Saturday, June 23, 2007

... and while we're at Quotes

"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."

George Bernard Shaw

To quote Robert McCloskey

"I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

Robert McCloskey (September 14, 1914 – June 30, 2003) was an American author and illustrator of children's books. McCloskey, well-known for his portrayals of New England, wrote and illustrated eight books, the most famous of which was Make Way for Ducklings, the 1942 Caldecott Medal winner.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Does Anyone Here Speak Arabic?

Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department.

That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic.

A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the shortage of speakers of Arabic, which the State Department classifies as “superhard,” is acute at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world.

As Tony Snow says, "“[Y]ou don’t snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight.”

Actually, if Bush were willing to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he could have more Arabic speakers overnight.

Personally, I think Berry Goldwater had it right about gays in the military when he said, "You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is certainly working well for us. Glad we've at least got our priorities straight.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

God willing ...

By David Horton
on Hiffington Post

After the recent fatal train crash in Australia, an elderly woman survivor was interviewed about what had happened. The crash was her fault, she declared, eyes staring in shock, and went on to explain that a fellow passenger had said to her 'You'll be home soon' just before the crash and she had said 'Yes I will'. The reporter looked puzzled and she went on to say 'I should have said "I'll be home soon, God willing". I left off the God willing and so we crashed'.

This woman, for perhaps 70 years had been carrying around in her head this twin fearsome vision of the world and how it works. First, you never know when god is going to inflict some terrible disaster on you, so you can never know anything about the future for certain. In fact the future is completely random, and no matter what you do it is impossible to influence it in any way. So there can be no certainty in your plans because God might decide, on a whim, to roll a boulder down a mountain, or put a lorry in the way of a passenger train. And, as if all that isn't terrible enough, God is watching and listening all the time, and if he notices that you have forgotten to say 'God willing' when describing the possible events a few minutes into the future, he will instantly strike you down, and, if necessary, kill and injure dozens of innocent people (all of whom might have been feverishly saying 'God willing' at the end of every sentence) just to get at you for your presumption.

Read the rest ... god willing.

I'll see your William Jefferson ...

and raise you one Giuliani campaign chairman.

Thomas Ravenel indicted on federal drug charges

June 19, 2007

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has just announced that State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel has been indicted by federal jury on cocaine distribution charges.Ravenel-Giuliani Ravenel, who was elected last fall, was named the Chairman of presidential candidate Rudy Giualiani’s (R-N.Y.) South Carolina campaign in April.

Said Giuliani at the time, “I’m looking forward to working with Thomas to continue sharing my vision across the state.” He may very well regret those words.

Here's it is ...

When Giuliani says he's tough on crime, you gotta ask yourself, "What's HE on?" At least now we know WHY Giuliani was looking forward to working with Ravenel.

When you come right down to it, no one's house is completely clean. However, it really is a hoot to watch those who've set themselves up as paragons of virtue and the sole keepers of America's values shoot themselves in the foot ... repeatedly. You'd think they'd learn after a while.

The courage of their convictions

by AC Grayling
June 19, 2007 11:00 AM

There is an immense difference between understanding something with one's head, and understanding it with one's guts. Think of the phrase, "the courage of one's convictions". This week the true meaning of these words, hitherto eroded into a flat nap-worn cliche by overuse and misuse, comes home with the force of a kick in the belly. For on Thursday June 21 in London, a group of people are going to take a stand for their principles in a way that involves real courage, admirable courage, and which at the same time lights a torch of hope in a dark quadrant of the world's affairs.

The occasion is the launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, following the establishment of such groups elsewhere in Europe, notably Germany and Scandinavia. The British branch is led by the outstanding Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born champion of (among other things) human rights, women, and refugees from religious persecution. The manifesto of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain eloquently speaks for itself, and I hope Maryam Namazie and her fellow-members of the council will not mind if I quote it here in full, because it deserves the widest publicity, not least because the 10 demands appended to it constitute a bill of rights which is absolutely necessary for everyone, non-religious and otherwise, to adopt and observe now that the world is again experiencing, with such bitterness, widespread religion-generated difficulties.

Read the full bit here ...

The full text of the manifesto is really worth reading ... its not long, perhaps a couple hundred words ...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jury Duty Scam

The phone rings, you pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You say you never received a notice. To clear it up, the caller says he'll need some information for "verification purposes" - your birth date, social security number, maybe even a credit card number.

This is when you should hang up the phone. It's a scam.

The rest is on the FBI web site ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Assimilation and "English ONLY"

I got a note the other day from a friend of mine who is a strong advocate of legislated assimilation and "English only" strategies in dealing with our immigrant population. It was followed this evening by another short note in which he said:

"What I don't understand is that our government doesn't help more people born here to achieve this goal. It sometimes appears that more opportunity is presented to people outside the country and funded with our tax dollars. "

I had to respond ... mostly because I don't agree with him but also because he's a very decent person and I think he really cares about the issues we volley back and forth like ping pong balls. Because he takes these things seriously I think I owe it to him to make a serious reply and because we don't agree, I believe it is more to our mutual benefit to make my case as rationally as I can rather than simply dismiss his thoughts out of hand ... and attack him as a person for holding different views.

The following is my rant in response to "opportunities" and legislated assimilation and "English Only" strategies:

I think government should be helping more people to achieve here in this country. Neither party seems to have a good grasp of the concept... though I will say that the concept is more alien to some than to others. The current administration and its allies in the Congress, however, have cut funding to student loan programs and have underfunded "No Child Left Behind" to the extent that virtually all of our children are being left behind. I won't even get into the erosion of our intellectual capital caused by the resistance on the part of some within our society to scientific thought and the scientific process (which demands that all assertions be supported by factual evidence ... a process which is prepared to abandon any theory when evidence presents a more rational course of explanation) - except to say that this group is very happy to embrace that same science they normally reject when they need a cure for a disease , a sharper television set, a smaller cell phone or a faster car. The science that gives them these things which they embrace is the same science and scientific process that outlines some inconvenient issues that need to be addressed - like climate change and its down sides - which are labeled "junk science" without recourse to how that might be the case.

I don't know that more people OUTSIDE (or from outside) the country are "given" more opportunities. Perhaps they make their opportunities from the sweat of their brows. My real estate agent told me today about a client of hers ... a little Chinese lady who cleans houses for a living (her husband is an engineer, by the way). Her hobby is buying homes. It's a hedge against her old age, she says. She's been doing it for 13 years now and owns 10 homes ... all rented out ... all making an income for her. And she cleans homes still ... raised three children, sent them to the better schools in the Tucson area .... they're in college now ... and she still cleans other people's homes. She's buying house number 11. She looks for them on the way to and from cleaning other people's homes. I'm impressed. No one gave her an opportunity. She worked ... and because any work was good work as far as she was concerned ... she always had a job.

My grandfather came to this country without much money .... actually, he had a debt to the people of his village in Poland who pooled their resources so he could make his way here. He worked as a black smith on the rail road, married ... they bought a farm in the nineteen-teens and my grandmother raised chickens, sold eggs, milked the cows, made cheese, hoed berries, potatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, tomatoes and anything else that could be grown and sold at road side stands and to local restaurants or at farmers markets at 5 in the morning. They couldn't read or write. They knew no English ... They raised 8 children because they needed farm labor. My mother, a second generation, straddled both worlds ... the "old" country at home and the "new world" as a cleaning lady and then a secretary .. eventually working her way to several hours short of her doctorate degree in Education. My sense is that the opportunities they were given involved merely finding themselves in a place that had things that needed doing ... and they were willing to do whatever it took to make ends meet and to make a little ahead.

For myself, before you and I ran across each other at that company we both know and love so well, I had Mark Pollack type positions with a couple of record companies. Then I went through a divorce and became a full time single dad who temped at $9/hr. because he couldn't travel any longer. I came to the big "R" as a temp, working for Paul Castello ... the rest, as they say, is history. I've made a lot more - in the days before life on the Ranch - but I like my gig these days and my blood pressure has normalized.

Which reminds me about something that you mentioned in a previous note that I meant to answer ... about making English a "requirement" and people resisting assimilation.

Assimilation is a process that happens over time. It normally takes three generations ... it takes the people who come here, their children who are a transition generation and their grand children who are the assimilated ones.

My family is a good example. Neither set of grand parents (both sets came from Poland, by the way - on my mother's side they were totally illiterate Polish hillbilly's from the Carpathian Mountains - just across the ridge line from Dracula and Transylvania, incidentally. On my father's side, they were both reasonably educated - speaking Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and German with a little Solvak mixed in. My grandfather - on my father's side - was always reading ... reading the newspapers that came to him from relatives in Poland. He was a literate, educated man ... literate and educated in Polish.

Both my father and my mother grew up speaking eastern European languages AND English ... though my father, who did not start speaking English until he was in fifth grade - they moved from the country and the one-room-school-house, farm community where everyone spoke Polish into Frankfurt, just outside Utica, New York. He started Catholic school where everyone spoke English. So, as a kid, he learned another language. To the end he had problems with the "Th" sound in "Thomas" and insisted on pronouncing it like the "th" in "the".

When I was born, I was raised speaking only English. I was not taught Polish or Russian or German. My grand parents thought it would hold me back. My parents never thought it was necessary ... and I didn't know any better.

Three generations from speaking only POLISH to speaking only ENGLISH. The pattern has been repeated with every successive ethnic group that's come to this country ... with the exception of the English, for obvious reasons.

If you go to the Vietnamese communities in San Francisco or along the Gulf Coast - refugees from the Vietnam War - you'll find that those who are our age speak Vietnamese pretty much. Their children, who've been in American schools speak both. In the next generation, the grand children will have a Vietnamese heritage .. but they will be speaking English almost exclusively.

It happened with Polish Americans.

It happened with German Americans (except for the Pennsylvania Dutch who stil speak a variant of Low German and no one is insisting THEY learn English OR that they assimilate.)

It happened to the Italian Americans, the Czechs, and the Chinese railroad workers in the 1880s (though the assimilation took a little longer for them - we kept beating them to death with bigotry when they left their Chinatowns.)

There was ONE group with whom we did experiment - insisting on assimilation within one generation and English only. I think he experience they and we had is instructive. The group was the Native American population in this country. It would be worth it to read a little about places like the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where the Sioux and Navajo and Cheyenne children were ripped from their parents, sent half way across the country, forbidden to speak their native languages, and forced to speak English only. I think a read of the details would shame the heart of the most ardent supporter of "Assimilation Now". It was not our finest hour as a nation ... and they (and we) are still paying a sorry price.

The History of the Carlisle Indian School

The most embarrassing moment came during WWII when our military needed a way of communicating information from one place to another on the battle front ... a means of communicating upon which the Japanese could not eavesdrop. Fortunately, the Navajo preserved some of their language and, in spite of the enforced "assimilation" process of the previous 50 years, they were able to revive the intricacies of their language and develop the "Code Talkers".

Navajo Code Talkers

Assimilation happens ... it cannot be legislated.

Sorry to get off on a rant but I did want to address what you had written in your earlier note.


Above the law

'Signing Statements' Study Finds Administration Has Ignored Laws

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2007; Page A04

President Bush has asserted that he is not necessarily bound by the bills he signs into law, and yesterday a congressional study found multiple examples in which the administration has not complied with the requirements of the new statutes.

The rest is here ...

"Not necessarily bound by the ... law" ? I never thought I would hear these words uttered by the leader of the free world ... the president of a nation that prides itself on being a nation of laws.

... and if Clinton had done the same?

Where is the moral outrage on the right? It seems to me the odds are very good that our next president will be a Democrat. Perhaps it would be wise to consider the consequences when someone on the left gains the virtually unchecked powers accumulated by the "strong president" right. Are those on the right going to like it when the shoe is on the other foot ... or will there be a hasty flip-flop? Will there be calls to reinstate those quaint "checks and balances"? Will there be calls for Congressional oversight? Will there be legislators on the right actually reading the Constitution of the United States of America for the first time?

House Panel Says Records of E-Mails Are Missing

Published: June 19, 2007

WASHINGTON, June 18 (AP) — E-mail records are missing for 51 of the 88 White House officials who had electronic message accounts with the Republican National Committee, the House Oversight Committee said Monday.

The Bush administration may have committed “extensive” violations of a law requiring that certain records be preserved, the committee chairman, Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said.

Read the rest here ...

It seems there are a couple of questions you have to ask yourself:
  1. If its worth the risks inherent in breaking well established Federal law to destroy the e-mails, how grievous must have been the infractions conducted within the e-mails that were destroyed? I know a little about IT procedures, server technology and e-mail trails. Someone went to a lot of effort to remove all traces of these e-mails in question. Its more than just deleting them on the individuals computer. They have to be removed from the e-mail servers, as well as from the backup servers and tapes (or disks).
  2. How many people were involved? The article mentions 55 White House officials, but then there are members of the support staff, and IT professionals (who are well aware of the regulations). How many people does it take to make a conspiracy?
  3. Who are these people working for? I thought that, in a republic, the government was an employee of the people. This administration has made it abundantly clear that it represents only some of the people and has no interest in representing all of the people.
  4. If the Clinton administration had deleted e-mails on any scale remotely approaching the scale of this debacle, what would the response have been from the other side of the aisle? If one can imaging that the response might have been loud and forceful, then one must ask where is their moral indignation and outrage now?
  5. Given the scandals involving Gonzales, DeLay, Abramoff, Cunningham and a myriad of others ... is there a pattern here?

Looking like a duck, walking like a duck ...

Sometimes what looks like a conspiracy actually IS a conspiracy.

Interim Report on RNC Emails and the Presidential Records Act
June 18th, 2007 by Jesse Lee

"The Oversight Committee has been investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee and the Bush Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications. This interim staff report provides a summary of the evidence the Committee has received to date, along with recommendations for next steps in the investigation."

The rest is here ...

Monday, June 18, 2007


My wife is a medical transcriptionsit working for a major hospital on the east coast. Many of the doctors who dictate the medical notes that she turns into the written word for a living are, shall we say, from out of town? As a consequence, the following has a very special place in my wife's heart:

To get the full effect, this should be read aloud. You will understand what 'tenjewberrymuds' means by the end of the conversation. This has been nominated for the best email of 2005.

The following is a telephone exchange between a hotel guest and room-service, at a hotel in Asia, which was recorded and published in the Far East Economic Review:

Room Service (RS): "Morrin. Roon sirbees."

Guest (G): "Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service."

RS: " Rye ..Roon sirbees..morrin! Jewish to oddor sunteen??"

G: "Uh..yes..I'd like some bacon and eggs."

RS: "Ow July den?"

G: "What??"

RS: "Ow July den?...pryed, boyud, poochd?"

G : "Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry....scrambled please."

RS: "Ow July dee baykem? Crease?"

G: "Crisp will be fine."

RS : "Hokay. An Sahn toes?"

G: "What?"

RS: "An toes. July Sahn toes?"

G: "I don't think so."

RS: "No? Judo wan sahn toes??"

G: "I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what 'judo wan sahn toes' means."

RS: "Toes! toes!...Why jew don juan toes? Ow bow Anglish moppin we bodder?"

G: "English muffin!! I've got it! You were saying 'Toast.' Fine. Yes, an English muffin will be fine."

RS: "We bodder?"

G: "No...just put the bodder on the side."

RS: "Wad?"

G: "I mean butter...just put it on the side."

RS: "Copy?"

G: "Excuse me?"

RS: "Copy...tea...meel?"

G: "Yes. Coffee, please.....and that's all."

RS: "One Minnie. Scramah egg, crease baykem, Anglish moppin we bodder on sigh and copy....rye??"

G: "Whatever you say."

RS: "Tenjewberrymuds."

G : "You're very welcome."

The Unintended Benefits of the Mess in Iraq ... an opinion

by Gina Nahai on Huffiington Post

So you can create peace between Israel and the Palestinians all you want; you're not going to bring lasting calm and stability to the Muslim world. The only way that's going to happen -- and I realize I'm being politically incorrect here -- is if a balance of power is created and maintained within the various Muslim states -- something akin to the Cold War. Which means, among other things, that the United States needs to establish a Sunni-led government in Iraq. And the only way that's going to happen -- now I'm beyond politically incorrect -- is for Western powers to find and back a tyrant as cruel and bloodthirsty as Saddam. Or Qaddafi. Or Khomeini.

Could this be a quick look into the future?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

File Under: My imaginary friend is more real than your imaginary friend.

Brownback aide chided on anti-Mormon bid

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 17, 4:47 PM ET

An aide to GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback has been reprimanded for sending e-mail to Iowa Republican leaders in an apparent attempt to draw unfavorable scrutiny to rival Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

Emma Nemecek, the southeastern Iowa field director for Brownback's presidential campaign and a former state representative candidate, violated campaign policy when she forwarded the June 6 e-mail from an interest group raising the questions, the Brownback campaign said Sunday.

The e-mail requested help in fact-checking a series of statements about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Among the statements: "Theologically, the only thing Christianity and the LDS church has in common is the name of Jesus Christ, and the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith" and "The LDS church has never been accepted by the Christian Council of Churches."

Jesus wept ... read the rest of it here ...

And the works of William Shakespeare were actually written by a totally different author ... who coincidentally had the same name.

Things done in YOUR name ... and mine

The General’s Report

How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties.
by Seymour M. Hersh
The New Yorker

On the afternoon of May 6, 2004, Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba was summoned to meet, for the first time, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in his Pentagon conference room. Rumsfeld and his senior staff were to testify the next day, in televised hearings before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees, about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq. The previous week, revelations about Abu Ghraib, including photographs showing prisoners stripped, abused, and sexually humiliated, had appeared on CBS and in The New Yorker. In response, Administration officials had insisted that only a few low-ranking soldiers were involved and that America did not torture prisoners. They emphasized that the Army itself had uncovered the scandal.

If there was a redeeming aspect to the affair, it was in the thoroughness and the passion of the Army’s initial investigation. The inquiry had begun in January, and was led by General Taguba, who was stationed in Kuwait at the time. Taguba filed his report in March. In it he found:

Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees . . . systemic and illegal abuse.

Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.

Read the rest ...