Friday, September 29, 2006

Mason-Dixon Poll: Webb v. Allen Race a Dead Heat

Late breaking news: a new Mason-Dixon poll on the Virginia Senate race has it a dead heat, with Webb and Allen each getting 43 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

In July, Mason-Dixon gave Allen a comfy 16 point lead.

In August, Mason-Dixon gave Allen a small 4 point lead. One of Allen's bloggers explained it away, saying everyone with a telephone in the 'burbs was on vacation, so the poll numbers were anomalous. They must be on extended vacation.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

George Allen's California Bred Racism

During Reconstruction, northerners who came south to prey on the locals were called carpetbaggers, while native southerners viewed as collaborators with occupiers from the north were called scalawags.

So what do we call someone from California who brought his racism to Virginia?

One of the sad things about George Allen's latest problem--N-word Gate--is that a lot of folks around the rest of the country will see Allen as just another Southern racist.

But he's not. Allen went to high school in California, where he evidently began his infatuation with the confederate battle flag and somehow formed his racist attitude toward African-Americans. While at Palos Verde High School in California, Allen was suspended in a bizarre incident in which he and other players wrote anti-white graffiti on school walls to incite the football team against blacks on a rival team. He told one of his UVa football teammates that he decided to play football at UVa because blacks "knew their place" in the Commonwealth.

How embarassing for us. Certainly Virginia and the rest of the South have had their share of racists, past and present. But many--perhaps most--white southerners were raised better.

When I was a young child growing up in South Carolina, I once angrily called my brother the N-word, echoing words I'd heard from some older redneck kid in school. My mother, a native Virginian whose family has been in Rockbridge County for many generations, immediately washed my mouth out with soap. I got a long lecture, with a few follow-ups, on why the N-word was horribly offensive, as well as on race relations in general. I'm glad for it.

Over the years I've fought against racism and for equality, but at the same time I've often resented northerners (fyi--in South Carolina, someone from California would be a "northerner") who, ignoring their own more subtle racist institutions, were quick to tsk, tsk the South.

Frankly, it's an embarassment to have Virginia now represented by a fellow with Allen's past who isn't even a native. He may have thought that's how Virginians were when he moved here in the 70's, and certainly he would have found some fellow travelers. But that's not how the majority were. I don't know what the right word is for it (i.e., an outsider bringing his racism to Virginia), but it should be something particularly odious.

It's time for Allen to go.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Allen and the N-word

The chickens are coming home to roost for Senator George Allen.

First it was "macaca" and "welcome to the real Virginia." Then is was "I may be Jewish after all, but I still like a good ham sandwich." And now it's N-wordgate.

The most recent revelation comes from a college football teammate of Allen's at UVa in the 1970's, who says Allen frequently used the word "nigger" and did such nice things as stuff a severed deer head into the mailbox of a black family selected at random. Another UVA acquaintance came forward to say that he, too, heard Allen use the N-word frequently.

Press reports say that at least two other college acquaintances of Allen have, anonymously, so far, confirmed that he frequently used the N-word. And, UVa political science professor Larry Sabato--a frequent go-to guy for the media when it comes to stories on Virginia politics--says he, too, heard Allen use the N-word.

You can bet your sweet bippy, as they used to say on '70's hit comedy show Rowan & Martin's laugh-in, that more stories of Allen's racist past will begin to pour forth. Why? Because they're true. There might also be some stories of Allen's more general party boy days at UVa.

Republicans should just be glad this all happened now, rather than in two years with Allen being a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination (not gonna happen now). On Sunday, George Will, speaking as a regular panelist on George Stephanopoulos's ABC News talking head program, noted that presidential campaigns are ten times as difficult as Senate races and all but pronounced Allen's national ambitions as dead. And that was BEFORE N-word gate.

So what does Allen have to say about all this? He trotted out hatchetman Chris LaCivita, who evidently has succeeded hatchetman Dick Wadhams, to denounce the men who broke the story--R. Kendall Shelton, a radiologist in N.C., and Christopher Taylor, an antropologist at the University of Alabama.

According to LaCivita, Taylor is a "liberal activist" who "is not credible, period." Hmm. Let's see. LaCivita is clearly a conservative activist who, among other things, engineered the smear campaign against former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, and the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry. No doubt he is planning something similar against Jim Webb ("bring it on" Chris). Our guess is that LaCivita views John McCain as a "liberal activist" too. LaCivita hasn't an ounce of credibility himself, so don't worry about what he has to say.

The interesting back story is LaCivita's sudden appearance on the scene as a spokesperson for Allen. Last week it was rumored that Allen had shaken up his staff after major supporters questioned the way Wadhams was running things. (Allen is the real problem, tho'--we don't think Wadhams told Allen to say "macaca"). The Allen camp denied the rumors, but now it looks like they're true.

Allen has also pulled together some supporters to say they've never heard him utter the N-word. Kind of like those women who said Clarence Thomas never harassed them.

We like the denials--they are likely to spur more former classmates to step forward with the truth.

Finally, what about the handful of black ministers who've rallied to Allen's support? If they're smart, they'll back off. This is going to get a lot uglier.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Have Some Shame

Occasionally as we're driving around Northern Virginia we'll spot a car--usually a big honking SUV--still sporting a "W '04" or a "Re-elect Bush Cheney" bumper sticker.

Aren't these folks embarassed? Have they no shame?

Bush to Global Warming: Mission Accomplished

Good ol' George Bush. He's on a roll. After winning the war in Iraq in a matter of weeks and then declaring victory, he's been off to other challenges.

One of those is global warming. Well, check off another mission accomplished box, because last week the Bush Administration announced its plan to lick this scourge as well.

The document, a 244 page report from the Department of Energy, titled "Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan" basically says lets use voluntary initiatives and technology to lick global warming.

I guess this guy really is serious about the issue. After all, six years of work and 244 pages--that's a real plan there pardner!

That ain't all--Bush proposes to spend a good $3 billion a year on research to come up with those great new technologies.

The plan suggests that hydrogen cars will be the solution.

In other words, just as we suspected, Bush is paying, at most, lip service to global warming, taking six years to lay out a band-aid approach to a serious problem. He'll probably name as director of the program some crony from one of the phony "scientific" organizations that question global warming.

Don't get us wrong--hydrogen cars are great. But they won't happen for another 30 years unless we adopt government policies that favor their development and adoption. You'll never see this administration, or any other Republican administration--beholden as they are to Big Oil--seriously push such initiatives. (Bush hasn't even followed up on his State of the Union pledge to raise fuel economy requirements for cars.)

While Bush has fiddled for the past 6 years, what has his predecessor, Bill Clinton, been up to?

Last week he got a $3 billion pledge from Richard Branson, of Virgin, to invest in new technologies, adding to another roughly $5 billion in pledges Clinton's initiative has rounded up so far.

Even that, of course, is just a drop in the bucket, but at least it's a start.

What we need is a comprehensive national policy with some clear goals and a set of policy initiatives designed to reach those goals. Don't count on it anytime soon. The next President will have to start at the beginning, at least 8 years behind. What a waste! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday Headlines: Bill Clinton Speaks Out; Bush Lies Exposed Again; Global Warming $$

A lot happening for a Sunday, of which we'll write more later this week.

Here's the headlines:

1. Bill Clinton gives it to Fox's Chris Wallace on Fox Sunday. About time! Our only question: Bill says he's been careful not to criticize the current administration, because it wouldn't be productive. We disagree--it's been six years; time to criticize!

2. The New York Times exposes a National Intelligence Estimate prepared in April, which flatly states that the war in Iraq is creating terrorists and complicating the war on terrorism. Presumably, Bush read the NIE at some point. But, thinking it was secret, he went out the past few weeks and just lied, lied, lied, lied to the country in a series of speeches where he asserted that the war in Iraq IS the war on terrorism.

3. Little noticed this past week, but the Dept. of Energy came out with a long-delayed, watered down limp noodle of a report outlining how the nation can combat global warming. Mix it with your discarded spinach. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton lands more than $3 billion from Richard Branson to do something real about global warming.

Oh, and lest we forget: a nice l'shana tova for George Allen.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Webb Rakes In the Bucks With Mark Warner

Thursday night Jim Webb held a major fundraiser at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, hosted by former Virginia Governor (and putative Presidential candidate) Mark Warner. Several hundred supporters attended the event, which raised roughly $300,000 for the Webb campaign.

We had a great time, seeing many friends and hanging with Jim's growing cadre of supporters.

The event included introductory remarks by Harris Miller, Jim's opponent in the Democratic primary, who was gracious to attend and promote Democratic unity in the campaign against George Allen. Former Lt. Governor Don Beyers, who supported Miller in the primary, also showed up to lend his support to Jim's campaign.

Mark Warner gave a rousing talk to the crowd, followed by Jim with his usual plain-spoken, no-nonsense, common-sense discussion of the issues and importance of this race.

Both Miller, who is Jewish, and Webb, drew laughs with quips about the incumbent Senator's newfound Jewish roots. (Webb's comment was the irony of the Allen campaign attacking Webb's bloggers, who are Jewish, for being anti-semitic.)

What we really enjoyed most was the energy and enthusiasm of the large crowd.

A day later we supped with a right-leaning friend who confided some concern about Allen's campaign. While he thought Allen would pull out a win, his view was that "Allen's presidential ambitions are toast--no one's impressed with how he's handled this campaign."

We can only hope!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does Your London Bridge Go Down?

How come every time you come around my London, London bridge wanna go down?

If you're our age and don't have any teens or preteens around the house, you're wondering, "what the heck has the Curmudgeon been smoking?"

If you do have teens, then you know that's the refrain from the hit song "London Bridge" by Fergie (a.k.a. Stacie Ferguson), also the lead singer in the mega-group Black-Eyed Peas.

Our 11-year-old suddenly became quite interested in pop music a few months ago and now insists, along with his similarly infected 8-year-old brother, on listening to his favorite music while being shuttled around in the Curmudgeonmobile.

So we ride around, listening to the latest hits in rap, rock and pop on the top-20 channel on XM Radio. We have to say, many of the songs have their charm, which is a good thing as they rattle around in our brains for hours on end.

They also take some explaining. For example, Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous Girl" (the 11-year-old has quite a crush on Nelly) required an explanation of the meaning of promiscuous. (We said it's someone who has multiple boy or girlfriends.)

Then there's Chamillionaire and their song "Riding Dirty," which is about racial profiling.

We still haven't figured out exactly what it means to have one's London Bridge go down, but we have a sneaking suspicion it's not something we'd want to explain.

A lot of the songs, as with any generation, are pretty fluffy and meaningless, and easily confused. Like "Me 'n U" and "U and Dat." It appears songs have become text messages.

Unfortunately, many of today's songs, especially rap, are filled with profanity. The boys are not allowed to download the "explicit" versions, but they, of course, know the lyrics to them anyway.

And now we find some of these tunes creeping into our everyday conversation. Like Kanye West's "Golddigger". ("Have you met Stan's new girlfriend? I'm not saying she's a golddigger . . ."). Or Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go" (Curmudgeon to child returning from friend's house: "where'd you go? I missed you so.")

Of course, it's only a matter of time--if we continue to show any interest in today's pop music, the boys will soon gravitate to something else. We just hope it's not the Greatest Hits of the '70's! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Women in the Military--How Webb Should Respond; Debate Tidbits

Jim Webb continues to pay a price for a 27-year-old magazine piece saying women can't fight in the military, cleverly resurrected by the George Allen campaign to deflect attention from Allen's macaca moment.

So far, Webb hasn't been particularly effective in responding.

Here's what he needs to do. It's not enough to just "apologize".

Instead Webb needs to say something like this: "It turned out I was WRONG. Dead wrong. Women have made a huge contribution to our military. [Then he should cite some--Marine Colonel Adele Hodges, Commander of Camp LeJeune, would be a good one.] I'm glad that those initial female cadets at the Naval Academy and all their successors proved me wrong, and I do apologize to them for any problems my article caused them." (He could expand a bit on the apology.)

"My friends, it's important to admit when you're wrong, as I have just done. Unfortunately, Sen. Allen has yet to admit that he and the President were wrong on Iraq. They have yet to admit that they misled Americans on Iraq. They have yet to admit that they mismanaged Iraq and are still doing so. You can't fix something that you don't think is broken . . ."

In addition, it would be nice if the Webb campaign could round up some women in the military who do support him--we're sure there are plenty--for a few campaign appearances.

Allen's Grandfather Jewish? Not an Issue

We're with the folks who boo'd a reporter who asked Allen if his mother wasn't really Jewish. Allen is not Jewish folks, and it really doesn't matter whether his mother or grandfather were, or were not.

Allen: Glad to Help Those Who Can Help Themselves

Here's Allen's idea of how the government should help Americans: health savings accounts, support for small businesses and efforts to invest in technology. All of these are upper middle class welfare programs. Most people, for example, don't have the discretionary income to take advantage of the tax advantages of health savings accounts; no big surprise, the richer you are, the bigger benefit you get out them.

When it comes to helping those who need it most, however, Allen turns up his nose. He opposed increasing the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised in years and which doesn't cost the government anything.

Allen is right about one thing: "this isn't a one issue campaign." He's the one out of step with the vast majority of Virginians on a whole host of issues--the economy, taxes, energy, the environment. He's one of those guys who thinks we still need to study global warming (take a look at the money he's gotten from oil companies who spout doubletalk on global warming).

And so it goes. Bring it on, George!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Webb and Allen Debate on Meet the Press

Yesterday morning Jim Webb and George Allen debated on Meet the Press. The central issue between them was the war in Iraq and, more generally, the war on terrorism.

The most telling moment came when Tim Russert asked Allen if more U.S. troops should be sent. Allen completely dodged the question, saying only "we're going to need to do what it takes to succeed."

What, Senator Allen, would constitute "success" in Iraq? If the answer is "avoiding civil war and restoring order" then we clearly need more troops. If the answer is "preventing Iraq from becoming a haven for terrrorists," then we clearly need a new strategy.

This, of course, is where Republicans supporters of George Bush, of which there is no greater rubber stamp than George Allen, are at their most maddening. Having created conditions ripe for civil war by mismanaging the invasion and its aftermath, and having created a terrorism problem where there was none before, they offer no solution to their self-created problems because they know the solution would be so unpopular they'd be booted from office.

Instead, Allen claims that Webb--whose son is a marine fighting in Iraq RIGHT NOW, is in favor of "cut and run."

Most Democrats do not favor "cut and run." They do favor doing something different, including getting rid of the folks who got us in this mess.

While we're on the topic of Iraq, the Washington Post yesterday had a fabulous in-depth article on how the Bush administration insisted on political purity over competence in staffing the Iraq reconstruction program.

The article makes you want to gag: Bush's people made sure that only Bush's people were put in place, going so far as to ask some applicants whether they supported Roe v. Wade! The result, as with many other agency appointments in this screwy administration, was the appointment of unqualified people to taxpayer funded positions. Worse yet, those same people went on to bungle the reconstruction, just as Bush's friends at FEMA bungled Katrina.

If Democrats succeed in taking over at least the House in November, you can bet that more of this crap will come to light in subsequent hearings and investigations. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 15, 2006

Water Conservation: Why Don't Homes Have Urinals?

Here's how you know you have too much time on your hands: you start asking questions like "why don't homes have urinals?"

It seems like a good idea. Today, most newer homes have at least one gigantic master bathroom that certainly would accomodate a urinal in addition to the traditional commode.

Urinals use less water than commodes. While the amount of water savings varies, depending on the type of unit used, a standard urinal typically uses one gallon per flush, while a standard toilet today uses 1.6 gallons per flush.

Let's assume that the roughly 150 million males in America would use a home urinal three times a day (being at work, school or somewhere else part of the day) if they had one. And let's assume that they would save .6 gallons compared to a toilet for each use. That comes out to water savings of 270 million gallons per day. Not bad!

A further benefit of home urinals would be to end to debate over whether it's the man's or the woman's responsibility to put the toilet seat down--it could always be down.

We suspect part of the problem is building codes and plumbing connection fees--in many localities, there is a charge for each toilet connected to the local sewer system. Others limit the number of toilets that can be connected to a septic tank. Perhaps municipalities should experiment with exempting urinals as a means to encourage water conservation.

Tradition may also be part of the problem, but we don't know why--virtually every public men's bathroom in the country has at least one urinal. It's not like it's some new-fangled contraption men aren't used to.

Perhaps this is an issue the urinal ice lobby can get going on! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Longe Range Weather Forecast II--Still Gloomy

Back at the beginning of summer, the Curmudgeon conducted a little experiment to test the accuracy of long range weather forecasts. Our conclusion, after a brief test of the data, was that the five and ten day forecasts typically found on a weather website such as The Weather Channel's amount to no more than a toin coss in terms of accuracy.

We also said we'd extend the experiment and report on the results later. Herewith, a report on the more extended data. We'll make another run at some point in the winter months to see if the long term forecast fares better in colder weather.

(Today, the area's weather forecasters predicted intermittent steady to heavy rain throughout the day. They were wrong. By noon today, the rain will have moved out of the region, leaving us with a cloudy and damp--but not rainy--afternoon. Certainly not the washout that was forecast.)

To recap the experiment, we asked the question: What if I want to plan an outdoor activity in Arlington between 1-6 pm on the day in question? If the forecast was for a 50% or greater chance of rain, we would plan to stay indoors. If less than 50%, we'd plan for outdoors. We also gave a generous +/- 5 degrees on the temperature forecast before we'd say the forecast was wrong. (I.e., if the actual temperature was within 5 degrees of the forecast temp., we said the forecast was accurate.)

In our initial experiment, the 10-day forecast was correct only 43% of the time--worse than a coin toss. The five-day forecast was better, being right 61% of the time, which is still not much comfort if you really needed to rely on it.

We extended our observations to roughly six weeks--from June 9 to July 20--and here's how we came out.

Ten Day Forecast

The ten day forecast improved a bit over the longer observation period, but still was just barely better than a coin toss. Out of 35 observation days (some days we had no data), the 10-day forecast was correct 18 times and incorrect 17 times, for a 51.4% accuracy rate. In short, there's really no point publishing a 10-day forecast with the current state of the art.

Five Day Forecast

The five day forecast stayed the same in terms of accuracy. It was correct on 23 out of 37 observation days, for a 62% accuracy rate.

What may be the most interesting observation here is that the five day forecast really wasn't much more accurate than the 10-day forecast. We would've expected that the five additional days would result in a vast improvement in the forecast, but it didn't. In other words, there's really not much point in having a 9-day, or an 8-day, or a 7-day or 6-day forecast either, because the extra days don't help the accuracy meaningfully.

In contrast, our observation was that the one-day forecast--i.e., the forecast for the following day--was generally quite accurate, exceeding 90% (the missed days were almost always due to a short-lived thundershower). Thus, the accuracy rate does improve considerably between the five day and the one day forecast.

We'll see how the experiment goes in the winter months, when weather patterns can be more stable. For now, however, our conclusion is this: weather forecasters are little better than a monkey with a coin when it comes to predicting the weather more than 5 days out. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Would George Allen Have Said to Isaac Ho'opi?

Last night, while sitting at Fed-ex Field watching the Redskins bungle the first game of the season, we watched a halftime ceremony to honor those fallen at the Pentagon on 9/11.

The ceremony featured Pentagon police officer Isaac Ho'opi, a dark-skinned native Hawaiian, now resident in Virginia, who on 9/11 rushed into the gaping fiery hole in the side of the shattered building and carried out eight people, while guiding another 15-20 to safety through the smoke with his booming bariton voice. Officer Ho'opi led the 90,000 fans at Fed-ex field in a moving rendition of "God Bless America."

Watching him, we couldn't help but think: what would George Allen say if he encountered this husky dark-skinned man with the unusual last name wearing civilian clothes at some public event? Would he welcome Isaac to America?

Nancy Reagan's Objection

We weren't going to say anything about Nancy Reagan's objection to Jim Webb's first campaign ad, featuring a brief video clip of President Reagan praising Webb's military service in a speech. After thinking about it, however, we can't see why Webb shouldn't use the clip.

By using the actual video from Reagan's speech, Webb avoids distortion or misquotation of what Reagan actually said.

While we understand Ms. Reagan's concerns, we don't think she can validly insist that no one, at no time, can use her husband's image in a political context. Ronald Reagan was a politician, a public figure and a President--his words are part of the public record and they should be available for use. Posted by Picasa

Bush: All Talk, No Action

Last night W told the country that the war in Iraq is one that must be won, otherwise the country will not be safe from terrorism.

As oft-stated here, we disagree--the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terrorism, draining critical resources away and fomenting anti-American anger abroad.

Put that aside for a moment. Let's suppose the President is right. Then what the heck are he, Cheney and Rumsfeld doing? Obviously, we aren't winning that war right now. Indeed, the Washington Post reported yesterday on a classified memo from the Marines' top intelligence officer in the region stating flat-out that Anbar province--the largest Sunni province in Iraq--is hopelessly lost.

Furthermore, in recent weeks troops have been withdrawn from fighting the war in other parts of the country so they can stabilize Baghdad before it falls into irreversible civil war as well.

So, if Bush is really right--that we have to win--then he should be sending in more troops. He should be expanding our military capability so we can cope with the war in Iraq as well as other security threats (such as the real threat from Iran, which openly armed Hizbullah in Lebanon).

Today's Post carries an op-ed piece from conservatives William Kristol and Rich Lowry saying that "more U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment. . . . The president should therefore order a substantial surge in overal troop levels in Iraq . . ."

Problem is, Bush isn't calling for more troops; he isn't doing anything--just staying a course that clearly isn't working.

Sometimes we hear from Republican friends that they admire Bush for being "steadfast," "resolute," blah, blah, blah.

As many Americans are finally figuring out, that's a bunch of BS. Bush doesn't have the courage of his convictions. He knows politically that asking for more troops would further hurt his standing and that of his party. So rather than do what it takes to win this war that supposedly we can't afford to lose, he chooses the path of lesser resistance.

And that, as much as anything else, is why this President will go down in history as one of our nation's worst.

Monday, September 11, 2006

George Allen's Minority Round-up

Yee-ha, Macaca! Head 'em up and move 'em out boys--time to round up the minorities for a photo opp! Get those dark-skinned folk in heah so I can put my arms around 'em, show 'em I like 'em as much as I like Real Virginians.

Yep, good 'ol George Allen hosted a special event over the weekend in Fairfax County to feature his support from various ethnic minorities, just to show that, macaca or not, he's got friends with dark skin too. "Welcome to America, folks . . ."

Problem is, go to one of Georgie Boy's regular campaign events--one where his staff hasn't worked the GOP phone lists, looking for people with strange sounding names--and it's pretty much all white folks.

We at the Curmudgeon don't have anything against white folks, but Jim Webb and other Democrats don't have to hold a special event to showcase their support from ethnic minorities.

More Good Poll Numbers

More macaca fallout: some of Allen's supporters claimed that recent polling showing George in trouble merely reflected that all those suburban white people were on vacation before Labor Day when the pollsters called.

Whoops! A fresh Mason-Dixon poll (conducted after Labor Day) shows Allen's lead having shrunk from 16 percent at the end of July to just four percent (pretty much in the poll's margin of error). Allen leads 46%-42%, with plenty undecideds--which is about where other polls have recently put the race.

9/11: In Memoriam

To all those innocent workers in the World Trade Center towers, to the brave passengers and crews of the four hijacked airliners, to the men and women working in the Pentagon that day, to the hapless guests and staff at the World Trade Center Marriott, to the incredibly courageous first responders, you are in our hearts today, as always. We salute you, we remember you, we will carry on.

And to all those who have since sacrificed their lives and their bodies fighting in Afghanistan and other parts of the world to right this wrong and secure our country, and to those brave soldiers who have sacrificed in Iraq to fix a mess created by misguided leadership, we honor and remember you, we thank you and we're grateful for your service. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mad As Hell On 9/11 Anniversary

Here at the Curmudgeon, we try not to get angry. Curmudgeonly, yes; snippy, true. But not angry, if we can help it.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, however, we are mad as hell.

It's been five years now, and this moronic incompetent Bush Lite administration continues to bungle the response to 9/11.

We know this: the attack was set in motion by Osama Bin Laden from Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it.

So what did the assholes at the White House do? They mounted a nominal response to Osama in Afghanistan, which resulted in temporarily setting back the Taliban and driving Bin Laden into hiding in remote areas of Pakistan. We installed a friendly new government in Kabul and we've kept something less than 25,000 troops in the country. Today, the Taliban is resurgent and Osama continues to direct his terror operation.

Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney and their ilk used 9/11 and the country's outrage as an EXCUSE to start a war they were planning long before 9/11, which they KNEW had nothing to do with 9/11, and which ultimately has created more terrorists than it has destroyed. As a consequence, we have 125,000 of our best troops tied up in Iraq fighting an insurgency we created--it didn't exist before we got there. At the same time, we are powerless against Iran and North Korea as they develop REAL weapons of mass destruction.

Osama must be laughing in his cave.

If anyone would've been able to look into a crystal ball on 9/12 and report that, five years later, we still wouldn't have caught the guy responsible, a crowd would've lynched W on the spot when he gave his speech at ground zero.

But what's really galling is that we're not even trying to get Bin Laden--if we were, we'd have 125,000 troops in Afghanistan, we'd tell Pakistan to take a hike if they didn't like us going across the border, and we'd choke down until we captured this criminal.

Occasionally, like this morning, I'll see someone sporting a "W '04" or "Re-elect Bush Cheney" bumper sticker on their car (usually a gas-guzzling SUV) and I'll wonder: don't these people have any self-respect? Are they idiots? Aren't they the least bit sorry they put these guys back for four more years?

We hope the American people are smart enough to see through the Bush-Rove-Cheney axis's current public relations offensive to convince people they are doing a good job. As a patriot and a Democrat who believes terrorism is a real problem, it makes me mad that these numbskulls are going around suggesting that Democrats would make us less safe. THEY haven't done shit--in fact, THEY have increased our risk by starting a war we didn't need while letting Osama go.

Wake up people! Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006

Allen Camp Horrified by Webb Ad Featuring Reagan

Not surprisingly, George Allen's campaign has reacted with shock and horror at Jim Webb's first television campaign commercial. No, it's not an attack ad. Indeed, it doesn't even mention Allen. (The mudslinging will come later, probably initiated by Allen.)

Instead, the ad features former President Ronald Reagan heaping praise on Webb--who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Navy Secretary under Reagan--for his valorious service in Viet Nam.

Memo to Allen campaign: quick, gin up a phony group of Viet vets to air ads discrediting Webb's service!

Allen's campaign manager, hatchet man Dick Wadhams, said the ad "reeks of hypocrisy." Well, Wadhams would certainly know something about hypocrisy, that's for sure.

As a Democrat solidly committed to getting Webb elected, the Curmudgeon has to say it is a bit eery to see an ad featuring Reagan. When was the last time you saw that coming from a Democratic candidate? (Probably never!)

Still, if the ad's got Allen's people sputtering--and clearly it does--then we like it.

To see the ad, go to:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New York Times Myth II--Obesity

As long as we're on myths out of the New York Times Magazine, we might as well comment on a two part series the mag carried this summer on obesity.

One of the parts ("Fat Factors," 8/13/06) purported to plumb scientific research linking obesity to viruses and other micro-organisms.

Here's all we really needed to know out of that article however: the average daily calorie intake of morbidly obese persons--more than 300 pounds--is something like 6700 calories. That's more than 3 times the roughly 2000 calories per day recommended for women, and 2.5 times the daily intake of 2500 calories recommended for men. In short, most really obese people are simply eating way too much food.

Recent research also shows that overweight people (not just those who are morbidly obese) are poor at estimating the number of calories in their diet, i.e., they tend to substantially underestimate the amount of food they are really taking in.

Sadly, nothing in either of the two parts of the Times Magazine stories dealt with the phenomenon of portion size and its impact on obesity rates. Since the 1960's, just about everything in American diets has gotten bigger--salads, appetizers, main courses and desserts. Even plates and bowls are bigger now than 30 years ago, and for gosh sakes glasses and cups truly runneth over.

Suggesting that the obesity epidemic is due to some virus or micro-organism is not really productive, nor is the science described in the Times Magazine article very persuasive. To be sure, there may well be some small percentage of persons who are overweight where an environmental factor at least plays a contributing role; certainly, genetics play a role as well. But genetics and micro-organisms have been around for millenia, and they haven't changed much.

What people really need help with is figuring out the proper AMOUNT to eat, and strategies for limiting themselves to such portions.

One small step forward on that front is so-called "100 calorie" portions--snacks and drinks conveniently presented in a 100-calorie package. These portions are generally much smaller than the mega-portions we've featured on this page in past posts giving out Gluttony Awards to obesity enablers.

While nothing will stop some people from abusing 100-calorie packs--eating too many of them--the economics at least discourage it. For those who are underestimating their intake while trying their best to stay healthy, such packaging is a big step forward.

Our message here continues to be the same: it's not what you eat, it's how much. Eat what you like, but keep your portions small. Especially when eating out, don't be afraid to leave food on your plate. And don't think there is "value" in consuming the largest combo at the lowest price. Factor in the value of your health!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Movie Myths From The New York Times

This weekend's New York Times Magazine brought an unintentionally amusing article about indie actress Vera Farmiga. The thesis of the article was that Hollywood no longer makes dramas with women in leading roles like the good ol' days of Meryl Streep and movies like Sophie's Choice. As a consequence, we are told, we'll never get to see that poor Vera is just as good as Meryl was in her day.

Like most retrospectives on the good ol' days, this one was written with rose-colored glasses on.

Assertion number one: unlike in the 1980's, today women are no longer cast as the stars of "mainstream studio movies." All that's available for women today are romantic comedies and "women-in-peril" films.

Whoops. What about Million Dollar Baby, a terrrific Oscar-winning 2004 flick starring Hilary Swank in the lead role. What about Monster in 2003 with Charlize Theron? Halle Berry in Monster's Ball in 2001--not mentioned either. All these movies received high critical praise and did okay--not spectacular, but okay--at the box office. (As we see below, Sophie's Choice did likewise.)

Then NYT goes on to say that Reese Witherspoon's Oscar-winning performance in Walk The Line doesn't count because, unlike Sissy Spacek in 1981's Coal Miner's Daughter, Witherspoon played second fiddle to Joacquin Phoenix. DUH! Since Walk the Line was about a male singer's life--Johnny Cash--it just figures the movie had a male lead. How do you compare that to a movie about a female singer's (Loretta Lynn) life?

Oh, but there's this: "In 2005, there was not a single female-driven drama that was a financial blockbuster." That's because North Country (with Charlize Theron), Proof, with Gwyneth Paltrow, and Memoirs of a Geisha were not in the top ten at the box office for '05.

Well, so what about those good ol' days of Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice (1982) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)? No sign in the top 10 for those years, either. In fact, 1982 featured such big hits as Porky's and Poltergeist--not exactly dramas with female leads either.

It is true that today Hollywood doesn't turn out many dramas with female leads. It's not true that in some bygone era Hollywood did turn out scads of dramas with female leads, which went on to become box office smashes.

The good news, however, is that today there are many more indie film companies and producers, as well as more and better vehicles--such as the Sundance Festival--for promoting them. And the indies DO put out quite a few excellent dramas every year, some with female leads.

In the end, it's not clear what this all has to do with Vera Farmiga. She's a talented actress who's played supporting roles in some nice indie films. The proposition that she is Meryl Streep in an age when they don't make movies for Meryl Streep, however, is bogus. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

George Allen's Bogus Engineering Numbers

Good ol' George Allen. By golly if he isn't "doing something" about one of our most pressing issues of the day! No, not Iraq, high gas prices, global warming, rebuilding the Gulf Coast, fair taxes, raising the minimum wage.

What you thought those were the big issues? Well let George tell you: its the engineer gap that's really bedeviling our country. And Senator Allen is there to help out. You see, according to George China is turning out 600,000 engineers per year, India 400,000, but the U.S. only 70,000. We're falling behind, dadgummit. Time to do something!

There's only one problem: Allen's numbers are bogus. The widely cited engineer gap was largely debunked (that means "disproved," George) in a study published by a group of Duke engineers about a year ago. It turns out that the comparison between U.S. engineers and those from China and India was a comparison of apples to oranges and grapefruits.

The 70,000 U.S. engineers per annum are those with engineering degrees from four-year colleges. It does not include many graduates with technical degrees in two and three year programs, nor does it include large numbers of graduates with degrees in the computer and information technology fields. In contrast, the numbers out of China and India include as "engineers" a large number of "graduates" from shorter programs who in the U.S. would be considered "technicians." It also includes computer and information technology workers, who in the U.S. are not classified as engineers.

Reworking the numbers, Duke concluded that the U.S. turns out 222,000 "engineers" per year (using the same operational definition as for China and India), compared to 215,000 for India and 640,000 for China. India has three times the population of the U.S., and also has a lot of catching up to do to reach the level of engineers per capita that we already have in the U.S. China has four times the population of the U.S. and likewise has a lot of catching up to do.

Even those numbers are a bit misleading, because the quality of the engineering programs at the lower, more technical levels in China and India are considered well below U.S. standards.

Bottom line: there is no engineer gap. There is no "problem" to fix. Allen is tilting at windmills, while he tries to cover up his role in the ongoing fiasco that is the Bush Administration.

You go, George!