Thursday, June 28, 2007

Siegelman and Scrushy head to the federal pen

Via WSFA News - Siegelman and Scrushy Sentenced to Prison

Siegelman got just over 7 years (88 months) and Scrushy got just under 7 years (82 months) plus they both have fines to pay, community service, etc. According to the article, they have 10 days to file an appeal, but they are currently in custody.

Well, Paris got her time cut in half for good behavior. I wonder how much time these two will actually serve.

Running for the VP slot?

Via WaPo - Bill Had His Al, and Hillary Might Have Her Bill
Running for the vice presidency is a delicate operation, but Bill Richardson seems to be getting the hang of it.

The New Mexico governor is running for president, of course, but should that fail he has already mastered the first responsibility of the running mate: Don't overshadow the top of the ticket. This trait was in evidence yesterday when Richardson gave a lunchtime foreign policy speech in Washington at the exact moment Hillary Clinton was giving one of her own.
Of course it is obvious that at this stage of the game Richardson doesn't seem to have a snowball's chance of winning the Democratic nomination. He doesn't have rock star appeal of the front runners and the American public likes to be swept off it's feet whenever possible. But what about the number two spot on the ticket? I'm sure Richardson would jump at the chance.

Does he actually have a chance at the number two slot? It is really rather early to making speculations, but I'll put in my two cents anyway. I find it hard to imagine that Hillary would pick Obama, or vice versa, if either wins the nomination, which at this point seems highly likely. Each one would fear that the other would be too likely to upstage him or her.

Edwards has held the VP spot on the ticket before and it didn't seem to carry too much weight in 2004. He's a Southern boys, but I doubt he's going to bring very much of the South with him for the ride. He certainly didn't last time.

Richardson could be good ticket balancer for Hillary, as the article above suggests. He's a Westerner and a Latino, which could add a nice balance for a white female New York Senator. He's also a bit more conservative than she is on issues like gun control, etc. However, even though I like Richardson's resume, having him on the ticket might not be enough to get me to vote for Hillary. I just have a purely irrational dislike for the woman. I suppose I would have to vote for her in the general election if I felt like my vote counted, but since I know that it doesn't (living in Alabama and all) I just might have to find a Third Party candidate to cast a vote for if the Democrats pick Hillary.

I'm not sure how good Richardson's chances would be if Obama gets the nod. A ticket with an African American and a Latino may be more than America is willing to deal with at this stage of the game. I'm not saying it's right, but it still may be true. I'm not sure who Obama would pick, given the current field.

Something Missing?

Is it just me, or is there something missing from this article in the Washington Post (Eagles' Comeback on Brink of Being Official)? Oh, I don't know, like the article itself! I assume they will fix it eventually, or who knows, maybe the title was enough. Here is a screen capture of what the page looked like when I viewed it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My how time flies!

Via LA Daily News - Paris leaves jail in style
Paris Hilton was released from jail shortly after midnight Tuesday amid a throng of television camera lights and hovering helicopters capturing the end of her 23-day imprisonment.
I guess it is obvious that I wasn't paying much attention to the news yesterday or else I certainly would have heard about this sooner. Oh well, it's not like I really care.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saying good-bye to an old friend

Okay, so it is really an old car, but it seems similar. I sold my old car, a 1994 Ford Escort, today. I actually haven't driven it since we bought the new one, but it seems odd for it to be gone. I'm going to miss having a standard shift car, it was always so fun to drive. Oh well, all good things must come to an end, and it was a really good car.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

And, unfortunately, the story of my life, or at least it seems so at times.

From The Quotations Page
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
Robert McCloskey, State Department spokesman (attributed)

I liked this one as well:
Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.
George Bernard Shaw
It sorta defines, in a nut shell, how I feel about patriotism.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Find your ideal candidate

I found links to a couple of quizzes at ChimpsterNation and I thought they were interesting. I took both of them. The first one suggested that I agreed most closely with Dennis Kucinich, but I didn't like that quiz as well. The second quiz (found here) seemed a bit more thorough. These were my results:

1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2. Alan Augustson (86%) Click here for info
3. Barack Obama (85%) Click here for info
4. Dennis Kucinich (84%) Click here for info
5. Joseph Biden (77%) Click here for info
6. Wesley Clark (75%) Click here for info
7. Al Gore (74%) Click here for info
8. Hillary Clinton (74%) Click here for info
9. John Edwards (74%) Click here for info
10. Christopher Dodd (73%) Click here for info
11. Bill Richardson (64%) Click here for info
12. Mike Gravel (61%) Click here for info
13. Ron Paul (51%) Click here for info
14. Kent McManigal (47%) Click here for info
15. Elaine Brown (43%) Click here for info
16. Rudolph Giuliani (30%) Click here for info
17. Mike Huckabee (30%) Click here for info
18. Tommy Thompson (26%) Click here for info
19. John McCain (25%) Click here for info
20. Mitt Romney (20%) Click here for info
21. Chuck Hagel (17%) Click here for info
22. Fred Thompson (13%) Click here for info
23. Jim Gilmore (12%) Click here for info
24. Tom Tancredo (11%) Click here for info
25. Sam Brownback (11%) Click here for info
26. Newt Gingrich (10%) Click here for info
27. Duncan Hunter (5%) Click here for info

It doesn't surprise me too much that my closest match is to a Green Party candidate. Oh well, go take it and see what you find out about yourself and your favorite candidates.

And I will confess, of the Democratic front-runners, I am leaning toward Obama at the moment.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Closing Gitmo? Maybe, maybe not

Via CNN - Bush administration close to shutting down Guantanamo
The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

Both the Pentagon and the White House denied Thursday evening there were any plans to close the facility.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The advisers will consider a new proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.

Officials familiar with the agenda of the Friday meeting said Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Peter Pace were expected to attend.

It was not immediately clear if the meeting would result in a final recommendation to Bush.
"No decisions on the future of Guantanamo Bay are imminent"

Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said Thursday that there are no plans for such a meeting.
Certainly just because the White House denies it doesn't mean anything. As I recall, they denied that Rummy was leaving almost up until the moment it was announced. Only time will tell I guess.

The last thing I would want to see

All the talk about Bloomberg making an independent bid for President brings to mind a possible scenario: All three candidates in the general election being technically from New York. That would be, as the title of this post states, the last thing I would want to see (and I agree with MSS's comment over at Poliblog that it is something of an unlikely scenario).

While MSS (Matthew Shugart, head orchardist over at Fruits and Votes) suggests in the above linked comment that Hillary will likely be the Democratic candidate, I can only hope that he is wrong. I have never liked Hillary, even when she was first lady. I loved Bill, but disliked Hillary. And while I would prefer to see someone more experienced than either Obama or Edwards get the nomination, I would certainly prefer for either of them to get the nomination over Hillary Clinton.

On the Republican side of things, I agree that Giulliani is not the most likely candidate to win the nomination. I can't imagine that he holds too much appeal in the Republican base, other than his stance on the Iraq war. It would seem that his appeal as the hero of 9/11 could only take him so far in light of his other positions, like on social issues for example.

Bloomberg, of course, doesn't stand a chance of winning, but could draw votes from either side that is dissatisfied with their party's choice of candidate, or so it would seem to me.

As a side note, I wonder if Ron Paul will jump in the fray as a Libertarian candidate again if he doesn't win the Republican nomination.

We definitely need to change our electoral rules in this country. Direct popular vote with a majority requirement would be much preferable.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Speaking of Bloomberg

Via ABCNews - Bloomberg Presidential Buzz Grows

A Bloomberg aide lays out the criteria for a Bloomberg Independent run for President in 2008.
First, both party's nominees need to have unfavorable ratings at least in the 40s. Second, 70 percent of the nation needs to think the country is headed in the wrong direction, as is the case currently. We're there right now. Third, at least 60 percent of those polled need to have their minds open to a possible third-party bid. Lastly, 20 percent to 25 percent need to be open to the notion of President Mike Bloomberg. If those four criteria are met, Bloomberg will throw his hat into the ring.
I don't know if I'm in favor of such a run or not, because I'm not really sure which party he would mostly pull his votes away from. As all over the map as he is, it could be both, I guess.

Bloomberg - all over the political map

Via Reuters - NY Mayor Bloomberg becoming an independent
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, often mentioned as a possible third-party 2008 presidential candidate, said on Tuesday he was changing his political status to independent from Republican.

"Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city," said Bloomberg, who has said he has no plans to run for president.

Bloomberg, the billionaire founder of financial data and media firm Bloomberg LP, was a Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001. He was re-elected as a Republican in 2005 and is barred from seeking a third term in 2009.
And they called Kerry a flip-flopper in 2004. How does one spin this to not look like the mother of all flip-flops? But then again, he says he's not running for President in 2008. I can't imagine why the mayor of New York would be behaving like this if he wasn't:
He has crisscrossed the country, visiting 20 cities in the past 18 months, according to the New York Post. He traveled on Monday in California, giving speeches in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

He was quoted as telling Google employees in California that the country was "really in trouble."
I'm sure there is a perfectly logical explanation for it though. . .

South Carolina treasurer indicted

Via CNN - South Carolina treasurer indicted on cocaine charges
South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a former real estate developer who became a rising political star after his election last year, was indicted Tuesday on federal cocaine charges.

Ravenel is also the state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.

[. . .]

The millionaire is accused of buying less than 500 grams of the drug to share with other people in late 2005, U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said.

Ravenel, 44, is charged with distribution of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The investigation into Ravenel arose from a drug case last year in Charleston, Lloyd said.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said his agents were aware of the allegations before Ravenel was elected in November, but they didn't have enough information to pursue criminal charges. The case was turned over to the FBI in April.
Interesting all around. In one sense, it seems odd that an elected official couldn't make such a thing go away, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, if the police knew about this before he was elected, even if they didn't have enough evidence to bring charges, it would seem that such information would have come out during the campaign.

I wonder if this news will have any ill-effects on Giuliani's campaign. It would seem that it could be used as yet another example of his poor judgment in picking associates. It certainly doesn't bode well for his ability to choose appropriate political appointees.

Two and a half inches in 45 minutes

Well, we finally got that promised rain. Unfortunately it came down a little too fast to soak in very well. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

My Crepe Myrtle tree before the rain.

And then immediately after the rain.

The back of my house (all the brown stuff you see is actually floating on the water)

My back yard, which normally does not have a pond in it.

My front yard, which normally does not have a small river running through it.

And the radar indicates that there could be more heavy rain yet to come. I'm not complaining though.

A closer look at the recalls of Chinese products (placing the blame edition)

NYT - As More Toys Are Recalled, the Trail Ends in China
China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.

[. . .]

China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.

Much of the rise in China’s ranking on the recall list has to do with its corresponding surge as the world’s toy chest: toys made in China make up 70 to 80 percent of the toys sold in the country, according to the Toy Industry Association.
Okay, it makes sense that if China is producing a vast majority of the toys, then the vast majority of toy recalls would come from Chinese products. That sounds like a no-brainer. But still, how can one justify ever producing some of the products that have been recalled, for example:
Just in the last month, a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene.
Seriously, kerosene filled children's toys?!? Whose bright idea was that.

There is another twist to the Thomas the Tank Engine toys as well.
The toy trains and railroad pieces are made directly for RC2 at plants it oversees in China, presumably giving it some control over the quality and safety of the toys made there. Staci Rubinstein, a spokeswoman for RC2 [RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Ill.], declined on Monday to comment on safety control measures at company plants in China.
So, one has to wonder, at least in this example, how much to blame the Chinese and how much blame is retained by the American Corp. that oversees the plant. And it also brings to mind the question of how much RC2 is taking advantage of the more lax regulations that often accompany doing business in a third world country.

And then there is the blame that falls on the US government (speaking of lax regulators):
In the last two years, the staff of the consumer product commission has been cut by more than 10 percent, leaving fewer regulators to monitor the safety of the growing flood of imports.

Some consumer advocates say that such staff cuts under the Bush administration have made the commission a lax regulator. The commission, for example, acknowledged in a recent budget document that “because of resource limitations,” it was planning next year to curtail its efforts aimed at preventing children from drowning in swimming pools and bathtubs.
I wonder how one prioritizes such a thing.

So anyway, a word to the wise: don't assume that the toys are safe!
China’s own government auditing agency reported last month that 20 percent of the toys made and sold in China had safety hazards such as small parts that could be swallowed or sharp edges that could cut a child, according to a report in China Daily.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, etc., anyone who purchases toys for children, we have some responsibility to check these toys out. We can no longer just assume that they are safe simply because they are marketed and sold to children. We have now been warned. We may not be able to identify lead paint with our naked eyes, but we can certainly check for sharp edges and small swallowable parts.

Should these products be allowed to be sold here? Certainly the answer is no. Are they being sold here? Obviously the answer is yes. If our government isn't going to look out for us and our children, then we have to learn to take that responsibility back onto ourselves. And of course, we should elect a new administration that will take these issues a bit more seriously than this most recent administration has.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A little relief

We finally got some much needed rain today. I had just over three-tenths of an inch in my rain gauge. It is the first measurable rain we have had in over a month. And we have a 90% chance of rain again tomorrow! Thank heaven.

Will the real John Edwards please stand up

Apparently it is candidate night here at Irrational Woman. This time, I turn my attention to John Edwards (NYT - Staking His Campaign on Iowa, Edwards Makes a Populist Pitch to the Left)
Mr. Edwards’s latest trip here offered evidence of just how much he studied the lessons of his Iowa defeat last time, though he would prefer to view it as a near victory. It also suggests the extent to which the rhythms of Iowa Democratic politics have shaped Mr. Edwards’s decidedly different candidacy this time around.

This time, he is a candidate of the left in a state marked by a strong antiwar and liberal streak, filling a vacancy created as Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have campaigned from the center. Mr. Edwards has shown a new eagerness to draw contrasts with his opponents on issues like the war in Iraq and health care, in no small part motivated by his struggle not to get lost in a field of big names. And he has gone from the boyish, easygoing one-time senator from North Carolina to a candidate displaying an urgently engaging manner as likely to seize as to charm an audience, an approach that appears to be particularly effective in the close-quarter meetings that fill his days here.
Okay, candidates can change some over time. But to some degree, he does come off as a bit of an opportunist.
A number of Democrats argued that Mr. Edwards’s shifts could provide ammunition for Democrats trying to stoke an image of Mr. Edwards, a trial lawyer by trade, as opportunistic and politically calculating.

“The problem with him is that he talks very much like a car salesman — you see what I mean?” said Rhonda Fisher, a sociology professor at Drake University, standing in the back of a auditorium after Mr. Edwards expressed sympathy to her upon learning that her son was returning for another tour of duty in Iraq.

Ms. Fisher, who said she supported Mr. Edwards last time, said the car-salesman perception of Mr. Edwards was “not fair,” but that it was prevalent enough to give voters like her pause about supporting him again out of concern that he could take the Democrats to defeat in 2008.
I have to admit, with the field of front-runners that he currently faces, his inexperience is certainly no big deal this time around. However, his appeal as a populist is questionable at best.
from his employment by a hedge fund to the $400 haircut he received that was the subject of mirthful coverage by Iowa newspapers for a month.
I have, in other forums, seen him compared to FDR, who was a Democrat and interested in helping out the little guy although he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth (which of course, Edwards was not). However, those were different times and practically in a different world. Plus, FDR was considered something of a light-weight himself until his battle with polio.

Anyway, it is difficult for me to get behind Edwards this time around as well. He just seems too much like he is saying one thing and doing another, while totally incapable of seeing his own inconsistencies. Again, not a characteristic I'm interested in seeing in my next president.

McCain, paying the price for stepping on toes

Via the NYT - Taking On Big Donors, McCain Takes a Big Risk
A ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee like Senator John McCain could normally bank on a bonanza of campaign contributions from the defense industry, especially if he was under pressure to raise money fast.

But as Mr. McCain races to play catch-up with his Republican presidential primary rivals before the end of the second quarter, he is only reminding military companies and lobbyists why they have never liked him. “Defense contractors are more concerned with winning the next contract than performing on the current one,” he charged at a recent campaign stop.

At a critical moment for him, his presidential campaign may be paying the price for a career of positions seemingly calculated to alienate constituencies that according to Washington custom should be prime sources of campaign cash.
I have to applaud McCain for speaking his mind and for sticking up for the consumers. In fact, I actually liked the guy when he ran against Bush in 2000. However, his position on the war makes him a total no go for me. And there is also this:
Several fund-raisers said Mr. McCain was no more likely to tailor his messages to his donors in person than he has been in the Senate.

“I tell him all the time: ‘Everyone knows where you are on Iraq. Let’s talk about the environment, pork barrel spending, health care, dependence on foreign oil,’ ” Mr. Shansby said, reflecting the concerns of wealthy Sonoma Valley Republicans — many of whom are skeptical of the war.

Mr. McCain nonetheless made his support for the war the centerpiece of his fund-raiser. “He gets very agitated about a few issues,” Mr. Shansby said, “the war, immigration reform, campaign finance.”
I certainly have no desire to have yet another man in office who is unwilling to listen to reason. . .

At least his name is in the title

Via WaPo - Richardson Is Counting on Nevada, a State He Has to Himself
Gov. Bill Richardson has found a second home in Nevada.

The two-hour flight is not a short hop from the New Mexico governor's mansion in Santa Fe, but Richardson hopes Nevada will become a critical aspect of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"You're now important," he told a group of Las Vegas Democrats last week. "You used to not be that important."
Honestly, I find that to be an interesting thing to say. Even thought it is undoubtedly true, it seems odd to me to tell a group of potential supporters that they are only important because their caucus is now the second in the nation. Oh well, Richardson probably doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning the nomination anyway.

In fact, the article is really more about how most of the top tier candidates are still basically ignoring Nevada even though it was moved up to second in the nation.
The decision by Nevada Democrats to move their caucuses to Jan. 19, 2008, making them second after Iowa's on the party's nominating calendar, was supposed to make the state -- better known for gamblers and showgirls -- a prime destination for presidential candidates. But so far, the gregarious New Mexico governor has been the only one to make it a priority.
Maybe Richardson can make a good showing in Nevada and get himself some positive media attention, but I'm not really holding my breath at this point.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I actually had my 10,000th visit today! I just missed the actual 10,000, but hey, I'm not gonna complain.

Words from the wise

On my Google homepage I import the quotes of the day. I really liked two of them from today. They are definitely things I should try to remember.
The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.
Joe Ancis

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)
Very wise words.

Tragedy at Tennessee Auto Show

Via MSNBC - Witnesses question drag racer's stunt
One day after a drag-racing car careened into a crowd and killed six people, witnesses questioned why the driver was allowed to speed down a multilane highway with no guard rails, lined on both sides by hundreds of spectators.

[. . .]

The crash happened Saturday during an “exhibition burnout” — when a drag racer spins his tires to make them heat up and smoke — at the Cars for Kids charity event in Selmer, located about 80 miles east of Memphis.

[. . .]

Authorities identified the driver as pro drag racer Troy Warren Critchley, an Australian who is now based in Wylie, Texas. He suffered minor injuries and was taken by car to a nearby hospital for treatment, authorities said.

There were no criminal charges against Critchley, Browning said.
It was certainly a tragic accident, but it is important to realize that it was an accident. It is easy to look back and cast blame. It probably was not wise to have spectators so close to the show and unprotected, but there is little doubt that Critchley would have avoided the accident if at all possible. The article notes these technical details:
The AMS Pro Modified Series, which sponsors professional drag races, issued a news release saying the driver, a veteran of more than 20 years in drag racing, was performing a burnout when road conditions caused the car to go out of control.

[. . .]

“There’s a button inside the car that you hold down, and it holds the front tires down during a burnout,” said Griffin, 19. “If the throttle gets hung, or if your foot gets caught, then you’ll take off and you wouldn’t be able to stop."
We may never know for sure what caused the accident, but it is best to withhold final judgment until all the facts are in.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Denuclearization for N. Korea?

Via The Hindi - North Korea hints at de-nuclearisation
North Korea on Saturday signalled its willingness to engage the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the possible "suspension" of operations at the Yongbyon complex.

Pyongyang's intriguingly worded announcement has been interpreted in Seoul, the listening post for matters concerning North Korea, as an invitation to the IAEA inspectors to monitor its commitment to shut down the Yongbyon facility as the first step towards de-nuclearisation.
May it be so.

Take a look at Ron Paul

Via WaPo - An Also-Ran in the GOP Polls, Ron Paul Is Huge on the Web
On Technorati, which offers a real-time glimpse of the blogosphere, the most frequently searched term this week was "YouTube."

Then comes "Ron Paul."

The presence of the obscure Republican congressman from Texas on a list that includes terms such as "Sopranos," "Paris Hilton" and "iPhone" is a sign of the online buzz building around the long-shot Republican presidential hopeful -- even as mainstream political pundits have written him off.

Rep. Ron Paul is more popular on Facebook than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He's got more friends on MySpace than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. His MeetUp groups, with 11,924 members in 279 cities, are the biggest in the Republican field. And his official YouTube videos, including clips of his three debate appearances, have been viewed nearly 1.1 million times -- more than those of any other candidate, Republican or Democrat, except Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
From the little bit that I watched of the Republican debate, Ron Paul was my favorite GOP candidate, but I suppose that is somewhat understandable considering the fact that I'm not a Republican. My recent encounter with some paleo-conservatives over at Conservative Heritage Times, and the fact that they seem to like Ron Paul, gave me some misgivings about him however. This article has some good information on where Paul stand on some of the issue.

I found this quote from the article particularly interesting
"At first I was skeptical of his increasing online presence, thinking that it's probably just a small cadre of dedicated Ron Paul fans," said Matt Lewis, a blogger and director of operations at Townhall, a popular conservative site. "But if you think about it, the number one issue in the country today is Iraq. If you're a conservative who supports the president's war, you have nine candidates to choose from. But if you're a conservative who believes that going into Iraq was a mistake, Ron Paul is the only game in town."
Since I'm not a Republican, I have a whole field to choose from, but if I had to have a Republican, I think I'd rather have a Libertarian leaning Republican.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Was it really just an act?

Via CNN - Hilton to Walters: I'll no longer 'act dumb'
Paris Hilton says she will no longer "act dumb."

The reality TV star and relentless publicity-seeker spoke with Barbara Walters by phone Sunday, a day after releasing a statement saying she hoped the media would focus on "more important things" than her 45-day jail sentence, according to ABC News' Web site.

"I used to act dumb. ... That act is no longer cute," ABC quoted Hilton as saying.
She is certainly right, there are much more important things going on in the world than her being in jail, and her dumb act certainly isn't cute anymore, if it ever was. Now whether anything will change or not, only time will tell.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back in the Slammer Again

CNN - Paris Hilton ordered back to jail
Screaming and crying, Paris Hilton was escorted from a courtroom and ordered back to jail Friday after a judge, overruling the county sheriff, said she must serve out her entire 45-day sentence behind bars rather than in her Hollywood Hills home.
It is good to know that for once in her life she won't get to do exactly what she wants.
Back before Sauer on Friday, Hilton's entire body trembled as the final pitch was made for her further incarceration. She clutched a ball of tissue, and tears ran down her face.

Seconds later, the judge announced his decision: "The defendant is remanded to county jail to serve the remainder of her 45-day sentence. This order is forthwith."

Hilton screamed.

Eight deputies immediately ordered all spectators out of the courtroom. Hilton's mother, Kathy, threw her arms around her husband, Rick, and sobbed uncontrollably.

Deputies escorted Hilton out of the room, holding each of her arms as she looked back.
If you've seen video of her before going to jail the first time, it is quite obvious that the few days she spent there had an extreme effect on her. Maybe knowing what it is like and knowing that her parents and high priced lawyers can't always get her out of the messes she gets herself into will straighten her out a little bit. It seems obvious that she is desperate to not go back.

An interesting development (US-Russian Relations edition)

NYT - Putin Surprises Bush With Plan on Missile Shield
After months of angrily rejecting a White House plan for missile defense in Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia surprised President Bush on Thursday with an offer to build a joint system in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.

The proposed system, designed to guard against a missile attack from Iran, poses serious diplomatic and technical challenges, experts said. But the fact that it was suggested by Mr. Putin, and not immediately rejected by Mr. Bush, indicated a desire on both sides to cool the hostile exchanges that in recent months had driven relations to a low point in the post-cold-war era.

[. . .]

Experts say that Mr. Putin’s proposal faces a number of daunting, and possibly insurmountable, hurdles. Russia leases but does not own the radar station in Azerbaijan, and it is an early warning system, not the X-band radar that is used to guide antimissile interceptors, and which the Bush administration wants to build in the Czech Republic.

Trust between the nations is also an issue. The plan would require the kind of intense cooperation in which only the closest allies could engage. With the two sides already embroiled in disputes over the future of Kosovo, the state of democratic institutions in Russia and how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, some experts raised questions about whether Mr. Putin was serious — and, if he was, whether the White House would ever accept the offer.

[. . .]

In recent weeks, the Russian president has made a veiled comparison between the United States and the Third Reich, complained of “diktat and imperialism,” and, most recently, threatened to once more aim Russian missiles at Europe if Mr. Bush went through with his missile defense plan.
This is an interesting tactic by Putin. The Bush Administration has long insisted that the missile defense system was not about US-Russian relations, but about threats from rogue states. By offering this proposal, it seems to me, Putin is trying to make Bush prove that his argument is sincere. I think the fact that Bush did not turn down the deal right away is a step in the right direction. I find it hard to believe that we would go so far as to accept the deal, but the fact that civilized communication is taking the forefront over veiled threats is a definite improvement. Hopefully a true compromise can eventually be worked out.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Now that's mature

Via CNN - Tempers flare, fist flies on floor of Alabama Senate
Simmering tensions in the Alabama Senate boiled over Thursday when a Republican lawmaker punched a Democratic colleague in the head before they were pulled apart.

Republican Sen. Charles Bishop said Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron called him a "son of a [expletive]."

"I responded to his comment with my right hand," Bishop said. Alabama Public Television tape captured the punch.

[. . .]

The fight came on the final day of the 2007 regular session of the Legislature. Republican senators were using delaying tactics to force the Democratic leadership to bring up an election reform bill to ban transfers between political action committees.

Barron is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which sets the chamber's work agenda, and Republicans were angry that he had not put the election reform bill in a position to come up for debate.
I know that tensions have been high in the state house, but this is uncalled for.

Bush and Merkel reach an agreement

Via the BBC - G8 leaders agree to climate deal
Leaders of the G8 nations have agreed to seek "substantial" cuts in emissions in an effort to tackle climate change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G8 would negotiate within a UN framework to seek a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009.

No mandatory target was set for the cuts, but Mrs Merkel's preference for a 50% emissions cut by the year 2050 was included in the agreed statement.

[. . .]

Speaking to reporters in Heiligendamm, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair deflected concerns about the absence of a precise definition of the term "substantial cuts".

"I'm both surprised and very pleased at how far we have come forward in the couple of years since [the 2005 G8 summit at] Gleneagles," he told reporters.

"Now we have an agreement that there will be a climate change deal, it will involve everyone, including the US and China, and it will involve substantial cuts."
Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it in action. It is often easier to agree to act than to actually act.

Paris is not out of the woods yet

Via the BBC - Paris Hilton must return to court
A Los Angeles judge has ordered Paris Hilton to appear in court on Friday morning to determine whether she should be returned to jail.

The celebrity heiress was allowed to leave jail on Thursday, only three days into a 45-day sentence for violating probation on a drink-driving ban.

She was given an electronic tag and ordered to remain under house arrest for the remainder of her sentence.

Her release on unspecified medical grounds sparked widespread criticism.

She is due in court at 0900 (1600GMT) on Friday, where Judge Michael Sauer, who sentenced her to jail at her trial in early May, will hear the case.

[. . .]

When Hilton was originally sentenced to 45 days for violating probation on a drink-driving conviction, she was told there was no prospect of early release.

Judge Sauer had also specifically ruled that she could not serve her sentence at home under electronic monitoring.
Even if she was suffering from some medical condition (most likely claustrophobia), I'm not sure why it should be a get out of jail free card. If so, is it a get out of jail free card for any poor schmuck who comes along? I have to agree with Al Sharpton on this one:
Civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton condemned the release as showing the "double standards" of the US legal system.

"This early release gives all of the appearances of economic and racial favouritism that is constantly cited by poor people and people of colour," he said. "There are any number of cases of people who handle being incarcerated badly and even have health conditions that are not released."
I certainly hope the judge makes her do her full time in jail.

That seems odd

I had heard that if Fred Thompson was going to run for president he would have to leave Law and Order because of campaign laws. I thought it sounded familiar, like I had heard something similar about Arnold not being able to act during the campaign or while in office. I wasn't sure what the rationale was for the prohibition so I did a little looking around and found this article (WaPo - Fred Thompson's Presidential Hopes Could Put 'Law' Reruns in Lockup). It appears that it is tied to the equal air-time provision.
Federal campaign law requires broadcasters to give all candidates equal time on the airwaves. That rule applies to entertainment programs like "Law & Order," meaning stations that run the show would be required to give other GOP candidates a like amount of prime-time exposure.
Okay, that sorta makes sense, but what doesn't really make sense to me is that it doesn't apply to all air-time.
Candidates' appearances on newscasts, interview programs and at news events are exempted from the rule. So are incidental appearances in documentaries.
So why is it that the news media can talk about the front runners all day long and ignore the also-rans. It seems to me that that is much more inequitable than having the world see Fred Thompson play Arthur Branch for a few minutes on an episode of Law and Order. I just don't understand why news and talk shows are exempt from the rule. It seems unfair.

Rumor has it. . .

Via the International Herald Tribune - Sam Waterston negotiating for 'Law & Order' promotion to replace departing Fred Thompson
Sam Waterston may be a getting a "Law & Order" promotion.

The actor is negotiating to step in as the show's New York district attorney, replacing co-star Fred Thompson, a source close to the production said Monday. Thompson, a former U.S. senator, is weighing a presidential run and asked to be released from the NBC drama.
That's an interesting development. Watching the show for several years, I always got the impression that Waterston's character (Jack McCoy) didn't like the politics associated with the elected position that Thompson's character holds. It is interesting that Jack would want that position. It is also interesting to me that Waterston would want that position, as it is a role that seems to get much less airtime per episode.

Anyway, it is interesting to see how life influences art, so to speak. To me, the best thing about Fred Thompson running for president is that I won't have to see him on Law and Order anymore. I never did like him very much.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Jeri Kehn Brouhaha

The blogosphere is a-buzz over Fred Dalton Thompson entering the presidential race and the fact that his wife is 24 years younger than him and attractive. The first picture that I saw of the two of them together was rather shocking. In fact, she looked about 24 years old instead of simply 24 years younger than Thompson. Here is the photo (Via Poliblog)

I decided to search around and see if I could find some other photos to get a better idea of whether or not this was a truly representative picture of what they normally looked like together, or if it was more of an anomaly. These are the other pictures I found.

Found at Free Republic

Their wedding photo via World Net Daily

Found at Hyscience

To me, the original picture I saw is the most shocking of them all. In the bottom picture she looks more like she should be a young intern in his office than his wife. However, in some of the other pictures they look like a darn well normal couple. I feel like, if she goes out on the campaign trail with him, there is no reason to assume that they won't look like a relatively normal couple, if she makes any effort what-so-ever to cultivate an age-appropriate look. She is 40 for heaven sake. It's not like he is really robbing the cradle. However, I don't plan to vote in the Republican Primary anyway, so my opinion matters very little in this whole debate anyway. So anyway, I have gathered the photo evidence that I could find. You decide if it is problematic or not.

Protecting Free Speech or lazy vocabularies?

Via the NYT - Court Rebuffs F.C.C. on Fines for Indecency
If President Bush and Vice President Cheney can blurt out vulgar language, then the government cannot punish broadcast television stations for broadcasting the same words in similarly fleeting contexts.

That, in essence, was the decision on Monday, when a federal appeals panel struck down the government policy that allows stations and networks to be fined if they broadcast shows containing obscene language.

Although the case was primarily concerned with what is known as “fleeting expletives,” or blurted obscenities, on television, both network executives and top officials at the Federal Communications Commission said the opinion could gut the ability of the commission to regulate any speech on television or radio.
It does legitimately seem to me that the networks have no control over what guests in particular say on a live broadcast. The only way to be sure that the networks control what is being broadcast would be to ditch truly live broadcasts all together and always have at least a few seconds lag time to allow the censors to press their little buzzers.

There are more issues here than just fleeting expletives, however.
The case involved findings that the networks had violated the indecency rules for comments by Cher and Nicole Richie on the Billboard Music Awards, the use of expletives by the character Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue” and a comment on “The Early Show” by a contestant from CBS’s reality show “Survivor.”

The commission did not issue fines in any of the cases because the programs were broadcast before the agency changed its policy. But the networks were concerned about the new interpretation of the rules, particularly since the agency has been issuing a record number of fines.

Two years ago, Congress increased the potential maximum penalty for each indecency infraction to $325,000, from $32,500. Producers and writers have complained that the prospect of stiff fines had begun to chill their creative efforts.
Okay, if we are a country that believes in free speech, then certain forms of speech shouldn't potentially cost $325,000 (with the exception of liable, etc.). However, to say that the fact that they can't just use any expletive they please has "begun to chill their creative efforts" seems like something of a cop out to me. And I'm not really sure what makes the use of expletives so creative. I use them from time to time, but in reality they are simply a sign of a lazy vocabulary in most cases.

Ultimately, the government should not be able to regulate free speech. Particularly, if they are not imposing the same regulations on cable and satellite networks I'm not sure why they should be able to impose them on "network" television, whatever that means anymore.

Ultimately, if we are a liberal society, in the traditional meaning of the term, we will be good consumers and vote with our time and money. If the majority of people do not want to hear "bad words" during prime time, then the shows that use them will lose viewers and be taken off the air. If that is what people want to hear, then it is not really the government's place to stop them. I don't like a lot of what is on T.V. these days. I think most all shows that come on the network channels during prime time are inappropriate for children, even the shows that come on kids' channels for that matter. But if I feel that way, it is my responsibility to see to it that they don't watch it. If I'm not willing to do that, then no one is really to blame but me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pushing Tin, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Capitalism and our sense of fairness

I was reading an article today about Mitt Romney and the way he made his fortune (NYT - Romney’s Political Fortunes Tied to Riches He Gained in Business) and it reminded me of something I've been thinking about off and on for some time now. The disconnect between our love of capitalism and our sense of what is fair. I was also reminded of the movie Pushing Tin and the Hitch Hiker's Guide (HHG) Radio show (and the second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe). Anyway, the article about Romney (which I did not read in its entirety) mentions that the way Romney made his fortune was through private equity, not running a business, per se. The article states:
But Mr. Romney’s Bain career — a source of money and contacts that he has used to finance his Massachusetts campaigns and to leap ahead of his presidential rivals in early fund-raising — also exposes him to criticism that he enriched himself excessively, sometimes by cutting jobs to increase profits.

He made his money mainly through leveraged buyouts — essentially, mortgaging companies to take them over in the hope of reselling them at big profits in just a few years. It is a bare-knuckle form of investing that is in the spotlight because of the exploding profits of buyout giants like Bain, Blackstone and the Carlyle Group. In Washington, Congress is considering ending a legal quirk that lets fund managers escape much of the income tax on their earnings.
“The amounts of money are so vast that it is truly a matter of time before the taxation of private equity is front and center of the public agenda,” said James E. Post, a Boston University professor who teaches business-government relations. “Increasingly, this world of private equity looks like a world of robber barons, and Romney comes out of that world.”

Mr. Romney learned the perils of campaigning on his business career in his first run for office, when accusations that Bain Capital had fired union workers at an Indiana company it controlled derailed his effort to unseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1994. “Basically, he cut our throats,” a laid-off worker said in a commercial attacking Mr. Romney. (He has said he had nothing to do with the firings.)

Mr. Romney, in an interview, acknowledged that Bain Capital’s acquisitions had sometimes led to layoffs but said that he could explain them to voters.

“Sometimes the medicine is a little bitter but it is necessary to save the life of the patient,” he said. “My job was to try and make the enterprise successful, and in my view the best security a family can have is that the business they work for is strong.”
Okay, this leads me to my musings.

First of all, what do we want in a leader? In the HHG, the main characters of the story learn that the person who actual rules the universe is an old man who lives in a small shack on the outer reaches of the universe. He doesn't seem to realize that he is really ruling the universe and he does not really believe that anything exist outside of his own perceptions. He can therefore make decisions totally in the abstract because he does not need to consider who they will affect or how they will affect them. He is the epitome of the disinterested third party.

This made me think of the movie Pushing Tin, in which John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton play air traffic controllers. In the movie, one of the characters points out that if an air traffic controller ever begins to think of the blips on their computer monitors as actual air planes or, heaven forbid, actual people, they will become incapable of actually doing their job.

So this brings to mind the question, do we want someone who can think of American citizens, or other countries, as simply blips on a computer screen? Is that what we really need? Obviously, this is a characteristic that can be very useful in a capitalist economy. You have to make the hard decisions, based on profits and calculated losses. If you concern yourself with the individuals whose lives are involved, you just might not succeed in the business world.

This gives rise to the question of the disconnect between capitalism and our sense of right, or justice. In the business world, doing what most people see as "right" is not always what is best for business. To succeed over time, companies have to keep up with technology, which has meant increased mechanization and computerization over the years. This had lead to many people losing jobs that were based on unskilled labor. This may be good for the company, and good for the country over all, but it really sucks for the person who loses his job and for the family that he or she supports. To them, it seems unfair. What is a person to do? How do we have it both ways?

It seems to me that a political leader has to find a way to balance the two. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers as to how to do that. It is just something to think about.

The Surge - "Short of Goals" so far

Via the NYT - Commanders Say Push in Baghdad Is Short of Goal
Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

[. . .]

The assessment offers the first comprehensive look at the progress of the effort to stabilize Baghdad with the heavy influx of additional troops. The last remaining American units in the troop increase are just now arriving.
It is no secret that I was never in favor of The Surge and it is no real surprise that it is not working out exactly as planned. It is important to remember that the military can only do so much, and is only designed to do so much. Once the military "secures" an area, it is the responsibility of the local police to maintain order. If they cannot, or will not, the military is all but wasting its time.

There in seems to lie the problem.
In an interview, he [Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks] said that while military planners had expected to make greater gains by now, that has not been possible in large part because Iraqi police and army units, which were expected to handle basic security tasks, like manning checkpoints and conducting patrols, have not provided all the forces promised, and in some cases have performed poorly.

That is forcing American commanders to conduct operations to remove insurgents from some areas multiple times. The heavily Shiite security forces have also repeatedly failed to intervene in some areas when fighters, who fled or laid low when the American troops arrived, resumed sectarian killings.

“Until you have the ability to have a presence on the street by people who are seen as honest and who are not letting things come back in,” said General Brooks, referring to the Iraqi police units, “you can’t shift into another area and expect that place to stay the way it was.”
The problem is, the administration should have known that this would be the case. Yes, it is true that to a very large degree we caused the current problems in Iraq by invading the country and disrupting the existing power structure. Because of that, we retain a great deal of responsibility in returning the area to some modicum of order before we leave it. But it is difficult to force order on an area that is not willing to do what it takes to maintain it. It is not even clear that those in charge desire the type of order that we want to instill.

At some point one has to reach the realization that it is simply wasteful to continue to throw good money after bad.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Some help for the firefighters

Via FOX 30 - Heavy Rains Help Douse Georgia and Florida Fires
Heavy rains from Tropical Depression Barry helped douse the fires in southern Georgia and northern Florida that have been burning since the middle of April.

[. . .]

There are 187 active fires across the state of Florida, according to the Division of Forestry, and 67 active fires across Georgia.
I know that any help is greatly appreciated. We all need to keep praying for rain.

New Pix

As promised, some pictures of my new car!!!

My new 2007 Nissan Versa SL Sedan in Sonoma Sunset red.

Me with my new car. And for those of you who haven't seen me in a while, I've got a new short haircut, too.

Friday, June 01, 2007

More tainted products from China

Via CNN - FDA: Throw away toothpaste made in China
The government warned consumers on Friday to avoid using toothpaste made in China because it may contain a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze.

[. . .]

Officials said they are primarily concerned about toothpaste sold at bargain retail outlets. The ingredient in question, called DEG, is used as a lower-cost sweetener and thickening agent. The highest concentration of the chemical found in toothpaste so far was between 3 percent and 4 percent of the product's overall weight.

"It does not belong in toothpaste even in small concentrations," said the FDA's Deborah M. Autor.

[. . .]

The alert says the agency found DEG in three products manufactured by Goldcredit International Trading in China. The products are Cooldent Fluoride, Cooldent Spearmint and Cooldent ICE. Analysis of the products revealed they contained between 3 percent and 4 percent DEG.

The agency also found the chemical in one product manufactured by Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemical Co. in China. Analysis of that product, Shir Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste, found it contained about 1 percent DEG.
As they always say, buyer beware, but this is getting ridiculous.