best when viewed in low light


50 More Years in Korea

Oops! I mean, Iraq. So says President Bush.

I'd have a lot to say on this, but luckily, someone else said most of it first.

Bottom line, when Bush leaves office, there's no telling what the next administration will feel is appropriate with regards to our foreign policy, especially as it is guided by the war on terror.

But don't sigh with relief yet. There's a year plus of Bush-induced damage to inflict, and a presidential election that may or may not change the course of strategy.

But, hey, peace is totally overrated. And staying out of another country's business - that's just not our style.

In other, even more ridiculous fakery news, Bush is trying to coopt the global climate change agenda. How cute.

Or utterly absurd, depending on how you look at it.

But really, what is the world to do? If the US doesn't back some sort of plan, everyone else on the planet would have to reduce their emissions and carbon consumption by about 100% to even put a dent in the quantities this country produces.

So, what's the plan? Encourage him, praise him, let him toot his own horn, and hope that something rational will come out of the G8 conference.


Begging For Change

In the same way that watching human beings beg for small coins - soliciting, as it were, a token of acknowledgement from others - on the street makes my sense of justice crawl, so does the essential message of Mrs. Oneal Moore:

"You may not love us, but you don't have to kill us."

Mrs. Moore, MaeVella, is the widow of one of the first black sherriff's deputies in Louisiana. Her husband was killed at the age of 34 in his patrol car by a still-unnamed, -unidentified individual in a drive by shooting in 1965.

The FBI has determined recently that it now needs to reopen civil rights-related murders.

The sentiment behind both statements can be boiled down to the essence of disease that is undermining our society as we speak: too little, too late, maybe, but it's enough for us!

Why are we reduced to begging for change? Whether that change comes in the form of social, financial and educational guidance/foundation/opportunity, or whether it comes in the form of increased tolerance, acceptance and compassion. Perhaps the latter qualities are necessary to motivate the former responsibilities?

Whatever. We don't have them. And we drive ourselves to a point of desperation that demands only a meager showing on the part of our oppressors (that's us again!) to give us hope.

So, rather than solve racially-motivated wrongs of today, we dig in the crates for an excuse not to pay attention - to solve the cases that have only sentimental value now.

And, rather than solve the economically-institutionalized wrongs of today, we pass out pennies to assuage our conscience, watching as another human wilts on the street at our feet.

I'm so proud.

By the way, did everyone enjoy their holiday? Did you take note, for even a moment, that Memorial Day is 'celebrated' in honor of those that have died for our 'way of life'?

I'm thinking a funeral for our way of life is just about right.

FUCK! What will it take to demand love, to demand respect, and to get out there and earn it for yourself?

(Apologies: I just discovered, within the skin of a dear dear friend, the heart of a bullshitter. The bitterness pervades all.)


Emissions Envy

It seems fairly safe to say that Kyoto was an abject failure. With the world's biggest polluters opting out of the increasingly-stringent protocols, it is clear that a new strategy needs to be put in place.

Japan's PM has decided to step up his role as a world leader, and encourage all those super-polluters to join in the save-the-world-from-human-destruction fun! Recognizing that not everyone wants to play, he says that "We must create a new framework which moves beyond the Kyoto Protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction." Too true.

So what's the problem?

Well, for one thing, the US is highly unmotivated to participate in emissions reduction across the board. The most recent attempt to reduce - initiated, of course, by the EU - has focused on the buying and selling of "pollution shares", so that the biggest polluters can continue on their current trend by strong-arming smaller, less financially powerful companies to cooperate with the rules.

In a market economy, this probably seems like the best solution, but it doesn't even attempt to make polluters responsible for their own outmoded systems. And for some reason, no one at the heads of these companies appears to acknowledge the most compelling incentive: over the long term, it will be more profitable to increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution. (...beCAUSE you have to keep people alive and healthy so that they'll buy your products!)

This seems so totally fucking obvious that I can't compute it any other way.

Do we plan to reduce our energy consumption when all the resources we exploit to supply our gaping maw with fuel are gone?
Do we plan to stop polluting when all these companies dry out because there is nothing more for them to manufacture?
Will we finally take responsibility when millions are dying for lack of clean air, water, and food?

A resounding YES! to all of these.

It's good to see that governments worldwide - and especially ours - are doing their jobs: providing for the common defense (Iraq, right?), promoting the general welfare (social security reform, anyone?), and securing the blessings of peace (ha!) to ourselves and our posterity...

Since our posterity is unlikely to be surviving much past the next century, no worries right?!

Go Green?

The Brits celebrate their green-ness by installing green carpet in Trafalgar Square.


New Element Discovered!

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named Governmentium.

Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert.
However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.

(Just kidding.)


Water Wars

If this is what they're actually fighting about, then everyone in the Middle East gets a huge round of applause, and 100 points for thinking ahead. Because pretty soon, all that oil we're fighting to control now is going to be utterly useless (plus, most of it will be gone by the time we get out of Iraq).

What I really want to know is: haven't humans been fighting over territory and resources since, like, THE DAWN OF TIME?
Should we be surprised anymore?
Should we be fooled by the ideological misdirection?

Should we figure out A BETTER WAY TO DEAL WITH IT?!

Can you sense my indignation? It rises every morning like a hissing, spitting, raging phoenix. And I like to pet it, feed it, and pass it on to you good people. (All three of you!)

NOW You Tell Us?!

Don't know about you, but my bullshit-o-meter is almost off the gauge!

Then again, since the Big Guy is calling the shots, does anything that happens regarding US policy in Iraq have to make sense?

Aaah, Now Isn't That Better?

[The following is the official transcript of President Bush's phone call to Nancy Pelosi: May 22, 2007, 11:11 pm]

President Bush: Nancy, darlin! How are ya?

NancyDarlin: Hi, Dub. I'm ok.

Dub: You're sounding a little down in the mouth. Everything ok?

NancyDarlin: Dub, stop kidding. You know perfectly well why I sound like this.

Dub: I know, Nancy Darlin, but you know I had to do it, right?

NancyDarlin: No, Dub, you didn't. You know just as well as I do that we're lost in Iraq! Why would you keep dumping money...

Dub: Now listen, Darlin, you're gettin yourself all worked up for no reason.

NancyDarlin: No reason!

Dub: That's right. Now, you've got nobody but yourself to blame in this.

NancyDarlin: What?!

Dub: It's true. And don't try to argue with me. What have I been sayin since we went to Iraq? Not even. Since before we went to Iraq? In fact, ever since 911 - Nancy, do I have to remind you what happened on 911?

NancyDarlin: Of course not.

Dub: Right. So I don't need to remind you that when those...those dirty Arabs flew those planes into that building that everything changed, right? And I also don't need to remind you that that was our moment! Our moment to show those ragheads and every other pansy-ass foreigner that we're in charge here, and we're gonna make the world safe for Democracy!

NancyDarlin: Dub, you're evading.

Dub: Nancy Darlin, I am not avoiding anything. I'm trying to tell you that I thought y'all did a good job! You really pulled together! And I haven't seen a Democrat pulling together on anything with another Democrat in years! I was really proud! Us folks up here at the White House were cheerin you on, Darlin! By the time that bill passed the House and went over to the Senate, I wasn't sure whether I wanted them to pass it or not! I almost wanted to see that bill on my desk. Now you know I wasn't goin to sign it, but I was really hoping you would make it all the way.

NancyDarlin: Thanks, Dub. I can't tell you how much that means to me.

Dub: Nancy Darlin, you don't have to. I know how these things work. And I knew that you knew that there was no way in hell that I was gonna let you crazy Democrats get in the way of me and my war. We're winning over there, Nancy! I can feel it!

NancyDarlin: Dub, I'm not sure that...

Dub: Really! I've been lookin at all sorts of classified documents, and you would not believe how close we are to winning! Just stay with me, Nancy Darlin, and everything will work out the way God intended. (pause) I'm not supposed to say this, now, Nancy Darlin, but I trust you and I'm real proud of the way you've been workin that Congress, so just keep this between you and me, ok?

NancyDarlin: Ok, Dub. What is it?

Dub: (in a whisper) He told me we were going to win.

NancyDarlin: Who told you? What?

Dub: He told me. (pause) The Big Guy.

NancyDarlin: Who?

Dub: The Big Guy. You know, G-O-D. He told me we were going to win in Iraq so that we could do honor to his glory and fight for righteousness all over the world. I know He won't let me down, NancyDarlin, so you just stick with me, and everything will be just fine.

NancyDarlin: (sigh) Ok, Dub. I'm with you. (pause) Listen, the next time you talk to Him, let me know, ok?

Dub: I can't do that Nancy Darlin, it's not something I can share. It's personal, alright? I just wanted to let you know that I had it on good authority that we were going to win, and you can't get more authority than that, right?!

NancyDarlin: (heavy sigh) Right. Dub, I gotta go. Get some sleep, ok?

Dub: I'm already tucked in, Nancy Darlin! You have yourself a good night. And remember, the Big Guy is watchin!


You Cease First

I guess that a ceasefire is a little bit like falling in love. You know you want to, but you're kind of waiting for the other person to say it first so that you're not the only one.

Everyone wants to be wanted! I completely understand. But that should not stop either the Lebanese Army, or Fatah al-Islam from acting on their true feelings!

Come on, you two. Everyone knows that you want to end the fighting, resolve your differences, and get on with your lives together. You belong together! And you've been together for too many years now to call it quits over some little skirmishes - most of the injured were civilians anyway!

You're cramped in a little refugee camp, you're trying to recruit or keep the peace - it's stressful! But you'll never get past this until one of you can stand up like a big boy and say: "I love you!"

No. I mean... "I agree to a ceasefire." (And mean it.)

So as long as you two keep putting on your "tough guy" act, and waiting for someone else to take responsibility, PEOPLE WILL BE DYING!!

See?! A ceasefire is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like being in love! It's actually a lot closer to being insane (which is a lot like being in love, but anyway)!


Revolution In Lebanon!

The youth of that stern, disapprovingly-parental region - the Middle East - will soon throw off that yoke of tradition and cultural restriction by engulfing themselves in provocative, sex-infused, soul-selling popular culture!

Let's go Generation Gap!

Item two on the agenda for the Next Generation of Al-Qaeda soldiers and anti-Western jihadists: political and social apathy.

(Now who's gonna knock down the foul architecture in New York City?)

Meanwhile, one of the numerous factions of some religion is killing the members of another faction of some religion.

Revolution Baby!

If I knew what the word sanctimonious meant, I'd have to say that this is it:

The latest from China is that the peasant farmers are sick of that whole overpopulation hullaballoo, and they're going to go on fucking and birthing babies no matter what the party leaders think! (Not much of a party when it's only the drugs and the rock n roll, right?)

It's just another sign of "Changing China".


Smart Sheikh

The ruler of Dubai is putting $10bn into education in the Middle East.

The program will begin with the following course of study:

M W F 9:00 - 10:15 am - Religious Tolerance
M W F 11:45 am - 1:00 pm - Gender Equality
M W F 2:30 - 5:00 pm - Techniques of Capitalism
T Th 8:30 - 10:15 am - History of Democratic Thought
T Th 3:45 - 5:30 pm - Understanding Western Popular Culture & Media


Ugh! What's News?

I just can't get my ire up today.

And when there are Bush vetos (vetoes?), resignations and possible resignations, immigration laws and fighting in Gaza in the news, that's just totally unforgiveable!

It's Friday. Read the news your damn self!

From the New York Times via AP:

May 18, 2007
White House Rejects Democrats’ Iraq Proposal
Filed at 2:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic congressional leaders on Friday offered their first major concessions in a fight with President Bush over a spending bill for Iraq, but the White House turned them down.

In a closed-door meeting with Bush's top aides on Capitol Hill, Democrats said they'd strip billions of dollars in domestic spending out of a war spending that Bush opposed if the president would accept a timetable to pull combat troops out of Iraq. As part of the deal, Democrats said they would allow the president to waive compliance with a deadline for troop withdrawals.
But no agreement was struck.

''To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement,'' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. ''I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here.''

White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten, who rejected the deal, said any timetable on the war would undermine the nation's efforts in Iraq.

''Whether waivable or not, timelines send exactly the wrong signal to our adversaries, to our allies and, most importantly, to the troops in the field,'' said Bolten.

At stake is the more than $90 billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress on May 1 sent Bush a bill that would have funded the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home Oct. 1.

Bush swiftly rejected that bill. Unable to override his veto, Democrats have been trying to find a way to pass a new bill by Memorial Day that funds the troops but still challenges Bush's Iraq policy.

The Democrats' reluctance to drop a timetable on the war is not a surprise. Party leaders, particularly in the House, are under substantial pressure from members not to cede ground in opposing the war, which is deeply unpopular with voters.

But because the latest proposal would allow the president to waive the troop withdrawal deadlines, many House Democrats would likely oppose the measure as too weak and Speaker Nancy Pelosi would need GOP support to pass it.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed this weekend on their own in drafting a new bill they could be widely supported in Congress. The leaders said the plan remained to send Bush a bill by the Memorial Day recess.

''It is clear that the difference between the president and Democrats is accountability,'' Pelosi said. But ultimately, she later added, ''Our troops will be funded.''

Also attending the meeting on Capitol Hill was Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, and Rob Portman, the White House budget director, as well as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Obey. Lewis, R-Calif., is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and Obey, D-Wis., is chairman.

The Democrats declined to say what their next bill will look like in light of Friday's meeting. But they insisted, as they have done for weeks, that nothing -- including a timetable on the war -- was off the table.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio accused Democrats of seeking ''an arbitrary surrender date'' and said the GOP has enough votes ''to sustain the president's veto on any bill'' along those lines.

Bolten echoed that, saying, ''the Democrats seem to be dug in on precisely the same approach'' that drew the president's earlier veto.

The White House chief of staff said Republicans had offered a proposal that was essentially what received 52 votes in the Senate this week. It would establish a series of standards for the Iraqi government to meet, and condition the flow of reconstruction funds on progress toward achieving the goals.

Bolton did not say so, but the legislation, advanced by Virginia Sen. John Warner and other Republicans, would have allowed Bush to override the proposal by ordering the funds to be spent regardless of how the Baghdad government performed.


Dead Babies - An Ode To BCT

Thinking of minor chords?

Just me, huh?

Whatever. Look this baby over... As the developing world begins to open up to individual freedoms, less restrictive social regulations, and progressive Western medical procedures, the US sticks its proverbial heels in the dirt and backs the FUCK UP!

The WHO has current statistics (PDF) on the number of illegal and legal abortions, as well as the number of deaths that result from bad medical practices. And an interesting bit on the "tipping point".

This goes back to the age-old question: Which came first? The woman or the fetus?

Asses & Elephants In The Room

Rarely does the media bother to police itself. And only in circumstances where a story can be made of it are the flubs and inconsistencies of media-friendly individuals ever noticed or questioned.

Luckily, we have one of those rare articles in the New York Times today.

I would be so impressed if someone were motivated enough to record all the "soft spots" for each of the candidates. It would be an interesting matrix of ignored and downplayed information - we could probably even develop a set of categories that all of the candidates would fall into.

Let's see, there'd be...

Failed Private Lives: Giuliani & kids, Bill & Hill & "sex", etc.

Failed Campaigns: Edwards for VP, Kucinich for Cleveland Mayor, Ohio Governor, Pres, etc.

Failed to Toe the Line: McCain on campaign finance, Thompson on Medicare, Gore on climate change, etc.

There are so many others... Suggestions?

Here's the list of all the potentials (with their campaign sites):

Steve Adams
Donald Allen
Alan Augustson
Joe Biden
John Bowles
Elaine Brown
Sam Brownback
Wesley Clark
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Christopher Dodd
John Edwards
James Gilchrist
Jim Gilmore
Newt Gingrich
Rudy Giuliani
Al Gore
Mike Gravel
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
Bob Jackson
Mike Jingozian
David Koch
Dennis Kucinich
Steve Kubby
John McCain
James McCall
Kent Mesplay
Barack Obama
Ron Paul
George Phillies
Bill Richardson
Mitt Romney
Christine Smith
Kat Swift
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
Tommy Thompson

Well, the field is full, and we have a long year + of campaigning to go before these are filed down to the two richest, best-connected, best-publicized, photogenic & media-savvy contenders.

Do I sound cynical?

The take-home message: Feel free to doctor your resumes, people. If a future president can do it, so can you! (And really, what's our obsession with honesty and accurate self-representation anyway? Our country was founded on bullshit! No, seriously, read some history.)

From the New York Times:
May 17, 2007
For ’08 Résumés, Don’t Ask Them to Fill in Blanks

WASHINGTON, May 16 — Stealing a page from the Soviet playbook, the current crop of presidential candidates has taken to eliminating whole chapters of their histories.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s turbulent final years as first lady? While Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, frequently invokes husband Bill on the stump, she has managed to avoid any mention of his impeachment and the unpleasantness leading to it.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, almost never brings up campaign finance overhaul, perhaps his signature achievement in the Senate. The McCain-Feingold law is loathed by many of the conservatives Mr. McCain is courting, and he typically only discusses the measure when opponents hurl it at him — as Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, did in a debate on Tuesday.

For his part, Mr. Romney likes to promote his experience as a governor, but is often coy about where he governed. (Hint: it is viewed by many Republicans as an outpost of run-amok liberalism.) In campaign ads running in early primary states, Mr. Romney boasts that he was “the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state” and “vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations.” But you would never know where.

Didn’t John Edwards once run for vice president? Mr. Edwards, a Democrat and former senator from North Carolina, tends to erase his stint as What’s His Name’s running mate four years ago.
It is no revelation that campaigns conspicuously omit things. There are always unpleasant facts, episodes or viewpoints that run counter to the public self a candidate is marketing. But one of the striking features of the 2008 campaigns is the pungency of the various elephants in the various rooms. Candidates are strenuously de-emphasizing or ignoring altogether experiences that are defining and, in many cases, extremely well known.

“There’s always a tension between what can be said, what should be said and what must be said,” said Edward Widmer, a historian at Brown University who worked as a speechwriter for Mr. Clinton. “The first candidate to calibrate this tension may move to the head of the pack.”
In recent days, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a Republican candidate, has spoken forcefully of his support of abortion rights, something that placed him at odds with many in his party, and something he spoke little about until recently.

Still unspoken, for the most part: Mr. Giuliani’s delicate family situation. His campaign Web site includes nothing about his children, with whom he reportedly has strained relations. They are, in effect, airbrushed from “Rudy’s Story” (the heading of the biographical section on the Web site).
While Mr. Giuliani has embraced his New York identity, Mr. Romney has effectively run screaming from Massachusetts, a prime breeding ground for presidential also-rans — Senator John Kerry, Michael J. Dukakis, Paul Tsongas and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, among others.

It is also a recurring villain among Republicans, a view distilled in a wisecrack by a former House majority leader, Dick Armey, Republican of Texas, when Democrats announced that their 2004 convention would be held in Boston.

“If I were a Democrat,” Mr. Armey said, “I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, America.”

When Mr. Romney does mention Massachusetts, it is hardly with native pride: Responding to a question during the debate, he referred to his home of almost 40 years as “that very difficult state” and “the toughest of states.”

In an internal Romney campaign memorandum obtained by The Boston Globe in February, Massachusetts is listed as a potentially effective “bogeyman” for Mr. Romney (along with “European-style socialism,” “Jihadism” and “Hillary Clinton.”)

“Romney is trying to say that he foiled a robbery in a brothel, the brothel being Massachusetts,” said Ralph Whitehead, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “But the question people will ask is, what was he doing in the brothel in the first place?”

Mr. Romney chose to formally announce his candidacy in Michigan. He grew up there. His dad was governor there. He spoke effusively about the place (“We love Michigan”), and of how he’d always dreamed of coming back.

During a speech last month, Mr. Romney waxed poetic about a recent trip to his summer home. In New Hampshire.

When uncomfortable topics do emerge, campaigns can become touchy, underscoring the extent to which they have rendered the subject taboo.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign did not respond kindly, for instance, when David Geffen, a supporter of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, made critical comments to the columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times about the former first couple, with allusions to Mr. Clinton’s “reckless” conduct. A spokesman for the former First Lady promptly called on Mr. Obama to disavow Mr. Geffen; he demurred, and the elephant that is the Clinton marital history receded, for now.

Mr. Obama has presented himself as a fresh face, unsteeped in Washington and the proverbial “politics as usual.” It is, to be sure, a cornerstone of his appeal, but also an effort to turn what many could see as a potential handicap — his inexperience — into an asset.

Mr. Widmer, the Brown University historian, says that owning up to a perceived shortcoming can “provide a healthy exhalation” for a candidate, “if a politician’s exhalation can be said to improve air quality.”

Just as he rarely talks about his vice presidential campaign, Mr. Edwards can be equally reticent about his time in the Senate. He has promoted himself in this campaign as a Washington outsider, an anti-war, anti-poverty crusader (Elephants crossing on Little Guy street: Mr. Edwards’ eight-figure wealth, gigantic home and $400 haircut).

Others have been haunted by their legislative history. Mr. McCain has been attacked over the McCain-Feingold law by a host of Republicans, including Mr. Romney in both candidates’ debates.

In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News last month, Mr. McCain characterized campaign finance as a Beltway issue.

“Outside of Washington, I never have anybody stand up and talk about McCain-Feingold,” he said. “There’s nobody who ever does.” Himself included.

Brownie Points

I was right, of course.

Gordon Brown gets the vote for PM when Blair heads out. Yay!

Even though Brownie is surely softening his image these days, there's something essentially hardcore about him.

This is going to be interesting...


Aren't They Proud?

It's rare to find a group of people that look so totally self-satisfied...
...except in the US Senate! (Too easy not to, right?)

But seriously...

They've rejected any spending limits on the Iraq war - isn't unchecked, irresponsible spending supposed to be the realm of the Democrats?

If higher spending equated to "winning" this "war", I'd be totally in support of it. If cutting spending resulted in an end to this "war", I'd be totally in support of that.

Neither of these strategies presents a logical solution to the issues that face us in Iraq, or in the War on Terror, or in the homefront battle of political power-plays.

Have fun congratulating yourselves.

From The New York Times:

May 16, 2007
Senate Rejects Iraq Funding Cutoff

WASHINGTON, May 16 — Democrats who are highly critical of President Bush’s Iraq war strategy suffered a stinging defeat today when the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a measure to cut off money for the military campaign by March 31, 2008.

The measure, in the form of an amendment to an unrelated water-projects bill, was effectively rejected, 67 to 29, with 19 Democrats voting against it in a procedural vote. Sixty “yes” votes were required for the measure to advance, so it fell short by 31 votes.

Though the vote was largely symbolic, the outcome was nevertheless significant, in that it underscored the divisions among Democrats over how to oppose the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, as well as widespread fear of being seen as undercutting American troops.

Today’s vote was preceded by an emotional debate. “Too many blank checks have been given to this president,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, who was a sponsor of the cutoff measure along with Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.
“As we speak, more than 150,000 brave American troops are in the middle of a violent civil war,” Mr. Feingold said. “Meanwhile, the president has repeatedly made it clear that nothing — not the wishes of the American people, not the advice of military and foreign policy experts, not the concerns of the members of both parties — will discourage him from pursuing a war that has no end in sight.”

“Congress cannot wait for the president to change course,” Mr. Feingold said. “We must change the course ourselves.”

One Democrat voting against Mr. Feingold’s measure was Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He has been critical of the administration’s conduct of the war, but he said he did not want to send the wrong message to American soldiers. “We’re going to support those troops,” he said.

Moderate Republicans who have been critical of Mr. Bush’s war strategy also rejected the Reid-Feingold amendment. “I don’t think it’s responsible,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine said. “It’s a disservice to the brave men and women who are fighting in Iraq.”

No Republicans voted for the amendment. The only non-Democrat who did was Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont who usually votes with the Democrats.
Afterward, backers of the amendment said they were not discouraged.

“Nothing is off the table,” Mr. Reid said. “The goal remains to fully fund our troops and change course in Iraq.”

Mr. Feingold said he was heartened by the vote. “Today, a majority of the Democratic senators said it is time to end the mission as we have it and to bring this mistake to an end,” he said. “That is a huge change.”

The symbolic vote was also important in terms of presidential politics. Two candidates for their party’s nomination in 2008, Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, said for the first time on Tuesday that they would support legislation to curtail major combat operations in Iraq by March 31, 2008, cutting off financing for all but a limited mission of American forces. Both of them were among the 29 who voted “yes” on the procedural vote today.

“We are doing everything we can to influence the president to change the war in Iraq,” Senator Clinton said shortly after the vote. “It’s very important for us to do all we can to try to express the will of the American people.”

But when asked by a reporter whether she supported the underlying idea of the Feingold bill, to cut off financing for major combat operations next spring, she declined to say yes or no. One day earlier, a spokesman said the senator supported the legislation.

“I’m not going to speculate on what I’ll be voting on in the future,” she said today.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton made separate announcements on the eve of today’s Senate debate concerning the use of the Congress’s power of the purse to bring the war to an end. For weeks, the two senators had declined to state their positions, but they issued statements after rivals — and liberal groups — criticized their silence.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Democrat of Connecticut who is seeking to draw more attention to his presidential candidacy, began broadcasting advertisements on Tuesday in states with early primary elections, highlighting his support for the legislation. “Unfortunately, my colleagues running for president have not joined me,” he said. Hours later, at least two of them did.

As the Senate prepares for final negotiations with the House over Iraq war spending, presidential politics have, once again, become intertwined with the debate in Congress. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, aides said, had resisted signing onto the plan, fearful of being portrayed as cutting off money for the troops, even though supporters say the bill will not prevail.

The defeated Reid-Feingold measure called for a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days. Senate Democratic leaders agreed to let the Feingold proposal come up for a vote on Wednesday as a prelude to negotiating with Republicans and the White House over an Iraq spending plan.

Mr. Obama said he did not believe that cutting off money for all but a limited mission was the “best answer.” But he concluded he would support it, he said, “to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it’s long past time to change course.”

Mrs. Clinton, who has struggled to explain her initial support of the war to some potential voters in Democratic primaries, said she would vote to support the Feingold plan “because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war.”

The dispute over the war spending bill has consumed Congress for weeks and prevented the administration from getting the roughly $95 billion it is seeking for the Pentagon for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vote today allowed those Democrats most opposed to the Iraq war to vent their frustration before the Senate proceeds to efforts to find a compromise with the White House over war spending.

Mr. Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, have been negotiating over how to win quick Senate approval of a preliminary war spending measure, so that compromise talks can begin with the House and White House over a final bill. Mr. Reid was adamant on Tuesday that Congress would not break for the Memorial Day recess until it produced a final Iraq spending measure that would be accepted by President Bush.

“We’re going no place until we finish this bill,” Mr. Reid said Tuesday evening on the Senate floor.

But Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the House majority leader, raised the possibility that meeting next week’s deadline would be difficult. If Congress does not meet the deadline, it will, for the second time, leave for a recess without finishing the Iraq spending measure.

While the Iraq votes on Wednesday may not have a significant impact on the immediate war spending bill, the results will reflect Senate sentiment on conditions in Iraq, which could influence the war debate as it proceeds throughout the summer.

Senate Republicans were offering options of their own. One included a proposal sponsored by Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and Ms. Collins, requiring the president to report to Congress on the progress in Iraq by July 15 and Sept. 15. The Warner-Collins proposal got 52 “yes” votes today, eight short of the 60 needed. Forty-four senators voted against it.

The proposal would have allowed some economic aid to be withheld if the president did not certify that Iraq was meeting benchmarks for success. But at the request of the White House, the proposal was changed to allow the president to waive that penalty.

While the two parties aired their public differences over Iraq on Tuesday, lawmakers and aides said the talks over a final spending plan still centered on providing money for the war tied to conditions on the Iraqi government to show progress in unifying Iraq politically and stabilizing it from a security standpoint.

“I think there’s widespread frustration with the Iraqi government, and, clearly, these benchmarks are going to be directed toward the Iraqi government and its performance, or — at least so far — its lack of performance,” Mr. McConnell said.

David Stout contributed reporting.


The Winning Of Hearts And Minds

It's a little late now to beef up security in Iraq by blocking off YouTube and MySpace.

Plus, aren't you guys a little behind? My office has had those sites, plus all the other ones you might want to waste your day away with (they even think they've blocked blogger...suckers), blocked off for years! Back when MySpace was like, the new Facebook, and Friendster was the old MySpace.

(I just checked the link to Friendster, and it's not even blocked, that's how lame it is.)

At this rate, the military will start requesting that the international news stop publishing their win/loss stats, and all the upcoming initiatives.

Censorship has its value. And if you're not using the tools that would actually work to keep either 1) your warriors completely engulfed in survival consciousness, or 2) the other side from being disgusted by your culture and arrogance, then just give it up!

Let our boys have their fun! They think they're coming home soon, anyway.

Comment = Grok

Hi. I changed the settings so that your comments will post without my intervention. This will probably make it easier and more immediately rewarding for you to do so.

That is my hope, at least.

And, since overstating the obvious is a hobby of mine, I like to refer to your comments here as "groks". (Look it up!)

A Cold War By Any Other Name

Is still a period of "conflict, tension and competition", despite what Condoleeza Rice may say.

I've missed Conde a bit in the past few months. She hasn't been quite the temple dog she used to be, and the news has sorely lacked her virulent, ultra-conservative evasions during this time of increasing international chaos. Thank whoever that they sent her to Russia.

I have to agree with her, though. I wouldn't call this a Cold War, and if I were Putin, I wouldn't take it personally. It's not as if the Bush administration has maintained cordial, open diplomatic relations with anyone over the past few years. Even the Brits have been pulling away.

I'd call this behavioral isolationism (sans military non-intervention). Or hegemony. Or unilateralism. But Cold War? Please!

Putin has a point, and he clearly understands good spin: Say what you mean by totally overstating the accurate description of the event. It works!

The humor is that Rice is meeting with the Russian biggies to get them to improve their democratic reforms.

(Cough, cough)

And they should be taking advice from us on that because...?

Terror Education

I could say, at my most skeptical and disillusioned, that all education is similar in substance, if not in literal content, to the learning prank pulled by a group of teachers in Tennessee last week. But I won't get into that. Now.

Fear is a powerful tool. One that can be used for learning, and one that creates environments where learning - or, to be more specific, intellectual and emotional growth - is impossible. The three most significant variables seem to be the duration of the fear experience, the intensity or immediacy of the threat, and the individual or collective tools/instincts for dealing with the threat.

Some teachers thought it would be a good idea - a "learning experience", if you will - to lock some 5th graders up in a dark room and start banging on the door, yelling threats at them, as a way to provoke the students into a frank and heartfelt discussion of school attacks. Apparently, the students had been warned about a "prank" before their weekend retreat, but they were told that this exercise was not a drill.

First, I don't think scaring the shit out of some kids really qualifies as a prank. You can call it semantics, but usually pranks are funny for both parties, once the joke is out. None of the students...well, actually, who knows what the students think? Their parents are fucking freaking!

Second, no one ever learns anything from a drill. I've been through a thousand fire drills, a few post-911 office disaster drills, a million in-flight emergency drills, and a bunch of spelling drills. I'm sure somewhere in the back of my mind, I can connect the stop-drop-and-roll mantra into action. I'm sure I could remember to line up and meet the rest of my team at the designated meeting point. I know that I'm supposed to put on my oxygen mask, and that whole "i" before "e" except after "c" thing is pretty clear.

But, when called to act, will I know what to do?

In a real fire, no matter where I am, I'm getting the fuck out! Line or no line, meeting point or no meeting point, I will push/trample/kill anyone in my way. No drill is preparing me for that, that is the point when my instinct to live will take over anything else.
Same in an airplane. If we're crashing, maybe I'll remember to put on my mask as we descend, but I can tell you for sure that I'm going to be the first, second or third person out that fucking exit door! Watch out, bitches.
If somehow my office were under seige, I can pretty much guarantee that I'm not waiting anywhere for my team, or for instructions from the fire department. I'm taking the stairs, and I'm running like hell, and I'm not stopping until I'm far away from buildings and I have a good view of the impending disaster. No joke.
Spelling, well... Let's just say I know how to spell. But I also know how to read, and I am a word-nerd, so I did a little extracurricular training.


My point is that the drills are basically a joke - you tell someone that it doesn't matter, and they're going to maybe store half the information you just gave them until they "need it" and they're going to never remember the rest having ever gone through their mind in the first place.

So, I would argue that the idea of drilling kids on how to react to a violent kid-killer situation is probably unrealistic at best, a total waste of time at worst.

If the kids were going to be able to use this experience as a learning tool, they probably would have needed to know what to expect a little more, but they wouldn't remember shit if it was a drill.

But plain common sense for the teacher - call the fucking parents and let them know before you plan to do this! If they want to give their kid the inside track so that you don't have 60 hyperventilating, asthmatic, anal expulsive 11 year olds crying and dying in a cabin on some school trip, then that's their option. They can mediate the impact if they choose.

They didn't ask. That's just assinine.

I also wonder how effective the teachers expected to be when the threat of violence on school campuses is partly a result of an interminable, unacknowledged, low-level fear of large-scale terrorist acts (among other things) pervading our entire culture.

And, just because I have to say this, no one is directly addressing the factors that 1) can prepare individuals and groups in this country to deal with the most obvious and destructive terror threats, or 2) acknowledge the psychological impact that this interpretation of reality is creating in the hearts and minds of our children and their parents.

No wonder we have devolved into consumption-blinded, intellectually self-censoring, politically atrophied, pseudo-citizens.

I dispute the choice of moment, the method and the execution of this "prank", but I applaud the teachers for making an attempt to arm their students with the tools necessary to prevent their own deaths. That's a good tool to have.

But, I wonder, what exactly were these teachers going to advocate that the kids do in that situation? Run? Hide? Stop, drop and roll?

What would you do?

Coming to the answer will reveal exactly who you are, like it, or not.


So Long, Tony!


It seems only yesterday that Tony Blair stormed the UK Parliament with his charisma, and a Labour party that had been slowly building up its armoury of right-leaning fiscal policies and left-leaning social policies as it languished in the shadow of Thatcher's Conservative juggernaut.

I've watched Mr. Blair go from a fresh, young, impassioned and dashing Prime Minister, through the inevitable popular dissatisfaction of his middle years, blossoming into one of the most consistent, ideologically pure, effective modern leaders in the world.

And now it's time for him to go.

I loved him for reengaging the process of devolution.

I was annoyed by his inability to dramatically reform the NHS.

I hated him for joining up with Bush in Iraq, wishing that he could have held on to his judgment long enough to review the circumstances before jumping into a culture war that his inwardly-traditionalist nature dictated must be won by "our side".

I loved him for having the peace of mind to start withdrawing troops when the glimmer of winning was finally gone from that conflict.

I'm sure if I were British, I could develop a much more conprehensive and balanced list of his successes and failures. But there is beauty to feeling a sense of real admiration from afar. It's like crushing on the Prom Queen, not knowing that she gives hand jobs in the back seat of all the bad boys' cars.

Talk of Gordon Brown's succession has been in the mill for years, and I have my fingers crossed for him. He will never be the golden boy - sidekick to caped crusader is an impossible transition - but he does have the opportunity to continue with his moderate fiscal policies, and with a calculating brain like his, bring a lot more of the British social institutions under some semblance of control.

I don't for a moment doubt his ability to play on the world stage - he is a big personality that has been the wind under Tony's wings for so long. He could benefit from a more personable public image - a few paparazzi photos of him engaged in his personal exercise regime, and walking dogs with the Queen should handle that.

He also presents a slightly tougher persona, and is likely to be a good sparring partner for Bush in his last days. Mr. Brown is no follower, and will likely play an important role in encouraging a withdrawal from Iraq, as well as offering a more practical mentality in global politics.

But I assume too much.

The contest is about to begin, and I will be jealously monitoring the short, egalitarian, platform-focused election, awaiting the results with baited breath!

But for now...

Farewell, Mr. Blair! You have been much loved, and will be sorely missed.


Second Life Lessons

The BBC News reports that a search is underway for the perpetrator of a virtual violent crime. Huh?

Two issues seem relevant in this case:

1) Should behavior in Second Life be subject to the same social regulations as in RL?

2) Should Real Life law enforcement be allowed to cross the boundary into Second Life to pursue a criminal?

The answer to either of these questions is, as with all things virtual, up for debate. The German government, and Linden Lab have already made their decisions, but do they understand the implications?

First things first. Morality is subjective. The social code that we live by in the United States today would horrify our great- great-grandparents, as it horrifies our contemporaries in other countries and cultures.
Marriage after 30, much less 20?!
Unemployed children?!
Interest on financial loans?!
Alcohol consumption?!
Free speech?!
Recreational tattoos?!
Interracial sexual relationships?!
Regulation of industrial monopolies?!
Women owning property?! And voting?!
Religious tolerance?!
Income tax?!

Oh, the horror!

What is now considered correct has been or will be considered a violation of all that is good and right in the world at some point or another. And morality is a function of so many things - religious beliefs, culture, social status. I harp on this a lot, I know, but my goal is to cure people of a belief in an absolute morality. There is no such thing.

That is not to say that there are no absolutes. There are: birth and death. Nothing else is absolute or certain.

So, from my perspective, the freedom that is currently allowed in Second Life is a good thing - one that may allow humans to explore their beliefs, their identity, their desires, without the infiltration and judgment of today's "real world".

Second, I am not a supporter of child pornography, but I am not in favor of condemning those that are. Ever read Foucault's The History of Sexuality? The separation of children from sex and sexuality until age 18 is a modern social invention, and it is patently false.

All humans use their physical superiority to force others into doing things they don't want to do. The relations of children and adults are only one example. In the realm of sex this can be immensely damaging to the child who is an unwilling participant. But what about adults? That's called rape, not child abuse, but it consists of exactly the same interpersonal dynamic. And there are models for this behavior everywhere, good and bad.

The worshipped high school quarterback and the detested bully are the same guy, they just use different modes of manipulation with their constituents.

The United States military uses its fiscal, physical and numerical superiority to the same effect.

When force comes into play, it is always the same game. If the IRS couldn't eventually send its enforcement arm to collect, would you ever pay your taxes? If the police couldn't arrest you, a judge put you in jail, and a jury condemn you to a punishment up to and including death, would you refrain from murder? drug use? robbery? extortion?

It doesn't matter now, because your choice is this: cooperate or be forced to cooperate, or die.

And last, but not least, the virtual boundary that (metaphysically) distinguishes Second Life from Real Life is forever disrupted by the intrusion of RL expectations and regulations. I would argue that the cooperation of Linden Lab in this matter signifies the beginning of the end. If participants can not feel free to live their fantasy (which for some may include child abuse and pornography, even rape) then Second Life is not what it professes itself to be.

One caveat: Anyone using Second Life as a doorway to their RL - whether that be work or personal interests - has opened themselves to an intrusion by the virtual world into their RL. In this case, the perpetrator used SL as a doorway into his RL hobby providing images of sexually abused children to other members. Because he chose to break the virtual bubble - merging his RL self with his SL self - he should justifiably answer to both authorities.

Excuse Me, You Deceptive Motherfuckers...

But how many times do I have to say that I hate being lied to?

Now, I don't know what kind of a "troop withdrawal" this is, but the last time I checked, sending MORE TROOPS...35,000 MORE, in fact, constitutes something more like a "surge" to me.

Now, before you light your torches and storm the gates of the White House, let's take a look at the mitigating information...


...spokesman says it's "not related"...
...maintain heightened troop levels...

...and I'm still not seeing something that looks like unencumbered data. When the Pentagon starts to characterize and preemptively excuse its actions like a drunken Paris Hilton, I start to wonder what the real deal is.

And then I wonder why the politicians go through all the rhetoric (even though I love the rhetoric). Why bother? Have the Democrats been reading the news over the past few years? Because if they had, they might have noticed that our current administration doesn't give a shit about popular opinion, civil rights, the US Constitution, or even legality. So why would Congressional legislation, or even the pending presidential election, stop these crazies from acting on their own selfish motives?

Consistency, people!

But, let's not forget that Dick is in Baghdad straightening everything out. I imagine his conversations go a little something like this:

Anyone Other Than Dick Cheney: "Mr. Cheney, welcome to Baghdad."

Dick: "Listen, Raghead, I'm not here to chat you up or take you hunting. I'm here to let you know that if you don't clean this up, we will."

AOTDick: "Mr. Cheney, I really resent you calling me a "raghead"."

Dick: "Shut up, Towelhead, and start making some peace!"

AOTDick: "Mr. Cheney, we're doing the best we can. We just need more time."

Dick: "What do I run, a clock store? Your time is up, Towelhead, and if you don't have things under control by December 2007, we're going to start taking away things that you care about."

AOTDick: "What do you mean by that? Are you threatening me?"

Dick: "I'm not threatening you! I'm just telling you that if you don't have peace in Iraq by Christmas, then Santa isn't coming."

AOTDick: "Mr. Cheney, I'm a Muslim. Santa doesn't come ever, and there is no Christmas."

Dick: "Well, no wonder it's so fucked up here! What you people need is a good Christmas party, with lots of spiked egg nog, and presents for everybody! Doesn't that sound good?"

AOTDick: "Mr. Cheney, I think you're missing the point..."

Dick: "Missing the point? No. I'm not missing the point. The point is this: Either you enforce peace and prosperity in this country, or I WILL!"

Inside Bush's Brain...

Is an angry, disapproving, rigid and demanding mother. And you wonder why our foreign policy looks like someone with a real inferiority complex is making decisions?

So it's not Dick Cheney, it's not paterphilia, it's not Karl Rove. The mastermind behind George W Bush's presidency is...

Drumroll, please!

Barbara Bush!

This woman produced two presidents! The only one since Abigail Adams (another ass-kicker, btw). Is there any doubt? Plus, you've seen the Manchurian Candidate, right (not that lame remake, the black & white original)? Mrs. Iselin gave new meaning to "mother knows best".

Interestingly, this insight was most recently expressed in a puff piece on the Queen's visit to the White House. The reporter went on and on about how nervous W was, and how totally unimpressed the Queen was (not that he used the word "unimpressed", but read between the lines and you'll see that's the gist) with his behavior.

I've been trying to practice this whole thing called compassion, and this is good exercise. I actually really feel for Bush, having observed the relationships of many men and their powerful, demanding mothers:
Some reject the attempted control and go on to a life of mysoginism and sexual conquest.
Some reject it and go on to a life of doormat-women and emotional abuse.
Others accept it totally and go on to a life of worshipping powerful demanding women, even when they're totally insane.
Still others accept it and continue to seek out women who will control them - either overtly or covertly.
And yet others NEVER free themselves from their mothers!
It is the rare few who, through some miracle of consciousness and self-direction, become confident, successful men who know how to behave as an equal with a powerful woman.

[I'll take votes on which of these categories you think W fits into.]

Everything fits together: On the street today, I walked by a shop window with a slew of embroidered pillows with those little sayings on them. The one that caught my eye said:

"If it's not one thing, it's your mother."


A Day That Will Live In...?

We'll see.

As a true believer in the "power to the people" philosophy, I am thoroughly excited by the renewed - and possibly successful - autonomy of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

I am a fan of the whole devolution process.

[In the early aughts, you could distinguish the motives of any politician or UK citizen by the way they pronounced that word. Long "e", to rhyme with Evolution (Brit pronunciation)? Or short "e" to rhyme with REvolution?]

On a related topic: I had a fascinating conversation with a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat recently. This person was questioning my deeply held belief in state's rights (don't be alarmed, that's just for lack of a more rational system of local and regional management/public access), and marveling at the potential for - egads! - conservative or - even worse! - unequal priorities reflected in the various institutions of government if this system was not supervised by the federal government.


I love when liberals get all nervous about everyone not being equal. Wake up! The last time I saw equal in action was...
That's funny. I don't remember a time when any individual or group, religion or geographic location, Democrat or Republican or Soclialist, race, class, age or gender was ever treated "the same" as any other individual, group, religion, etc.
Just like "democracy" or "freedom", "equality" is a concept, not a reality.

But I digress...

In the case of Northern Ireland (as with Wales and Scotland), the danger is being treated the same as the English, even though the culture, region and politics demand different treatment.

What the United Kingdom is attempting here is actually quite radical. What they're saying is: dare to be different, dare to address the more specific and specialized needs of your people, dare to lobby and aim to influence the huge, archaic and stodgy organization of your national government. And if you can do it on our dime, then good luck to you!

Every organization has its moment of promise, and from that point on it is either a success or a failure. Or, more realistically, it tries to meet the needs of its constituents while retaining access to its resources.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is on that verge. What will it be?

Now THAT's Ingenuity!

Bougainville is an island in the middle of the South Pacific, part of Papua New Guinea.

Just so you know, they are way smarter than we are!

But you have to wonder: Is using coconut oil - as the replacement for diesel fuel - going to impact the global price of coconuts, harming the delicate candy bar industry, as well as the ever-volatile sunscreen market?

You've been warned.


Near Death Politics

Is this the best thing that ever happened to Governor Corzine?

Or, like all politicians in fully-functioning politicking mode, is he just so good at bullshit that he can translate a near-death experience into a focused executive agenda without meaning it?

I don't know, but I love good rhetoric.

From The New York Times:
(Article 1 of 2)
April 15, 2007
Corzine Crash Comes at Crucial Time for N.J.
Members of the staff of Gov. Jon S. Corzine say it could take a week to 10 days before he is well enough to resume his duties as the governor of New Jersey. His doctor said it could be “days or weeks.” Six months may pass before he can get around by himself.

No matter how long the recuperation period, the incapacitating injuries that Mr. Corzine suffered Thursday evening when his Chevrolet Suburban crashed on the Garden State Parkway not far from Atlantic City come at an important moment in both state government and in the life of his young administration, politicians and analysts said. If his convalescence proves a lengthy one, they said, the crash could define his first term and lead the state into murky political waters.

“From every point of view, this is not a fortuitous time for him or for the state,” Thomas H. Kean, a former governor of New Jersey, said of the accident.

This morning, Mr. Corzine underwent his second surgery since the accident at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J. Today’s surgery was to clean out a leg wound, and he is scheduled to have a similar surgery on Monday. His doctors said he would remain on a ventilator at least until then.

Dr. Steven E. Ross, head of the trauma division, said Mr. Corzine is “on enough medication to assure that he is comfortable and probably to assure that he won’t remember much of what is going on at this point.”

The crash comes as Mr. Corzine, 60, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who has pledged to use his business acumen to shore up New Jersey’s shaky finances, was heading into his second budget battle with the State Legislature.

Last year’s epic budget battle was a test of stamina and brinkmanship. Mr. Corzine slept on a cot in his office for three consecutive nights and shut down state government to win an agreement from lawmakers to raise the state sales tax.

This year, the governor may have to negotiate the budget from a bed or a wheelchair. And while the next budget most likely will not be as contentious as the last — it is an election year for lawmakers, and Mr. Corzine’s proposal contained fewer politically difficult measures — many challenging issues lie ahead.

Among them is the state’s crushing debt load. Many homeowners continue to complain about high property taxes, though they were granted some relief in last year’s budget package. And for years the state has invested too little money in its pension system, casting doubt on whether it can meet its obligation to retirees.

The financial outlook is so bleak that Mr. Corzine has proposed selling off state assets like the New Jersey Turnpike and the parkway on which he was injured.

Mr. Corzine’s injuries could sideline him at a delicate time in his second year in office, when he is still trying to gain favor with voters and make inroads with Trenton’s political establishment. He has also been asked to answer questions about his gifts to a former companion who is also the president of a powerful state employees union.

“It comes at a point where he’s about to make the most critical decisions of his governorship,” said Peter J. Woolley, a political scientist who is executive director of the Public Mind poll of Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Are his injuries going to be so extensive that it’s going to deter him physically and mentally from pushing his own agenda to fix the financial woes, or will he recover enough with enough determination and still enough political latitude that he’ll be able to be effective?”

When the president of the State Senate, Richard J. Codey, became the acting governor this week for the third time —he took over after Gov. James E. McGreevey resigned amid scandal in 2004 — he pledged to work to carry out the Corzine administration’s agenda. “It’s their administration, and not mine,” he said.

Tom Shea, Mr. Corzine’s chief of staff, said on Friday that it was unclear exactly when Mr. Corzine will be able to resume his duties.

“We won’t know that until we know really what the governor’s prognosis for recovery is going to be,” he said. “You know, he certainly needs the ability to concentrate and focus and communicate in order to effectively carry out the duties of his office. And I think only time will tell how long that takes for us for him to be able to do that again.”

But if Mr. Corzine’s convalescence takes longer than expected, or if he should suffer setbacks that keep him from governing as the July 1 start of the fiscal year nears, the state could find itself in a peculiar situation: Mr. Codey, a fellow Democrat who has had political tensions with Mr. Corzine in recent years, would have to represent both the administration and the Senate in budget negotiations.

“It’s an outrageous conflict of interest,” said Mr. Kean, a Republican.

New Jersey voters agreed in 2005 to create the position of a lieutenant governor who would serve if a governor steps down or cannot serve, but the position will not be created until 2009.
The accident comes a little more than a year after Mr. Corzine took office with the résumé of an outsider. As a former business executive and as a United States senator for five years, he has never had to forge the kind of direct, close connection with voters that people like to have with their governors.

As a politician, Mr. Corzine can come across as a bit aloof, analysts said. He never toiled in the vineyards of local politics. He is not a natural glad-hander, or a stirring speaker, and he cuts an unconventional figure on the political scene with his scholarly-looking gray beard and trademark blue sweater vest.

As former Gov. Brendan Byrne said: “Governor Corzine is respected, I think, in virtually all quarters. He’s not the warm and fuzzy type Codey is. But I think he is well respected and listened to.”

A February poll from Quinnipiac University suggested that voters are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but not with a lot of enthusiasm. Voters approved of his performance by 50 to 34 percent, his highest ratings yet, but only 20 percent said that things have gotten better under his watch, while 15 percent have said the opposite.

And while several political analysts said that Mr. Corzine had been working to forge closer connections with voters — by going to town meetings, dinners, and fund-raisers for local officeholders — injuries that limit his mobility could hinder those efforts. And they could also limit his ability to campaign for his allies in the Legislature, who face re-election this year.
But some political analysts said that his accident and injuries would most likely engender sympathy for him as well. And they noted that the next election for governor is more than two years away.

Of more pressing concern, analysts said, are the grave problems facing the state.

The second year is critical in any governor’s four-year term, political scientists said. The first year is often spent assembling an administration and learning how state government works. By the third and fourth years, political capital has a habit of eroding, and a re-election campaign can distract politicians from governing. So the second year is prime time for attempting ambitious, politically risky measures.

“I think this comes at a particularly unfortunate time,” said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University. “The problems with the state pension fund were only just revealed, and he had resolved to see that it was set right. And he was in a unique position to try to find some way out of this problem for a state that was already bogged down in serious debt, and his background in finance made him uniquely suited to do it.”

The pension fund’s problems are staggering in scope. The state failed for years to make the required annual contributions to the pension fund, and used questionable accounting methods to hide the true condition of the funds. And just as a few late credit card payments can cause an individual’s debt to balloon, the missing pension contributions have made the state’s pension shortfall soar.

Mr. Corzine tried to break with the past, ordering up the first significant pension contributions in a decade. But because of the years of neglect, even that has not been able to keep up with the required amounts. That is one of the reasons he has been weighing the sale of state assets.
Joseph R. Marbach, the acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Seton Hall, said a lengthy convalescence could place Mr. Corzine’s proposals to sell assets like the toll roads and the lottery on the back burner. “That may be taken off the table entirely, while the state applies a Band-Aid approach,” he said.

Eric Shuffler, who was a top aide to Governors Codey and McGreevey, and who has written speeches for Mr. Corzine, said he expected Mr. Corzine to be able to resume his duties soon. “I think the biggest thing for the governor is that there is so much he wants to do, and so much he is trying to do, and this is a loss of time for an agenda that is quite ambitious,” he said.

Professor Baker, of Rutgers University, noted how strange it was that Mr. Corzine was critically injured while on his way to broker a meeting between the Rutgers women’s basketball team and Don Imus, the talk-show host who was fired for making racist and sexist comments about them.
“It would be treated as bad fiction if this had appeared between two covers,” he said.

David Chen and Mary Williams Walsh contributed reporting.

(Article 2 of 2)
May 7, 2007
N.J. Governor Ready to Resume Duties
PRINCETON, N.J., May 7 — Saying that his prolonged absence from a job that he loves was driving him “stir crazy,” Jon S. Corzine resumed his official duties as Governor of New Jersey this morning, three and a half weeks after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident.

“I’d go stir crazy if I was not doing this,” Mr. Corzine said at a news conference at the governor’s official mansion here, known as Drumthwacket.

And though he was in excruciating pain at the time of the accident and now faces months of intense physical therapy, Mr. Corzine said, he never for a second considered leaving his office, which he spent $45 million to win in 2005.

“I had not thought about resigning, if that’s what you’re saying,” he said in response to one reporter’s question. “I love what I do. It’s because I love it, I want to get back at it. It gives me strength.”

Mr. Corzine spoke for 30 minutes at the news conference, an unusually long session for him. He cautioned that he would be working on a limited schedule, putting in eight or nine hours a day rather than his former 14 to 16 hours.

Indeed, he said that he would remain at Drumthwacket for the time being, and that cabinet members and other officials would visit him, rather than commuting to his office in the state capital.

And he said that he would perform few of the ceremonial duties normally required of the office, and instead focus on policy issues, like a state budget that must be settled by July 1, the issue of health care and the idea of leasing state assets such as the New Jersey Turnpike to generate tens of billions of dollars in new revenue.

Still, with one of his doctors — Dr. Steven E. Ross, head of the trauma division at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where Mr. Corzine was hospitalized — standing in the background at the news conference, Mr. Corzine demonstrated just how much he has recovered physically from the accident.

He used forearm crutches to negotiate a total of six steps from the front entrance of the mansion to its circular driveway, where he spoke to reporters. He was helped into a chair by his son, Jeffrey, but he sat unattended for the entire news conference, with a leather stool in front of him to support his broken left leg.

Mr. Corzine was critically injured on April 12 in an accident on the Garden State Parkway near Atlantic City. He was a passenger in a state sport-utility vehicle that was clocked at 91 miles an hour, or 26 miles an hour over the speed limit, when it collided with a pickup truck and hit a guard rail.

At the time of the crash, Mr. Corzine was not wearing a seat belt, in violation of state law. The impact tossed him from the front seat to the back, and broke his left leg, his sternum, a clavicle, a lower vertebra and 11 ribs. Doctors who treated him said he lost about half his blood.

The governor endured three operations at Cooper University Hospital, and relied on a ventilator to help him breathe for more than week.

Against a backdrop of widespread criticism from residents over his failure to wear a seat belt, Mr. Corzine voluntarily paid a $46 fine and costs related to the infraction.

The State Senate president, Richard J. Codey, served as acting governor during Mr. Corzine’s convalescence. But Mr. Corzine took his old job back at 9 a.m. today, starting off with a senior staff meeting at the mansion before the news conference.


Your Attention, Please!

I'd like to share a couple of sentiments that I was quite touched by (and, after yesterday's cornucopia of fucked up global politics, I could use a lift):

1. I have been a fan of Aaron McGruder's utterly brilliant Boondocks strip since I saw it some years ago. I never had TV when it became a show, and so never had the pleasure of seeing it until last night.
The Martin Luther King Jr. come-back episode nearly brought me to tears. And it begs the question: What does it take to get us engaged with our lives, our communities and our country? Have we become so entitled that we believe it's someone else's responsibility to lead? Have we forgotten how to revolt?

2. This is what political action looks like. Now get your ass up, get informed, and go tell your elected officials who's in fucking charge here! If the French can do it, so can we.

3. Please don't take my lambasting of our current political leaders and their reprehensible decision making as a commentary on the United States. I am a die-hard patriot. I just can't stand being lied to, misinformed, misdirected, uninspired, underserved and unappreciated by the 'powers that be'.
You know that our political bank account is pretty low when the Brits are debating the value of our existence. We've come a long way since V-E Day.
The Clintonian side-note reminded me of his first Inaugural Address. Just thinking back to that day, and the swelling of possibility and potential in the hearts and minds of this country - even though the fear of Democratic politics and fiscal management was real - makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Let me remind you:
"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."


To Veto Or Not To Veto?

Today's Double-You Dilemma:

Do I use my second veto on the most obviously controversial bill to pass through Congress during both of my terms in office?




Do I let the "voice of the people" be heard echoing throughout the land as the Democrats ring the death knell for my terror war?

Truth, George? You're fucked either way.

I hope someone in your group of advisors is telling you that, even though you're not listening.

Use the veto and the Democrats look like martyrs. Let that bill pass and your whole end-of-term, Bin Laden-catching, war-winning, blockbuster blowout is blown.

Let's face it. By now you should be sending out resumes, and how is it going to look when you go into your interview with BlackRock and they say...

"So, George. It says here that you were...'the leader of the free world' and the 'defender of liberty and freedom across the globe'. Very impressive. But I noticed that you never used that veto when those pesky Democrats and peace-loving human-huggers got that Iraq Disaster Plan bill passed. That was during your presidency, right?"

"Well, Mr. Giuliani, ya see... It's not my fault! You remember what it was like back then, right? All those people wanting to keep their loved ones alive. And that whole thing about catching Bin Laden, as if he started it..."

"You said he did start it."

"Right. He did. I mean, no. It was Saddam. That's not the point... What I'm saying here is... well..."

"Mr. Bush. Let me stop you here before we waste any more of each other's time. I'm looking for someone confident, forceful. Someone who's going to invent successful investment strategies and stick by them even when the IRS comes around asking questions. Someone who knows how to work the system. And you're just not what we're looking for."

"But, but... Have you seen this autographed photo of me declaring that the war was over on the USS... Well, I can't remember the name of the ship, but... Here. Please, take it! Please!"
"I'm sorry Mr. Bush. We're through here."

This is the man who stood in the face of... well, in YOUR face and told you any number of "factually inaccurate" statements [aka LIES].

Do you actually think he cares about your opinion? By now you should have realized that he's not listening to you. He's listening to God.

And his God says...

(whispering) "Psst. George."

(W looks around confused)

(a little louder) "George."

(More confusion)

(sighs) "GEORGE!!"

(Looks up) "Oh, God! Sorry, I was wondering who was talking to me."

"Why? Have you been speaking with any other disembodied voices recently?"

"No! Of course not! Only You, God. Come on, You know that!"

"Well, listen. I want to talk to you about this whole Iraq thing."

"Not You, too!"

(disapprovingly) "George."

"Sorry, God. It's just... everybody wants me to pull out, but I don't want to. And I keep telling them that You're the One that told me to do it..."

"George, I told you NEVER to use my name in vain. Telling people that God told you to do something is like wrapping yourself in a long-sleeved coat and asking the bus driver if he knows the way to Santa's house! What's wrong with you?"

"No! I didn't use Your name. That's not what I meant. I mean, I made it sound like You wanted me to do it. Anyway, now everybody's upset because... well, I'm not really sure why, but they're upset. And Congress has been trying to get me to bring troops back... I'm just really tense. But I'm always ready to talk to You, God. What did You want to know?"

"Are you gonna use that veto?"

"Sheesh! What would You do?"

"Use it! Tell those soft-hearted, New Testament motherfuckers to get over themselves already and win that war! Fuck the casualty list! I'm saying that you're not even doing enough! Reinstate the draft, round up the homeless people and get this party started! WOO HOO!"

"Jeez, God! ... Sorry. I mean... God, why are You so excited about winning the war? Aren't we all Your people on our way to Heaven anyway?"

"George! Do you have any IDEA what would happen to me if Allah won this season on Divine Idol? I would just die! So he's got the 40 Virgin Dancers as back-up, which is totally cheating to me... But have you seen Jesus dance? And the Holy Ghost? It's a nightmare! Not even a simple jazz-hands! And all they want to use for our music is hip hop, and I can't get a good can-can line going during the chorus, cause somebody that sounds like they're from Gomorrah starts talking about all the sinful stuff he's doing with my mom... I mean, it's a creative HELL!"

"I'm sorry to hear that, God, but what can I do about it?"

"Do I have to decide everything? Catch Bin Laden, win the war, and while you're at it, make sure as many Jews and Christians die as possible."

"But don't you want the Muslims to die? I'm confused."

(under his breath) "As usual." (normal echo) "George, the more Muslims go to THEIR heaven, the more voters Allah gets. The more Judeo-Christians WE kill, the more votes I get. Simple."

"Ummm. OK. So, You're saying I should veto? Even if the rest of my presidency is buried in media slander and a total recreation of my meager successes?"

"Yeah, DUH! Just do it! Don't ask questions. What do you think this is? A DEMOCRACY? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA AH HA HA HA HA AH HA HA HA AH HA HA HA... Whew!"

In the past...