Saturday, December 31, 2005


Here's a hearty wish to all for a happy and healthy 2006!

In recognition of the passing of 2005 and the emergence of 2006, let's all sing a round or two of Auld Lang Syne and ring in the new year in fine fashion.

All together now...


Words adapated from a traditional song
by Rabbie Burns (1759-96)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne


auld lang syne - times gone by
be - pay for
braes - hills
braid - broad
burn - stream
dine - dinner time
fiere - friend
fit - foot
gowans - daisies
guid-willie waught - goodwill drink
monie - many
morning sun - noon
paidl't - paddled
pint-stowp - pint tankard
pou'd - pulled
twa - two

Friday, December 30, 2005

Separated at Birth?

Is it just me, or does erstwhile New York Times reporter and neo-conservative "embed" Judith Miller (above, top) bear a striking resemblance to actress Harriet Sansom Harris, who plays Wisteria Lane neighbor Felicia Tilman on ABC's hit "dramedy" Desperate Housewives?

If Hollywood ever produces a film about the Valerie Plame case (among other neo-con scandals), perhaps Ms. Harris has a key role already sewn up.

Or, perhaps, Judith Miller can do a cameo appearance on DH as Mrs. Tilman's other, long lost sister.

Yeah, that'll happen.

Here we go again!

After all of the hullabaloo over the last two weeks about the NSA's secret domestic - and warrantless - spying program, now we learn that the U.S. Justice Department is opening an investigation. Well, that didn't take long. Maybe we'll finally get some concrete legal action taken against the Bush administration.

Oh, wait. What's that? They're not investigating the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping, you say? They're actually investigating the alleged leak of classified information about the program?

Here we go again!

Just as we saw after information came out about the secret prison network around the globe, these people seem to be more concerned with a "leak" than with the legality of the program in question. How freaking backward is that?!

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep from screaming, "What the hell is wrong with this country?!" Apparently, our leaders feel it's okay to make their own rules/laws/decrees, label them as top secret, and then persecute anyone who should divulge the activities, many of which appear to be of dubious legal standing.

Is it just me or is something completely out of whack here? It's just so wrong, not to mention frightening, that these people feel that they are completely above and beyond the law. And it's not as though - contrary to right-wing belief - that an overwhelming majority of the U.S. voting population elected Bush and Cheney. In fact, 49% DIDN'T vote for them the last time around.

So what's next? Are they going to declare a terror emergency in 2008 and cancel the election so they can remain in power? At this point, I wouldn't put anything past these criminals. As Americans, all of us should be frightened of the terrorists...the ones occupying the White House, that is. They're destroying the Constitution bit by bloody bit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Rock and Roll Fantasy

I haven't spent much time online today, mostly due to my newest toy. And it's not even a toy I received for Christmas. But it rocks! Literally! And I've been playing almost non-stop since I got it.

One of my nephews, who was at our house for Christmas this year, got a new Playstation 2 game called, Guitar Hero. Well, once the presents were all opened and the throng at our house went off to eat lunch or take a nap or whatever, a few of the grownups snuck away to set up Guitar Hero on the big screen TV in our family room. And that's how this game became the centerpiece of our holiday festivities for the remainder of the day.

And when my nephew left the following day, along with his PS2 and Guitar Hero, an uncomfortable void was left for those of us who remained. So I did what any self-respecting, approaching-middle-age, frustrated former musician would do: I went out and bought a new PS2 system and, of course, Guitar Hero.

It's my Christmas gift to myself, or so I've tried to justify it in my mind.

So, you ask, just what is this Guitar Hero and why has it intrigued me so? Well, words alone can't do it justice. But I'll try.

Guitar Hero is, in effect, a video game. But unlike most video games, the majority of which spark absolutely no interest in me whatsoever, this game doesn't use the typical handheld controller that most kids today could operate in their sleep. No. The "controller" for Guitar Hero is, well, a guitar. Or at least a small version of one that allows the participant to make like a rock star and "play" a variety of different guitar-centric rock tunes from the last few decades.

It even has a whammy bar!! How cool is that?!

One can either play songs individually, at up to four different levels of difficulty (easy, medium, hard, expert) or one can create a rock persona, a band and go "on tour". As one successfully completes each song and each set, the band moves on to another venue with additional songs to choose from. Once you've completed enough songs to complete the easiest level, the band moves on to the medium level. And so on.

You really have to try it to get the picture, but once you do, you're hooked. And I'm hooked.

Rock on, dudes!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Rice for Prez in 2008?

According to CNN, there are some people pushing for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to run for President in 2008. No, not President of the University of Denver (her alma mater) alumni association. No. Apparently, they mean POTUS: President of the United States.

I know, I had to laugh my ass off for a while, too.

A new web site, "Americans for Dr. Rice", says it is, "Dedicated to DRAFTING Dr. Rice for President." In fact, they even claim that Rice "is consistently in the top three mentioned for 2008."

Hell, if George W. Bush could be construed as being qualified to run for President, I guess Condi Rice could be, too. And it's no less scary a thought.

Rice is as unqualified as most of the other appointed officials in the Bush administration's cabal of cluelessness (can you say, "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie!"?). A career academic and doctoral expert on the Soviet Union, Rice's expertise as a diplomat was non-existent before being named this nation's top diplomat after Colin Powell stepped down after Bush's re-election in 2004.

But perhaps her most inglorious moment came on 9/11/01. As the National Security Advisor, she was the one who completely ignored any and all warnings (remember Richard Clarke?) of terrorist activity that could bring harm to the United States. Even the now-infamous Presidential Daly Briefing of August 6, 2001, the one that warned of Osama bin Laden's intent to attack the United States, seemed to escape her attention. What was she doing, shopping for a new pair of Ferragamos?

This is a person who is qualified and prepared to be our President? I don't think so.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Canada to Bush: "Take off, you hoser!"

In the upcoming parliamentary elections in Canada, it appears to pay to be the target of Washington's slings and arrows. In fact, Prime Minister Paul Martin is gaining newfound support with his reluctance to back down in the face of mounting criticism from the Bush White House.

To that I say, "Way to go, you hosers!"

Clearly, most Canadians seem to have a love-hate relationship with the United States. They tend to love Americans (despite what Winnipeg natives The Guess Who sang in their long ago rock anthem, "American Woman") but hate the American government, specifically the Bush administration.

Hmmmm. That seems to be a familiar refrain in many parts of the world these days, doesn't it?

Anyway, as a first-generation American of Canadian-born parents, I have to give the Canadians credit for standing up to their big brother to the south. As our closest ally and largest trading partner, Canada often is dealt with by Washington as the little kid who should be seen and not heard. When Canada wants to be heard about something, Washington summarily smacks it down and tells it to shut up...or else.

More recently, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, has come under fire north of the border for essentially telling the Canadians to stop bashing Washington and the Bush White House. But this time, the Canadians are NOT taking it sitting down. In fact, Prime Minister Martin is using his consituents' ire to boost his once-sagging popularity. And anyone in the race who ties himself or herself to President Bush is in big trouble with the electorate, according to USAToday:

The flap is likely to mean a boost at the polls for Martin's Liberal Party, says Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, a polling firm in Toronto. After the holidays, Bricker says, look for aggressive Liberal campaign ads tying Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper to President Bush. Some voters will be drawn to Martin's Liberals "to stop what they see as a mini-George Bush," Bricker says.

The controversy underscores Canadians' ambivalence toward their country's closest ally and largest trading partner. Ottawa and Washington have worked together to integrate their economies and, since 9/11, to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and combat the threat of terrorism at home. However, Canada did not support the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The two governments have sparred repeatedly over border security, a planned U.S. missile shield and U.S. imports of Canadian lumber.

In a November poll, 73% of Canadians expressed an unfavorable view of Bush, according to results by Innovative Research. In the same poll, though, 68% said they had a favorable view of Americans.

The results show "that the rising tide of anti-Americanism in this country is driven not out of a dislike for the American people but as a visceral dislike of Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq," Rudyard Griffiths, executive director of the Dominion Institute, a group that promotes Canadian history, told the National Post newspaper.

Yes, that "visceral dislike" of President Bush seems to carry a lot of weight these days, both in Canada and elsewhere. Perhaps the widespread disdain for this U.S. President will find its way to the land of the free and the home of the brave before long. To this day, far too many Americans seem willing to see their government virtually rape and pillage them into automaton-like submission.

It's high time that Americans take the lead of their hoser brethren to the Great White North and tell the Bush administration to "take off".

Talk about some real hosers, eh?!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Stars' Turco named a Canadian Olympian

Two days after Dallas Stars forwards Mike Modano and Bill Guerin were named to the United States Olympic hockey team, Stars goaltender Marty Turco (above) today was named to the Canadian Olympic team. This will be Turco's first appearance in the Olympics.

Turco, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who won two NCAA championships while playing at the University of Michigan, will join New Jersey's perennial All-Star Martin Brodeur and Florida's Roberto Luongo as Team Canada's three goaltenders.

Whether or not Turco sees any significant playing time behind likely #1 starter Brodeur remains to be seen. Turco started off the 2005-06 season slowly, but has regained his form over the last six weeks, winning the NHL's defensive player-of-the-month award for November. His Dallas Stars currently are in first place in the Pacific Division with a record of 21-9-1.

Several other Stars players are expected to make their respective countries' Olympic teams. Forwards Jere Lehtinen and Niko Kapanen are almost assured of making the Finnish team, while backup goaltender Johan Hedberg (Sweden) and defenseman Martin Skoula (Czech Republic) are likely representatives for their nations' teams.

The National Hockey League will take a two-plus week hiatus from its regular season schedule in February so that its top players can compete in Turin, Italy. Canada, the Czech Republic and the U.S. are among the medal favorites. But don't count out the pesky Finns, as they very well could be there when the gold medal is handed out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

FISA Judge Resigns in Protest

The Washington Post is reporting that one of the eleven FISA court judges has resigned, allegedly in protest over the secretive manner in which the Bush administration decided to go around the court to conduct electronic surveillance.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John D. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Clearly, it appears that members of the FISA court bench were unaware of the program to circumvent the court. This may explain why so many FISA warrant requests continued to go before the bench after President Bush signed his secret executive order. If the warrant requests had ceased, the court would have become very suspicious. So the court continued to hear - and grant - warrant requests while the NSA apparently engaged in unwarranted surveillance of hundreds and perhaps thousands of targets without court oversight.

The question remains: Who were these unwarranted targets and why did the administration feel compelled to spy on them in clear violation of the law?

Larry C. Johnson at NO QUARTER contends that the administration may have wanted to avoid bringing certain evidence before the federal court because the evidence may have implicated the U.S. in possible violations of the Geneva Conventions. This certainly would provide an interesting tie to the recent allegations of torture and secret prisons on foreign soil.

We also have learned that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) expressed concern about the secret program back in 2003 after he first learned of it. He wrote a letter to Vice President Cheney and also locked a copy of it in safekeeping for possible future reference. Because he was sworn not to discuss with anyone what he had learned - not with his aides, not with his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee, not with his legal counsel - he therefore was severely limited at the time in what he could do to determine whether or not this program was, in fact, legal. Other members of Congress may have been in a similar, difficult situation.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, it's time to let it ALL the way out of the bag and find out what happened...and find out if any laws were broken. While the White House has acknowledged the program, it's anticipated that it will stonewall attempts to gain detailed information and documentation about the original executive order and the subsequent implementation of the surveillance. In their minds, I guess secrecy trumps legality. That should be a major red flag right there!

Lots of questions that need to be answered, for sure. Hopefully enough members of Congress (yeah, that means you, Republicans!) will be sufficiently outraged to demand accountability from the Bush White House. I know I am!

Quote of the Day: "It's the right thing to do."

You may recall curmudgeonly, veteran actor Wilford Brimley and his well-known line from his years as a spokesperson for Quaker Oats. He encouraged everyone to do "the right thing" every morning by eating a bowl of Quaker oatmeal for breakfast. Sound advice, no doubt.

But today's quote has nothing to do with oatmeal. And it has nothing to do with sound advice.

No, today's quote is from the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. And if he were to grow a bushy mustache similar to Wilford Brimley's, one might think he had become the newest spokesperson for Quaker.

If only it were true.

Sadly, Cheney's comment was in response to the burgeoning brouhaha over President' Bush's secret campaign to spy on Americans without the benefit of court oversight, as required by law.

According to Cheney, "It's good, solid, sound policy. It's the right thing to do."

If that isn't one of the most frightening things we could ever hear from a senior elected official in this country, I don't know what is. Maybe in the old Soviet Union such activities were considered "good, solid, sound policy", but NEVER in the United States. Silly me, I thought the United States was supposed to be free of such totalitarian tactics.

The express purpose of the FISA law that has been on the books since 1978 is to allow surveillance with approval of the designated court. And, despite the protestations from Bush and Cheney that circumventing the court was necessary in order to be "quick to detect and prevent" terrorist attacks, the FISA law allows for surveillance for up to 72 hours before requesting a warrant from the court. So, effectively, the NSA could jump onto a hot surveillance target at any time as long as they submitted a warrant request to the court within the designated 72 hour period. Is that such a problem?

And why has the NSA been submitting thousands of warrant requests under FISA since the President's executive order was signed in late 2001, especially when they apparently didn't have to? Was this to act as a smokescreen so the court - and ultimately the American people - wouldn't get suspicious if the number of FISA warrant requests suddenly dropped to nil?

So why does our government feel that the FISA law doesn't adequately address its needs to root out terrorist plots in the U.S.? Why did Bush and Cheney feel the need to go around an existing law in order to perpetrate unfettered spying in this country? Is there a more nefarious reason for approving such unfettered spying on American soil?

According to the Washington Post:

(Bush) contended that his "obligation to protect you" against attack justified a circumvention of the traditional process in a fast-moving, high-tech battle with a shadowy enemy. "This is a different era, a different war," the president said at a year-end news conference in the East Room. "People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this . . . requires quick action."

A different era, eh? era without civil rights? An era without the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? An era that says it's okay for the President of the United States to violate a federal law?

And, Mr. Bush, in case you missed your history classes at Yale, your obligation is to protect our rights. We live in a democracy, or so I thought. The actions you took to go around the FISA law was a blatant affront to the long-fought-for rights of every America citizen. Oh, and it was AGAINST THE LAW!

My overriding hope at this point is that people in this country wake up and realize that an insane preoccupation with fear is threatening to topple the personal rights we have held dear for over 200 years. Why would the terrorists need to strike us again? They will have already won without firing another shot across the proverbial bow.

The events of 9/11/01 were terrible. They rocked this nation like few events ever have. But what the President and his henchmen have unleashed is far, far worse. It threatens to undermine everything this country stands for. Attacks on Americans can be overcome. Attacks on the Constitution - and our fundamental rights as citizens - cannot.

It's time to stop the madness! After all, it's the right thing to do!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quote of the Day: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The prescient words of Benjamin Franklin.

Perhaps it's time we revisit the wisdom of this original, American patriot.

Rice on MTP: Just trust us.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was on Meet the Press with Tim Russert this morning. Naturally, the number one topic of the day was the recent revelation about President Bush's executive order allowing the NSA to bypass court-approved warrants in order to place wiretaps in the United States.

Rice's overriding theme seemed to be one of, "Just trust us."

And my response to her is, "What the hell are you smoking?"

That's what they said about Iraq and WMD three years ago. "Trust us. Saddam has WMD. We need to disarm him."

We know how that turned out.

Here's another reason not to just trust them:

The federal statute enacted in 1978 known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows for eavesdropping on individuals suspected of potentially inflicting harm on the United States. It requires a specially appointed court to issue a warrant for the sureillance to occur. And in cases of possible emergencies, when quick collection of intelligence is required, FISA allows surveillance to occur for up to 72 hours before a warrant is issued.

So, based on the tenets of the existing statute, U.S. security agencies should have little problem undertaking the necessary surveillance of potentially dangerous individuals. This assumes that the targeted persons are deemed legitimate targets by the court, which issues the necessary warrants.

So, perhaps Bush and company were worried that the court would be overly restrictive in approving warrants? Would it be too difficult to get these warrants issued?

Simply put, no. During 2002, there were 1,228 FISA applications filed with the court. Of those, how many were approved? All of them.


So, why did Bush feel compelled to work around a court that seemed very accommodating to his supposed intelligence-gathering needs? That's the big question. And it's the precise reason why we shouldn't "just trust" them. There's more than meets the eye here. And it's something that rips at the very fabric of what our country is - or should be - all about.

Another issue is whether this end-around play was legal in the first place. Did President Bush overstep his bounds - and the law - in allowing this activity to take place? If so, then this administration's troubles may have only just begun.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Carte Blanche: The Bush/Cheney Calling Card

Good article in Sunday's Washington Post that looks at the myriad ways in which the Bush administration is invoking its perceived executive powers to institute all manner of surveillance on American citizens. Whether it's the NSA, the DoD or the FBI, our government has turned on its own citizens by violating our right to privacy.

Clearly, Bush's belief that this is a "global war on terror" is used by his administration and its proxies (DoD, Justice, etc.) to justify almost any action that the President deems necessary. That is, he can pretty much do anything he wants, anytime he wants, anywhere he wants, regardless of what the statutes say or what the Constitution says.

But the kicker is that he doesn't have to tell the American people what he's doing. Is this responsible government? Is this what we want from our elected officials? When we elect someone to office, are we giving them carte blanche to do as they please when it comes to fundamental civil rights? I don't think so.

We've seen plenty of scandalous episodes from the Bush administration and its supporters over the last few years. But this is one that has immense implications for our future as a democracy.

I just hope this isn't something that gets swept under the rug like so many scandals.

Another Quote of the Day: "We make it our business to know everything about everyone!"

While that may sound like something coming out of the NSA these days (thanks to President Bush), it actually was a line from one of the great musical films of all time, The Sound of Music.

Following the Anschluss in Austria in 1938 and the marriage of Captain von Trapp and Maria, daughter Liesl von Trapp's erstwhile beau Rolf, now a member of the Nazi youth, asks Liesl to deliver an urgent message to her father.

When Liesl reminds Rolf that her father is on his honeymoon, Rolf responds, "I know."

"You do?" inquires Liesl.

"We make it our business to know everything about everyone," intones Rolf.

I happened to be watching the last hour or so of the movie this evening, and that line really struck me, given what we've learned recently about our own government's intelligence gathering policies of the moment.

What's that they say about not remembering the past? Let's not be so quick to forget it.

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me

Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

Quote of the Day: "Unauthorized disclosure damages our national security and puts our nation at risk. Revealing this information is illegal."

Of course, President Bush was referring to the recent disclosure that he secretly had authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without first securing a warrant approved by the courts. And he sounds a bit peeved that his end-run around the Constitution was discovered and made known to the public. Yes, in effect, he is flipping the bird at all Americans.

Too bad he doesn't seem to be equally peeved about his own administration's illegal disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent. He allegedly knows who did it, but has neglected to take action against the person(s) responsible.

Certainly, we want our leaders to do everything legally possible to detect and disrupt potential terror attacks. That is expected. But to overtly undermine the Constitution and open the door to potentially extreme abuse of Americans' civil rights and personal privacy is nothing short of unconscionable.

What the hell are these people thinking?! If we want nearly absolute protection against possible attacks in America, the model for doing that is a good one. It's called "Soviet Union".

Isn't it ironic that our soldiers are fighting and dying overseas, supposedly - as some would have us believe - so that we can retain our civil rights here at home? Meanwhile, our leadership is secretly enabling these rights to be severely compromised. Talk about dying in vain! Not only are our current soldiers dying in vain, but every single American soldier who has fought and died for this country over the past 200+ years appears to have died in vain now that our current leadership is intent on dismantling the important rights for which they fought.

Is the collection of information intended to disrupt a terror attack wrong? No. But when our government begins to spy on its own people, regardless of the reasons, then that IS wrong. It's a very slippery slope from spying to detect terror threats to spying to achieve other ends. And with no checks or balances on that immense power, we will have subjugated our rights to the government. That is not America. And any "conservative" who argues for such government power is most certainly not a conservative.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Quote of the Day: "We have more to fear from terrorism than we do from this Patriot Act."

Yes, that was U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), commenting after the Senate voted down several permanent extensions of the Patriot Act today. In the absence of mutually agreeable language by December 31, the 16 Patriot Act provisions in question will expire, leaving Republicans - apparently - to blame the Democrats next year if something "bad" happens.

Of course, Frist and many of his Republican colleagues rejected the other side's offer to extend the current provisions for a short period in order to continue working toward a mutually agreeable solution. And THEY'RE the ones who are going to blame the Dems in next year's mid-term elections? Ooookay.

Let's not forget that there were four Republicans who voted down the Patriot Reauthorization Act, which needed 60 votes in order to avoid a filibuster. And who was among the four Republicans who voted against it? BILL FRIST!! Huh?

Frist changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time.

So who's the one now playing politics with our national security? Apparently, Bill Frist.

If the Patriot Act provisions expire, Republicans say they will place the blame on Democrats in next year's midterm elections. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without these vital tools for a single moment," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The time for Democrats to stop standing in the way has come."

Well, apparently the Democrats' "standing in the way" hasn't deterred the President from secretly enacting his own provisions for spying on Americans in the wake of 9/11, as reported today in the New York Times. Unbeknownst to most people in this country, Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) via executive order to spy on Americans in this country without the need for a court-ordered warrant, as required by law. This is exactly the kind of abuse of power that our three-branches-of-government system of checks and balances is supposed to restrict.

And we're to trust these people? Yeah, right.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Does he or doesn't he?

Well, conservative CNN commentator Robert Novak is claiming that President Bush should know the identity of the person who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to him.

Novak said that "I'd be amazed" if the president didn't know the source's identity and that the public should "bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is."

And now Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is requesting that the President reveal what he knows.

"You are in a position to clear this matter up quickly," Schumer said in a letter to the president on Wednesday.

"Unlike Mr. Novak, who can claim an interest in maintaining the confidentiality of his sources, there is no similar privilege arguably preventing you from sharing this information," Schumer wrote.

"You have repeatedly suggested that you would like to get to the bottom of this affair," Schumer reminded Bush. "At one point, in 2004, you suggested that anyone who was involved in leaking the name of the covert CIA operative would be fired."

Senator Schumer makes a good point. If Bush knows who the culprit is, then why hasn't he fired him by now? He said that anyone involved would be sacked. More of the same lies and hypocrisy, I guess. We all should be used to it by now. It's really all we ever get from this administration.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bad weather or pilot error? Here's one theory

I was talking with a friend the other day about the recent crash of Southwest flight 1248 at Midway Airport in Chicago. My friend is a 737 captain for another airline. Southwest's entire fleet consists of Boeing 737s.

According to my friend, who was flying into Chicago O'Hare at around the same time that the Southwest flight was attempting to land at Midway, pilot error may be the most likely explanation for the accident that left a 6-year-old boy dead.

Here's what I learned:

Midway Airport has some of the shortest runways anywhere. The runway on which flight 1248 was attempting to land is not much longer than 6,500 feet with virtually no buffer zone between the end of the runway and the edge of the airport. Runways at most major airports are nearly twice as long with a buffer zone of at least 1,500 feet. In good weather with no wind, a 737 requires nearly 5,800 feet to land and come to a stop. Most times, aircraft land (and take off) into the wind. It gives the plane lift while taking off and allows it to slow more readily when landing. It's the way things usually are done.

Well, according to my friend, flight 1248 was landing with a 13 knot TAILwind, meaning the wind was blowing from behind the aircraft. Now, 13 knots may not sound like much (it equates to about 15 mph), but for each knot of windspeed, a Boeing 737 requires an additional 150 feet to stop. Similarly, when landing into the wind, each knot of windspeed reduces the landing distance by 150 feet. So one easily can understand why it is a much better idea to land into a headwind, especially with a short runway.

So, in doing the math, we find that a 13 knot tailwind would have added about 1,950 feet to the landing distance. And it's also important to note that, according to my friend, Boeing's recommended threshold for landing with a tailwind is...10 knots!

So, we had a very short runway. We had an aircraft landing with a strong tailwind. We had snowy conditions.

Anything else? Oh, yeah. We had a flight that was already late landing because it had to circle Midway until the weather cleared up a bit.

Anything else? Yep. The Southwest terminal was near the far end of the runway that the pilot elected to land on.

Anything else? You betcha. Southwest prides itself - and advertises it quite vociferously - as the "on-time airline." Its business model relies on quick turnarounds of aircraft, usually less than 30 minutes between touchdown of one flight and wheels-up for the next flight.

Are you beginning to get the picture here? Is it becoming clear why my friend, the 737 captain, believes the accident may have been due to pilot error? I thought so.

We've heard some talk in the media about reverse thrusters and autobrakes. In fact, a story in today's Chicago Sun-Times says that the autobrakes were set to maximum, apparently in violation of Southwest policy. You know why they were set to maximum? Most likely because the captain knew he was going to have trouble bringing the aircraft to a stop with a strong tailwind, so he decided to use every tool at his disposal. It wasn't enough.

The NTSB will take its time examining all of the evidence to determine what caused the accident. Most likely, it will take close to a year before releasing its findings. The good news, if anything, is that there weren't more fatalities. It could have been much worse.

But the eventual story here may be how Southwest Airlines, long trumpeted as the profitable darling of an otherwise unprofitable industry, sometimes compromises passenger safety in order to retain its vaunted "on-time airline" tagline. Stay tuned...

12/15/05 UPDATE: On the local Dallas news this evening, the issue of the tailwind was mentioned. The reporter indicated that the tailwind actually was 8 knots at the time of landing. Not sure if that's accurate or not. But he also mentioned the Boeing threshold of a 10 knot tailwind. Even at 8 knots, that added an additional 1,200 feet of required landing distance.

I think this issue about the tailwind is going to get increased attention in the coming days, weeks, months. That aircraft had no chance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Portis out, Tebow in at Florida

As discussed in The DrewL Bucket a few days ago, freshman quarterback Josh Portis did, indeed, decide to leave the University of Florida. And he will not be around to play in the Outback Bowl vs. Iowa on January 2nd. After conferring with the coaching staff, Portis will leave the program immediately and has been released from his scholarship.

According to the Gainesville Sun, Portis is looking at two Pac-10 schools and one ACC school (not Florida State) as possible transfer destinations.

While one young Gator quarterback is heading out the door, another one is poised to enter. Today in St. Augustine, Tim Tebow - the #2 rated high school quarterback in the country and Florida's newly minted Mr. Football for 2005 - announced that he will attend the University of Florida next fall. No doubt, a significant factor in his decision was Portis' decision to leave. Now, Tebow (pictured above) has a nearly unobstructed path to the starting QB job as a sophomore in 2007, following the departure of senior-to-be Chris Leak.

Portis' loss most definitely is Tebow's gain.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dallas Stars Acquire Another Finn

The Dallas Stars today traded a 2007 seventh round draft pick to the Florida Panthers for 26-year-old Finnish left wing Niklas Hagman. Hagman has disappointed a bit with the Panthers because he hasn't been able to contribute as much scoring pop as they had expected.

The Stars, who are deep at forward and probably could have used some additional depth on defense, likely will utilize Hagman on their fourth line with the likes of Steve Ott, Jaroslav Svoboda and Nathan Perrott. The fourth line won't score much, but it can provide energy, reliable defensive play and an occasional goal. Hagman, with a change of scenery from spending his entire NHL career to date with the Panthers, should be able to provide some more scoring punch on the fourth line.

With centerman Jason Arnott approaching unrestricted free agency next summer and veteran winger Bill Guerin in the second-to-last year of his long-term, big-money contract, Hagman will provide some young depth for the Stars' future. He joins fellow Finns Jere Lehtinen, Niko Kapanen, Antti Miettinen and rookie Jussi Jokinen in Dallas.

The Stars are off to a great start this season, leading the NHL's Pacific Division with a record of 19-7-1 and 39 points through 27 games. We'll have to wait and see if the strong start turns into an even better finish to the season. If Hagman has anything to say about it, the Stars are destined for a great "Finnish"!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Iraq Borders to Close...Two Years Too Late

Now that the Iraqi elections are less than a week away, the announcement has been made that Iraq will close its borders and institute a curfew to stem the possibility of disruptions of the election. That makes a lot of sense. It really does.

What doesn't make any sense is why it took the brain surgeons in charge of this cluster-$&%# well over two years to decide that closing the borders might be a wise decision. As we saw in previous conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, it often has been the influx of outsiders that has caused problems for the entity trying to establish power and control.

We saw it in Afghanistan in the 1980s when the Osama bin Laden-led mujahedeen rushed into the country to fight the Soviet occupiers. The fervor and commitment with which the mujahedeen fought - and, interestingly, the financial and weapons support provided by the U.S. - eventually forced the Soviets to withdraw after eight bloody years.

We almost saw it again in Bosnia in the late 1990s when the Serbs' "ethnic cleansing" of muslims nearly precipitated a similar invasion of mujahedeen. The United States got involved militarily at that point, via the UN, in part to stem the influx of mujahedeen, which had the potential to turn the Balkans into a bloody mess for years to come.

Students of history, which the Bush administration and its neo-conservative core clearly are not, knew that one of the first necessary actions after invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein was the securing of the entire Iraq border. Not doing so invited the influx of a current-day mujahedeen intent on attacking and repelling the invading forces.

Would a strategy of border security have required significantly more military resources? Absolutely. In fact, U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki (pictured above) estimated prior to the invasion that "several hundred thousand" troops would be necessary to complete the mission. In response, civilian Pentagon leaders Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz criticized Shinseki's estimate and indicated that the necessary force would be closer to 100,000 troops.

Interestingly, General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, so one would think he knows a thing or two about military operations.

Clearly, history lessons were not learned by the Bush administration as it pushed for war in Iraq. It's also clear that Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz didn't understand the nature of the eventual conflict, judging from his comments before a congressional committee early in 2003 (as detailed by New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt):

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. But the people we elect - and the people they appoint - ought to have at least the rudimentary knowledge required to make informed decisions. They also should "know what they don't know" and rely on the expertise of others, when necessary. It's the least we should expect from our leaders. Unfortunately, we're now ensnarled in a mess that didn't have to happen.

The barn door is closed, but the horses have already left the pen. Too little, too late.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy Dies

A political icon of the last half century has died. Eugene McCarthy, a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota, passed away today in Washington at the age of 89.

Rest in peace, Senator. You will be missed, but your thoughts and ideals remain.

Sports Mom from Hell

What is it about athletically-gifted children that causes their parents to lose all common sense and humility? Is it because the parent believes the child's athletic talent somehow bestows "greatness" upon the parent? Or is it because the parent is blinded by visions of college scholarships and big-money professional contracts?

Whatever the reasons may be, there certainly are far too many such parents to go around. Take, for example, the mother of University of Florida freshman quarterback Josh Portis. She seems to epitomize how such meddling parents can really screw things up for their kids.

Patricia Portis, mother of true freshman Florida quarterback Josh Portis, confirmed Friday night that her son told Coach Urban Meyer he planned to leave the football program after the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

"He's leaving," she said. "He wanted to be around for the bowl game because if something happened, he's the backup quarterback, and the team would need him.''

Well that's nice that he's going to stick around for the bowl game, seeing as he is the backup QB for the Gators. Of course, why didn't he wait until AFTER the bowl game to announce his decision? Well, as it turns out, Portis said he hasn't made up his mind about transferring and will wait until after the bowl game to announce his intent. I guess his mom didn't get that message.

So, while Portis' mom is convinced that he's leaving, Portis didn't express much displeasure with his situation when interviewed just last week.

The announcement came as a surprise, especially after Portis, despite playing little as the Gators' No. 2 quarterback in 2005, seemed pleased with this year and optimistic about the next.

"I feel like I've gotten better every week [in practice]," Josh Portis said in a post-practice interview on Dec. 1. "I learned a lot this year. The coaches are great, and everything is good for me.''

Does that sound like the comments of someone who is unhappy and wants to transfer to another school? Not really.

But there's more. Apparently, Portis transferred schools before while he was in high school in Southern California. And it appears that his mother was the guiding force in the moves.

Changing schools, particularly with his mother as a prominent player in the choice, is nothing new for Portis. When he chooses a new school, it will be his fifth since April 2003, when he left Redondo Union High for California football power Long Beach Poly.

Les Congelliere, athletic director at Redondo, said he remembered the circumstances behind Portis' departure well. After starting and starring on the junior varsity as a sophomore in 2002, Portis figured to compete with two senior quarterbacks for the No. 1 quarterback spot for the 2003 season.
But Patricia Portis, Congelliere said, expected Josh to be chosen the starter before the season, particularly after he recorded the highest vertical jump at a Southern California combine for college prospects.

"His mom thought he should be given a free walk," Congelliere said. "That's not going to happen.
"I liked the woman a lot, but she had a skewed view that her kid was never being praised enough."

The scene repeated at Poly after the Portises learned the school had groomed a quarterback to take the starting job. Portis never played a game there before transferring to Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif., where he played well enough as the starter in 2003-04 to earn scholarship offers from Meyer at both Utah and Florida.

When Urban Meyer chose to leave his post as head coach at the University of Utah last December to become the new head coach at Florida, Portis changed his college choice from Utah to Florida in order to follow Meyer. And after winning the backup QB job as a true freshman behind talented incumbent starter Chris Leak, Portis saw limited playing time (rushing 29 times for 163 yards and completing 6 of 11 passes for 81 yards and one interception). Still, most true freshmen football players typically see limited playing time, and many are redshirted, so they don't play at all. Portis was in line to succeed Leak as the starter by his junior year.

Don't tell that to Mama Portis. Apparently, she has other ideas.

But throughout his high-school and college careers, two sources close to the Portis family said, Patricia's influence dominated Josh's decisions. "With that woman, you have no idea," the friend said. "You just have no idea."


When Josh enrolled at UF, Patricia Portis, who earlier this season identified her occupation as an independent marketing consultant, moved to Gainesville (from California) to be near him. She visited at least one practice per week and was a regular around the Springs Athletic Complex, where Portis lived.

Asked Friday night what role she played in the transfer decision, and whether this one was similar to those in high schools, Patricia Portis said she wanted to end the conversation and hung up the phone.

So, it looks like Josh Portis, an extremely gifted young athlete who, in all likelihood, would have become the Gators' starting QB by 2007, will be off to greener pastures in search of a school that adequately appreciates his vast talent. Of course, if he transfers to another Division 1-A school, he will have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules. So he can stay at Florida and start in a year, or he can leave Florida and possibly start somewhere a year. Is that really any better?

So far, the only person talking about Portis' future plans is Mrs. Portis. Josh has been quiet and the Florida coaching staff has refused comment. While we'd all like to believe that mother knows best, I'm not so sure that she does in this case. She may want to believe that she should be making all the decisions about her son's future, but maybe it's time for the son to rise and make some decisions for himself. After all, it's his future...isn't it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

There He Goes Again...

Believe it or not, President Bush continues to believe that the war in Iraq is protecting Americans from terrorists. During a speech in Minneapolis today, according to the Associated Press, Bush said, "Our short-term objective is to stay on the hunt and bring the killers to justice before they hurt us again. I'd rather be defeating them there than face them here at home." Okay.

Maybe the rumors are true. Perhaps he really doesn't read newspapers or get news from anyone but his closest advisors. Otherwise he would know by now that Iraq and the 9/11 attacks had absolutely nothing - NOTHING - to do with one another.

Can a U.S. president be any more out of touch with reality than this guy? Doubtful.

Mike Wallace STILL asks the tough questions. Too bad Dubya won't answer them.

(Thanks to my bro-in-law Charlie for alerting me to this interview!)

While it seems that the bulk of today's highly paid journalists couldn't ask the tough questions of our current leaders if their lives depended on it - or, more importantly, their careers - at least one of our greatest investigative journalists (and, no, I'm not talking about "Boob Wayward") apparently would have little trouble unleashing a flury of questions that need to be answered.

Even at age 87, Mike Wallace still packs a punch, something that George W. Bush probably couldn't handle even if HIS life depended on it. And Wallace has a few questions he'd like to ask our president.

The Boston Globe conducted a recent interview with Wallace regarding his newly published memoir. The first question - and especially the first answer - explains just why we need more Mike Wallaces around to hold our leaders accountable:

(Boston Globe) President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

(Mike Wallace) What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?

Of course, the tight access demanded by the control freak handlers of President Bush wouldn't let Wallace get within 100 yards of Dubya. Not on their lives.

But, taking a page out of the Bush administration's playbook and casting aside reality for a moment, I wonder what Dubya's answers would be if Mike Wallace were able to interview him. Hmmmmm. One can only imagine...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Not So Intelligent

Recently, University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies head Paul Mirecki created a new course that was to look at the controversial theories - if you can call them that - of intelligent design and creationism. His course was established in response to the Kansas Board of Education's desire to put intelligent design and creationism on equal footing with evolution in Kansas schools' curricula. His planned course, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies", was to begin at KU in the spring.

Now, it seems that Mirecki's plans have veered off-course just a bit. In addition to his decision to resign his department chairmanship and cancel the new course, he also was physically attacked earlier this week by two men who, he claims, made reference to the college course he had planned to teach.

If his story about the attack is true, isn't it interesting how people so opposed to the teaching of evolution - and presumably so believing of intelligent design and/or the Bible's story of creationism - also are so inclined to resort to violence to settle their differences of opinion? Is that the Christian thing to do? Ironically, their behavior seems more likely to further confirm the theory of evolution...and provides an illustration of what happens when certain segments of the species fail to evolve at an equal pace with others. And they certainly seem to show that their "designer" must not have been terribly intelligent.

Kansas residents continue to be done a disservice by the fringe Christian right's determination to have unscientific beliefs taught on an equal basis with true science like evolution. If they want to impart their religious beliefs on others, then they are more than welcome to do so in their respective houses of worship. Just don't try to pass it off as science in our schools and institutions of higher learning.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hanoi Hilton Survivor Favors...Torture?

U.S. Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas), a decorated Vietnam veteran who survived his stay at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison, has come out against fellow Hanoi Hilton "guest" John McCain's amendment to eliminate the United States' use of torture, reports the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.

Mr. Johnson has circulated a letter to colleagues arguing that the McCain proposal, which sailed through the Senate, 90-9, would needlessly hamper counter-terrorism efforts – a stance that has surprised human-rights advocates.

While I certainly can appreciate and respect the opinion of someone who suffered through torture as Rep. Johnson did, I can't fathom how he can condone the use of torture under any circumstances. We've heard time and again how torture does not help in the gathering of reliable intelligence about anything. In fact, this may explain why so many of the "reliably sourced" terror threats that caused the nation's terror alert system to be elevated resulted in a big fat NOTHING happening. If someone is waterboarding you, you'll say anything - ANYTHING - to get him to stop. Now THAT'S a reliable intelligence gathering technique! Not.

"I feel very strongly about this because I know what torture is. Torture is already against the law, and John's proposal doesn't make it any more illegal," said Mr. Johnson, who spent seven years as a POW and left the service with two Silver Stars, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

He said federal law already bans torture, and the proposed language – which also rules out cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign prisoners – would give enemy fighters tips for withstanding interrogation.

"I'm afraid John's proposal will drastically diminish our ability to gather intelligence," he said.

So, Rep. Johnson claims that torture already is illegal, but then he claims that Senator McCain's proposal will hamper intelligence gathering efforts. Huh? I'm confused. Perhaps Rep. Johnson is, too.

Of course, one may remember that Rep. Johnson is the same congressman who earlier this year advocated the nuking of Syria. And he was speaking at a CHURCH, for goodness sake. Can we really take seriously anything this guy has to say?

Regardless of the ineffectiveness or the illegality of torture, why can our leaders not just come out and say that it is the WRONG thing to do. It doesn't mesh with how America approaches the human rights issue and it's not something we do - anywhere, anytime, to anybody. Is that so difficult? Let's stand for something, for crying out loud!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

To err is human. To torture insane!

We need look no further than the case of Khaled al-Masri to understand why the U.S. has absolutely no business subverting its own democratic ideals in this insane "war on terror."

Al-Masri (pictured), a Lebanese-born resident of Germany, was kidnapped, tortured and held in an Afghani prison for five months. He had no access to a lawyer. He had no charges levied against him. He was held against his will. He was presumed guilty. Who did this to him? We did. And now the United States has admitted it erred in a case of mistaken identity.

Al-Masri and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Washington today seeking damages from the CIA and former CIA director George Tenet. I hope he wins his case. Perhaps it will serve as an important lesson why the United States should not be engaging in this type of activity. It's un-American. And it underscores the precise reason why we have certain individual rights and protections in this country to avoid what al-Masri, an innocent man, had to endure.

We must not subvert what we believe in. If that happens, then we've lost everything for which our forefathers fought in establishing this nation over 200 years ago. And it puts to shame the effort expended and the many lives lost in trying to maintain our freedoms ever since then.

Do our leaders understand this? I'm not so sure that they do.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Is T.O. SOL?

Looks like the Philadephia Eagles are planning to collect a significant portion of wide receiver Terrell Owens' signing bonus as a result of his falling out with the club and subsequent suspension.

While I fully agree with the Eagles' decision to suspend Owens for his detrimental comments and behavior, I don't agree with their attempt to collect his signing bonus. After all, he hasn't committed a crime and he was more than willing to play for the Eagles. The team just felt that his comments criticizing the team and quarterback Donovan McNabb were more than they could take.

So, suspend him and don't pay him for those games. That's fine. But if they don't want him around any longer, and they've already paid him his signing bonus, then so be it.

And while I realize that his contractual language allows for such action, I don't think it would be fair at this point. They've already docked him four games of pay and will not let him play in their final four games of the season (although he will be paid for those games). Let him keep his $1.7 million and move on already. Why keep beating a dead horse?!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Who is Gerry Mandering?

Who is Gerry Mandering? The latest Bush political appointee?

Might as well be.

Actually, Gerry Mandering isn't so much a "who" as a "what". The word "gerrymandering" is a term that describes "the deliberate rearrangement of the boundaries of congressional districts to influence the outcome of elections." The first gerrymander was created way back in 1812 by Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry.

So, why is gerrymandering of consequence today, one may ask? Because the Republican-dominated Texas legislature and the Republican-dominated U.S. Justice Department may have conspired to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by gerrymandering Texas' congressional boundaries to favor Republican candidates in advance of the 2004 elections.

Isn't it interesting how the U.S. Justice Department approved the congressional redistricting plan in Texas in 2004 IN SPITE of the fact that the staff lawyers - all career Justice Department employees - who vetted the plan all agreed that it violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act? The subsequent implementation of the redistricting plan resulted in six additional Republican members of the House after the 2004 elections.

Because of historic discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes to ensure they don't undercut minority voting.

Now, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is contending that the ultimate decision made by the Justice Department's heirarchy was NOT politically motivated. Yeah, and Tom Delay is the reincarnation of Mother Teresa. Not!

Can the current administration and its Republican supporters in Congress be considered anything less than the most currupt in recent memory, perhaps in U.S. history? I think former White House counsel John Dean had it absolutely right when he coined this group, "Worse than Watergate." And that may be a serious understatement.

No tricks seem too tame for this bunch of political hooligans. It makes one wonder what other dirt is hiding under the rug.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Bush Mind Games Continue...

The Bush administration's strategy for winning the war in Iraq certainly was developed by the best and brightest military minds the U.S. has to offer. Right?

Well, not quite.

According to an article written by Scott Shane in Sunday's New York Times, President Bush's "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" speech - and supporting documentation - last Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy was very likely crafted by a Duke political scientist who specializes in methods of swaying public opinion.

In fact, according to Shane, the U.S. Lieutenant General responsible for the training of Iraqi forces hadn't even seen the document until it was released to the public last week. So much for buy-in from those implementing the strategy.

So, it appears that the document so strongly touted by President Bush last week is nothing but a propaganda ploy targeting the majority of Americans who think Bush is doing a terrible job. Is he really trying to show how he plans to win the war? Or is he just trying to do more of what he and his administration have been doing both here and abroad for the last four years? That is, trying to sway public opinion in his favor with more dubious lies and innuendo. The old "style over substance" approach continues to be a big favorite with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company.

I hope, for our sake as a nation, that most Americans will see this for what it is: just more of the same old bullshit that has been tossed in our general direction since 2001. And it's really getting very, very tiresome.

Fun with the Stars!

As a longtime season ticket holder of the Dallas Stars of the NHL, I had a chance to take my daughter to a season ticket holder jersey signing event this morning at the Stars' beautiful practice facility. Stars players were split up into four different signing groups; each person attending could select a group to sign his/her jersey. (BTW the jerseys were given to season ticket holders free of charge as an incentive to renew ticket accounts following last season's lockout. I have several jerseys already, so I got youth-sized jerseys for my daughter and son.)

My daughter's favorite Stars player is standout goaltender Marty Turco, who was just named the NHL's defensive player of the month for November. Needless to say, we were going to do everything possible to get into Marty's signing group. As fate would have it, we got there early enough to have our pick of groups. Hello, Marty!

The players couldn't have been more gracious and accommodating. Our signing group included Turco, defenseman Sergei Zubov, center Niko Kapanen, backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, and center/winger Steve Ott. I even asked "Zubie", a mainstay on the Stars' blueline for the last ten years, why he deviated from his patented shootout move and came up empty in last night's overtime game vs. Carolina. He didn't really know, other than that he thought he would try something new. He agreed, however, with my suggestion that he should go back to his devastatingly successful move the next time around. That was my lone coaching tip for the day.

A good time was had by all. My daughter can't wait to wear her signed Stars jersey to school on Monday to show all her friends. My son (we got his jersey signed by all the same guys) has had his jersey on all afternoon. My two little hockey fans are tickled pink and can't wait to wear their Stars "uniforms" to the next games that they'll get to attend with me.

As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I had the chance to meet a lot of NHL players, primarily because my Canadian-born parents had a number of friends playing back then. Talking hockey and getting autographs was a lot of fun for me. I'm glad that my kids can get at least a little taste of the same thing.

Yes, we are a hockey loving family! GO STARS!!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Congress to tackle college football's BCS series. Why?

As a college football fan for many, many years (Go Gators!), I certainly am no fan of the way in which the Division 1-A championship is determined. It's mostly based on which teams win the popularity contest amongst the press and amongst college head coaches. Sure, there's a blend of computer-aided rankings, and they've tried over the last few years to match the #1 and #2 ranked teams via the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system, but the championship ultimately isn't determined on the field via an extended playoff, as it is in every other division of college football and every other collegiate sport.

Well, apparently some members of Congress now feel the need to get their two-cents in on the matter by holding a hearing next week after this year's post-season bowl matchups are announced. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, has decided that maybe Congress doesn't have enough to do with a war going on and myriad other MORE IMPORTANT matters to deal with. So, he's decided to delve into the matter of how the NCAA determines its Division 1-A football champion.

Honestly, can't these elected officials find more important issues to tackle with their time? Personally, I love college football and I hate the BCS system, but come on! This is not something that requires the attention of Congress, is it?

If Texas wins the Big 12 championship game tomorrow and if USC disposes of UCLA in their Pac 10 finale, we'll actually have a BCS matchup of, unquestionably, the two best teams this season. In fact, it could shape up to be one of the best college football games ever. One might even suggest that the BCS has worked magnificently this year.

But that won't stop the Republican-controlled Congress from trying to meddle, will it? Of course not. They've just got to get their grubby little fingers into everything, especially when there's lots and lots of money involved.

The beat goes on...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let's roll; hold the crescents

Now that U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) has managed to rid the Shanksville, PA, memorial to the Flight 93 victims of 9/11 of a crescent-shaped area of maple trees, I wonder what his next target will be. Crescent rolls? Crescent City, CA? The upscale Crescent Hotel in Dallas?

A more likely target, in theory, should be the new Iraqi flag (above). It's nice to know that a man - Tancredo - has so much dislike for the crescent when it manifests itself as a small forest of trees in a memorial, but he apparently doesn't have a problem with over 2,100 U.S. troops killed and over 15,000 U.S. troops injured while defending just such a crescent on the new Iraqi flag.

Many right wingers may be convinced that our brave young men and women are fighting for the good old Star Spangled Banner over in Iraq. Nope. They're fighting for the crescent that seems to have drawn so much ire from Rep. Tancredo. But is Tancredo or his Republican brethren going to demand a change in the Iraqi flag? Is he going to demand that we pull our troops out of a country whose flag depicts the "evil" crescent? Yeah, right.

The irony, not to mention the hypocrisy, drips like blood from a gaping flesh wound. I hope Tancredo is happy that he got his wish in Shanksville, while our troops continue to die in Iraq.

Bushco propaganda machine strikes again!

Reports from Iraq are saying that the U.S. military has been paying Iraqi journalists and publishers to print articles favorable to the efforts of the coalition forces. In fact, many of these articles are not written by the Iraqi journalists at all, but by the United States and its contract agencies.

So much for promoting freedom of the press. But I guess this should come as little surprise to us. After all, the Bush administration has been paying domestic media outlets and planting its own propaganda here at home for the last few years. In fact, the U.S. Education Department paid commentator Armstrong Williams nearly $250,000 to tout the administration's No Child Left Behind initiative.

Other administration departments have even produced and distributed pre-packaged video "news" segments designed to look like real television news segments. But they're not news at all. They are, quite literally, government propaganda, something that is illegal in this country.

And let's not forget the notorious White House reporter Jeff Gannon, aka James Guckert, who turned out to be nothing but a sham reporter and former male prostitute.

According to a recent article in Rolling Stone, propaganda even may have been used in selling the Iraq war to Americans and others around the world.

According to the GAO, "the publicity or propaganda prohibition is a restriction on the government's use of appropriated funds in disseminating information." In short, it's against the law to use government money to sell the administration's politics in the media.

But laws - or even ethics - don't seem to get in the way of the Bush administration. They just seem to do what they please until someone finds out and then they plead ignorance. They've done it at home and they're doing it in Iraq, too.

Is it any wonder that our reputation around the world is in the shitter? Who can trust us anymore? I wouldn't. Would you?