Time to keep my mouth shut…

This article

A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in
Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20.

Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan. At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier were among the dead, NATO said.

Cheney said the attackers were trying “to find ways to question the authority of the central government.” The Taliban said Cheney was the target.

My heart goes out to those who were killed and wounded in this attack, as well as to their friends, family and other loved ones.

Now I will shut my mouth.


February 27, 2007 Posted by | politics/social | Leave a comment

Obama in Austin: Rose’s Report. Other topics as well.

Workout Notes I had an ok 2000 yard swim; 5 x 100 (free/back/fist/free) on 2, then 5 x (fly/free/back/free) then 5 x (100 pull, 100 swim) with no rest in 16:43. The latter tired me out a bit.

Then Vickie gave a nice yoga class and I had a good chat with Steve Foster.

City Elections Today

The City Council Primary vote was today; voter turnout is usually pathetic. For what it is worth, I used my five votes for Gary Sandberg, George Jacob, Patti Sterling-Polk and Eric Turner. The views of the candidates (ok, a response to 4 questions sent out by the newspaper) are here.

All Hail Limited Government

Also in today’s paper is a nice article on some of the food problems we are having, as well as recent FDA underfunding. So if you hear the wingnuts drone on and on about so-called limited government, think about this.

The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

“We have a food safety crisis on the horizon,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.

That’s not all that’s dropping at

the FDA in terms of food safety. The analysis also shows:

– There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who concentrate on food issues.

– Safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency’s own statistics.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FDA, at the urging of Congress, increased the number of food inspectors and inspections amid fears that the nation’s food system was vulnerable to terrorists. Inspectors and inspections spiked in 2003, but now both have fallen enough to erase the gains.

“The only difference is now it’s worse, because there are more inspections to do – more facilities – and more food coming into America, which requires more inspections,” said Tommy Thompson, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services pushed to increase the numbers. He’s now part of a coalition lobbying to turn around several years of stagnant spending.

Failing to keep up

The Bush administration’s budget request for 2008 includes an additional $10.6 million for food safety at the FDA; the lobbying group said 10 times that increase is needed. Even though the FDA increased its overall spending on food between 2003 and 2006, those increases failed to keep pace with rising personnel costs.

“It’s not just outsiders like us who have been watching it for a while. People who worked in the Bush administration are coming out and saying the agency is not working at its current resource levels. It just can’t manage the job,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

All Hail the Free Market: its affect on the media
The Peoria Journal Star is being sold, and to cut costs the paper has offered buy-outs to some of it’s senior staff. Hence the paper has gotten thinner as of late.

But what is happening here is happening many places; newspapers are going under. Why? One reason is media monopolies; this is an issue that Senator Barbara Boxer is all over:

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report “indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public,” according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

(Note: In June of 2006, the FCC announced the start of a new review of media ownership, including a “series of public hearings on media ownership issues at diverse locations across the nation”. That review is still ongoing.)

‘Every last piece’ destroyed
Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed. “The whole project was just stopped – end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was “dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer.”

Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer’s letter as of midafternoon Thursday.

Local ownership benefits
In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners “past or present” knew of the report’s existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was “shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?”

The report, written by two economists in the FCC’s Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of “on-location” news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules.

Community responsiveness
At that time, the agency pointed to evidence that “commonly owned television stations are more likely to carry local news than other stations.”

When considering whether to loosen rules on media ownership, the agency is required to examine the impact on localism, competition and diversity. The FCC generally defines localism as the level of responsiveness of a station to the needs of its community.

The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the public and within Congress. In June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency’s reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.

The report was begun after then-Chairman Michael Powell ordered the creation of a task force to study localism in broadcasting in August of 2003. Powell stepped down from the commission and was replaced by Martin in March 2005. Powell did not return a call seeking comment.

The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment. Brown has left public service while Alexander is still at the FCC. Yanich confirmed the two men were the authors. Both have written extensively on media and telecommunications policy.

Yanich said the report was “extremely well done. It should have helped to inform policy.”

Boxer’s office said if she does not receive adequate answers to her questions, she will push for an investigation by the FCC inspector general.

It is too bad. Local issues deserve coverage. And as bad as the Journal Star is, I learn things from it. And I think that my knowledge of national issues is enhanced by reading it because they carry columnists that I wouldn’t ordinarily read.

For example, I read todays Jonah Goldberg’s column. Goldberg is a right winger and I usually express contempt for his views. But today’s column was actually worth reading.

I bring this up by way of introducing a topic that I guarantee will consume pundits and talking heads about a year from now: Who is the more likable presidential candidate?

We’ll talk about this because we have ever since TV changed politics. I can spare you several weeks’ worth of a college course on modern politics by telling you that JFK won his televised debate with Richard Nixon (while Nixon won among radio listeners) because the scruffy and angry-looking Nixon seemed like he should be cruising schoolyards in a trench coat. […]

He then goes on to make an assesment of the current crop of candidates and then concludes:

Interestingly, the GOP has a significant likability advantage (and disadvantages almost everywhere else). John McCain may be unpopular with much of the Republican base, but Americans would love to go to the pub with him. Rudy Giuliani, too, seems like a good guy with whom to watch a baseball game at the bar. The super-polished Mitt Romney’s a tougher call, and Duncan Hunter would be a pain because he’d keep asking the immigration status of the busboys.

But the GOP front-runners (save perhaps Newt Gingrich) all have the advantage over Hillary. She may have star power, but you get the sense that most Americans would like to have their picture taken with her and then drink alone. With the exception of Sen. Christopher Dodd, I’d guess all of the Democratic wannabes are more likable than Clinton, too. Sexism probably is part of the equation, but not as much as Clinton’s defenders will claim. There’s room for perceptions to change as we get to know the candidates (though we already know Hillary pretty well).

Please don’t be scandalized by all of this. It’s just something to think about. For the record, I think everyone should vote based on principle. But principles are for a person; they’re less helpful when it comes to predicting people.

Of course, Hillary Clinton is actually liked by much of the rank-and-file


Conservative media figures are not shy in expressing their negative feelings toward Clinton. Time blogger Andrew Sullivan recently referred to her “cootie vibes” and declared, “I just can’t stand her.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough described her as “very shrill.” Glenn Beck previously labeled her the “Antichrist.” But the expression of such views is not limited to conservatives. The Hotline’s blog, On Call, posted excerpts from speeches by several Democratic hopefuls at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting. But, while Clinton was by no means the only speaker to raise her voice, she was the only one described by On Call as striking a “discordant note.”

Many in the media believe that most Americans — including many Democrats — also harbor unfavorable opinions of her. For instance, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes claimed on the December 9 edition of Fox News’ The Beltway Boys that, in the eyes of the “Democratic hordes,” Clinton is “not very likable.” And San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders said on the January 28 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, “A lot of people don’t think that she’s very likable.”

But recent polling data do not support these assumptions:

* The January 25 Time poll found that 58 percent of respondents viewed Clinton positively. The poll also found that more respondents would choose to have dinner with her than with any of the other 2008 presidential candidates. Indeed, 26 percent chose Clinton as a dinner companion, while 15 percent named Obama and 15 percent picked McCain.

* The recent Post/ABC poll similarly found that 54 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Clinton. (Nonetheless, media figures such as New York Times reporter Patrick Healy and National Public Radio’s (NPR) Juan Williams misrepresented the poll results to claim that she received a favorability rating of 41 percent. Healy even reported that this figure had concerned “[s]everal New York and Hollywood donors.”)

So Goldberg is wrong about that (as he often is) but he is right about likeability being a factor.

There are many shades of right-wing punditry in our country. Among the shadiest is Jonah Goldberg. With arrogance seemingly matched only by his ignorance, Goldberg was just being Goldberg when he offered this wager two years ago:

Let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now).

The two-year period comes due this Thursday. Even Goldberg now realizes his prediction was totally wrong — with poll after poll showing most Americans do not “agree that the war was worth it.” (Not to mention what Iraqis think of the war or Goldberg’s boast that “Iraq won’t have a civil war.”)

So shouldn’t Goldberg — or somebody — pay off the $1,000?

The bet was offered near the end of an overheated blogo-debate between Goldberg (at National Review Online) and Dr. Juan Cole, the Middle East scholar from University of Michigan. In proposing the wager to Cole, Goldberg goaded: “Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO.”

Ok, the bet wasn’t taken. 🙂

Speaking of likeable candidates: Rose sees Obama in Austin

Rose (my sister) went to see Senator Obama in Austin. Click on the link to read all of her report; here is a snippet:

The Senator wore a dark suit, white shirt, and polished shoes with slightly worn heels. Quick as a wink he had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he spoke for 40 minutes or so about health insurance for all, paying teachers more money, and bringing home the troops.

Only once did he bash the current administration, especially Cheney about their refusal to acknowledge how badly the Iraq war is going and this was much appreciated by the vast majority of the crowd. He addressed the fact that people said he did not have enough experience by saying he had been in Washington long enough to know things needed to be changed.

He told the story about him getting elected in Illinois and people saying he couldn’t win because of his race. I had no idea that southern Illinois had been such a racist area at one time but I was happy to hear that he won those folks over.

That he’s a dynamic speaker is a given and I was thrilled to see and hear him speak in person… but it’ll be a long year and I want to learn a little more from each candidate before I make my final decision.

She is in this photo (with the light blue-white visor on the right)

And she took this one:

There are more photos posted with her report.

Kudos to the Democratic Congress: they got an unintended but real compliment from Vice President Dick Cheney:

Cheney admits the truth — Democrats are forcing the Bush Administration to do its job on terrorism.

Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message to Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.

Presidential Candidates from the Republic Party:

Romney: pressure is on him to reassure other wingnuts about his being a Mormon:

Yes, Senator Orrin Hatch is a Mormon. But he is a Senator from Utah; no problem. Senator Harry Reid is a Mormon. No problem; he is a Democrat and Democrats embrace religious diversity. But Mitt Romney must convince the right wing nut-jobs that vote in the Republic Party primaries to vote for him, and that can be a huge problem:

As he seeks to become the first Mormon U.S. president, Republican Mitt Romney faces a dilemma in courting conservative Christians who often dismiss his religion as a cult but now could decide his political fate.

Should he address his religion head-on in a speech, as John F. Kennedy did in 1960 to Texas Baptists while campaigning to become the first Roman Catholic U.S. president?

Or should he resist debate over a religion that evangelicals, who are key to winning the Republican primaries, often view with suspicion?

“It’s a delicate balance, but I don’t think the strategy of ignoring this is going to work,” said Boston University professor Julian Zelizer. “At the moment he seems not to accept it as a legitimate issue and hopes that it goes away.”

The Harvard-educated former Massachusetts governor has cast himself as a more conservative alternative to favorites John McCain, an Arizona senator, and Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor.

That pitch is complicated by his inconsistency on social issues such as gay rights and abortion rights, which he once supported but now opposes, and misconceptions about Mormonism and its history of racism and polygamy.

The issue popped up most recently in Florida, a powerful state in the Republican nominating process where a heckler at a retirement community attacked his faith. “Sir, you are a pretender. You do not know the Lord,” the man said.

Romney, a polished communicator and a former bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replied: “One of the great things about this great land is that we have people of different faiths and different persuasions.

“And I’m convinced that the nation does need … to have people of different faiths but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.”

Ironically, of the Republic party candidates, he is the one I would be least troubled with as President. Yeah, he has flipped flopped on many social issues but I wonder how bad he could be if he could win in Massachusetts.

And speaking of Republic Party flip-floppers, according to some in the right-wing nutjob press, Senator John McCain’s campaign isn’t doing so well at the moment:

The John McCain candidacy, launched amid much hope, fanfare, and high expectations, may be dying before our eyes.

Even worse, it may go out with a whimper instead of a bang.

It may not end in an Armageddon style primary defeat, but just dry up from lack of support, money, or interest.

Throughout all of 2006, McCain sat atop the polls right next to Rudy Giuliani. In the Fox News survey of December, 2006, he was getting 27 percent of the Republican primary vote to Rudy’s 31 percent. But, after Giuliani announced that he was running, the Arizona senator fell to 24 percent while Rudy soared into the stratosphere at 41 percent of the primary voters. But even when McCain was polling well, he wasn’t raising the money he needs for this campaign.

In the last quarter of 2006, during a time when he was tied for front-runner status in the GOP and doing well in general election matchups against likely Democratic rivals like Hillary Clinton, he raised only $1.7 million according to his filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Even worse, he had less than $500,000 on hand, pocket change in a presidential race and barely adequate for a run for Congress.

Part of McCain’s problem was that he wasn’t raising money. But the other part has been that he is spending money too rapidly — and not on reaching voters but on paying political consultants. One top Republican operative from the old Reagan campaign commented, “McCain has hired every consultant he can find. He has all the top names, but no money.”

What is McCain’s problem?

Why did he go from the most exciting candidate in the race a year ago to the verge of oblivion today?

Fundamentally, he failed to heed the Shakespeare’s admonition “to thine own self be true.” The John McCain of the 2000 campaign is nowhere in evidence in 2007.

Instead of challenging the party establishment, he pathetically waits at its door, hoping to be invited. Where he used to challenge the religious right, he now panders to them. Once he led the battle against big tobacco, for corporate governance reform, in favor of campaign financing changes, and in support of action against global warming.

Now he has been identified with two issues, neither popular in the Republican Party: The Iraqi troop surge and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Rather than stake out an independent voice apart from the Bush administration, he has become the last survivor at Custer’s Last Stand in its support of its policies.

Emphasis mine.

Blueollie “Moran” Awards

Today’s awards are issued to a blogger and to the readership at

First for the blogger:

He starts out:

Now that the orange and blue smoke has faded from the Chief Illiniwek controversy at the University of Illinois–my alma mater–I have a story to tell that will that will make the administration of the state’s flagship university wish for the good old days of defending the Chief.

So far so good…he then talks about an issue about the business school’s MBA program and it being available to military veterans. Ok, fair enough; I think that we should support the continuing education of those who put so much of themselves into national service.

He can’t help but take a crack at Senator Kerry and his botched joke:

With thousands of Illinoisans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan–many of whom, sorry John Kerry, have bachelor’s degrees and years of hands-on leadership experience, surely this would be a marriage made in heaven.

Ok, he opened his mouth… he then goes on to make what could be a legitimate complaint; basically, it was that it appears that perhaps some in the University of Illinois program think that “too many military types” are entering the program. If that is indeed the case, it is indeed offensive; this is a topic that deserves airing and discussion.

But he goes on, and remember that this blogger is writing this; he isn’t cutting and pasting (emphasis mine):

And then there was the complaint that there were two many “jarheads” in the program. That phrase, which caught my eye in the ABC 7 Chicago report, bothered me. So I asked van der Hooning who said that to him.

“Actually three people, John,” he told me. Professor David Ikenberry, Dean Ghosh, and Larry DeBrock, a professor and associate dean.

Hmmm, I am bothered by that phrase as well…if you don’t know why, the “moran” award is, in part, for you. 🙂 readership:

The Townhall webpage has a poll on what their readers think of global warming, with the votes each position obtained from the readership:

In your opinion, Global Warming is:
Alarmist myth created by liberals wanting more government. (5618)

More geological than man-made. Not much we can do. (4754)

A possible concern needing appropriate and balanced attention. (1872)

An undisputed scientific fact that we must address quickly. (463)

Ok, it is possible that some liberal “freeped” this poll to make the conservatives look like idiots. But I doubt it.

February 27, 2007 Posted by | family, hillary clinton, morons, obama, Peoria/local, politics/social, swimming | Leave a comment