Incessant Rant
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Welcome to The INCESSANT RANT. On our worst day this site will embody .00000001% of the world’s opinion. Considering the world population increases by three every second, I'm going to have to persuade just under 260,000 people to agree with me daily if only to break even. I'm screwed...


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I'm a Conservative Troglodyte who puts more emphasis on common sense rather than political parties.

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Monday, January 31, 2005

FAMS Director Thomas Quinn on his way out?

Back in December, and a couple times since, Michelle Malkin (THE "KILL-ME-FIRST DRESS CODE" DECEMBER 15, 2004 08:54 AM) has lobbed a couple “grenades” at the perceived incompetence of the Federal Air Marshal Service Director Thomas Quinn.
One such form of idiocy is a dress code of on-board marshals that, basically, says…”Hi, I’ll be your Air Marshal for today’s flight, feel free to take me out first…”

Rather than argue the legitimacy of the accusations, or the merit/detriment associated with dress codes, internal morale, and questionable policies, I’ll just point out that there appear to be steps taken recently that show an implied “no confidence.”

A special advisory board is being created to sort out the matter "immediately." Incidentally, Thomas Quinn, regardless of whether he is right or wrong has, totally, lost control of his employees. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau is stepping in to regain control, and investigate the criticism offered by the field workers.

In other words, I'd guess that ICE is dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” before sending Quinn on this way. The FAMS is not a place that you can afford poor morale and (possibly justified) indignation. Update your resume Mr. Quinn, and I’d suggest leaving El Al off the list.

ICE tightens oversight of air marshals
By Chris Strohm
cstrohm@govexec.com


A special advisory board is being created for the Federal Air Marshal Service with orders to "immediately address" ongoing disputes and problems, particularly relating to hiring policies and dress codes, Government Executive has learned.

Supporters say the board is critically needed because FAMS Director Thomas Quinn has not been able to internally resolve policy disputes that have strained relations between management and rank-and-file marshals. The Air Marshal Service places undercover agents on planes and became part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau in the Homeland Security Department almost two years ago.
(continued)

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Desert Rose


Here's a collective of the day's events in Iraq all wrapped up in a nice buffet of a video set to "Desert Rose." The reduced version comes in at 5 Megs, and despite the lesser quality due to the compaction...I still think it's worth a look.

The non-reduced version is here. But, I'll warn you now that it comes in at 26 Megs. If you have the machinery...go for it...you'll love it.
Cheers,
IR
UPDATE: I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by all the interest in the above video. I happened to mention in one of the emails I responded to that I had done another video on the plane from Logan to STL so I could ignore my neighbor in the adjoining seat without coming across as an anti-social moron (which I am). They asked me to link to it…so here it is…Check it out “don’t cost nuttin…

The audio on this one is Creed's "stand here with me."

The compacted version (again, of lesser quality) is about 5 Megs and can be downloaded HERE.

The none compacted version is HERE.


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Independence Day


January 30th, 2005
Independence Day


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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Proposed House Bill 5996

Sometimes a Duck is a Duck, other times it takes an Act of Congress to turn it into a Frog.

Here’s a little story that further clarifies the overzealous legislation that passes for sanity in Connecticut. Covenant Soup Kitchen is a Episcopal Church sponsored community program in Windham, Connecticut. Their operation is a good one, and their mission statement reads much the way you might think:

Mission Statement:
Realizing that people can be impoverished physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and culturally, as well as just from lack of money,the Isaiah 58 Ministry's mission is to address these needs by providing not only food, but an environment of care, love, support, and safety to those who come through our doors. This ministry also relies on its faith in a loving and caring God to help us carry out this mission.

Every year they hold fund-raisers in an effort to increase the resources from which to distribute their care. One such event is what is referred to as a “Frog Race.” It’s your typical fund-raiser whereby anyone interested in sponsoring a plastic frog can donate money to the cause. The sponsored frog is then released down the Willimantic River with the rest of the sponsored frogs. The individual sponsoring the first frog to cross the finish line down the river a bit wins donated prizes. It’s nothing more than a simple, innovative, and a good wholesome attempt at raising funds for those in need.

But there was a problem.

It seems that the State Statutes of the State of Connecticut are restricting when it comes to racing plastic animals down a natural water way. Specifically:


(g) (1) Any sponsoring organization qualified to conduct a bazaar or raffle under the provisions of section 7-172 may operate a duck-race raffle once each calendar year. Such raffles shall conform to the provisions of sections 7-170 to 7-186, inclusive, and shall be subject to regulation by the executive director. For the purpose of this subsection, "duck-race raffle" means a raffle in which artificial ducks, numbered consecutively to correspond with the number of tickets sold for such raffle, are placed in a naturally moving stream of water at a designated starting point and in which the ticket corresponding to the number of the first duck to pass a designated finishing point is the winning ticket. (2) The executive director of the Division of Special Revenue, with the advice and consent of the Gaming Policy Board, shall adopt regulations, in accordance with chapter 54, that establish procedures for the operation of duck-race raffles.

The problem is that The Covenant Soup Kitchen had all these plastic frogs. The State of Connecticut is rather particular in their Statutes since they only allow this type “raffle” if the contestants are ducks. But, the purpose of the legislation is to assure that bogus organizations don’t take advantage of the caring public. So no one would care whether the molded plastic animals were ducks, frogs, or emus..right? No big deal right? Plastic frogs…plastic ducks, who cares…right?

Wrong.

Last week, State Rep. Walter Pawelkiewicz, D-Windham had to submit a proposed Bill to the Connecticut House. We live in a world that requires an Act of State Congress to allow a church group feeding the poor to race plastic frogs down a river instead of plastic ducks.


General Assembly
Proposed Bill No. 5996
January Session, 2005
LCO No. 2579


Referred to Committee on Public Safety and Security

Introduced by:

REP. PAWELKIEWICZ, 49th Dist.

AN ACT ALLOWING THE CONDUCT OF A FROG RACE RAFFLE IN THE TOWN OF WINDHAM.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That section 7-185a of the general statutes be amended to allow any sponsoring organization qualified to conduct a bazaar or raffle to operate a frog race raffle once each calendar year in the town of Windham.

Statement of Purpose:

To allow the conduct of a frog race raffle once each year in the town of Windham, the frog capitol of Connecticut.

What ever happened to common sense? What happened to the time when you didn’t require intervention on behalf of the Executive Director of the Division of Special Revenue in order to raise a couple bucks for the hungry? What ever happened to the time when distinguishing between a molded duck and a molded frog only mattered to a three-year-old in the bathtub?

Apparently, those times are gone. We are constantly reminded by the idiocy of over-legislation. Most recently, Connecticut received national attention when State Representative Andrew Fleischmann (D-West Hartford) proposed a law that requires movie theaters to post the actual start time of the feature movie so that moviegoers can avoid the plethora of preceding previews and advertisements. Most municipalities in Connecticut, and other states for that matter, will ticket you if you leave your keys in a running an unattended car. Also, there are a number of towns in Connecticut that give you a whopping 30 minutes to remove the snow from your sidewalk after the flakes stop falling. Failure to do so is a violation of ordinance and, also, provides some ammunition to plaintiff attorneys representing those who fall on your walkway after that unreasonable time frame.

The plastic frog/duck deal isn’t really all that Earth shattering. And, most importantly, the issue is being resolved so that the Covenant Soup Kitchen can do their good work. But, did it really require and Act of Congress to set things straight? Of course not.

Perhaps someone can figure out how to legislate some common sense. It’s a pretty good bet that it would not pass the Connecticut House and the Senate unanimously. It might not pass at all.

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The Smiles on their Faces
Part I

No sources today. Not a link in the mix.

No, today is about speaking from the heart and from the mind. Today is about romancing a new-found Democracy in a country of which I’ve never visited in person. I know the "ground," however. I know it better than most, because I have had the sobering opportunity to witness the difference in stark contrast. It is no fluke that I remember that encounter more clearly than I remember Friday’s lunch. What’s remarkable is that the experiences of which I speak occurred in the closing of 1989. Nearly sixteen years ago I watched it unfold to a glorious crescendo.

You don’t forget something like that. You don’t want to fail to remember.

Iraq, the country, is but a media generated land, selectively dished out under the guise of agenda; sometimes indignation. Regardless of the source, I know what’s missing in those reports. I’ve seen it elsewhere. I’ve touched it. I’ve shared in its celebration and cautiousness.

In September and November of 1989 I was in Germany, and Austria, and Italy (despite the rail strike) on what was supposed to be your typical European vacation culminating with a week long testing of Bavaria’s finest at Oktoberfest. The Lockerbie Scotland terrorist attack of Pan Am 103 was less than a year in the past, but that didn’t lessen the presence of armed military toting automatic weapons in Frankfurt International Airport. It was an eye-opener at the time. But, it is not what I remember in clarity. I remember something more imperative.

The vacation was, actually, a visit of sorts. My college room mate, and best friend, was a Lt. in the 11th Armored Cavalry stationed in the Fulda Gap. The “Blackhorse Regiment”, literally, sat on the edge of freedom and liberty with the mission of holding back a Russian presence more than 10 times its size. It was their job to provide other divisions time to react should the Russians ever attempt to push the boundary. It was our intention to pal around the region testing the libations and taking in the culture for a couple weeks. We had no schedule of consequence. We had no ambition beyond relaxation. We had no idea just how monumental a change was about to take place.

Arriving at 9AM on a brisk German morning did little to quell my goal of testing out the domestic brew at my earliest convenience. I’ve always enjoyed a good beer. Having the opportunity to test out some of the world’s best was supposed to be a highlight of my trip, second only to catching up with the Lt. He and I had always done our best in college to assure that no US beer manufacturer felt slighted. It was our goal to perpetrate that philosophy internationally. I can say with all honesty that we jumped right into that game plan, and it wasn’t long before we were riding the rail back to Fulda “biers” in hand rehashing the usual embarrassing stories that always seemed to start with a bottle opener.

Arriving in Fulda was uneventful until we reached the Lt’s apartment. Waiting patiently on the walk along the narrow street were some of the Lt’s friends from the Regiment. They had all the makings of an ad hoc party inclusive of cases of Bud Var (simply the best bier on the planet hailing from Czechoslovakia no less), various meats, cheeses, and accoutrements. The smiles of these young soldiers upon our uneventful arrival were not so curious. They weren’t there to see me. I was a sideshow of sorts.

What I failed to mention previously is that I didn’t travel from the States alone. I had talked nine (9) female friends (consequently, all from the same college Sorority) into traveling with me. The Lt. and I realized that college was a place to develop socially as well as academically. Getting to know these young ladies was a welcome by-product of that attitude. Not surprisingly, the word of their arrival had gotten out and had we taken a vote among the 11th we would have confirmed that there were some things about the States that they missed more than others.

So it began.

The next morning was a Sunday. Back then, Sunday mornings on the Autobahn was, by far, the most exciting. Germans with high performance machines would take their Mercedes, their Beamers and their Porches out on the roadway and matter-of-factly proceed to remove the carbon build up out of their high bred machines. It wasn’t unusual, I found, to be traveling 100 mph, and have your left doors blown off by someone taking their pride and joy to a new level. A number of the members of our little band had had their own American cars shipped over to their base so that they could open them up on the Autobahn. The Lt. had a Mustang convertible for just such an occasion. While I had never gone faster in a car before that morning, there were times that felt like we were standing still. There was, also, a growing danger that had just started to occur.

A couple months previously in the growing discontent of residents, the government of Hungary had reluctantly opened its borders to Austria in an effort to appease the unrest. As a result, the German Autobahn had started to establish a growing presence of East German and Russian cars that had some real performance issues. These “Trabbies” and “Wartburgs” with their chipmunk engines had no power. Their constant laboring to maintain 45 mph and their boxy appearance set them out among those cars common to the region. Horrific auto accidents were becoming commonplace. The usual “hair on fire” normalcy of a Sunday morning race track had started to become a slalom course in avoidance of the sub par cars of Communism. It was a menace.

Ironically, it was, also, a wonderful harbinger of things to come.

(to be continued)
THE SMILES ON THEIR FACES (PART II)

First a side story before we get to the meat.

I can tell this story now because there is little chance of getting anyone in trouble. It didn’t take long to make some long lasting friendships with those young men from the 11th Reg. Our little caravan of American made Thunderbirds, Mustangs, and pick-ups made our way up to a little town on the happy side of the East/West line. Fortified with a couple of bottles of Jaeger Meister purchased in a small general store on the outskirts of Rasdorf we made our way up to the very edge of the divider between freedom and fiefdom.

The border, at the time, was not just a fence like you would assume. Instead there was a large area between the actual boundary that included flare trip lines, land mines, and a flat area ominously overseen by East German towers that provided a clear field of fire. Each tower, noticeably visible from our side was manned by what appeared to be two guards. It was, clearly, a sobering experience despite our best efforts.

It was my understanding that our trek to the border was to show me, the new guy of the group, something new. I thought that was the highlight of that early afternoon visit. However, when they opened the trunk of one of our transports and pulled out an old black and white television that had seen better days I started to get the impression that hi-jinks were afoot. I was right.

Two of our band carried the television up to a cluster of trees just beyond the border and proceeded to set it down on the side not immediately visible to either of the East German towers. They then proceeded to launch into some of the worst over the top acting that I have ever bared witness. Acting as if in an intense purposeful focus they started pointing animatedly at the border area. Then, they vigorously started turning the dials and moving the antenna continuously, all the while acting like they were on some curious mission. I was confused and amused all at the same time. It wasn’t until the Lt. let out a bit of a smile that I knew I was being put on. Up until that point I was just as perplexed as the East Germans watching every move and gesture. I was then let in on the scam.

It wasn’t, exactly, explained to me at the time. However, when a huge Mi-8 Soviet Helicopter popped up behind one of the towers a few minutes later I got the message. In unison my new found friends proceeded to do an about face in order to deliver a message to their counterparts on the other side of the fence. Belts unhooked, pants hit the ankles, and the 11th Reg. mooned on command. It was clearly one of the funniest things that I had ever witnessed. The entertainment escalated when we could, visibly, see the guards in the closest tower throw their heads back in laughter. What an afternoon. I’ve never laughed so hard. Never have I since.

(to be continued later this evening)
THE SMILES ON THEIR FACES (PART III)
The next week was a roller coaster of events and activities. All the time, seemingly small occurrences were foreshadowing the amazing measures that were on the immediate horizon. I recall nursing a rather wicked hang over one particular morning while glancing through the daily newspaper. Remarkably, Gorbachev was in East Berlin and made a public address the day before. For the first time the press was reporting about overt heckling coming from the crowd. There was an escalation of unconcealed discontent that was not being downplayed by the East’s press. It struck me as unusual and unique. But, that’s all. I didn’t think more of it. Instead, we began our trek south to partake in the annual Oktoberfest celebration in Munich.

Oktoberfest is an annual celebration that holds the distinction as the largest public festival in the world. It stems from the wedding celebration of King Ludwig I and has grown into a theme park of sorts. However, the major draw has always been the bier “tents.” Each of the major brewers has their own designated tent complete with long communal tables and a centered oompah band. All day, everyday of the festival, the tents are packed with travelers from all over the world enjoying the brew of choice in liter glasses while tempting sobriety with the occasional half-chicken, pork sausage, or ridiculously large pretzel.

I’ve attended Oktoberfest three times in my life. I’ve found some consistencies concerning the attendees in all three visits. First, the Italians; they are, absolutely, positively, without question insane. There is no way around it. That nationality knows how to enjoy life. They are, also, rather loose with their marriage proposals after a couple sips. There is a tradition among them that they perform every Oktoberfest. If someone in their group over indulges and proceeds to decide on a little nap at the table, there is a price to be paid. Out come shaving cream, scissors, and the razors. When the unfortunate individual regains consciousness, he (or she) is balder than 90 year-old monk. My friends and I were careful to moderate our intake based solely on the potential that the Italians that we befriended would go to work on one of us. The guys from the 11th had less to worry about due to their, already, dwindling locks. The rather prudish sorority crew was more concerned. Incidentally, in an effort to get them to loosen up, the Lt. and I had made a quick stop at the "sex" shop below our hotel to purchase a rather large "Washington Monument" shaped item which, miraculously found its way into selective suitcases each time we crossed a border Customs search.

A close second is, not surprisingly, the Australians. They sing; they stand on the chairs and dance; they slap you on the back and call you their mate at every slurred opportunity. However, it is my opinion, that Australians are some of the best natured folks on the planet. I’ve had the splendid opportunity to earn a number of Australian friends through my Oktoberfest experiences.

No matter the brewers’ tent that you attend (Löwenbräu-Festhalle, Augustiner-Festhalle, Spatenbräu-Festhalle (Ochsenbraterei), Hofbräu-Festzelt etc) the clientele are nothing short of a worldwide collective from all over the blue marble. And, quite frankly, I have never met a single individual in that setting who showed any animosity to another based on nationality. Even the French were fun to be around. However, on this particular visit in 1989 there was a new group of participants who just lit up the room. East Germans, having traveled over the border in Hungary, were meeting up at Oktoberfest to celebrate their good fortune.

The atmosphere during Oktoberfest in any given year was electric. We were all together enjoying the company and the suds. Cares outside the tent dissolved quite easily. Conversations flowed almost as effortlessly as the continuous flow of bier. Language barriers were overcome by simple nods, handshakes, and smiles. Oh brother there were smiles. However, this particular year the smiles of the East Germans were perpetual. They didn’t stop. They didn’t waver. I don’t think they could control them.

It was contagious.

(to be continued)

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Talking to the People
(before talking to Congress)


Congress not in loop on administration's reform plans

By Paul Singer, CongressDailyPM
January 27, 2005


White House officials are planning a major overhaul of the way Congress oversees federal agencies, but they seem to have briefed the press before they briefed lawmakers.

Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Clay Johnson briefed a handful of reporters Wednesday afternoon on a series of proposals that will be included in the president's fiscal 2006 budget, including legislation to create two new commissions to oversee the shutdown or overhaul of government programs that have outlived their usefulness.

Under one proposal, federal programs would be presumed to expire after 10 years unless a commission voted to extend them.

Under the other plan, a commission would propose major overhauls of federal programs on a particular subject, and Congress would be bound to fast-track consideration of the proposals.
( continued )

Let's see, political hack Henry Waxman, D-Calif is already against a program that has, yet, to be introduced or detailed to his office. However, he can, somehow, conjure up enough elements to state that it would " be a field day for corporate lobbyists and put our most important health and safety programs in jeopardy."

I admire the psychic abilities of the anti-Bush politicians. They are truly a marvel.

The program in question is an initiative charged to the Office of Management & Budget by the President to throw out the "deadwood" government entitlement programs. You heard that correctly, the President has been on a tear of late in what could be perceived as the return of a "fiscal Conservative" to the White House. There wasn't a lot of that in the first term of President Bush. However, the second term got an early "fiscal Conservative" boost when the OMB sent a warning letter to the Congress stating in no uncertain terms that a failure to push the President's Outsourcing and privatization of government contracts initiative would result in a veto.

The result was Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. watching the rest of the Congress drop the issue, and their charges, the Labor Unions taking it on the chin. A veto was not necessary, as the majority party (Republicans) jumped right in line with the privatization initiative. Incidentally, that tends to be the strategy used by the White House to get things done. If you have the majority party, by all means, use that advantage. As a result, those detractors, who have gone from far left liberal, belly up to the entitlement feeding trough, are forced to resort to a disingenuous position that "George Bush never met a Bill he didn't like." Perhaps someone ought to look closer and see just who's sending those bill initiatives into Congress in the first place. Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel is the only politician I've ever seen vote against his own Bill.

George Will was uncanny in his pre-election piece indicating the "anxiety and fury" held by Democrats at the time. Will went down a laundry list of items that he anticipated the Bush Administration chasing in the second term and why that played horribly to the existence of the Democratic Party. Included was the application of Tort Reform, Privatization of Government work and positions, School Choice, Welfare Reform, Defined private investment on Social Security. Within the last three months there have been rumblings concerning the upcoming focus on Tort Reform. However, the application of privatization within the Fed. has already hit it's stride. As indicated previously on this blog (here and over here ) privatization is being installed under the media radar, more than likely, because it has shown success to the current administration over the last two years. In 2003 and 2004, open source bidding has saved in excess of $2.4 Billion in taxpayer funds.

Getting back to Rep. Waxman and his criticism of the latest endeavor of the President, of which the Congressman has yet to be briefed; there's something very telling in how the general information on the new initiative made its way out of the darkness.


The Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Clay Johnson briefed a handful of reporters Wednesday afternoon on a series of proposals that will be included in the president's fiscal 2006 budget, including legislation to create two new commissions to oversee the shutdown or overhaul of government programs that have outlived their usefulness.
( link )

Did you get that?

The OMB briefed the press (in effect, the people) before they briefed the Congress. This reflects the President's off the cuff remark to the press yesterday when a snide reporter asked how he was going to find common ground with the likes of Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. He simply stated that he would "talk to the American people."

And so he does.

Linked to the Traffic Jam at OTB

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Something's Fishy



January 27, 2005
Nicaraguan fisherman chokes on live fish while joking with friends


MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) - A man who joked to friends that he would eat a fish live choked to death when the creature squirmed and lodged in his throat, police and coroner's officials said Thursday.

Police said the incident occurred when Jose Angel Torres Padilla, 22, was fishing with friends on Monday in the municipality of Dario, about 70 kilometres north of the capital.

Police said the man's friends told them he had put the fish in his mouth, joking that he was going to eat it live. But the fish squirmed and slipped down his throat.

Benito Lindo, coroner for the provincial capital of Matagalpa, told The Associated Press by telephone that doctors conducting an autopsy had found a fish in the man's throat.


1. I’ve never thought sushi was a good idea
2. Elton John could have handled it
3. Probably one of the most ironic forms of Darwinism ever
4. Survival of the fittest is inclusive of intellectual prowess
5. Last words…. “Watch this.”
6. Last words of friends he was trying to impress… “Beer me.”
7. Also recovered during the autopsy, 4 army men, 3 marbles, and a GI Joe action figure.
8. Deceased’s most famous college prank attempt…trying to fit 12 students into a shoebox (failed)
9. Wasn’t cured
10. Too bad one of his friends wasn’t a sturgeon.
I figure on going to Hell due to this post...which shouldn't be all too bad since I will know a lot of people there. Most of my friends are lawyers...

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Department of Homeland Security getting smarter
Federal Unions..not so much

Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity has noticed that I take a dim view on the validity of Unions. Also, I have made the assertion that over the next four years, significant changes will take place on the Federal level that will privatize bids and lower costs as a result due to a more competitive nature on projects and positions.

Money was the primary focus of previous posts. Safety is the focal point of this post.

The Department of Homeland Security made what is perceived to be a "bold" move yesterday. The problem is, it shouldn't be considered a "bold" move. Instead, it should be considered a common sense change that will assist in making the Agency more efficient, effective, and valid.

The new personnel system for the entity will circumvent union bargaining to a great degree. Additionally, poor performers will not be able to hide in the skirt hem of the Unions when discipline or termination is warranted. And here's the big one….the DHS will have more liberty in their application of salary based on merit as opposed to negotiated board room discussions between the employer (The American people) and the representing union officials.

Ok says you. Excellent says I. No way, we're suing, says the John Gage, President of the American Federation of Government Employees. Fat chance we're suing too, says National Treasury Employees Union Officials

The Unions' representatives are whining about limited collective bargaining and employee's rights issues. The DHS, on the other hand, is content that the new system will attract more valuable employees who can be rewarded with quicker and bigger raises based solely on performance and employee value. Managers will, also, be able to act more quickly and efficiently with more flexibility on issues that, previously, required bargaining, and input from the Unions' representatives.

Federal Employee Unions just aligned themselves with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They had failed to recognize the detriment that they contributed to compromising our pocketbooks. Now they fail to recognize the disadvantage they create in trying to shore up the safety of the American Citizen.

Oh, and there is a lesson to be learned in here, isn't there? What did the 911 Commission sanction in order to improve the performance, quality, longevity, and results driven success of the DHS? That's right…merit based performance evaluation protocol that takes the very nature of a Union's bailiwick right out of the equation. That's an interesting lesson to the American public that watches great gobs of Union generated campaign contributions hit the Democratic coffers every election season.


DHS personnel system unveiled
By Shawn Zeller
January 27, 2005


The Homeland Security Department will limit the scope of union bargaining, make it easier for managers to discipline poor performers and, over the next four years, dismantle the General Schedule pay system, under new regulations to be published soon in the Federal Register.

In a press briefing Wednesday morning, Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James announced the completion of the regulations after nearly two years of focus group sessions, town hall meetings and deliberations with skeptical employee unions.

Ridge said that the system aims to help the department "both attract and maintain a quality workforce" by allowing top performers to win quicker and bigger raises than are permitted under the decades-old General Schedule. In addition, he said that the system will provide managers with the flexibility they need to act quickly to protect the homeland. On "many occasions where we have to move people around quickly, we don't have latitude to sit down and discuss it or bargain," he said.
(continued

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Blog Condescension from USA TODAY (Kevin Maney)

Senior technology writer and columnist for USA TODAY Kevin Maney takes a stab at the concept of blogging in his designated space today. While I don't think he intended to do a hit piece on the blogosphere, I do sense a healthy dose of condescension in his article. Perhaps I got that impression from the teaser of the piece:

"Hey, bloggers- you're not all that"

Maybe the feeling manifested itself in the title:

"Chill, blogophiles; you're not the first to do what you're doing."

Or maybe, this comment buried in the piece rubbed me the wrong way.

"Take a pill, all you blogomaniacs. Blogs are fun. Blogs add a fascinating new element to public discourse. But blogs are another turn of history's wheel, not a radical departure."

I disagree with the fact that "blogs are another turn of history's wheel, not a radical departure." I disagree with that premise because the basis used by Maney to set it up is all wrong.

Maney states, without equivocation, that bloggers have existed in one form or another since the beginning of history. He uses such examples as Thomas Paine, Martin Luther, George Orwell, and a more contemporary Brian Lamb, originator of C-Span. However, these examples, totally, miss the most beneficial concept of blogging not yet realized. Somehow, Maney, compares Thomas Paine with "George the Plumber" and Martin Luther with "Laura the seamstress."

Thomas Paine was not an individual "outside the mainstream media" as Maney implies. In fact, Thomas Paine received a letter of introduction from none other than Benjamin Franklin just before emigrating to the Colonies. At the time of his first published work in the new world (African Slavery in America-1775), Paine was, already, the co-editor of Pennsylvania Magazine. In fact, Thomas Paine was not "outside the mainstream media." He was the "mainstream media"; more so than Dan Rather, or Kevin Maney for that matter. Had there been bloggers back in the Revolutionary era, they would have been posting Mr. Paine's rather rambunctious piece and dissecting it as only "common folk" can. They would have been addressing how such a concept such as "no slavery" would effect their personal business. Or, perhaps, the bloggers of 1775 would be commenting on the reference to the Jews in that work. Trust me, African Slavery in America has lots in it to discuss, especially in the mindset of the 1700's. The point is that Thomas Paine was not a blogger. He was mainstream media without question.

Martin Luther, would not be classified in the same category as a blogger either. His legacy was more of a "disgruntled employee/ protestor." Martin Luther had, already, been ordained by 1507 and took on the role of teacher at a university soon followed by the position of Doctor of the Holy Scriptures. It was when, as an insider, he traveled to Rome and witnessed the extravagant lifestyles employed that he took on the role of "whistle blower" that his career into reform took place. In fact, Martin Luther had already had a number of audiences with Leo X or his representatives before publishing "Christian Nobles of Germany" one of his most famous addresses.

Essentially, Martin Luther was an insider. He was a disgruntled representative of that which he wished to reform. His countenance is more comparative to that of Coleen Rowley, Cynthia Cooper, and Sherron Watkins (Time Magazine's Person's of the Year--FBI, WorldCom, & Enron whistleblowers respectively), than Power Line, Little Green Footballs, or even myself. The nametag of blogger, just does not fit the magnitude of Martin Luther's efforts, and focus; nor his status.

The same can be said for George Orwell. His prominence evolved from the publishing of his satires into the mainstream. He became a published author in the 30's. That was the first anyone ever heard of him, mostly because he was raised in India. In fact, Orwell served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma until he decided to pursue a career as a writer, and only a writer. Orwell was, indeed, mainstream in that regard.

Bloggers can be mainstream. In fact, some blogs gain more attention based solely on that fact. However, the real basis of a blog is that the "common man" has a forum to critique, pontificate, evaluate, accumulate, vent, teach, learn, and infer. What is overlooked by Maney is that the 6 million some blogs out there are a data bank of experts that did not have the ability to interact so completely before. For every issue presented by the mainstream press there are hundreds of experts in any individual specific field that know the idiosyncrasies 100 times better than that journalist. There are hundreds of bloggers out there closer to the story than a professional writer whether in proximity, knowledge, or relationships.

In Maney's favor is his acknowledgement that the mainstream media will be forced to change, and adapt to their new found suitors. This, in a sense, contradicts his opinion that blogs are "the latest revolution--e.g., it's not."

Maney needs to take a closer look and grasp that blogs are about opinion and evaluation more than they are about hard news. They are about keeping the originator honest, and addressing their credibility when they are not. Reputation is based on integrity and consistency. Perceived fact is contingent on the source. The bar is being raised for all journalists in that regard, based on the blogosphere. That sounds like a clear revolution to me. The fact that mainstream media will be forced to adjust to this new horizon implies a Renaissance of sorts. That Renaissance will not be confined to the focus of journalism and mainstream media. The audience of the blogosphere is intermingled with the contributors. That translates to application in business and sorting out demographics. The growth over the last five years has been so astronomical that the whole concept is stealing audience from other established forums (television, music stores, cinema, print etc.).

In short, a successful business will adapt with the trends. If they want to reach the most potential customers possible while applying the most efficient application of advertising funds, they are going to follow the general interest of their targets. That translates to the untapped market of blogs.

Blogs are, indeed, "all that" and more. Blogs are a radical departure in that while there have, certainly, been town criers in our past that would do all the things that blogs do today, there have never been 6 million (and growing) of them on the steps of the Hartford courthouse lawn. A voice of dissent in the wilderness is of little interest to a politician sitting in Washington. 6 million voices of dissent can place said politician in the wilderness…or a news anchor out to pasture so to speak.

(Linked to the Beltway Traffic Jam at OTB)

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Connecticut Republican Congressman in the 'Sandbox' for the Iraqi Elections

On this coming Sunday, as the Iraqis citizens make their way to the polls, there will be a couple US congressmen right there encouraging them forward. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Freshman Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) will be in the "sandbox" at the direct invitation of the ambassador.
According to the Associated Press, a larger contingency of congressmen had expressed interest in attending. However, all but Shays and Poe have backed out.

Also, according to the Associated Press, some Defense Department Officials were not overly enthusiastic about his being there. Obviously, that sentiment would be related to increased security woes taking up manpower better spent. However, Rep. Shays has a point in addressing that concern.

He also acknowledged that some Defense Department officials were not happy that he was going, but he said he pointed out that the military was escorting members of the media there and "the worst thing I could do is get all my information from the press."

I can't disagree with that. That last thing we want to do concerning one of the most important events of 2005, is trust that the press will reflect, fairly, the election in a country that contrasts their continued efforts to show the current policy in a negative light. Additionally, while it might not be admitted prominently, I think our soldiers appreciate the attention and appreciation from elected officials provided those officials have their best interest in mind. Shays and Poe aren't using this as a photo op. Both have just been re-elected. Shays has been to Iraq seven times in the past, and continues to show unwavering interest in the facts as demonstrated in his involvement in sorting out the "Oil for Food" scandal. He was the first US Congressman to visit Iraq following the initial armed conflict. And, he has traveled throughout Iraq in previous visits without the benefit of a military escort.

The US has a vested interest in the success of the Iraqi elections. It's only right that Congressional representatives attend the event to solidify that point.

Connecticut Lawmaker Headed To Iraq For Elections
January 26, 2005
Associated Press


WASHINGTON -- A Connecticut lawmaker will be one of two members of Congress in Iraq Sunday to witness the historic Iraqi elections.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said he plans to visit polling places and doesn't feel he's taking an unreasonable risk by being in the volatile country on election day.

"I'm grateful I have the opportunity to see it," Shays said in a phone call from Geneva Tuesday. "I realize I'm in a violent part of the world, but we have American troops there who have had to be there for a year. I'm going to be there a few days."

Shays, who is making his seventh trip to Iraq since the war began, said members of Congress have a responsibility to monitor the conditions there. He will join freshman Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, on the trip.
(continued...free subscription

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dueling Banjos on Iran

I can honestly say that I don't trust either of these news sources. In one corner, we have the Associated Press pushing a confidential report which they probably have no right to be viewing (if in fact they truly are). They've proven time and again that their accuracy is less than stellar.

In the other corner we have the Mullah's Mouthpiece of propaganda (Tehran Times) right from the belly of the proverbial beast in Iran.

The news from each is diametrically opposed. Heads or Tails?

This one?


EU Makes No Headway on Iran Nuke Program
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
January 25, 2005, 9:31 PM EST
DAVOS, Switzerland -- A confidential summary of talks between key European powers and Iran made available to The Associated Press on Tuesday shows there has been no progress in getting Iran to scrap nuclear enrichment -- even though Tehran acknowledged it does not need nuclear energy.
(continued)


Or this one?



Solana: EU ready to deepen ties with Iran
Tehran Times
January 26, 2005
BRUSSELS (IRNA) -- EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana praised Iran's decision to suspend uranium enrichment as a "positive step" and underlined the European bloc's desire to boost relations with the Islamic Republic.
(continued)

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Don’t Forget the Sunscreen…and your Kevlar vest

The Yemeni Government has proudly proclaimed from the roof top of the highest armory:

“2005 is the Year of Tourism in Yemen”
No kidding.

Yemen, vipers nest for terrorism bred in tribal conflict of destitute squalor. Yemen, port where terrorists blew a hole in the side of the USS Cole, land where 650 pounds of plastic explosives were recovered in the warehouse of Sanaa the capital, location from which the bombing of a French Oil Tanker off the Yemeni coast was planned, and the murders of three American missionaries took place with little fanfare.

Yemen, where over 100 al-Qaeda sympathizers and members were voluntarily released by the Yemeni Government as long as they promised to stay out of trouble. Yemen, a troubled country with 20 million in total population that hold over 60 million firearms. Yemen, where it is not uncommon to travel into the hills and see 10 year-olds with AK-47’s guarding the primary agricultural product of the region, a narcotic called Qat.

But, overlook that just for a second because. 2005 is the year of Tourism in Yemen.

And, in all fairness, Yemen is not the single parcel of land that you might assume.
They hold a plethora of rather beautiful islands that could, indeed, be a vacation “mecca” of sorts. The current plan is to acquire investors to develop vacation resorts in a series of 183 islands throughout the Red and Arabian Seas and in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

In a move to emphasize Yemen’s commitment to make the year 2005 the year for a booming tourism sector, the government had offered 183 islands in the Red and Arabian Seas and in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean to investors willing to use the fascinating natural beauty and strategic location to establish tourist projects.
( continued )

Of course, they gave this a shot back in 1998 as well. However, it didn’t work out so well.

A United Kingdom company had taken the Yemeni Government up on a similar resort development in the Zuqar and Hunaish islands. It might be thriving today if it weren’t for that little issue with the Eritrean Government. Whacked-out dictator, Issayas Afeworki decided to invade the Hanish islands in the Red Sea to call his own.

He left eventually, but I can’t say I blame the Brits for pulling up stakes. Beach volleyball is usually more fun sans land mines and “bottle rockets.”

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The Great Satan is a Softee

With the selflessness displayed by some of the guys in the 76th Infantry Brigade of the Indiana National Guard in Afghanistan and their civilian contacts back home, we are going to have a hard time holding onto that “Great Satan” label.
They have arranged for 1-year-old Qudrat Ullah to receive life saving heart surgery at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. The doctors on staff have agreed to do the surgery on the house. And, in addition to setting up the logistics and overcoming the red tape, the 76th hooked up with the Greenfield, Indiana Rotary club to cover expenses over the thirty day stay.

Also, soldiers at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, are working to send a five-year-old Afghan boy to the States for a surgery to repair burns received in a house fire. Our guys at Camp Phoenix have, already, pitched in to purchase the travel visas for the injured boy and his father.

They continue to make us damn proud...

U.S. medics go the extra mile to help sick children in Afghanistan
By Kevin Dougherty, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, January 24, 2005


KABUL, Afghanistan — A man cradling a sickly child in his arms and walking for a couple of hours to get help makes for a powerful image.

Perhaps just as inspiring is the willingness of people half a world away to step forward and save the little guy with a bad heart from certain death.

The outpouring of support “has been just amazing,” said Capt. Mike Roscoe, a physician assistant with the 76th Infantry Brigade, Indiana National Guard.
(continued)

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Monday, January 24, 2005

"The Blue State Conservatives"

I meant to put this up previously. However, as muttered by high school couples everywhere, in the weeks following the prom, “better late than never.”

A couple days ago, I added “The Blue State Conservatives (TBSC) ” to the blogroll. The name of the joint is self-explanatory.
However, in the event that you wandered in here, quite accidentally, from Berkley, Wellesley, or some other established re-education camp I’ll spell it out.
TBSC is, simply, Conservative blogging from the “Blue States” (States won by Kerry during the 2004 General Election). Let’s face it, the “Blue States” are a target rich environment for Conservatives. So, there is never a shortage of good material. While the site is, basically, in its infancy, the good stuff is already flowing. In addition, if you are graced with residence within a “Blue State” and would like to enlighten the masses on anything (political or cultural) pertaining to your domicile…take advantage of Blue Monday…and take on the role of ad hoc contributor to the site. I’m sure they would appreciate the visit.

Either way, check out the site. Conservatives will love it. Liberals will cringe. Independents will be forcibly incarcerated until they agree to vote Red next time around.

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The Dirty Dozen & The War on Terror

There’s something inherently good about this Associated Press filler. I can’t help recalling a scene from the original “Dirty Dozen” film (1967) starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and a host other known actors.
The plot of that film involved the recruitment of condemned US soldiers during WWII to go on a hairy mission to assassinate Nazi high command figures at one of their R&R retreats. Initially, no one was really interested in trading one hopeless life for another. However, eventually, the evolving leaders of the band of misfits started to believe in the mission. That rubbed off on the other members. Lee Marvin, the grizzled Major who initiated the recruitment, could only present the opportunity. It wasn’t until influential prisoners grasped the necessity that the mission became a reality.

Lee Marvin (The US Coalition) recruits some prisoners (Countries on the eve of liberation) who assist in the recruitment of other more skeptical prisoners (Countries merely considering the option of liberation) in an effort to build the “Dirty Dozen” (and ongoing effort to promote and secure Democracy throughout the world).”

Charles Bronson (Karzai) just encouraged Jim Brown, Clint Walker, and Trini Lopez (Iraq) to sign on for the mission this January 30th. Coming from someone who shares their position, his endorsement carried more weight and credibility. His enthusiasm for the mission is contagious.

Over simplified? Sure. Poor analogy? Maybe. Pandering to my personal favor of the movie and the current events of 2005? Hell yes.

Afghan President Urges Iraqis to Vote
By Associated Press
January 24, 2005, 12:25 PM EST


KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai urged Iraqis on Monday to follow the example of Afghans and turn out for this weekend's landmark elections despite the threats of violence, saying their votes would help their country toward prosperity.

The U.S.-backed Afghan leader won Afghanistan's first-ever direct vote for president Oct. 9, almost three years after American forces ousted the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden. Remnants of the hardline militia failed to deliver on threats of major violence during the polls.

"The Iraqi people must not fear terrorists. Instead, they should make their elections a success with bravery and courage ... they must endeavor to ensure the rule of democracy and the right to elect their leader," Karzai said in a statement.
( Continued )

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Damn that Privitization

Damn that privatization. How dare there be legitimate competition for positions and contracts between Federal workers and the private sect. Why that’s just plain …just plain…ummm…that’s just plain fiscally intelligent isn’t it?
Reality based bids, focused sector candidates geared towards the project or position, and the inability to inflate costs hatches more efficiency and lower bids. So, I guess it should be no surprise that the Office of Management and Budget announced Friday that the Agencies saved, a projected, $1.4 billion of taxpayer money in 2004. You can add an additional $1.1 billion of taxpayer money to that total from 2003.

Also, the $300 million improvement in 2004 comes off of 5,000 less positions thrown up for competition. That shows an advance in bid costs as well as better efficiency in the process.

Damn that privatization.

OMB reports job competitions saved $1.4 billion last year
By Kimberly Palmer
Govertment Executive Magazine


Agencies saved $1.4 billion in fiscal 2004 by holding job competitions between federal employees and the private sector, according to the Office of Management and Budget. That figure, up $300 million from 2003, represents the projected savings over the next three to five years.

The announcement was included in remarks by Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management, about the latest President's Management Agenda score card. The agency will soon release a more detailed report about competitive sourcing, including a breakdown of competitions and the savings they have generated by agency.
(continued)

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January 23rd is a momentous day



• 1974 Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (actress)
• 1957 Princess Caroline
• 1947 Dr. Laura Schlessinger (author, Talk show programme)
• 1944 Rutger Hauer (actor)
• 1943 Gil Gerard (actor)
• 1933 Chita Rivera (performer)
• 1925 Marty Paich (pianist, composer and arranger)
• 1920 Ray Abrams (jazz musician)
• 1919 Ernie Kovacs (comedian)
• 1903 Randolph Scott (actor)
• 1832 Edouard Manet (artist)
• 1737 John Hancock (signed the declaration of independence)

Oh yeah, and me. The exact year slips my mind, however. I just know it is somewhere between Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Princess Caroline...which isn't all that bad of a place to be as I think about it...

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The United Nations' Continued Futility

If you dwell in the enduring delusion that someday the shroud of unearned substance will be torn from the grasping mitts of the United Nations like a larcenist working a subway car filled with a catatonic elderly bridge club, you and I are of the same ilk.
Diplomad and New Sisyphus haven’t exactly done much to convince us that our position is ill-founded. In fact, they have done quite the opposite. Their insight, though frustrating, has been invaluable. Quite frankly, it’s astounding how beneficial blogs have been when it comes to transference of speculation to anecdotal proof, or conjectural rhetoric to plain fact. The worthiness, value, and “purpose” of blogs have focused, quite correctly, on how they affect the behavior of the media.

It’s bigger than that.

The attitude towards bureaucratic cesspools such as the United Nations has always been bogged down in innuendo and assumption. As a result, criticism existed, primarily, as a “blunt stick.” With insight from those inside the loop, the supposition sharpens that stick. Provided the blogs in the know keep a credible reputation with their readers, the once disparagement of the United Nations based on reading between the lines takes on a much more clear process of reading the lines. The United Nations can’t compete with that. The press that triumphs the United Nations can’t continue on that path lest they lose their own credibility to a greater degree. And, the politicians within the US Congress who run interference for the United Nations end up focusing on something more dear to them than the United Nations…their own posterior.

That was my train of thought when I went digging around in the United Nations press releases today in procrastination of a snow covered sidewalk.

I stumbled on a January 19th press release covering the Secretary-General’s remarks at a press conference on special session of the General Assembly to commemorate the liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps. This is the first time the United Nations has done so. That’s quite remarkable considering that the chief motivation of the United Nations in the shadow of World War II was in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust. In fact, one of the reporters even asked why this remembrance was taking place on the 60th anniversary as opposed to the 50th or the 10th. Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel (also, present of course) was candid in his response when he said:

“Well, I don't know why it has not happened before. But all I can say is that we are very, very happy that it is happening, if “happy” is a word one could use for such a solemn occasion. I think that maybe we are at a point in history where the changes in the world are reflected also at the United Nations…”

He added a diplomatic addendum to that comment. However, his contempt was unmistakable in the above three sentences.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan preceded the press conference with some comments setting up the questioning. In his comments he used the cliché, yet powerful, statement that “we must make sure that those horrible atrocities never ever happen again anywhere in the world.” These sentiments were reiterated by General Assembly President Jean Ping in his comments as well.

When the press conference was opened up for questions from attending reporters, the following stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s extraordinary that it was asked, even if it could have been more comprehensive and inclusive of mass graves in Iraq, and the ten re-education camps presently in North Korea. However, check out the question below, and the absolute tripe of an answer that followed:

Reporter: Mr. Secretary-General, it is certainly admirable to say “never again”, but just at this moment you yourself have a commission in Sudan investigating whether there is a genocide. What more can be done? This certainly will put a spotlight on the issue, but in practical terms, what more can be done?

Secretary General Kofi Annan: What more can be done in Sudan or to prevent genocide and gross violations of human rights? I think this is one of the issues also that the High Level Panel's report has taken up, raising the issue of responsibility to protect, and arguing that where governments are either unwilling or unable to, the international community does have a responsibility, and the [Security] Council will have to assume responsibility. Will that happen? That is a question that we are all grappling with now. And the issue of Sudan is also before the Council, but I hope that with the work of the Panel, and the discussions going on in the Council, and the commemoration of the 60th anniversary, we will become increasingly aware of the need to act or to do something to prevent such atrocities from happening or occurring. Of course we are grappling with the situation in Sudan and the Council has considered all sorts of options, and is fully seized of it, and in fact we are still searching for other actions that the Council may take.


I need not dissect the response from Kofi Annan on the inaction in Sudan. It hangs out there like a pair of sneakers tied together and hanging from the high tension wire. It serves no purpose and is uncomfortable to look at. As Diplomad and New Sisyphus have confirmed for us time and again, the United Nations is light years ahead of everyone in “considering options,” “grappling with the situation,” and “assuming responsibility.”
Unfortunately, (if I may quote from The Princess Bride) I don’t think that word means what you think it means Mr. Secretary-General. “Assuming responsibility” entails some sort of substantive action. Writing letters, forming committees, and holding press conferences displays little responsibility or demonstrability. It does, however, display the United Nations in their true frame...thanks to those in the loop who have hung the picture for us here in the blogosphere.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Connecticut Shoots for #1

Which wonderful state of the fifty (50) wonderful states is the most taxed? The Constitution State, of course.

According to The Tax Foundation ( a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937) Connecticut leads the pack.
Interestingly, the top seven states on the list are all as blue as Paul Bunyan’s pet ox. Perhaps we should include “masochism” as one of the inclusive diversifications of the Left. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and Washington lead the list of the most taxed states.

Connecticut is a “blue” state through and through. We’re the State that sends second graders down to New York City to protest international investments affecting the rain forest. A simple trip to Wal-Mart usually includes a serpentine route around some card table disseminating the cause or complaint of the day, and if it feels good, provides a service, or employs workers, it’s usually taxed beyond recognition. Connecticut is the bluest of the blue. And, we’re headed for a darker shade.

This past general election, the democratic leadership solidified their hold on the General Assembly with, even, more vigor. As a result, the Liberals of the nutmeg state set the priorities in the budget. Guess what’s on the table in the immediate future.

You guessed it, more taxes.

Specifically, the Democratic Leadership of Connecticut, again, is eyeing an increase on gasoline taxes. According to the American Petroleum Institute Connecticut comes in a “pitiful” seventh place by only having 48.1% of every dollar paid for gasoline going to the state and federal coffers. Of course, the excise tax (Connecticut’s cut) is merely second to Wisconsin. Why be the runner-up when you can sit on top of the heap? And, for the record, of the top ten gasoline taxing states, the blues hold seven (7) of them despite being located on the coast and having the easiest port access.

Democratic House Speaker James Amann and Democratic President Pro Tem Donald Williams stated recently that “increases are possible in virtually every major state tax” so that Connecticut can accommodate a predicted $1.3 billion deficit. And, while the General Assembly Republicans have taken a position of not raising taxes, they are significantly outnumbered. Democrats, on the other hand, have not suggested cutting one program or grant to address the deficit. Instead, they are pushing to increase the HUSKY health insurance program for children, the ConnPACE prescription drug subsidy program for senior citizens, nursing homes, early childhood education, and financial aid for college students.

Up here in Connecticut we are a civil and caring folk, even if we aren’t too good at simple math. And we’re consistent as well. In 2002 and 2003 we bumped up taxes more than $925 million. Give us a little more time, and we’ll lead the country in every tax category there is.

Incidentally, we do have a "Republican" Governor you know. Of course, she's calling for $20 million in taxpayer funds to do stem cell research.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Audience

The difference between the 2001 Inaugural Address and 2005’s was striking. The ideas, the allegory, and the attitude did not alter to any large degree. Those in the presence of the ceremony were similar in appearance and stature. The emotions of those for and against the coronation, again, dwelled in their respective internal motivations. But, still, the disparity was stunning.
Four years ago, our President spoke to us. He concentrated on the perceived necessity of healing from within our own borders. The theme was one of conquering adversarial relationships, curative actions upon our ailing economy, and cooperation between those in search of common domestic goals. The President challenged us to work towards the bettering of our Nation.

Today, our President challenged us to work towards the bettering of our world. And, while his message held immense significance to every American, the intended audience does not live here. They reside as one of 50,000 held in a North Korean re-education camp with the label of “redeemable” or “expendable.” They stand with the 45 helpless in Mashda, Iran that watched as State Security Forces removed "illegal satellite dishes" from their homes in an effort to stifle news of the world beyond their borders lest they compare it to their own. They rot in the prisons of deep Cuba for merely asking if there isn’t a better way to represent the interests of that island’s people.

These subjugated did not hear the President this afternoon. However, it will get to them somehow for they were the intended audience. Foreign workers will carry the “virus.” Underground movements will deliver the “memorandum.” Those who dare to dream will risk their mere existence in the present to assure their neighbors of an actual life in the future. The oppressed are sheltered from the immediacy of the message, but the oppressors heard every word, every syllable, and every pause. Those who breed tyranny cannot ignore that the President is endeavoring to steal their captive audience. If they discount the offering, they ignore their fate.

One man can be ignored as an annoyance. Scores of men in determined common interest with a passion for their freedom are more convincing. As numbers grow, so does the fire of today’s real audience.

“By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”
---President George W. Bush January 20, 2005

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Loopy Loser Legislator Legislates Life

You have to love Connecticut politicians.

When they aren’t molesting minors (Philip Giordano), getting arrested in adult video stores (Stuart Denton), or pushing the ethical boundaries of financial favors (Gov. John G. Rowland), they’re usually suggesting absent minded and unnecessary legislation. Such is the case with Connecticut State Representative Andrew Fleischmann (D-West Hartford).
Rep. Fleischmann said last week that he wants a law that requires movie theaters to post the actual start time of the feature movie so that moviegoers can avoid the plethora of preceding previews and advertisements. Sure, they’re annoying. And, yes, they seem to be escalating in length.

But, is a law necessary? Of course not.

Keep in mind that every time the Legislative Branch gets creative and intrusive, the Executive Branch has to enforce the insanity. How, exactly, are you going to justify making a criminal out of a Theatre owner for not starting the movie at the exact chime of 735pm? More importantly, what gives a State Legislature the right to dictate a privately owned company’s perceived customer service platform? The reasonable answer is that nothing gives Rep. Fleischmann or any other law crazy politician the right to intrude on what the free market system can solve on its own.

The free market system dictates behavior. Provided a theater owner wants to make money and keep the seats filled, he isn’t going to make his customers uncomfortable and irritated. However, there is no obligation to remove the tedious prerequisite showings. In fact, the revenue received from the advertising and previews is an income for the theater owner. When the loss of business due to disgruntled customers overcomes the income paid to do so, the theater owner will make an informed decision on his next move. Rep. Fleischmann has no say in that regard. In addition, a focus on the issue will have the same capitalistic effect that it always does. Some theater franchises will use the issue to market “ad free” showings in an effort to increase their market share.

How long until we see something like this:

Samuel T. Norrison was charged with a first degree misdemeanor Tuesday under the new Movie Trailer Time Standardization Act. Witnesses stated that Norrison was lead away in handcuffs and appeared distraught, reportedly singing the “Let’s all go to the Lobby” song over and over.

Asked about the arrest, police chief, Bernard Scott stated, “I feel bad for the guy. This is his third arrest this week.”

A review of the Bristol, CT police log for this week revealed three separate arrests for Norrison beginning Sunday. Apparently, on Sunday night a citizen filed charges against Norrison after “standing an exorbitant amount of time in line for his Good N Plenty’s.” Norrison was charged under the “Subservience & Response Act” which went into effect last month.

Another arrest of Norrison was made on Tuesday morning after getting caught in traffic and not being able to open up the Movie Theatre for the hired cleaning staff at 9am. He was charged in that offense under the new “Labor Law Consideration and Courtesy Act.”

Civil cases are expected to be filed in all three matters.

Of course, up here in Connecticut the concept(s) of capitalism and free market takes a back seat to taxation and legislation. After all, it’s important for State Representatives to get their names in the newspaper on a regular basis. It’s part of the job. Perhaps there ought to be a law or something.

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People in Glass Houses...

In the post immediately preceding this one I pointed out the misguided and amusing efforts of Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte to include a student's body fat readings on report cards. Interestingly, to the left of these comments you will see a rather recent photo of the good senator. I guess one ought to concentrate on what they know. Senator Van de Putte has, certainly, done extensive research in the application of fat calories on one's appearance.

She's posing here at a Chili Cook Off in Texas.

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Your Kid's a Fat A**

English---A
Math---B+
Science---B
Chemistry---A-
Biology---C
Body Fat---“Little” Jimmy uses a pie as a clock.
Simply put, report cards are to reflect performance at school in the assigned curriculum. Perhaps a student’s weight is a valid side topic for Parent/Teacher conferences since self-esteem is, sometimes, a contributing dynamic of scholastic performance. However, Senator Van de Putte’s plan to include body fat readings on report cards is ridiculous.

I wonder how long this idea would be entertained by Van de Putte if another Senator floated body fat readings as a condition of securing teaching tenure. After all, teachers are there to set an example as well as teach. I can recall a good percentage of my educators that would be out on the curb.

Texas Lawmaker Unveils Child Obesity Bill
By Associated Press
January 18, 2005, 10:04 PM EST


AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas school districts would be required to include the body mass index of students as part of their regular report cards under a bill introduced Tuesday by a lawmaker seeking to link healthy minds with healthy bodies.

When the measurement, which calculates body fat based on height and weight, indicates a student is overweight, the school would provide parents with information about links between increased body fat and health problems, said Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

"We should be just as concerned with students' physical health and performance as we are with their academic performance," she said.

More than a third of school-age children in Texas are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Arkansas implemented a similar law during the 2003-2004 school year, although the information is sent to parents separately from report cards.

Eric Allen, a spokesman for the Association for Texas Professional Educators, said most parents don't need to be told their child is overweight.

"It doesn't have a place on a report card," he said.
Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Coming Storm...

To date, I don't think I've seen a better example than this as to why Iran cannot afford a Democracy in their backyard. I don't doubt that the interim Iraqi Government suggested and/or encouraged this little get together of Iraqi lawyers. Their message was clear.
1. Iraq no longer views the PMOI as a terrorist organization (opposing the Theocratic and oppressive Iranian Government of record does not constitute such). This decision is based on a legal standing, and not just public opinion.

2. Iran's continued efforts (directly or indirectly) to alter the Iraqi Elections has repercussions. Perhaps the act of unanimous approval of the 2004 Paris Declaration by Iraq's legal community seems arbitrary in stature. However, when your next door neighbor makes an undeviating effort to call your most threatening domestic adversary legitimate. And, when that next door neighbor, by their very struggle for freedom, emboldens your own household to start questioning your role, you have start questioning your own longevity.


My personal opinion is that this act by the Iraqi lawyers seems small on the surface….But, it's big…REAL BIG.

3,230 Iraqi law experts release statement on Iran opposition
Monday, 17th January 2005
Iran Focus


Baghdad, Jan. 17 – At a conference in Baghdad today, some 3,230 eminent Iraqi law experts and lawyers released a statement on the legal status of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, calling it a legitimate movement.

The conference in the Babylon Hotel was attended by more than 1,000 Iraqi law experts and political and social figures in support of the Iranian opposition, and by over 50 different media organisations.

The 3,230 Iraqi legal experts all signed a statement approving the November 2004 Paris Declaration which said that the PMOI was a legitimate resistance group and that the terror-tag placed upon it was not based on facts and had to be removed.

They accused the Iranian regime of meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq attempting to destabilize the country in the hope of influencing the January 30 elections.
( continued )

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Monday, January 17, 2005

That didn't take long...

Color me a cynic. I am under the impression that the media will make every effort to declare the January 30th Iraqi elections a failure.
There will calls of manipulation, accusations of “disenfranchising” one religious group or another, and the belittling of a result that neglects the full participation of troubled Iraqi venues. However, I’m willing to bet that the skeptics (read: media influenced by their obvious indifference to the Bush Administration) will put most of their eggs into the “participation basket.”

It appears as if that’s already started.

The Iraqi Out of Country Voting program got rolling today (January 17th). New York Times reporter, Alan Cowell was in London observing the registration process. It took him until the third sentence before he stated “The numbers seemed low compared with the estimated 250,000 exiled Iraqis living in Britain.” No numbers to back that up. It just “seemed low.” He went on to make the same comments about registration in the Netherlands getting “off to a slow start in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Zwolle.” Once again, he provided no numbers or sources to back up the statement.

I find it interesting that access to the Iraq Out of Country website was an absolute bitch all day. It refreshed at an agonizingly slow rate. I tend to think that’s a traffic issue. I should say that I’m optimistic that it is. In addition, all Out of Country registration centers are open for the entire week.

I believe that there will be a remarkable participation by enthusiastic Iraqis. Regardless of the results, and the number of voters, it’s a good bet that this won’t happen again. That, in itself, is a vast success.


Iraqis take first steps toward democracy as overseas registration begins
By Alan Cowell
The New York Times
Tuesday, January 18, 2005


LONDON The dawning of Iraq's democracy arrived unhurriedly on Monday - in north London at least.
.
Under the soaring arch of a new national sports stadium still under construction, in an exhibition hall the size of a large aircraft hangar, several hundred Iraqis living outside their country drifted in to the Wembley Conference and Exhibition Center, registering to cast an overseas ballot in the Jan. 30 election back home.
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The numbers seemed low compared with the estimated 250,000 exiled Iraqis living in Britain. About 150,000 of them are eligible to vote, part of an overseas Iraqi electorate of at least one million spread mainly across 14 countries, including the United States. The exiles could have a big say in the election's outcome, potentially swinging the vote toward the southern Shiite majority.

(full article)

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Come on Hugh...Don't feed the Zoo Monkeys

Hugh Hewitt brought light on an experiment of the Los Angeles Times called “Outside the Tent,” which debuted with a piece by Mickey Kaus entitled “Gossip Would Do L.A. and the Times Good.”

Outside the Tent” is said to be "An experimental column in which the Los Angeles Times invites outside critics to take their best shot at Southern California's heaviest newspaper."
I tend to think that it is an obvious attempt by the LA Times to improve their failing circulation figures without having to compromise their basic misguided leftist principles. By compartmentalizing the critiques to a guest writer status they have the ability to hold onto their Liberal base of steady subscribers and pass out the implied philosophy of “consider the source” to those who might not agree. Even the name of the feature (Outside the Tent) makes this apparent.

Hugh has agreed to contribute to this venture in a couple weeks. Patterico has, also. Personally, I don’t think they should. Why feed the monkeys anything other than their usual diet?

In my opinion, let’s let capitalism and the free market teach the LA Times about their future. They are receiving a remedial course at the present. According to Editor & Publisher, they have, steadily, been taking a shellacking in the purse. Just last quarter, The Tribune Company (parent company to the LA Times) announced that daily circulation for the six-month period ending September 2004 stood at 902,164 and that Sunday circ was 1,292,274, or roughly "a range of" 6% drop. The Tribune reported daily circulation of 591,504 and a Sunday circ of 963,926, or a 2.5% and 4% decline, respectively. Jack Fuller, President of the Publishing Division for the parent company received an early retirement, arguably, based on those figures. The LA Times continues to pour their ideology out in mass without significant consideration for content. Until they address their content discretion head on, their circulation will continue to drop. A half hearted feature experiment without real ownership such as “Outside the Tent” is derisory. Let them flounder Hugh…let them ignore the gangrene in the arm while setting the finger.

This is not an isolated occurrence. Leftist leaning media outlets across the country are taking a thumping. It’s the same old story. The liberal bias stems from the superiority complex held by leftist journalists who think they know better. They continue to refuse to recognize the values and ideology of their subscribers as a valid. They are out to teach and convince. As they continue down this fateful path the CNN’s get slapped by the Fox News’. The Salons get kneecapped by the National Review Onlines’. The columnists and stable writers of just about every major media outlet have their lunches handed to them by the vast array of Blogs in what is becoming a usual occurrence. The effectiveness of alternative news sources can only remain effectual if they hold the status of “alternative.” They will, only, become mainstream if there is no kowtowing in arbitrary gimmick contributory exercises like “Outside the Tent.”

Don’t feed the monkeys Hugh. Let them starve. Let them watch you from behind the bars while you tear at the "read meat."

Many of the largest media publications are presently being taught an arduous lesson by the Security & Exchange Commission. The conventional wisdom behind the SEC investigation of the “Times Co.; The Washington Post Co.; Gannett Co., publishers of USA Today and 100 other papers; Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal and Barron's; and Knight Ridder, publisher of the Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer and 29 other papers,” is that they have been inflating their circulation figures so that they can bump up the advertisement revenue. Obviously, these entities have not grasped the concept that it is integrity and content that sells papers. They are still trying to grade the rest of the class rather than just presenting their own “book report.” They are going to learn an expensive lesson as a result. Even if they slide beyond this massive investigation, they will not have solved their revenue short fall, and the future decline of subscribers. Blogs and major media, like or not, hold a symbiotic relationship. The only way to take the wind out of the growing sails of the blogs is to present content that provides less of a critique opportunity and more of a supporting emphasis. Simply put, folks like saying “you suck” more than they enjoy saying “nice job.” It’s more interesting and more complimentary to a blogger’s worth.

Interestingly, the major media is even in denial in reference to bloggers. Instead of considering their own content, they are flirting with an effort to discredit their critics while contemplating the possibilities of regulating opinion. You know there will be attempts to muzzle the computer “town criers.” I would expect attempts at legislation when the atmosphere presents itself.

Cathy Seipp filed a good piece in National Review (Times Never Changes The Los Angeles Times, still biased) back in April of 2004 that pointed out that the installation of John Carroll to Editor-in-Chief of the LA Times did move the overall content a little more towards the center. However, she was able to point out a significant number of examples of their failure to line up with the populace. They continued their efforts to teach and indoctrinate rather than report and describe. It’s an impious balance that they are racing. The balance is not ideology. Rather, it is time. They are reaching a crossroads where content is intersecting with subscriber totals (relating to advertising rates). The acquisition of Carroll was, merely, a speed bump in their failed fiscal destiny. The same is true with “Outside the Tent.” In my opinion, Conservatives should not contribute to slowing down their negative financial trends. Instead, we should let them rot in their own squalor and force their board of directors to consider a format change much like the standard formality of the radio industry. Let them continue with their “elevator music,” while the public goes looking for “R & B. “

Hugh, I’ll go buy another copy of your book if you congenially decline to assist the LA Times in improving their circulation. I’ll buy two more books if you tell them to stuff it. Perhaps I’m not a stellar example of promoting tact. However, I’m usually pretty effective at sorting through the crap. Trust me Hugh, there’s no diamond hidden down there…just fool’s gold. They want Patterico, and folks like you to help slow down the leak. Go write something for their biggest competitor (fiscally and ideologically) and assist with the deluge instead.

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