Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

Archive for December, 2006

Good riddance or a new martyr?

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2006

Good bye Saddam:

Three years after he was hauled from a hole in the ground by pursuing U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein was hanged Saturday under a sentence imposed by an Iraqi court, al-Hurra TV, al-Arabiya and Sky News TV reported.

The deposed president was found guilty over the killing of 148 members of the Shiite population of the town of Dujail after militants tried to assassinate him there in 1982, during Iraq’s war with Shiite Iran.

The official witnesses to his execution gathered Friday in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in final preparation for his hanging, as state television broadcast footage of his regime’s atrocities.

Posted in International | Leave a Comment »

Better late than never

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2006

The AP reports Durham DA Mike Nifong is finally coming under some desperately needed scrutiny:

The North Carolina bar filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the athletes under suspicion.

The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment. The complaint could also force District Attorney Mike Nifong off the case by creating a conflict of interest.

Posted in Justice and the Courts | 1 Comment »

Selective coverage

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2006

Interesting coverage at Firedoglake on the wingnut blogosphere’s coverage of Kerry’s military photos…and their misrepresentation.

Posted in Media, The Right | Leave a Comment »

The frontrunners

Posted by Greg on December 29, 2006

At least to the extent that anyone can be considered a frontrunner almost two years out.  Here’s a look at the numbers, and it surprises me that Obama on the Democratic side and Romney on the GOP side aren’t showing better than they are.  Relieved perhaps, but still surprised.

Posted in Election 2008 | Leave a Comment »

Less safe and less income

Posted by Greg on December 27, 2006

It’s bad enough that we aren’t really any safer despite the billions of dollars spent and silly policies established in the name of enhanced security, but can the “pain in the posterior” factor in international travel into the US be given a dollar value?

According to Bloomberg, it can, and it’s over $10 billion a year in lost revenue.

For growing numbers of international business travelers, visa and customs regulations are making trips to the U.S. a thing of the past.

Companies say U.S. rules have become so onerous in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that it’s often simpler to meet customers, business partners and employees elsewhere. Exxon Mobil Corp. has resorted to customer meetings in a London branch office; Ingersoll-Rand Co. says it took one of its Indian engineers three 18-hour trips to get his U.S. visa.

Problems created by the entry requirements have become so evident that the man who initially helped enforce them — Tom Ridge, the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security — is now working with a business group to change them.

“Our challenge now is to continue to meet our security needs while striking a better balance with how we welcome foreign visitors,” Ridge says.

The number of business travelers to the U.S. fell 10 percent in 2005 from the previous year, according to World Travel Market, a London-based trade-show group. The Discover America Partnership — the group Ridge is working with, an organization of business executives working to improve America’s image abroad — says its survey of foreign travelers found that the U.S. entry process was rated the “worst” by a margin of more than two to one.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Travel Industry Association, says the situation “is going to have disastrous implications” for the U.S. economy unless changes are made. The National Foreign Trade Council says the entry rules cost U.S. businesses $31 billion in lost sales and higher expenses between 2002 and 2004. More broadly, U.S. business groups say, foreign travelers choosing other destinations might fuel the growth of rival commercial and financial centers at the expense of the U.S. Europe is a major beneficiary: Foreign business travel rose 8 percent from 2004 to 2005, according to World Travel Market.

Posted in Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, National Security | Leave a Comment »

Corrections, not flip flops

Posted by Greg on December 26, 2006

Good editorial in WaPo by John Kerry:

I say this to President Bush as someone who learned the hard way how embracing the world’s complexity can be twisted into a crude political shorthand. Barbed words can make for great politics. But with U.S. troops in Iraq in the middle of an escalating civil war, this is no time for politics. Refusing to change course for fear of the political fallout is not only dangerous — it is immoral.

I’d rather explain a change of position any day than look a parent in the eye and tell them that their son or daughter had to die so that a broken policy could live.

No one should be looking for vindication in what is happening in Iraq today. The lesson here is not that some of us were right about Iraq or that some of us were wrong. The lesson is simply that we need to change course rapidly rather than perversely use mistakes already made and lives already given as an excuse to make more mistakes and lose even more lives.

Posted in Bush Adminisration, National Security | Leave a Comment »

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

Posted by Greg on December 22, 2006

from satirist Andy Borowitz:

In a University of Minnesota survey designed to determine who is naughty and who is nice, the naughty outnumbered the nice by a whopping three-to-one margin, the University of Minnesota revealed today.

The survey, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, showed that 70% of Americans identify themselves as naughty while only 22% identify themselves as nice, with 8% defining themselves as “other.”

According to the survey, Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to admit that they were naughty, while Republicans were more likely to claim that they had been nice, only later to be found out to have been naughty.

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the survey for the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, said that the rise of the naughty, along with the steady decline of the nice, can be attributed to two major factors.

“The Internet has spread naughtiness at a rate that few of us could have anticipated,” Mr. Logdson said. “Also, some of the credit has to go to the Fox network.”

In another part of the survey, the number of Americans who know that they are sleeping was slightly edged by the number of Americans who know that they are awake.

According to Mr. Logsdon, those numbers are the reverse of a poll taken in 2004, when more Americans defined themselves as sleeping than awake: “Some of that may have been due to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass).”

Elsewhere, obesity may be caused not by eating habits but by bacteria in one’s guts, according to a study underwritten by the American Society of Gluttons.

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

Goode riddance

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

Do the people of Virginia REALLY want this asshat representing them?

Posted in Congress, The Right | Leave a Comment »

On to important things…

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

We have a title:

We now have a title for Book VII: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

Rowling’s U.S. publisher, Scholastic Inc., released a brief statement Thursday announcing the name of the world’s most anticipated children’s book, the finale to her phenomenally popular fantasy series.

No publication date or other details were offered. Rowling is still working on the book, she explained on her Web site in an entry posted early Thursday.

I’m going to go nuts waiting for this book…

Posted in Entertainment | Leave a Comment »

Mitt’s rightward drift

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

Even more people are recognizing the dramatic shift in Mitt’s views.

As he prepares for a 2008 presidential campaign, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has championed the conservative principles that guided President Ronald Reagan, become an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and supported overturning the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

It was not always so. Twelve years ago, Romney boasted that he would be more effective in fighting discrimination against gay men and lesbians than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), distanced himself from some conservative policies of the Reagan administration, and proudly recalled his family’s record in support of abortion rights.

Posted in Election 2008 | Leave a Comment »

A conservative gets introduced to reality

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

It seems apparent that National Review’s John Derbyshire needed a change of shorts after reviewing his updated health insurance bill.

My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That’s an increase of 81 percent. ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T*** Can they do that? I called them. They sound pretty confident they can. Ye gods!

As one might imagine, the left side of the political spectrum has taken a share of amusement from his plight:

You see, John, there is this thing called the “market.” People who want to buy health insurance–that’s you, John–look for people who want to sell health insurance, and when you find one and agree on a price you make a “transaction.” This is a voluntary exchange. Both sides to do it. The health insurer has just told a customer that they want to charge you not $5,668 for next year but rather $10,284. If the customer doesn’t like that price, the customer should look for another health insurer.

Or as one cheeky commentator put it, “The invisible hand is putting on a rubber glove.”

Obsidian Wings understands the quandry:

When Derbyshire asks “Can they do that?”, what sort of restrictions does he think might make the answer “no, they can’t”? Is he hoping for government intervention? The hand of God? Is he under the misapprehension that something prevents price increases that are unduly sudden or onerous?

Seriously: John Derbyshire writes for one of the most respected conservative magazines out there. He advocates free markets. Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens? Or that all sorts of other people face this sort of thing all the time?

No grounds indeed.

I still feel some sympathy for him simply because my own family has been reviewing insurance options and it’s a quagmire deciding whether to go with my company, her company, striking out independently, etc.

From a policy standpoint the American system is a mess.  No, health care is not a right, it is a set of goods and services for which ultimately a bill comes due.  But it’s not just any random set of goods and services, it’s something that people can’t be without in a civilized society.

Long term, I don’t see how single payer can be avoided.  The only question is when and in what form.

Posted in Health Care | Leave a Comment »

The unspoken date

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

John Cole gets it right, even if Shrubya doesn’t.

Saying we can not set firm dates for withdrawal because the terrorists will just wait us out is pointless, since the terrorists already know how long they have to wait- January 2009.

Posted in Election 2008, National Security | Leave a Comment »

An outrage of convenience

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

Fascinating piece at The New Republic, comparing the rebellious of today with the communist sympathizers of yore.

On an ordinary news day, the flag-in-the-lapel commentariat would know just what to call unhappy campers like Yates, who led his disaffected flock out of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. on Saturday and into the Nigerian Anglican church: Cosmopolitan elitists, fuzzy-headed dreamers, and whiny losers who, if they love Nigeria so much, should just move there (never mind that Nigerians would kill for American visas!). Particularly outspoken figures–such as the Reverend Martyn Minns, a fellow dissident who spoke of “an equal partnership with our friends in the Global South”–might be invited onto Bill O’Reilly’s show to be smacked around for failing to line up behind our universal Western values. As any number of disaffected idealists could tell you, it’s only a short hop from singing Kumbaya with the Global South to coddling Castro or lionizing Mugabe.

But, apparently, it’s a different story when the dissidents come from the far right and their quarrel isn’t with capitalism or imperialism or other bugbears of touchy-feely idealists. Thus, the absence of any reaction from the love-it-or-leave-it set to the odd spectacle of several Virginia Episcopal congregations, including Minns’s, declaring that the Anglican church’s American branch isn’t good enough for them: No O’Reilly smackdown, no dismissal by Joe Scarborough, no thundering Wall Street Journal editorial.

It’s a solid observation.

Posted in Culture War, Religious Wrong, The Right | Leave a Comment »

The “no plan” meme

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

We heard it countless times, “The Democrats don’t have a plan.”  Of course, the real issue was the lack of coverage of Democratic proposals, not that they were without an agenda.

Bob Geiger does the math:

Of all the nauseating tactics used by the Republican party in the 2006, midterm election campaign, one of the more galling was their continued insistence that Democrats had “no plan” for national security. To provide cover for that bogus claim, the Senate’s GOP leadership made damn sure that, on September 13, 2006, they killed 528 pages of a national-security blueprint, proposed by Democrats, called the Real Security Act of 2006 — and then went around for the next six weeks saying the Democrats had no plan.

That legislation, dumped on an almost-straight party line vote, was one of many Democratic-sponsored measures to die in the Republican-controlled Senate in 2006 and part of a whopping three-quarters of Democratic initiatives squashed over the two years of the 109th Congress.

An analysis of all Senate roll call votes in 2006, shows that, true to the form they established the previous year, the GOP killed most legislation proposed by Senate Democrats. In all, Democrats were able to scrape together a handful of Republican votes to pass just 28 pieces of legislation in all of 2006.

Posted in Congress, The Right | Leave a Comment »

Lost luggage

Posted by Greg on December 21, 2006

You’ve heard stories about lost luggage being better traveled than the owners?  Here’s a recent true story courtesy of my cousin:

The Marshmellow Creme (and the rest of the luggage) was delivered to our home tonight.  It took a mere 6 days from when I last saw it.  Amazingly the 2 glass jars of Marshmellow Creme survived.  I had them wrapped well I guess.

Looking at the baggage tags I was able to figure out what happened to my bag, quite amazing:

Dec 8-   Bag made it to JFK just fine but somehow was put on a flight to Rome, Italy.

Dec 9-  Bag arrives in Rome, Italy.  I arrive in Paris, France

Dec 10-  Bag is sent to Paris, France.  I fly to Dubai

Dec 11-  Air France confirms with me that the bag is in Paris and that they can deliver it to me at my hotel.  I confirm that I am not in Paris.

Dec 12-  Air France has the bright idea to send me my bag to Abu Dhabi via London on a British Airways flight.  Unfortunately, the bag didn’t make the connection at Heathrow.

Dec 13-   Bag spends the day in London, perhaps sightseeing?

Dec 14-   Bag gets on a BA flight bound for Abu Dhabi.  Air France rep goes to Abu Dhabi airport for me, gets the bag, takes it thru customs, and has a driver bring it to my house.

Dec 14, 2006 at 10:05pm, Marshmellow Creme makes its appearance.

In summary, this is the route the Marshmellow Creme took to get here:

Las Vegas–Los Angeles–Phoenix–Boston–New York–Rome–Paris–London–Abu Dhabi, quite the journey.

The last update in the story will be how the “Fantasy Fudge” tastes, that will be a few days though.

Posted in My Musings | 1 Comment »