Monthly Archives: March 2007

Elizabeth Edwards' Cancer Returned

It’s in a rib now. John Edwards said that the doctor said that once breast cancer goes somewhere else in the body it’s not curable anymore, but it is treatable. She’ll get treatment for the rest of her life. The doctor told them that the analogy is that of diabetes, you have the disease and you treat it. Lifelong.

Elizabeth had pain in her ribs and went to the doctor for x-rays. They found a cracked rib on the left, but something odd on the right. They did further testing and a biopsy and found cancer in the bone.

They are optimistic. The campaign goes on. Our prayers are with them.

Cross posted at Hang Right Politics

'3 Little Puppies', Target, and Flying Imams

freepiglet.jpgHonley Church of England Junior School in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England has decided that it must rename “The Three Little Pigs” to “The Three Little Puppies.” The children were to do a performance of the story, including songs, and the school decided that the name, characters and lyrics must be changed “because of the multi-cultural nature of the youngsters involved and their parents in the audience.”

Considering the things that were happening pig wise in England in late 2005 and 2006 this is just another step.

A few examples:

  • banning anything pig from the Dudley Council offices in the West Midlands because the ceramic pigs, calendar pigs and even the Piglet tissue box cover could offend Muslims. The ban was supported by practicing Muslim Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, saying “It’s a tolerance of people’?s beliefs.”
  • British banks were banning free piggy banks
  • Another school, Park Road Junior Infant and Nursery School in Batley, banned the entire story of “The Three Little Pigs” from being read to children seven and under because it might offend Muslims.

Back to the Junior school – in response to the “multi-culti inclusion, no exclusion, no offense” move that the school made:

But Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain branded the move ‘bizarre’.

He said: “The vast majority of Muslims have no problem whatsoever with the Three Little Pigs. It’s always been the traditional way of telling the story and I don’t see why that should be changed.

“There’s an issue about the eating of pork, which is forbidden, but there is no prohibition about reading stories about pigs. This is an unnecessary step.”

Other recent rows have involved ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ being changed to ‘Baa Baa rainbow sheep’ and Christmas events called ‘winter’ festivities.

Mr Mogra said: “How far are we going to go? Are we going to change the seven dwarves because it’s discriminatory towards people who are physically less able? Where do you draw the line?

“Every time we get these stories Muslims are seen more and more as misfits. We have to accept there’s a predominant culture here.”

A voice of reason! Thank you Mr. Mogra.

Now we go to Minneapolis and discuss Target and Flying Imams…

From a StarTribune article on March 14th we find that a clerk at Target refused to run a package of bacon over the scanner. The clerk was wearing a Muslim headscarf and she made the customer run the plastic package of bacon over the scanner. The clerk said it was against her religion to handle pork.

Why on earth did she take a position at a store that sells pork products? If handling pork products is against her religion then she should work somewhere where it isn’t sold. No plastic wrapped packages of pork rinds, not boxed packages of frozen No Name pork chops. No plastic wrapped packages of pork from the butcher shop. No sealed plastic packages of bacon. No cans of Spam. No sausages. No hot dogs. How many of these items may she have inadvertently run over the scanner? A little can of Vienna Sausages may not scream PORK PRODUCT!!!! If she wants to sell food, but doesn’t want to handle pork products, perhaps she ought to work at a halal shop or even a kosher deli…

Target is now transferring employees who don’t want to handle pork to other areas of the stores or to other stores altogether. How far do we need to go to accommodate anyone?If we look at the statement made above my Mr. Mogra, we see that he says the prohibition on pork is on consuming pork. Jews aren’t supposed to consume pork either, but I haven’t seen any Jewish clerks refuse to ring it up in a grocery store.

This is America and many Americans eat pork. Generally when we purchase pork it is packaged. We don’t throw a raw slab of pig meat down on the conveyor belt at the check out station. Moving a package across a scanner and putting it in a bag doesn’t seem to me to be “handling” pork. It’s handling a closed package that may happen to hold pork. Handling pork would be butchering and packaging it. The package is handling groceries.

Then there are the Flying Imams who are suing U.S. Airways because of the flap they generated at the Minneapolis Airport. They also wish to sue the passengers on the plane who complained about the Imams behavior. Via SeeDubya at JYB we find that

Now the moderate American Islamic Forum for Democracy has stepped forward with a pledge to raise money for whatever “Does” get named in the suit:

“It’s so important that America know there are Muslims who understand who the victims are in air travel,” said Dr. Jasser. “But I hope it doesn’t get to that point because the backlash will be even greater when Americans see Islamists trying to punish innocent passengers reporting fears.”

More voices of reason.

SeeDubya adds this:

P.P.S.: From the AIFD press release, linked above:

4. While the six imams’ handlers, CAIR, and their lawyers may have some kind of obscure basis for their lawsuit, it is our belief that the fallout and publicity from such litigation is wrong for American Muslims, wrong for American security, and wrong for American freedoms. The greatest guarantor of our rights as American Muslims is the tenor of our relationship with the greater majority of American society. This type of litigiousness is divisive and achieves nothing but resentment and actually causes far more harm than good to the overall image of the Muslim community in the eyes of non-Muslim America.

President Bush's Statement Today

My recording started just into the statement so I didn’t get the first few words.

…my staff and Congressional leaders about the resignations of U.S. Attorneys. As you know, I have broad discretion to replace political appointees throughout the government, including U.S. Attorneys. And in this case, I appointed these U.S. Attorneys. And they serve four year terms.

The Justice Department, with the approval of the White House, believed new leadership in these positions would better serve our country. The announcement of this decision and the subsequent explanation of these changes has been confusing and in some cases, incomplete. Neither the Attorney General, nor I, approve of how these explanations were handled or determined to correct the problem.

Today I am also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and key staff will testify before the relevant Congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we’re giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the ninety-three U.S. Attorneys.

In the last twenty-four hours the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than three thousand pages of internal Justice Department documents including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency and White House communications.

Third, I recognize that there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. Attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The Framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. If the staff of the President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice. And the American people would be ill served. Yet in this case I recognize the importance of Congress having – The importance of Congress have placed in understanding how and why this decision was made. So I’ll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts.

In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department, or any other outside person, including Members of Congress and their staff related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.

Initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don’t choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

As we cut through all the partisan rhetoric it is important to maintain perspective on a couple of important points. First, it was natural and appropriate for members of the White House staff to consider – and to discuss with the Justice Department – whether to replace all ninety-three U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of my second term. The start of the second term is a natural time to discuss the status of political appointees within the White House and with relevant agencies, including the Justice Department. In this case, the idea was rejected and it was not pursued.

Second, it is common for me, and members of my staff and the Justice Department to receive complaints from members of the Congress in both parties and from other citizens. And we did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. Attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted. These concerns are often shared between the White House and the Justice Department and that is completely appropriate.

I also want to say something to the U.S. Attorneys who resigned. I appreciate your service to the country. And while I strongly support the Attorney General’s decision, and am confident he acted appropriately, I regret that these resignations turned into such a public spectacle. It is now my hope that the United States Congress will act appropriately. My administration has made a very reasonable proposal. It’s not too late for Democrats to drop the partisanship and work together. Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation or whether they will join us in working to do the people’s business. There are too many important issues, from funding our troops to comprehensive immigration reform to balancing the budget for us to accomplish on behalf of the American people. Thank you for your time.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The Original Durty Nelly’s Pub in Bunratty, County Clare, Ireland with Bunratty Castle towering above. Bunratty Castle offers a medieval dinner and the Bunratty Folk Park on the castle grounds recreates 19th century Ireland. They’ve relocated many buildings here.

Picture taken in May, 1998.durtynellies.jpg

Plame Statement at House Committee Hearing

Good Morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Valerie Plame Wilson and I am honored to have been invited to testify under oath before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the critical issue of safeguarding classified information. I’m grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight.

I’ve served the United States loyally and to the best of my ability as a Covert Operations Officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. I worked on behalf of the National Security of our country, on behalf of the People of the United States until my name and true [emphasis Plame-Wilson] affiliation were exposed in the national media on July 14th 2003 after a leak by administration officials.

Today I can tell this committee even more. In the run up to Iraq, I worked in the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified. I raced to discover solid intelligence for senior policy makers on Iraq’s presumed Weapons of Mass Destruction programs. While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against his WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence.

I loved my career because I love my country. I was proud of the serious responsibilities entrusted to me as a CIA Covert Operations Officer. And I was dedicated to this work. It was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit that everyone knew where I worked. But, all of my efforts on behalf of the National Security of the United States, all my training, all of the value of my years of service were abruptly ended when my name and identity were exposed irresponsibly.

In the course of the trial of Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, I was shocked by the evidence that emerged. My name and identity were recklessly and carelessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA and having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer. The CIA goes to great lengths to protect all of its employees. Providing – at significant taxpayer’s expense – painstakingly devised and creative covers for its most sensitive staffers. The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is grave. But I can’t provide details beyond that in this public hearing. But the concept is obvious.

Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized, and even destroyed, entire networks of foreign agents. Who, in turn, risk their own lives, and those of their families, to provide the United States with needed intelligence. Lives are literally at stake.

Every single one of my former CIA colleagues, from my fellow covert officers to analysts, to technical operations officers to even the secretaries, understand the vulnerabilities of our officers and recognize that the travesty of what happened to me could happen to them. We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign [emphasis Plame-Wilson] enemies. It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover. Furthermore, testimony in the criminal trial of Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, who has now been convicted on, of serious crimes, indicates that my exposure arose from purely political motives.

Within the CIA it is essential that all intelligence be evaluated on the basis of its merits and actual credibility. National security depends upon it. The tradecraft of intelligence is not a product of speculation. I feel passionately, as an intelligence professional, about the creeping, insidious, politicizing of our intelligence process. All intelligence professionals are dedicated to the ideal that they would rather be fired on the spot than distort the facts to fit a political view. Any political view or any ideology.

As our intelligence agencies go through reorganizations and experience the painful aspects of change, and our country faces profound challenges injecting partisanship or ideology into the equation makes effective and accurate intelligence that much more difficult to develop.

Politics and ideology must be stripped completely from our intelligence services or the consequences will be even more severe than they have been and our country placed in even greater danger. It is imperative for any President to be able to make decisions based on intelligence that is unbiased. The Libby trial and the events leading to the Iraq war highlight the urgent need to restore the highest professional standards of intelligence collection and analysis and the protection of our officers and operations. The Congress has a Constitutional duty to defend our national security and that includes safeguarding our intelligence. That is why I am grateful for this opportunity to appear before this committee today and to assist in its important work.

The Ides of March and IEATAPETA Day

The Ides simply mean the fifteenth. There is an ides in every month. So, Julius Caesar was to beware the 15th of March.

Here in America, we beware the Ides of April (unless that date falls on a Sunday so we get an extra day [THIS YEAR!], or if you send your return to Massachusetts which celebrates Patriot’s Day on the Ides of April so the Regional IRS office isn’t open and all those people get an extra day.)

March 15th is also the Fifth Annual International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA day. Last year I made it IEATAPETA week and posted 5 tasty recipes. The year before I also posted a tasty recipe.

This year I plan on Chili’s To Go. Chili’s has three new flavors for Baby Backs in addition to their Original and Honey BBQ.

Kentucky Bourbon: Basted with a bourbon-based BBQ sauce

Memphis Dry Rub: Grilled with a Memphis-style dry rub of spices & herbs and served with a tangy Dijon BBQ sauce.

Carolina: Basted with a thick, tangy & slightly sweet BBQ sauce with a mild spicy finish.

The cool thing is that you can order a full slab of any one, or two half slabs of any two. What to order?

Flame-Grilled Ribeye: 12 oz. ribeye steak w/our own special seasonings and topped with garlic butter & roasted herb jus.

Chili’s Classic Sirloin: 8 oz. sirloin w/our own special seasonings and topped with savory steak butter & roasted herb jus.

and there’s more… Steak and portobello fajitas, Southwest Cedar Plank Tilapia, burgers, chicken, wings…

I just can’t wait until dinner time!

Update: I had a half rack of the Kentucky Bourbon and a half rack of the Memphis. Both were excellent!

Unions

Via Betsy the AFL-CIO is demanding that the Democrats withdraw their 2008 convention from Denver because Governor Ritter (D) vetoed Colorado House bill 1072. The unions are losing membership. They want more members (more dues to spend). They are trying to get the state and federal governments to ease the voting rules for unionization.

WASHINGTON National AFL officials seem determined to remove any remaining doubt in anybody’s mind that Gov. Bill Ritter did the right thing in February by vetoing Colorado House bill 1072. That hurriedly approved measure repealed a long-standing Colorado law requiring that, once a company’s employees approve a union, they have a second, secret-ballot vote on how dues will be assessed, with a 75 percent supermajority required for approval.
Why is the AFL-CIO so worried about an obscure Colorado bill? Because the vetoed measure was of a piece with the “Employee Free Choice Act of 2007” now being rushed through Congress by national Democrats, led by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. That bill abolishes all secret ballot voting in union representation contests. Doing away with workers’ right to cast a secret ballot when voting on whether to unionize is the AFL-CIO’s top national priority because union leaders think it will help them reverse their decades-long slide in membership. Less than 10 percent of all private sector workers now belong to unions.

The main problem the unions are having is really that they are pretty much obsolete. Way back when, the unions got workers the 40 hour work week, better working conditions, worker safety, breaks, overtime pay for more than 40 hours, they got children out of the workforce.

Since then, however, the state and federal governments have legislated and regulated what the unions had previously negotiated. Employment of minors is regulated. Children must be a certain age and there are jobs that some children are not permitted to do. Your typical 17-year-old generally doesn’t work in the deli of the grocery store because that 17-year-old is not permitted to work the slicing machines. The hours a week a teen works are limited as well as the hours of the day. Some can work no later than 7 p.m., some no later than 9 p.m. Teens can also be required to obtain a work permit in order to work.

Go into any place of business and look at the Department of Labor posters (or just click the link and you can see the posters and regulations as to which are to posted where and by whom). These are mandated to be posted to ensure that all employees are aware of their rights. The law mandates overtime pay for work over 40 hours, the law mandates breaks. OSHA was established in 1971 ensuring (perhaps over-ensuring) worker safety.

There seems to be a general feeling that the unions have outlived their usefulness. Unionized employees are more difficult to fire, even for cause, than private employees. Private employees still have recourse if they feel they were fired unfairly. Private employees still have recourse if they feel they were unfairly treated or discriminated against.

Private employers, however, don’t have to keep nonproductive workers on the payroll such as the teachers in New York City who are paid to come in and sit in a “rubber room” all day because the system can not trust them with the very children they were supposed to be teaching.

In New York City, it’s “just about impossible” to fire a bad teacher, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The new union contract offers some relief, but it’s still about 200 pages of bureaucracy. “We tolerate mediocrity,” said Klein, because “people get paid the same, whether they’re outstanding, average or way below average.”

Here’s just one example from New York City: It took years to fire a teacher who sent sexually oriented e-mails to “Cutie 101,” a 16-year-old student. Klein said, “He hasn’t taught, but we have had to pay him, because that’s what’s required under the contract.”

Only after six years of litigation were they able to fire him. In the meantime, they paid the teacher more than $300,000. Klein said he employs dozens of teachers who he’s afraid to let near the kids, so he has them sit in what are called rubber rooms. This year he will spend $20 million dollars to warehouse teachers in five rubber rooms. It’s an alternative to firing them. In the last four years, only two teachers out of 80,000 were fired for incompetence. Klein’s office says the new contract will make it easier to get rid of sex offenders, but it will still be difficult to fire incompetent teachers.

And the GM Job Bank where autoworkers come in every day and just sit around for $31 an hour.

Ken Pool is making good money. On weekdays, he shows up at 7 a.m. at Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, signs in, and then starts working — on a crossword puzzle. Pool hates the monotony, but the pay is good: more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.

“We just go in and play crossword puzzles, watch videos that someone brings in or read the newspaper,” he says. “Otherwise, I’ve just sat.”

Pool is one of more than 12,000 American autoworkers who, instead of installing windshields or bending sheet metal, spend their days counting the hours in a jobs bank set up by Detroit automakers and Delphi Corp. as part of an extraordinary job security agreement with the United Auto Workers union.

The jobs bank programs were the price the industry paid in the 1980s to win UAW support for controversial efforts to boost productivity through increased automation and more flexible manufacturing.

Add in the defined benefits programs that the unions still insist on even though defined benefits programs can bankrupt companies (and governments).

Unions are obsolete. The market does a good job of setting wages. If someone doesn’t think they are being paid enough, they can go for another job, or learn new skills to get a better paying job. Like WalMart, if people didn’t want to work there they wouldn’t apply. WalMart would have no workers and would go out of business.

Happy Birthday Dad

Today would have been his 73rd birthday. Here he is with my mother, my sister and I about 40 years ago (I’m the one in the red shirt).

Miss you Daddy.

family.jpg

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