Cicadas gradually invading the heartland...

A couple months ago I wrote several articles about the growing uncertainty in the scientific community about the causes and implications of the recent disappearance of large percentages of honey bee populations all around the United States. Several interesting and frightening theories have been posed to explain what may be happening to the bees, but it will take some time to weigh the consequences and the story has lost traction as of late. That is not to say it has diminished in importance, but I have another creepy insect on my mind this summer, the "Magicadas".

I am not sure if it was my brief fascination with this unexplained phenomenon that aroused my interests in the rare appearance of the red-eyed cicadas in my suburban Chicago hometown, or if it was my distant memories of my only previous encounter with the noisy and overwhelming bugs that eerily emerge every 17 years after developing underground slowly. Whatever the inspiration, I have been impatiently counting the hours until I could hear the immutable buzz of the cicada cry drowning the typical silence of suburban nights.

The first predictions all pointed to the May 22nd as the day to expect the grubs to emerge fully transformed into the biblical plague which they embody. Yet that date has come and gone, and still there are absolutely no signs whatsoever of the bugs except for rumors passed between locals. I remember so vividly the otherworldly roar that usually consumes the entire region when the locusts emerge, but as of yet nothing but silence has been heard in my neighborhood. I have heard recently that there is supposed to be one million per acre, and I assumed that because my house is located on the edge of a large forest preserve, that the Shore Grove would be littered with creepy crawlers.

What could be the problem? As far as I know, it is not typical for the predictions to be this far off, since it is not especially difficult to dig down a few inches to examine the developmental progress of the larve and make an estimation.

I have done some research and I guess it is still too early to reach any conclusions about what may be causing the delayed emergence of the cicadas, but I have encountered tons of fascinating information as I have searched for answers and I have accumulated photos and information below for those of you interested in learning more so you can amaze your friends with your knowledge about the bugs everyone will be talking about this summer.

Linky Goodness

View selected photos I have accumulated on Google Notebook.

Chicago Tribune Google Maps Mashup for reporting cicada sightings in the greater Chicagoland area, so far 1460 sightings and counting.

National Geographic article with basic information for understanding the life-cycle of the 17 year Magicadas.

Selected resources from the Library of Congress.

Get into the spirit of the season with Cicada apparel, including t-shirts, baby bibs, hats and more...

Cicada Mania page with all the information anyone could possibly hope for, enjoy...


A message worth remembering this Memorial Day...

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

-John Stuart Mill

As I sit here with my parents watching Patton this Memorial Day weekend, I am driven to argue with my mother over the merits of war and the necessity of believing that war is necessary and that though I could never claim to understand what it takes to make it through war being my self just a civilian, I could certainly understand what is worth fighting for and what is not. This is something that not just my mother has lost sight of recently, as the entire country has gradually abandoned the military as they bear the brunt of the enemies brutality based on the sensationalized images and political pandering of Democrats and those sympathetic to their message in the mainstream media.

I have no problem with people that hate war, and in fact I wish everyone shared that opinion, for the world would certainly be a different and better place. However, this is not the world we live in, and I doubt very much that anyone alive today will live to see a world that without violent conflict. Therefore, I am of the opinion that we either need to wage war to win, or decide that we wish to negotiate with our enemies and take the war option off of the table. I am one to believe that if we want to win, we cannot lose.

What are you willing to fight for?


Supposed Democratic frontrunners run scared of Brit Hume and Chris Wallace...

Several months ago, conservative commentator and Fox News contributor Ann Coulter called former-North Carolina Senator John Edwards a "fag" during an appearance on the Hannity and Colmes political talk show, and ever since the Democratic candidates have been scattering like cockroaches when the light turns on. I find it amazing to me that all three major Democratic candidates have chosen to bow out of the Fox debate, especially Barack Obama, who needs all of the exposure and name recognition that he can get in his uphill battle against Mrs. Bill Clinton.

Senator Edwards was the first to bow out in March shortly after the comments made by Coulter, and was followed more recently by Obama and Clinton. One would think that Edwards, a litigator famous for his rousing courtroom speeches, would relish the opportunity to take his message to the largest audience the Democrats will likely have during the primary contest. He participated in the two debates hosted by Fox in 2004 during the Democratic primary, and as far as I can remember he looked very impressive during those appearances.

Senator Obama has failed to provide any reason other than that offered by his spokesman who stated, "CNN seemed like a more appropriate venue." So essentially Barack is scared of having to face the tough questions and prefers only the softballs lobbed by Anderson Cooper. Too bad more people will watch highlights on the Democratic debate on Fox than actually tune into the debate live on CNN. Republican candidate Ron Paul recently saw his campaign get a shot of adrenaline after his performance in the recent Republican Primary Debate on Fox, during which he might as well have been reading Democratic talking points in response to questions about his long-held position against the war in Iraq.

Mrs. Bill Clinton has also failed to offer any explanation for why she will not participate in the Fox debate, other than comments by her incompetent spokesman to the effect that she has chosen to only partake in the debates officially sponsored by the DNC (except of course for those other two events she had "previously committed to"). Fox is co-hosting the debate with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which is an entirely Democratic group, so I do not understand why it has failed to earn the endorsement of the DNC.

The debate is still several months away and it is yet unclear if any other Democratic candidates will join their supposedly more qualified colleagues watching from Howard Dean's basement. In the meantime I think that Senator Obama and Mrs. Clinton should be forced to answer questions themselves, rather than sending their embarrassing spokesmen to answer for them, on why they don't think the Fox debate is worthy of their participation. Edwards is the only candidate with an excuse, though a lame excuse at best, and the only logical explanation for their decision to follow Edwards faster than he chases ambulances through Raleigh is that they find the coverage on the other cable news networks more favorable to their position.

My next post will address which of the second-tier candidates stand to benefit the most if the "Big 3" stick to their guns.


Question for The Donald: If Elizabeth Hasselbeck is "dumbest person on TV", what does that make your son?

I have said on this blog many times, Donald Trump is an incredibly impressive individual and may end up being the greatest real estate tycoon of the century when his career is over, but does anyone else think it is a bit disturbing that he gets off on bashing Rosie O'Donnell at every available opportunity? Even more disturbing, he has now decided that he shit smells so good and he is so superior, he might as well lash out at poor Elizabeth Hasselbeck, calling her one of the dumbest people on television and belittling her beyond anything that I had ever expected from the Donald.

I do not care about Donald calling a spade a spade when he trashes Rosie, she deserves it, but I am surprised that he hasn't had the presence of mind to back off his rude and uncalled for comments about Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I just watched Donald briefly speaking with Geraldo on his Fox News weekend show Geraldo At Large, and though Geraldo was clearly reluctant to confront Trump aggressively, he was asking all of the questions that I think Trump too often gets a pass on when he runs his mouth.

One question I would really love to hear someone ask Trump is what he thinks of his son, considering Donald Jr. has recently made headlines as the host of a massive fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. Last time I checked, Giuliani's position on the war was not too far off from Mrs. Hasselbeck's, so I wonder Donald, do you think your son is one of the dumbest billion-heirs in America? Clearly he must be if you are going to hold your son to the same intellectual standard to which you hold television personalities.

Despite his pig-headed refusal to withdraw his comment that "Elizabeth Hasselbeck is one of the dumbest people on television", and his sickeningly narcissistic need to mention that he attended Wharton Business School every time he is front of a camera, I can't help but find The Donald compelling. Thank god Rosie finally had the decency to shut up and go away, and we can finally start to hear what Donald has to say about more important things, like his new building in Chicago, or what project he is planning next.

Must feel good to be crapped on by a pigeon instead of Harry on Nancy for a change...

While a reporter posed his question for the president during Thursday's Rose Garden press conference, a pigeon decided it was time for him to have his fifteen minutes and relieved himself on the sleeve of Bush's jacket. Viewers who were tuned into the live broadcast missed out on Bush nonchalantly wiping his arm clean while the reporters seemed intently focused on the reporter who continued to politely ask his question. Shepard Smith informed me last night on Fox that it is apparently good luck to have a bird defecate on you (and it is doubly good luck when it happens to you on national television). Early indications are this may in fact be the case, or at least I am crossing my fingers.

Is there a good reason why women can't drive in Saudi Arabia?

One of the most popular criticisms leveled against the Saudi Arabian kingdom and its domestic laws is that women are not permitted the right to drive themselves. Now, I have never heard of a single Saudi woman complain about these restrictions, and I have often heard that because they all have chauffeurs we shouldn't feel too bad for them. However, it had never occurred to me that there is a very practical reason why the Saudi, or any other Middle Eastern government would not want women behind the wheel.

My friend sent me the photo on the right in an e-mail joke under the crude heading of, "A pointless family photo". The same friend also called me recently after nearly getting run off the road by a woman in full traditional Muslim garb to ask if there is anything he could do to get a law passed that would prevent people who wear obviously visually obstructive cloths from driving. My initial reaction was that there was no way, nor reasonable justification, to propose seriously such a measure, but when I received this photo I began to rethink this assumption.

I really think this there is a possible justification for not permitting women to drive when they are dressed in the way the women in the photo are, and maybe the roads in Saudi Arabia are safer than those in the United States because of these practical measures. I have never heard of a serious accident caused because of negligent or reckless driving by a woman whose vision was impeded by her head scarf. However, I think it is important not to dismiss the Saudi policies as offensive or oppressive because they deny the right of an adult woman to drive. In fact, the Saudi's may be acting responsibly and in the interests of those women.

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All the motivation I need to quit smoking...

I have smoked since I was 16 years-old and everyday I wake up regretting the first time I decided it was cool to smoke a cigarette. I have tried to quit more than a couple of times in the years since then, but the confluence of several factors, not the least of which being the fact that my friends are almost universally smokers, have always kept me from following through on my private pledge to remain steadfast in my commitment to becoming smoke free. I have recently begun another attempt to quit cold turkey, and this time I have supplemented my will power with statistics on what smoking does to the body over time, and the odds of averting excruciatingly slow and painful death. This is the first data mashup of many to come that I am posting both for myself, as a reminder of why I wanted to quit in the first place, and for my many friends who have yet to find their inspiration to quit.

Relative Risk for Current Smokers - Men vs. Women

Breaking down the melting pot...

The United States is often referred to by politicians as a melting pot, which is one way of saying that we are all either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants (or in the case of Native Americans, the descendants of those persecuted by immigrants). Therefore, it would make sense for us to all have passionate opinions on our nation's immigration policy, and we should expect that those opinions are based on the highest quality information available. While I can say confidently that there are few Americans that do not have strong feelings about how we as a country should regulate immigration, I cannot say with any confidence that the information underlying these opinions is worthy of any label other than partisan talking points.

I have been fascinated by the free information and charts that are made available to bloggers and journalists through the new web service at Swivel.com, and graphs such as the one below will likely be the inspiration of many blog postings to come. This information on country of origin for temporary workers in the US is particularly relevant, I believe, in light of the ongoing debate over immigration policy, which is one of the most heated and partisan debates in modern political discourse. It is often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction when weighing the arguments put forward by proponents of policy on either the far right or left of the political spectrum, so rather than address the ridiculous information that is fed to us by partisan hacks, it would be far more constructive to address the data provided by the statisticians about who is here and where they are from.

At the heart of the immigration debate is the heated argument over what should be done to either close or monitor traffic across our southern border, which many conservatives consider to be our greatest national security vulnerability, and as a result the immigrants that endure the greatest amount of scrutiny and suspicion are primarily those from Mexico and Latin America. One would be forgiven if they assumed that most temporary workers in the US were of Mexican origin, but the following graph makes clear that this simply is not the case, or at least it makes clear that documented temporary workers are not primarily of Latin American origin, but in fact come from the other side of the world.

Most immigrants who are here on temporary worker visas are in fact from India, and though this graphic does not breakdown further into what industries and jobs these immigrants have found employment, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the majority of Indian immigrant workers are in highly skilled positions. It would also be reasonable to assume that these are highly educated individuals and are unlikely to be a drain on public services and welfare programs, considering the familial culture from which they come. If interests on the extreme fringes of the political discourse are allowed to marginalize the public debate, with one side screaming "DISCRIMINATION", while the other side is screaming "AMNESTY", then the people who suffer the consequences of the consequent inaction above all others are those that have followed the law and make a valued contribution to American society and may have wishes of becoming Americans themselves.

I am sympathetic to those who insist that there must be accountability for those immigrants who have gamed the system and have been allowed to thrive while here illegally undocumented, but any immigration policy must make it a priority to determine how to offer these valued and documented temporary workers a realistic and attractive solution for becoming permanent residents and eventually citizens. We cannot allow those that have come here illegally to get a free pass, or in other words, earn legal status without consequences. However, we are a country that forgives, and any policy that embraces forgiveness in exchange for penance is not amnesty; it is practical and in America's national interest.

The melting pot


Absolutely Hilarious: Carter calls Bush worst ever president in international relations (Ha, Ha, Ha!!!!)

My Way News - Carter: Bush 'Worst' in World Relations

Jimmy Carter has done everything in he can think of to change the fact that he was the most over-matched and ineffective president in our nations history, or at the very least in the last 100 years. He was so weak that his opponent in the 1980 Election, California Governor Ronald Reagan, was able to negotiate the release of American hostages in Iran prior to ever assuming the presidency, which Carter himself tried futilely to do himself two years. Carter can make accusations until his heart is content about how Bush has made terrible decisions, or that Bush's policies have been reckless, but that will never change his legacy.

Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world this administration has been the worst in history." He continued, "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

As long as it makes Carter sleep better at night, he can say whatever he wants, but the fact remains that regardless of Bush and his decisions, Carter's authority in international relations was about as impotent as Bob Dole without his Viagra. One of the most depressing things to watch, at least in my opinion, is an interview with Jimmy Carter. Every time he is on television he looks like a man who knows he was a huge disappointment and has been in denial about that fact ever since, as he tries in vain to explain what he thought he was going to accomplish with the Camp David Accords.

Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer David Brinkley said in response to Carter's comments, "This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president. When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."

Carter even thinks it appropriate to lash out at outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Carter calls Blair in an interview with the BBC, "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient. And I think the most undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush have been a major tragedy for the world." Carter isn't worthy to walk the Prime Minister's dog, so who cares what he thinks about Blair's impact on US-UK relations.

I personally believe that we should all consider ourselves lucky that Carter isn't taken very seriously in the real world. For all of the good things Carter has done recently to help salvage some sort of legacy out of a career mired in disappointment and failure, this total lack of respect for the office he once held erases everything in my opinion. President Carter, please shut up and go away, you are only embarrassing yourself further.


Women better represented in Iraqi Parliament than in US Congress...

I recently stumbled upon a new data sharing website called Swivel, which offers bloggers and journalists quality information to use creatively to backup their arguments. I was immediately compelled to write about the very first report I saw featured on Swivel's homepage, which utilized data from an United Nations report that makes the shocking claim that there are more women serving as a percentage of Iraqi parliament than there are currently serving as a percentage of the US Congress. At first glance, I was surprised and had a difficult time believing that this could be possible. Upon closer review, I noticed that the graph below shows a drastic increase in the number of women elected to parliament between the years 1990-2006, but how could it be that women were "elected" to anything in Iraq prior to the US liberation of the country from the autocratic rule of Saddam Hussein?

To satisfy my suspicions, I did what I usually do and navigated my way over to Wikipedia to find information on the structure of the Iraq government under the dictatorship of Saddam. I found that the government was ruled exclusively under the executive authority of Saddam's nine member Revolutionary Command Council, which legislated by decree and was comprised exclusively of male members of the Ba'ath Party. There was a 250 member Iraqi National Assembly, consisting of 220 elected by popular vote, with 30 more appointed by Saddam to represent the three northern provinces. The legislative body was never recognized as free and fair by the United Nations, and only members of Saddam's Ba'ath Party were eligible.

Considering these facts, I find it interesting that the OECD now wants to measure improvement in the representation of women in Iraq comparatively to an electoral period that they themselves did not recognize. However, the information is no less compelling, particularly the fact that a similar increase in female political participation has been witnessed in Pakistan. I think that one of the by-products of an increased American presence in the Middle East over the first couple decades of the 21st century will be the unprecedented improvement in the condition of women living in Islamic states.

So often I make this point when arguing with friends about the impact of the US invasion, only to have my head bitten off by the most vehement anti-Bushies who insist that this wasn't our motivation and should not be used as a justification. To me the motivations are far less important than the results, and if liberal wackos want to argue that the invasion was a disaster because of its consequences and the violence it has caused in the region, but believe it unimportant to weigh the more beneficial by-products of Iraqi liberation, then they are hypocrites. Our last best hope for the Middle East is in the liberation of the fairer sex, which should be blatantly apparent to everyone who has watched Iraq become consumed in violence.

Iraq elects more women than the US


Clinton announces launch of "Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Programme" in 40 cities...

Bill Clinton announced his intention to finance an urban energy efficiency program in what was called the "C40" , a collection of 40 cities around the world. The initial participants are Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Rome, Sao Pa ulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto. The plan was announced in New York at the Mayor's summit, and will be one part of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).

Clinton is quoted as saying, "The businesses, banks and cities partnering with my foundation are addressing the issue of global warming because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is good for their bottom line." I would be interested to see a complete list of participants and financiers so I could compare it to campaign contribution disclosures from his wife's presidential bid. My point being, I doubt Clinton's partners are the only parties to this relationship who stand to see benefits in their bottom line.

Another element of the CCI program is a partnership announced today with Microsoft to develop online tools for enabling the world's 40 largest cities to monitor carbon emissions. Clearly there must be some profit motive involved in this project as well, since Microsoft doesn't do anything without a guaranteed premium.


Ron Paul has big night in South Carolina Republican debate...

I haven't had the opportunity to watch the full coverage of the Republican primary debate, held this evening in South Carolina and hosted by the Fox News Channel, because I was busy watching my Chicago Bulls wipe the floor with the Detroit Pistons. I plan on staying up late to watch the re-airing, and having just turned on Fox to see that Congressman Ron Paul is thus far tied with Mitt Romney in the text message poll open to viewers with 26% of respondents picking him as the winner.

One response I did catch from Rep. Paul that I thought particularly interesting was his response to the question of which three programs he would cut as President to limit federal spending and balance the budget. With a straight face Paul said, "Well, I would start with the Departments. The Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security..."

As I said, I am not sure how the whole debate unfolded, but I am willing to bet he gave a much better answer to this question than any of his fellow participants, and it was likely an answer that resonated with small government Republicans who long for a candidate with exactly these types of principles. It was most certainly a better answer than was offered by the first candidate to which it was posed, Tommy Thompson, who rambled about fiscal responsibility before lamely offering some unnamed "stockpile" program in the Department of Health and Human Services.

I have no reason to think that Ron Paul has increased his chances of winning the Republican nomination, or even registering in the actual polls, but he certainly brings something to the debate that is otherwise absent. I am glad he has not been squeezed out by the media establishment trying to streamline to nomination process by only inviting the front-runners. Senator Gravel serves a similar purpose on the Democratic side. I congratulate Congressman Paul on his success tonight in South Carolina and I look forward to seeing his performance later this evening.

UPDATE: Opie and Anthony suspended for 30 Days following controversial bit...

XM News Release: Opie and Anthony taken off air for 30 days

Last week I wrote a short post about the controversial and degrading comments made on the XM Satellite Radio show of Gregg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia, and the response I received was far overwhelming. I have have received 22 comments on both the comment section on this blog and on the social bookmarking site Digg combined, with a lot of big Opie and Anthony fans voicing their defense of the duo and accusing me of supporting censorship and being a fascist. View the comments on Digg by following this link.
I still think the actual content in question was disgusting, and I do not understand why anyone disagrees with that, but I do not think they should be suspended for something said on a Satellite Radio station. As XM states in their press release announcing the suspension,

As a company, XM provides customers with tools to control what they listen to on XM. "The Opie & Anthony Show" appears on one of XM's explicit language channels (XL). Whenever a radio is tuned to an explicit language channel, the letters "XL" continuously appear on the screen. XM frequently mentions on its explicit language channels that the content may be inappropriate for certain listeners and tells how to "block" channels that feature this type of content. Channel blocking is available through xmradio.com or by calling 1-800-XMRADIO.

The decision to suspend them was not made until today because the duo decided to make light of the situation yesterday insisting, "We're under the same scrutiny as National Public Radio- it doesn't make sense." Of course it doesn't make sense, and the above statement from the press release announcing your suspension makes it perfectly clear why that doesn't make sense. The pair also addressed the Don Imus controversy, stating that Imus's career is now "gone- just because he was trying to entertain people." Again, an apt observation by the two radio hosts, and definitely an appropriate topic of conversation for an XM Satellite Radio talkshow.

Opie and Anthony were fired by CBS radio in 2002 for broadcasting a phone call from a couple that claimed to be having sex inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. They have since been given back their slot on CBS talk radio, but the content of that show is much tamer than the XM version, and it will be aired as usual Wednesday.

What I find most shocking is the fact that XM chose to suspend Hughes and Cumia without any significant pressure from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or any of the other opportunists one might expect to be up in arms after a black woman (Condi Rice) was so viciously debased on a radio program hosted by white men. Maybe the fact that this did not happen shows that Sharpton and his cronies don't care as long as it is a member of the Bush Administration that is slandered, and maybe it shows that there are limits to the moral crusading on which they will embark.

I wonder what will come next, who will be the next to be pressured into self-censoring because of the pressures of the politically correct crowd? Will Bill Maher get fired by HBO for disrespecting the President? Probably not, but after this decision he should certainly be worried. We don't have to like everything that is said by men and women that are paid to go against the grain and push the envelope, and we certainly don't have a right to tell other people what they should consider entertainment. We do however have a responsibility to stand up for the basic principles of free speech and the right to be lewd and indecent if that is what you get paid to do.


Someone please enlighten me on why it is more important to assign blame for war than it is to actually fight it...

The most recent ad featuring a US General self-righteously denouncing the president for not listening to warnings he was given about the possible consequences of invading Iraq, specifically the probability that the military would get bogged down in a drawn-out campaign of terrorism and suicide bombings, has really gotten me fired up.

I respect the fact that these retired military leaders are just doing what they consider honorable, they are soldiers and I would expect nothing less, but they are offering nothing to the solution, but only adding their name to the list of respectfully dissenting American citizens. I believe they are being exploited to convey a political message, and I do not understand how it tells us anything about what Iraq means to America and the rest of the world from today forward.

Tim Russert insisted tonight that the most important task facing our government today is determining what went wrong in the run-up to war that led us to mistakenly think Saddam had WMD. I hope he was not serious, because if he really thinks assigning blame for how we have arrived in our current situation is a more pressing concern than how to solve our current problems, then he clearly could care less about anything except promoting his own personal political agenda and not securing the interests of the United States. But when you watch him interview Senator John McCain for the full hour on Meet the Press, and he spends the first half of the show pointing out the dissatisfaction with the president and his handling of the Iraq War with total disregard for the fact that McCain is essentially agreeing with every point he makes, he looks like a hack.

Clearly the White House made miscalculations in the early stages of the occupation, but it was operating with the support of the American electorate and with the world and without changing US policy one bit from that under the Clinton Administration. Lets not forget, when the decision to invade Iraq was made, it came on the heels of a resounding US victory in Afghanistan which defied conventional wisdom based upon the experiences of the Soviet Union, which spent years fighting a US financed resistance to no avail. How can we fault the president for being confident after defying history once, and why is there rarely any mention of this remarkable accomplishment as a counterpoint to the naysayers who like to brand the president a failure on cable news shows every night?

As far as I am concerned, Bush has had both great victories and great defeats in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. But I believe it is clear that the victories have been almost entirely of a military nature, while the defeats have been almost exclusively in the political arena, or rather in the battle for public opinion. I consider any pundit or politician who insists that our military has lost anything to be repulsive, and they should be exposed for the disingenuous opportunists that they are.

Everyday we hear the Democratic Party talking point, which I admit they borrowed from General Petraeus, that there is "no military solution to the conflict as it now exists, only a political solution." I would like to believe that General Patraeus would take those words back if he knew at the time they would be used to rally support behind legislation that specifically undermines the very strategy he was outlining before the Congress when he made that statement. Interestingly, the General was confirmed with an unanimous vote in the Senate, which is the very same institution that has done everything in their power, including using his own words against him, since that vote of confidence to undermine him and the troops under his command. When did the General say that he wanted benchmarks, or a timetable, or his funding cut off or stalled by partisan vitriol?

It is completely illogical to insist that there is no military solution to a civil war, but rather only a political compromise can achieve peace, and somehow our withdrawal/redeployment will be the impetus that brings this diplomatic solution about. First of all, to assert that it is a civil war implies that our troops are not targeted by non-Iraqi elements, which is absolutely not the case. Al-Qaeda and its network operates openly in Baghdad, and if they happen to get C-SPAN in the Sunni Triangle or the Pakistani hinterlands, moral is probably much higher amongst it ranks after hearing the Democratic Majority Leader declare them victorious in the battle against the infidel in Iraq. Regardless of our presence the war will continue, and it is hard to imagine a more effective recruiting tool for our enemies and the forces of Islamic fascism than a public acknowledgment of their victory straight from the leader of the ruling party in the US Congress.

I do not understand why it is ignored that we have an enemy in Iraq too, and no it is not the Iraqi people who are trying to sort out their lives, it is the radical Islamic fascists that send their soldiers to die with belts or in trucks packed with C-4. So often I hear the Democratic presidential candidates insisting that they would refocus American military resources on the fight in Afghanistan and the hunt for bin-Laden, but never to you hear them assert that we are losing in Afghanistan. Why abandon the effort that is in dire straits to focus on more successful campaigns?

How can it be reasonably argued that our presence or absence will affect the current situation in any substantial way, except to provide the government we have heretofore supported and largely financed with every excuse to adopt Saddam-styled suppression tactics, thus completely undermining any sense of principle we have impressed upon the fledgling Iraqi government and society? This is quite simply immoral and unjust, and it is remarkable that the media has embraced this position as wise and in our interests to pursue. I know that a lot of you instinctively want to lash out at me and denounce Bush as immoral and unjust, and claim that if it weren't for him we wouldn't have had this problem to in the first place. To all of you I say simply- DEAL WITH IT!

It is reasonable to argue that Bush was wrong, or that he failed to grasp the implications of his preemption policy, but if there is anything he was not it is immoral and unjust. He inherited a US policy of regime change, and as George Tenet has made perfectly clear, they did not manipulate the intelligence at all, but in fact shared the belief that Saddam possessed WMD with the intelligence services of everyone of our allies. It is entirely unreasonable to insist that pointing fingers and assigning blame is the most important task we are faced with as we continue to fight against clearly hate-filled fundamentalists.

I have posed a lot of questions in this rant, and I hope to get some straight answers, NO TALKING POINTS ALLOWED! Just a heads up to all those bleeding heart Bush bashers out there, when you repeat Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, you sound just as retarded as Bush. I want to hear some nuance, because if withdrawal is all you can muster then the threat you pose to Republicans in the post-9/11 world is way over-hyped.

All indications are Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Hagel poised for White House run as third-party ticket...

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has continuously denied that he intends to get into the current race for the Republican presidential nomination, but one could be fooled by his recent decision to reopen his campaign website mikebloomberg.com, which his office claims it is doing simply to allow Americans to see where he stands on the issues. Interestingly, he only addresses domestic issues directly. To quote the letter signed by Bloomberg at the top of the site's homepage,
This site will help you learn more about the issues important to me and the causes I've supported in business, philanthropy, and public life.

You'll find information about the work being done in the public and private sectors to improve schools, reform health care, keep illegal guns off of our streets and bring nonpartisan solutions to government.
Bloomberg won reelection just last year, so it is unclear why he feels the urgency to reopen his campaign website now, but that is not the only indication that the Mayor is considering a presidential run. This past weekend he gave a speech outlining his NATIONAL energy policy, during which the New York Times asserted he "sounded a lot like a presidential candidate", though his office denied that he was motivated by ambition and reasserted his pledge to serve the entirety of his current term.

Chuck Hagel also indicated strongly on Face the Nation, or at least did not deny, that he would entertain the possibility of running with Mayor Bloomberg on a third party ticket, which was absolutely shocking but also raises a very intriguing possibility as it would be the most formidable third party candidacy in a century. Simply going off of what can be found currently on Mayor Bloomberg's campaign website, it is clear to me that if he and Sen. Hagel are plotting to create their own party and run Bloomberg would be responsible for domestic issues and Hagel would take up the torch on foreign policy.
As an former-Marine who served honorably in Vietnam as well as the only Republican Senator to take a radically anti-war position and embrace the idea of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. Hagel has refused to close the door on a possible run for the Republican nomination, but it is unlikely that he would stand a chance considering the fact that Republican loyalists have yet to embrace the anti-war movement in any substantial way, and in fact still supports the war on principle overwhelmingly. A quick visit to chuckhagel.com provided no indication that Hagel was brewing a national campaign, and in fact it appears as if someone cleverly snapped up the domain name in anticipation of a Hagel candidacy.

A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University indicated that Mayor Bloomberg has a much higher job approval rating in New York than his predecessor and current Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, though Giuliani was quite popular in his own right for a Republican in one of the country's most liberal cities, and would make a better Chief Executive than Giuliani.
  • Say 46 - 16 percent that Bloomberg is a better mayor than Rudolph Giuliani, with 34 percent who say both are the same;
  • Say 46 - 31 percent that Bloomberg would make a better President than Giuliani.
Other polling indicates that Bloomberg would have a tough uphill fight to overcome a 50% unfavorable rating, compared to only 25% favorable, at the national level. That said, he would likely not have to waste anytime holding fundraisers or jockeying for TV time, considering Forbes estimates the value of the media empire that bears his name at close to $14 Billion and Bloomberg himself has a net worth of over $5 Billion, putting him in the 44th position on the 2006 Forbes 400 list. I think it is unlikely that Bloomberg would leverage his vast fortune to finance a campaign that had him anywhere other than the top of the ticket, and he may have found himself a formidable running mate in the conservative Senator from the heartland.

Bloomberg and Hagel were recently seen dining in Washington, which has had all of the talking heads in an speculative uproar, but I suspect they will not tip their hand until they have finalized their strategy, but I cannot imagine a situation which could arise that would prevent them from eventually jumping into the mix. They would have broad appeal to both conservatives and liberals, and together would likely be the most qualified ticket regardless of who wins the nominations of the two major parties. I suggest visiting Bloomberg's website and deciding for yourself what you think to be Mayor Bloomberg's intentions.


Rudi Giuliani's profile in courage...

Giuliani ups the ante over abortion-News-World-US & Americas-TimesOnline

I was surprised to hear the words, "I support the woman's right to choose", come out of Rudy Giuliani's mouth during the first Republican debate, but not quite as surprised as I was by his initial responses to issues such as partial birth abortion and using federal funds for abortions. The Mayor's response was just about as nuanced as a 90 second, off the cuff response can get, which is exactly what he needed to do in the face of a vicious Chris Matthews, badgering him to death. Initially I thought Guiliani may have forgotten momentarily where he was, because I do not doubt the Mayor is a pragmatist on matters of abortion and undoubtedly he was trying to impress that point upon his host, but surely he did not wish to set himself apart from the other candidates so early on such a fundamental issue.

Well, as it turns out I had sorely underestimated Rudy's integrity, and in the speech shown above he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will not abandon his principles to earn the favor of uber-conservative Republicans. Every year the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library issues its annual Profiles in Courage to political figures who take a stand against the prevailing interests that be in favor of their own personal convictions, regardless and in spite of any personal hardships such a decision may bring upon them. If Rudy is not recognized for this stand on pure principle and in defense of what he believes despite the fact that it could destroy his chances of becoming president, then the award is not worthy of the man in whose name it is given.

Finally, at long last the Republican Party is faced with an alternative to the morally righteous, anti-abortion Christian Coalition that has dominated conservative politics for too long. It is time for a new path, and Rudy Giuliani has shown today that he is the man who will turn the party on its head by announcing his firm pro-choice position on abortion, and thus distinguishing himself from his opponents for the Republican nomination. I am so proud of Mayor Giuliani I can hardly find the words to express my joy. However, I am also more concerned than ever before that he is vulnerable to a defeat in the Republican Primary. Giuliani has been universally criticized by pundits for supposedly trying to have it both ways on this issue, but I cannot understand how that could possibly be concluded based on what he said.

Charles Krauthammer wrote the best analyis I have yet seen of Giuliani's abortion position on his National Review Online Blog. Krauthammer, to my initial surprise, defends Giuliani against the drive-by media which has lambasted the Republican front-runner since the party's first debate. Most pundits have ascribed Rudy's response to a question about whether he would approve of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, to which Giuliani responded , "That would be OK." When pressed by his host to clarify his statement, Giuliani only provided more confusion by stating that it would also be OK if, "a strict constructionist judge were to determine Roe v Wade as precedent and uphold the decision." It is this statement that Krauthammer seizes upon in his defense of Rudy's answer, further clarifying where he thought Giuliani was going with his "overly concise" version of his more detailed answer. Krauthammer insists that the key phrase that one should take from Giuliani's response is "strict constructionist judge". To quote Krauthammer,

Democrats are pro-choice and have an abortion litmus test for judges they would nominate to the Supreme Court. Giuliani is pro-choice but has no such litmus test. The key phrase in his answer is “strict constructionist judge.” On judicial issues in general he believes in “strict constructionism,” the common conservative view that we don’t want judges citing penumbral emanations and other constitutional vapors to justify inventing new rights they fancy the country needs.

When the Republican Party is blessed with a candidate as skilled and qualified as Rudy Giuliani, it would be a tragic shame if it allowed his position on a social issue to define him as a person and as a potential Commander in Chief, but every indication is that the other nine MEN running for the Republican nomination are going to seize upon this perceived weakness and use it to drag down the only one of them that has a realistic chance of success in a general election (at least at this point). Everyone has been caught up in a tizzy over the Mayor's controversial response to his beliefs about abortion that the truly jaw-dropping responses of the evening have largely gone unnoticed.

Very little attention has been paid to the fact that THREE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES ACTUALLY STATED THAT THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION. I will discuss this more in a subsequent post, but WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT?! Are they kidding? They couldn't seriously mean that, could they? These are the same three candidates that are likely to lead the charge against Giuliani in coming weeks and months, and the mainstream media is actually going to take them seriously. These three should have been laughed off stage!

As a younger Republican born and raised in Chicago, I have decidedly more progressive views on social issues, and given the opportunity to answer the same question posed to the candidates during the debate, I would likely have given the same answer as Mayor Giuliani. I too dislike abortion because I think it a retroactive form of birth control that a more responsible individual would never have been in a position to choose in the first place. However, some people should not be parents, and to force a child upon someone who neither wants one nor has what it takes to care for one, is far more irresponsible than anything I can imagine. It is absolutely true that adoption is a better option, but in some cases the woman who would have to carry the baby for nine months before it could be birthed and made available for adoption is not responsible enough to take care of herself and her baby for nine months knowing full well that she is going to give the baby up anyway.


Reprehensible audio of XM DJ's Opie and Anthony talking about raping Condi Rice and Laura Bush...

XM Satellite Radio shock jocks, Opie and Anthony have made Don Imus look like a girl scout when they brought a random homeless man onto their show and encouraged him during this expletive filled rant about raping Condi Rice, Laura Bush and Queen Elizabeth. I understand that XM should not be subject to the same standards of broadcasting that network television is, but if a company allows the hosts it employs to use such vile language when speaking about the Secretary of State, First Lady and Queen of England, then that company deserves to be boycotted on principle. This is disgusting.



Tucker Carlson: Bill Richardson most qualified candidate (Huh?)

Tucker Carlson played the new Bill Richardson campaign commercial today on his MSNBC show Tucker, and stated confidently that he believes Governor Richardson is the most qualified candidate in the entire race, though he conceded that Richardson has no chance. I agree that the Governor has an impressive resume, and he may well be the most qualified candidate in the Democratic Primary, but it is impossible for me to believe that a candidate with no military service on his resume could be the most qualified candidate in a race that includes Senator John McCain.

I do not think that military service is a requirement to be president, it absolutely is not, but regardless of whether a candidate would make the best president, he/she cannot be the most qualified to be commander and chief of an armed forces in which they did not serve. Bill Richardson is very well qualified, but Sen. McCain is probably the most qualified presidential candidate in a generation. However, because of his age and reputation as a maverick, he too is unlikely to emerge from the primary elections as his party's nominee.

As for the commercial itself, it is the most impressive and creative presidential campaign ad I have ever seen, and if Richardson can afford to put it on during prime time all around the country he will be able to increase his name recognition and will have connected with voters in a positive and humorous way, as opposed to his opponents, who will likely continue to be driven by their negative anti-Bush message.


The Prime Minister of Iraq must speak English if Bush has any hope of turning the tide of public opinion...

I think it has been clear for some time that the White House has lost touch with the American people when it comes to justifying its decisions in Iraq and in the fight against global terrorism more generally. I think this is because it has a difficult time verbalizing the merits and achievements of its Iraq policies, and instead people are having their opinions shaped by the sensationalism of body counts and video tapes from al-Qaeda, as well as the flat out disingenuous rhetoric of the Democratic Party.

In my opinion there are a couple different reasons the White House is so incapable of maintaining public support behind a war that is clearly, in every respect, the most efficiently managed war in American history. First, George Bush is the worst public speaker in his administration, so when people watch him speak that might be inclined to support him on principle, they often end up cringing upon hearing him stumble when posed a question more than two seconds long. Second, there is nobody in Iraq that the White House can trot up to the microphone and have them clearly articulate why it is so important for us to persevere and not leave the country to descend into total anarchy.

I have given up hope that Bush will someday find his voice. However, those of us who truly believe in the mission in Iraq shouldn't settle for Bush as our number one spokesman, we should be insisting that he find us an Iraqi that can come on cable news programs sounding like Tony Blair and effectively charm the drive-by media into actually giving a damn about something other than their ratings.

Iyad Allawi (pictured) had the potential to be this person, but unfortunately he is too rational and secular to have any chance of being elected in a country that has been blinded by sectarian interests. I have not encountered an Iraqi religious leader that has impressed me at all, and it certainly doesn't seem as if there are any major Iraqi Muslim leaders that speak English. If anyone has any suggestions about who would make an effective international spokesman for the Iraqi cause I would appreciate hearing them. I understand that we can't force upon the Iraqis a leader who is not of their choosing, but we sure as hell can exert our influence over the religious leaders who are responsible for anointing candidates and are largely responsible for influencing the eventual policies of elected leaders. If we can make the clerics understand the political moods of the United States electorate, it could go a long way toward helping the Iraqis help themselves.

David Gergen: McCain's torture in Vietnam coming back to hurt him in campaign...

I like David Gergen, and I consider him to have one of the greatest political minds in America, but sometimes I think he fails to think before he dispenses his wisdom. On Anderson Cooper's CNN show Anderson Cooper 360, Gergen was asked how formidable John McCain had appeared to him in the early stages of the campaign, and I was shocked to hear the Harvard professor respond by saying,
"...it used to be that 70 was the new 60, because people were feeling more energetic at an older age...but with John McCain it appears that 70 is 70. Maybe the torture and abuse that he suffered while a POW in Vietnam is finally taking a toll on him."
I am paraphrasing his comments, as I just watched them 15 minutes ago, so I don't want to give off the wrong impression of the context in which they were said. Gergen went on to say that he deeply respects John McCain and considers him to have the most character of any candidate in the race, but Gergen was less than diplomatic in expressing his real concerns about whether McCain is at a point in his life where he can handle the trials and tribulations of life in the White House.

Gergin may in fact be right, and we would all probably be better off today (or at least the Republican Party would be better off) if McCain had won the last Republican Primary he ran in eight years ago when he was in the prime of his life and definitely had the right stuff. Whether of not he is up to the task in 2008 has yet to be determined, and I don't agree with Professor Gergen's assessment that McCain looks like a tired or aging candidate. In fact, I have been impressed by McCain's vitality and passion, and I certainly do not hold the fact that he suffered in the living hell of the Hanoi Hilton against him as I weigh his claim to the Republican Party's candidacy.

McCain may be over the hill, but he is sharp as a tack, so if he needs a wheelchair to get between events I think we should give him that luxury and not make a campaign issue out of it. We did elect a man in a wheelchair to take on the great fascist menace that ravaged the globe during WWII, maybe that is what we need to take on the modern fascist threat consuming the Muslim world.


Space Junk, government responsibility and avoiding the Kessler Effect...

FT.com / Asia-Pacific / China - China cancels space waste meeting

The most interesting book I have read as of late was Chalmers Johnson's most recent release Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, and one issue that he addresses in his typical no-nonsense style is the idea that the space race is quickly becoming an arms race, which is a development that could have catastrophic implications on our abilities to utilize low-earth orbit for civilian purposes. The book was published before the Chinese government's recent experiment using an anti-satellite missile to destroy an aging weather satellite, which has undoubtedly created more space junk than any other incident in the history of human space exploration. However, I have no doubt that the recent decision by the CCP to delay discussions aimed at curbing the long-term side effects of increasing human exploration of that which lies beyond our world, would draw the ire of Professor Johnson.

If you are looking for an optimistic vision of the world in 2025, Chalmers Johnson's book should be at the bottom of your list, as his assessment of the current geopolitical situation and the prospects for US success under the current Administration's policies concerning just about everything, could understandably give rise to thoughts of imminent doom for humanity. Johnson's hatred of the Bush White House is clearly his driving inspiration as he writes this half-history, half-prophecy about the gradual demise of the American Republic, that I suspect he would be swiftly ushered out of the area were he spotted at a presidential function. However, I could not help but think throughout that Johnson is probably succumbing to the same myopic syndrome that has gripped many aging intellectuals during this age of uncertainty; consumed by apocalyptic visions of a world never to be truly known not fully understood by a man of the 20th century in any reasonable sense.

In his discussion on the implications of neglecting the increases in space debris Johnson draws upon the ideas of physicists who have issued theories about the unintended consequences of human space exploration.

"Weaponization of space would make the debris problem much worse, and even one war in space could encase the entire planet in a shell of whizzing debris that would thereafter make space near the Earth a highly hazardous for peaceful as well as military purposes....Joel Primack (professor of physics UC Santa Cruz, further observes that the density of debris is already so great at the 900 to 1000 kilometer altitude (938 to 1063 miles) that pieces of junk colliding with each other could set of a chain reaction or cascade of collisions- the Kessler Effect, predicted mathematically in the 1970's by the NASA scientist Donald Kessler- that would make the zone useless." (Nemesis 217-218)

Chalmers JohnsonImage via WikipediaJohnson is at this point in the book detailing the current developments in the international space race, particularly the weaponisation of space and means available to governments for disposing of old dead satellites which have died out of the marketplace and need to bed retired/destroyed. In general Johnson's arguments are very intriguing because when he examines an issue he tries to wear the glasses of his colleagues from every different element/community within the greater scientific debate.

Ever since reading Johnson's dire predictions for the future of mankind, I began pondering the ways in which space junk could be effectively cleaned up using innovative strategies for trapping or forcibly slowing material so as to cause it to fall out of orbit. A few weeks ago I had the idea of launching what would essentially be a huge pin cushion, which could be moved into the path of orbiting space junk in an effort to capture the material permanently and remove it from its dangerous and unpredictable orbit. I began writing a post about my idea when I stumbled upon this article in Wired Magazine, Houston, We Have a Trash Problem, which profiles six different projects currently under development at American research universities and NASA facilities. Sure enough, the first solution listed is basically my concept exactly.

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