Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More "Family Values"

From the rabble-rousing Boston Globe:

SAN ANTONIO—A former Sunday school teacher was arrested on charges of distributing harmful material to a minor after the parents of a 14-year-old boy found a topless photo of her on his cell phone.

Victoria Ann Chacon, 27, also a former middle school teacher, allegedly met the boy at their church, where she was teaching Sunday school.

You know, the more we read about the "family values" crowd, the more obvious it becomes that they have NO concept what family values really are.

What a bunch of low-life trailer trash.

A Firefighter's Death

On Monday, a fire in Hartland, ME, claimed the life of volunteer Firefighter Michael Snowman, 49. Snowman was at the scene of a house fire when he collapsed from a heart attack. As a volunteer firefighter myself, I was going to try to post something Monday evening, but I just couldn't write about it at that point.

Then I found Queenie's blog. She has an incredibly moving post on FF Snowman's passing.

Read it.


And then say a little prayer for those who run into places everyone else is running out of.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Disgusting. Absolutely Dee-skus-ting.

Last week, an AP reporter and photographer stopped at the Oak Hill General Store in Standish, Maine (about 20 miles NW of Portland), to check a tip about an "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," in which bettors could wager on the date that President-Elect Obama would be assassinated.

Portland Press-Herald columnist Bill Nemitz:

It all started 11 days ago when The Associated Press in Portland received an anonymous tip of a sign inside the store announcing the "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool."

AP writer Jerry Harkavy and photographer Bob Bukaty took a ride out and, sure enough, saw those very words scrawled across a whiteboard inside the store.

Before they were rebuffed by a man behind the counter who wouldn't give his name, Harkavy said, they also noted that to win the $1-per-entry pool, a contestant had to pick the date that President-elect Barack Obama would be assassinated.

"Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. And at the bottom of the board were the words: "Let's hope someone wins."

Of course, the Secret Service, the state AG's office, and the Cumberland County Sheriff are all investigating.

Note that the store is advocating the use of violence in the furtherance of a political objective. Guess what? Under Federal law, that makes the Oak Hill General Store a terrorist organization. I'd love to see the Ministry for Homeland Security swoop down on them.

Steve Collins, owner of the Oak Hill General Store, supports terrorism and murder. He should be arrested on terrorism charges.

The fine God-fearing folks who bought squares in the pool should also be arrested, for their obvious terrorist symapthies.

There have been other racially-tinged incidents in Maine, too:

Closer to home, a student was suspended from Gray-New Gloucester High School after standing up in class and delivering a racist, anti-Obama rant. And on Mount Desert Island, police are investigating three cases in which all-black, cardboard cut-outs of human figures were hung from trees along roadsides just after the election.

This is Maine, for God's sake. Maine, not Alabama or Mississippi or Arkansas.

Nemitz asks what can be done:

Thomas Harnett, Maine's assistant attorney general for civil rights education and enforcement, said it's too soon to determine what legal action, if any, might stem from the Oak Hill General Store sign. But he agreed with Wessler [Stephen Wessler, executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence] that what law enforcement sometimes can't accomplish, community outrage can.

"The best way to counter hateful speech is to assert one's own right to free speech," Harnett said. "It's very important for people to speak out loudly and clearly and powerfully that this is not how Maine feels."

I'd say the decent people in Standish -- which voted for Obama -- should shun the Oak Hill General Store and leave it for the local KKK contingent. I doubt there are enough racists in town to keep the store alive, especially in this economy.

Maybe someone should grab the wire frame from a campaign sign and designate the store "Standish KKK Headquarters" or "We Support Terrorism and Murder."

Oh, and when the story broke on AP, Collins -- being the brave, courageous terrorist that he is -- fled to an undisclosed location in northern Maine for some hunting.

Stevie, you like posting hateful speech, so come on back and face the music.

You hateful, racist,neocon pussy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Politics AND Cat Blogging...

...who could ask for more?

I found them via a comment at Dependable Renegade.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Back to Being Serious

Now that the election is over -- except for a few obligatory attempts to disenfranchise the 52% of the electorate who voted for Obama -- it's time to look ahead.

Number one, I'm sure the Secret Service is going to have additional agents assigned to Obama's detail. After all, they now have to worry about not just the usual loonies who want to kill a president, but also the disgruntled rednecks who "cain't beleeve we done elected a nigra." And unfortunately, these rednecks don't just live in the south. Here in central Maine, I ran into a guy who said the country "couldn't afford a n****r in the White House." Central Maine, mind you, not Alabama or Tennessee. I have said it before and I'll say it again: the Secret Service is the premier executive protection agency on Earth, and they've probably been planning for this since Obama formed his exploratory committee.

Second, the Christianists*, Dominionists, and other fundie wingnuts have lost this opportunity to have one of their own in the line of succession. That doesn't mean, however, that they're going to fade back into obscurity. The Dobsons, Falwells, and their ilk will continue to poison American discourse with their perverted views of Christianity; we must not miss a single opportunity to point out that -- despite their claims -- they do not represent this country.

Third, it will be very interesting to see what kind of surprises Cheney and bush may have planned for the country between now and January 20. Yes, Commander Codpiece called President-elect Obama (Lord, how that must stick in his craw!) to congratulate him, but I still don't trust Biggus Dickus or dim son as far as I could throw them.


On a more pleasant topic, I saw a clip last night from WDIV TV in Detroit, showing the line at one polling location: the line came out the door, wrapped around the block, and had a start on a second wrap. This, from a city that has had low turnouts the last few elections.

Here in Maine, the Secretary of State reports turnout may exceed 80% - a record for the state.

And it appears that turnout may hit record levels in many, many locations -- a testament to the importance of this election, and to the effectiveness of Obama's GOTV efforts.

And this just in from WCSH TV in Portland: a referendum to allow a casino (with a legally-mandated 10-year monopoly) had been defeated. The bill would have lowered the gambling age from 21 to 19, in addition to the non-compete provision. It needed to fail, and it did.

Oh, and for those who don't keep track of these things, there are now NO Rethuglicans in any New England US House delegation. The last one, Chris Shays of CT, was defeated.

*Christianists as opposed to Christians, of course.

In Homage to the Rethuglicans...

who were so gracious after their "wins" in 2000 and 2004...

Remember this?

Well, guys, this is for you:


Monday, November 03, 2008

Firefighting Blog to Look At...

Via FireGeezer, I found a link to a really delightful blog, FirefighterSam. It concerns the adventures of Sam, a vertically- and chronologically-challenged firefighter (he's 4 years old).

For an excellent depiction of what firefighters have to deal with, scroll down to the "Kids' Combat Challenge" post dated October 5.

A classic.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Martial Law Worries

In my previous post on the possibility of the Cheney/bush administration declaring martial law to avoid turning over the reins of power -- especially to Obama -- commenter Sheilanagig reminded me of something: the "John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007", signed into law by bush in October of 2006, contained a couple of last-minute provisions inserted at the request of the administration, one of which concerned suspending posse comitatus.

Lycosing* "suspension of posse comitatus act" led me to an article on, entitled "Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law: 2007 National Defense Authorization Act overturns Posse Comitatus Act" which contains the following:

Sec. 1042 of the Act, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies," effectively overturns what is known as posse comitatus. The Posse Comitatus Act is a law, passed in 1878, that prohibits the use of the regular military within the U.S. borders.

Overturning or suspending this Act effectively allows the President (in this case, Cheney) to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs; whenever the Chief Executive thinks it necessary, he can institute martial law, under which the military takes control of civilian governmental administration... like law enforcement.

Sheilanagig also mentioned "Directive 51," referring to National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-51, signed by Commander Guy on May 4, 2007. This little gem of (un)Constitutional law relates to continuity of government operations after a "catastrophic emergency". The directive defines such an emergency as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions." [Emphasis added]

I can certainly imagine Cheney and bush deciding that a President Obama (or even a President McCain [shudder!]) would "severely affect" operations of their government.

This continuity of government would be achieved by the President "coordinating" the activities of the three branches of government. This is scary in that all of a sudden the President is coordinating the activities, as opposed to our current system where the three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) are independent and co-equal. The Wikipedia page on the Directive has lots more scary information.

Yes, continuity of government is a critical factor when considering the aftermath of a terrorist attack (or a natural disaster), but most continuity plans I have seen discussed retain the concept of three separate-but-equal branches of government.

So, even without going into the business of razor wire surrounding FEMA "evacuation camps" and the rest of the "black helicopter" paranoia, there seems to be increasing evidence that Cheney, bush, et al., are at least thinking about the imposition of martial law.

I really do fear for my country these days.

*"Lycosing" is not as mellifluous as "Googling", but as I mentioned in the post immediately below this one, Lycos is now the Official Search Engine of 618Rants.

Google and Yahoo Are Pissing Me Off...

The geniuses at both Google and Yahoo have come up with an exciting new advertising ploy. When you click on a search result, you are redirected to an advertising page that often has nothing to do with your search.

For instance:

Google: I entered the term "Cocoanut Grove" looking for information on the 1942 fire. The first result Google returned was the Wikipedia page for the fire. Clicking on that link, however, took me to a fine food page, Gourmandia. Not only was I greeted with a truly obnoxious Flash animation for WallyWorld, it had nothing to do with the Cocoanut Grove fire, except possibly both involved exposing flesh to high heat. Clicking "back" (at least on Internet Exploder) took me to the redirect page, which sent me back to Gourmandia. To get back to the search results, I have to open "History" and click the link there. Once I finally get back to Google, clicking the Wikipedia link again finally takes me to the page I wanted initially.

Yahoo: On Yahoo, the first two results for "Cocoanut Grove" take me to the Cocoanut Grove (Florida) Business Improvement Committee website (with a side trip to Elle magazine). Returning to Yahoo -- again via the "History" button -- I click on the Wikipedia link, and, whammo, once again, I'm at Elle fashion. Hit the "history", find Yahoo search results, and finally -- finally! -- I get to the Wikipedia page.

Thus far, Lycos (, which used to be the leading search engine till Google came along), takes me to Wikipedia without a detour to irrelevant advertising.

Therefore, I am proud to announce that LYCOS is the Official Search Engine of 618Rants.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Schticks of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

I. Gun Nuttiness

According to a filler in today's Portland Press-Herald, a woman in Lebanon, PA, lost her concealed carry permit after wearing a handgun in plain view at a soccer game. She claimed that "warm-weather clothing made it difficult to hide a firearm." Well, she has a point there. On the other hand, a right -- such as carrying a weapon -- comes with concurrent responsibilities -- such as not terrifying the populace, and obeying the terms of the permit. A "concealed carry" permit is just that: concealed. As a former police officer, I can testify that it is a real pain in the back of the lap to conceal a weapon on a hot summer day. That's why one occasionally sees beefy guys with short hair, blue jeans and black shoes (or black boots) wearing a windbreaker when it's 110 degrees. Chances are they guy's a cop. (And yes, the blue jeans and black boots is the giveaway).

If you're going to carry based on a concealed carry permit, your weapon has to be concealed.


Oh, and the local judge -- who also likes to pack heat on a concealed carry permit -- said the law required him to return the woman's permit.

II. Detroit Nuttiness

This tale of Detroit Nuttiness has nothing to do with former-mayor-and-convicted-felon Kwame Kilpatrick, but what the heck. Five (presumably female) Detroit police officers are suing the city for discrimination, in that they were forced to take sick leave when their bosses found out they were pregnant. The plaintiffs say they are contesting a 2004 policy that requires sick leave "unless a doctor finds they can crawl in confined spaces, jump from an elevated surface, and forcibly make arrests." Now, as a male, I have never been pregnant, and hopefully never will be (although I could use the money I'd get selling my story to the National Enquirer), but the policy seems to make a certain amount of sense. Being a street cop is a demanding, physical profession; does it really make sense to endanger not only your life, but the life of your unborn child? (And that comment has nothing to do with the question of when a fetus becomes a person)

On the other hand, given the dire financial straits in which Detroit finds itself, there should be some way of keeping these officers gainfully occupied while pregnant. The old standby of switching them to dispatch no longer is viable, due to all the specialized training now required of dispatchers (which is completely different than the training given street cops), but there should be other options, such as temporary re-assignment to Community Services (giving talks to school kids, who'd probably be thrilled at seeing a "girl cop"), Crime Prevention (Neighborhood Watch), or recruiting. Hell, sweeten the deal and arrange a temporary transfer to the Detective Division (to avoid having to buy maternity uniforms) and have them work Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, conducting follow-up interviews and investigations.

The city is going to wind up paying them either way, so they may as well get a return on their investment. And the average street cop has too much experience for it to lie fallow for five or six months, when they could be doing something productive for the city.

III. Dennis the Menace

Today's installment of the adventures of America's favorite "five-ana-half" year old has Dennis asking a guest, "If you're not married, who tells you when you're doin' something wrong?"

Oh, Dennis, Dennis, Dennis... Enjoy it while it lasts.

As any adult male can testify, there is always someone willing to tell you you're wrong. Female relatives, friends, acquaintances, even strangers, are always more than willing to point out the faults of any male.

IV. Bailout BS

After receiving something like $80 billion from the Feds as part of the bailout, AIG insurance execs blew $440,000 on a weekend retreat (including spas, manicures, pedicures, and a $10K bar tab). AIG then asked for $60 billion more.

And got it.

Meanwhile, ain't nobody bailing out us poor schmucks.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On Wednesday, I mentioned the possibility of a desperate last-minute power-grab by the current administration. I said, "I wouldn't put it past Cheney ... to greet us the day after Election Day..." without stopping to think that it doesn't have to be the day after. It could be any day, up to and including Inauguration Day.

Obviously, the easiest way for the Cheneyites to retain power would be to have some sort of terror attack which would -- at least in their minds -- justify the imposition of martial law.

In discussing this with some friends, one pointed out that even Cheney and bush wouldn't have the gall to try such a move. Then, I found this video from C-Span:

"...There would be martial law in America if we voted no..." (Money quote starts at 00:25)

Now granted, Congressman Sherman was discussing the ramifications of the bailout bill, but this shows that the idea of imposing martial law is starting to percolate through the administration.

This is a terrifying thought.

My friend also said that even if they try martial law, the government wouldn't allow it. I fear that is wishful thinking. Congress hasn't stood up against this administration since Day One, not against the Patriot Act, the suspension of habeus corpus, Gitmo or any of the other schemes Cheney and bush have come up with. The legal system wouldn't be of much use either, since Cheney and bush have ensured that only loyal bushies are installed as US Attorneys... and they're the ones who would have to act (assuming that Congress is effectively neutralized, as I fear it is).

She also claimed that during the final days of Nixon's implosion, military and law enforcement units were placed on alert, just in case Tricky Dick tried to impose martial law to remain in power; she said the same thing would happen now. I'm not so sure. In the first place, Nixon's downfall took place at the tail end of Vietnam, by which time the military had lost all confidence in their Commander in Chief; I'm not sure that applies now. This time, one could argue that the military supports the administration's "efforts" to root out terrorists. Furthermore, Cheney and bush have been pretty damned effective in purging the military of "disloyal" commanders.

And let us not forget that after 9-11, Federal law enforcement, with the exception of the FBI, was concentrated in the Department of Homeland Security. I've written many times about DHS, often comparing the agency to the gone-but-not-forgotten KGB, the "sword and shield" of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. DHS is completely under the thumb of the administration, and Michael "Skeletor" Chertoff doesn't strike me as the kind who would move against his superiors, especially not to defend a "goddamned piece of paper." I say it is entirely possible that any attempt to protest an imposition of martial law would be met by heavily armed DHS storm troopers fanatically loyal to Cheney and bush. The FBI would be equally useless, for under this administration, they have been given powers that they have only dreamed of, much more power than they held even under Hoover's heyday. Besides, the United States Secret Service -- formerly part of the Treasury Dept, and now, of course, an entity of DHS -- is the most professional, most competent executive protection organization on the face of the earth, and like the rest of DHS, would probably be loyal to the current regime.

Cheney and bush would have no problem inventing a disaster: another attack, "warnings" of an "impending" attack (and we've seen how often those crop up when the administration's in trouble), or even using the current economic meltdown. Cheney and bush would use bush's claim of "unitary executive power" and Cheney's position as "part of the legislative branch" to squelch any opposition.

Okay, maybe I'm paranoid, but -- as Henry Kissinger said, "Even a paranoid can have enemies."

It will be interesting to see if the United States of America still exists as a free nation on January 21, 2009.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Another Thing to Think About...

We're coming into the final stretch in the campaigning now, and more and more of the polls are tipping Obama's way. Given the Rethuglican proclivity for stealing elections, it will be interesting to see what happens if the vote gets to the point where the R's can't finagle a victory for themselves.

But even if McSame and the MILF manage to pull off some typically sleazy theft, who's to say gee-dumbya and unca Dick are going to go quietly into oblivion? I wouldn't put it past Cheney (since bush is a useless appendage on Biggus Dickus) to greet us the day after Election Day with some sort of terrist attack (or threat, or "gut feeling" or something) that "requires" them to stay in power indefinitely, to deal with "those godless moozlums."

And if it gets to the point where Obama has obviously won, I'd say some sort of desperate, last-minute power-grab is almost a certainty.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

'Nother Quickie...

Two more for the blogroll....

Via Firestarter5, The Great Endarkenment.

And, via The Great Endarkenment, Politits.

Quickie Post

One of Watertiger's regular commenters at Dependable Renegade (Ifthethunderdontgetya) referred to Palin as "Bible Spice."

I spit coffee all over the place.

The commenter says he swiped it from Wonkette. No matter who coined it, it's perfect.

A Chilling Thought

Okay, I'll admit right up front that this could be something out of The Twilight Zone, but I think it's worth at least a little consideration.

george w. bush and his evangelical cronies would love to see one of their own take over the White House. That's okay, every politician wants to be followed by another of his or her stripe. The problem is that so many of bush's cohorts are Dominionists, advocating a theocratic government for the U.S. (Kos diarist Dogemperor has many, many postings on Dominionism)*. Among the Dominionists with ties to the current administration are John Ashcroft, Dominos Pizza founder Tom Monaghan (he's also establishing a fundamentalist "Christian" community around his openly-Dominionist Ave Maria "Law School"), former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Amway heir Richard DeVos, Truett Cathy (head of the Chik-Fil-A restaurant chain) and the Paxton family (of Pax TV).

Dominionists also have ties to other fringe groups: Christian Identity, the Militia movement, Sovereign Citizens (the "Republic of Texas" crowd), even the Klan and skinhead groups. The only thing these groups have in common is a pathological hatred for what this country represented before bush stole the presidency (twice).

The Dominionists are smart enough to realize that, thus far, they do not have a snowflake's chance in hell of getting one of their Talibangelicals elected to the highest office in the land.

So what do they do?

"Submitted for your consideration," as Rod Serling used to say:

Have the GOP nominate for President a man in his 70s, with a history of cancer... a cancer that is quite often fatal. Even without the cancer, McSame would be the oldest incoming President in history. How could they make this happen? Easy. Promise the GOP the fundamentalist/evangelical vote, and threaten to withhold it --or even worse, nominate their own candidate. The GOP is so used to knuckling under to the mouth-breathin', Bible-thumpin', hooker-humpin', sister-marryin', rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup crowd that they'd do it without a second thought.

They get one of their own -- Sarah Palin -- nominated as VP for John McSame. Palin has well-known ties to the Dominionist movement, and has even told interviewers she believes Christ will return to Earth during her lifetime. The right-wing loonie fringe could also point out that a certain (I hope small) number of hard-core feminists would vote Rethuglican to "punish" the Democrats for not nominating Hillary Clinton.

McSame cashes out, either through cancer or just plain old age. And if it looks like he might survive either the full term or -- God help us -- two terms (how's that for a terrifying thought?), I wouldn't put it past them to whack him... with "plausible deniability", of course.

Voila... Palin the Dominionist is President.

Far-fetched? Sure. But so is a lot of the rest of the things that have happened the past eight years.

* If the link doesn't work, go to Daily Kos and search authors for "Dogemperor".

Gotta Love Brooks

I have to admit, David Brooks' column yesterday floored me. Discussing the bailout plan for the financial industry, he says:

It does not rely on any system of checks and balances, but on the wisdom and public spiritedness of those in charge [Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke]. It offers succor to the investment banks that contributed to this mess and will burn through large piles of public money. But in exchange, it promises to restore confidence. [...] The country ... will turn to the safe heads of the investment banks. [...] Government activism will provide support to corporations, banks and business and will be used to shore up the stable conditions they need to thrive. [...] We're entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable -- and often oligarchic-- framework for capitalist endeavor.

The "wisdom and public spiritedness of those in charge"?!? "Succor to the investment banks that contributed to this mess"?!?

Where's the relief for the thousands of Americans who are in danger of losing their homes? Sure, a lot of them were suckered in by immoral, lying bastards from companies like Countrywide, and conned into taking out mortgages they couldn't possibly afford, but what about the little guy?

Oh, wait... under the current administration -- and most likely under the potential administration of McSame and the MILF -- the little guy doesn't count. Only the rich and powerful count and are worthy of salvation.

Amazing how activist governments are a Bad Thing... until you need one to bail out your richie-rich friends.

Badtux, by the way, has a very good explanation of the technical points of the bailout plan; unlike those promulgated by the economists (on either side), his is easy to understand.

On a semi-related matter, today's Portland Press Herald has an editorial saying it's time for the undecided voters to wake up and start thinking about who will be the next President. It seems to me that Brooks' column should show the little guy where his vote should go.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What Are The Chances?

I was perusing the Detroit News this evening, catching up on the antics of my favorite disgraced ex-mayor and soon-to-be jailbird, Kwame Kilpatrick, when a story from Michigan State University caught my eye. It seems that Mike Robell – purely by chance – was assigned the same dorm room his father had lived in thirty years earlier. Mike’s father Rich Robell suspected it was the same room, and, according to the paper, “the same broken window latch offered some evidence.”

Yes, one could ask what the chances were that father and son would get the same dorm room by chance. But my question is a little more basic:

THIRTY YEARS and you still haven’t fixed the broken window latch?!?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Kwame OUT

Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felony counts and will resign from office effective in two weeks. The plea stems from the "text-message" scandal, in which it became obvious that Kilpatrick and his then chief-of-staff Christine Beatty lied under oath about their sexual affair and the effect the affair had on Kilpatrick's firing of several police officers. The firings led to a (roughly) $9 million settlement by the city of Dteroit. The scandal has since expanded, and included recent revelations that Federal agencies tapping the phones of Kilpatrick's parents overheard arrangements of pay-offs for city contracts. Kilpatrick's mother is US Rep Cheeks-Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick and Beatty were indicted in April on a total of twelve felony counts for perjury and obstruction of justice.

It was also announced that police chief Ella Bully-Cummings is resigning effective immediately, and Kilpatrick's counsel Sharon McPhail will be resigning soon.

Kilpatrick still has to deal with two additional felony counts involving his alleged assault on two poice officers attempting to serve a subpoena on one of his friends.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Okay, Maybe I Fibbed

Having just said I was going to avoid political blogging, I feel it is only fair to mention that McCain's running mate (and, for all we know, future bedmate), Governor Palin, is already facing allegations of corruption. Turns out some of her administration members have been pressuring the Alaska State Troopers to dump a cop who apparently pissed off the Palin clique.

Gotta LOVE them lawnorder, dignituded rethuglicans.

Oh, and in an effort to energize the Bible-thumpin', hooker-humpin', sister-marryin', rifle-rack-in-the-pickmup neocon wingnut idjits, she has a dead bear and a dead crab in her living room, she's a creationist, and she's anti-choice. What's not to love?

Unashamedly, Unabashedly Disgusted

This may be a shameful thing for me to say, but I am completely burnt out about politics. Yes, I know we have an historic election coming up: either we'll have an African-American President, or we'll have a Female-American Vice-President.

I know Hillary is pissed about not being Obama's running mate, but jeez, Hillary, after the way you sniped at him throughout, who could blame him for picking someone else? I know McCain has everybody stumped as to why he picked Palin, but BadTux and Mustang Bobby have that pretty much covered. Obama, in choosing Biden (D-MBNA, as the Kossacks say), seems to have gone for business as usual. And also in the business as usual category, Nader is once again running, and once again, making a Rethuglican victory possible by drawing off votes that probably would otherwise go to Obama (Ralph, baby, please face it: you shot your wad forty years ago; it's time to retire gracefully. You will never be President, and all you will accomplish is the perpetuation of republican-American tyranny).

I just plain do not care anymore.

I'm so sick and tired of hysterical emails from Move On that I hit the unsubscribe button on the last one.

I have no political bumper stickers on my vehicle this year. I have no campaign buttons or anything else.

I'm sick and tired of knee-jerk Rethuglican screaming about Clinton, Hillary, and all the rest of their crap. I'm sick and tired of Democrats bleating about change and not really meaning it.

The only political news that I've been following is the ever-growing number of felony indictments being accumulated by Detroit Mayor Kwame "Thug" Kilpatrick. He's bad enough to make Jersey politicians, Marion Barry and even Spiro Agnew seem good by comparison.

I don't know for sure, of course. Something may energize me to start blogging about poitics again, but I kinda doubt it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Boston Dog Walks

Since today is petblogging and I haven't written in a dogs age, I thought I would share with you my experiences of the past week. My friend Nina owns a pet walking service down in Boston and was sideswiped by a lab 8 days ago, she sent out the S.O.S and I went down to help. (Please forgive the date stamp on the camera, it was having a brain fart.)

I had a great time, not only with her dog Tucker who is a wise old man.
We would go for evening walks and he would bounce through the fields chasing rocks. By the end of the day he would fall asleep reading the paper.

Then we have the gang that we walked, some a couple of times a week, some a couple of times a day, they are all very sweet and each has their own unique personality.

This is Benny, he likes to troll the water saving any and all drown tennis balls. He keeps the perimeter save for all who enter.

Here below we have Napoleon, name says it all, little guy BIG personality, he always makes me laugh as he keeps up with the big dogs and can run circles around them if he isn't busy flirting with the nearest pretty human he can find. He is a lover not a fighter.

Here are the Motley mutts, Baxter, Rip and Boo. Always on the move, but will sit still for chicken.

I also met a number of other dogs, all are awesome Perdita, Elliot, Fiona, Lucky, Fenway,
Cooper, Kristy, Lilly, Sade, Noel, Twist, and the Cocoa's they all were so much fun.

If any of you that read this live in the Boston area, take you pets to CatRock for a walk they will love it. Just keep your eyes out for glass shards as some anti -dog asshole keeps going through leaving tons of glass shards on the paths, but not to worry the walkers take their poop bags and pick up all that they can find. Just wish the cops would do a sting and bust this person. I'll leave you with a few more pictures... and grab a couple of tennis balls or a frisbee and get out and take your dog for a walk someplace fun this weekend, you both deserve it!

I could not end this with out mentioning Joey, He likes living the life of a country gentleman, evenings are spent doing the lawn ballet with the various bugs. This was his editorial after reading the about my time spent with the pooches.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Trying to Catch Up

First off, let me apologize for the lack of posting the last couple of months. The lovely yet talented Mrs 618 and I packed up all our belongings and left the state of Michigan -- with its varied and unfortunate assortment of lay-offs, corrupt politicians, etc -- and moved halfway across the country, to Maine.

Since then, I have been busy as heck finding a job, buying a car (well, truck, in this case), trying to get a training business up and running, and joining the local volunteer fire department.

It's been a busy couple of months, and not just in the personal life.

Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (who, along with his former chief of staff/lover, are facing twelve felony counts) is still fighting for his political life.

We have lost both George Carlin and Larry Harmon (the most famous Bozo the Clown).

Jurassic Pork seems to have hung up his spurs (again), since "Welcome to Pottersville" no longer exists on Blogger. The folks at Daily Kos are even more into their "we love us, we're the greatest, and the rest of you suck" lifestyle.

On the political front in Maine, Democratic Congressman Tom Allen handily won the Democratic primary for the upcoming Senate election, where he will be facing off against long-time incumbent Susan Collins (who, like John McCain, is considered by a "maverick", but always reliably votes the Bushevik line). s I recall, Allen got more votes than his five competitors combined. Additionally, some recent polls are showing Collins at less than 50% approval, for the first time. I hope to be able to do more writing about the contest over the next couple of weeks.

Emily (our Lab) and Joey (the cat) have settled in quite well. Two people and a Labrador do not fit easily into a double bed. This I have learned the hard way: Emily has kicked my ass onto the more on more than one occasion.

Discovered yesterday that the new Jeep Liberty -- which isn't all that big -- has a 6-cylinder engine and gets 15 mpg. The '99 Chevy Tahoe I bought has an 8-cylinder engine and gets 18-20 mpg. Of course, at $4.25/gallon, it isn't much of a difference.

Well, since it is now ten minutes before 11:00 PM (that's 10:50 PM Celsius), I am going to bed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Red Cross needs help

The lovely yet talented Mrs 618 pointed out a story about the Red Cross and their response to the current flooding in the mid West. The article says the organization's Disaster Relief Fund is depleted, and the Red Cross is having to borrow money to continue their relief efforts.

I know some of my readers have had their differences with the American Red Cross over the years, especially after Katrina, but if you should happen to have a few extra bucks -- even five dollars would help -- that you could donate, I would greatly appreciate it. Of course, those affected by the flooding would appreciate it even more.

You can donate here. The Disaster Relief Fund is the first button, but there are other options too.

Please, if you can spare a couple of bucks, they really, really need the help.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Skateboard Ban Contemplated

Today's Portland (ME) Press-Herald carries a front-page story about skateboarders on city streets. Some residents feel the skateboards are a traffic menace, others feel they are a "legitimate, pollution-free form of transportation."

Portland police have started ticketing skateboarders who violate traffic laws in the Old Port and Arts District after business owners complained that a recent ordinance change turned the downtown area into a dangerous playground. [...] The council acted to clarify a newer ordinance that says skateboarders, like bicyclists, can ride on city streets as long as they follow traffic laws.

This is fine and dandy, as long as they follow traffic laws.

Notice how these guys are crouched over. If you were driving a car down a busy city street, would you be able to see them before you struck them? Also, notice the complete lack of common-sense safety equipment, like helmets and elbow and knee pads.

I wouldn't consider that technique to be safe, never mind lawful.

Skateboarders say they have as much right to ride the streets of Maine's largest city as any car, motorcycle or bicycle.

Of course, we all know bicyclists are always 100% law-abiding, right? No one has ever seen a bicyclist zip from the right shoulder to a left-turn lane without looking, right? Bicyclists scare the heck out of me when I see them on public roads, because you never know what they're going to do.

The center of the conflict is a short, steep stretch of Exchange Street, between Middle and Fore streets, that's lined with trendy shops and restaurants. It's in the heart of the Old Port, near Post Office and Tommy's parks, where teenagers and twentysomethings come to hang out and ride.

"Exchange Street is a stage for them," Verner said. "Some of them are incredibly talented athletes."

Most use wider, longer skateboards known as longboards, which are designed for racing and transportation. Shortboards are more commonly used in skate parks. The riders start at the top of the hill, at Exchange and Middle streets, and streak down the single-lane, one-way street, sometimes dodging vehicles and pedestrians along the way.

This guy is just looking to get squished. There's no way the driver of the UPS truck could see him in time, especially if the boarder is dodging vehicles. If he wipes out, he's dead.

Some even blow by the stop sign at Fore Street.

Some skateboarders engage in "sliding." They crouch down and press gloved hands on the pavement to control their movements. The fingertips and palms of the gloves are padded with disks they cut from plastic cutting boards.
Great. Crazy skateboarders, ducking below any possible line of sight, screaming down a steep hill on a city street, then blowing the stop sign at a major intersection.

These are the same "athletes" who ride the handrails at office buildings, jump the stairs at shopping malls, and create pure hell for business owners with "attractive" properties.

And when these idiots get hurt. what do they do?

They sue the property owners for not protecting the boarders from their own stupidity.

If I were on the Portland city council, I would enact an ordinance along the lines of "if you want to use a skateboard for transportation, fine. You must stand upright while doing so. You must also wear protective equipment, including a helmet and elbow and knee pads, since we don't want to get stuck with your hospital bills when you wipe out. If you are "sliding" or otherwise crouched down, you get a hefty fine. You also forfeit your right to sue if you are injured while violating this ordinance."

Equal rights require equal responsibility. If you want to claim the right to use a city street for transportation, go ahead. But a city street isn't a playground, not even for 20-somethings (like the bozos pictured above). You want to show off your skills, go to the playground, and leave the roads and streets for those who take their responsibilities seriously.

Quote of the Day

"Never doubt the courage of the French, they are the ones who discovered snails are edible."

-- Doug Larson, Charlotte (NC) Observer

That is assuming, of course, that snails are, in fact, edible.

"Family-Values" Republican Busted - Part 56,840

Vito Fossella is the Republican Congressman from New York City's Staten Island. As is the case with most "family values" Republicans, Fossella supported the Marriage Protection Amendment (which allows discrimination against gays; personally, I go along with Lenny Briscoe: "Of course gays should marry, why shouldn't they be miserable like the rest of us?"). He also supports posting the Ten Commandments (including the one that condemns adultery).

And like so many other "family values" Republicans, Fossella got busted. In Don Vito's case, he got bagged for drunk driving down in Virginia. He blew twice the legal limit. He told cops he was going to visit his daughter.

One small problem:

The daughter wasn't one of the three kids he had with his wife. This daughter was by his mistress. Oh, and he lied to his wife about his mistress.

Gotta LOVE them "family values" Republicans!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Much-Belated Update

First and foremost, the lovely yet talented Judy Hoffman* has a revised edition of her book Keeping Cool In The Hot Seat. If you ever have to deal with crisis communications -- even if you merely piss off your wife -- you need this book. It shows you how to get your message across without shooting yourself (or your organization) in the foot. Hint: "no comment" doesn't cut it.

Next, the lovely yet talented Mrs 618 and I are getting settled in up here in Northern New England. The missus claimed this was even more like "cow country" than where we were before. True, there are fewer people, but here we can get DSL. I asked about DSL out in Michigan, and the phone company laughed.

Our Lab, Emily, and one cat, Joey, made the trip successfully. Bailey, the "feral" cat who adopted us, apparently understood what a 26-foot UHaul means. He took off two days before we left, and didn't re-appear until the day after we arrived here. Our former neighbors spotted him in their barn, where he has apparently established a residence in the hayloft. They're feeding him, and -- if we go out to visit Mom-in-law -- we may try to grab him then. he does like the lady of the house more than he likes me, so it might work. At least he's okay.

Look for pix of our new world headquarters, coming soon over most of this same blog.

Political commentary, This Date in Fire History, and other popular features will also be returning soon.

*UPDATE (to the update): BadTux pointed out that the link wasn't working. It should be now. Of course, if Blogger still doesn't like me, it's

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Getting Settled In... Sorta Kinda

Well, we made it halfway across the country. The lovely yet talented Mrs 618 flew to Boston to visit a friend while mybrother and I completed the packing and loaded the truck, then drove to northern New England.

(Note to self: never, ever, ever decide to drive a 26-foot U-Haul towing a Honda Civic halfway across the country. Especially if the trip includes New York State.)

Noble brother decided it was more important for him toreturn to work than to help me unload the truck. So I did it. All by myself. Bad knees, bad hip, and all.

I thought I was gonna die.

On the other hand, up here in the boonies of northern New England, I can finally get DSL again. No nore dial-up, thank God.

More in a day or so, including pictures of the lovely yet spacious 618Rants World Headquarters.

BTW, a belated Happy Birfday to the lovely yet talented Mr Conservatard! He's now legal in all 50 states.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quickie Update on Kwame Kilpatrick

Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy announced today that her office had filed a 12- count criminal information (similar to an indictment) charging Mayor Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff Christine Beattie, with perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and misconduct in office. These are all felonies, with maximum sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years each. Several counts are against both, plus there were counts that applied only to one or the other.

The Detroit City Charter requires the mayor to resign if convicted of a felony.

They turned themselves in at the Sheriff's office this evening. Gawd, I wish Kwame had tried to skip town. I would have loved seeing him do the perp walk coming off a plane or something.

I must now return to panic-pack mode.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Little or No Posting Thru April 15

There will be little or no activity here at 618 Rants through April 15. The missus and I have both been sick as dogs (bronchitis really sucks), plus we are packing for a move halfway across the country.

In the interim, please visit some of the wonderful offerings in Ye Olde Blogrolle.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mayoral Misdeeds, Part II

Just in from WDIV, Channel 4 in Detroit:

A Wayne County judge has decided to unseal some of the documents that will tell if lawyers for the city of Detroit and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had a secret agreement during the whistleblower trial to prevent text messages from surfacing.

Then, less than an hour later, the mayor's lawyer announced that she would appeal the decision, even after the judge urged the mayor's team not to.

This is getting to be more and more like a soap opera.

The only reason for trying to keep those documents secret is that releasing them would prove conclusively that Kwame Kilpatrick is a lying, corrupt politician:
  • He (and his Chief of Staff) knowing, willfully lied under oath about their affair, exposing them to perjury charges, and/or
  • He worked out this secret settlement to save his job, and/or
  • There are other scandals reflected in the documents that could cause even more trouble (like, perhaps, confirmation of the stripper party at the mayor's mansion and/or his involvement in the stripper's murder)

Is there a politician anywhere who can keep his/her pants up and his/her hand out of the public cookie jar?!?

What is it with these morons? Republican, Democrat, independent, it doesn't seem to matter: as soon as someone achieves elective office, politicians immediately start pulling various fast ones.

About the only cure I can see is mandatory castration of politicians.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blogroll Amnesty Day

This weekend marks "Blogroll Amnesty Day" (or B.A.D.), as decreed by skippy the bush kangaroo. It marks the infamous "Night of Long Knives" when Duncan "Atrios" Black did his own blogroll amnesty... by deleting every blog that wasn't as big as his. This wanton trimming of his roll, coupled with a previous post called "Why Your Blog Sucks," proved -- at least to me -- that Black had promoted himself out of the blogosphere (skippy coined the phrase), and into the MSM.

skippy (he refuses to use caps) and his cohorts celebrate this event by running their own Blogroll Amnesty. Unlike Black's, however, skippy's encourages the lower-ranked blogs to acknowledge and link to even lower-ranked blogs - the ones that generate the same traffic in a year or two that Black garners in an hour.

I hit the 1,000 visit mark on October 6, 2006, about 18 months after my first post on February 4, 2005.

In late 2006, several larger blogs -- skippy, Badtux, Cut to the Chase, Dark Wraith/Big Brass Blog, and some others -- apparently enjoyed what I was doing and blogrolled my humble offerings.

In the 16 months since that 1000th visit, I have racked up an additional 8,200 visitors. Much as I like to think of myself as a wonderful writer, with the breadth of the blogosphere, I would never have achieved even the modest level of success I have, without the help of those who blogrolled me.

There are probably millions of blogs with less traffic, but I have yet to find the ones I would like.Please, visit the folks I have blogrolled over on the left. And check out the other links, too; some of the safety and security-related sites are well worth it.

Journalists vs. Sportscasters

In my last post, I mentioned the difference between journalists and sportscasters. Sportscasters, by and large, should never, ever claim to be serious journalists. Not that they're not professionals, they're just not journalists. They don't have the right instincts. There are a few who have the proper journalistic reactions, however. Jim McKay of ABC Sports earned a spot in my personal Journalists Hall of Fame during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

For those who weren't paying attention 36 years ago, terrorists invaded the Olympic village and seized the building housing Israeli athletes. After some tense but fruitless negotiations, German authorities stormed the building. Eleven Israelis and five of the eight terrorists were killed.

McKay was covering the Olympics for ABC Sports, but when confronted with the news story of the decade, he handled it in a manner worthy of Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. McKay's reporting of this horrific attack went well beyond anything a sportscaster could have imagined. There were no scores to report, no useless stats, no color commentary or play-by-play, in the sense those terms are used by sportscasters. McKay, however, applied his training to a "hard news" story; in fact, his coverage of the situation was far better than some of the real journalists in Germany on other assignments (who had been rushed to Munich to report on the massacre).

A more recent example of how I view journalists and sportscasters occurred in 2005 at the studios of WDIV-TV, Channel 4 in Detroit. A local wacko, who had been haunting the area around the studios, managed to get into an outer lobby of the building. An alert receptionist locked the door to the inner lobby, trapping the gunman. Unfortunately, a former WDIV employee was also trapped, and was seriously injured.

As the situation was unfolding, Detroit police sealed the building... with the entire news staff inside, while everything was happening outside. WDIV anchor Steve Garagiola (son of baseball legend and Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Garagiola) managed to sneak out of the building (I don't remember if he found an unguarded fire exit or climbed down a drainpipe). Just about every member of the news staff was involved in the coverage. Meanwhile, the Sports Department staff was inside... hiding under their desks.

Yeah, Steve started out in sports, as might be expected, given the family history (his brother, Joe, Jr, is the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks). As a sports reporter for WDIV, he was in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics; after the Centennial Park bombing, he made a surprisingly smooth transition from sports to news.

You Can Take the Thug Out Of the Ghetto...

... but you can never get the ghetto out of the thug, apparently.

CORRECTION: My wife has informed it was Whoppi Goldberg who made the comment about dog-fighting being culturally acceptable. My apologies to Ms Winfrey (especially since I've gotten a few visits from her company, Harpo). I have corrected the body of the post.

Yesterday's New York Times has a story on the pit bulls formerly owned by disgraced, convicted and imprisoned former NFL superstar-turned-ass Michael Vick.

Vick, as you may recall, operated a dog-fighting business at his Bad Newz Kennels, located on the grounds of his estate in rural Virginia. 48 dogs were seized. One had to be euthanized due to viciousness; the others are scattered around the country at various dog rehab facilities.

Life at Best Friends is nothing like it was at Mr. Vick’s property on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va., where many of the dogs were found chained to buried car axles. They slept on concrete. Their water, if any, was kept in algae-covered bowls. Most were underfed. Some showed recent lacerations.

The dogs were bred and trained to be fighters, nothing more. Vick and his cronies abused these animals. They tortured them, And, when the dogs no longer provided income, they killed them. Vick's thugs didn't humanely euthanize the dogs, either: they were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground.

Many of the surviving dogs may live to be adopted, going to safe, loving homes. Others -- because of what Vick and his homies did to them -- will have to live out their days in sanctuaries, unadoptable for a variety of reasons.

This is what Vick did to his dogs:

  • Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.
  • Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, most likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.
  • Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seems to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and having his backside rubbed. But like many of Mr. Vick’s pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.
  • [Meryl] lunged at a veterinary technician, snapping at him three times. By court order, she must stay at Best Friends forever.
As the story was unfolding, the lovely-yet-talented Mrs 618 mentioned in passing that Whoopi Goldberg had tried to explain that in the culture in which Vick was raised, dog-fighting was acceptable, and that we should not judge him too harshly.

Simple response to that: in that same culture -- the deep South -- lynching blacks was also acceptable. Does this mean I can string Vick up in a tree and Whoopi will leap to my defense?

I didn't think so.

For too many people, the fact that Vick is (or was) a talented football player was more important than any other fact. To some, it is Vick's skin color that is paramount:

But when all is said, done and served, there is the very real possibility that three years will be lost to a celebrated African-American athlete in the prime of his professional life.

That quote, from another NYT article, expresses one of the most infuriating aspects of this case - the race card. Former NFL wide receiver Duke Ferguson expressed that sentiment.

Yes, Vick was a star, a gifted athlete. So was Mike Tyson. As was Darryl Strawberry.

But inside, all are just plain thugs, thugs who used their talent and their money to avoid paying the price for their "off-field" antics. Yet, some people claim Vick should receive special treatment -- i.e., a lighter sentence -- because of his talents. As I recall, that argument didn't work too well for Tyson or Strawberry, either.

Does Vick's superstar athlete status somehow magically exempt him from the constraints of civilized society? And if it does, what does that say about society?

Of course, there are also those who play the race card in reverse, seizing upon Vick and his ilk to "prove" that African-Americans are incapable of participating in society, solely because of race. These morons jump on every mis-step by a black to justify "keeping them in their place." That's equally wrong, obviously.

Pete Rose bet on sporting events. His was banned from baseball, permanently barred from the Hall of Fame, and generally shunned by "polite society."

And all he did was bet on games.

In sentencing Vick to 23 months in a Federal prison, the trial judge did depart -- upwards -- from the prosecutor's recommendation. But 23 months is not enough to punish Vick for his cruel, cowardly actions.

He should be banned from any connection with any kind of athletic endeavor (including coaching, product endorsements, or anything else). He should be barred from any sports arena, even as a spectator. No journalist or sportscaster (and yes, I do imply there is a difference, but that's for another post) should ever interview Vick about anything.

Despite what Vick and the rest of the criminals at Bad Newz tried to do, the dogs are doing reasonably well:

“These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”

Let Vick rot in hell.

When I was a kid, professional athletes were people we looked up to. Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizutto, Joe Namath, Whitey Ford, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Mario Andretti... these men were role models for thousands of kids (and yes, they were all men, as women weren't really allowed into the ranks until after pro athletes stopped caring about others). They didn't lie, cheat or steal. They didn't do drugs (at least not to today's extent). They didn't charge for autographs (and they sure as hell didn't have 100,000 "signed" pictures printed in advance) - they never refused to sign whatever some little hand shoved in their faces, whether it was a ball, a picture or a trading card.

They also didn't have multi-million dollar contracts. During the heyday of the Yankees, in the 50's and 60's, the guys like DiMaggio and Mantle made $50,000, a fortune by their standards, but a pittance compared to today (even on a percentage basis).

Vick is not fit to share the same honored profession as these men.

Wesley Snipes: Dunce or Anti-Government Extremist?

Actor Wesley Snipes was convicted on three of six tax-evasion charges, but cleared on the the other three. More importantly -- at least to Snipes -- he was cleared also on felony fraud and conspiracy charges.

Snipes, who had struck me as a reasonably intelligent man,
...had become an unlikely public face for the tax denier movement, whose members maintain that Americans are not obligated to pay income taxes and that the government extracts taxes from its citizens illegally.

The tax denier movement is affiliated (to various degrees) with some other less-than-mainstream movements:
  • "Sovereign Citizen" - a bunch of right-wing anarchist loons who believe virtually all government entities (especially Federal, and most especially the IRS and ATF) are illegitimate and illegal. They grew out of the Posse Comitatus crowd in the 1970's.
  • "Christian Identity" - a pseudo-religious group claiming that (a) Aryan races (Germans, Scandanavians, and Anglo-Saxons) are the true descendents of the ancient Israelites, and (b) Jews are descendents of Satan. The Christian Identity crowd -- to which presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has ties -- leaven their beliefs with healthy doses of homophobia and sexism. Christian Identity also has ties to Dominionism, which has many hidden representatives throughout the Cheney/bush regime. (Kos diarist Dogemperor is a survivor of this pernicious belief system).
  • The Militia Movement - right-wing extremist paramilitary groups, many of which sprouted up after the FBI/Branch Davidian stand-off in Waco, Texas.
  • "Redemptionists" - yet another collection of anti-government loonies, this time using bogus money orders, fraudulent liens, the Uniform Commercial Code, and other schemes to "protest" an "illegitmate" government. Recently, one Redemptionist claimed to be a Foreclosure Specialist; he used bogus money orders to "pay off" delinquent mortgages. He was convicted of issuing false government financial instruments. Redemptionists are an off-shoot of the Sovereign Citizen crowd.

Okay, Wesley Snipes is probably not one of the gun-toting good ole boys we've come to expect from the right-wing wacko brigade. For one thing, of course, he's black, and most of the righties would rather have Hillary Clinton in the White House than associate with a "n***er."

Snipes, who now has to pay $17 million in back taxes (plus interest and peanlties, of course), used some of the standard tax-denier arguments (most of which have been tried and found wanting many, many times):

  • He did not file returns or pay taxes in 2002-2004 because he had been informed he was the target of a criminal investigation, and filing returns would have incriminated him; [the jury accepted this argument, as have a couple of other juries in recent years. It does make sense, of course]
  • He was "not required" to pay taxes because he was legally a "nontaxpayer"; the laws did not apply to him because he was not a resident of the District of Columibia, was not a Federal employee, and was not engaged in any trade or business;
  • He claimed that the IRS' own code meant income earned in this country wasn't taxable, and that the IRS itself was not a proper government agency;
  • He claimed to be a "nonresident alien," and hence exempt from all tax laws.

The Smoking Gun has copies of Snipes' tax forms (for 1997; they still show no taxable income, although Snipes lists an adjusted gross income of $19,238,192). The file also contains copies of some of the boilerplate pseudo-legalistic twaddle the tax protesters try to peddle. Although it is hard to see in the TSG image, Snipes' 1040X had been altered to read, "Under no penalties of perjury, I declare..." [emphasis added].

Snipes' co-defendants -- Eddie Ray Kahn and Douglas Rosile -- were convicted on the felony charges. Kahn, a long-time hero in the tax denier movement, fled to Panama after being indicted. He was extradited but refused to attend the proceedings, claiming the court had no jurisdiction over him.

The website Quatloos!, operated by Financial & Tax Fraud Education Associates, Inc, has this to say about Eddie Kahn:

Eddie Kahn of “American Rights Litigators” represents the Hee-Haw contingent of the tax protestor movement. “Without any doubt, the most stupid of all the ‘professional’ tax protesters. Mr. Kahn's ‘arguments’ are so utterly juvenile and worthless as to barely worth the space I am using to type this sentence.”

Yup, just exactly the type of person I'd want for a tax advisor.

Rosile, the other idiot in this trek to Loontown, is a former accountant whose licenses to practice were yanked in at least two states. According to a 2002 New York Times article,

Mr. Rosile's accounting license has been revoked in Ohio and Florida, and he has been barred for life from practicing before the Securities and Exchange Commission, which found in 1995 that he had prepared false financial statements for a publicly traded company.

Rosile has been a thorn in the side of governmental regulators for years. In 1995, the Accountancy Board of Ohio discussed Rosile's competence as an accountant:

Mr. Rosile admitted that he was not familiar with either the professional accounting standards promulgated by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), or the specific requirements of the SEC.... No review was performed concerning the integrity of management prior to accepting the audit.... No direct confirmation of Standard's cash was ever made by Mr. Rosile. No work was performed concerning either accounts receivable or accounts payable.... No federal or state tax returns, payroll records, royalty records, or stock transfer records were reviewed by Mr. Rosile.... It was clear from the SEC transcript that Mr. Rosile does not understand the definition of certain accounting terms such as valuation account.... Mr. Rosile does not understand the definition of "going concern."...

One could ask how, if Rosile is as ignorant of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices as he appears, did he manage to pass the CPA exam in not one, but two, states?

Perhaps the courts should appoint a legal guardian for Mr Snipes. He sure doesn't seem to be doing too good a job taking care of himself.

Mayoral Misdeeds, Part I

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Grace Saenz-Lopez, the alleged "dog-napping" mayor of Alice, Texas.

Saenz-Lopez was indicted on two felony counts of tampering with evidence and concealing evidence. Last week, the city commissioners voted unanimously for a resolution urging her to resign.

She resigned on Friday.

Now, if the Motor City Bad Boy Mayor Hisself, Kwame Kilpatrick, would just take the hint....

Oh, Please, God...

From an article in today's New York Times:

Across the street, Tom O’Hara, 62, was sullen. He was getting ready to open his bar, O’Hara’s, and was pondering his irrelevance, a Republican man pummeled by a Republican backlash.

“Did the Republicans do too many wrong things?” Mr. O’Hara said. “Oh yes, they did. I’m upset with George Bush. He gave away more money than the Democrats. I’m very concerned about immigration. Don’t tell me everyone should come in here and pick my fruits.”

He said he did not know if he would even bother to vote. None of the candidates stir him. “They don’t have the fight,” he said. [Emphasis added]

Oh, dear God, please, please let all the rest of the Rethuglicans feel this depressed. The more the mouth-breathers stay home, the more likely it is the grown-ups will have a solid majority (and the balls to actually get something done).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coupla Quickies

First, via, a story about a New York City police officer... who pimped out a 13-year-old runaway.
A 13-year-old runaway returned home with a horrific account of being forced into prostitution by the kind of person who should have instead come to her aid: a city detective.

A police officer pimping out a kid. This is truly disgusting.
The teenager thought she was being offered a job dancing at parties, according to prosecutors. She soon found herself a captive of Wayne Taylor and a woman who forced the teen to prostitute herself at parties, with the detective threatening to make her sell herself on the streets if she tried to escape, prosecutors said.

Not surprisingly, the cop and his female associate have pleaded not guilty. Assuming for the sake of argument that they are convicted, these two should be locked away from decent people forever.

Cops do not always get the best press, and, quite often, the coverage they get is ruchly deserved. Unlike a lot of bloggers, I do not immediately assume all cops are evil bastards, but I also realize that there will always be some cops who are corrupt, criminal losers. And if a single police department has over 30,000 sworn officers, as New York City does, there will certainly be a good number of thugs with badges.

* * * * *

Second, and on a much more pleasant note, this piece from Firehouse Magazine, about an off-duty volunteer firefighter who saved a man from a burning car. The story started off great, got ugly, and worked out properly... but only after a lawsuit.
Keith Leuci - formerly of Hamilton Township and now living in Tennessee - was driving home with his family Aug. 20, 2004, when he saw a burning car stopped on the Black Horse Pike. Leuci told his wife to pull over, raced to the car, pried the door open and pulled James Barnes, then 26 and of Pleasantville, to safety. Barnes' cousin was killed in the accident.

This is where it gets disgusting. Here's a man who risked his own life to save another. Bear in mind, he ran up to a burning car, and pulled the victim out before he burned to death. In saving the driver's life, he himself was seriously injured.
Leuci, then a member of the Cologne Fire Company, was injured in the rescue, and Hamilton Township denied his claim for workers'-compensation benefits. He then applied through the Cologne Volunteer Fire Company. The fire company also denied his claim, saying he was not on duty, and Egg Harbor Township did not request mutual aid from Hamilton Township, meaning he was not officially on duty at the site of the accident.

Give me a break. "He was not on duty"? Since when are cops, firefighters, or EMS personnel not on duty?
Leuci received a valor award from the Atlantic County Firefighters Association and a medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund for his role in the rescue. But his injuries forced him to give up his remodeling business, and his family moved to Tennessee because they could no longer afford to live in New Jersey.

Okay, it seems most people agree Leuci was, is, and will remain a hero. A bona fide hero.
The Cologne Fire Company and its insurer "took the position that instead of rescuing the person who was in the car, he should have gotten approval from the chief or somebody," said [Leuci's attorney Christopher] Day, who also represents The Press of Atlantic City. "There was about a 30- to 60-second window to save the individual, so his choice was to rescue the person or let him die." [Emphasis added]

"Should have gotten approval"?!? Oh. My. God.
"It's totally amazing we need a court to tell them the right thing to do," Day said. "I hope their family is never trapped in a vehicle when they need help."

Amen, brother.

Fortunately, New Jersey worker's compensation Judge Cosmo Giovinazzi III ruled in Leuci's favor.

Day said an appeal is unlikely to succeed, as Giovinazzi is one of the most respected judges in the state.

"To the best of my knowledge, he's never been overturned," Day said. "So I feel pretty confident his decision will stand."

One thing to remember is that Leuci was a volunteer firefighter; he did not get paid for his efforts. In fact, he probably had to pay out of his own pocket for the privilege of being a fire fighter. Most volunteer companies have annual dues, plus the troops generally have to pay for much of their own training (which is usually attended on their own unpaid time); some departments even make members pay for their turn-out gear.

Towns try this kind of sleazy cop-out, and then they wonder why they have such a hard time attracting and retaining volunteers. Of course, political sleaze is not the only reason volunteerism is down; many people cannot afford to donate unpaid time to their communities when they're trying desperately to keep a roof over their family's heads.

Meanwhile, Day said Leuci's move out of state was New Jersey's loss and Tennessee's gain.

"We have one less person who would do (a rescue like) this in New Jersey," Day said.

Day is right. If you're going to wind up trapped in a burning car, pray you're in Tennessee, and that Keith Leuci is driving by.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Update on Kwame Kilpatrick

I just watched a speech by embattled Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick, if you're new to these precincts, has had what could charitably be described as a "speckled" career as mayor. There have been allegations of strippers and wild parties at the mayor's official residence, charges that he attempted to have a virtually bankrupt city pay for a Lincoln Navigator for his wife, and the latest allegations: that he committed perjury in an effort to conceal an extra-marital affair (and forced the city into a $9 million dollar settlement in a whistle-blower trial in the process).

Kilaptrick just appeared on WDIV-TV, Channel 4, the Detroit NBC affiliate. He spoke, not surprisingly, from his church.

As is the case with every other politician caught with his hand in the cookie jar, or his pants down (or both), he took the expected route: "I have sinned, I have found sweet baby Jeebus, I have repented, I must be forgiven, you must forget this thing ever happened."

Listening to the speech, Kilpatrick kept referring to the incidents of "the past week"... in other words, since the story broke that he may have committed perjury. Not a single comment about the affair, not a single comment about his alleged perjury, not a single comment about his ripping the city for 9 mil to cover his infidelity (although to be fair, he did mention that there were legal ramifications he couldn't discuss at present, namely his desperate attempts to evade indictment). In other words, he was apologizing for getting caught, not for boffing his Chief of Staff, not for ripping off the city to conceal the fact he has the morals of an alley cat, not for being a sleazy, rotten person. He only apologized for getting caught.

His wife, Carlita, who was in the church with him, stood by her man, although she looked as if she was ready to braid his testicles into those plastic key chains we made in summer camp.

I can sympathize with the mayor for having his personal peccadilloes spread across the front page, but my sympathy is tempered by the fact that every politician should know that he, she or (in dubya's case) it, does not have the same expectation of privacy as we ordinary mortals. One of the drawbacks to public service is that your every move will be (and should be) under a microscope, especially if those moves adversely affect the public you have theoretically sworn to serve. If you're going to enjoy the perks of public life (like having a posse made up of sworn law enforcement officers), you also have to accept the drawbacks.

Kilpatrick made it abundantly clear that he was not going to resign as mayor of Detroit. Personally, I think he should resign. He shamed his city, and made it a laughing stock. And it's not as if Detroit didn't have all sorts of problems already. His former chief of staff, Beatty, did the honorable thing; Kwame should do the same. He has forfeited any trust the citizens of Detroit may have had. The city needs to move on, and the best way to do that is for Kwame to go away.

The city of Detroit is in a crisis. While a crisis has been described as "danger + opportunity," there is very little opportunity in this situation. Kwame put off the speech for a week after the story broke, and -- as any crisis manager could tell you -- a delay that long allows the "other side" to frame the story any way they want. In this case, the media framed the story as yet another moral lapse by the mayor. In delaying as long as he did, Kilpatrick was forced into even more of a defensive posture than he might have been in earlier.

Of course, having text messages pop up that conclusively prove you had an affair after you and your paramour testified, under oath, that you hadn't, is not exactly the easiest thing to deal with. But Kilpatrick's usual ham-handed handling of this scandal allowed it to balloon into even more of a disaster. This is the kind of situation that has almost no chance of positive spin.

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy is investigating this case. Worthy must acknowledge the fact that her constituency extends across the entire county, and while the citizens of Detroit may shrug this off as "a man being a man," her constituency may not be so forgiving. Even though people outside of Detroit or even Wayne County may not care about the mayor's indiscretions, they are painfully aware of the political and social ramifications. The state of Michigan is already suffering from what has been described as a "one-state recession;" a situation like this is not going to attract new business, industry, or investment to Detroit, or even the state as a whole. A reputation of corruption in local officials can taint the reputation of an entire state; just ask anyone who lived in New Jersey during the 60's and 70's.

Furthermore, Kilpatrick's law license should be suspended immediately, pending final disposition of the case by Wayne County or state officials. Kilpatrick has certainly exhibited conduct of an immoral nature; such conduct is grounds for disbarment.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the personal ramifications for the Kilpatricks, allegations of sexual impropriety are a death knell for any politician's future prospects. Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Bill Clinton and others all learned this the hard way. Kilpatrick apparently thought it couldn't happen to him.

It can happen, and it did happen.

TSA Strikes Out. Again.

Good Godamighty, this is getting really discouraging, considering how much we're paying for TSA to "protect" us.

TSA conducted yet another of its tests of its airport screeners. You know, the folks who are supposed to prevent bombs and guns from getting on board American airliners.

And, once again, TSA screeners have failed the test.

CNN asked if it could send a camera crew to tape one of the tests, and TSA agreed. Unfortunately, the CNN crew taped a test at Tampa International Airport.

The CNN report detailed how a covert officer with a metal knee beat security by claiming a slender mock explosive strapped around his waist was a back brace. Nice to know the screeners will believe us when we say a bomb is a back brace. Now if we could just get them to believe a bottle of Pert really is shampoo.

Of course, this isn't the first time TSA screeners have dropped the ball on finding mock explosives. See my previous post on TSA for more details.

The CNN report quotes a TSA spokesdrone as pointing out that:

Six years ago, the administration focused intently on handguns. As a result, screeners became more adept at ferreting them out before they made it on board....

This explains how a guy was able to get on a plane last week with a gun.

Guns? Okay.

Bombs? No problem.

A bottle of Poland Springs? Big problem. BIG problem.

Does it seem like I'm ragging on TSA too much? If it does, that is because TSA -- and it's parent super-agency, the Department of Homeland Security -- are violating one of the main tenets of the security profession. They are too busy trying to protect us from the last attack, and not worrying their beautiful minds about the next one.

TSA and DHS have their heads in the sand. As a New York Times writer pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the primary reason the 9-11 hijackings succeeded was not that the terrorists were able to smuggle box cutters aboard the aircraft; the reason they succeeded was that they broke the existing paradigm of hijackings, that the craft would be diverted to another destination. By being willing to sacrifice themselves (and the passengers, crews, and planes), the terrorists brought a new paradigm into play. And it is a paradigm the TSA cannot comprehend.

It is impossible to prevent weapons on planes, as TSA has demonstrated time after time. No matter how much they check our shoes, pour out our shampoo, or grope our pregnant wives' breasts, they can never keep all potentially dangerous weapons off the planes. It just cannot be done.

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

I said it then, and I'll say it now: this is the template to which DHS and TSA fanatically adhere.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blackwater Back in the News

Blackwater Security, the mercenary thugs who enjoy shooting helpless Iraqis, is suing its former lawyers for malpractice. Back when the four Blackwater thugs were killed and hung on that Iraqi bridge, the survivors sued Blackwater for failing to proetct its employees. The suit was originally filed in state court, but Blackwater wanted the case moved to the Federal courts, where bush's appointees could be counted on to let Blackwater slide. Blackwater's original lawyers failed in their mission, and the suit proceeded in the North Carolina state courts.

The lawyers who failed so miserably were from the prestigious Wiley Rein firm included Fred Fielding, now White House counsel; Barbara Van Gelder, now an attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Scott McCaleb, who is a partner with Wiley Rein; and Margaret Ryan, who is now a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Blackwater subsequently tried to have the case forced into arbitration, claiming the slain guards' contracts demanded it. Of course, the reason the arbitration clause is in the contract is not to protect the employees; it's there to protect the company. An arbitrator is unlikely to be swayed by romantic notions of "justice", "truth", and "fairness," focusing instead on who's paying the bills.

Blackwater also has another novel claim:

Blackwater, which is under investigation by the Justice Department for its involvement in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead, contends that its contracted employees are de facto federal officers under the law.

Now there's a charming thought: Blackwater thugs as Federal officers. With the same immunity from prosecution that real Feds enjoy.

Pharmaceutical Executives Face Reality

The former COO (Chief Operating Officer) of drug company InterMune may be in some serious trouble. InterMune got jammed up for illegal off-label marketing of their osteoporosis drug Actimune, claiming it also worked against a fatal and incurable lung disease. The company signed a "deferred prosecution agreement" with the Department of Justice; the company and executives thought that would be the end of the matter (as it generally would be, with bush's Department of "Justice" and the administration's love for Big Pharma).

Scott Harkonen thought he was home free.

But the investigation was still proceeding.

When Harkonen realized he was probably going to face criminal charges, he crapped.

Judith Waltz, a lawyer who represents drug companies, had this to say:

"The government may be trying to make an example," Waltz said. "That scares the hell out of everybody once they start talking about individuals."

Yes, I can imagine it does. God forbid that in george bush's Murka, any big bidniss zecative should be held responsible for anything he says or does, no matter how egregious. Business executives, after all, are the ones who contribute to the Rethuglicans; hence, they expect protection from fair retribution for their illegal acts.