Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Letter To Congressman John Gard From A Concerned Citizen

gard012605Dear Mr. Gard,

I am writing in regards to your appearance on WBAY-TV's four o'clock newscast on Wednesday August 30. You may remember me as your floor director. It was my professional responsibility to instruct you on which cameras you would appear and aid you in projecting yourself favorably on camera. Much to my dismay I was shocked by your impersonal conduct and your inability to even make an attempt at eye contact. Not only that, but you didn't bother to thank a single member of the floor crew before exiting.

Now, I understand some people have good days and bad, however, when running for office, an office that is amongst the highest in the land, this conduct is unacceptable. If this is a common quality of you and your campaign may I suggest public service is not an endeavor you should pursue further.

In the last presidential election nearly every member of my family and all of my friends voted Republican, and until your interview they were going to enthusiastically support the Grand Old Party during the midterm elections. From what I can tell the biggest liability to your campaign seems to be you. A day prior to your visit your opponent, Dr. Steve Kagen, made an appearance. His manner was nothing less than courtly and professional. I can confidently tell you that you not only lost my vote but the votes of all of my relatives as well. In closing, I would like to express how certain I am that you will lose your seat on September 12, a defeat you will be unable to blame on anybody but yourself.

Richard Basche

Disclaimer: All opinions or unflattering truths contained in the above letter are held by me alone and do not reflect the feelings of WBAY, their employees or their sponsors.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wisconsin PrimaryThis week is Wisconsin Congressional Race week at the news station so what we're doing is inviting all five candidates for three minutes of free air time. We lob the softballs and it's up to the candidates to hit them out of the park.

Our first guest on Monday was Republican candidate Terri McCormick. She entered the studio in a huff, unloading her bag and campaign pamphlets onto her doting assistant. Now, I'm not a political strategist but I seriously doubt if "creepy" wins elections because when her time started she did the Ross Perot thing and answered each question by looking directly into the camera, not only that but she looked into the wrong camera. After her free three-minute-long campaign commercial ended she hopped out of her seat, gathered her belongings and did everything short of running for the exit without thanking a single person.

Next, on Tuesday, we had Democratic candidate Dr. Steve Kagen. Talk about a 180 degree turnaround. When he stepped up to bat he took the time to greet both news anchors and shook the hand of the head meteorologist. On air he came across fabulously, outlining the failures in Iraq, the federal government's clumsiness under the Bush regime and how accountability so desperately needs to be restored in government. Not only that but his manner was less rigid, opting for eye contact with the interviewer instead of awkwardly staring into the camera for a thirty-second answer. The effect was one of genuine warmth as though we, the audience, were watching a budding friendship between he and the interviewer. Afterward he took the time to shake everybody's hand, not treating the floorcrew as though we were a displaced lepar colony. He recognized and treated us like what we were- his base.

Today, we were graced with the presence of Republican congressional hopeful John Gard who was still basking in the glow of Bush's annointing. For the most part he parroted McCormick's neologisms perfectly but with one notable exception. When asked what he would do to protect the country against the threat of terrorism he said we need to do whatever it takes to win which means not taking plays from the ACLU's playbook. You read that right, the ACLU is sinking its fangs deeper and deeper into the neck of lady liberty herself. You might even remember those latte-sipping, hemp-growing, hacky-sacking lefties defended rightwing hatchetman, Rush Limbaugh in West Palm Beach Florida. Screamin' liberal commies each and every one.

It's interesting to compare candidates and see that one is clueless (McCormick), one knows how to play the game (Kagen) and another knows how to play it better (Gard). I'm crossing my fingers hoping Dr. Kagen's concern for the voters will overtake Gard's forced charm. Vote Kagen, it's about time we get a doctor in the house.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Top Five Favorite Dylan Songs

bobIt's time to celebrate. Today Dylan releases his first album since 2001 (incidentally this is also my mom's birthday...happy b-day, Mommy!). Like so many people before me, as well as all those people yet to come, his music carried me through my formative years, seducing me with the rollicking organ on "Like a Rolling Stone" and captivating my imagination with his kaleidoscopic narratives in songs like "Mr. Tambourine Man". If Zimmy were just a one trick pony capable of nothing more than "finger-pointing" songs, as he called them, then he would have been a curious, if somewhat stirring, aside in the story of the Sixites. Luckily, he's so much more, expressing humor, introspection, longing and, my personal favorite, biting irony.

With a catalog this expansive and with themes this varied it's truly an impossible task to ask a fan to narrow down his or her five favorite songs. So, these are my favorites for today. Ask me tomorrow or next week or in a month and this list'll be utterly different. Feel free to add your favorite Dylan songs of the day, and don't forget to wish my Mom a happy birthday.

With God on Our Side

Girl From the North Country

If Not For You

Dont think twice, It's alright

Visions of Johanna

Sunday, August 27, 2006

swedish sealIf the world were a high school France would be the posh prom queen who never gave you the time of day, Canada would be the ineffectual - but well-intentioned - hall monitor and America would, of course, be the flabby, bellicose fratboy who only speaks in Al Pacino lines from the movie Scarface. But what of the Swedes? I contend they'd be the bookish kid in the back of class who quietly succeeds on every pop quiz and final, both studious and forgettable.

Those students usually grow up to achieve greatness. Take for instance the announcement Sweden made to shed their dependence on oil by the year 2020 without building a single nuclear power plant. The gas crisis of the 1970s looms large in Sweden's memory. It damaged their economy and with petroleum costs steadily climbing they want to prevent history from repeating itself. A country learning from their mistakes? A novel concept indeed. By supplanting fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy Sweden intends on avoiding a recession at the hands of exhorbitant gas prices - the black devil herself. Tax insentives, discounts on environmentally friendly vehicles and investments in research and development comprise their three-pronged attack. If the strategy prevails it could become a working model for other countries to follow.

My advice: we should stop heckling the prom queen and flicking the hall monitor's ear, and start paying closer attention to the bookworm in the last row, he might even help us with our homework.

Friday, August 25, 2006

oil spillWhat's becoming known as Lebanon's worst environment disaster ever is going largely unreported in the American media. During the Israel/Hezbollah conflict Israelis bombed a coastal power plant spilling 110,000 barrels of fuel into the Mediterranean Sea.

"Some of it became denser than sea water and sank to the bottom. It's like a big thick blanket that smothers living organisms," said Professor Rick Steiner who teaches at the University of Alaska.

When compared to the Exxon Valdez catastrophe this in many ways is worse. As the Valdez was three times larger consisting of crude oil this is fuel oil which was ready to be burned by the power plant. With fuel oil the problem takes a new shape, the substance is highly viscous, much more so than crude. Fuel oil adheres to rocks, vegatation, fish and other lifeforms inflicting widespread ecological devastation. Current estimates show that it will take nearly a year and $64 million to clean up the damage. Finland is helping foot the bill with a contribution of $800,000 toward the effort with potential support from other EU countries on the way.

For additional information visit:
Lebanon's Month-Old Oil Slick Sinks
The War's Other Victim: The Environment

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What are the Armor of God PJs?

armor of god

Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler - "License to Kill"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Even Steven" with Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell

Thursday, August 17, 2006

draft billFrom the looks of this we are all in trouble, the government is forming a coalition of the have-tos. Taken from the Library of Congress this bill, Universal National Service Act of 2006, requires anybody living in the United States between the ages of 18-42, including women, to serve a minimum of 2 years in the military. During the person's service the President reserves the privilege to extend their time of duty. Yet, with every cloud there is a silver lining, the bill contains a "Conscientious Objection" clause exempting anybody who claims they disagree with violence on ethical or moral grounds - but notice the paranthetical interjection: they will "be assigned to noncombatant service (as defined by the President)". Email Representative Rangel and tell him he'll lose his seat unless this piece of legislative overreach is killed immediately.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sleep Off

sleep off

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


When I was younger my family would take week-long road trips around the country. The first was to Florida at the age of 6 or 7, I remember the oranges dangling from the trees and visiting the gator park with an entrance shaped like a giant crock's mouth. During our second trip to Florida when I was 13 we swung through New Orleans to take in the sights, sounds and, of course, the smells of the French Quarter. It's a one-two punch; the mystical aura of the architecture, the people, and the music disarms you as the city's authenticity possesses you, the complete antithesis of the shrine we patroned on the final leg of the journey - Graceland. On our family's final road trip we visited Mesa, San Diego and Tijuana. California was beautiful. Each morning a thick, gray mist rolled off the ocean, as quiet as a ghost, filling our swimming pool before receding back into the Pacific.

In Bertand Russels' superb essay, In Praise of Idleness, he examines the dark, often unspoken flipside of wealth. Here he treats leisure as a commodity that should be distributed equitably amongst all classes. For instance, imagine a factory which makes widgets. The price of the widgets are as low as they'll ever be and the labor force manufactures them in perfect keeping with demand at 8 hours a day. All of a sudden a new technology emerges allowing for widgets to be made twice as fast and twice as cheap. Instead of firing half the labor force, cut everyone's hours in half but keep the same wage.

This approach has obvious benefits for society. The starving artist can create, the backyard astronomer can explore, the inventors can invent and the musicians can perform. With a surplus of leisure time on everyone's hands we would all be permitted to step back and take a breath. Even those who command no special talent can relax, go rock climbing, take harpooning lessons, enter Buffalo Wing eating contests. Whatever your indulgence might be you'd actually have time and money to pursue it. No longer should leisure be a status symbol guarded by the factory owners but a good shared by all.

Olbermann: Nexus of Politics and Terror

Monday, August 14, 2006

bush_365_217549cEven with the brouhaha swirling around the deterred terror attack in the UK by the MI5, Bush with echo chamber in hand could not pump up his overall approval rating which has plateaued at a feeble 36%. That places Bush well below Clinton's highest disapproval rating of 54% and above the lowest approval rating in Gallups' history, 23%, during Harry Truman's presidency.

The numbers break down as follows:
  • War in Iraq - 28%
  • Terrorism - 17%
  • Economy & Jobs - 11%
  • Price of Gas - 7%
  • Immigration - 4%

Hu's on First?
By James Sherman

(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the
Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we
should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you
get Chinese food in the Middle East?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Muslim America

"[W]hen I see them hanging from lampposts, with their guts hanging out, then I'll believe that there's a difference between radical Islam and the rest of Islam over there. But if I don't see that -- if I don't see the massive uprising against them, I can only assume that they're the shock troops of all of Islam in the Middle East." -- Michael "Savage" Weiner

"Let's go to the real source of the problem here. You cannot live with these radical Muslims. They don't want to coexist. They want to wipe you out or transfer you into being a radical Muslim." -- Bo Dietl

Admittedly, the above quotes are not gleaned from the most articulate voices of the neocon movement, however, it is important to note the Dietl statement aired in primetime on Neil Cavuto's broadcast without qualification and the aptly named Michael "Savage" Weiner disseminates similar vitriol three hours a day on his radio show. With the surpression of moderate, intelligent Muslim voices in the media an increasing number of Americans find Islam frightening and Muslims intrusive. Paranoia has heightened to such an extent that 4 out of 10 Americans would advocate issuing American Muslims I.D. cards while prejudice diminishes among those who know and are friends with practitioners of the faith.

Here's a few truisms that appear to be in dispute in the media at large: the Koran is not Mein Kampf, all of Islam is not tantamount to Nazism and you'll probably die of an environmental catastrophe before an act of terrorism. I was always under the impression that it was the job of the media to respond to polemic crowing with concise, reasoned responses. Yet, there is another side to that coin - it is our duty to listen to their response, or even better, generate one of our own.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Army World

High tuition prices getting you down? Want to take your mind off your boring, workaday existence? Kids harshing your mellow? Bring 'em down to "Army World," 125 acres of bone-crunching, shrapnel-dodging, grenade-chucking fun. This $300 million Virginia based amusement park exhibits the thrilling reality of combat, demonstrating how war is less like a video game and more like a few times around on the tilt-a-whirl. Command M-1 tanks! Defend your B-17! Subjugate an indigenous population! And don't forget, if you visit the enlistment booth before you leave the whole day is on the house. "Army World" is fun for everyone*.

*"Army World" not open to gays

Thursday, August 10, 2006

President Bush

Welcome to Green Bay, Mr. President.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

AOLAOL does it again. Everybody remembers that rude, 45-minute customer service call, well, this is way worse. AOL posted 20 million keyword searches to a website - "hundreds" of which contained sensitive information - for a research firm. The posted data included social security numbers, credit card numbers and customer names. In response an AOL representative issued the corporate equivalent to an "Our bad" stating they are sorry about their "screw-up" but at least none of the queries posted were linked to customer accounts. The 439-megabyte list of searches have since been taken down.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Here's a picture of Beirut. The left shows the city before the bombings and the right is after.


Special thanks to Terrorism News for the pic.

Iraq LebanonThis article blew me away, I read it and had one of those "A-ha!" moments. If I may be permitted to briefly reiterate some things we already know about Iraq, just so everybody's on the same page. To say the situation there is beyond hope would be a stark understatement: an escalation in the frequency of insurgent attacks, a wobbly central government, purely symbolic elections for local Islamic radicals, a spike in Sectarian clashes and a grossly under-funded, under trained internal police force point toward the clumsiness of our occupation.

Now turn your eyes to the west toward Lebanon, not the upended Lebanon of today but the Lebanon before Israel's military action. Even though the country had had more than it's share of conflicts in the past (civil war, Israeli and Syrian occupations, etc.) many times it remained stable enough to welcome refugees as diverse as Jordanians, Druze, Palestinians and Iraqis - a virtual Middle Eastern melting pot. Not only that, but Lebanon sustained a vibrant nightlife. In Beirut one could readliy see scantily clad beauties walking the streets alongside veiled Muslim women. And with the demonstrations in the streets last year effectively pushing the Syrian government out of the country the fortitude of these people should not be forgotten. It stands to reason that with American support Lebanon's willingness to promote democratic ideals could have been smoothed into the world's first functioning Arab democracy. But instead we're mired in the money pit that has become Iraq and the toppled buildings and bruised landscape of Lebanon no longer resembles what was one of the world's most significant missed opportunites.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pirates and Emperors

Friday, August 04, 2006

Health CareLast October my dad started experiencing stomach pains. At first he ignored it, dismissing the discomfort as an unusually violent case of indigestion. After a couple of months the pain became more frequent and more severe. Occasionally he woke up in the middle of the night clutching his stomach and moaning in agony. My dad's a tough guy, he worked for a retreading company for seven years, lugging and tugging semi tires around a large garage and stacking them in piles taller than his head, over time this puts a tremendous strain on the joints, needless to say his pain threshold is high. So it was a surprise to everyone when he said he needed to see a doctor. However, we couldn't afford one, my dad had little choice but to suffer silently. Nearly six months later he reluctantly made the call.

Thankfully it wasn't life-threatening, but he's still paying the medical bills today. This scenario is far from anecdotal, studies show more and more American families can tell similar stories and everybody feels the burden. That's why I'm baffled, why can't a proposal for Universal Health Care gain traction in the U.S.? With gas prices on a steady climb, the national minimum wage stagnating at a scant $5.15/hour and stricter bankruptcy laws the average American can't tighten their belts any further. No wonder social mobility has practically faded into memory, Europe - you know, those dreaded Socialist countries - well surpass us in this arena. Europeans revere their welfare state, over here it's shunned. Not every person requires a mansion complete with Porsche and Yacht, I just think in an industrialized nation - especially the richest of all nations - everybody should assist in providing a minimum standard of living. A logical first step would be universal health care. But until we reach that point I guess the moral is: If you want to live the American dream, move to Norway.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Open letter to Bush from an Arab girl

President Bush,

It has become extremely difficult to give you the benefit of the doubt on Lebanon, for you have left no doubt in our minds. We are now certain — like many of us have always been — that your foreign policy is completely biased towards Israel, and you have made no effort to hide this fact. Just out of curiosity: are they also drafted in Tel Aviv?

It is your choice, Mr Bush, to support Israel, just like it is our — the entire Arab and Muslim world’s — choice to support Lebanon. You insist that Israel has the right to defend itself. Defending oneself, I believe, is a universal right, not exclusive to Israel.

"The first Qana massacre did not quench the Israeli thirst for blood," it is said, graphically describing yet another Israeli crime against the innocents of Lebanon. In Qana, 57 armless, defenseless civilians died in an Israeli air strike, 37 of them were children. Maybe these numbers don’t matter to you, Mr Bush; they are mere numbers of the nameless Lebanese dead. But they matter to more than 200 million Arabs in the Middle East.

I quote our late president, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who in 1973 had said, "Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood." But it seems that Iraqi oil is dearer than American blood. I am somewhat relieved to arrive at this conclusion. At least there’s no racism against a certain group of people. Everybody is a potential sacrifice to secure US interests, even if it means sacrificing a whole nation.

No, Mr Bush, we will not accept, nor will we allow the sacrifice of more Lebanese civilians. A ceasefire should have been enforced two weeks ago. Was there a need for 37 children to die before you decided it was time for a ceasefire? How many more, Mr Bush, should die before you decide to stop sending those bloody weapons to Israel? Perhaps we can afford a sacrifice that will rein in your generosity towards Israel permanently.

We have a dream for a new Middle East. Not the "New Middle East" that you’ve been brainstorming in your Oval Office. It is the new Middle East that Middle Easterners have been dreaming of; a Middle East with no violence, and no US-made weapons to fuel that violence. It is a dream only we, Middle Easterners, are allowed to dream and realise it.

In Arabic we have a saying that goes, "They murder the murdered and walk in his funeral." Allow me to interpret this for you, Mr Bush: Your precision-guided missiles shipment has arrived in Tel Aviv. These missiles will "precisely" fall onto Lebanese villages; kill hundreds; and displace thousands more. (Evidently, we’ve just witnessed the first "precise" target in Qana.)

Yet you have "compassionately" been able to send aid to Beirut, at the same time, with supplies for the thousands of people directly and fatally affected by your vocal, (im)moral and military support for Israel. Please include US flags in your aid shipment to Beirut; they must have burned all the US flags in stock.

Mr Bush, Lebanon can and will be rebuilt, but lost lives cannot be restored. Your credibility and your government’s credibility have long been lost — irretrievably lost like those lost innocent lives. People will not forget this though. They will not turn the other cheek; they will retaliate — just like you had chosen to retaliate after 9/11. Retaliation is a value you have successfully promoted by putting it into practice, always.

I was born too late to see how the British Empire had collapsed, but right on time to see how the American Empire is falling apart. Mr Bush, You will surely be remembered in history for hastening that process.

With no more respect to offer,

Mira Al Hussein

Mira Al Hussein is a UAE national writer based in Dubai who has had a brief stint with the KT. She can be reached at

source: Information Liberation

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

iraq warThere is an essay that’s been hopping from one email address to another claiming it was written by a Dr. Vernon Chong, and even though that’s not true (the identity of the actual author is unknown) I would like to take some time and respond to it as I’ve noticed its sentiments represent a worrisomely large segment of the population. Take a few minutes and read it first then read the reaction below.

From what I can tell the author is a fabulous propagandist peppering his arguments with distortions, half-truths, and counter-factual spin. These types of scare tactics are commonplace and can fortunately be detected and disproved by the alert reader.

He mentions that during World War II Americans relinquished plenty of civil liberties only to have these freedoms returned to them in spades. As this is definitely true, with the second World War there was a clear objective, dismantle the Axis powers, and a blueprint by which we could attain that objective, after which our civil liberties were restored. In the current war the premise is a lot more nebulous. Now we fight an ideology, not Nations, for an indefinite period of time. If we handed over our civil liberties it may be for 10, 20, 30 years or more. This is unacceptable. What would make us a free nation if we give up our freedom?

The author also mentions our national division toward our war efforts, the crux of his argument being that primarily uncivilized, reactionary factions of Islam are to blame for these atrocities. As he could be correct in so stating, how can we be serious about who is the enemy when our own government is two-faced on who they claim as an ally? Our ties to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, despite internal strife and overt hatred toward the United States, are public and need no further elaboration. It was my understanding that a country was either with us or against us, yet these Muslim countries have it both ways.

Lastly, he makes a comment on the Abu Graib torture scandal, denouncing criticism of our treatment of the prisoners by stressing that the prisoners' crimes are more appalling than our crimes. This portion is perhaps the most laughable, merely listing their despicable actions does not justify our disgusting behavior. If we adopt the morality of terrorists as our own ethical yardstick we have already lost the war. One of the most damning elements of warfare is that both sides resort to such extreme measures in order to claim victory they begin to resemble each other. Unfortunately, this has already begun and it's people like the author who want to push us even further in that direction.

The burden of proof is incumbent upon the government, if they are unable to persuade - not manipulate - us into consent then they should not be allowed to initiate military action without consequence. It is not until they surmount this crucial first step that we should be willing to entertain a dialog about the duration of a subsequent war, suspension of civil liberties, etc. If we accept anything less than these terms we are doing ourselves, along with hundreds of thousands of innocents, a disservice.