Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Eric Holdeman, director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management, identifies the culprits in the Washington Post:
[T]he country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.

Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make? ***

This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.

FEMA will be survived by state and local emergency management offices, which are confused about how they fit into the national picture. That's because the focus of the national effort remains terrorism, even if the Department of Homeland Security still talks about "all-hazards preparedness." Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors. We are being forced to fend for ourselves, making do with the "homeland security" mission. Our "all-hazards" approaches have been decimated by the administration's preoccupation with terrorism.

To be sure, America may well be hit by another major terrorist attack, and we must be prepared for such an event. But I can guarantee you that hurricanes like the one that ripped into Louisiana and Mississippi yesterday, along with tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, windstorms, mudslides, power outages, fires and perhaps a pandemic flu will have to be dealt with on a weekly and daily basis throughout this country. They are coming for sure, sooner or later, even as we are, to an unconscionable degree, weakening our ability to respond to them.

Editor and Publisher tell us that the good folks at the Times-Picayune fingered the same hoodlums:
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

much more


From BoingBoing:
The single best thing [you] can do is give cash. Not stuff, cash. Cash is portable, fast, and useful. Everything else has problems -- even if it is something they really and truly need, because it isn't there, and people and resources are needed to get it there.
The canonical example: Bottled water. Something otherwise useless that is critical in this sort of emergency. So you give a few flats to the ARC. Well, you bought them at retail, and now, the ARC has to put them on a truck (which costs money) and ship them down there (which cost money, and time.)

Let's say you give them $20 instead. The ARC notes that they need water. So, they call a bottler in a city close to, but not affected by, the storm. They get wholesale or cost prices, as opposed to retail. For the same amount of money, they get far more water, far closer to where they need to be. In six hours, you're delivering your flats to the local ARC office. In six hours with cash, they're handing water to people who desperately need it.

Finally, of course, if what they really need is food, your flats of water aren't helpful, but your cash is. So, the lesson:

1) Give cash. That's the best thing you can do from your home.

2) Stay the hell away from New Orleans. Seriously. They're ordering everyone out, that includes you. Do not go.

3) If you are trained to do rescue work, they have almost certainly called you by now. If not, check in with your local org -- records and such get lost, and they may have missed you.

4) If you really insist, go to your *local* American Red Cross office and talk to them. If, in fact, they do need a skill you have, they'll put you with the people you need to know, and start the wheels moving. The single biggest thing the ARC does in disasters is routing solutions to problems.

5) If you have supplies, not cash, you can talk to the local office, but realize that the cost of shipping your supplies may make them worse off then just buying them closer. If you have supplies *and* shipping -- and we're talking trucks, not FedEx, -- then call the local ARC, and talk to them, and if they need what they have, they'll put you in touch with the people who need it, who can arrange how to get it to them.

In general, when they need something, they need lots of it, either in one place or put into one place so they can easily distribute at need. One satellite phone isn't that helpful, esp. if they have to figure out how to make it work. A thousand phones, ready to go, however, is.

6) If they really need what you have to offer, and you are one of the few who can provided it, they've probably called you by now.

7) If you want to help in the future, start working with rescue orgs now. If you haven't been trained in general rescue procedures, your not nearly as helpful. Think of it as backups -- you can't help New Orleans now, but there will be other bad days, and if you've done the classwork and drills, and kept in touch, then you will be one of the people they need -- and they'll call you when they need you.
And you can give money to the American Red Cross right here.


"Rome Burning" is to "New Orleans Drowning" as "Nero Fiddling" is to "_______"?


Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Has any American journalistic enterprise ever persevered under such awful conditions?

The Times-Picayune headlines alone tell a terrible story:
The Times-Picayune RSS feed is available here.


From your Chicago Tribune:
About 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guardsmen and 37 percent of Mississippi's have been deployed to Iraq or to support the war, but there are still enough troops to respond to Hurricane Katrina, a National Guard spokesman said Monday.

About 3,500 Army National Guardsmen in Louisiana have been activated to help with security, shelter, removing debris and distributing water and food, said spokesman Jack Harrison of the National Guard Bureau. That's about half the 6,500 troops who are available for the crisis.
So thanks to our adventure in Iraq, there is a grand total of 6,500 Louisiana Guardsmen available to deal with the fall out from what may be the greatest national disaster in modern US history.

Just for the sake of comparison: The first President Bush sent in 23,000 troops to secure the area affected by Hurricane Andrew -- and they didn't have to evacuate a city the size of New Orleans.


the Gallup Poll:
President Bush's job approval rating is now at 40%, the lowest of his administration. Bush has averaged 43% across three Gallup Polls conducted in August, marking a slow but steady decline since the beginning of the year. Bush's approval rating has dropped among independents, and has also dropped modestly among Republicans. Bush's August average rating is the lowest for any re-elected president since World War II at a similar point after their re-election, with the exception of Richard Nixon. Only 34% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States today -- the lowest satisfaction rating since January 1996.
the Census Bureau via Reuters:
The U.S. poverty rate rose in 2004, driven by an increase in the number of poor non-Hispanic whites, while the median income for Americans as a whole remained stable, the government said on Tuesday.

The percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose to 12.7 percent from 12.5 percent in 2003, as 1.1 million more people slipped into poverty last year, the Census Bureau said in its annual poverty report.

The ranks of the poor rose to 37.0 million, up from 35.9 million the previous year, the report said.

"Corruption is just part of our culture"

The Kansas City Star looks at Illinois political corruption beyond Chicago and Springfield:
While tales of public mischief out of Chicago and the Statehouse grab the biggest headlines, observers say smaller towns across Illinois also often fall victim to a state political culture that values power and money more than the public interest.

"There are pockets around the state with a reputation for being clean, and it isn't like there aren't some good politicians all across the state. But corruption is just part of our culture ... one that sets a low standard," said Kent Redfield, interim director of the Center for Legislative Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

"Our expectations are pretty low. What we learn about politics growing up is it's a business, and it's a dirty business," he said.
In addition to corruption scandals in East St. Louis, Pekin, and Cairo, the article reveals the possibility of lawlessness in Peoria:
Payoffs continued for years in Peoria, where city officials collected weekly to turn a blind eye toward prostitution and gambling operations that drew customers from across central Illinois, said Bernie Drake, interim director of the Peoria County Historical Society.

"In the '20s, '30s and '40s, we were a Las Vegas. It just wasn't legal like Las Vegas," Drake said.
But I'll bet Peoria was even classier than Vegas.

Monday, August 29, 2005


The official NOAA/National Weather Service outlook for New Orleans:
The Majority of Industrial Buildings Will Become Non-Functional. Partial to Complete Wall and Roof Failure Is Expected. All Wood Framed Low Rising Apartment Buildings Will Be Destroyed. Concrete Block Low Rise Apartments Will Sustain Major Damage...Including Some Wall and Roof Failure.
High Rise Office and Apartment Buildings Will Sway Dangerously...A Few Possibly to the Point of Total Collapse. Many Windows Will Blow Out.

Airborne Debris Will Be Widespread...And May Include Heavy Items Such as Household Appliances and Even Light Vehicles. Sport Utility Vehicles and Light Trucks Will Be Moved. The Blown Debris Will Create Additional Destruction. Persons...Pets...And Livestock Exposed to the Winds Will Face Certain Death If Struck.

Power Outages Will Last for Weeks...As Most Power Poles Will Be down and Transformers Destroyed. Water Shortages Will Make Human Suffering Incredible by Modern Standards.
Why wait? You can help start the recovery right now by making a donation on the Red Cross web site.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


You bet we will.


Nearly one-third of Louisiana's Army and Air National Guard troops are in Iraq or are getting ready to go overseas. -- AP, May 16, 2004

"We have about 42 percent of the Louisiana National Guard deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places around the world." -- Lt. Col. Pete Schneider, public affairs officer of the Louisiana National Guard, February 13, 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005


From USA Today:
A Defense Department plan to close hundreds of facilities that it says are obsolete has infuriated prominent Republican lawmakers at a time when their support for President Bush's Iraq strategy could be more critical than ever.

"I think they are going to have trouble with some of us," says Rep. Ray LaHood, a veteran Illinois Republican fighting to save a National Guard base. A protégé of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., LaHood called the base closing process being finalized this week "as bush league as I have ever seen."

The president and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "should have paid a lot more attention to those of us who supported them in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.
And here I thought that the decisions to close particular military facilities should be based on the goal of making our military better and keeping us safer.

But LaHood reminds us that the Republicans are in power in Washington -- and every decision should, therefore, be based on political favoritism.


Forget about Red America and Blue America -- Here's a map of Gold Star America:

via kos


A washed-up "well-known Christian" named "Pat" said some shockingly stupid things over the air-waves the other day.

Just old news about Pat "the ass in assassination" Robertson?

Nope -- different Pat, same muddled thinking:
Music legend Pat Boone is blasting the peace message of Cindy Sheehan and other anti-war activists, claiming their rhetoric is making the U.S. more vulnerable to future terrorist attacks.

"This lady and the groups that have been demonstrating in front of the president's ranch in Crawford and following him around are the very same people that were the dropout, turn-on, anti-war peace activists back [in the Vietnam War era]," Boone said. "They still have this crazy notion that by just being peaceful and maybe toking up or something like that – it's like an ostrich with its head in the sand – maybe the danger and the bad guys will go away and leave you alone, which is not gonna happen."
Sure Pat -- the Iraqis would have invaded us -- just like the Vietnamese did.
Now at age 71, Boone has become politically active with a group called the "60 Plus Association," a non-partisan seniors advocacy group which supports an abolition of the death tax.

"Taking people's hard-earned savings from them when they have the poor judgment to die," lamented Boone, "the government steps in and takes half of everything they had already paid tax on and saved."
Because heaven knows that no one ever worked harder than Pat Boone. It must have been very grueling trying to build a career based exclusively on the works of others.

Fun Fact: Virtually all the records Boone made in 1955 and 1956, the period that basically established you, were covers of Black artists such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Flamingoes, Ivory Joe Hunter and Joe Turner.

And the "60 Plus Association"? A front group of the pharmaceutical industry.
During the program, Boone, a well-known Christian, took a strong stand against evolution, mocking the notion the U.S. would become some kind of repressive society if the theory of evolution were not taught in schools, and he supported the teaching of "intelligent design."

"The idea that all of this could have happened mindlessly with no blueprint is sheer stupidity and very unscientific."
I'm no "music legend", but I do have a passing familiarity with science, and I am curious just what makes Pat Boone qualified to declare something "unscientific" --
Over his career, Boone has appeared in over a dozen films including the 1959 science-fiction classic "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Thursday, August 25, 2005


From Think Progress:
Conservatives took President Bush’s cue yesterday and turned the spotlight on Tammy Pruett, an Iraq mom whose husband and five sons have all served in Iraq. Under the headline, “Move Over, Cindy: Bush Singles Out Other Military Mom,” Matt Drudge said that Bush had taken “direct aim at Cindy Sheehan” when he highlighted Pruett during his speech to Idaho National Guardsmen.

But last night, when Tammy and her husband Leon appeared on CNN, they weren’t exactly reading from President Bush’s script:

CAPT. LEON PRUETT: You know, Paula, I guess Cindy and the other folks that have lost loved ones over there, you know, we grieve with them and we’re sorry for their losses and empathize with them and their families and what they’re going through.

We don’t have anything against anybody that wants to protest or do anything like that. That’s wonderful. Isn’t it right — isn’t it wonderful that we have that right in this country to be able to do that?

ZAHN: Tammy, do you think Cindy is dishonoring the service of those that are currently in Iraq fighting?

T. PRUETT: You know, that’s a really tricky question.

Personally, as a mother, I feel her pain. Obviously, I can’t feel it to the extent that she does. But I totally empathize with her feelings. It wouldn’t be the way that I would choose to honor one of my sons if it happened to our family.

Looks like the WingNuts didn't properly vet the crew before launching this particular Swift Boat operation.

"I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration."

The crack team of researchers at Drink at Work have unearthed some Pat Robertson quotes from previously unpublished "700 Club" transcripts:
  • Man and monkey did not evolve from the same species. They didn't! You know how I know? Because I have eaten both and the tastes are remarkably dissimiliar.

  • Sure, the Constitution states 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' People say a lot of things. I once told me wife I was going to get the brakes fixed on our car. Didn't get around to it. Wanted some 'me' time. Two days later she drove right through a special ed school. Killed some kids. Big ones, too. That's what happens when you take prayer out of the classroom.

  • Terrorism is happening because we as a nation have turned our back on God. Some of you might say, 'But if God is everywhere how can we turn our backs on Him? That doesn't make any sense.' Well, sometimes God steps away to do some filing. He's very organized. You have to be when you're the Almighty Creator. Otherwise, you have birds piloting aircraft and that simply wouldn't work.

  • more...
Fun Fact: Francesco "Ces" Marciuliano -- the genius behind the Drink At Work and MediumLarge -- is also the writer of this painfully humorless production.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies..."

And Damn Stupid Lies.

From CNN:
Conservative religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Wednesday that his remarks about the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were taken out of context and that he never called for the killing of the Latin American leader.

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP" ***

"If [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson on Monday's program. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."
If you're willing to buy Robertson's reality-defying explanation, can I also interest you in "Pat's Age-Defying Shake"?

UPDATE: Not even Fox News can ignore what Robertson actually said, noting that "during the original '700 Club' broadcast Monday night, Robertson clearly mentioned assassination."


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"You just don't get over that."

Read Charlie Madigan's column.


Mark Kurlansky, the author of one of the big-boy books that Mr. Bush is "reading" on the longest presidential vacation in decades, writes in the Guardian (UK):
What does it mean that George W Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?

Reading the White House propaganda about what a serious reader he is, choosing books of depth rather than beach reads, it occurred to me that this may be an entirely staff-manufactured hoax, designed to give the president the appearance of having an intellectual depth he clearly lacks. But Warren Vieth, a White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, who, bored to the brink of madness in Crawford, Texas where the president was vacationing while the world exploded, interviewed me last week. He assured me that Bush reads books and discusses them in a way that makes clear he has truly read them.

So why was Bush reading Salt, and what could he get out of it? Perhaps, if he did pick it himself, it was because he was once in the Texas oil business that began in 1901 when Patillo Higgins and Anthony Lucas ignored the advice of geologists and drilled around a Texas salt dome called Spindletop.

In many ways, oil replaced salt. Before the age of petroleum, geology was largely dedicated to understanding and locating salt. The technology of drilling rigs and wells was primarily about salt. Because only salted food could be traded, it was the basis of economies. Because armies and navies needed it for provisions and to maintain horses and it was the only known way to cauterise a wound, it was considered strategic. Alliances were formed and wars were fought over it. Several revolutions erupted in part over excessive salt taxes. Queen Elizabeth I had warned England of its dangerous dependence on foreign sea salt.

All of this furore over common salt seems a little silly today. I hope Bush, with his interest in history, will realise that, in time, the fights over oil will look equally foolish. Could this lead to his abandoning his Texas cronies, realising oil is not worth hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq, and that government has the ability to foster research and develop existing technology to move the world away from oil?

Doubtless, after this happens the political leaders of the world will be ready to kill for the next big thing. So maybe he should put my book down, walk outside and talk to the grieving mothers of the American youth he wasted, who are camped in front of the ranch.
FYI: One of the books that Mr. Bush is allegedly reading this month, "Alexander II : The Last Great Tsar," will not be released until October 25, 2005.


Fundamentalist Leader Calls for Violent Overthrow of Democratically Elected Government

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Christine Cegelis: "Speak out, be bold and have a bold agenda."

Democrats from Schaumburg, Elk Grove, Hoffman Estates and the surrounding suburbs rallied at the Schaumburg Area Democrats' "Meet the Candidates Night" on Monday.

The Elk Grove Times was there:
Christine Cegelis, the leading Democratic challenger for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-6th, summarized the theme behind the standing-room-only meeting.

"It's time for us to speak out, be bold and have a bold agenda. We shouldn't be afraid to embrace our Democratic ideals," she said.

"This is our building year, the time for us to build a campaign so that in 2006, we will steamroll through these elections."
If you like the idea of Democratic candidates who are something other than GOP-lite, you may wanna click here.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Zorn wonders what Jed Bartlet from NBC's "West Wing" would do about "the Rosa Parks of the peace movement," Cindy Sheehan.

I wonder what would happen if a protester to keep vigil outside the vacation home of my favorite fictional president...

Monday, August 15, 2005


From the mailbag:
Vigil to Support Gold Star Mom Cindy Sheehan

4 corners intersection- Main St. and Duane St. in Glen Ellyn (map)
17 Aug 07:30 PM

This event is open to the public. All advocates of peace are encouraged to attend. Bring your own candle, and some to share.

As Clarence Page asked in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, " Mr. President, can we talk about the war too?"

Location: Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 (map)
Host: DuPage Against War Now
Status: Public, open for RSVP, 62 Guests (Max 250) 293 Guests (Max 350) 366 Guests (Max 400)

The vigil should be simple. Just show up and bring a candle.

Friday, August 12, 2005


"Our great country is in a terrible downward spiral. We're losing jobs, losing benefits, and losing lives. We need to focus on what's important-- paying attention to our children, our environment, our future. We need to think about improving our underbudget educational system, making better use of our resources, and helping to build a stable, safe, and tolerant global society. It's time to be smart about our politics. It's time to get America back on track." -- Christopher Walken for President 2008

"If I no-show tomorrow, would you still remember me?"

Lynyrd Skynyrd has canceled its appearance at the 2005 Illinois State Fair Saturday, Aug. 13, due to problems with lead singer Johnny Van Zant’s voice, according to band management. Tickets for the concert will be fully refunded, but cannot be refunded at the Grandstand office ticket window. ***

Other attractions and entertainment at the 2005 Illinois State Fair on Saturday Aug. 13 include:

Budweiser Tent: The Oohs 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., 7th Heaven from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Postwar Fords from 9:00 p.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Coors Lights Tent: will feature Blooze Brothers – Chicago from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Corona Tent: Prairie Pranksters from noon – 3:00 p.m., City Limits from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and The Coco Loco Band from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Miller Light Tent: Elvis Himselvis from noon to 3:00 p.m., Jack Flash from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and F5 from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Dancin’ in the Streets at the Lincoln Stage featuring OD Tapo IMI from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

via Rich

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Your Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reviews Christine Cegelis Campaign v2.0:
Cegelis is putting together a strong, big-time campaign team, realizing she can't operate under the political radar as she did in 2004. Bean's 2004 campaign, she said, is a "good model.'' Similar to Bean, Cegelis is a suburban female Democrat, a businesswoman who is not allied with and is independent of any of the various Democratic Party bosses in the state.

Cegelis said in 2004, "We very much ran an insurgent campaign. We had the element of surprise on our side. We don't have that anymore.''

Cegelis recently hired the Chicago-based political firm Adelstein/Liston to handle media and strategy. Partner Eric Adelstein guided Bean, in the neighboring 8th district, in her upset victory in 2004 and remains Bean's adviser for her re-election race.


I don't want to be accused of stealing the Peoria Pundit's gimmick, but the September issue of Vanity Fair -- featuring the article "The Inconvenient Patriot" that says Turks heard on FBI wire-taps claimed to have arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Dennis "Denny boy" Hastert's campaign funds in small checks -- is now on newsstands.

In addition to the Hastert story, the magazine has articles on the role of the press in selling the Iraq war, the fraud and corruption stemming from pressured military recruiters, the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling show-down -- and porn-star memoirs.

A little something for everyone.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


From the so-called in-box:
Protest George Bush at the Caterpillar Plant in Aurora, Illinois
Wednesday -- August 10, 2005 8-11AM

Join Sheehan surrogate family member Sabrina Worsham, Gold Star Families for Peace, CODEPINK and other Peace groups to demand George Bush meet with Cindy Sheehan who is holding a vigil outside his Crawford ranch since Saturday. Make signs and banners telling Bush we want him to "MEET WITH CINDY" and "BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!"

Meet at 7:30 am at the Jewel supermarket in Oswego, 2540 US Highway 30, Oswego, 60543. MAP

We will meet at the Jewel supermarket and leave for Caterpillar by 8AM

The Caterpillar Plant event is from 8:30am to 11:00 am and is located at Orchard Road at the intersection of ROUTE 30. AURORA, IL 60507.

To Jewel Supermarket from Chicago: Take I-88 West to Rt. 31 (South) and go East on Rt. 30 towards Oswego. It is approximately 2 miles from Caterpillar.

From Naperville: Ogden Ave. (Rt. 34): Go West to Rt.30 and turn North (Right). The Jewel is on the left (approximately 1.5 miles)

UPDATE: Protest Pictures


Maybe Blagonad was right...

From Reuters:
South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafe, authorities said on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing on-line battle simulation games at the cybercafe in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said. ***

After he failed to return home, Lee's mother asked his former colleagues to find him. When they reached the cafe, Lee said he would finish the game and then go home, the paper reported.

He died a few minutes later, it said.
This should serve as a warning for teen-agers -- If you play too many video games, you will still be living with your mom when you are 28 years old.

Monday, August 08, 2005


From Salon:
[A] report in today's Los Angeles Times suggests that the president may not be above canning a prosecutor who starts sniffing around too close to home. Walter F. Roche Jr. writes in the Times that a grand jury in Guam opened an investigation into the actions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago but that the investigation ended abruptly after Bush removed the acting U.S. attorney who had been supervising it.

The Times says the federal grand jury in Guam was looking into Abramoff's "secret arrangement" with local court officials to lobby against a court revision bill then pending in Congress. As the Times has reported previously, the Guam officials' deal with Abramoff's was just a little unusual for a public agency: Abramoff was "paid with a series of $9,000 checks funneled through a Laguna Beach lawyer to disguise the lobbyist's role working for the Guam court," the Times says.

On Nov. 18, 2002, the grand jury run by Acting U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Black issued a subpoena demanding that the administrative director of Guam's Superior Court turn over documents related to the lobbying contract. The next day, the Times says, Bush demoted Black.
Although the timing is suspicious -- Black had been the acting U.S. attorney for more than 10 years -- there's no hard evidence that Bush acted in direct retaliation for the Abramoff probe. And the stakes would be different if Bush were to engage in a Saturday Night Massacre-style demotion of Patrick Fitzgerald. So we still tend to think it's pretty unlikely that Bush would seek to preempt bad news on Plame by demoting Fitzgerald.

But the president's men may have another way to get at the prosecutor who keeps pulling on the Plame thread. Although Fitzgerald is a special prosecutor, he still answers to someone at the Justice Department. Because Alberto Gonzales has recused himself from the case, that someone has been Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Comey has apparently left Fitzgerald alone to do his job, but now Comey is leaving to become the general counsel of Lockheed Martin. As Newsweek reports, the job of overseeing Fitzgerald will likely fall to Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum, a man who just happens to be an old friend and Skull & Bones classmate of somebody named George W. Bush.
Although the smart money says that Bush wouldn't dare pull the plug on Fitzgerald, it has to be noted that the Bush administration has not demonstrated an overwhelming reverence for the rule of law.


Wear your other shirt to the trial.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Wait, Wait... Happy Birthday"

From the Washington Post:
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is slotted to tape a segment tonight in Chicago for National Public Radio's weekly quiz show, "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" Coincidentally, it's also his 44th birthday.

Senior producer Rod Abid said the senator was chosen because "he's a national figure" who was spoofed on the show last year when he was running for office. "I met him last year and he said, 'You're the guys who made fun of my name!' " Abid said with a laugh. "He was right, we did."

To make up for it (and to celebrate Obama's big day), Abid says the show is giving the senator a treat: "We're getting a cake. We feel the least we can do is give him a pastry."

Birthday or no, Abid warns that Obama shouldn't expect any softball questions to come his way: "We don't play that way."
Tickets for tonight's show at the Bank One Auditorium are Sold Out.

"Denny boy"?

The lefty internets are all atwitter in anticipation of an article about Sibel Edmonds -- the FBI translator who has been gagged by the Bush Administration from revealing information about conversations she translated surrounding a seemingly major corruption scandal involving Turkish nationals and U.S. lawmakers -- in the September 2005 issue of Vanity Fair:

One counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds’s case has told Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990’s. That inquiry found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior American politicians in at least two major cities — Washington and Chicago. Toward the end of 2001, Edmonds was asked to translate some of the thousands of calls that had been recorded by this operation, some dating back to 1997.

Edmonds has given confidential testimony inside a secure Sensitive Compartmented Information facility on several occasions: to congressional staffers, to investigators from the O.I.G., and to the staff from the 9/11 commission. Sources familiar with this testimony say that, in addition to her allegations about the Dickersons, she reported hearing Turkish wiretap targets boast that they had a covert relationship with a very senior politician indeed — Dennis Hastert, Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House since 1999. The targets reportedly discussed giving Hastert tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information. ***

In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates.

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname "Denny boy." It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert’s federal filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of the House majority leader, Tom Delay, Republican of Texas, were only $99,000. An analysis of the filings of four other senior Republicans shows that only one, Clay Shaw of Florida, declared a higher total in un-itemized donations than Hastert over the same period: $552,000. The other three declared far less. Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton, of Texas, claimed $265,000; Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter, of California, got $212,000; and Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas, of California, recorded $110,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government – the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years, attempts had been made to get the house to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full house vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests. Again, the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert’s spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, "and to insinuate anything else just doesn’t make any sense." He adds that Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps: "He does not know these organizations." Hastert is "unaware of Turkish interests making donations," the spokesman says, and his staff has "not seen any pattern of donors with foreign names."

My initial reaction? Any fool who uses the code-name "Denny boy" for someone named "Dennis" is far more likely to be the source of "hollow boasts" and "sheer bravado" than he is to be a source for international bribes.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


From your Chicago Tribune:
All 700,000 flu shots ordered from Europe by the state of Illinois last year amid fears of a nationwide shortage have expired and may go to waste at a potential cost to the taxpayers of $2.5 million, officials said Wednesday.

Illinois never even received the vaccine, because the Food and Drug Administration would not approve its import.
The governor's office gave no word on the condition of the 700,000 units of chicken soup ordered from Asia.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


On Friday, Halliburton announced that KBR -- the division responsible for carrying out Pentagon contracts -- experienced a 284% increase in operating profits during the second quarter of 2005.

Halliburton's press release says that the spike in profits was due primarily to the Pentagon's payment of "award fees" for KBR work in the Middle East.
Government and Infrastructure (G&I) operating income for the second quarter of 2005 was $73 million compared to $19 million in the second quarter of 2004, a 284% increase.

The increase primarily resulted from positive developments related to LogCAP award fees. G&I continues to receive favorable job performance ratings for its work supporting the troops in Iraq.

As a result, G&I recognized $29 million of income for recent awards on completed work, and increased the award fee accrual rate for its ongoing work under the LogCAP contract from 50% to 72% during the quarter.

G&I also realized improved performance at the DML shipyard, partially offset by the completion of the RIO contract in Iraq.
-- Haliburton Press Release (.pdf) announcing 2005 second quarter results


Columnist and fungus, Robert Novak seems to have used James "Jeff Gannon" Guckert's propaganda as his source for yesterday's SunTimes column.

Salon exposes Novak's cribbing of "Bulldog" -- and demonstrates that Novak's Guckert-inspired attack on Ambassador Joe Wilson was a bald-faced lie:
At the end of yesterday's column, Novak says that "Joseph Wilson was discarded a year ago by the Kerry presidential campaign after the Senate committee reported much of what he said 'had no basis in fact.'" Relevant to Novak's defense of his "integrity"? Not particularly. Factually correct? Not even close. Robert Parry does the dismantling.

As Parry notes, the notion that Wilson was "discarded" from the Kerry campaign comes straight from a July 2004 story written by -- drumroll, please -- Jeff Gannon! Gannon deduced then that the Kerry campaign had jettisoned Wilson based on his own analysis of Kerry's Web site: There had been references to Wilson on the site, and then they were gone, and Gannon assumed that the change was an attempt to "quietly break official contact" with Wilson because he was "something of a loose cannon." But someone with just a little more firsthand knowledge of the facts -- Peter Daou, who worked on Kerry's Web site and now runs the Daou Report -- says that references to Wilson, along with a whole lot of other stuff, disappeared from the Kerry Web site when it was redesigned for the start of the fall campaign. "I wasn’t aware of any directive from senior Kerry staff to 'discard' Joe Wilson or do anything to Joe Wilson for that matter," Daou tells Parry. "It just got lost in the redesign of the Web site, as did dozens and dozens of other pages."

OK, but even if the Kerry campaign didn't "discard" Wilson, the Senate Intelligence Committee did find that much of what Wilson had said about the Iraq-Niger connection had "no basis in fact," right? Well, no, that part of Novak's smear is wrong, too. The "no basis in fact" characterization wasn't included in the Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq [better link] filed by the 17 members of the committee. Rather, it came in a separate statement filed by three Republican senators -- Pat Roberts, Christopher Bond and Orrin Hatch -- who apparently couldn't get any of the 14 other senators on the committee to agree with them. It was, in essence, a dissent from the full committee report; to say that the "Senate committee reported" that much of what Wilson said "had no basis in fact" is about as accurate as saying that the Supreme Court put Al Gore in the White House in 2000.
I ask you: Who else but Bob Novak would use Guckert/Gannon as a source for a column written in defense of his "integrity as a journalist"?

Monday, August 01, 2005


Fun Fact: A ringworm does not have a ring, nor is it a worm -- it's actually a fungus.

Fun Fact II: Robert Novak does not have integrity, nor is he a journalist -- he's actually a fungus.


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