Archive for December 5th, 2006

Well, Of Course They Do.

Gates’ Assets Include Defense Stock:

Defense Secretary-nominee Robert Gates’ assets include up to $250,000 in stock in a defense contractor on whose board he serves, a financial disclosure report made public Tuesday shows.

If confirmed as defense secretary, Gates will divest his holdings in the company, NACCO Industries, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. He will step away from any Defense Department matters involving NACCO for at least a year, she said.

Gates is a member of the board of directors of NACCO Industries, the Cleveland-based parent of the NACCO Materials Handling Group, a lift truck company and Defense Department contractor.

He holds stock worth $100,000 to $250,000 and earned $134,750 in director fees from the company from 2005 to the present, according to the financial report he filed with the federal government.

Gates plans to sell all the stock he owns in individual companies and sever all ties with them if the Senate confirms him as Pentagon chief, Perino said.

Well, I’m sure that should be more than enough to prevent any conflicts of interest. Gates’s soon-to-be-former company won’t receive more favorable treatment than any other random company with absolutely no ties to the administration. Like, say, Halliburton.

2 comments December 5th, 2006 at 10:08pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Wankers

More Fun With The AP

Wasn’t this a South Park episode?

For nearly 20 years — ever since Pete Costello was 8 — his mother has collected disability benefits on his behalf. In meetings with Social Security officials and psychologists, he appeared mentally retarded and unable to communicate. His mother insisted he couldn’t read or write, shower, take care of himself or drive a car.

But now prosecutors say it was all a huge fraud, and they have video of Costello contesting a traffic ticket to prove it.

“He’s like any other person trying to get out of a traffic ticket,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Barbosa said Tuesday.


The benefits cited in the indictment totaled $111,000.

Barbosa said the government does not know whether Costello is retarded to some degree, but he clearly has been “exaggerating whatever he may have, if any.”

This sounds a bit like overkill…

A fed-up mother had her 12-year-old son arrested for allegedly rummaging through his great-grandmother’s things and playing with his Christmas present early.

The mother called police Sunday after learning her son had disobeyed orders and repeatedly taken a Game Boy from its hiding place at his grandmother’s house next door and played it. He was arrested on petty larceny charges, taken to the local police station in handcuffs and held until his mother picked him up after church.

I can’t improve on the AP’s headline: Flatulence Forces Plane to Land (hell, even the URL is kinda amusing – in a vulgar, unsophisticated way, of course):

It is considered polite to light a match after passing gas. [It is?] Not while on a plane.

An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of flatulence, authorities said.

The Dallas-bound flight was diverted to Nashville after several passengers reported smelling burning sulfur from the matches, said Lynne Lowrance, spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport Authority. All 99 passengers and five crew members were taken off and screened while the plane was searched and luggage was screened.

The FBI questioned a passenger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal a ”body odor,” Lowrance said….


The flight took off again, but the woman was not allowed back on the plane. The woman, who was not identified, was not charged in the incident.

We’re all doomed.

4 comments December 5th, 2006 at 09:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Wankers,Weirdness


What were they thinking?

Two Swedish border control officers risk disciplinary action for keeping a photo collection of ”exceptionally beautiful” women that passed through their checkpoint, police officials said Tuesday.

The officers, who were working at a ferry terminal near Stockholm, made photocopies of the women’s passport photos and placed them in a binder. They also noted the date of birth next to each entry, the Stockholm police department said.

The binder contained instructions on how to compile the collection, and orders to make backup copies in case the binder would go missing or be confiscated by ”evil-minded bores,” police said.

The instructions also stated that only ”exceptionally beautiful” women belonged in the collection and that no personal data, aside from the date of birth, should be included.

The men’s employer found the binder and reported them to police, but the matter was dismissed because the compilation was not considered illegal.

Stockholm police passed the matter to the national police’s disciplinary board, which recommended the men get away with a warning.

I have no idea what the relevance of the birthdate was supposed to have, unless they were doing some kind of study of age-distribution of beauty (I doubt this).

Granted, I don’t know Swedish law, but I can’t think of what law this would be breaking. It’s terribly inappropriate, though. I’m pretty sure that if anyone at my company did something like this, they would be fired pretty damn quick.

Also: Photocopies? Of passport photos? Their victims'(?) beauty would have to be exceptional indeed to survive that double whammy.

1 comment December 5th, 2006 at 07:16pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Wankers,Weirdness

Is It Too Late To Find A New Replacement?

Mr. Gates appears to be engaging in some doubleplusungood wrongthink:

President Bush’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense said today that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq, and that an American failure there could help to ignite “a regional conflagration” in the Middle East.

Robert M. Gates, who will succeed Donald H. Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief if he is confirmed as expected, also told senators that the United States went to war in Iraq without enough troops, as some generals said at the outset of the conflict.

The statements about the situation in Iraq came during an exchange with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, during Mr. Gates’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We are not winning the war in Iraq, is that correct?” Mr. McCain asked.

“That is my view, yes, senator,” Mr. Gates replied, adding shortly afterward that the United States is not losing the war either. His assessment came minutes after Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the committee, said he believed that the United States was “drifting sideways” in Iraq, and that the American people are demanding change.

Mr. Gates said “there clearly were insufficient troops in Iraq after the initial invasion.” While he said that he envisions “a dramatically smaller” number of United States troops there, he said an American presence would be required “for a long time.”

Developments in Iraq “in the next year or two” will shape the future of the entire Middle East, Mr. Gates said in describing the possibility of a “regional conflagration” arising out of the Iraq bloodshed.

Wow, some of that actually sounded kinda like straight talk. But don’t worry, he starts sneaking back onto the reservation:

Mr. Gates told the senators at the outset that he is “open to a wide range of ideas and proposals” about what to do in Iraq, and that America’s overall goal should still be an Iraq that can “sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself,” the objective that President Bush has long set out.


Mr. Gates has been president of Texas A&M University, and he told the senators that he is not giving up that job, which he loves, to be anyone’s sycophant in Washington. “I don’t owe anybody anything,” he said, vowing to give not only the president but the Congress his unvarnished advice.

Yeah, good luck with that, Bob.

The thing is, while yes, Rummy was incompetent and awful, most of what went wrong with Iraq was dictated from above. If we venture for a moment into Magical Sugarplum Fantasyland and imagine that The Donald was the smartest, most competent SecDef in the history of all the universes, and told Dubya that his plan was Teh Suck, and refused to invade without a better plan, our clueless leader would have immediately shitcanned him and replaced him with Harriet Miers, or Joe Lieberman, or Jeff “Bulldog” Gannon, or Ryan Seacrest DSV.

In other words, the Defense Secretary does not set the Iraq policy; he merely executes it (or tortures it, as the circumstances require). It really doesn’t matter whether Gates has a plan for Iraq or not. Bush will do What Bush Wants To Do, which will inevitably be the most foolhardy and disastrous course possible.

Replacing the SecDef is all well and good, but we won’t have any chance of a least-bad outcome until we replace his boss.

UPDATE: I have found the perfect replacement! Certainly a better strategic thinker than Gates or Rummy, and probably more compassionate as well.

4 comments December 5th, 2006 at 12:17pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites,Iraq,Republicans,War

Kurtzes Foiled Again

First Stanley, now Howie. (Why yes, I do have a great big man-crush on Glenn Greenwald – the question is, Why don’t you? “I’m a woman” is an acceptable response, but only just this once.)

I suppose it’s possible Howie was speaking facetiously or sarcastically, but it’s hard to tell for sure. If it had been, say, the All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin, I might be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

Glenn also thinks that at least some of the media is awakening from the hypnotic trance that Bush and Rove put them in six years ago (“Focus on the cocktail weenie as I wave it back and forth… When I count to ten, you will fall into a deep, relaxing sleep…”). I hope he’s right, but I’m not convinced. I think any underbus-throwing that they might be doing now is not so much an awakening of conscience so much as a desperate attempt to salvage the last shreds of their credibility.

Just as the first rule of parasites is to not kill your host (and risk starvation), the first rule of propaganda in this country is to not be too obvious (and risk irrelevance). Of course, the Republicans haven’t been very mindful of the first rule, so it’s probably unrealistic to expect them to heed the second.

2 comments December 5th, 2006 at 10:45am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Media,Politics,Puns,Wankers

A Very Scientological Christmas

Oh my:

Cardboard scenery, paper snowflakes and angel wings from the Halloween store are the stuff that kids’ Christmas pageants are made of.

“A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” – based on the teachings of the church founded by L. Ron Hubbard – includes many of the same ingredients.

But there are a few props that you don’t find in a typical pageant.

Like a dancing brain.

A child “robot” narrator.

And a Suri Cruise sock puppet.


Suri “is a pink puppet with a pacifier and feathery hair,” says Alex Timbers, who conceived the show and directs. “She’s really cute.”

Kyle Jarrow wrote the book, music and lyrics for the 55-minute show that celebrates the life and teachings of Hubbard, using the idiom of a children’s Christmas pageant.


The cast is comprised of kids ages 8 to 12 costumed in jazzy choir robes. The grade-school performers reenact Hubbard’s birth (in a manger, of course) and explain the creation myth according to Scientology.

As for little Suri, don’t worry, she’s not unchaperoned. Mom Katie is also a sock puppet.

Says Timbers, “She’s beige-y gray with brown pipe-cleaner hair. She’s got big eyes. They bobble.”

Wow. Evil Dead: The Musical has some competition.

3 comments December 5th, 2006 at 07:32am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Weirdness

More Park B&W Blogging

Some more pictures from the park; some of them are even of quasi-parklike kinds of things.

It’s a branch… in a lake.

Under the picnic table.

Spooky underwater photography. It looks like it was taken in 1840 or something…

More fun with trashcans.

2 comments December 5th, 2006 at 07:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Nature,Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Shorter Glenn Greenwald

“Spreading democracy around the world is a bad idea if we make everyone hate us.”

Can’t really argue with that.

4 comments December 5th, 2006 at 12:10am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics

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