Saturday, October 22, 2005

WORD wastes witless weasels

UN office doctored report on murder of Hariri

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes….

But the furore over the doctoring of the report threatened to overshadow its damaging findings. It raised questions about political interference by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General, who had promised not to make any changes in the report…

The deleted names represent the inner core of the Syrian regime…

Mr Annan had pledged repeatedly through his chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, that he would not change a word of the report by Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor. But computer tracking showed that the final edit began at about 11.38am on Thursday — a minute after Herr Mehlis began a meeting with Mr Annan to present his report. The names of Maher al-Assad, General Shawkat and the others were apparently removed at 11.55am, after the meeting ended.

At a press conference yesterday Herr Mehlis insisted that Mr Annan had not pressurised him into making changes. “No one outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the Secretary-General,” he said.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Jeff, does Tom still beat his wife?

DeLay goes to court on Texas charges
By Jeff Franks
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay appeared in court to face campaign finance charges for the first time on Friday, but the session was cut short by his lawyer's charge that the judge was politically biased against the former second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives….

DeLay was once one of the nation's most powerful politicians, nicknamed "The Hammer" for his iron-fisted control of House Republicans, but now is an accused felon fighting for his political life by casting himself as the victim of a Democratic plot

I’m sure Bill is pleased

Hillary’s Chest Gets Bigger As ’08 Gets Closer

I didn’t know Bluto Blutarsky was a copy editor at the New York Observer.

Who’s that lurking there in the shadows?

Bill will shield gun companies

Congress yesterday passed a bill protecting the firearms industry from lawsuits brought by local governments.

President Bush said he would sign the measure.

"Our laws should punish criminals who use guns to commit crimes, not law-abiding manufacturers of lawful products," he said.

The House voted 283-144 [Ed. – a 2-to-1 margin that includes 59 Democrats] to send the bill to the president after supporters, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), proclaimed it vital to protect the industry from being bankrupted by huge jury awards….

With support from four new Republican senators [Ed. – and the 14 Democratic senators who voted yea; the Senate vote was 65-31, another 2-to-1 margin] in this session of Congress, the bill passed the Senate for the first time in July. House passage never was in doubt because it had 257 co-sponsors, far more than the 218 needed.

"It is shameful that Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that guarantees their gun-dealing cronies receive special treatment and are above the law," said Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat. [Ed. – apparently the Democrats who voted for it were just wild and crazy guys along for the ride]

The bill's authors say it still would allow civil suits against individual parties who have been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing by the courts, but protect against lawsuits targeting innocent firms.

"Lawsuits seeking to hold the firearms industry responsible for the criminal and unlawful use of its products are brazen attempts to accomplish through litigation what has not been achieved by legislation and the democratic process," House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, told his colleagues.

Democrats and Republicans alike court the NRA at election time, and the bill garnered bipartisan support. But the firearms industry still gave 88 percent of its campaign contributions, or $1.2 million, to Republicans in the 2004 election cycle. Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, gave 98 percent of their contributions, or $93,700, to Democrats that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In addition to the information inserted above, the AP left out another bit of relevant information, also from the Center for Responsive Politics: lawyers and law firms gave 74%, or $135 million, to Democrats that cycle.

There’s no excuse for reporting like this. The “A” in AP has become “Agenda”

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Copy editor is either a moron or has an agenda
Correction: Nazi March Story Headline

The Associated Press
Thursday, October 20, 2005; 4:57 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio -- In an Oct. 16 story about protesters who rioted at a white supremacists' march, a headline on an Associated Press online story erroneously said, "White Supremacists Riot in Toledo, Ohio."

As the story itself made clear, the rioting was by the protesters, not the supremacists. Mayor Jack Ford blamed the rioting on gangs taking advantage of a
volatile situation.
“As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.”
Josh Billings

Journalism, schmernalism

Mother accused of tossing children into San Francisco bay

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A woman who was hearing voices tossed her three young children off a pier into San Francisco Bay, authorities said. Rescuers had found one body, and the other two children were feared dead….

[Ed. – Although the voices were definitely heard, the reporter was not able to identify the source(s) of the voices prior to deadline]

Lashaun Harris told authorities that voices had told her to throw her children into the water, the Chronicle reported. It was not immediately known whether she had an attorney….

[Ed. – the reporter, a moonlighting lawyer ever on the lookout for a new client, sets the groundwork for having the woman’s confession thrown out]

The incident happened in the Embarcadero area, which draws tourists to the historic Ferry Building within view of Coit Tower and the landmark Transamerica pyramid. The fishing pier offers views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, ships in the bay, as well as Treasure Islands.

[Ed. – the reporter’s aunt, spokesperson for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, was owed a favor]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Her heart goes out to Father Saddam

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, on Saddam Hussein’s court appearance today.

Amanpour: Hussein frail but outspoken

"Saddam Hussein kept trying to have his day in court, have his speech, but was eventually asked to sit down, which he did.

"He came into court walking, escorted by two guards who were in bulletproof vests. He was wearing a gray suit and a white shirt. His hair is black, as it's always been, his beard was black with significant gray.

"A good deal older and weaker and more frail than he did the last time I saw him come into court in the summer of 2004 when he came for his initial hearing.

"They looked weak, one of them came in in handcuffs -- he was the only one -- and they were all escorted with two guards to their seats. They all looked fairly weak, fairly surprised to be there…..

"It is shocking, I would say, to see walk into court ... stripped of all the accoutrements of power, of the platform of power, of the uniform of power and stripped of the fear that they used to inspire."

Here’s a shot at a sympathy-free, objective version:
Saddam Hussein kept interrupting the judge but eventually sat down, as he was asked to do.

Hussein, dressed in a gray suit and white shirt, was escorted into court by two guards who wore bulletproof vests over their uniforms.

Hussein looked older and more frail that I remembered him looking a year ago.

The defendants’ appearance and demeanor in court today was in sharp contrast to the all-powerful, belligerent, fearful image they had previously promoted within and without Iraq.

So Kerry ran against Bush, Nader and Edwards?

Three Questions for John Edwards
Political Wire [2nd question]: What was the biggest lesson you learned running for president in 2004?

John Edwards: First of all, it was an honor to be able to run for president and to meet so many wonderful people from all over the country….

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.”
- John Kenneth Galbraith

Concentrated poverty is a good thing, especially if the enclave is black.

Don’t agree? Take it up with Blaine Harden of the Washington Post (WaPo).

Unbelievably, The Economics of Return passed editorial muster.

Poverty, why hath thou forsaken me?
When Katrina blew in and levees gave way, the high water, in many neighborhoods, was colorblind and classless [Ed. – as opposed to typical water, which is bigoted and snobby]. It clobbered Lakeview, a leafy and serene white area where longtime residents cannot remember serious flooding, as cruelly as the Lower Ninth Ward, a black neighborhood with a long, dismal history of high water.

But in New Orleans, where affluent whites live high and working-class blacks live low, the privileges of neighborhood quickly asserted themselves. For many, race and class [Ed. – a blind, irresponsible reliance on a notoriously corrupt and incompetent local government played no part] predicted patterns of escape, dictating whether flight would be a nervous drive out of town or a caged week of torment and humiliation

These days, as planners and politicians look ahead, many realize that the future of this city, which before the storm was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor, swings on two simple questions:

Are residents coming home? If so, which ones? [Ed. – see math exercise below]

It now appears that long-standing neighborhood differences in income and opportunity -- along with resentment over the ghastly exodus -- are shaping the stalled repopulation of this mostly empty city….
OMG, the dreaded white people are coming!
Still, anxiety is building that New Orleans will not bounce back as Chicago did after the fire or San Francisco after the quake. There is concern that it will be much smaller, whiter, richer and more homogeneous: an anodyne, theme-park version of the Big Easy dominated by highbrow restaurants and lowbrow bars of the unflooded [sic] French Quarter.

Amazingly, someone manages to sneak in the real question. The one that all the evacuees and the American taxpayers, after having taken a long deep breath, must answer sensibly.
Should they bring themselves and their children back to a below-sea-level city that, for all its sweet music and gastronomical allure, is largely a ruin, as well as a sitting duck for the next big storm?

An aside
[B]efore the storm [New Orleans] was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor.

From the US Census Bureau:
  • Population of NOLA – 445,000
  • Black – 68%
  • Poor (in poverty) – 27%

Now assume that, prior to the disaster, every poor person in NOLA was black (as the WaPo implies) and that every non-poor evacuee will eventually return.

Then the new NOLA would look like this:
  • Population of NOLA – 324,850
  • Black- 56%
  • Poor – 0%

What a horrible (“much smaller, whiter, richer”) thought.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ah, procreation

Health Tip: Don't Leave Your Infant Alone

(HealthDay News) -- Although your young infant may not be able to get around much, she may still be able to wiggle her way to harm.
Here are some safety tips, courtesy of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

* Never leave your baby at home alone.
* Only leave your baby alone in a room when she is in a playpen or crib.
* Stay with your baby when she is on a dressing table, bed or couch.
* Stay near your infant when she is in an infant seat, swing or high chair.
* Never leave your baby alone in a room with a dog, cat or any uncaged pet.
Felicity Stone

Ms. Stone left out the most important tip of all.

Never leave an infant with a mother/father for whom any of those five tips are necessary.

(Nod to: WSJ:Best of the Web Today)

Cause and effect? What cause and effect?

Back-to-back catastrophic natural disasters that devastated an area of our country greater in size than the United Kingdom were bound to have a negative effect on our economy if for no other reason than the effected area contained much of the nation’s oil extraction, transportation, and refining capability, which is still limping toward recovery.

Judging from the headline and story content of Inflation Soars on Surge in Energy Prices, Martin Crutsinger, an economics writer for AP, was blind-sided.
WASHINGTON - Inflation at the wholesale level last month soared by the largest amount in more than 15 years, reflecting the surge in energy prices that occurred following the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The Labor Department reported that wholesale prices jumped 1.9 percent in September, led by surging prices for gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil after the widespread shutdowns of refineries and oil platforms along the Gulf Coast.
And, curiously, Crutsinger is anxious that the inevitable economic consequences of such devastation will truly result.
While the core rate of inflation at the consumer level was well-behaved, rising by a tiny 0.1 percent, the worry is that the sizable increases in energy will soon begin to spill over into more widespread inflation pressures….

The concern is that businesses, which so far have held the line on passing on the higher cost of their materials, may be forced to start raising prices to cope with surging energy costs.

Batter Up!

Under the headline Activist once swam with GOP, Scott Sonner of the Associated Press provided this:
RENO – Bob Fulkerson was leaving President Reagan’s inaugural ball a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol in January 1981 when it hit him.

The fifth-generation Nevadan and George Washington University student had earned an invitation to the gala because he was working for Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt and had volunteered for Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

“I was walking home from this very opulent, lavish party, and I was literally having to step over homeless people on the way to my dorm,” Fulkerson said.

“It was a turning point,” he said. “It made me realize I was batting for the wrong team.”

Today, Fulkerson, 45, is the executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance for Nevada, a non-profit group he co-founded in 1994. Last week, he received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, which selected him as one of 17 winners of its 2005 Leadership for a Changing World Award…

It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Fulkerson was able to keep a straight face while Mr. Sonner took interview notes. In any case, some actual facts relevant to the period in question seem appropriate.

Ronald Reagan became President of the United States on Tuesday, January 20, 1981. The inaugural ball Mr. Fulkerson attended was held that evening.

Prior to the 1980 national election, the Democrat Party had controlled both the Senate and House of Representatives (thus also the creation of and spending for US welfare programs) for 25 consecutive years. When Jimmy Carter, also a Democrat and Reagan’s predecessor, came into office in January 1977 the "misery index" (the sum of the inflation rate and unemployment rate for a given year) was declining. The index reversed direction and rose to its highest point in history during the Carter administration.

Ronald Reagan had been in office for twelve hours when Fulkerson left Reagan’s GOP - a team yet to bat - to join another team; the article never makes clear whether that team had a name or ideology.

An aside

“Within a few months… [Fulkerson] was back in Nevada at the age of 23 working as state director of Citizen Alert, leading rallies for a freeze on nuclear weapons”
Ronald Reagan negotiated and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty. The INF Treaty was the first nuclear arms control agreement to actually reduce nuclear arms. President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev signed the treaty on December 8, 1987. The INF Treaty resulted in the verified elimination of 846 longer-and shorter-range U.S. INF missile systems and 1846 Soviet INF missile systems, including the modernized U.S. Pershing II and Soviet SS-20 missiles.

It would appear that the GOP never missed Fulkerson’s bat.

[Ed. – the excerpts above are paragraphs from an article printed on page 2B of yesterday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. The digital version of that article is nowhere to be found on the Web (at least I can’t find it). I don’t know if that is an indication that someone at AP realized the incongruity in Fulkerson’s epiphany and pulled it, or, that the piece never made it to the Internet.]

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hangdog from the Associated Press

October 2005
Sunnis Appear to Fall Short in Iraq Vote

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's landmark constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday after initial results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at the polls

Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraqi's 18 provinces, according to counts that local officials provided to The Associated Press. In the crucial central provinces with mixed ethnic and religious populations, enough Shiites and Kurds voted to stymie the Sunni bid to reject the constitution.
That report had a certain ring to it; lo and behold…

November 2004
Kerry effort falls short in Ohio

COLUMBUS - Sen. John F. Kerry won Ohio's cities big, but still had trouble finding enough votes to overcome President Bush's overwhelming advantage in the suburbs and rural areas of the state

Kerry got all the votes he should have needed from Cuyahoga County, swung Franklin County increasingly into Democratic hands, and managed to keep Bush's margin of victory in Hamilton County relatively low.

But small town by small town, suburb by suburb, Bush took enough votes to pull out a lead that, while not impossible, seemed daunting for Democrats.

The more they garble the information the clearer their goal becomes.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Obtuse in Toledo

Police: Ohio Riot Was Worse Than Expected

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Police began receiving word midweek that gangs were going to descend on a neighborhood where a riot erupted over a planned march by a white supremacist group, but the resulting disturbance was worse than expected, the police chief said Sunday.

The riot broke out Saturday when protesters confronted members of the National Socialist Movement who had gathered at a city park. Rioters threw baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores, and set fire to a neighborhood bar, authorities said. More than 100 people were arrested and one officer was seriously injured

Authorities want to determine why protesters turned their anger toward police after the Nazi group left, Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said.
Here’s a clue:
Officers who work in the area reported that gang members were planning to turn out in force

Stop pushing. But, but…she pushed me first.

'Help! Mom!' casts liberals as villains

Katharine DeBrecht, a married mother of three, wanted to make a point about the importance of conservative values.

So, she penned a children's book -- Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! -- to stand up to the "liberal agenda that's being thrown at our kids from the left."

The book, which tells the tale of "liberal" politicians interfering with two young brothers' lemonade stand, reflects "the conservative side -- the traditional family values like self-reliance, hard work, charity and faith," Mrs. DeBrecht said.

Two of the book's villains, who resemble Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, tax the boys' profits, restrict the amount of sugar they can use in their drinks and require them to serve broccoli, too.

A liberal lawyer, "Mr. Fussman," harasses the boys for putting a picture of Jesus on their stand….

Liberals have lambasted the book as "brainwashing" and "Nazi propaganda."

Speaking of brainwashing and propaganda.

There’s now a 10th Anniversary Edition of Heather Has Two Mommies
Originally self-published in 1989, Heather Has Two Mommies became the first title in Alyson's newly formed Alyson Wonderland imprint in 1990. The simple and straightforward story of a little girl named Heather and her two lesbian mothers was created by [Leslea] Newman and illustrator Diana Souza because children's books that reflected a nontraditional family did not exist, but a firestorm of controversy soon ensued. Attacked by the religious right, lambasted by Jesse Helms from the floor of the U.S Senate, and stolen from library shelves, it was an uphill battle for Heather. Thanks to the overwhelming support of booksellers, librarians, parents, and children, however, Heather Has Two Mommies has sold over 35,000 copies, launched a minor industry in providing books for the children of gay and lesbian parents and, as attested to by a recent New Yorker cartoon, become part of the cultural lexicon.
And which propagandizing mother is winning the war for the hearts and minds of our children?

Here’s the sales ranks:
  • Help! Mom! - #95 in Books
  • Heather Has Two Mommies - #34,687 in Books
One can only imagine what other delightful children’s books are yet to come.