Scary Bush Stories

There have been enough scary stories about George W. Bush to fill a book. Every day, it’™s clearer that the Commander Guy is a few battalions shy of a surge. Then, I read something like this, ponder that Bush has another 18 months in office, and I cringe:

Friends of his from Texas were [...]

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There have been enough scary stories about George W. Bush to fill a book. Every day, it’™s clearer that the Commander Guy is a few battalions shy of a surge. Then, I read something like this, ponder that Bush has another 18 months in office, and I cringe:

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated ‘œI am the president!’ He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of ‘œour country’™s destiny.’

Turn on your inner brain YouTube for a moment, and cue the imaginary video of The Decider stomping around the Oval Office in the midst of a messianic hizzy fit, while a group of associates gasp in shock and awe. Or better yet, in the Presidential Bedroom, wearing a Napoleon hat, boxer shorts, and black socks as Laura lays in bed reading a book, looking disapprovingly over the rim of her reading glasses: ‘œTime for nappies, George’¦’

Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer doesn’™t disclose who spilled the beans on Bush’™s tirade, but a pundit like Geyer doesn’™t write words like that without good sourcing. So, you can believe that the scene actually happened pretty much as described. It just jibes with prior accounts of Bush tantrums.

The guy has gone Queeg on us. He has a wide array of nuclear buttons at his disposal. Couple this with the alzheimer’™s patients in the regime who have a bad case of CRS (can’™t remember shit) under oath, and suddenly the tin foil prognostications regarding National Security Presidential Directive 51 look a little less Reynolds Wrap-ish.

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

The State Of The Economy: Perception Or Reality?

Well the tenuous state of the economy just elbowed its way back into the spotlight amidst the ogling over record highs in the stock exchanges. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by a paltry .6 percent during the first quarter of 2007′¦less than half of the estimate. If this slow growth were to persist throughout the [...]

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Well the tenuous state of the economy just elbowed its way back into the spotlight amidst the ogling over record highs in the stock exchanges. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by a paltry .6 percent during the first quarter of 2007′¦less than half of the estimate. If this slow growth were to persist throughout the year, GDP will end the year with total growth of less than 2.5 percent.

My goal isn’™t to strike the economic alarm bell, but I suspect that the state of U.S. commerce may not be as rosy as many had hoped’¦especially when one factors in declining home values and the associated rise in foreclosures. One must also consider the nature of the loan products that are attached to a huge number of these homes as well as the overall shift in credit strategies that can be summed up in the oft heard term ‘œsubprime lending’.

Let me share some information from a few sources and you can draw your own conclusions as to the economic prospects in the coming months.

From The Associated Press ‘“ 05/31/07:

WASHINGTON (AP) ‘” The economy nearly stalled in the first quarter with growth slowing to a pace of just 0.6 percent. That was the worst three-month showing in over four years.

The new reading on the gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department Thursday, showed that economic growth in the January-through-March quarter was much weaker. Government statisticians slashed by more than half their first estimate of a 1.3 percent growth rate for the quarter.

The main culprits for the downgrade: the bloated trade deficit and businesses cutting investment in supplies of the goods they hold in inventories.

‘œWe are still keeping our head above water ‘” barely,’ said economist Ken Mayland of ClearView Economics.

For nearly a year, the economy has been enduring a stretch of subpar economic growth due mostly to a sharp housing slump. That in turn has made some businesses act more cautiously in their spending and investing.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’™t believe the economy will slide into recession this year, nor do Bush administration officials. But ex Fed chief Alan Greenspan has put the odds at one in three.

So to begin with, the former Fed Chairman estimated that there is a 33% chance of a recession’¦before the first quarter GDP figures were released. Perhaps his prediction has changed?

The economy, unlike many other measurable statistics, depends in some part on the confidence of the consumer; hence consumer confidence is regularly calculated and reported. At the moment, consumers remain relatively positive about the economy‘¦though I suspect that is driven in large part by the low unemployment figures and the stock market’™s recent run of record breaking closings.

I’™m of the opinion that gas prices, the drop in home values, rising foreclosure rates, and a looming bear market will soon facilitate a downward shift in confidence’¦which will likely initiate a compounding effect with regards to the factors that figure into this first quarter dip in economic growth.

From The Elliott Wave Theorist – 05/18/07:

There is an important event for believers in perpetual inflation to explain: the trend of yields from bonds and utility stocks. In the 1970s, prices of bonds and utility stocks were falling, and yields on bonds and utility stocks were rising, because of the onslaught of inflation. But in the past 25 years bond and utility stock prices have gone up, and yields on bonds and utility stocks have gone down. Once again, this situation is contrary to claims that we are experiencing a replay of the inflationary 19-teens or 1970s. Those investing on an inflation theme cannot explain these graphs. But there is a precedent for this time. It is 1928-1929, when bond and utility yields bottomed and prices topped in an environment of expanding credit and a stock market boom. The Dow Jones Utility Average was the last of the Dow averages to peak in 1929, and today it is deeply into wave (5) and therefore near the end of its entire bull market. All these juxtaposed market behaviors make sense only in our context of a terminating credit bubble. This one is just a whole lot bigger than any other in history.

Some economic historians blame rising interest rates into 1929 for the crash that ensued. Those who do must acknowledge that the Fed’™s interest rate today is at almost exactly the same level it was then, having risen steadily’”and in fact way more in percentage terms’”since 2003. So even on this score the setup is the same as it was 1929. Remember also that in 1926 the Florida land boom collapsed. In the current cycle, house prices nationwide topped out in 2005, two years ago. So maybe it’™s 1928 now instead of 1929. But that’™s a small quibble compared to the erroneous idea that we are enjoying a perpetually inflationary goldilocks economy with perpetually rising investment prices.

As to whether the Fed can induce more borrowing by lowering rates in the next recession, we will have to see, but evidence from the sub-prime and Alt-A mortgage markets suggest more strongly than ever that consumers’™ and investors’™ capacity for holding debt is maxing out. I see no way out of the current extreme in credit issuance aside from the classic way: a debt implosion.

When thinking about the ability of consumers to absorb more debt, there are several factors to consider. First, Americans are addicted to credit and credit card debt is a key component of that debt. In the month of March alone, consumer credit debt rose by $13.46 billion dollars’¦and total consumer debt stands at $2.425 trillion dollars. More importantly, consumer debt is anticipated to rise 6.7 percent this year.

At the same time, mortgage debt has evolved to include new products’¦many that leave homeowners vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations’¦and others that actually extend the amount of credit beyond the actual value of the home predicated on evidence of the borrowers prior positive credit history (occasionally called 125% loans). The bottom line, as I view the situation, is that much of the recent run of strong economic data is a result of debt spending’¦debt born of easing credit standards coupled with rising home values and the ability to borrow and spend this perceived paper equity.

From Contrarian Chronicles at MSN Money – 02/26/07:

Meantime, the big question remains: When will folks be forced to connect the dots? Unknowable though the answer may be, my friend in London provided a clue, via a recent e-mail:

‘œYou and I and a select group of others have been all over subprime for months now. But today (last Wednesday) is the first day where equity managers have been in to us, asking questions about subprime. Until today, most of the equity managers knew something bad was happening in subprime, but were prepared to assume it was not going to be a problem for the wider credit market, the economy, and so on.

‘œSlowly but surely, people are starting to get it, and slowly but surely, I am starting to think that the tipping point in credit ‘” via a subprime-generated shambles in CDO (collateralized debt obligation) land ‘” is closer than anybody imagines.’

Behind the scenes in the land of financial black boxes, the time bomb is ticking.

Lastly, I would like to share a quote from Easy Al, taken from a speech dated April 8, 2005 (not so very far from the zenith of the real-estate market). I don’™t talk much about Al Greenspan anymore, mostly because he’™s gone from the scene, and I spilled so much ink on him before he left. But if you had to pick one man responsible for the imbalances in America and the financial hangover coming our way, it would be Al, who said:

‘œInnovation has brought about a multitude of new products, such as subprime loans and niche credit programs for immigrants’¦With these advances in technology, lenders have taken advantage of credit-scoring models and other techniques for efficiently extending credit to a broader spectrum of consumers’¦Where once more-marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit, lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately. These improvements have led to rapid growth in subprime mortgage lending’¦fostering constructive innovation that is both responsive to market demand and beneficial to consumers.’

Note that Greenspan was singing the praises of subprime lending while working to keep the economy moving forward’¦calling it ‘œinnovation’ and defining it as ‘œadvances in technology’. Excuse me, but when a lending institution alters its credit standards based upon the need to compete with other lenders in a tightening market that has been in an extended period of acquisition and consolidation’¦whereby smaller banks and lenders are acquired based upon total assets and growth projections’¦is there any doubt that ‘œinnovation’ and ‘œtechnology’ are simply code words for the mechanisms that have been instituted to serve the players that stand to benefit most from merger mania?

If one accepts the rhetoric, one would have to conclude that lenders have been able to magically extract reasonable risk borrowers from the trash heap of bad credit scores. Don’™t get me wrong, the extension of credit ought to cut both ways’¦meaning that there are clearly borrowers who deserve a second chance and there ought to be a means to allow as much’¦but the historical take on bankers has been that they like to lend money to those who don’™t need it. If I understand the new dynamic, the prevailing momentum is to create the rationale to lend more because size and sales have supplanted stability as the gold standard.

From Bloomberg.com – 05/29/07:

May 29 (Bloomberg) ‘” Home prices in the U.S. dropped last quarter for the first time in almost 16 years, as 13 out of 20 cities reported declines in March.

The value of a house dropped 1.4 percent in the first three months of the year from the same period in 2006, according to a report today by S&P/Case-Shiller. Prices last fell during the third quarter of 1991.

The retreat may deter owners from tapping into home equity for extra cash, economists said. Combined with record gasoline prices, lower home prices raise concern consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, will slow.

The decline in prices may not be large enough to concern the majority of home owners, economists said. The drop in prices in the 12 months ended March pales in comparison to the 157 percent gain over the previous 15 years.

A recovery in housing is being held back by a wave of subprime mortgage defaults, which is throwing homes back onto the market and prompting banks to tighten lending standards for borrowers with poor or limited credit histories.

‘œThese data are probably only just beginning to reflect the impact of problems in the subprime mortgage market,’ said James O’™Sullivan, a senior economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, in a report to clients. ‘œFurther declines seem likely.’

Again, I’™m convinced that economic insiders are hesitant to acknowledge the full breadth and depth of the growing list of negative factors. Keep in mind how consumer confidence works when reading that declining home prices ‘œmay not be large enough to concern the majority of home owners ['¦] in comparison to the 157 percent gain over the previous 15 years.’ I view the prior fifteen years of growth as the dam that is holding back a rising tide of reality’¦a reality that once released from its state of anesthetization will rapidly catapult consumer confidence in the opposite direction.

Human nature is such that we prefer to ignore the obvious if the obvious has the potential to disrupt the status quo. At the same time, our human nature tends to lead us to panic once reality escapes its domicile of denial. Word of mouth about the family down the block that is in foreclosure along with the neighbor that has dropped the price of their home for the fifth time as well as the number of for sale signs mom sees while carpooling the kids to school have a way of breaching our built in barriers to bad news. Once that happens, it’™s a new world’¦one that seemingly emerges overnight. I used to have a saying that went, ‘œEverything’™s shit’¦until it isn’™t’’¦and in this instance, the reverse may well hold true.

There may not be a comparable match for the relationship between perception and reality that exists within the construct of consumer confidence. These two forces have a tremendous impact on the actual direction of our economy’¦which is a direct byproduct of the economic decisions we make. As it now sits, if today’™s perceptions cannot withstand the growing body of evidence that foreshadows economic tumult, we may be fast approaching an all too dreadful day of awakening.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Negotiating With “Terrorists” – Again

Here’™s a blast from the past:

‘œNo nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.’

- G.W. Bush, 4/4/2002

Of course we negotiate with terrorists. We always have. Negotiation with the opposition (which is a synonym for ‘œterrorists’, both foreign and domestic, in the Bush [...]

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Here’™s a blast from the past:

‘œNo nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.’

- G.W. Bush, 4/4/2002

Of course we negotiate with terrorists. We always have. Negotiation with the opposition (which is a synonym for ‘œterrorists’, both foreign and domestic, in the Bush regime vernacular) is exactly what countries do when they find themselves in untenable diplomatic situations and unwinable wars. The last two major conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in, Vietnam and Korea, were no different.

It should not come as any surprise, then, that the U.S. is sneaking around the back alleys of Iraq trying to find a solution to the quagmire through negotiation with resistance forces, tribal leaders, street vendors, mimes, car bomb mechanics and anyone else who will listen:

U.S. military commanders are talking with Iraqi militants about cease-fires and other arrangements to try to stop the violence, the No. 2 American commander said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said commanders at all levels are being empowered to reach out to militants, tribes, religious leaders and others in the country that has been gripped by violence from a range of fronts including insurgents, sectarian rivals and common criminals.

‘œIt’™s just beginning, so we have a lot of work to do in this,’ he said. ‘œBut we have restructured ourselves ‘¦ to work this issue.’ ‘¦

The last sentence above is interesting – ‘œrestructured ourselves’ – what in the heck does that mean? Removing images of violence by banning photography? Downplaying actual Iraqi casualty figures? Sending Joe Lieberman to a Baghdad market to buy a rug?

Long time readers of ASZ know that I was a barfly at Billmon’™s Whiskey Bar back in the day. During an instance in 2005 when it was revealed that the Bush regime was talking to the insurgency leaders even back then, I think Billmon summed it up most appropriately, and his words have a ring of currency even today:

And so we arrive at the heart of the problem: To salvage any ending short of total defeat in Iraq, the Cheney administration must act like those spineless, flip-flopping liberals. They have to negotiate with the terrorists, listening to their demands, trying to understand their grievances and goals ‘” shit, offering them therapy sessions for all I know. But at the same time, Bush also has to keep up the never-give-an-inch macho act, lest the silent majority finally grasp the dismal truth: Their sons and daughters must go on dying in the quagmire so the neocons can find a way out that doesn’™t involve losing too much face’¦

What the current Democratic majority in congress just doesn’™t seem to be able to understand is that the Bush regime and elected GOP representatives are in the process of branding the Democratic Party as supporters of the regime’™s approach. About the strongest position the Dem leadership has taken to this point in its majority is threatening to send strongly worded letters – to someone.

The neocons way out of losing too much face (as Billmon put it) is to smear the Dems with the same dirty rag that they’™ve been using to cover up the quagmire for the past four years. The bodies continue to fall. The bodies will continue to fall.

‘œNegotiating with terrorists.’ The regime still doesn’™t get it. It’™s impossible to negotiate a way out of a quagmire when the U.S. is the buffer between two warring factions in a civil war, and most importantly, is not considered (by the warring factions) as an honest broker.

The only thing the warring factions in Iraq hate more than each other, is the Bush regime’™s occupation of their country.

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Bush’s 50 Year Iraq Plan

I’™m not sure how to make this look any more stupid. Really. This is insane. Bush will make his mark on history, but Iraq is not like Korea, and this ludicrous plan to treat Iraq like Korea, where we’™ve stationed US forces for 57 years, isn’™t workable. Iraq’™s is a religious [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I’™m not sure how to make this look any more stupid. Really. This is insane. Bush will make his mark on history, but Iraq is not like Korea, and this ludicrous plan to treat Iraq like Korea, where we’™ve stationed US forces for 57 years, isn’™t workable. Iraq’™s is a religious divide, not a political one, as in Korea. Iraq is a civil war characterized by dozens of factions, not like Korea, where it was one faction against one other faction. The analogy simply doesn’™t fly, but that isn’™t surprising. It was George Bush weilding the analogy, after all. He is a man with a magical touch that turns all he does to utter failure.

Man, he wants US forces in Iraq for over 50 years, and he thinks this is a good thing, too. Read Tony Snow fumble about in explaining Mr. Bush’™s statements likening this war to the Korean. Amazing. It leaves one at a loss for words.

Is Bush drinking?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Mitt Romney is Busy, Busy, Busy

He wasn’™t wearing a bathing suit when he visited Alton, NH. He talked to veterans in the town and reaffirmed his support of Bush’™s surge, but didn’™t do his usual in the area near where he summers. His usual is to simply enjoy the summers in New Hampshire, and. . . umm, the [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

He wasn’™t wearing a bathing suit when he visited Alton, NH. He talked to veterans in the town and reaffirmed his support of Bush’™s surge, but didn’™t do his usual in the area near where he summers. His usual is to simply enjoy the summers in New Hampshire, and. . . umm, the talk to the veterans didn’™t go so well. . .

That wasn’™t quite the case Monday, when a Laconia man complained that he hasn’™t been able to get adequate medical care since returning from Iraq in January 2005 because he is neither an active duty soldier nor a veteran.

‘œHis foot has been broken since last July and he can’™t get it fixed,’ said Denis Joyal of Belmont, a friend who spoke on behalf of Army National Guard Sgt. Brian Roy. ‘œNo veteran, no person, deserves to walk around with three tendons holding his foot together for over a year.’

Romney questioned the man’™s status, wondering why the military wouldn’™t help him if he is active duty.

‘œHe’™s in the window,’ Joyal said, before Romney cut him off.

‘œDon’™t give me, ‘™he’™s in the window,’™’ Romney said. ‘œHe’™s either active duty or not.’

Romney said the story illustrated his argument that Washington is broken. But the only solution he offered was urging Roy to contact one of his U.S. senators.

‘œIf you’™ve done everything you can do and nothing does any good, what do you think we should do?’ he said. ‘œAn elected official is probably the best place to go.’

That answer appeared to frustrate Roy and his wife, Darlene, who said she already had contacted numerous state and federal officials.

‘œI keep getting these cards from different people but no one does anything,’ said Darlene Roy.

On Iraq, Romney repeated his support for President Bush’™s plan to send more troops, saying he predicts signs of success by the end of the year.

‘œIf it’™s working well, we’™ll be able to start bringing back our troops because the surge will have worked and established the ability of the government to provide security for themselves,’ he said.

Seems to me Mr. Romney’™s All-American and squeaky clean image took a bit of a hit with his snapping at the veteran, his ‘œcan do’ businesslike image took a bit of a hit with his passing the buck, then he tries to pass himself off as supporting the vets by supporting the failed Bush policies in Iraq. I can find only 24 google news hits that report this ugly performance in front of veterans, but I can find Veterans who have put out a press release on the subject.

And I can find Mitt Romney chatting up Republican Jews, and even find him saying he is not ‘œanti-gay.’ In each case there’™s lots of skepticism, of course. Hey, Ben Affleck is predicting Romney gets the nomination. Affleck was a big supporter of another politician from Massachusetts, and we know how well that worked out.

Thursday, May 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Gonzo — 83% think he should be gone

That’™s an MSNBC poll.

Hope he whines and sputters on his way out.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’™s an MSNBC poll.

Hope he whines and sputters on his way out.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: DOJ,Permalink

Dept. of Fatness?

Listen, I know that obesity is a national health problem – it truly can be life threatening when considering the fact that most Type II diabetes cases occur primarily in overweight people. There’™s no question that in cases where proper healthcare and nutrition guidance, counseling and support is available, the chances of taking off [...]

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Listen, I know that obesity is a national health problem – it truly can be life threatening when considering the fact that most Type II diabetes cases occur primarily in overweight people. There’™s no question that in cases where proper healthcare and nutrition guidance, counseling and support is available, the chances of taking off weight (and keeping it off) is enhanced.

But I don’™t think that a state-level government should be using taxpayers dollars to establish an agency that is specifically chartered to deal with with this problem:

New Jersey’™s health department is escalating the battle against the bulge by starting a new Office of Nutrition and Fitness to better coordinate programs to prevent obesity.

The agency is particularly needed in New Jersey ‘” possibly the first state to create such a government body’¦

‘¦the new agency will begin operations within weeks, and may be able to win more federal and private grant money and will coordinate spending of more than $2 million in nutrition and fitness programs, including promoting physical activity at all ages, providing fresh fruit and vegetables to eligible women, children and senior citizens, and encouraging breast-feeding, which can reduce the baby’™s chances of a weight problem later’¦

It’™s not that I’™m lacking compassion for those who are obese, anymore than I would lack compassion for someone with any chronic disease. But it seems to me that obesity-related education and nutrition programs could be easily tucked into existing agencies without creating another layer of bureaucracy.

I’™m the first person to champion social safety nets and programs. This new agency in New Jersey does not meet the ‘œsocial safety net’ test, though. Does NJ have an Office of Cancer Prevention or Department of Broken Bones? Of course not. The money for NJ’™s Department of Fatness could be better allocated to existing programs, with the same (or perhaps even better) results.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: General

STOP THE PRESSES: No Ethical Lapse for WA Republican State Senator

OK, it is probably more to the point that no evidence of any ethical lapses were found. The State Senator is Pam Roach, and her son was sent away a while back for selling Oxycontin. (Oxycontin seems to be the drug of choice for Republicans, eh?) He went to jail, but was [...]

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

OK, it is probably more to the point that no evidence of any ethical lapses were found. The State Senator is Pam Roach, and her son was sent away a while back for selling Oxycontin. (Oxycontin seems to be the drug of choice for Republicans, eh?) He went to jail, but was released early under questionable circumstances. Here’™s the Seattle P-I on the subject from last October:

Washington Department of Corrections administrators ordered the release of state Sen. Pam Roach’™s son, who was in prison on drug-trafficking charges, more than 100 days early ‘” despite warnings from community corrections officers that such a move would violate agency policy.

Two street-level officers assigned to the case raised serious concerns ‘” verbally and in writing ‘” weeks before Stephen Roach, 26, was freed May 1. They argued that the inmate had been misclassified as having a lower risk of reoffending because a prior assault hadn’™t been taken into account.

Roach was released anyway, and some of the officers’™ written complaints were deleted from the department’™s official record of the case, according to interviews and records obtained by the Seattle P-I.

Three days after Roach was back home with his parents in Auburn, Corrections reversed itself and reclassified Roach as posing a higher risk to the community ‘” as the community corrections officers had recommended.

Now the verdict is in, that there is no evidence Ms. Pam Roach pulled any strings on her son’™s behalf. At l;east as reported by the Seattle Times:

Corrections supervisors may have had their own ‘œdesire to avoid conflict with a state legislator,’ the ethics board said. But there is no evidence that Roach tried to influence the agency’™s decisions about her son, officials said.

I guess the phrase they’™re using is that ‘œthere are no facts which suggest (Roach) used her position to benefit her son.’ Though she may have been a tad arrogant in not letting parole officers visit with her son at her home. . . . it seems Ms. Roach was so worried about her white carpet that she wouldn’™t let the officers do their job.

The report, signed by board chairman Wayne Ehlers, notes that Sen. Roach and community corrections officers were involved in a ‘œconfrontation’ when the officers went to inspect her home prior to placing her son there.

‘œAt some point, the Respondent (Roach) became aware the CCOs had not removed their shoes. The home has white carpets and a sign or signs are apparently posted requesting visitors to remove their shoes. The CCOs have expressed `shock’™ at the `hostile’™ nature of the `Senator.’™ They refused to remove their shoes. CCOs are armed at all times and can never be sure how home inspections may unfold. They cite issues with regard to personal safety and/or the safety of others if they were to conduct inspections while barefoot.’

They left after Sen. Roach’™s ‘œoffensive’ behavior, the report says. Roach promptly called their supervisor to complain about the shoes, identifying herself as ‘œSenator Roach.’

The next day, she phoned Clarke, complaining about incident and suggesting that the officers be issued booties.

‘œClarke states he listened to Respondent’™s complaints over the phone but said little. He later delegated the question (of) whether booties were a viable option for DOC (Department of Corrections) to an assistant. It appears from the investigation that the use of booties is now an option for DOC personnel.’

After the confrontation, one of the officers involved reviewed Stephen Roach’™s criminal history in-depth. He concluded that Roach had not been properly classified and should be released 100 days later than planned. The officers say a supervisor told them not to share that information; the supervisor denied it.

Man, she sounds like some kind of piece of work, badgering our fine public servants because they don’™t have booties to wear on their shoes when comeing into her house to check on her criminal of a son. Yes, that qualifies as Republican arrogance. It may not rise to the level of Republican corruption. . . but only because they haven’™t as yet found the evidence for it.

I’™m sure Rush Limbaugh will be featuring this story today, what with the Oxycontin angle and all.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: General

A Death By Any Other Name Would Not Be Accepted

Sometimes when writing a posting, one knows in advance that it may be controversial and has the potential to be met with anger…and sometimes that leads one to decide against ever publishing it. Other times, despite the probabilities, one pushes ahead and publishes such words because one believes they need to be spoken regardless. This [...]


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Sometimes when writing a posting, one knows in advance that it may be controversial and has the potential to be met with anger…and sometimes that leads one to decide against ever publishing it. Other times, despite the probabilities, one pushes ahead and publishes such words because one believes they need to be spoken regardless. This is one of those postings.

On Memorial Day weekend…as well as any time one seeks to stop and remember those who are no longer here…we look for ways to understand death and to reconcile with the ominous nature of our mortality. Try as we might, one is never fully prepared for the death and loss of a loved one…and though time may lessen the time we spend in pain, it never lessens the depth of the pain that we do experience.

When we attempt to understand death, we often draw comparisons in order to help us accept our loss. For example, with the death of an aged grandparent, we might tell ourselves that despite the obvious loss, our loved one had the good fortune of living a long and meaningful life. Unfortunately, there are times when our loss is virtually inconsolable and we’re unable to find a single scintilla of justification. Clearly, we all hope to avoid the latter…but life doesn’t always afford us our hopes.

The death of a soldier is an event that rarely goes without notice…and that is as it should be. Nonetheless, it is also quite troubling…and though we may not take the time to fully understand our reaction…in some primal way, it is known without analysis or discussion that the loss of a soldier requires a debt of gratitude since the life of each soldier is given in the service of the country we embrace. This unspoken, though well understood, sense of debt exists regardless of how one views the conflict that facilitates the loss of a soldier.

When a war is unpopular, or thought to be unnecessary, it creates a heightened angst when one is forced to recognize and assimilate the loss of a soldier. That heightened angst, in my opinion, comes from our natural tendency to seek to justify the loss of life. If one opposes the war, one may well struggle to find the means to soothe the loss. Perhaps the void that internal conflict creates is something we should embrace since it may be the very mechanism by which we can bring an end to conflicts that seem unwarranted. Nonetheless, navigating this highly sensitive terrain is akin to walking a mine field…if one fails to step lightly, an explosion can ensue.

With that said, I embark on a perilous journey…a journey intent on not only exposing the angst mentioned above…but a journey intended to accelerate that angst. To be clear, I honor and value the lives of every soldier lost as well as– every individual and though I infer no disrespect, I realize some may not agree…and so I apologize in advance should my words seem otherwise.

This coming Friday, Dr. Jack Kevorkian will be released from prison after serving eight years for his part in assisting in the suicides of over one hundred individuals…individuals that by and large suffered ailments that would eventually end their lives or that had taken from them the lives that they cherished such that they already felt dead…though by some trick of fate, remained here in this existence against their will.

Assisted suicide is legal in only one state under highly regulated conditions and it remains a very controversial issue. Perhaps that is because we prefer to engage death as a matter of chance rather than as a matter of choice. I understand that argument though I’m not sure it can withstand a reasoned review. Again, let me be clear…my argument is not meant to minimize the religious beliefs that stand in opposition to assisted suicide and I readily accept objections to assisted suicide on that basis alone.

Notwithstanding, I’m of the opinion one can make a reasoned argument that we frequently fail to apply our beliefs about death consistently. Three headlines, one from 1998, and two from this Memorial Day weekend help demonstrate my point.

From The New York Times in 1998:

Kevorkian Deaths Total 100

Dr. Jack Kevorkian has helped a 66-year-old man with lung cancer kill himself and has now assisted 100 suicides, his lawyer has reported.

Mr. Herman died one day after the Michigan House of Representatives adopted a bill addressing Dr. Kevorkian, who has been acquitted in three trials.

The bill would make assisted suicide a felony punishable by as many as five years in prison and $10,000 in fines, or both. It now goes back to the Senate, where minor changes are expected to be adopted before it goes to Gov. John Engler, who is expected to sign it.

From The United Press International – 05/27/2007:

More Than 100 Soldiers Killed In May

BAGHDAD, May 27 (UPI) – At least 101 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in May, the seventh time since the 2003 invasion that the monthly toll passed 100, military officials said.

In April, 104 soldiers were killed, the Web site icasualties.com – maintained by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count – said. The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed 3,439 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, and 13 more await confirmation.

From The Associated Press – 05/26/2007:

U.S. Deaths Near Grim Memorial Day Mark

BAGHDAD – Americans have opened nearly 1,000 new graves to bury U.S. troops killed in Iraq since Memorial Day a year ago. The figure is telling – and expected to rise in coming months.

In the period from Memorial Day 2006 through Saturday, 980 soldiers and Marines died in Iraq, compared to 807 deaths in the previous year. And with the Baghdad security operation now 3 1/2 months old, even President Bush has predicted a difficult summer for U.S. forces.

This past week Congress authorized a military spending bill that met with the president’s approval and that did not include any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq…despite the fact that one can argue that the 2006 election– sent a strong message that our elected officials bring an end to the war in Iraq and prevent the deaths of more U.S. soldiers.

Every indication suggests that George Bush will leave office…after eight years…with a significant presence of U.S. military troops still in Iraq. Back in 1998, the state of Michigan passed a law that led to the eight year imprisonment of Dr. Kevorkian for his part in facilitating the deaths of individuals who wanted to end their lives. Now I’m not suggesting the president or this congress should be imprisoned for their part in facilitating the death of 100 soldiers during the month of May…or the nearly 1,000 since last Memorial Day…or the 3,439 total soldiers killed in Iraq since the war began back in 2003.

However, on this Memorial Day weekend, I am suggesting Americans consider this information and put themselves through the process described above…the one which we humans go through when we lose a loved one. If at the end of that process, one feels some additional angst due to the growing absence of justifications for these deaths, then may I suggest that perhaps its time we demand that our elected officials do the right thing? If 100 assisted suicides warranted a law to imprison Dr. Kevorkian for eight years, what would be a reasonable equivalent for accepting the further loss of life in Iraq?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Sunday, May 27th, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |

Mike Gravel for President

I’m loving this guy. Why oh why can’t he be a serious candidate?
First, he goes after my heart with this:
When asked whether he believed marijuana should be available next to beer in liquor stores, Gravel replied, “Go get yourself a fifth of scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you’ll [...]


Commentary By: somegirl

I’m loving this guy. Why oh why can’t he be a serious candidate?

First, he goes after my heart with this:

When asked whether he believed marijuana should be available next to beer in liquor stores, Gravel replied, “Go get yourself a fifth of scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you’ll find you lose your senses a lot faster than you would smoking some marijuana.”

He asserted that all drugs should legalized and regulated. “The drug problem is a public health problem. It’s not a criminal problem. We make it a criminal problem because we treat people like criminals.”

But he captures it with this:

When pressed on his earlier statement that President Bush should be jailed for his manipulation of pre-war information, Gravel reaffirmed that belief.

“If you had an FBI agent knock at your door today and you lie to that agent, you commit a felony and you go to jail,” Gravel said.

“If that’s the way it is for ordinary citizens, what about the president of the United States who lies to the American people, fraudulently sells them on a war that 50 million Americans don’t want and over 3,000 Americans get killed as a result of that, and thousands and thousands of Iraqis gets killed… do you not think that’s a felony? It’s criminal.”

Now don’t you like Mike too?

Thursday, May 17th, 2007 by somegirl |
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