Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"With 1,300 dead Iraqis - and counting - since the bombing of the Golden Dome last week, Iraq remains poised at the precipice of destruction..." So begins Robert Dreyfuss' essay, "Iraq: Preparing For The Worst" on tompaine.com. Dreyfuss discusses the latest failures of the Bush-Cheney policies in Iraq, and the un-likelihood of it being any better by the November '06 mid-term elections here in the U.S.

In fact, while Bush would like to have us believe that everything is under control, and that American troops will be coming home soon, the opposite is actually the truth. We'll be sending more troops to Iraq for the foreseeable future:
* General Mark Kimmitt, "There might be a need for more American forces."
* Pentagon quarterly report dated February 17, "Coalition force levels will increase, if necessary, to defeat the enemy."

And the violence in Iraq gets worse, against Americans and other Westerners, and against Iraqis. A Civil War, Shiite against Sunni against a dozen other factions is brewing. We've unleashed the Devil, and now we're caught in the middle of a Tornado trying to keep order. Other Arab nations, meanwhile, are contemplating coming to the aid of their Sunni brothers, or their Shiite brothers, or their own self-interests.

But maybe that's just what Bush and company wanted. A giant intra-Arab regional World War. Something to keep them busy killing each other, so that we can go about our business without worrying about them trying to kill us. Yes, that's the depths of skepticism, but what else is new?

How about a 50th Anniversary edition of George Orwell's Animal Farm, illustrated throughout in full-color glory by Ralph Steadman? I saw this over the weekend and was mightily impressed with Steadman's artwork. (Steadman is best known to many of us as the illustrator of choice for Hunter S. Thomspson's works.) This edition also includes other bonuses, including prefeces by Orwell from different editions. "Four legs good. Two legs bad."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We spotted this design on a t-shirt up in Calistoga yesterday:

homeland security - fighting terrorism since 1492
"Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492"

That's Geronimo on the right and I believe the two in the middle are his sons. The picture is from the mid-1880's during a peace conference.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"There is a very serious question as to why the records are not going to be maintained on American soil subject to American jurisdiction," said Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and a leading critic of the deal...

Leaks fuel anger at White House over ports deal - Times Online

No, it is not xenophobia or racism. It's national security, stupid. We should be questioning why any foreign company is gaining a controlling ownership interest in something as sensitive as half-a-dozen ports, and why that deal happened with White House assistance and secrecy.

Now, those who point out that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the United Arab Emerites are missing the point. That alone is no reason to disqualify the company. Over al, the UAE is one of our stronger allies in that part of the world. The serious question is over our ability to control what and who enters and leaves our nation. And that question should be asked whether the purchaser is from the UAE or the UK.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Now I'm officially going on too much about this, but I just can't help it. Yes, I'm talking about "Cheney's Chappaquiddick". For those too young to remember, that was when Ted Kennedy ran away from a drunk driving accident in which a young woman drowned as his car, which he had just driven off a bridge, sank in the Chappaquidick river.

RJ Eskow first made the Chappaquidick comparison, and in his latest article, he defends it as such:

  1. "Someone with a documented history of drinking problems causes a serious accident, and then avoids the authorities for a period of time - one that happens to be long enough to get the alcohol out of his system.
  2. "The first stories of the accident are confusing and self-contradictory. (In this case, since Cheney didn't speak himself, the most glaring inconsistencies are Armstrong's. Specifically, she - and now Cheney - describe her as an eyewitness, although she told the Associated Press she thought at first Cheney had suffered a heart attack. That would mean she never saw the shooting.)
  3. "A powerful figure holds himself out as being above the law, and - at least for a time - appears to get away with it.
  4. "When the powerful person finally speaks, allegedly to 'come clean,' there are still inconsistencies and glaring contradictions in his story."

To catch up on all the inconsistencies, click over to AlterNet for "Cheney's Buckshot Reader". Is Pam Willeford more than Cheney's hunting partner? Was Cheney boozing it up? What's Cheney's account of the shooting? Is the White House livid at Cheney's handling of it all? Did Dick Cheney break any hunting rules? Get the latest on the attempted cover-up.

But it keeps getting better... Just how much was old Dickie drinking? Media Matters reports that that keeps changing too: "Armstrongs' media accounts of the incident changed on a daily basis -- from claiming that nobody was drinking (February 13), to acknowledging that beer was available (February 14), to telling CNN that Cheney had a cocktail after the accident (February 15)."

By the way, are you even supposed to have "one beer" with all the medications that they pump into Cheney every day to keep his heart beating?

Now, I'm not suggesting that we spend $40 million of tax-payer money investigating whether or not he "had sex with that woman" or if "just one beer" is a fact or just the usual line that all drinkers give after an accident. I'd just like this to be treated like any other doddering old fool who, under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, shoots somebody in the face, neck, and chest, and then leaves the state to avoid detection.

In other news... the roster of "known and suspected international terrorists" has grown to over 325,000. To be fair, some folks are on their twice under different alliases, so the actual number may only be about 250,000, but damn!

As Timothy Sparapani, legislative counsel for privacy rights at the ACLU, said, "If we have over 300,000 known terrorists who want to do this country harm, we've got a much bigger problem than deciding which names go on which list."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It just gets more interesting every day... The man shot in the face, neck, and chest, by VP Dick Cheney has had a heart attack. apparently, some of the nearly two hundred of pieces of birdshot floating around his body have gotten a little too close to his heart, and are causing a bit of an issue.

And still Cheney has not been arraigned on any charges. Yes, he and the guy he shot have each been given warning citations for breaking Texas hunting law by failing to buy a $7 stamp allowing them to shoot upland game birds. But no charges for assault with a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment, attempted murder, etc.

I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure that if I were down in Texas, and I shot a man in the face, I'd have to prove in court that it was "just an accident" before I'd be allowed to leave the state.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My new book is ready to order! Introduction to Fund Development Planning is a 60-page workbook I wrote based on workshops that I have taught over the last few years. It is available in soft-cover for $12.96, or as a PDF eBook for $7.22.

For more information on Introduction to Fund Development Planning, along with ordering information, please see my consulting web site.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Vice President Cheney "accidentally" shot a fellow hunter, yesterday, while aiming for some quail. Luckily for the "friend," Cheney travels with a large group of doctors who were able to stabilize him while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. (Full Details)

Of course, it wouldn't be the information age if there weren't already satires out along with the news: Cheney Accidentally Bags Lawyer Out Of Season.

On the personal side, I've completely updated the 13th Story web site, with eight new articles on writing, including such topics as Understanding Editorial Guidelines, Writing a Book Marketing Plan, and Ten Steps to a Successful Magazine Query.

Friday, February 10, 2006

There's an old saying in California politics that I'm sure I've quoted before; "In California, whiskey's for drinking, water is for fighting."

Well, as it turns out, wine is for fighting too.

Most citizens of the Golden State are aware that the Grizzly Bear is our official state animal and that the Golden Poppy is our state flower. Perhaps they remember that the Quail is our state bird, and they might be able to guess that Gold is our state mineral.

Fewer will be able to say with any certainty that the Saber-Toothed Cat is our state fossil, the Grey Whale is our state marine mammal, the Dog-Faced Butterfly is our state insect, or that the West Coast Swing is our official state dance.

Now get yourself ready for the battle of an official state wine.

State Senator Carole Migden has introduced legislation that would make Zinfandel our state wine. That sounds great to a Zin lover like myself. Not so happy are the Carneros vintners whose buttery Chardonnay has been very popular in recent years, or the Pinot Noir growers of Santa Barbara, popularized by the movie Sideways.

On the plus side, Zinfandel has a special relationship with the Golden State that other varietals don't share. Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet, and the rest were popular grapes first outside California. Yes, we make them quite well and compete on a world-class level, but we didn't give birth to them.

Zinfandel, however, was a derided junk grape, brought here by immigrants who couldn't afford anything else, and couldn't get other grapes to grow in our soil. Over the decades, however, expert cultivation and refinement raised the lowly Zin from a jug wine filler to a major varietal and rival to Cabernet Sauvignon. The rise of Zin, not coincidentally, mirrors the rise of Napa Valley as one of the major wine producing regions on the planet.

On the other side is money. Like the never-ending battle over water rights, wine is big business in this state, and growers and vintners of other varietals worry that an official endorsement of one wine will hurt sales of all the others. They would like us to believe that naming Zinfandel the official state wine would be like making Chevrolet the official state automobile.

Yep, in California, whiskey's for drinking, wine is for fighting.

But, you know, even as a Zin devotee, I worry that the bills detractors may be right. The last thing I want is for everybody and their brother to be jumping on the Zinfandel bandwagon, making inferior wine out of hastily grown grapes from young vines. I don't want my hardy, old vine, Zins to be watered down to suite mass market tastes.

Popularity ruined Chardonnay and Merlot. I don't want the same thing to happen to my precious Zinfandel. So, sorry Carole, I can't throw my support behind your bill. I appreciate the feeling behind it, but let's just keep it to ourselves, okay?

More info from the SF Chronicle, SFGate.com

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Last week, at the Golden Globes, George Clooney slipped a little political joke into his acceptance speech. Clooney "thanked" convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and then added, "Who would name their kid Jack with the last words 'off' at the end of your last name? No wonder that guy is screwed up."

But that's not the end of the story. Jack's elderly father, Frank Abramoff, didn't like the joke. Little Jack, it turns out, is named for Frank's father. So, Frank wrote a two page letter to Clooney (which somehow wound up on every conservative newspaper editor's desk) with some choice insults (not worth repeating), going on to say:

"You want to make fun. You can do that, but you don't make fun of someone else's hardships and misery. ... But... When you see something like that on a show for 500 million people, it was not only a slap in my son's face but in my father's." Not only that, but Clooney's joke made Jack's 12-year-old daughter cry.

Without getting into whether or not the Golden Globes is the correct venue for such jokes, I just want to ask, isn't Frank's anger just a little misplaced?

Maybe his open letter should have been addressed to his son, Jack Abramoff. It was Jack's confessed crimes that was not only a slap in the face to Frank's father, but an embarrassment to our nation. It was Jack's confessed crimes that made him into a public figure that would be deservedly open to ridicule, causing the daughter to cry.

Sorry, Frank, but I'm not buying the outrage. This is a non-story designed to take the focus off the corrupt Republican administration in our Capitol and try to put the focus on those heartless Hollywood liberals. Nice try, but no sale.

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