The Weblog

May 2006 Archives

The Most Trusted Name In News

Heaven help us.

Unfortunately, CNN is not alone.

Stosseled

David Sirota:

Stossel replied with a straight face: "The truth is that people on the margins lose jobs when minimum wages go up. We used to have people washing windshields at gas stations. We don't anymore because of the minimum wage. There's no opportunity for kids, for entry-level workers."

Mind you, Stossel is making this claim at the very same time President Bush is claiming we need a guest worker program because there are actually too many entry-level, low-wage jobs that aren't being filled. But beyond that, the actual data exposes Stossel's pathological lying.

More at the link, including how Stossel is wages a campaign against frivolous lawsuits by suing an interviewee for $200,000.

Reports From The Field

Timely:

President Bush learned of reports that U.S. Marines killed two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians only after reporters began asking questions, the White House said Tuesday.

Asked when Bush was first briefed about the events in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq, White House press secretary Tony Snow replied Tuesday: ``When a Time reporter first made the call.''

From the sound of things, one might suspect the White House had a 24/7 connection to Iraq. You know, to facilitate all that communication Mr. Bush allegedly has with the "commanders in the field."

I guess the chain of command is only as strong as its weakest link.

"Last Throes"

The one year anniversary.

If the consequences of White House incompetence weren't so tragic, some of this stuff would almost be comical.

Fake News

"Occupations Tax" Cut

Since leaders have been contemplating what to do with the State of Tennessee's budget surplus, here's an idea: cut the Professional Privilege Tax.

Three years ago this tax was doubled when the state was dealing with a budget crisis. Yes, $400 merely to have the "privilege" of holding a license, regardless if you are currently earning income from it or not.

If the budget crisis has passed, how about reverting the tax back to $200? As tax policy matter, does it really even make sense to levy a tax based merely on the "privilege" of practicing in a designated profession?

Workplace Internets Tip

It's best not to post "death threats" using the employer's computer network.

The Nephew

Seth Camden
Born 24 May 2006
7 pounds 1 ounce
19 inches long

Unclehood

I've officially became an uncle. Seth Camden was born to sis yesterday evening.

Congratulations to the family.

Not An Anesthesiologist

I was watching part of a Bill Gates interview last night, and among the captions it flashed was one which said Mr. Gates had just six days of vacation between 1978 and 1984.

I hope someone paid that guy for all the time he put in.

Southern Appalachian Mountain Trivia

South beyond 6K:

There are over 60 summits in the area above 6000 feet, but only 40 were selected by the criteria for the South Beyond 6000. The criteria for selecting peaks are:

1. The summit elevation is above 6000 feet above sea level.

2. There is a drop of 200 or more feet to a saddle between one peak and another qualifying peak or, there is a distance between the peaks of .75 miles.

The 40 peaks are contained within 6 ranges: the Smokies, Plotts, Balsams, Craggies, Blacks, and Roans. The southwestern most peak is Clingmans Dome in the Smokies, while the northernmost is Grassy Ridge in the Roans. All 40 are in North Carolina or on the North Carolina-Tennessee border except Mt. Le Conte, which is within Tennessee.

I knew Western North Carolina is mountainous, but I didn't fully realize the extent to which it dominates the list.

As far as I can recall, I've only hiked up one of the mountains: Mt. LeConte. I've also driven and cycled up Clingman's Dome. Looks like I only have to do about 38 more to complete the list.

UPDATE: More on U.S. mountains here.

The Angry Left

Glenn Greenwald examines the rules of commencement address civility:

So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is -- because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is -- because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.
Yes, that sounds about right.

Tarnished Milestone

Interesting that coming off the weekend, an injured horse seemingly got more news coverage than Barry Bonds hitting his 714th home run.

Tennessee Flag Salute

This bill was recently approved by the House of Representatives:

The following salute written by Lucy Steele Harrison is designated and adopted as the official salute to the flag of Tennessee:

"Three white stars on a field of blue
God keep them strong and ever true
It is with pride and love that we
Salute the Flag of Tennessee."

Now you know.

Urgent Need

President Bush, yesterday:

It's going to take time to get the technology in place, and it's going to take time to train the Border Patrol agents. And yet, the need to enforce the border is urgent, and that's why, in coordination with our governors, we're going to send 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed on the southern border.

Now, the reason why I think this strategy is important is because deploying the 6,000 troops to complement the work of the Border Patrol will get immediate results. And it's time to get immediate results.

Interesting how this urgent need has developed over five years since Bush assumed office.

Immigration Will "Change America"

It really is hard to listen to some of the rightist punditry on the immigration debate and not conclude that it's being driven, at least in part, by racism.

Why else would these people be floating highly speculative estimates on how tens or hundreds of millions of immigrants will flood in, and then darkly note how this will change the culture and power structure of our country? I suspect this same kind of rhetoric has been used every time America has seen a concentrated influx of immigrants from an out-of-vogue ethnic group.

It Wasn't Just My Imagination

It really has been cool out. According to the National Weather Service, the temerature average on Monday was 14 degrees below normal, and the high was 59. The last time it failed to reach 60 in Knoxville was March 27.

Kind of funny how quickly I become "soft" in the spring. Back in Februrary, I would have thought a 59 degree day was great weather to go bike riding; on Monday I didn't bother because it felt too "cold" out.

Repeat It Until It Is True

Released excerpt from President Bush's speech tonight

we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it.
Really, why does he keep repeating this? Most who shudder at the dreaded amnesty word already see through the hallow rhetoric.

I guess there are still a few super-gullible people about who take Bush's word at face value. But even the talk radio crew isn't buying that one any more.

Stopgap Measure

The latest episode from our we-don't-pay-attention-to-polls White House:

Bush, in a speech to the nation Monday, will propose using the troops as a stopgap measure while the Border Patrol builds up its resources to more effectively secure the 2,000-mile line between the U.S. and Mexico, said two White House officials speaking on a condition of anonymity before the president is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. EDT.
Yes, almost five years after 9/11, Bush has suddenly determined that we need to shore up the border. Never mind that, as this post points out, Bush refused to fully fund an increase in border patrol agents scheduled for this year. We now have a "crisis" and our leader, in a prime-time TV event, is summoning the troops!

UPDATE: David Frum:

When the Bush administration fitfully attempts to enforce the immigration laws, it looks for measures that meet four criteria:

They must be 1) spectacular; 2) expensive; 3) unsustainable; and 4) ineffective.

The proposal to deploy the National Guard to the border meets all four!

This plan won't work, and it is not seriously meant to work. It's supposed to look dramatic and buy the president some respite from negative polls - and then it is supposed to fail, strengthening the administration's case for its truly preferred approach: amnesty + guestworkers.

Ouch. If this is an effort to shore up the 29%, it doesn't appear to be working thus far.

Fastest Man

Congratulations to former Tennessee Volunteer Justin Gatlin for breaking the 100 meter world record (9.76 seconds).

More Competition For Fox News Channel

Heh.

Actually, I was surprised to hear that the average age of an O'Reilly Factor viewer is 70? Keith Olbermann was boasting that the average viewer of his show is only 60.

Guess I'm tuning in with the old folks.

29%

Another Bush milestone.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." This trend has declined every month since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction.
That's got to have GOP, Inc. nervous.

Phone Records

Word is out that the NSA is keeping track of phone calls. Presumably, it's easier to do this here than over there. And who's to know? We might all be al Qaeda.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

The article suggests that the carrier Qwest was not linked in like some of the other telecommunications companies. But at this point, do we have any reason to believe that the government isn't tracking all phone calls?

Oh, and I'd throw all the other digital forms of communication into the mix too: text messages, e-mails, whatever. I think it's safe to assume Big Brother can monitor all common forms of communication. The revelations thus far have only been part of the iceberg.

Going For It

Kevin Drum notes a an analysis of outcomes when football teams face a fourth down.

The conclusion: coaches should go for it more often.

WTC Memorial

Wow:

The projected cost of building the World Trade Center memorial complex at ground zero has soared to nearly $1 billion, according to the most authoritative estimate to date.
It "only" cost $1 billion to build the entire World Trade Center--back in the '60s and '70s; that would be $3.7 billion in today's dollars.

Rallying Around Big Oil

One of the things I don't get about the current energy discussion is the extent to which some of the louder rightist voices are going to defend the oil industry.

I understand these people taking positions which go against popular sentiment--e.g., countering the argument that big oil is "gouging" customers. But this goes beyond that. These guys are so zealous they sound as if they are on the oil industry payroll--perhaps they are.

At any rate, they are having success in brainwashing at least some of their audience.

I was listening to WGOP yesterday, and a listener chimed in bragging about a call he made to the White House. He said that he had told them that if Congress should pass the $100 gas refund, he would sign over his check and send it to ExxonMobil.

Huh?

Once upon a time, in times of "crisis," Americans showed they were good citizens by recycling, planting gardens, or volunteering. Apparently now we live in an era where some believe that the strength of American can be measured by the oil industry's profits.

I guess if some people hear something enough, they can be lead to believe anything.

"White Guilt"

Yesterday I was listening to WGOP and the recently-arrested host was raving about this Shelby Steele column. Out of curiosity I dig it up; turns out it's merely another tortured attempt to argue that something bad--in this case the war in Iraq-- is the result of liberal, Anti-American thought. For some reason, we don't try to wage combat at full force because ideologically, the world is against us.

Glenn Greenwald and Billmon do a good job of smacking Steele's piece down.

I merely add that as far as comparing our current conflict with the good ol' wars goes, haven't these people been listening as Bush himself has proclaimed we're now fighting a different kind of war. You know, confronting IEDs and suicide bombers rather than columns of German tanks and artillery? One would think that the difference in nature of this warfare would be obvious.

Colbert On Exercise

Rough paraphrase, from last night:

"I don't exercise for fear of injury, which would prevent me from future exercise."

Health Care Across The Pond

I know this isn't as important to most Americans as last week's American Idol, but some of us find it interesting:

White, middle-aged Americans - even those who are rich - are far less healthy than their peers in England, according to stunning new research that erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.

Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer - findings that held true no matter what income or education level.

Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is double what England spends on each of its citizens.

Americans spend about $5,200 per person on health care. And gasoline prices are our real national crisis?

Late Night At The Election Commission

The big story waiting for Knox County election results to come in was some technical snafu reading the machines. But that's not the only trouble reporters encountered:

Deceiving screensaver

Lola Alapo reports from the Knox County Commission building. She said supporters had been crowded around a computer screen looking at election results. When the computer screen displayed the screensaver, someone screamed "No!" until someone else moved the mouse to display the information again.

Does Diebold make screensavers?

"End of Life Care"

Back when I was in boarding school, I helped a little (and I emphasize little) with a metal recycling project--you know, separating copper and other metals from larger contraptions. At the time, I wondered how much money could really be made with a small-scale operation.

With commodity prices going the way they have been, there's more money to be made now. Problem is, for common products, such as paper, plastic, or aluminum, it's apparently still not very profitable to run city-wide operations. So a lot of it still goes in the land fill.

Another maddening "forthcoming" exchange with Scott McClellan regarding the Jack Abramoff visitation records.

The White House's new campaign to promote usage of the English language should start in the office of its Press Secretary.

"Nuestro Himno"

Heh.

It's a bit hard to now jump on the nativist English-only theme after you ran two campaigns courting Hispanic votes.

And a commenter raises a good point: If the national anthem must be song in English, shouldn't the White House web site also be English only?

Election Day Fun

It's refreshing when we learn from repeat history:

I just got off the phone with a friend in Ohio. He went to vote today in a Cleveland Heights (heavy Dem) precinct this morning. He showed up to vote at 6:30, when the polls open. After 15 minutes, 2 of the 9 Diebold machines were finally working, and he was able to vote. The poll workers didn't know how to work the machines, and the "help line" calls went unanswered. The printed receipt didn't work on any of the machines.
If all else fails, they can revert to paper ballots. That's the direction we're headed here.

Gas "Crisis"

Apparently, the Secretary of Energy believes we have a "crisis." From yesterday's Meet the Press:

MR. BODMAN: Tim, Tim, the, the--we're here today. I would say that there's evidence, there's, there's apparently some evidence that we have a crisis. There is a lot of concern about this. And so the president is looking at everything, every tool at his disposal to put to work on it. And so, you know, I'm not embarrassed by that and I think it's the right thing to do.
. . .
MR. BODMAN: I believe that there is--there are those who would call it that.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you call...

MR. BODMAN: The fact, the fact that we are here today.

MR. RUSSERT: Do, do you call it a crisis?

MR. BODMAN: I would call it that, yes. I think that there is great concern.

There's a grudging admission. I wonder why? More likely the "crisis" Mr. Bodman sees is one at the polls rather than at the pumps. Does anyone believe he would be talking about a gasoline "crisis" if Bush's approval ratings were currently in the 60s?

Not I.

A Day Without Immigrants

No boycott in effect at Resonance today.

One of the amusing things I see in the media coverage is how some reporters seem to go out of their way to point out that the various gatherings are (so far) "peaceful." It's almost as if they expect a riot to break out at any moment.

Mission Still Being Accomplished

Three years later:

The CNN poll, conducted April 21-23 by Opinion Research Corporation, found that only 9 percent thought the U.S. mission in Iraq had been accomplished, while 40 percent believed it would be complete someday.

An additional 44 percent said the United States would never accomplish its goals in Iraq, where American troops are still battling insurgents three years after the invasion that toppled former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

What, only nine percent of Americans believe our brave commander-in-chief?

Looking back, how ridiculous was it for Mr. Bush to play pilot and strut around on the USS Abraham Lincoln? Imagine how silly he would look if he tried something like that today.