Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Most Realistic Outlook on Iraq

As far as I am concerned, Richard Reeves had the most realistic prognosis of
  • What we should do in Iraq and
  • What is going to happen sooner or later anyway.

He argues that we are going to "cut and run" (click to read the article) and then lie about the fact that we cut and ran. The sad thing for me to consider is "who is going to be the last person to get killed or crippled for life" for our mistake?

Of course, Mr. Reeves hasn't always predicted accurately; after all he predicted that Bush would lose big. But he is right on point here.

This article was retrieved at uexpress.com .

Is the "Chickenhawk" label unfair?

Evidently, some conservatives think so; check out the article at Red State.org. By the way, I think that this is a good message board to find what intelligent conservatives are thinking.

I replied to this article thusly:

  • I admit that a 60 million person military would be, at best, unwieldly.
    So instead of saying "To all Bush supporters: Enlist now!" I'll say: "To all Bush supporters, offer to enlist now!"
    As was pointed out, many of the 60 million are too old or physically feeble to enlist. So, I'll cut them some slack.
    As to the others, I make the following points:
  • The most gifted among us should set a good example! Remember when the President made his recruiting pitch during his last address? Wouldn't have his pitch been even more effective had he been able to say: "I urge you to join my two daughters in joining the military!" Then, few would have doubted his sincerity.
    But, as things are we are left with jokes such as:
    "What is the difference between Vietnam and Iraq?"
    Ans.: "Bush and Cheney found an effective way out of Vietnam."
  • If all of the Bush voting public tried to enlist, the military could then be selective in who it picked! The days of the Army having to take drop-outs with drug problems would long be over.
  • Plus, given that the military would have so many "right thinking patriots with correct attitudes" to choose from, the military could turn down people like me! (USN 1981-1985). Think of how scary it was to have people like me out there protecting all of you, especially since my instincts would be to confront those who would attack our country with offers of therapy. Imagine what the captain of my submarine went through when he quizzed me as to what I should do if we were fired on by a Soviet submarine and I replied: "I'd invite the Soviet sailors to join me in a circle and have a good cry." :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush Cheney joke...how Vietnam is different from Iraq

Shamelessly stolen from Common Ground, Common Sense

How is Vietnam different from Iraq?

Answer: Bush and Cheney found an effecitve way out of Vietnam.

Republican Lawmaker Calls Constituents "Idiots"

So, the REPUBLICANS are the ones who are on the side of the common person; the ones who decry all of those "liberal elites" looking down on folks, right?

Wrong! A Republican State Assemblyman called his constituents "idiots":

"A New York state lawmaker says he's embarrassed, after he mistakenly sent out an e-mail message that referred to his constituents as "idiots."
Assemblyman Willis Stephens says he thought he was sending the e-mail to an aide. Instead, he sent the note to nearly 300 people on an online discussion group that focuses on the community of Brewster. The message included the comment that he was "just watching the idiots pontificate." "

The text of the article is here.

I am glad that he isn't a "liberal elite".

Republicans not grounded in Reality


Robin Hayes, a Republican congressman from North Carolina says that there is evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9-11. Here is what a CNN article has to say:

"A Republican congressman from North Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that the "evidence is clear" that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001."Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."Hayes, the vice chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said legislators have access to evidence others do not."

So, why wasn't the 9-11 commission aware of this evidence?

If I were from his district, I would be embarrassed to be represented by someone who is so lacking in basic knowledge. To check out his depth of knowledge (or the intellectual depth of his supporters?) surf to his website.

Unfortunately, such ignorance is not rare enough in the House of Representatives. For example, in her book Living History, Senator Clinton commented that there were members of the house that didn't know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare!

But in all honesty, I don't blame the representatives themselves. No one can help being born dull-witted. I do blame those who voted them into office though.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

President Bush's Speech on Iraq

The President's speech was unremarkable; just more of the same. As one of the news program callers said, the President has given this line so often he should have had this memorized by now. Personally, I found Senator Kerry's speech on the floor of the senate to be much better, but I suppose that is no surprise.

What was interesting to me was the post speech analysis on P. B. S. I think that the retired USA colonel and the retired USMC general made some great points. Here is what I got out of their analysis:

  • The initial invasion had little to do with terrorism. Now, we are indeed fighting terrorists there.
  • Many of the terrorists (the general said that we should consider the word "terrorism" as a war technique rather than "terrorist" as a label for people) are not affiliated with any sort of Al Queda at all. Many are merely Iraqi's who want us out of their country. We might even call them "patriots" if we were Iraqi's. Even the general said "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".
  • According to the colonel, roughly 5 percent of who we are fighting are genuine "jihadists" from other countries. He stated very curtly: "if we go to war, it is important that we kill the right people."

I am sorry I don't have a link to the transcript as yet. Those who have Real Player can link to the audio here.

I've written more at the Peoria County Democrat blog.

Conservatives Bash Hillary Bashing Book:

Part of an article from Keelin McDonell's article in the New Republic(an) Magazine:

"So even as The Truth About Hillary bounds up the best-seller lists, the right has rallied around a collective cry of foul play. The question is why. The book is, of course, a masterwork of personal attack, full of anonymous sniping and vile insinuation. But Klein's tome relies heavily on past Hillary character assassinations--most notably, Dick Morris's Rewriting History--and the rest mostly reprises old complaints about the former first lady. The outrage emanating from the right hardly seems attributable to the rather unremarkable trashiness of this volume. More likely, conservatives are launching a preemptive strike on what Klein identifies as one of Clinton's central mantras--"victimhood can be a political plus." Piling on Hillary now, particularly over a collection of unsubstantiated trifles, would merely advance theories of her old chestnut, the vast right-wing conspiracy. Rushing to Hillary's defense would seem to be a canny strategy both to prevent her from building up too much public sympathy and to assert the intellectual honesty of the American right. But it could also turn out to be a major miscalculation.
Not, it should be noted, because conservatives are wrong about the book. The Truth About Hillary proceeds, as they have hinted, at a relentlessly puerile pace. Here, for instance, is Klein on Hillary's college-era physiognomy:
Though Hillary was never a standout beauty, she had had a nice figure in high school and college. Indeed, several of her Wellesley College classmates, who played sports with Hillary, described how she looked in a T-shirt and shorts. They said she had a tiny waist, slim legs and ankles, and small buttocks. This paragraph offends on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. There's the sheer irrelevance of Hillary's appearance circa 1967. There's the vague attribution to "several of her ... classmates," which, if you consult the endnote, appears to have been one "Wellesley College classmate who requested anonymity." And then there's the slow and subtle accumulation of winks at what Klein elsewhere calls "the culture of lesbianism." Hillary, ever a failure at femininity, "played sports." What's more, the other girls were totally checking her out.

This is smut, pure and simple. But conservatives aren't doing themselves any favors by broadcasting this fact. Merely repeating some of the ridiculous allegations in this book is enough to garner Hillary an outpouring of affection. In a few months, no one is going to remember that Sean Hannity suggested Klein went too far. All that will remain is the hearsay from The Truth About Hillary that conservative pundits have cited in the course of shaming the book. Klein repeatedly points out that some of Hillary's hardest sells are suburban female voters. I can only imagine that even the iciest of these constituents will melt a little if she reads Klein critiquing the way Hillary looks in a bathing suit. "

Hmmm; the conservatives are speaking out against this. I'd love to believe that they are doing so on principle. McDonell says that they are doing this to keep Senator Clinton from getting too much sympathy.

But I wonder if this is because she is going to defect to the GOP? :-)

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!!!!

Here is an interesting site: buyblue.org. The only thing that caused me distress is that USAA got a red rating due to their executives giving heavily to Bush-Cheney.

They have a right to do that, of course. But, on the other hand, they've treated me very honestly and fairly. I can't imagine why they'd be attracted to those two; confusion I guess.
(by the way, that was a joke).

Monday, June 27, 2005

Liberals to blame for Priest Sex Abuse Scandals.

According to Senator Santorun:

"The most obvious change must occur within American seminaries, many of which demonstrate the same brand of cultural liberalism plaguing our secular universities. My hope was rekindled last week as our American Cardinals proposed from Rome an "apostolic visitation" of seminaries emphasizing "the need for fidelity to the Church's teaching, especially in the area of morality." It is an arduous task. However, the Pope made it clear last week that he expects the strong appeal of the Cardinals to be followed by decisive Episcopal action.

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

To read the rest of the article in Catholic Online, click here.

Senator Clinton to Switch Parties?

After reading from the U. S. News that former president Bill Clinton will be spending time at former President Bush's place in Maine and after reading Senator Clinton's biography (where she talks about her early days as a Republican and how the party "left her" rather than the other way around) I am wondering:

is she considering switching political parties?

Why not? If she could get nominated on the GOP ticket, she would probably win and win big. I could see her having broad cross over appeal to women, independents, and social liberals who are "strong on defense".

I want to make it clear that I am engaging in pure speculation; I have zero evidence.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Senator Durbin's VFW reception

I've written much about Senator Durbin's Gitmo remarks.

Perhaps this story on Senator Durbin's visit to a Peoria VFW post by Elaine Hopkins of the Peoria Jounral Star says it all:

PEORIA - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., received a cordial welcome from the Illinois Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at the Peoria Civic Center on Saturday, and in returned pledged to fight for benefits for veterans and soldiers.

He spoke to the audience of almost 300 at the event and received a standing welcome from most in the hall and a standing ovation at the conclusion. Durbin's talk was interrupted three times by applause. There were no hecklers or protesters.

The senator's recent remarks linking the treatment of prisoners at the Army's Guantanamo Bay prison with Nazi and other police-state tactics sparked anger from many groups, including the VFW. But he has apologized for any misunderstandings and did so again to the VFW audience.

The rest of Hopkins' story can be read here.

I have accepted an invitation to post on a new blog: The Peoria County Democrats. Hope to see you there!

Firearm rights and the Democratic Party

Can firearm rights folks be made to feel welcome in the Democratic Party?

I think that all-too-many times, we have situations like this one described in Sasha Abramsky's recent article in The Nation:

"Witt votes Democratic down the line in state elections and claims to have contributed $15,000 to local and state candidates in 2004. But, he says, until the Democrats stop advocating national gun-control legislation, he will neither vote for national Democratic candidates nor give any money to the national party.

"On health issues and economic issues and 75 percent of the issues, I would agree with the Democratic philosophy," he declares in a sonorous bass voice. "I think [having only] a 15 percent tax on dividends is a hell of a subsidy for rich people. I think Democrats, if they'd wise up and focus on issues of importance rather than stupid gun-control issues, would find they weren't disenfranchising all the sportsmen and people like myself. We would strongly support the Democrats. I understand they represent my interests. Without a doubt I do. By golly, leave me alone [on guns] and do some of the issues that are constructive, and I'll be behind you 100 percent."

Read more from Sasha Abramsky's article here.

I am one of those who is anti-gun on a personal level, but I don't think that we can "wish away" any part of the Bill of Rights. So, aside from some reasonable "background check" laws and perhaps some reasonable restrictions (e. g., you can't own your personal nuclear bomb) I mostly agree with the more moderate "gun rights" folks.

So, I'll continue to ban firearms in my house, but you can have all that you want in yours, ok? Just make sure that you know some basic firearm saftey.

Did we jump the gun in the Iraq war?

There is an article from the London Times that says that some of the airstrikes that we "officially associated" with enforcing the "no-fly" zone were indeed softening up Iraq for our invasion. Of course, this was widely speculated some time ago, but here we have a general speaking out.

Of course, the administration has left itself some wiggle room as this article does not say that the strikes were illegal.


General admits to secret air warMichael Smith

"THE American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.
Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.

The nine months of allied raids “laid the foundations” for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally. "

For the complete article, go

Saturday, June 25, 2005

All of those online petitions

I've been spending some of my internet time writing letters to my congressman, Senator Durbin, as well as signing letters and petitions from organizations like Move On, or various PAC's, which include Senator John Kerry's, Senator Barbara Boxer's or Senator Hillary Clinton's.

Of course, I read the petitions and only sign the ones I agree with (which has been all of them, so far).

What good does it do? I honestly don't know. But here is why I take the time: I truly believe that one of the reasons we keep getting our butt's kicked by the Republicans is that they are better disciplined than we are. Their troops follow orders.

So I am going to try some of that.

After the November 2004 general election disaster I decided to join a local Democracy for America group. There, they suggested that we get involved in electing progressive candidates at the local level. So I joined the campaign of a local progressive city council candidate, did a great deal of grunt work (walking door to door) and guess what? She whipped a well funded incumbent by almost 10 points!

I don't know how she will do in office but I like her early decisions. And believe me, my helping out in that victory put a bounce in my step.

Race Report: Lincoln 8 mile run (Metamora, IL)

It was hot and stuffy; my usual 1 mile at a 10 mpm pace was enough to get me out of breath. The temperature started at 78 F and rose to the low 80's by the race end, and the dewpoint was 68 (70% humidity at the start).

The course: large 8 mile loop featuring rolling hills.

I picked two targets to aim for (Jack Stone and Cheryl Jefferies) and more or less stayed with them for the first 4.5 miles or so; the first 4 miles came in 33:27 and were evenly paced. But I was suffering, as was eveyone else around me.

The concurrent 3 mile race turned off right past mile one; it was so tempting to talke that "left hand" turn!

The next 3 miles included one bit of intentional walking and some unintentional walking! I lost contact with Cheryl and got passed twice; these three miles were a ghastly 28:42. The last mile only took 8:42 ("only"???) and saw me finish in 1:10:52

Analysis: I've been including about 10-15 running miles per week with my walking miles, and that is enough for me to "fake it" at 3-4 mile races. But it is no way to prepare for races of 10K or longer.

Good Political Blogs/town hall meetings

Left of Center: Common Ground, Common Sense
Right of Center: Red State.org

Both places seem to be frequented by folks who think, learn and discuss rather than merely yell.

Friday, June 24, 2005

How Republican Are You?

This site is kind of fun: How Republican Are You?

As for me:

I am:
11%
Republican.
"You're a tax-and-spend liberal democrat. People like you are the reason everyone else votes for guys like Reagan or George W."

Are You A Republican?


I suppose this result is not a surprise as I consider Senator Boxer to be a "moderate". :-)

Was Senator Durbin that far off?

I wonder just how far off Senator Durbin was when I read this from the New York Times:
(note: you might have to register (free) but I found that it was well worth it)

This is part of the article:

WASHINGTON, June 23 - Military doctors at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators.
The accounts, in interviews with The New York Times, come as mental health professionals are debating whether psychiatrists and psychologists at the prison camp have violated professional ethics codes. The Pentagon and mental health professionals have been examining the ethical issues involved.
The former interrogators said the military doctors' role was to advise them and their fellow interrogators on ways of increasing psychological duress on detainees, sometimes by exploiting their fears, in the hopes of making them more cooperative and willing to provide information. In one example, interrogators were told that a detainee's medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.
In addition, the authors of an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine this week said their interviews with doctors who helped devise and supervise the interrogation regimen at Guantánamo showed that the program was explicitly designed to increase fear and distress among detainees as a means to obtaining intelligence.
The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation's fight against terrorism.
Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, declined to address the specifics in the accounts. But he suggested that the doctors advising interrogators were not covered by ethics strictures because they were not treating patients but rather were acting as behavioral scientists.
He said that while some health care personnel are responsible for "humane treatment of detainees," some medical professionals "may have other roles," like serving as behavioral scientists assessing the character of interrogation subjects.
The military refused to give The Times permission to interview medical personnel at the isolated Guantánamo camp about their practices, and the medical journal, in an article that criticized the program, did not name the officials interviewed by its authors. The handful of former interrogators who spoke to The Times about the practices at Guantánamo spoke on condition of anonymity; some said they had welcomed the doctors' help.
Pentagon officials said in interviews that the practices at Guantánamo violated no ethics guidelines, and they disputed the conclusions of the medical journal's article, which was posted on the journal's Web site on Wednesday.
Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators.
"Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Nazi's and Republicans

Well, as I said in a recent post, other politicians, including Republicans, have used analogies to Nazi's and/or Hitler.

So far, the Republicans have used the analogies against the Democrats. Here, Rachel Lea Hunter, a former candidate for the North Carolina Supreme court, uses such analogies against her own party; er, make that her former party, the GOP.

Thanks to the Commongroundcommonsense poster who alerted us to this story as well as to the Raw Story website.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Candidates for 2008?

Here is a "professional" look at the possible candidates from both parties, according to the AP.

Democrats for 2008 Part II.

I've dug up some more websites on Democrats who might be presidential candidates in 2008 (I am neglecting Senator Obama as he is more like 2016 material):

Conservative thoughts on Durbin's statement

Kathleen Parker is one conservative that I can actually read without getting nauseated or bored. William Buckley is another.

I disagree somewhat with Ms. Parker; I can see how Senator Durbin's choice of language could be infalamatory. But strictly speaking, he said nothing wrong.

But Ms. Parker's point about the reaction to Senator Durbin's statement shouldn't distract us from the very real problems at Gitmo is right on.

Of course, Clarence Page from the conservative Chicago Tribune wrote a thoughtful piece too, but I expect good writing from him.

Mark Lebovich wrote a column in the Washington Post which describes recent history of when politicians and pundits have used nazi imagry in their speech.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Durbin's apology

So Senator Durbin apologized. Fortunately, he apologized because he used analogies that cause many to be hysterical (e. g, the Jewish anti-defamation league) and because many reading comprehension challenged folks couldn't follow what he said.

They couldn't pay me enough to be a politician.

Democrats for President in 2008?

At this time, to my knowledge, only Joe Biden has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president. I have to admit that I don't know that much about him, other than he is bright, has some good social views, and has trouble with footnotes.

I have four "favorite candidates" (none of whom has announced that they are running) and shall list them in alphabetical order:


Also, some people that I respect want Al Gore to run.

Obviously, it is way too early to tell if any of these people will even run, much less be successful. After all, in 1989, who would have thought that George Bush Sr. would even have trouble with reelection, and who outside of Arkansas had even heard of Bill Clinton or Ross Perot? Mr. Clinton, if known for anything, was known for talking too long at the Democratic Convention. And Mr. Perot was mostly known for his "no pass, no play" idea for Texas high school football.

And, to be frank, I am not sure as to why I like this group of democrats, aside from the fact that they all seem to be intelligent, tough, self-made, stand up sort of people.

How liberal (or conservative) is your senator or congressman?

Just how liberal or conservative is your favorite candidate? After all, everyone "knows" that, say, Hillary Clinton is a bleeding heart liberal, right?

Well, one can always look and see how they voted on the various issues of concern to the various interest groups and decide for themselves, or one can look at the various already complied rankings. Here are some resources:
  • Vote Smart This is a non-partisan collection of data on members of the House and Senate. One can find how the candidates voted on the issues and how they are rated by various interests groups on various issues. There is concise biographical information here as well.
  • Vote-View. This has a liberal to conservative ranking of the pre-2004 election U. S. Senate.
  • Progressive-Punch. Here you can rank the senators on a variety of issues of concern to progressives. There is also a section for House members.
  • National Jounral. This is a subscription service, but I've provided a link to the infamous article in which they rebutted the claim that John Kerry was the most liberal member of the Senate. Here they provide a list of the 48 pre-2004 election Democratic senators.

Senator Durbin part V and Fairness

My letter to the editor was published in the Peoria Journal Star. Of course, so were other letters.

Ok, in the spirit of fairness, some of my political friends have been unfair to President Bush in at least one instance. The common charge that the abortion rates have gone up under Bush is false. Fact Check.org is an excellent resource to check claims, and they have a feature that allows you to receive updates.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Durbin, Gitmo Part ???

I am a member of Common Ground, Common Sense. It was started by some folks from the old Kerry-Edwards site. I really like the place, but I seem to be one of the relative few members that likes Clinton (both the Senator and the ex-President), Dean and Senator Kerry.

Needless to say, the conservatives have been giving Senator Durbin hell. One example of this comes from Jack Kelley's column in the Post-Gazette.

From what I've seen, this is typical of the criticism. Note how he fails to quote the most outlandish part of the FBI agent's report (the being put in the fetal position for 24 hours; the extreme temperatures, the urinating and defecating on one's self). Note how he misses what Senator Durbin says: there was absolutely nothing from Durbin's speech that said that we were operating on the scale of say, the gulags, nor did Durbin ever say that the Gitmo prisoners were there unjustly.

If anyone runs across intellegent conservative criticism of what Senator Durbin did, please foward it to me as I'd love to see it.
-----------------------

Here is what I wrote to Mr. Kelley (probably one letter among thousands)

In case you haven't read all of what Senator Durbin said:

http://durbin.senate.gov/gitmo.cfm

Here is what you saw fit to leave out of your description:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

That sounds like a bit more than getting poked in the chest and being yelled at by DI's.
There is nothing wrong with your disagreeing with what Senator Durbin said; what I can't understand is why you wrote such a fundamentally dishonest piece.
If your point was really valid, you wouldn't have to lie (by omission) to back it up.
Regards
ollie nanyes

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Iraq war: time to get out?

For a thoughtful discussion of two very different anti-Iraq war movements, read William Buckley's column.

For the Downing Street Memo saga, the After Downing Street blog is good and the following essay ("Downing Street is Old News") is quite powerful.

More mundane stuff: I got in 20+ miles of walking this morning on one of my favorite courses which includes 12 miles of the Illinois Valley Striders "Boredom" course and 6+ miles of trail in the Forest Park Nature Center. While in the FPNC, I saw a racoon mother run across the forest floor with 4 of her juveniles in tow!

It breaks my heart to realize many of our badly wounded troops are half of my age and will never get to experience what I did. And for what? Remember that the publicly stated rationale for invading Iraq was those non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Double Race Day

I took advantage of a perfect day for running to run a road 5K in the morning (23:24) and a trail 14K (8.7) miles in 1:28:43 in the evening.

The morning course was a three loop road course though a park. I arrived there with my running buddy, Tracy (a linguistics professor at Bradley University, where I teach). I started off with a 7:19 mile and faded a bit to 7:26 for mile 2. But then I went after a couple of buddies and overdid it a bit; .3 miles later I had to walk a few steps. I couldn't make up the lost ground and ran the last mile in 7:52 and the last .1 in 45 seconds.

The problem is that most of my training has been long, slow walking training. A 7:30 mile feels like a sprint to me.

In her race, Tracy closed strong and came within half a second of catching her rival.

Later in the day, I ran a 14 km trail race in Jubilee State Park (The "Traildog"). I had the good sense to run with one of the guys who marked the course for much of the way; hence I made only one wrong turn. The course was mostly single track, some gravel road and some lumpy farmland. I made only one mistake; I got off course for about 2 minutes but was able to double back and get on course fairly quickly.

I had a large chili-dog afterwards; yum! It was a nice day and I had some great company.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Comic Relief: who is the "hottest" US Senator?

Check out the "hottest US Senator" website.

What I want to know is how they could possibly leave Senator Barbara Boxer off of that list?

Intelligent, tough, principled, as well as attractive. What more could a guy want?

Of course, Senator Clinton is also intelligent and tough, and in my opinion, looks pretty good in her tweed skirts. But in my opinion, Senator Boxer's idealism is a bit sexier than Senator Clinton's hardened pragmatism.

Senator Durbin Part III

Senator Durbin's compete statement on the senate floor.

Senator Durbin's response to his critics.

Unfortunately, this whole issue might be a diversion from the damning evidence coming from the Downing Street Memo(s).

Senator Durbin Part II

I have to admit that I had a slightly different reaction than Senator Durbin did when he read the FBI agent's report on the maltreatment of a US detainee. I was reminded of the treatment our prisoners of war received at the hands of the communists.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration and their allies ("axis"?) reacted the way that they normally react to unpleasant news: they attempted to shoot the messenger.

I, for one, am proud that we in Illinois have someone with backbone to represent us. I wish more senators were like Senator Durbin.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Senator Durbin Called Our Troops "Nazi's"...

NOT!!!!

Unfortunately, this lie is being spread around by some right wingers. I don't know if they are blatantly dishonest, stupid, or poorly informed (or some combination of all three).

Here is what Senator Durbin actually said:

"When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

'On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.

On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.

On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.'


If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Thanks to "Rapid Response" and to the Daily Kos for this quote.

Being Fat is Ok, right?

A recent Journal of American Medicine article concluded that being moderately obese (as defined by the body mass index) is not a factor for longevity. For a nice discussion of this article, I recommend the review of the JAMA study from Dr. Andy's blog.

By the way, Dr. Andy is a Republican but I like him anyway.

Unfortunately, the JAMA study has been misrepresented in a couple of ways.

  • The JAMA study concludes that folks who are overweight (BMI in the 25-30 range) actually have slightly longer lives (though this is not a statistically significant result) and those who are moderately obese (BMI in the 30-35 range) tend to have shorter lives (again not a statistically significant result).
  • The JAMA study concludes (at a statistically significant level) that those who have BMI's in excess of 35 have shorter lifespans.

However, there are other health factors besides longevity. One can read about many of these at the obesity.org website.

In other words, being excessively fat is still bad for you.

By the way, what is BMI? It is the body mass index, and is determined by the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters.

For example, my wife is 5 foot, 3 inches tall, or 1.6 meters tall. She would be considered overweight if she were to weigh between 141 and 169 pounds, (BMI 25-30), obese from 169-197 pounds (30-35 BMI) and morbidly obese from 197 and up; a BMI of 40 would mean that she weighed 226 pounds.

I am 6 feet tall, so for me, BMI of 25 means 184 pounds, 30 corresponds to 221 pounds, 35 corresponds to 258 pounds, and 40 corresponds to 295 pounds.

Because I want to stay married I will not give Barbara's BMI; mine is right around 25.

Of course, BMI does not account for muscle weight, dense bones and the like and is therefore an imperfect measure.

Joke: Hot Air

I thank Dude Spellings for sending this to me:

A woman, in a hot air balloon, realized she was lost. She lowered her
altitude, and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him,
"Excuse me. Can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an
hour ago. But, I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS, and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon,
approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2346 feet above sea
level. You are at 11 degrees, 14.97 minutes North latitude, and 100
degrees, 49.09 minutes West longitude.

She rolled her eyes, and said, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is
technically correct. But, I have no idea what to do with your
information. And, I am still lost. Frankly, you have not been much
help to me."

The man smiled, and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am!", replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well...", said the man, "You do not know where you are, or where you
are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of
hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep. And,
now you expect me to solve your problem. You are in exactly the same
position you were in before we met. But somehow, now it's all my
fault.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mid June; Red and Blue

First, from the Red:

  • Barns from the Weekly Standard claims that the "right" is winning at the moment. In a sense, he is right, as Bush has gotten his judges confirmed. But Bush's approval ratings are in the low 40's and congress's in the 30's. So, I am not so sure.

  • Next, I notice how gleeful the Weekly Standard is about Kerry's not so stellar undergraduate grades. Notice however that Kerry's overall grade point average included a relatively low freshman year, and remember that Kerry did NOT come from an excessively wealthy background (though he married into big money).

What the Standard misses, or chooses to ignore, is that it isn't how one starts, but rather how one grows after their start. It seemed clear to me that Kerry remained intellectually interested most of his adult life, whereas no one would ever call Bush "intellectually interested".

Or, to use an analogy: when I was at Annapolis, we had to take the mile run test as part of our physical education. My best time for the mile was a rather slow 5:30 (an A-) and I only did that once. My other times ranged from the 5:40's to the mid 5:30's. Needless to say, there were many, many who were faster then.

But that was then; what about NOW? I'd be willing to bet that there are some who were much faster then who couldn't run with me now as not everyone makes an effort to stay in shape. One can say the same thing concerning the mind.

And I should point out that though I have a Ph. D. in mathematics, my freshman grades were less than stellar; my first year was in the 2.5-2.7 range and I didn't get 3.5 semester until my senior year. It took me a while to get going and to get an idea of what college was all about.

Of course, at Annapolis, the median gpa was around 2.3 in those days; grade inflation was not a big issue there.

Now from the left:
  • Did you follow the Jackson trial? No? Good for you! The Nation puts this bit of "news" into proper perspective. My guess is that the right wing wanted you to follow this; those of you who follow Buckley will note that he devoted a column to this (as well as his pathetic column on an imaginary meeting of democrats talking to Howard Dean, which brings me to
  • Again, The Nation where Dean's latest public statements are discussed. Frankly, it makes me feel good to see the Democratic leadership not kissing up to the republicans. Also, I got to watch Senator Boxer on CSPAN argue for an amendment to an energy bill which would remove a liability exemption to the ethanol gas additive mandate. Her proposed amendment didn't have much support, but I appreciate her sticking up for the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Running; times are changing.

Today I did 3 miles instead of my usual 10-15 as I am resting a sore back. Therefore I have some extra time to write.

Most people who run footraces have noticed that things have changed over the years. There are more races than before and, for the most part, the average race times have slowed down over the years.

As a project to help me learn SPSS statistical software, I went to the Illinois Valley Striders website and downloaded data from our local Steamboat race. I wanted to focus on a particular age group (I chose male 45-49 for some reason) and I focused on the 4 mile race, as the 15K has undergone a recent change (going to the fall and then back to the summer).

I focused from 1980 to 2003 and noticed that the number of entrants in this age group climbed from around 100 to 130-150 (small spike during the years when the 4 mile and 15K were split).
But I also did a linear regression on the median time of this age group and found that the median times were climbing at roughly 9 seconds per year ( t = 6.4, p = .000 , r^2 = .64)

The effects are especially obvious in the marathon distance. Way back in 1980, when I did my first, my time of 3:33 got me 1054 out of 2229 (men), or 1081 out of 2430 overall. Now-a-days, that would be at least an 75'th percentile time at smaller marathons, and better than that at the larger ones.

I don't know what is causing this; it could be that the larger races are attracting those who didn't go to races in years past, or if today's running clubs are more hospitable toward those who are willing to train but don't have much talent for running, or if the average club runner just doesn't train as much or as hard.

I think that these questions would be worth investigating.

Genocide

Seeing "Hotel Rwanda" this weekend and reading Leonard Pitts column on the Sudan crisis got me thinking. What responsibilities does the world have when people of one region decide that it would be a good idea to kill off another group of people?

A good first step might be to learn a bit more about the situation; some good resources that I've found include the Global Security website, the American Progress website and the CIA Factbook.

Concerning the Rwanda crisis of the mid 90's, I was surprised to find out that the Tutsis were roughly 10-12 percent of the population whereas the Hutus were 88-90%. I also did not know that the Tutsies descended from a royal ruling class whereas the Hutus descended from the peasantry. It seems as if there has been many cycles of Tutsi rule followed by a Hutu revolt and severe violence.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Steamboat 15K Run, Peoria, 2005

Conditions: mid 72 F, 81% humidity at the start to 80 F, 70% at the end.

Course: gradual uphill for the first 1.5 miles, then two loops consisting of a brutal half-mile climb, gradual incline, then a decline and a deep drop. The last 2.3 miles are a gradual decline.

I came in with minimal running training; most of my miles were racewalking miles. So I started off easy with a 8:10 mile. I was tracking Shevaun Fennel, Larry Jefferies, and Jack Stone.

The 4 mile runners split off just prior to mile 2 and we took it uphill. I tried my best to yoga breathe and relax on the uphill. The 5K mark came at 26:40. Shockingly, that was to be too fast for me today!

I more or held place on the next 5K; one interesting aspect is that I got lapped by the first 3-4 15K runners; the leader hit 10K in 32 flat (remember this was a net uphill split!)

I was trying to bide my time and turn it on at 10K which came at 54:30 (27:49 split) and I thought "hey, now I can pick it up".

That idea held up for another mile and I started to push the downhill. At mile 7 I felt miserable; my foot was burning and my legs were like lead. I walked for two very brief periods trying to get back into it and even set my watch for a 4-1 run/walk interval. I followed one of those and realized I had recovered enough to "just run". Mile 8 came at 1:01.

The last mile was a death march (28:43) and I got nailed 3 more times in the last 100 meters. Shevaun got me with 1/2 mile to go.

So my finish time was pretty bad (1:23:13) but strangely enough, I am not at all upset as I know that I wasn't prepared to race a running race. Also, racewalking the Andy Payne marathon (5:25) a couple of weeks ago didn't help. :-)

Oh, yes, Governor Blagojevich ran the 15K and kicked my butt by two minutes; on TV he said that this race was harder than any of his three previous marathons.
I hope he runs the state as well as he ran this race!

Downing Street memo; point/counter point

Consider the following opinion pieces on the Downing Street Memo in The Nation (a good magazine) and in The National Review (a not-so-good magazine, from my point of view :-) ).

Interestingly enough, both give the same "findings of fact" but disagree on what the memo means.

I suppose that my opinion on this memo is colored by my revulsion to Bush.

Back in 2000, when Bush was given the Florida "tie breaker" by the US Supreme Court (which made me all the more gleeful when the Democrat was given the tie-breaker in the Washington State governor's election), I didn't like it but thought to myself "it's ok; the country is still in good hands." At that time, I still kind of liked Bush, though I voted for Gore.

I turned against Bush when he delivered the State of the Union address concerning the Iraq situation; it appeared to me that he actually wanted to be a wartime president in the worst way. I truly believe that for Bush, Iraq is really a big ego trip. But that is just an opinion.

On another note, The Weekly Standard has a good article about the U. S. Air Force's proposed "Rods from God" space to ground weapons system.

Friday, June 10, 2005

USMC recruiting goals

Ari Berman from The Nation writes:

** "Last January the Marine Corps missed its recruitment quota for the first time in nearly a decade," writes the Center for American Progress. "And the Pentagon will likely report that the U.S. Army failed to meet its quota for the fourth consecutive month in May, perhaps by even larger margins than April's 40 percent shortfall." Financial incentives and lower recruiting standards will not fix the problem, warns CAP fellow Larry Korb. Instead, Korb says " President Bush should take a cue from Reagan and star in his own recruitment commercial that explains his reasons for going to war and the necessity for more ground troops to carry out our strategic and moral obligations in Iraq." Korb is normally a smart, thoughtful guy, but this suggestion is so ludicrous we almost hope Bush will take him up on it."

An additional suggestion: why doesn't Bush encourage his daughters to enlist and volunteer for duty in Iraq?

Of course that won't happen; part of the Republican way is to start some war and then hold the coats of the poorer folks as they go off to fight, die and bleed.

But give the devils their due: they get those same folks to vote for them time and time again!

The Democrats are learning....

Is this ironic or what:

"Rep. Roy Blunt, the No. 3 House Republican, accused Democrats of a political two-step, with Dean throwing "the most below-the-belt political punches" in recent memory while "leading Democrats tell the American people that they don't agree with the nasty rhetoric after each Dean cheap shot."

Does this remind anyone of the recent general election?

Other items of interest: notice how the FBI memo (of the FBI failing to take action to prevent 9/11) is being played up whereas the Downing Street Memo is being downplayed. What is worse: an agency making some mistakes, or an executive blatantly lying about the reasons for going to war? For more on the latter, check out the "claim vs. fact" section of the American Progress Action website.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

New Senate Energy Bill

So, what happens if you ruin a company and basically defraud your workers of much of their savings? Your new company gets a grant from an energy bill from the United States Senate!

Basically, an energy bill currently being considered by the United States Senate contains funding to benefit a company founded by four former Enron executives; read about this outrage here. But hey, at least this isn't sex between consenting adults, right?

I'd like to thank Dude Spellings for alerting me to this.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mathematics Goals for 2005

Math research goals:
  • Learn some hyperbolic geometry
  • Finish Lickorhish's book on knot theory
  • Develop an jones type invariant for non-compact knots in D^2 x R^1
  • Prove or disprove the following: if f is a two variable function which is not continuous at the origin, then there exists at least one differential path along which the limit fails to exist, or there exists at least two distinct differential paths such that the limit of f, when evaluated over these two paths, differs.

Athletic and Yoga Goals, June 2005

Yoga goal for the summer: get comfortable in bhujapidasana. Right now I can barely get my feet off of the ground for a couple of seconds, and my butt is sore from my falling backwards. :-)

Walking goal: complete the Leanhorse 100 miler in 28 hours or less. My PR is 23:40 at Cornbelt (2004), but that was a flat track at sea level. My McNaughton 100 (2005) was a rather ghastly 34:16, but that was on a difficult technical trail with elevator shaft type drops.

First Entry; Downing Street Memo

I have to admit I am rather puzzled. Why was there so much furor over President Clinton's extramarital affairs (and false testimony during a civil trial) and so little over President "W" Bush's lies over going to war against Iraq? (See, the Downing Street Memo)

Clinton's conduct, while bad, was nowhere near a high crime nor misdemeanors.

On the other hand, the evil committed by Bush was extreme as it lead to thousands of deaths. I don't have enough knowledge to say "Bush committed an impeachable offense" but I truly wonder "where is the outrage"?

I suppose it is a bit of what the authors of the books "God's Politics" and "Don't Think of an Elephant" said about many Bush supporters seeing Iraq as representing an "evil them" and therefore be quite willing to tolerate lies and unintended deaths as necessary evils to combat a greater evil.

I suppose you can do no wrong if god is on your side, right?