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Thursday, January 29, 2004

More Hummus Please; But Fewer Burned & Maimed Bodies

“Arabic programming was a cute detail, the volume was intrusively loud and the graphic images of burned and maimed bodies on the Arabic news channel were highly uncalled for.” – Jay Hallen

Here’s an update on the wunderkind who is busy setting up Iraq’s new stock exchange. The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday about the 24-year old who is rebuilding Iraq’s stock exchange. A strange job for someone so young. The first sentence of the article in fact says that “At Yale University, Jay Hallen majored in political science, rarely watched financial news stations and didn't follow the stock market.” It doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of person I’d pick to reopen the stock market for an entire country. Going to Yale, perhaps he was a member of “Skull and Bones”? But I digress… The Journal article goes on to say:
…Mr. Hallen, a private-sector development officer for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, was given the job immediately after arriving in Baghdad in September.

Mr. Hallen admits that he wound up in Iraq rather by accident. In 2002, he began pursuing a White House job, and though none materialized, he stayed in close contact with the man who interviewed him, Reuben Jeffrey. When Mr. Jeffrey went to Iraq last summer as a senior economic-development adviser, Mr. Hallen e-mailed to ask whether there were any job openings… A few weeks later, Mr. Hallen got a phone call from a Pentagon personnel officer, who told him he had been given a job in the Coalition Provisional Authority and needed to be in Baghdad in less than a month. "Needless to say, I was in a mild state of shock," he says.

Mr. Hallen, who graduated in 2001, has spent the past few months in a crash course in high finance.

Mr. Hallen's most difficult task has been winning and keeping the confidence of Iraqi investors and traders alarmed by his youth and lack of experience in the financial sector. It hasn't been easy.

In early November, Mr. Hallen traveled to Baghdad's Hamra Hotel for a lunch meeting with Luay Nafa Elias, who runs an investment company here. Mr. Elias says he was expecting to meet a middle-age man and therefore was astonished to see the baby-face Mr. Hallen sit down at the table and order a plate of kabobs. "I had thought the Americans would send someone who was at least 50 years old, someone with gray hair," says Mr. Elias.

As the lunch continued, Mr. Elias found himself impressed by Mr. Hallen's confident tone and his repeated promises to quickly open a stock market that is the envy of the Arab world.

Mr. Elias's faith in Mr. Hallen, however, began to evaporate when the market's opening was delayed without explanation, first to the middle of this month and then into February. "Maybe someone older and more experienced could have gotten this done on time," Mr. Elias says.
Far be it for me to question the judgement of the Coalition Governing Authority. I mean, they done such a bang-up job so far, what could possibly go wrong with choosing a 24-year old with no financial experience to set up the stock exchange for an entire nation?

Facts about Hallen are hard to come by on the web. I found one letter to the editor from him complaining about the sorry state of a bus tour company in NYC. He also was at one time a sportswriter (possibly sports editor) for the Yale campus newspaper. At one time, this daily published a response that someone had written, which took issue with an earlier published letter from Hallen. It seems that He had criticized the choice of the Indigo Girls as the main entertainers at some big campus event (“Spring Fling”), saying things like “they only appeal to women”. He was criticized for being sexist and homophobic; his original letter was unavailable so I can’t judge.

There was another notable mention of Hallen that I stumbled across. It was a review of a children’s play in which he had a role, Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax”. Not really germane to his present duties, but some of the passages in the review did strike a chord with me in the context of his present job aiding the reconstruction of Iraq:
The Lorax starts in an imaginary world full of colorful, nonsensical creatures and Truffula Trees, where everything and everyone is happy. The Once-ler (Jay Hallen, SM '01) presides over this little utopia, all the while dancing with trees and singing the praises of his green pet cat and miffmoffermoof suit. One day, the Once-ler stumbles upon the realization that the Truffula Trees sprinkled throughout the countryside can be used to create a wonderfully versatile product known simply as Thneed. The Once-ler induces a Thneed fad--similar to the polyester craze of the '70s--in which he encourages everyone to run out and get some of his fabulous new product. As demand increases and the Once-ler becomes greedier, more and more Truffula Trees are chopped down to aid his quest to "bigger" his business. The countryside becomes dead and polluted, and--here comes the moral of the story--harmony is lost.

…With a big cheesy grin spread across his face and eyebrows so highly arched they look like they're about to jump off of his head, Hallen stands out with his portrayal of the greedy Once-ler. His remarkably pliable, green-painted face creates a sympathetic villain,teaching the audience that the concepts of absolute good and absolute evil are often far too simple for the complexities of the real world.
Whatever. Perhaps the only interesting thing about him that I could find came in the form of yet another letter to the editor (Yale Daily News), containing a review of a certain Middle Eastern restaurant near the Yale campus that had apparently been praised in an earlier article. In addition to criticizing the décor, food, ambience, and, basically everything about the place, the letter contained the following passage:
The first shock came the moment we stepped into the restaurant, when our eyes were assaulted by bright fluorescent lighting that created a dining atmosphere about as inviting as a Rite-Aid. While the 36" TV playing Arabic programming was a cute detail, the volume was intrusively loud and the graphic images of burned and maimed bodies on the Arabic news channel were highly uncalled for
. So Mr. Hallen’s dining experience was ruined by the fact that Al Jazeera (or something similar) was showing explicit pictures of the victims of violence, possibly (dare I say?) victims of some Israeli attack that happened to occur that day. (I say this because I assume that Arab TV wouldn’t be focusing on the victims of Palestinian suicide bombers, but I could be wrong). Whatever the case, I hope that in his current position in Baghdad, Mr. Hallen is sufficiently insulated from anything that would affect his delicate sensibilities. No doubt the suicide bombings and random killings of civilians, soldiers and policemen are far enough out of his earshot that he can digest his meals more easily than he could on that distant night in New Haven.

posted by gunther at 4:15 PM Link

Monday, January 26, 2004

Is Bush a Moron, Episode 10: Bush Likes Ribs

It’s been a while and there have been a number of events that I’ve neglected to cover since the last episode of IBAM. So today’s posting is a compilation of recent Bushisms that goes back a ways. It covers the period roughly from the time of his Thanksgiving Day visit to Iraq, up to the most recent event, a brief interaction with the press pool in Roswell, New Mexico. Also included are the results from the last Democratic debate, held last week prior to the New Hampshire Primary.

Roswell, 11/22/04: There are no major mistakes, but it’s a very short exchange. I reproduce this exchange in it’s entirety because it seems so weird and funny. Maybe it’s just me, but the man seems to have an uncommon obsession with ribs (see also here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. At this photo op, Bush personally bought $42.95 worth of food to go, and left no tip. Read it for yourself (Bush at the “Nothin' Fancy Café” in Roswell, New Mexico, 1/22/04):

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q An answer.

Q Can we buy some questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.
It’s especially interesting to read Bush’s brief explanation of how the economy works. Extrapolating from his summary, I envision the following scenario: 1. Tax cuts give people extra money. 2. People spend extra money on ribs. 2. Café owner gets money. 3. Increased demand for ribs leads to expansion of restaurant. 4. More people are hired. 5. More ribs consumed. 6. More expansion. 7. Even more ribs consumed. 8. Entire population of U.S. drops dead from massive heart attack caused by over consumption of ribs.

The numbers for this performance are pretty grim, with a grade equivalent of 3.6, reading level of 85.6, and BRI-2 grammar score of .066 (missing “that”, i.e., One of the things [that] David does, [is that] he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally). But at least he seems to have this economy thing down pat.

These results are shown in the following Table along with scores from a few other recent Bush speaking engagements. Included in the Table are results from the Roswell episode, an 11/27 Q/A with reporters after Bush’s visit to Baghdad, a brief exchange with reporters during a visit by Jordanian King Abdullah on 12/4, a press conference held on 12/15, a press pool Q/A session on 1/4/04, a joint press conference with Mexican President Fox on 1/12, and a joint press conference with the Canadian Prime Minister martin on 1/13.

I’ve also made a minor, but long overdue, modification to the way that the BRI-2 grammar measure is calculated. Previously, Bush statements such as the following might not have turned up as grammatical errors under spell-checking:
And I think when people begin to realize that, when people begin -- that were, I would call them fence-sitters, when people begin to realize that the Saddam regime is gone forever, and that the new society that will emerge will be a fair society, it will protect people, and protect people from the -- protect them based upon their own religious views, for example, guarantee them rights -- is what I mean by "protect," that it's more likely people will begin to sign on to the future of Iraq.
There may not be any obvious errors, other than it being a long, run-on sentence. But strictly speaking, it’s not a long, run-on sentence, because it’s essentially a series of incomplete thoughts strung together. The structure is horrible. It’s as if the man can’t put together two complex thoughts into a single coherent sentence. Much of his speaking is characterized by this type of performance, which I just don’t commonly observe in the other people I’ve looked at. I can’t think of a good reason why this shouldn’t be taken into account, and so from now on these types of broken or mangled sentences will be counted as grammatical errors.

So, here are the Results for Bush from the samples I just described:
language useage index scores
Sample Reading Ease Grade Level BRI-2
Thanksgiving (11/27/03) 80.8% 5.3 .097
King Abdullah (12/4/03) 64.2% 8.2 .055
Press Conf (12/15/03) 68.6% 7.5 .068
Press Pool (1/1/04) 74.2% 6.3 .086
Bush/Fox (1/12/04) 64.8% 7.8 .100
Bush/Martin (1/13/04) 65.6% 7.8 .170
Roswell/ribs (1/13/04) 85.6% 3.6 .066
Average 71.9% 6.6 .092
The results of this sample, covering almost two full months of unscripted speaking engagements by Bush, are pretty mediocre. The average readability index is 71.9%, with a grade equivalent of 6.6. The average BRI-2 grammar index is .092, which is far worse than anything obtained by him in any of the previous episodes of IBAM.

In no particular order, then, here are some examples of errors in Bush’s speechifying, as discovered in the sources cited:
I-35, as you know, if you're a Texan -- well, you know. [broken/mangled sentence]

But I also reminded them what I said publicly, that it's up to them to seize the moment [“reminded them about what I had said…”]

I think the game plan they've got now in place is a good plan. [missing “that”; the game plan that they’ve got…”]

And he said, sir, I wouldn't take you in there if I wasn't convinced that we could do this in a way that would safely bring you to the troops. [“wasn’t” vs “weren’t”; split infinitive]

But I did encourage them, to let them know that we have confidence in their ability to self-govern and we respect their culture. And we want to help them. [missing “that”; “and that we respect their culture”]

It had a wonderful rainbow behind he and his generals. [“his generals and he”?]

Oh, met the chiefs -- head of the -- two council members, the chief of the council and one of his compatriots -- Baghdad. [broken/mangled sentence]

It was getting down to the grass roots level, to -- you've seen me enough to know when I see these mayors, I tease them about filling the potholes. That's what -- you know, they've got a job to do, and they're doing it. [broken/mangled sentence]

Well, I told her that -- she knew all along -- actually, I didn't mean Laura and the girls, I meant the girls. [broken/mangled sentence]

And that's -- they're upbeat. [broken/mangled sentence]
Well, I'm telling you, this is -- again, had this been jeopardized in any way, we wouldn't put myself and/or you all in this position. [broken/mangled sentence]

And it is in the Pentagon, as well, a copy of it, which I found to be very -- so I remember going into the Pentagon and -- somebody took – [broken/mangled sentence]

“The emergence of a peaceful Iraq will transform the region in a positive way, that will make it more likely that the world is peaceful.” [“That” instead of “which”]

And that we're constantly talking about that message and encouraging people to participate. [Not a sentence]

I think what need to happen is he needs to be brought to justice. [need vs. needs; missing “that”; “I think what needs to happen is that he needs…”]

It's in this country's interest that Afghanistan emerge as a peaceful country. [subject-verb agreement; “that Afghanistan emerges…”]

There's a lot of areas where we do work together. [Subj-verb agreement; “There are a lot of areas…”]

And I'm confident people aren't going to agree with every decision I make. [missing “that”; “I’m confident that people…”]

The strategy that I've outlined in order to do my solemn duty -- and my duty is not only to keep the country more secure, but more prosperous and a better country, as well. [not a sentence]

And then of course, there was the tax relief -- a stimulus package which was necessary to make sure that we had ample revenues coming into the Treasury in the first place. [that vs which; “a stimulus package that was necessary…]

See, without the tax relief package, there would have been a deficit, but there wouldn't have been the commiserate -- not "commiserate" -- the kick to our economy that occurred as a result of the tax relief. [inappropriate word used; meant to say “commensurate”, not “commiserate”]

When you say there's over 60 nations involved in Iraq, that means that there's international support in Iraq. [subj-verb agreement (there is/ there are); missing “that”, “”say that there’s…”]

Well, first of all, I have constantly said that we need to have a immigration policy that helps match any willing employer with any willing employee. [“a” vs “an”]

Make sure everybody -- let's all start from the same basis, if you don't mind. [broken/mangled sentence]

To answer your question, we're -- the Defense Department will try to learn more from Saddam Hussein as time goes on. [broken/mangled sentence]

And that's -- I do believe that there are going to be some people who are persuaded that since Saddam Hussein has been captured, that he will never return, and therefore, they need to be a part of the emergence of a free Iraq and a free society, and that there -- and it's going to be very important for the Iraqi authorities to reach out to those people and talk about a system that guarantees minority rights, and a system which says that for some the future is bright. [broken/mangled sentence]

He's going to come back up and brief Condi and me in a little bit of time. [Condi and I? Condi and myself?]

And as well, it's very important for them to listen to those voices in their country who are demanding freedom. [who vs that; “listen to those voices in their country that are demanding freedom”]

I mean, I don't know the details which caused him to recuse himself. [that vs which; “the details that caused him to recuse himself”]

…we appreciate the fact the Iranian government is willing to allow our humanitarian aid flights into their country. [missing “that”; “the fact that the Iranian government”]

So that's one of my resolutions, which may require eating less desserts, kind of getting a little trimmer, to take the pressure off the knee. [“less dessert” or “fewer desserts”]
Democratic NH Debate: Finally, for the record, and for comparison to the abysmal performance shown by Bush, I’m posting the results of the last Democratic debate, held prior to the NJ primary. One thing that really jumps out at me is the poor performance of Dennis Kucinich; his answers to questions were too complex (high grade equivalent and low readability). Kerry tended to be more long-winded (confirming the knock that’s currently made on him), whereas Dean and Clark were almost at the same level as Bush in terms of language complexity, but none of the Dem candidates scored lower than Bush.
language useage index scores
Name Reading Ease
Kucinich 56.3%
Sharpton 64.2%
Kerry 64.8%
Edwards 66.3%
Lieberman 69.7%
Dean 71.1%
Clark 71.9%
Bush 71.9%
language useage index scores
Name Grade Level
Kucinich 10.4
Sharpton 9.2
Kerry 8.5
Edwards 8.3
Lieberman 7.4
Dean 6.7
Clark 6.7
Bush 6.6
Kucinich also had many more grammatical errors than his Dem opponents (see below). On this last factor, at least, he’s really into George Bush territory. The other thing that should be noticed is the high performance of the remaining candidates on grammaticality of speech. Dean, Clark and Lieberman had perfect scores for grammaticality, with Kerry and Edwards not far behind. Bush trails all Dems, including Kucinich. In fact, once you exclude Kucinich, if you averaged the grammatical errors committed by all of the six remaining Democratic contenders (yes, even including Al Sharpton), their mean BRI-2 score of .0078 is less than 1/12 that shown by George Bush (see above). And if you limit it to only those four Democratic candidates who have a reasonable chance of winning the nomination (Dean, Kerry, Clark, Edwards), their average grammar score was .005. In other words, in unscripted performance answering questions from reporters, Bush made nearly 20 times as many grammatical errors as the people whom he’s likely to face in the upcoming election.
language useage index scores
Name BRI-2
Dean .000
Clark .000
Lieberman .000
Kerry .008
Edwards .013
Sharpton .026
Kucinich .085
Bush .092

posted by gunther at 11:24 PM Link

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Pre-Emptive Action Against Republican Gay-Bashing: A Modest Proposal

"A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization."

"Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."
So said G.W. Bush in his State of the Union speech last night. It has been expected that Bush would try to make the issue of gay marriage work to his advantage somehow during his reelection campaign. Recent announcements, as well as his speech last night, make it clear that this is going to be done in two ways.

One approach is going to be the $1.5 billion dollar “Healthy Marriages Initiative”. This initiative actually serves two purposes. First, it is aimed at low-income couple, and will provide training to help them develop interpersonal skills that sustain healthy marriages. A form of blackmail, it effectively requires that those dependent on certain forms of Government assistance be legally married, since they are only eligible for it if they are in fact married. There may be rational reasons for wanting low-income couples to be married (e.g., poverty rates for single- versus multiple-parent families), and “semi-coercive” measures like this are nothing new, having been enacted in one form or another since the welfare reforms of the mid 90’s. Bush’s proposal more than doubles the amount of money available for these types of programs from around $700 million to the stated proposed amount of $1.5 billion.

The second purpose served by these programs becomes clear. Surely Rove and company must know, and expect, that inevitably in an election year the issue will arise of how to deal with gay marriages. Are gay couples to be eligible for the same types of benefits, especially if they have a marriage that is recognized by their State? Now, statistically speaking, the number of low-income, gay couples who are married is likely to be miniscule (even moreso if children are involved). There may in fact be no one this policy actually applies to in the entire country at the present time. But if the issue gets raised by gay-rights activists looking for some type of equity and equal treatment, Bush gets to tout the sanctity of traditional marriage. This potentially wins support among conservative Democrats who are uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage, and puts Democrat candidates into a bind. If they support the status quo (meaning that gay couples are not eligible for the programs, even in States that recognize their marriage), they lose support from gays and sympathizers. If they challenge the status quo and publicly advocate making gay couple eligible for these types of programs, they lose the support of conservatives who might otherwise be tempted to vote for a Democratic candidate in the fall.

The second way in which the “gay-card” will be played by Republicans is more overt, and will come in the form of proposals to amend the constitution in such a way that gay marriage will become illegal. Bush as much as called for such a measure in last night’s SOTU, and we can expect events such as this to occur with increasing regularity over the course of the year. In fact, we can expect that Bush will beat this issue to death, since it may be effective for the same reasons just stated; Democrat candidates will be put on the defensive and will lose no matter which side they argue. It also has the fringe benefit of motivating the conservative base.

The question thus becomes how best to counter such tactics. The thing to keep in mind is that tactics like this aren’t used by Republicans because they are necessarily driven by an antipathy towards gays. Many of them might be, but that is not the primary motivation. Rather, it is simply politics. Republicans believe that this is a winning issue for them, and they’ll dangle the proposition of a constitutional amendment against gays in front of the more rapid zealots, and stoke the fires of fear in socially conservative moderates. But more likely than not, this issue will be immediately dropped after the election. It’s a way to win, not a crusade.

What I propose is a variation of the Barney Frank rule. Recall that back in 1987, Republican’s under Newt Gingrich initiated an infamous whisper campaign implying that Tom Foley was gay. Things got so out of hand that the openly gay Frank threatened to retaliate by publicly naming a number of closeted House Republican members. The rumors quickly stopped. The Frank rule says basically that “outing” of a closeted individual is acceptable only when the person in question is using a position of power and influence to engage in gay-bashing as a matter of politics or policy.

Using gay-marriage as a wedge issue in order to win an election certainly qualifies as such an instance in my opinion. Accordingly, I’ll propose the following for discussion and consideration. If Republicans persist in pushing proposals that can only be interpreted as thinly-veiled forms of gay-bashing in order to win votes, should Democrats or anyone with insider knowledge threaten to “out” prominent closeted Republicans? Would this be effective, and would it be acceptable?

Regarding the issue of effectiveness, it’s already proven that it will work, as was shown by Barney Franks in 1987. Of course, one shouldn’t assume that Republicans don’t mean what they say. If they talk about constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, they may actually end up doing it eventually. All the more reason to stop them. If they are driven by fanaticism and principle, threatening a few Republicans with “outing” won’t matter to the Bush administration, and will not likely prevent them from pushing the issue of gay marriage. But if these “trial balloons” are merely a cynical way off manipulating public opinion in order to win an election (which I think is the case), I predict that this issue would very quickly be dropped by the Bush team when they are faced with threats of retaliation against closeted Republicans. At some point, someone will come to Bush and tell him that they’ve got 5 Senators and two dozen members of congress who are, to put it nicely, “unhappy” with the situation.

As far as fairness goes, again I see nothing wrong with exposing the hypocrisy of closeted Republican lawmakers who benefit from public campaigns that would seek to deprive other gays of their rights. When Republicans win elections, they win power, closeted or not. If there are Republican individuals in positions of power, then they should be “outed” if they support these types of policies, especially when a clear intent of proposing the measures to begin with is to win political power in the first place.

Should this type of tactic apply to anyone other than directly responsible individuals? For example, should staffers, family or associates be targeted as well? I’d say not, since they aren’t the ones engaging in rank hypocrisy. But elected officials should be fair game, it seems to me. So I’ll throw it out there. What do you think?

posted by gunther at 3:00 PM Link

Friday, January 16, 2004

Latest News on Austin PP Boycott I’ve been deliberately trying to steer away from this issue because, frankly, the less that I have to do with some of the nitwits involved in this boycott the better. But I came across a couple of items today on the Houston Coalition for Life message board that are worth mentioning. First, it seems that some limited construction has started once again on the new PP clinic. According to a post from Chris Danze, a portable building has been set up on the construction site, and several work trucks were on site Tuesday (none with logos, names or markings). Work appeared to be focused on underground electric. Second, the boycotters also asked for boycott supporters to call and put pressure on Ramon Carrasquillo, the owner of Rainbow Concrete Supply Company in Austin. According to the letter Danze wrote,

Rainbow Concrete Company until now has refused to supply concrete to the project. But now Mr. Carrasquillo is under TREMENDOUS pressure to give in and provide the concrete. The forces of darkness are bearing down with all their might to crush Mr. Carrasquillo and his company if he does not supply the concrete. The pro-abortion forces in Austin are pulling out all the stops to get their way. Mr. Carrasquillo needs our prayers and support now. This is time critical. His address is: Ramon Carrasquillo 5712 Hero Drive Austin, TX 78735 phone: 512-385-7676 (press the star key on your phone to leave a message.)
Here’s some more background information, from the main Coalition for Life site run by David Bereit:
Chris [danze] reports that the abortion forces have targeted Ramon Carrasquillo, owner of Rainbow Materials, who was cited in 2001 by the City of Austin and the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission for numerous environmental violations because of concrete dumping in and near the Colorado River. The owner is still facing the possibility of massive fines and possible jail time. But, as Danze said, "The case has still not been settled. This ominous 'cloud' has been hanging over Mr. Carrasquillo as he has worked to get required cleanup permits and actually do the cleanup while trying to satisfy the legal authorities. But now he may be off the hook. Mr. Carrasquillo has been told that if he will 'give the concrete' to the Planned Parenthood project these problems 'will go away'."
I have know way to know if there is any truth to this allegation by Bereit. But I was rather bemused by the rest of his post here”
Does this sound like bribery, extortion, or what? It seems that the abortion industry will stop at nothing to impose its harmful agenda. Efforts are already underway to investigate whether illegal actions have taken place. It appears that some city officials in Austin are willing to pander to Planned Parenthood and set aside the responsibility to protect the environment and enforce the laws of the people of Austin to get concrete for a privately owned abortion business.
My quess is that nothing illegal has occurred. I think we can assume, considering the state of politics in Texas these days, that the AG would be looking into this situation real fast if these allegations had any merit at all. Otherwise there’d be no need for the anti-choicers to pressure Mr. Carrasquillo, who presumably could simply notify the AG or the media about his plight at the hands of nefarious government officials. Something tells me that David Berewit could get through to the "appropriate authorities" if he really needed to. The fact that they haven't tells me there's nothing there. In any event, it’s a bit ironic to see Bereit and his ilk making accusations of bribery and extortion, when that is what the entire Austin boycott is based on. If you oppose the Austin PP boycott I strongly urge you to consider contacting Mr. Carrasquillo using the information posted above, making it clear to him how much community support there is for this facility, and that his efforts in assisting the construction will not be forgotten by those who believe in choice. And while you’re at it, give Danze himself a call and let him know how you feel about him and the boycott. As previously posted on his site, here is the contact info:
Home Tel.: (512) 306-1326 Maldonado & Danze Inc Business Tel.: (512) 837-9677 email:
Also in local PP news, Texas anti-choicers are trying to actively recruit spies to infiltrate PP clinics in the state. It’s all because of a recently enacted law called the Woman's Right to Know Act (HB15), which became effective January 1st. The new law requires that women considering abortion be given “factual information” about the risks of abortion, their alternatives, and accurate full-color pictures of fetal development. Women are then forced to endure a 24-hour waiting period. They also must provide proof of identity and age. As the Coalition for Life site puts it,
Since Planned Parenthood has previously demonstrated a willingness to violate other laws that hamper their lucrative abortion business, the Coalition for Life will be conducting research to ensure that area Planned Parenthood abortion facilities comply with this new law or face stiff financial penalties. If you or someone you know are interested in helping with the research, please e-mail us at: xxxxxx
So two things: if there is anyone reading this who’s somehow involved in family planning/PP activities in Texas, be on the lookout for spies who are trying to obtain evidence that these draconian and intrusive laws are not being followed to the letter. On the other hand, if you yourself want to infiltrate the Coalition for Life to obtain information on what they are instructing their operatives to do, contact information for them can be found at at this website.

posted by gunther at 1:20 PM Link

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Toby Keith Aaron Sain Jumpstarts a Career Another nobody from the world of country music is attempting to jumpstart a musical career using a bit of opportunistic flag waving. You’ll recall that last year Toby Keith was able to parlay his song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” into C&W stardom, after struggling for years as a fry cook and male prostitute. [OK, he had previously had a few albums and some hits, but nothing comparing to the success he achieved with this jingoistic bit of crap. And while I can’t vouch for the fry cook and male prostitute sidelines, he must have been supporting himself somehow, since music certainly wasn’t doing it for him]. Meet America’s next stupid thing, Aaron Sain. If you’ve never heard of him, join the club. He is a producer/musician based in Nashville, who appears to be making a move to be this year’s Toby Keith. As I learned from Free Republic, he’s recorded a song called “Hey, Hollywood”. It’s meant to be “response to leftist attacks” from Hollywood liberals/entertainment types who have been denigrating America (or G.W. Bush; the two appear to be interchangeable to some people) through their nefarious causes and public comments. Just as Toby Keith went from has-been to super-star by jumping on the jingoism bandwagon, Aaron Sain is trying to make a name for himself by doing a bit of liberal-bashing.

A member of the conservative group has recorded a new country song responding to the leftist attacks against President George W. Bush and America coming from country music artists such as the Dixie Chicks and Willie Nelson as well as liberal Hollywood actors. "Country music fans -- like so many of us -- are proud Americans, and don't take kindly to people taking unfair potshots at our Commander-In-Chief when our country is at war," said in an e-mail to supporters on Monday. "That goes for anyone, from country 'stars' to Hollywood 'stars' -- it's a free country, and you're free to speak your mind, but that doesn't mean Americans have to listen to that drivel." The group points to country music legend Willie Nelson's latest "protest song" against Operation Iraqi Freedom and Bush as an example of the ongoing attacks from the left. …The lyrics to Nelson's song entitled "What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth?" ask "how much oil is one human life worth?" and "how much is a liar's word worth?" "Enough is enough," proclaims in the e-mail. "Willie's obviously been hangin' around with his Hollywood crowd too much lately -- but we've got a way to help bring back the TRUTH, and we're gonna use country music to do it, y'all." revealed in the e-mail that one of its members named Aaron Sain has a band named The Right Brothers and has written and recorded a song rebuking liberal actors called "Hey Hollywood." This single is not available in stores, but can be downloaded for free in various formats. "This is a fun way to fight back against the lies of the radical left, while also arming ourselves with the truth," contends in the e-mail. says they hope to "fight back against the lies of the loony left coming from Hollywood, the liberal media and groups like"
Here are the lyrics to this bit of drivel:
"Hey Hollywood" by The Right Brothers Well I heard some movie stars talking on TV Said they were being a voice for you and me Saying things like "no blood for oil" and "not in our name" And just like the roar of an F-16, I heard this country say Hey Hollywood, we hear your message and it don't sound good Your just running this country down with our troops overseas Hey Hollywood, take a look around if you would And if you don't love this land you're free to leave. Now don't get me wrong I know you got a right To say what you want and never apologize You can protest all day and shout what you believe But the rest of America has the right to kindly disagree Hey Hollywood, we hear your message and it don't sound good Your just running this country down with our troops overseas Hey Hollywood, take a look around if you would And if you don't love this land you're free to leave. I'll even help you pack your bags if you want, if you wanna leave. Hey Hollywood, stop running this country down. Hey Hollywood.
Well it’s not exactly in the same league as “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” (or “Iraq and I Roll” by Clint Black), for that matter, but it’s an admirable effort. Not surprisingly, the idiots who wrote this song, as well as those who have been praising it, don’t note the irony of the lyrics which in one breath can state that ”I know you got a right to say what you want and never apologize. You can protest all day and shout what you believe.”, but in the next one say ”And if you don't love this land you're free to leave; I'll even help you pack your bags if you want, if you wanna leave.. I guess one shouldn’t expect intellectual consistency from idiots. Who is Aaron Sain? As I said, he’s a music producer/musician based in Nashville. Among some of the stars he’s had a hand in producing are the Backstreet Boys; someone named Josh, who apparently has been wowing the crowds at shopping malls in upstate New York; Plus One, a Christian boy band; and purported teen sensation Kaci Cassidy. Here are the lyrics to one of Kaci’s songs, cowritten by Aaron Sain:
Intervention Divine (written by: Jeff Boyett/Kelly Shiver/Aaron Sain) Sarah's screaming,another daddy's leaving How can that much hurt be justified Frankie's a dealer his nickname is "The Healer" He makes a living helping people die Babies making babies,people going crazy Andy's new best friend's a 45 Circle us with angels,walk us through the danger Give us light to get us through the valley full of shadows and Deliver us from evil,we are only people You know we can't make it on our own O.Lord,we need intervention divine Michael is surfin',revenge at school is certain He's clicking www.bomb Street gang invasion,we've become a dead-bolt nation Security and innocence are gone We're still discriminating, we're angry and we're hating We're living in a modern babylon From America to Asia, Europe to Australia We're on our knees, Lord hear your children cry Repeat Chorus
Yikes! Maybe it’s just me but this song seems just a tad depressing. With this kind of product on his resume, it’s no wonder Sain was looking to try another approach, one that has already proven to be successful in transforming talentless hacks into successful megastars. I’ll be watching with bated breath to see how this latest contribution to America’s cultural legacy fares.

posted by gunther at 12:26 PM Link

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Cats, Dogs and Potatoes Another ‘NASCAR dad’ for Bush? David Albury, of Eland, Florida, is convinced that his cat is a living, meowing tribute to deceased NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt.

David Albury was at home recuperating from surgery several months ago when he noticed the black fur on his cat's back was shaped in the number "3." The fur screamed "Dale Earnhardt" to Albury. He told his wife of 30 years, "Valerie, we're rich." Albury, a NASCAR fan who regularly watches the races on television, called up the Daytona International Speedway to see if officials there were interested. The Speedway officials suggested he call Dale Earnhardt Inc. based in North Carolina. He hasn't gotten a reply. [Ed. No fucking kidding] Earnhardt died in 2001 during a crash in the Daytona 500. The legendary driver's car bore the number 3. …This isn't the first animal born in Florida bearing the number 3 since Earnhardt's death. In 2002, a brown Nubian goat was born in north Florida that had a white "3" on its side. It was promptly named Lil' Dale and several Earnhardt fan's went to its farm to see it.
Here’s the goat in question. Not exactly Mother Theresa in a bagel, but good enough for white trash, I guess. Unfortunately there’s no picture provided of the cat. The whole thing reminds me of that Bloom County strip about the potato chip that looked like Elvis. I came across the following email concerning said goat from an interested fan. A mister Ernest Peeper (yes, that’s his real name) of Miami said “I have a couple down at my house from Ohio and they would like to go see the goat but we are having problems finding out where the farm is at. Could you or anyone help us find the directions to this farm. Yor help would be gretly appreciated. [Ed. Typos as in the original] Apparently, NASCAR fans visiting the goat were known to be moved to tears. Anyhoo, while attempting to Google the term ‘Earnhardt & cat’, I came across some really weird crap. Like this Dale Earnhardt Puppy Dog & Cat bed, and these cat collars, for both Dale Earnhardt Jr. andsenior, In other animal news, In Canada, a dead golden retriever named Gregg has mysteriously ended up on the federal Liberal party membership list, entitling the pooch to a Christmas card from Prime Minister Paul Martin and invitations to party functions. No word yet on whether he is eligible for a Senate appointment.
The Christmas card from Paul Martin came two years ago as did invitations to at least three Liberal party functions in the Victoria area, including one nomination meeting, said the dead dog's 81-year-old owner. The Liberal party cards and letters were addressed to Gregg Buchanan, but the only Gregg who ever lived at that address was a dog who died five years ago, the dog's confused owner said. "At the time I was baffled by the whole thing," said the man who didn't want to be identified. "I just thought they made a mistake somewhere." The dog received two invitations from B.C.'s Young Liberals to attend meetings at the University of Victoria, he said. The man said he is not a member of any political party. He said he decided to make his dog's political status public after speculation about Liberal party memberships began swirling after recent raids on the offices of two provincial Liberal ministerial aides. Liberal party officials in Vancouver could not be reached for comment about the dog.
This type of thing could explain at last how Mr. Martin managed to become Prime Minister. Finally, this last story is just weird.
BERLIN (Reuters) - German police are investigating after an angry man returned a computer he had just bought saying it was packed with small potatoes instead of computer parts. The store replaced the computer free of charge but became suspicious when he returned a short time later with another potato-filled computer casing, police in the western city of Kaiserslautern said Monday. "The second time he said he didn't need a computer any more and asked for his money back in cash," a police spokesman said. Police are now investigating the man for fraud.

posted by gunther at 4:49 PM Link

Monday, January 12, 2004

Treasury To Probe O’Neill Well that didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after Paul O’Neill appeared on ’60 Minutes’ with his criticism of the Bush administration, the Treasury department has announced that it’s seeking an investigation of his use of some supposedly classified documents in the interview. Seems like a rather ham-handed payback attempt. As O’Neill himself has remarked, there’s not much they can do to him; he’s old, and rich. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to bring him down.

posted by gunther at 3:08 PM Link

Friday, January 09, 2004

Friday’s Weird News Posting’s been extremely light lately due to the holidays, a recurring flu-like illness, and a return to work. All I can manage today is this week’s installment of weird news stories… A couple in China have tried to save money by sending their twin sons to school on alternate days.

For six months, teachers and classmates at the school in western China thought the two boys were the same pupil until the ruse was discovered. The parents said afterwards they came up with the idea to save "unnecessary expenditure", according to local newspapers. They would send one boy to school on even-numbered days of the week and the other on odd-numbered days. The boys were attending preschool classes for four and five year-olds at a primary school in Chongqing.
Three poachers in Poland are facing charges after forcing a giant pike to drink champagne. Insert your own Polish joke here…
Three Polish poachers are facing animal cruelty charges for forcing a giant pike to drink champagne. Two of them were spotted holding the freshly caught fish while the third drunkenly tried to pour the contents of the bottle into its mouth. Prosecutors claim the men deliberately poured the champagne down the fish's throat to kill it so they could take it home and eat it. But the men, who were not named, claimed they spotted the giant fish in difficulty at the side of the lake and had hoped the champagne might give it a new lease of life. Polish media quoted one of the men as saying: "The poor thing was on it's last legs, we wanted to warm it up so it could enjoy the New Year."
Two Toronto schoolgirls have been expelled after charging boys to watch them kiss each other.
Two Grade 7 girls were "encouraged" to leave their school after they were caught charging money for a public kissing session in the school cafeteria. The 12-year-olds charged boys $5 to watch the lunch-hour show late last year. The father of one of the girls said his daughter was basically expelled for her actions. "She was thrown out of school," the unidentified man said after calling a CJAD phone-in show. "She wasn't allowed back to school. She was told she had to go to a different school." The man said the girl's parents agreed to get counselling for their daughter. The students apparently got the idea for the kiss after watching Britney Spears and Madonna kiss during last year's MTV awards.
Remember, that’s $5 Canadian, which at around $3.50 U.S. is a pretty good deal when you’re a horny 13 year-old boy. Finally, a man in Croatia blew up his car while trying to defrost it. It seems he attempted to do this by lighting a fire under the engine. Insert your own Croatian joke here…
A Croatian man blew up his frozen car after trying to warm it by lighting a fire under the engine. Zlatko Grden, 52, lit some old newspapers under the engine of his Opel Kadett after it failed to start in freezing temperatures. He told local media: "I couldn't start the engine and realised it was frozen. I decided to warm it up. Maybe I used too much paper." Grden, of Donja Stubica near the Croatian capital Zagreb, added: "My lovely car is now destroyed."

posted by gunther at 2:18 PM Link