Adams

    42. Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    41. What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    40. The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'
    -Ronald Reagan

    39. Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.
    -William Taft

    38. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    37. 9 times out of 10 the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard and be compelled to sink or swim.
    -James Garfield

    36. Were we to be directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    35. You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    34. How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?
    -Harry Truman

    33. When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike you, do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.
    -Franklin Roosevelt

    32. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
    -John F. Kennedy

    31. Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.
    -Ronald Reagan

    30. The sky is no longer the limit.
    -Richard Nixon

    29. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    28. Government is not reason and it is not eloquence. It is force! Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
    -George Washington

    27. I always remember an epitaph which is in the cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona. It says: ''Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.'' I think that is the greatest epitaph a man can have.
    -Harry Truman

    26. How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    Still with me? Here's the top 25.

    25. Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    24. I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
    -George W. Bush

    23. I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.
    -Ronald Reagan

    22. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
    -Ronald Reagan

    21. I have found out in later years that my family was very poor, but the glory of America is that we didn't know it.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    20. No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    19. Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    18. Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
    -John Quincy Adams

    17. It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.
    -Andrew Jackson

    16. The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
    -Ronald Reagan

    15. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
    -Franklin Roosevelt

    14. You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    13. The buck stops here.
    -Harry Truman

    12. Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    11. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    10. Man is not free unless government is limited.... As government expands, liberty contracts
    -Ronald Reagan

    9. What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog.
    -Dwight Eisenhower

    8. The business of America is business and the chief ideal of the American people is idealism.
    -Calvin Coolidge

    7. One man with courage makes a majority.
    -Andrew Jackson

    6. America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.
    -Woodrow Wilson

    5. In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    4. We, and all others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.
    -Franklin Roosevelt

    3. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.
    -John F. Kennedy

    2. Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
    -Ronald Reagan

    1. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Let the criticisms begin...

    Posted by at 08:22 PM | Comments (4)

     

    June 24, 2005

    Drafting Scare Tactics

    [Posted by ]

    Yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld said, "There isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back." Rumsfeld has been remarkably consistent on this fact for well over a year now, but that didn't stop some people (Charles Rangel) from suggesting that a draft would happen if President Bush were re-elected. Well, Bush is still in office and yet the draft is still being used as a scare tactic.

    This week, the AP polled Americans about a potential draft. Not surprisingly, Americans are still overwhelmingly opposed to this mythical draft.

    My question is why this poll was taken and why it's news. The military has emphatically stated that there will be no draft. So what's the point of the poll? Is it to make people think that a draft is a strong possibility? Is it to scare people into demanding that troops be sent home from Iraq immediately? Is it to weaken support for the war? Gosh, it's as if this media organization has its own agenda or something. Who woulda thunk it?

    Posted by at 12:58 PM | Comments (24)

     

    June 22, 2005

    Flag Burning today, the rest of the Bill of Rights tomorrow

    [Posted by james]

    I don't have a lot of time to post these days, as I'm hard at work studying to pass the New York Bar Exam, but I just had to take time out to highlight the stupidest comment I've read in a long, long time.

    It seems that the House of Representatives has approved an anti-flag desecration amendment, prompting Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif to assert:

    "Ask the men and women who stood on top of the (World) Trade Center ... [a]sk them and they will tell you: pass this amendment."

    Oh really, Randy? Well, by that "logic," (and I use the term very lightly) dog, I suppose you could also throw out "ask the men and women who stood on top of the World Trade Center - they'd say repeal the whole Bill of Rights," or maybe "ask the men and women who stood on top of the World Trade Center - they'd say drink Pepsi!"

    Randy, you're an idiot. Don't believe me? Just ask the people who stood on top of the World Trade Center on September 11th.

    America was attacked on September 11th by fanatics who hate the freedom for which she stands. She was attacked precisely because it's legal for one to express his mind in this great country. The people who stood on top of the World Trade Center on September 11th aren't calling out "make sure no one burns any flags!" They're screaming out "make sure no one crashes any more planes into any more buildings."

    "And keep standing tall."

    I like to think that the passage of this bill in the House is an example of Representatives casting a purely political vote - one that they consider "safe" because there is little chance of the bill passing the Senate and absolutely zero chance of it being ratified by the states. (If it does manage to pass the Senate, btw, that will be an example of just how broken our system of government is in the wake of the 17th Amendment.)

    Sadly, only 12 Republicans voted "Nay" That small honor roll is:

    Rep. Dreier (CA), Rep. Ehlers (MI), Rep. Flake (AZ), Rep. Gilchrest (MD), Rep Hoekstra (MI), Rep. Kolbe (AZ), Rep. Leach (IA), Rep. Paul, Rep. Petri (WI), Rep. Schwarz (MI), Rep. Shadegg (AZ), Rep. Shays (CT)

    3 from Arizona. 3 from Michigan. Maybe it's time I considered moving?

    As for the rest of you Republicans, and for you Democrats who crossed the aisle to cast a "yea" - shame on you. Shame on you for having no concept of individual liberty whatsoever.

    This isn't the Republican party I signed up for.

    Posted by jkhat at 05:04 PM | Comments (38)

     

    June 21, 2005

    In Defense of Scarlett

    [Posted by ]

    As always, this blog varies wildly between serious posts and pop culture. It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. Yep, I wasted a few hours tonight watching AFI's 100 Greatest Movie Quotes.

    Not surprisingly, the top quote was "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", from Gone With The Wind. While I agree with the placement, I take issue with the comments on it. Everyone's all "woohoo, Rhett!" and they applaud him for finally giving that nasty Scarlett her comeuppance.

    Where are the feminists when we need them? Shouldn't Scarlett, someone who single-handledly saved herself, her family and her friends after the Civil War, be held up as a woman worthy of admiration rather than scorn? She should be a fictional feminist icon. As should Melanie. Here's a movie, made nearly 70 years ago, that produced two of the strongest female characters ever (and characters that displayed different kinds of strength) and it's mostly remembered now for the tongue lashing the heroine gets at the end, rather than for the indomitable strength she displays throughout the film. I don't understand it. Did she and Melanie have to have a hot love scene to get their due from the bra-burning crowd?

    And besides, Rhett really did give a damn. I'm sure he headed on down to Tara a few months later and tried to win her back. Don't try to tell me any differently. It's just like how Rick & Ilsa hooked up in America after WWII or how Holden & Alyssa from Chasing Amy really do get back together someday.

    I think The History Channel (or possibly me) should put together a list of the Top 100 Presidential Quotes. Any early nominees?

    Posted by at 10:37 PM | Comments (11)

     

    When is an apology not an apology? When Durbin’s lips are moving.

    [Posted by Laura]

    Article

    "I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain”
    He's sorry IF anything he said… somehow, he has been so thoroughly insulated by his staff that he is not aware of a roar of outrage about his statements.
    “to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust,”
    Does anyone have happy memories of the Holocaust? Nobody I want to know, anyway. But it's worth noting that a lack of bitter memories of the Holocaust make despicable statements like his possible. If he had any grasp of history, he would never have made those disgusting comparisons.

    “the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.”
    Yet he saw fit to compare it to Gitmo, hardly the greatest moral tragedy of the month, much less of our time. This speaks volumes about his judgement.
    "I am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military ... I never ever intended any disrespect for them.
    IF anything he said cast a negative light… what universe does he live in? When Al Jazeera celebrates your statements, that’s a pretty big clue you’ve just handed the enemy a PR victory.
    Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line to them I extend my heartfelt apology,"
    Does he have an apology for those of us who believe you are a treasonous S.O.B. who has caused immeasurable harm to his country in order to try to score political points?
    Durbin said, choking on his words.
    Should have choked sooner, we’d all be a lot better off. But then he is such a beautiful portrait of the Democratic Party, that it’s almost worth the harm he's caused, just for people to see what Democratic leadership really thinks.
    Durbin said in the course of his remarks on June 14, he raised "legitimate concerns" about U.S. policy toward prisoners and whether their treatment makes America safer.
    His concerns, if he actually had them and wasn't just pandering to the far left, could easily have been satisfied. He could have visited Gitmo himself, and other sources of information were readily available. He didn’t bother. I don’t know why.
    If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said last week.
    As was pointed out on another blog – sorry I can’t remember which one, I’ll update this as soon as I can find it – if I had read his statement and not known he is an elected United States Senator, I would have thought it was an Al Qaeda press release.
    Durbin attempted to clarify his remarks last Thursday evening and then again Friday, saying that he regretted if people did not understand his historic analogies, and he suggested that he could not verify the accuracy of the FBI document.
    We understood his analogies just fine, thank you. That was what caused the problem. If he couldn’t verify the accuracy of the document, he should have kept his trap shut. Even if the document was completely accurate, those activities are not torture. Torture includes activities like starving people, dropping them into wood chippers, pulling out fingernails, and gang rape.
    "If this indeed occurred, it does not represent American values. It does not represent what our country stands for, it is not the sort of conduct we would ever condone ... and that is the point I was making. Now, sadly, we have a situation here where some in the right-wing media have said that I have been insulting men and women in uniform. Nothing could be further from truth," Durbin said.
    He has been injuring men and women in uniform by providing aid and comfort to the enemy. This so-called apology merely adds insult to that injury.
    But on Tuesday, he left little room for second-guessing whether he realized his error.
    "After reading the horrible details in that memo which characterized the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, I then, on my own, my own words, made some characterizations about that memo ... I have come to understand that was a very poor choice of words," he said.
    He has come to understand that he made a lot of people, including voters in his state, mad. And he's apologizing now to make it go away. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what will happen. But since there’s no reasonable chance of getting rid of Mary Landrieu, I will send whatever money that I would normally devote to getting Her Weaselness out of office, to whoever runs against Durbin. I don’t think I’m the only one who will do that, and he might just have a lot more time available to play golf with Tom Daschle.
    Posted by Laura Curtis at 06:39 PM | Comments (50)

     

    Bumper Stickers For Hits

    [Posted by ]

    As I was driving to work this morning, I merged onto Madison's Beltline behind a car with a "Jesus Died For Me" bumper sticker. I've got no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the fact that this person that Jesus died to save was driving incredibly slow. Did Jesus die so you could drive like an asshole? I don't think so.

    The whole experience reminded me of a theory some friends of mine have: you can take almost any bumper sticker from around 10 years ago and turn it into a huge country hit. Think about it and tell me that these aren't awesome ideas for country songs (I have to confess, I really wish I could post audio so you could actually hear me singing the chorus to these):

    • I'd Rather Be Fishin'
    • My Other Car Is A Horse
    • If You Can Read This, You're Too Damn Close
    • If You Don't Like My Drivin', Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT (we'd have to clean that one up for the radio edit)
    • Watch My Behind, Not Hers
    • Beer: It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore
    • Keep Honkin'. I'm Reloading
    • Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep
    • The more people I meet, the more I like my dog

    Those are all great, but the best potential song is clearly "What Would Jesus Do". The brilliance here isn't in the chorus so much as in the verses and overall concept. These are the lyrics I'm playing with right now:

    Would Jesus drive slow in the left lane?
    Would Jesus tailgate in the pouring rain?
    Would Jesus cut me off and make my tires squeal?
    Next time you get behind the steering wheel
    Ask yourself, what would Jesus do?

    There's no doubt about it, it'd be huge. Living in Madison, I rarely get to see great potential country song bumper stickers, but that disadvantage has also led me to another revelation. You can take current political bumper stickers and turn them into sensitive liberal folk anthems. Take a look at these (I'm picturing a Dar Williams or Ani DiFranco singing them):

    • Kiss My Ashkroft
    • I'm Too Poor To Vote Republican
    • Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican
    • The Trouble With Political Jokes Is That They Get Elected
    • Visual World Peace (or Visualize Whirled Peas)
    • Somewhere In Texas, There's A Village Missing An Idiot
    • And Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind
    • Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History
    • He's Not My President
    • If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention

    I'm telling ya'll, this stuff just writes itself. I'm tempted to give up the 9 to 5 grind, find me a singer and travel the highways and biways of American writing songs.

    Posted by at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

     

    June 20, 2005

    Hyperbole Is The New Fact

    [Posted by ]

    Bush is Hitler. Gitmo is a gulag. As the fashion world would say: "Hyperbole is the new fact". With that in mind, I'm looking at the news of the day in a different way:

    What in the world are we all going to do when something truly big happens? We're going to be stunned into a silence such as the world has never known. Our gasps of disbelief will literally turn the world into a vacuum. It will be the most shocking rose ceremony Philimination vote event EVER.

    Posted by at 10:54 PM | Comments (36)

     

    June 19, 2005

    To Those Who Slander The Troops

    [Posted by Laura]

    We enjoy the right to free speech in this country and many people have exercised it in the last week by slandering the very people who guarantee that right. It is fair, appropriate, and well within American tradition to disagree with the government on whether there ought to be any prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. It is right, good and normal to be upset by methods of questioning that may seem harsher than we as Americans want to employ. But the rhetoric of the last week has included words that betray either an utter ignorance of history, or willful disregard of the facts.

    It is abominable that the memories of millions dead would be used for political gain. It is disgusting that our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends who serve and defend us are compared to the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. To those who slander the troops, while you disagree with the current political leadership, do you honestly believe that our troops – American troops – as a body would commit atrocities? Yes, in a group where so many thousands serve, you will find the occasional William Calley, or on a much smaller scale a Charles Granier or Lynndie England. And in each of those cases and in other isolated instances where there have been problems, they were dealt with. The honor of our military does not permit those stains, and they are scrubbed out promptly and vigorously.

    You are fools, useful idiots who are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If we lose this war, you will get what you well deserve – dhimmitude, and the knowledge that you helped bring the rest of us down with you. If we win, those of us who have been paying attention know who you are and you have our eternal disgust, both for your current actions and the bloody-minded ingratitude you will surely display after the victory.

    Carrying out terrorism...is one of the tenets of our religion and Shari'ah...This war is fundamentally religious...Under no circumstances should we forget this enmity between us and the infidels. For the enmity is based on creed. - Osama Bin Laden

    We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity. - Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad

    We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you. - Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah

    It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy. - Yussuf al-Ayyeri

    If you walk away from Iraq, the jihadis will follow you wherever you go. You may think you've left them behind, but they will pursue you. - Singaporean Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew

    We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets in this fatwah. - Osama Bin Laden

    Can we dialogue with those who desire only our death and nothing but our death? Dialogue about what? The manner in which we will be assassinated? - Emilio Lamo de Espinoza

    Al Qaeda's declaration of jihad had, as its first demand, the withdrawal of American troops from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden does not seem to have noticed, but the troops are gone -- yet the jihad continues. The reasons come and go, the violence endures. - Fareed Zakaria

    Everyone seems to want a war on terror, but no-one wants any battles to be fought in it. We're evidently going to win it by sitting on our fat a***s and being morally superior. This will so impress our enemies that they will cease to attack us out of respect. - Steven Den Beste

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 07:05 PM | Comments (10)

     

    June 17, 2005

    On The Edge of Good Taste

    [Posted by ]

    I read an article yesterday about a performance artist who jumped off of buildings (with a safety harness) the other day in Chicago. Kerry Skarbakka jumped repeatedly from the Museum of Contempory Art in Chicago while a crowd of people looked on:

    A crew of photographers hired by Skarbakka captured him in midair, arms and legs flailing wildly. Some of the images will end up in gallery catalogues and museum walls - part of a series of pictures to be called "Life Goes On."

    "I thought it was my responsibility to respond" to 9/11, he said. "This happened to be my response to that - my sheer inability to do anything about [watching people fall], my lack of control over the situation."

    Not surprisingly, this is ticking some people off. New York City's Mayor Bloomberg calls it "nauseatingly offensive." And apparently he's not alone:

    The NY Daily News said it had been deluged by messages complaining about the stunt.

    “He just offended an entire city,” said Chris Burke, a former Cantor Fitzgerald employee whose brother Tom was killed in the attacks.

    “I had to watch my friends jumping out of that building.”

    I understand why these people are upset. But, I can also understand what would drive an artist to think about the events of 9/11. These pictures still make me think:

    I think about these people in the windows. I wonder what they were thinking and my heart breaks for what happened to them. Skarbakka says his "stunt was his way of asking questions about what went through the minds of those who jumped from the towers and others who watched helplessly." I ask myself those same questions. How did they find the courage to jump? Or, how did they keep up hope to stay there? How were they able to calmly say goodbye to their loved ones?

    I think that art is an appropriate way to try to answer them. Human tragedies have been portrayed in films, photographs, paintings, songs and more for as long as art has existed. I think it's a way that society as a whole copes with the event.

    Believe me, I do feel for the 9/11 families, but it's not up to them to determine how the rest of us remember and cope with our feelings about that day. They may not want to be reminded of what happened to their loved one. I understand that. But, at the same time, I think some of us do need or want to be reminded of the human cost that day.

    It's important that we never forget that day. Otherwise it's too easy to believe the Ward Churchill's of the world who insinuate that America got what it deserved that morning. Some days you have to try to put yourself in the shoes of a Cantor Fitzgerald employee that morning and try (even though it may be impossible) to understand what he or she went through. Then, you'll understand just exactly why we're fighting a War on Terror and why we have 500 evil people locked up and being interrogated at Gitmo. I'm afraid that if we forget what really happened on 9/11 we'll forget why it's so important to never let it happen again.

    Posted by at 12:43 PM | Comments (6)

     

    June 16, 2005

    Disclaimer

    [Posted by John Tant]

    Today I noticed this (my emphasis):

    To the Republicans--

    You have done a very nice job of making non-issues the issue. Great! You get an A for Spin. Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter have decided to mimic Martha Stewart and talk about Orange Glazed Chicken that was/is served to detainees. In fact, someone out there, Karl Rove I assume, has paid to publish The Gitmo Cookbook. Again--great! A+ for distortion, distraction and getting your irrelevant message out there.

    Well, I didn't think it actually needed to be said, but no, Karl Rove has nothing to do with this site or the cookbook (Oh, if only we had his numbers!). This is the brainchild of one Laura Curtis, who as far as I know does not even have Rove's assistant's assistant's cell phone number. The genesis of the idea came from this very site. Now while I'm taking Chris' remark above as tongue in cheek, I think there's a certain irrelevancy in bringing up Rovian conspiracies as a way to attack something...particularly in a piece excoriating Republicans for bringing up irrelevancies.

    As for the cookbook itself being irrelevant to the larger issue of Gitmo conduct, I again disagree. It is indeed relevant, as a way to show just how bend-over-backwards we are being toward these detainees who want to get me a shotgun and kill every American I see. Kevin Craver puts it into perspective in an excellent post:

    So what are Gitmo inmates served for breakfast and dinner (they eat an MRE lunch)? Among the delicacies are baked tandoori chicken breast, mustard-dill baked fish, Lyonnaise rice, and fish amandine. Where you get your ingredients is up to you, but the dishes at Gitmo are certified halal, which means the ingredients conform with Muslim dietary laws.

    As for a little further perspective, let’s look at what it takes for meat to be certified halal — it’s a lot more complicated than an imam looking at it and saying, “looks OK to me.” Because animal blood is considered haram, or unclean, the halal way to kill an animal is to slice through the arteries after saying “In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful.” The animal has to be conscious — it is unclean if it is stunned first. If you forget to pray before you cut, the meat is unclean, because Muslim dietary laws forbid eating meat slaughtered in the name of anyone but Allah.

    Many Islamic food stores not only certify their meats as halal, but also have videotape of the slaughtering so the discriminating and strong-stomached Muslim customer can cook for the family with a clean conscience.

    This is what we do for men who were captured trying to kill our troops, and for at least one who helped plan Sept. 11. What did the hijackers feed their passengers that fateful day? Come to think of it, what meal, if any, did Iraqi hostages get before their heads were sawed off?

    If the allegations are that we're torturing Gitmo detainees, then their conditions at Gitmo become very relevant...and one of those conditions is necessarily the food they are given. It's also relevant because it becomes part of the sniff test...if routine "torture" is the order of the day at Gitmo, does it really make sense to believe we're physically torturing people in the manner of Nazi concentration camps but then turning around and giving them halal-certified food?

    Chris' post then goes on:

    It might have been the right thing to do for the Republicans, Conservatives and "The Girls" I mentioned above to study a little about guerrilla war, fighting terrorists, and psychological operations before they threw their hissy fits about the idea of closing Git mo. Closing down prisons that have the reputation Git mo has is a certified, recognized tactic in the kind of war we are fighting. It is not some evil, liberal plot to destroy America.
    Ok, that's fair as far as it goes. But look at who is aiding the terrorist tactic of putting out propaganda with the intent of closing down Gitmo. I don't think the serious non-strawman argument is, or was ever, that there's some evil liberal conspiracy afoot. Rather I think it's being snatched as a way for the Left to attack President Bush. And if it means going along with a tactic our enemies are using, well isn't that illustrative in and of itself? And we don't even need a conspiracy theory.

    Chris goes on:

    They also might have done some good had they acknowledged the few incidents at Guantanamo and in Iraq where soldiers stepped over the line and did bad things. They might have made the whole discussion easier had they said that this stuff shouldn't happen and those responsible for it should be punished. Hell, the Administration might have done that too. If we had been honest about the number of things we had done wrong, accepted responsibility for them and punished the people who did it instead of dancing around and looking like we were hiding things--we wouldn't be having some of the problems we are having now.

    Again, that's fair as far as it goes. But I do need to point out that the Pentagon has in fact been investigating these things, and doing so even in lieu of media attention. The incidents at Abu Ghraib, for example, were under investigation well before a newsie got wind of it. And I think the Administration has been pretty honest about things. The soldiers who did do bad things have, in fact, been punished (or were those courts-martial something else?). But remember, the mere existence of an allegation does not make it true, nor is it necessarily worthy of attention. Didn't Newsweek go forward with a rumor...a RUMOR...about Korans being flushed down toilets? That the Administration denied it didn't seem to matter much at the time, did it? I guess the point here is if the default assumption is that the Administration is lying, don't waste time complaining that it isn't acknowledging allegations.

    Posted by John Tant at 08:13 AM | Comments (34)

     

    June 15, 2005

    The Gitmo Cookbook

    [Posted by ]

    After Representative Hunter (CA) appeared on several news programs beginning on Sunday, June 12, 2005, talking about how much we are spending to feed Gitmo detainees halal meals, James linked to an article and called it Gourmet Fare at Guantanamo.

    This led to a discussion that led to the creation of a "Gitmo Cookbook". Our goal is simply to support the troops - profits go to a charity that supports them - and try to make the point that the word "torture" is itself being grossly abused when describing prisoner treatment. It's unfortunate that we have any prisoners at Gitmo, but the conditions there do not rise to the level of gulag, torture, or concentration camp.

    Laura has been working non stop in gathering the recipes from the Navy and we'll be spending the next few days preparing and tasting them in family-sized portions, so we'll have those recipes in addition to the institutional-sized ones.

    Although we're still in the beginning stages of testing the scaled-down recipes (for example, tonight I'll be trying Tossed Green Rice & Fish Amandine), you can already pre-order the cookbooks at gitmocookbook.com. We expect them to be available in approximately 10 weeks. Pre-ordered books cost $6.95. All profits will go to charity. We have not selected the charity yet - we have contacted the Public Affairs office at Gitmo to find out if the troops stationed at Gitmo have a preferred charity.

    You can link to gitmocookbook.com on your own sites using this graphic:

    Look for more news on this exciting project soon. If you're lucky, we may even post a sneak peek recipe here for all you food aficionados!

    Update: Welcome to all of you coming over from Michelle Malkin's site. Take a look around!

    Posted by at 10:13 AM | Comments (8)

     

    June 14, 2005

    25 Essential Summer Songs

    [Posted by ]

    Every year there's a song or two that emerges as that summer's essential tune. Years later you'll hear it and be immediately transported back in time. Some of these songs are literally about summer, but more of them just feel like summer.

    What makes a great summer song? In my opinion, summer songs should be upbeat, uncomplicated and easy to sing along to. They're for blasting in your car with the windows rolled down, not for wistful wooing.

    So, straight from my iPod, here are my top 25 Essential Summer Songs (in no particular order):

    Update: Get more great summer songs in our 2009 and 2010 updates.

    • Love Shack, by The B52s: We'll start with a no-brainer. This song conjures up images of a great summer party where the weather's hot, the people are fun and the drinks are sticky.
    • Summertime, by The Sundays: Whenever I think of The Sundays, I think of "Cute Will", who was an adorable Poli Sci guy/windsurfing instructor that I was acquainted with. He was a manly man with a weakness for the dulcet tones of The Sundays. It was a wonderful contrast. This song is a little complicated for summer, but it also has a sense of exhilaration that fits the season.
    • One Week, by The Barenaked Ladies: Just a fun, goofy song that everyone tries to sing along to. Sometimes the trying is more fun than the singing ;-)
    • Vacation, by The Go Gos: Remember the video for this? The Go Gos were all decked out in 1950s Water Ski Team gear.
    • Cruel Summer, by Bananarama: This is a rare bitter summer song. It's for the sullen teen whose friends are out of town. Heh, "sullen teen summer" would make a great title for something
    • Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band: I was too young to understand what "afternoon delight" really meant, so instead I associate this song with one particular summer and all the tornados we had. To me, an afternoon delight was watching the sky turn black and watching for a storm
    • Centerfield, by John Fogarty: While it's true that I live in the baseball-free zone, I can still appreciate a happy song about the summer pastime
    • It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), by REM: In the post-MTV age, a lot of songs are summer songs simply because the video is summery. That's a big reason why this songs makes the list. The other reason is that it, like "One Week", is fun to sing along with, even if the only line you know is "Leonard Bernstein!"
    • Jackie Wilson Said, by Van Morrison: Summer songs shouldn't sound like they were written by Debbie Downer. There's no room for The Smiths in the summer. Songs should be about being "in heaven when you smile"
    • Mr. Big Stuff & Am Radio, by Jean Knight & Everclear, respectively: I put these two together because AM Radio samples Mr. Big Stuff and because I think they're equally fun, sassy-the-cat songs
    • Car Wash, by Rose Royce: I've never lived anywhere where they sprayed kids down with fire hoses on hot summer days, but if I did, this would remind me of it. It reminds me of seeing it, if that makes any sense
    • Blue Sky, by The Allman Brothers: This song is so uncomplicated that well over half of it is instrumental. You can just drift away while you listen to it. In a perfect world, this is on the soundtrack of your life when you're sitting on a pier or laying in a hammock.
    • Alex Chilton, by The Replacements: Okay, I would use this as a wooing song, but I'm weird. I'm probably also one of the few that sings the chorus of this at the top of her lungs, but hey, it's my list
    • Rio, by Duran Duran: I think, as a kid, I wanted to be "Rio", and if I was dancing on the sand, it had to be summer
    • Come On Eileen, by Dexy's Midnight Runners: This is the happy flip side to "Cruel Summer" in my mind. This is what you listen to when your friends are back in town
    • Run-around, by Blues Traveler: I know that Jam bands are a part of summer, but I can't bring myself to put any Dead, Phish or even Dave Matthews on the list. This is as close as I'm going to get, and it's still only because "I like coffee and I like tea"
    • Steal My Sunshine, by Len: I like the contrast between the male and female singers of this song. As a female, I'm sure I'm supposed to sing those parts. But, having a bad singing voice, I sing the male lead, thank you very much
    • Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffett: Yes, I know it's obvious, but some things are obvious because they're right. And, Margaritaville is simply the essential tune. Don't leave for the beach without it
    • No Woman No Cry, by Bob Marley: Every summer list needs a little reggae
    • Move It On Over, by Hank Williams: Another fun one to sing along to
    • Mmm Bop, by Hanson: Make fun of these pretty boys if you must, but they know how to write a perfect bubble gum pop song. It's as light as a feather, but summer's hot, we don't need to be doing any heavy musical lifting
    • Rain In The Summertime, by The Alarm: This is a hot, sweaty, sexy summer song. I really appreciate it on that level. On a shallower level, it reminds me of the summer before my senior year in college, when downtown Madison flooded and we'd play in the rain every night on the way home from going out.
    • So Whatcha Want, by The Beastie Boys: There's a time for rap in every girl's life. Summer is that time. This is what I'd play at my cool beer tent event
    • Nuthin' But A "G" Thang, by Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog: More rap. This time it's ultra laid back and cool, perfect for when summer days are turning into summer nights
    • Your Love, by The Outfield: Who wouldn't want to shout-sing the start of this song: "Josie's on a vacation far away..."? This is one of those great songs that nobody thinks they know, but they do and they love it

    So there you have it. Those are my essential summer songs. What are yours?

    Posted by at 01:15 PM | Comments (18)

     

    June 13, 2005

    The Silly Dramas of High School

    [Posted by ]

    A friend of mine emailed me this passage from the Student Conduct Guidelines at North Canyon High School in Phoenix:

    Try not to engage in all the silly drama that comes with the high school experience. You'll find that in most cases this drama has no meaning or relevance once you're out of school. Pay attention in class and do your homework. You're preparing for your future.

    While the second half of that guideline makes sense, take a look at those first two sentences again. As my friend pointed out: a)That's really vague. Some smart ass high schooler is bound to argue that his/her bit of drama is completely serious and not at all silly and b) Isn't the drama part of high school? Why not start to encourage kids NOT to go to prom... or talk at lunch... or go to football games?

    Public educators talk about wanting to give children the tools they need to succeed in life. For example, here in Madison they proclaim that:

    Every child has...
    • an inexhaustible capacity to learn
    • unique meaning and purpose
    • the capacity to make responsible decisions
    • freedom of thought and expression
    • an obligation for the stewardship of resources
    • potential to create their own future and the future of society
    • the right to realize his / her full potential
    • the right to be safe and to live free from violence and harassment

    That's great. That's what schools should do. But too often I think educators want to teach kids what to think. And North Canyon's guideline takes that a step further. We'll do the thinking and the living for you. Don't bother with all that "drama" of living your life. Your silly, little high school lives and loves are all going to amount to nothing. We're teachers. We know better than you.

    Of course, I realize that no high school kid is going to obey this particular guideline. But this still irritates me to no end. Not only is it far beyond the scope of what schools should advise (whatever happened to parents?), it's also stupid advice in the first place. As my friend said, this guideline is just a waste of ink.

    Posted by at 07:46 PM | Comments (2)

     

    Our Liberal Betters

    [Posted by ]

    Some Democrats have responded to this blurb with a hearty "Aha!":

    Strategists for both presidential campaigns detected a late shift to Bush by lower-income voters who were concerned about terrorism and values. Matthew Dowd, former chief strategist for Bush-Cheney, said these voters "decided they were voting in the national interest rather than their self interest on both the economy and national security."

    "See!", they say, "those idiot red staters don't understand that our policies are better for them. Those nasty Republicans have tricked them into being so afraid of terrorists and gays that they'll vote against their economic self-interest. The fools!"

    Ignore for a moment the faulty premise that conservative economic policy is worse for lower-income voters and instead concentrate on the disdain the Dems have shown for these people. They sneer at them and think they're idiots because they won't vote for simple take-from-the-rich-give-to-the-poor promises. Apparently the only people allowed to rise above their own self-interest are the super-rich liberals: the Kennedys, Kerrys and George Soros of the world (not to mention assorted Hollywood princes and princesses). Thank God for our enlightened liberal elite!

    As for the rest of us, we should just screw what we think is best for our country and vote for whoever will pander to us the most. What a nice peek into the liberal mindset.

    Maybe the Dean-led Dems figure that since they've accused those who didn't vote for them of being (in no particular order): stupid, prejudiced and foolish, they should throw them a bone and point out that at least they're not selfish (although they should be)? I guess that's one way to reach out to the other side. ;-)

    Posted by at 04:42 PM | Comments (7)

     

    June 12, 2005

    Pit Bull mauls 12 year old, Mother blames the child

    [Posted by james]

    CNN:

    SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.

    Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.

    "I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me."

    "Typical Nicky?" Are you kidding me? The woman 1) knew the dog might attack him, prompting her to lock the kid in a basement, she 2) used a "shovel" to somehow secure the door, presumably because she knew the kid might escape, and 3) the kid was actually killed, due to her reckless indifference to her own child's life. This woman's actions are worse than if she had left a loaded gun, trigger back, lying on the floor.

    If I were the prosecutor, I'd charge her with manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide in a heartbeat. The woman deserves prison time.

    And is this mother-of-the-year remorseful? On her son's death, she reflected:

    "It's Nicky's time to go," she said in the interview. "When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time.

    Yeah, and your number comes up much sooner when you have a loon like this for a mother.

    Posted by jkhat at 01:22 PM | Comments (27)

     

    June 10, 2005

    Carnival of the Recipes - Shrimp Etouffe

    [Posted by Laura]

    It's a recipes kind of day - I saw a good one on Daily Pundit -Red Hot Double Decker Quesadillas that I definitely want to try, and we're having the Brat chat with plenty of advice for newbies like me.

    So before I go stand in line for a few last minute hurricane supplies, since the left side of Arlene may visit New Orleans this weekend, I figured I would share this top-secret family Shrimp Etouffe (pronounced ay-too-fay) recipe. Don't tell anybody I gave this to you, and please keep it to yourself.

    1 stick butter
    3 cloves garlic
    2 stalks celery
    1 green pepper
    2 large onions
    2 pounds shrimp (peeled, deveined)
    1 can crushed tomatoes
    1 can pureed tomatoes
    1/4 cup sherry
    salt and pepper

    Chop the vegetables finely, saute them in butter, add drained tomatoes and half the juice, and cook for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and wine, salt and pepper, lower the fire and cook for 20-30 minutes. Serve over rice.

    Yummy!

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 11:20 AM | Comments (5)

     

    A Guide to Brats

    [Posted by ]

    As regular readers know, 1/2 of our staff, as well as many of our readers, hail from the great state of Wisconsin. While Wisconsin is justly famous for its beer and cheese, we're also the home of the sausage whose reputation over the last few years has grown to almost mythical proportions: the brat.

    Laura, one of our contributors, grilled some brats the other day and admitted she didn't get what the big deal was. I suspect that's the reaction of a lot of people outside the state. But, you can't simply throw a brat on a grill and expect to get a taste of Wisconsin. Nope, there's a method behind the madness. I'll quote my brother on the proper way to prepare brats:

    First they are cooked, not boiled, preferably in a mixture of beer and water with lots of onions. You want the water just below boiling. Then, they are grilled to add the flavor of grilling. The best brats are typically bought at the grocery store's own meat section or at a meat market. The buns should be brat buns, not hotdog buns. Brat buns are harder than hotdog buns, more like a french bread roll. They should be served with baked beans (or pork'n) and potato salad.

    Some other tips:

    • Under no circumstances should you purchase pre-cooked brats
    • But, you also can't just buy something labeled "brats". Outside of the state, you can't assume your meat section will know what a brat really is, so I'd suggest you look for a nationally-known brand like Johnsonville
    • Purists claim brats can only be topped with onions, kraut, relish and mustard, but feel free to add ketchup or otherwise fancy them up to your taste
    • Remember don't boil your brats. You'll break the casings
    • You will probably not be able to find brat buns outside Wisconsin. Earth Grains makes various rolls that are reasonable facsimiles. The brat bun is traditionally much larger than the brat.
    • You may also want to try a hoagie roll if you can't find brat buns
    • If you preheat your grill, the brats will be very quickly, as all you're doing is browning them.
    • Although, brats are best enjoyed with ice cold beer and sunshine, they also make a great pregame meal. Some families even have brats for Christmas (mmmm....Christmas brats)!

    Even with all of these tips, brats still may not translate outside Wisconsin. Perhaps a brat is more than just a brat...it's a state of mind.

    Posted by at 09:08 AM | Comments (16)

     

    June 08, 2005

    The Filthy, Filthy Rich

    [Posted by ]

    With Bryan from Sanity in Mad City off somewhere enjoying his retirement, I feel it's up to me to expose some of the everyday lunacy at Madison's Capital Times.

    Today resident Commie Dave Zwiefel opines on the evils of the Bush tax cut and how the top .1% of taxpayers are "getting richer at the expense of the country as a whole." Says Zwiefel:

    The ascent of the super-rich still wasn't enough for the Bush administration, though.

    Its irresponsible tax cuts, while throwing a couple of hundred bucks a year to the lower and middle classes, disproportionately went to those who already were millionaires. The 39.6 upper bracket, for example, dropped to 35 percent. When you're making $3 million a year, a 4.6 percent tax cut on everything above $319,000 ain't bad - enough for a new Mercedes or two.

    Oh, where to start? How about with this handy chart:

    The chart represents data from the 2001 calendar year. At that time, "the top 50% were those individuals or couples filing jointly who earned $26,000 and up in 1999." In fact, the top 25% of taxpayers payed 82.9% of all taxes. Now, explain to me how any administration can do more than "throw a couple of hundred bucks a year to the lower and middle classes" when that's all that they pay?

    But back to the dastardly super rich. These free riders who aren't doing their share, are actually paying around 12% of all income taxes. Does Zwiefel really think that those folks need to foot more of the bill for the other 99.9% of the country? Wait! I think we know the answer.

    What I don't understand is why folks like Zwiefel only see an ecomonic benefit to the country if the super rich's money goes to the Government. He sneers about how tax cuts allow the super rich to afford "a new Mercedes or two", but ignores the benefits of disposable wealth like that. Follow along Dave:

    • Richie Rich buys a new yacht from Burger Boat in Manitowoc, WI
    • Increased sales lead Burger's President, David Ross, to hire another engineer
    • With her new job, this engineer is able to put a down payment on a home. She buys several thousand dollars of appliances and furnishings...
    • Increasing the commission for the salesperson who served her. He, in turn, uses some of this extra money to take his wife out for a nice dinner at a local restaurant
    • And, because he's feeling expansive, he tips the nice, young waitress far above his usual 18.5%
    It's capitalism, and it's a beautiful thing, isn't it? Especially when compared to the alternative: tax the rich more and funnel their income into a variety of ineffective government programs. Americans, even the super rich, know how to spend their money far better than their government does.


    Posted by at 01:19 PM | Comments (12)

     

    Your Greatest American-The Winner

    [Posted by ]

    In one of the least shocking results ever, you voted George Washington as your greatest American. I think Washington would have won no matter what format we used, but doing it by category guaranteed Washington the win.

    I did watch Discovery's show Sunday night. I give them credit for mocking some of the lightweights that made the top 100 (John Edwards, Dr. Phil), but even so, their final list of 25 that the public votes can vote on is pretty weak: JFK, but no Truman. FDR but no Teddy Roosevelt, not a singer writer, and Oprah. I had to vote, however, because I'd feel terrible if someone like Bill Gates beat George Washington.

    Posted by at 08:23 AM | Comments (4)

     

    June 07, 2005

    Good News & Bad News from the Cedar Revolution

    [Posted by ]

    Political Wire questions why conservative bloggers aren't talking about this weekend's elections in Lebanon and the softening of the US stance on Hamas. The implication, is, of course, that the "noisy partisans on the Internet" are simply ignoring news they don't like. Nevermind that Little Green Footballs, probably the leading blog on the Middle East, covered both stories and was, in fact, quite critical of any US policy shifts on Hamas, calling it the "new century’s worst idea so far."

    However, it is true that most conservative bloggers haven't given the latest round of Lebanese voting the attention they did to protestin' hotties. It's not surprising. Who wants to report on news they don't like? For example, our national media has consistently ignored reports of good news from Iraq, instead choosing to focus on Abu Ghraib and "insurgent" activities.

    But, Hezbollah's victories in southern Lebanon are hardly surprising either. Last week the Sydney Morning Herald's correspondent in the region wrote "Next week voting is in south Lebanon, where Hezbollah will take all the seats it wants." In any case, Lebanon is going to be the first free Arab democracy. That's still the important thing here. And, since many of the opposing candidates were Commies, maybe this is still the best result for America. I think you can reform a terrorist, but a Commie is always a Commie.

    Liberals may be bothered by the lack of conservative hand-wringing over this result, but frankly, I'm a bit bothered by this seeming liberal glee over it. They see everything through the lens of blessed anti-Americanism. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." To them, votes for Hezbollah are simply votes against Bush, rather than votes for a continuation of the hatred that has mired the entire region in conflict and disarray for the last 50+ years. Not everything is about us.

    Posted by at 12:52 PM | Comments (3)

     

    We need more blogs.

    [Posted by Laura]

    Blogs have been much in the news recently. Trent Lott, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, “Jeff Gannon,” and now the architects of the EU can all testifiy to the power of the blog. We all know the big players, but who else is out there blogging and why? According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a survey of American Internet users revealed that 9% of Internet users have created blogs, and 25% of Internet users read blogs. In terms of the whole American population, 1 out of 20 American adults has created a blog, and 1 in 6 American adults reads them. The blog reading population is about 20% of the size of the newspaper reading population. Some other interesting blogging stats from Pew include the following: Blog readership increased 58% in 2004, but less than half of Internet users know what a blog is, and millions of blogs go unread every day. So why do we need more of them?

    One example why is a Jackson, Mississippi, blog named The Inebriated Mule. The Mule writes on a variety of topics, but one area that he, and other bloggers like him, are undeniably experts in is what’s going on in their local areas. Take the story of Carey Goza. (Links to all Jackson MSM stories are available in The Inebriated Mule posts. Just follow the blog trail back to find links to each story.) Ms. Goza is a 26-year-old inner-city school teacher in Jackson who was arrested at school in April for allegedly assaulting a student in March. The media had been tipped off to be there, so film crews were present for the perp walk. Details emerged slowly with daily TV news coverage and print coverage in the Jackson Clarion Ledger. An editorial a week later called the arrest shameful because it occurred in defiance of a state law that mandates a probable cause hearing, which did not occur in Ms. Goza’s case. The focus was on Ms. Goza, but a few details about the parent, Jacqueline Traylor, did trickle out in the next few weeks. She was a former PTA president and is a secretary at the Jackson police headquarters.

    Police chief Robert Moore said that there was an ongoing internal investigation that would determine if his department was "unduly influenced." The Mule initially did not have any new facts; he commented on the media coverage, but very early on he did offer a scenario that could explain why Ms. Goza was released immediately on her own recognizance upon arriving at jail, away from the media.

    That phrase, "unduly influenced", is in itself telling. Could a police secretary, who happened to be a former PTA president and a mother of a student in Goza's class, have enough strings to pull to satisfy a personal grudge or grievance? I have gotten tickets fixed by people who do no more than answer the phone for police, so my guess would be yes.

    Television coverage was relentless for the first month. It was a daily event. And then the story seemed to die off, with Ms. Goza’s formerly spotless reputation in ruins. Except for the Inebriated Mule. The media called Ms. Traylor a “former PTA president.” The Mule reports that Ms. Traylor stepped down from her PTA president position when a $1,000 discrepancy in the PTA books was discovered, which was traced to a withdrawal she made to attend a conference that she never attended or made reservations to attend. (Charges were threatened, but not filed against her and she was ultimately forced to repay the $1,000.) He is continuing to investigate whether Ms. Traylor has a motive other than as a concerned parent to bring this charge against Ms. Goza. The media has not covered that at all.

    The media noted that the arrest was illegal but has not reported extensively on the fact that it was Commander Eric Wall, Ms. Traylor’s supervisor, who signed the arrest warrant, who has been on sick leave and unavailable to the investigation and who has been offered immunity from his own department for his testimony. The media camped outside Ms. Goza’s home for days following her arrest, but that certainly has not happened in the case of Commander Wall.

    Ms. Goza will finally have her probable cause hearing on June 14, long after her arrest, to find out if there is indeed any evidence to suggest that she should have been arrested for the alleged assault in the first place. It probably will not get anywhere near the air time that her arrest did. The results of the investigation to find out how a police department employee was able to have her child’s teacher illegally arrested will not be nearly as well publicized as the fact of the arrest. And if it were not for the continuing efforts of The Inebriated Mule to shed some light on this story, the Jackson community might just assume that the system worked just fine, because if it didn’t, the media would have told them so. That is why we need more bloggers.

    Make it a point to read a local blog today.

    UPDATED: The Inebriated Mule has scooped the media again, this time with a really funny photo and more background on Ms. Traylor. Considering that the MSM in Jackson camped outside of Goza's house for days, you would think that an interview or some background info on her accuser would be in order, but apparently it's not newsworthy. Go figure.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

     

    June 06, 2005

    Hell's Kitchen - Week 2

    [Posted by John Tant]

    We’re back for week 2.

    The drama begins around 7:30, when a thunderstorm threatens to take my DirectTV out. Fortunately the weather cleared up. I’m sure you’re as happy as I am.

    So we begin with the prepackaged Ramsay bio. Yeah, he’s brilliant. Yeah, he’s abrasive. Whatever. And in the previously, we have Ramsay yelling at the nondescript twelve, tidbits from their first dinner service where confusion abounds, and Elsie “betraying” Dewberry.

    The remaining 11 go back to the Chef’s Dorms to rest. Dewberry meditates in the camera equipped unisex bathroom and give Elsie a butt-kissing hug when she conveniently exits the stall. Whatever. I mean dude, it didn’t help you twenty minutes earlier. Go make a tart.

    The next morning, SousChefs Scott and Maryann wake up the dorms USMC style. OK, not just a little over the top. Please. So at 5:55 am (that’s early?!?), Ramsay gets up in front of a dressed Red team and a Blue team clad in pajamas, sans Chris who shows up 7 minutes later. Oops. Again, whatever. Seriously, this is getting on my nerves. It’s just so…contrived. So Ramsay takes the people into the kitchen and shows them a silver layout and a zucchini. The service is made up of…squid (cue the nauseated reaction from Dewberry the Pastry Chef). Ramsay tells Michael to sit out the challenge to even up the teams. He then shows the teams how to prepare the squid…they have to be suitable for stuffing, meaning cleaned with no holes or tears in the body part of the squid. They have ten minutes to clean up as many squid as possible, with the winners having dinner with Ramsay. That is such a ripoff of one of those Trump non-prizes (hey, you win this challenge and I’ll show you my over the top gilded apartment!). I mean, I’d be tempted to throw it just for that. Anyway after watching ten people work on squid (which was not that exciting, let me tell you, but I do this for you dear readers), the Red team had 6 acceptable squid, including 1 acceptable one from The Plank’s offering of four. That’s five people in ten minutes cleaning six squid in a world class fashion. Hm.

    After some artificial drama, we learn the Blue team had 5…the Red team gets to eat with the martinet.

    The blue team has to prepare squid during dinner. From where I sit, I’d rather be Blue.

    The teams get dressed and go to the kitchen for a training session (like a master class). They get some of Ramsay’s philosophies about cooking (Ramsay says his cooking is “clean! You can eat it blindfolded and identify different flavors!”) and this being devoid of anything that can be manufactured into a drama, the segment goes by quickly. And now it’s dinner time, so the Red team gets to go claim their “prize” while the Blue team stays behind to clean squid. You know, there’s a powerful team building thing in group punishment, and I have a feeling that’s going to happen here. The Plank is talking about having important “face time” with Ramsay, but seriously…that isn’t going to mean squat. But Ramsay is gracious in the way only a Brit can be, even while spouting platitudes.

    Bedtime…Jeff is in the hallway moaning. Later he interviews that he had a kidney stone. Swell. I waited through a commercial for a kidney stone?!? The rest of his team is…less than supportive. And so am I. Get lost, Jeff.

    Now we talk dinner service. The squid cleaned the previous day appears on the menu. And as the service begins, we get Ramsayisms (You cooked it but you didn’t taste it?!?) and Dewberry The Pastry Chef showing that he can cook pasta. And before the service opens, Ramsay give a pep talk, and caps it off by telling the blue team that because they lost the squid challenge they don’t get air conditioning for the service (along with a story that was supposed to be inspirational, I think…). So they turn the fans off in the blue kitchen, put up a gratuitous sauna thermometer, and commence to cooking. And surprisingly, the restaurant is booked solid…funny what comped meals will do for a service. Much hay is made about how Ramsay’s reputation is on the line here…I think that they’re giving food away for free might impact it more.

    The kitchens are late out of the gate but everything seems to catch up pretty well save for some minor hiccups. But then Jeff flubs up some vegetable garnishes…apparently kidney stones means you tend to burn vegetables in a wanton fashion. So in the blue kitchen it’s 140 degrees, and in the red kitchen they have Mr. Kidney burning veggies. There are other minor hiccups but the entire kitchen is in the weeds. A customer decides to complain about his free food being late, and Ramsay tears into him. Good.

    Dewberry is “confused.” He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and that’s a quote directly from him. When Ramsay calls out two Wellingtons (a lamb dish) and Dewbie says it’s going to be twelve minutes, Ramsay pitches a fit and wonders why the Wellington isn’t rested (you rest meat after you roast it to let the juices redistribute…if you’ve ever bitten into a dry roasted piece of meat swimming in a puddle of juices, that means it wasn’t rested properly). Dewberry says he has no idea. Um, don’t argue with the chef, dude. Unisex hugs won’t help you if you do. So after Ramsay says Dewberry doesn’t care, with Dewberry agreeing, and Ramsay saying he’s useless, with Dewberry again agreeing, Dewberry makes like he’s going to walk out of the kitchen. Don’t do that! You have air conditioning there! What a drama queen. And he turns around and goes back to his station. Oh, and he cries in his interview. Baby.

    In the blue kitchen, Andrew and Mary Ellen are sniping at each other. I wasn’t sure what that was about…apparently neither of them can cook a piece of meat.

    In a manufactured bit, some customers order in pizza. Weak. And a customer tries to impress the Maitre d’ by saying he has a doctorate in music from the University of Southern California and asks if the Maitre d’ has a doctorate. OK, first of all a PhD in music is, well, not exactly something that’s going to get you a good seat at a restaurant, even if it’s comped. Look, I’ve spent a fair bit of time around professional musicians and there’s a word for people who get doctorates in music. It’s French and it rhymes with hoser. Second, he tries to make a point that the Maitre d’ is “less educated” than he is. OK, let’s look at that. Based on my experience, your average music major is great at lots of book stuff, but everyday stuff tends to elude them. Everyday stuff like, oh, paying rent on time, or understanding that you can’t just take a parking ticket off someone’s car and voila…it’s handled. So frankly, I wouldn’t be bragging about the “high education” of a music PhD (yes, even one from Thornton, although honestly the program is more known for performance than academic disciplines...), especially when doing so does nothing but reinforce the stereotype of arrogance many “uneducated” people have of pompous blowhard Doctors of Music. But then, maybe that was the entire point of this segment. I don’t know. This entire show is so transparent anyway. So the Doctor says because the Maitre d’ is less educated, he shouldn’t be in his face. Puh-leeze. Would you prefer if I get Kenny G to tell you your food isn’t ready? Or maybe John Tesh? Either of them eclipse you in talent, I guarantee you that…and it isn’t exactly a compliment. Then The Music Doctor gets kicked out. Good, he was annoying. Maybe they can get Dewbie to follow him.

    And Ramsay closes the restaurant again. Big surprise. But they did better than last night.

    So Ramsay says the losing team is…the Red team. Again. What, is Mary Ellen sleeping with the guy? But The Plank gets a compliment from Ramsay for his teamwork, and he has to nominate two team members to get kicked out. Dewberry looks like he doesn’t want to have to hug him. I don’t blame him. Jeff does some fancy talking, and The Plank nominates Dewberry (for threatening to desert the kitchen) and Jeff (there ain’t a place here for kidney stone sufferers! Actually it had to do with The Plank’s amateur psychology.). Ramsay agrees with The Plank and tells him he chose wisely. Cliches come from both Jeff and Dewbie…but ultimately, Ramsay is less impressed with…Dewbie. He calls Dewbie a coward because he deserted his station and the Pastry Chef is gone. What will they have for dessert now? Actually, since not one seating has even made it to dessert so far, I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.

    Next week, a trip to The Giant, macho chefs calling each other out, and someone gets moved to the Red Team. Food critics are in the house and risotto threatens to mess up the night. How exciting. How dramatic. How manufactured.

    Posted by John Tant at 09:06 PM | Comments (2)

     

    Penalties For Being Overweight

    [Posted by Laura]

    This is becoming a bit of a trend over the last couple of years. Recently on Fox News (Dayside), a New Yorker who weighed more than 400 pounds wanted the city’s hospitals which are currently over $15 million in debt, or the government, to buy larger ambulances and equipment to accommodate people his size. He said he had the right to it; that he was being discriminated against for being overweight. A couple of days later, another guy on Fox News contended that obese people are paid less because employers have to pay more in health insurance and the government ought to put a stop to that. The direct costs of obesity are more than 5% of all medical costs.

    Last summer, there were several news articles about overweight people who were angry at Southwest for making them purchase two seats. Other airlines have received the same complaints. In looking for information about that, I found the website for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. No, I’m not kidding. It’s a real organization. They have some good ideas about preventing diet fraud, but they also have “fat liberation” demonstrations including “taking up part of St. Vartan's Park on the corner of 35th Street and First Avenue, donned grass hula skirts, tiaras and flamingo headbands to illustrate their acceptance of their flab. They threw around beach balls and participated in a self-defense exercise before dancing the ‘Hokey-Pokey fat liberation’ song.” You can’t do that kind of thing and reasonably expect people to take you seriously.

    Obese people should be extended normal courtesies and considerations. Equal access to housing and jobs and all that. Nobody I know would argue against that. But let’s just get a grip, here. The vast majority of overweight people (including me) got that way because we took in more calories than we expended. Much like my bank account, but in reverse. Cause and effect. Simple. For a few people, there are other medical reasons why they gained weight. Some people are genetically predisposed to be overweight, but that is not destiny, it just means the bar has been set higher for them than for other people. Life is not fair. Deal with it. And the results of being overweight should primarily affect the overweight person, not everybody else, even if obesity is the result of a medical treatment or condition. The bank has not refunded my overdraft fees just because I’m disorganized and bad at math.

    So there are penalties for being overweight. If a person spills over into their neighbor’s seat on the plane, that’s not fair to the other passenger. So the overweight person should have to buy two seats. Health insurance should cost more. It costs more for smokers, for diabetics, for hemophiliacs and for any number of other health problems. My husband pays more because he had cancer. Why should overweight people be exempt from the same reality that governs everybody else?

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 06:14 PM | Comments (15)

     

    How's Your Driving?

    [Posted by ]

    Who are America's worst drivers? According to GMAC Insurance, it's the fine folks in Rhode Island, closely followed by Massachusetts and New Jersey drivers.

    One out of five drivers from New Jersey and other states in the northeastern United States failed a two-part test. GMAC estimated that about one of 10 drivers nationwide would fail a written driver's test. Oregon drivers were regarded as the most knowledgeable.

    Wisconsin drivers rank 8th in the nation, and not surprisingly, to me at least, our friendly FIBS (Illinois natives) rank near the back of the pack for their driving knowledge.

    Silly surveys like this don't prove anything, of course, but it's nice to your opinions reinforced.

    Posted by at 04:46 PM | Comments (3)

     

    It Was 61 Years Ago Today...

    [Posted by ]

    Last year, the 60th anniversary of D-Day had special poignancy, coming as it did on the heels of the death of Ronald Reagan. Reagan's speeches at Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day are the stuff of legends. Most people are familiar with his address at Pointe du Hoc, but I've always loved his speech at Omaha Beach even more. It's more personal, and, as a daughter, I relate to it much more:

    Today, the living here assembled-officials, veterans, citizens-are a tribute to what was achieved here 40 years ago. This land is secure. We are free. These things are worth fighting and dying for.

    Lisa Zannata Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: "I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let any one else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud."

    Through the words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D-Day veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any President can. It is enough to say about Private Zannata and all the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.

    It's probably my all time favorite speech. So, in honor of Reagan, and all of those brave people who set out to liberate Europe that day, I want to post the whole thing here.

    President Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984. Normandy, France.

    We stand today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt the worst of war. Men bled and died here for a few feet of - or inches of sand, as bullets and shellfire cut through their ranks. About them, General Omar Bradley later said, "Every man who set foot on Omaha Beach that day was a hero."

    Some who survived the battle of June 6, 1944, are here today. Others who hoped to return never did.

    "Someday, Lis, I'll go back," said Private First Class Peter Robert Zannata, of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, and first assault wave to hit Omaha Beach. "I'll go back, and I'll see it all again. I'll see the beach, the barricades, and the graves."

    Those words of Private Zanatta come to us from his daughter, Lisa Zanatta Henn, in a heart-rending story about the event her father spoke of so often. "In his words, the Normandy invasion would change his life forever," she said. She tells some of his stories of World War II but says of her father, "the story to end all stories was D-Day."

    "He made me feel the fear of being on the boat waiting to land. I can smell the ocean and feel the sea sickness. I can see the looks on his fellow soldiers' faces-the fear, the anguish, the uncertainty of what lay ahead. And when they landed, I can feel the strength and courage of the men who took those first steps through the tide to what must have surely looked like instant death."

    Private Zannata's daughter wrote to me, "I don't know how or why I can feel this emptiness, this fear, or this determination, but I do. Maybe it's the bond I had with my father. All I know is that it brings tears to my eyes to think about my father as a 20-year old boy having to face that beach."

    The anniversary of D-Day was always special to her family. And like all the families of those who went to war, she describes how she came to realize her own father's survival was a miracle: "So many men died. I know that my father watched many of his friends be killed. I know that he must have died inside a little each time. But his explanation to me was, `You did what you had to do, and you kept on going."

    When men like Private Zannata and all our Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy 40 years ago they came not as conquerors, but as liberators. When these troops swept across the French countryside and into the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg they came not to take, but to return what had been wrongfully seized. When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to bee free again.

    We salute them today. But, Mr. President [Francois Mitterand of France], we also salute those who, like yourself, were already engaging the enemy inside your beloved country-the French Resistance. Your valiant struggle for France did so much to cripple the enemy and spur the advance of the armies of liberation. The French Forces of the Interior will forever personify courage and national spirit. They will be a timeless inspiration to all who are free and to all who would be free.

    Today, in their memory, and for all who fought here, we celebrate the triumph of democracy. We reaffirm the unity of democratic people who fought a war and then joined with the vanquished in a firm resolve to keep the peace.

    From a terrible war we learned that unity made us invincible; now, in peace, that same unity makes us secure. We sought to bring all freedom-loving nations together in a community dedicated to the defense and preservation of our sacred values. Our alliance, forged in the crucible of war, tempered and shaped by the realities of the post-war world, has succeeded. In Europe, the threat has been contained, the peace has been kept.

    Today, the living here assembled-officials, veterans, citizens-are a tribute to what was achieved here 40 years ago. This land is secure. We are free. These things are worth fighting and dying for.

    Lisa Zannata Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: "I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let any one else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud."

    Through the words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D-Day veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any President can. It is enough to say about Private Zannata and all the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.

    Thank you.


    Posted by at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

     

    June 05, 2005

    Let's Make A Deal - For A State

    [Posted by ]

    A few weeks ago, we posted a link to a funny article in the Weekly World News about how President Bush was planning on selling Hawaii in order to finance the War on Terror. Well, that got me to thinking. What would happen if we tried to sell off some of our states? How much would they cost? What are their various assets and liabilities? Who would want them?

    I put together the chart in the extended entry below. The price is simply based on an estimate of the state's 2005 Gross State Product. Keep in mind that I didn't factor in things like growth potential or brand equity. Then, I thought about what the state had to offer and who, if money were no object, would be the likely buyer. Take a look...

    State & Price Assets Liabilities Likely Buyer
    1. California
    $1.6 trillion
    US Hwy 1, Yosemite, San Diego Earthquakes, mudslides, Hollywood Mexico, but it'd have to borrow the money from illegal aliens working in America
    2. Texas
    $900 billion
    Beef, oil, cowboys

    Negative brand image in the worldwide market Texans would pool their funds, purchase themselves and establish the Republic of Texas
    3. New York
    $880 billion

    Wall Street, museums, Broadway ABC, NBC & CBS News headquarters The Dutch and Native Americans pool their resources for the asking price, plus some beads
    4. Florida
    $614 billion
    Sunshine, beaches, a growing population Hurricanes, dumb voters, the humidity 

    George Soros, since he's already spent so much trying to buy it in the last two elections
    5. Illinois
    $527 billion
    Ronald Reagan's and James K. Hat's birthplace, amazing architecture, toll roads Bad drivers, the cursed Cubs, their fans Oprah: the Land of Lincoln becomes the Land of Oprah

    6. Pennsylvania
    $495 billion
    The Liberty Bell, Gettysburg, chocolate

    Nasty sports fans, dying industries, annoying groundhogs, Terrell Owens The Amish. Don't you wonder why they really don't spend any money on modern conveniences? They've been saving up!
    7. New Jersey
    $435 billion
    The Jersey shore, the Boardwalk, Jon Bon Jovi  Mall hair, Miss America competition, Bruce Springsteen

    England. Culturally, they don't work, but the wacky Brits like the idea of having New Jersey and Old Jersey
    8. Ohio
    $434 billion
    Control of the Ohio River, Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, birthplace of many Presidents (there's something in the water) Impatient voters, turncoat Senators, the Cuyahoga River The former Confederate States of America: in order to wreck havoc on the birthplace of both Sherman & Grant

    9. Michigan
    $395 billion

    Cars, cherries, blueberries Yoopers, Madonna, lack of native wolverines Israel, it's already the Michigan of the Middle East, and it's time to expand
    10. Georgia
    $350 billion
    Augusta National, peaches, pecans

    Bad reputation lingers from the 1996 Olympics, CNN, runaway brides The european Georgians make a bid for the state of georgia and set out to balkanize the surrounding states
    11. North Carolina
    $345 billion
    Research Triangle, college basketball dynasties, furniture Tobacco, John Edwards Poland thinks Mike Krzyzewski would make a great President

    12. Virginia
    $341 billion
    The ponies of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, Mt. Vernon, Monticello & John Tant

    PDA from all the pesky lovers, pollution caused by extra AOL CDs Daniel Snyder tries to buy it, but fails when the good people of Virginia rise up and do what Redskins fans have been unable to - revolt!
    13. Massachusetts
    $317 billion
    Birthplace of the Revolution, great universities, shoes The Kennedy clan, inferior cranberries, Red Sox fans

    Russia - who will use it as a training ground for future communist hardliners
    14. Washington
    $271 billion

    Access to coffee, lumber (need some wood?), leads the nation in production of a huge number of fruits Mt. St. Helens, rain, Seattle public schools Silicon Valley pools together, buys the state and closes down the evil empire in Redmond
    15. Maryland
    $235 billion
    Crab cakes, US Naval Academy, Ocean City  Baltimore, hideous flag, strange shape Donald Trump, because Baltimore presents the ultimate challenge of turning a shithole into something better

    16. Minnesota
    $234 billion
    Ole & Lena jokes, Target, the Boundary Waters Lutefisk, the culture of losing embodied by the Vikings, the winters

    Norway - Vikings flock together
    17. Indiana
    $234 billion
    The Brickyard, heavy industry, Touchdown Jesus

    Gary, flat land, inexplicable southern accents Michael Jordan, but only because he couldn't get Illinois or North Carolina
    18. Tennessee
    $221 billion

    Jack Daniels, Beale Street, music heritage Elvis freaks at Graceland, association with the Arrested Development song Ireland, as they attempt to corner the world's whiskey market
    19. Wisconsin
    $220 billion
    Beer, brats & Bucky

    Perpetual construction, cold weather, bad neighbors Wisconsinites purchase the state and reform it as a nonprofit corporation, like the Packers
    20. Missouri
    $210 billion
    Hannibal, the Gateway Arch, the Ozarks Budweiser, ultra-snooty Journalism school, Meth production McDonalds can pick it up so it can build another arch and make the whole M

    21. Arizona
    $205 billion

    Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon Lack of water, unchecked illegal immigration Lebanon - they're ready to just get the hell out of the Middle East
    22. Colorado
    $204 billion
    Skiing, Mountain biking, Rocky Mountain scenery Shaky law enforcement (see Columbine, Kobe Bryant & Jon Benet Ramsey), Coors, no Avalanche

    The Netherlands-they could use some mountains and could dominate the Winter Olympics in both skiing and speed skating
    23. Connecticut
    $186 billion

    Yale University, the arsenal of the nation, ESPN

    Lack of major sports team, overshadowed by more dynamic neighbors Canada-they could use an arsenal, and they know what it's like to be overshadowed by neighbors
    24. Louisiana
    $159 billion
    Mississippi River port, cajun & creole food, Laura Curtis New Orleans cesspool, extreme vulnerability to hurricanes France-for the cuisine alone

    25. Alabama
    $146 billion

    Plenty of American Idol candidates, Rocket scientists, Civil Rights heritage "Sweet Home Alabama" gets old pretty quick Brazil-Alabama is the fattest state, but Brazilians like big butts and they cannot lie
    26. Kentucky
    $144 billion
    Horses, bourbon & prime Ohio River real estate

    Not all Kentucky girls look like Daisy Duke in their daisy dukes, the excellent Oldenburg Brewery no longer exists Sheik Mohammed, of Dubai would  like to add Kentucky's horse country to his portfolio
    27. South Carolina
    $138 billion

    Coolest state flag, the nation's only commercial tea plantation, tons of beautiful Islands Started the Civil War (may be considered a plus by many readers) Serbia-as they share an unfortunate talent for starting wars
    28. Oregon
    $131 billion
    Spectacular windsurfing, incredible natural variety (mountains, coast, etc.), boysenberries and loganberries Tsunami vulnerability, Cape Disappointment was not named ironically

    Nike, who will rename the state "Swoosh":

    29. Iowa
    $113 billion
    Corn, soybeans, Norman Borlaug Hogs, and we're not just talking livestock, who in the hell eats corn? Bono-in a last ditch attempt to literally "feed the world"

    30. Oklahoma
    $112 billion
    Oil, natural gas, Cowboy Hall of Fame  Consistently overrated football teams, named after cheaters Argentina can get more of the world's beef market and they too aren't afraid to glorify cheaters (Maradona's "Hand of God" goal anyone?)

    31. Nevada
    $103 billion

    Viva Las Vegas, gold, the Hoover Dam Driest state, divorce capital of the nation, annual invasion by freaky Burning Man people Sweden-just imagine all the taxes they could collect
    32. Kansas
    $102 billion
    Wheat, the nation's leading producer of helium, Old West history Tornados, "We're not in Kansas anymore" means we're somewhere interesting

    Iraq-they've had enough excitement
    33. Arkansas
    $83 billion
    America's only active diamond mine, chicken, Hot Springs Doesn't like to obey the US Supreme Court, the Clintons Wal-Mart, new name will be Wal-Markansas

    34. Utah
    $82 billion
    Moab, minerals, lots of National Parks

    Mistaken impression that everyone's a Mormon, hotter than hell George Lucas, who will rename it "Tatooine"
    35. Mississippi
    $79 billion
    Brett Favre, cotton, Natchez Trace

    Poorest state in the country Rupert Murdoch, causing many jeers and laughs, but no ones laughing 20 years later when he turns it into the most successful and profitable state EVER, knocking NY and CA off their ivory pedestals
    36. District of Columbia
    $77 billion

    Museums, the National Mall, James K. Hat Students scored the lowest on the SAT, crackheads hold important offices Smith & Wesson buy the District and rename all the athletic teams: Bullet Wizards, Bullet Redskins, you get the idea
    37. Nebraska
    $63 billion
    Cows, forage grass, citizens who are unafraid of deer in their local Wal-Mart Lack of trees, rural flight

    China-they've got a lot of folks to feed
    38. New Mexico
    $55 billion

    Nukes, uranium, natural beauty The mere existence of a "state question" ("red or green") shows that the state government is clearly bloated Iran, but strictly to pursue the benefits of nuclear energy
    39. New Hampshire
    $54 billion
    "Live free or die", granite, Lake Winnipesaukee is just plain fun to say "The Old Man of the Mountain" is no more, declining manufacturing sector

    Hungary-they understand what "Live Free or Die" really means. 
    40. Hawaii
    $54 billion

    Pineapples, pure cane sugar, coffee, perfect weather Isolated, nothing to talk about in elevators Japan, because if at first you don't succeed...
    41. Delaware
    $53 billion
    Chemicals, chicken 

    Took 40 years to ratify the 13th Amendment South Africa-it took 40 years to get rid of Apartheid, so it won't hold that against Delaware
    42. West Virginia
    $51 billion
    Coal, steel, glass, hillbillies

    Barely ranks ahead of DC in educational achievement, high rural poverty rate Palestine. West Virginia is, after all, "almost heaven", and it's a lot easier to be a buyer than a martyr.
    43. Rhode Island
    $45 billion
    Jewelry manufacturing, sailing It's just a tiny little thing

    Liechtenstein, which would become nearly 17 times larger with the acquisition
    44. Maine
    $45 billion

    Acadia National Park, lobster, Pete's Wicked Ale They're mainiacs up there! Maine will be the first purchase of an independent Quebec
    45. Idaho
    $44 billion
    Potatoes, silver, the Sawtooth wolf pack Aryan Nations compounds, Boise State's sacrilegious blue football fields

    Bill Gates: once they shut down Redmond, he'll move operations here
    46. Alaska
    $35 billion
    Seafood, natural gas, abundant wildlife

    Lack of women, earthquakes, the weather Bangladesh-screw the weather, they just want to be able to spread out
    47. South Dakota
    $30 billion
    Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial

    Ugly Black Hills gold jewelry, the Corn Palace started a strange trend Iceland. Ironically, they think it must be a tropical place since it has "south" in its name
    48. Montana
    $29 billion

    Mining, Glacier National Park, wheat & barley  In the movie 'Star Trek: First Contact', Montana is the location of the historical first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans, so there's a danger the state could be overrun by nerdy Trekkies at some point The free-spirited people of Australia will feel right at home in their newly acquired Big Sky Country. Plus, the Crocodile Hunter will get all new wildlife to play with.
    49. Wyoming
    $27 billion
    Yellowstone National Park, national leader in promoting equality for women, oil, natural gas Gets less than 10 inches of rain a year, state seems to count on Harrison Ford for emergency rescues and he won't always be around Saudi Arabia, who will teach those uppity votin' bitches a lesson

    50. North Dakota
    $25 billion
    The Fighting Sioux hockey team, wheat, great hunting

    Extreme weather conditions, declining population Germany - it will exile neo-Nazis here. They'll fit in well at Englestad arena..
    51. Vermont
    $23 billion
    Maple syrup, skiing, marble

    Howard Dean, mud season, socialist politics Belgium, and it will create the Haagen-Daz/Ben & Jerry's Empire of the Ice Cream
    Posted by at 08:13 PM | Comments (5)

     

    Greatest Americans - The Finale

    [Posted by ]

    Thomas Edison was the winner of the scientist category, just barely beat Ben Franklin in by far the closest race we've had.

    And now it's time for the finale. As a reminder, this whole thing started after I caught a glimpse at who the Discovery Channel was featuring as their 100 Greatest Americans. Coincidently, the show starts this evening at 8 pm Eastern Time, but, in the meantime, you can place your vote for Dummocrats' Greatest American right now:

    You know, because I used the Discovery Channel's category format, this final poll is really kind of anti-climatic. It's just strange to see a greatest American poll with no Abraham Lincoln, Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. If I hadn't wanted to stay somewhat in line with the Discovery Channel, I would have picked a top 64, seeded them and had an NCAA-style tourney. Ah well, maybe next year.

    In the meantime, vote in our final poll, watch the Discovery show for a laugh or two and check out the past categories below:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    Posted by at 08:52 AM | Comments (4)

     

    June 03, 2005

    Bias by Semantics

    [Posted by ]

    When is a budget cut not a cut? Sadly, the answer is fast becoming: whenever the news media report it. Skimming the web this afternoon, I saw the headline "JFC Cuts Financial Aid for Low Income UW Students" at Channel3000.com . I thought that headline sounded a bit suspicious, so I dug into the story. Here's the deal:

    Governor Doyle's budget proposal increased the money for WHEG grants to $40.5 million. The Republican controlled Joint Finance Committee scaled the grants back to $37 million.

    Doyle's increase represents an 8.5% increase. Without the increase, the grants would equal, you guessed it, $37 million. Of course, it's not just the media acting like this is a cut. Governor Doyle, who should know better, joins in:

    "The cut of money in financial aid is just one of these thoughtless, almost sort of cruel cuts, you kinda wonder what they're sitting there thinking about."

    Too bad there's not actually a cut. Now, it's true that tuition costs are rising, so it would certainly be accurate to say that grants are not increasing as quickly as tuition, but it's entirely inaccurate to say that funding is being "cut". But who cares about accuracy when there's scary Republicans to demonize?

    Posted by at 04:49 PM | Comments (1)

     

    June 02, 2005

    Will Blogging Kill our Common Culture?

    [Posted by ]

    Instapundit linked to an article in Commentary today by art critic Terry Teachout. Teachout's theory is that blogging, along with other forms of alternative media, is accelerating the demise of a common American culture:

    the common culture of widely shared values and knowledge that once helped to unite Americans of all creeds, colors, and classes no longer exists. In its place, we now have a “balkanized” group of subcultures whose members pursue their separate, unshared interests in an unprecedented variety of ways.

    While Teachout's article is certainly well written and interesting, I have to disagree with its premise. One of the first pieces of evidence he uses to prove this balkanization of America is the very existence of red states and blue states:

    Not only had the party affiliation of American voters become closely linked to their cultural views, but people of differing views were choosing to live in different geographical places. Democratic voters were most often opting for large cities, older suburbs, and college towns, while Republicans (as I put it in an essay written immediately after the election) were to be found in a confluence of “rural and small-town America . . . with the fast-growing group of Americans who live in ‘exurbia,’ the new middle-class communities that are springing up beyond the rim of the older suburbs.”

    At the time, political commentators at various points on the political spectrum expressed skepticism about the brightness of the line dividing what we now call “Blue America” and “Red America.” Today, though, few doubts are voiced about the disaggregation of these two “nations.” A mountain of polling data—not to mention the results of a second presidential election—has shown us that they are real places with sharply differing cultural priorities.

    The idea of "red states" and "blue states" is so seductive because it makes political analysis so very easy. But the truth is seldom so simple. It's funny that those who sneer at President Bush because he insists on seeing some things in black and white are so willing to see America as red and blue. While some places are pretty damn blue (and I'm sure there's a ward as conservative as mine is liberal somewhere deep in the heart of Texas), America is, for the most part, varying shades of purple. Did you know that 600,000 voters in New York City voted for Bush in the last election and that 2.8 million Texans voted for John Kerry? We're all still in this together.

    Teachout has some good points about how the rise of alternative media may make people more partisan because they'll seek the news from like-minded outlets. Right now the blogosphere acts as a balance to the liberal mainstream media, but as the influence of the MSM wanes, the balance is gone. But here's the thing, yes, to a certain extent people want their beliefs reinforced. But, even more importantly, people want to find out the truth. The rise of the conservative blogosphere can be directly tied to the perception that the MSM is slanting the facts rather than telling the truth.

    Does this mean that America has no common culture? I don't think so. A common culture doesn't require Americans to have similiar political or religious beliefs. This country has, with a few exceptions in times of crisis, always been divided politically. I think it's a mistake to define our commonality through our beliefs. America was founded on an idea that men and women could be free regardless of their political or religious beliefs. Teachout, in fact, doesn't even agree with himself:

    One thing of which I am sure is that the common culture of my youth is gone for good. It was hollowed out by the rise of ethnic “identity politics,” then splintered beyond hope of repair by the emergence of the web-based technologies that so maximized and facilitated cultural choice as to make the broad-based offerings of the old mass media look bland and unchallenging by comparison. For all the nostalgia with which I look back on the days of the Top 40, the Book-of-the-Month Club, and The Ed Sullivan Show, I prefer to make my own cultural decisions, and I welcome the ease with which the new media permit me to do so.

    Notice that this definition has nothing to do with political or religious beliefs. But also notice that it has so much to do with common popular culture. While it's true that pop culture has become more splintered, does pop culture truly define our culture? I contend that America isn't what it is because of Life Magazine or The Book of the Month Club. American culture is best defined by the concept of the American Dream, which is, of course, derived from the simple concept of "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness". What binds us together isn't what we read, watch or listen to, it's our common goal to live the American Dream. People don't (and never did) risk their lives to come to America to drink Coca-Cola or watch MTV. They come here for freedom and opportunity. They want to speak their minds without fear of a knock on the door in the middle of the night. They want to enjoy a sunny day with a brat and a beer. They want their children to have a chance at a better life than they themselves had. That is what makes us Americans.

    Posted by at 08:28 PM | Comments (11)

     

    June 01, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 9 - Scientists, Inventors & Explorers

    [Posted by ]

    George Washington was the winner of the Political Figures category. He'll join Jim Thorpe, John Wayne, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elvis Presley & George S. Patton in the finals.

    Our final category is Scientists, Inventors & Explorers. Now, I'm going to break from protocol and urge you all to check out the links below and learn more about the candidates before you vote. Don't just vote on reputation. Did you know, for example, that Norman Borlaug is credited with saving a billion lives?

    The Candidates
    1. Alexander Graham Bell
    2. Norman Borlaug
    3. Meriweather Lewis & William Clark
    4. Thomas Edison
    5. Ben Franklin
    6. Jonas Salk
    7. Nikola Tesla
    8. Eli Whitney
    9. Orville & Wilbur Wright

    So, take a look at these great Americans and then place your vote:

    The polls are closed. Thomas Edison edged out Ben Franklin to win the category.

    Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    The finals will run from June 5-7.

    Posted by at 08:19 PM | Comments (16)

     

    Is 'Deep Throat' a Hero?

    [Posted by ]

    Now that he's been revealed as Deep Throat, some people are falling all over themselves in calling W. Mark Felt a hero. I can understand the man's grandson saying "I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he's a hero", but should the rest of us fall into line with the new conventional wisdom?

    I don't think so. I think Pat Buchanan had it exactly right when he said:

    Mark Felt himself was doing black-bag jobs during the previous era. What he should have done, was if he felt the investigation was corrupted, stand up and say, 'I'm going to resign from the FBI because I don't want to be a party to what's going on. This is not correct, I think things are going on in the White House that are wrong. I don't believe they're investigated. I don't believe they're being investigated properly.'  Instead, he sneaks around during a political campaign and leaks the results of an investigation to the Washington Post. I think he did it, Amy, for the same reason Woodward said, he was passed over for Director and he was bitter and full of resentment, and this was payback.

    Former Nixon aide Charles Colson seconded Buchanan's words on MSNBC today:

    What could he have done, Amy? He could have walked into (FBI Director) Pat Gray and said, 'We're going to go over to the Oval Office and tell the old man what's going on.' If Pat Gray said no, then Pat Buchanan's right, you have a press conference and you leave. That's the honorable way to do it. People talk about a hero. A hero might have, if he had the courage, gone in and talked to the President.

    Maybe I'm asking too much of Felt. But I expect a lot from someone who's a real hero. The problem with this reveal is that it not only reveals who Deep Throat was, it also reveals his motivations. A mystery man only has the motivations we imagine for him. And, since we usually prefer our mystery men to be dashing and noble, they're motivated simply by the need to do what's right. Unfortunately, flesh and blood people are rarely that noble. So, let the press laud Felt as a valuable informant, but that should be it. He's no hero. He's just a man. Kind of like how Nixon was no evil villain, he was just a man too.

    Posted by at 12:14 PM | Comments (11)

     


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