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Saturday, November 22, 2003
You despise me, don't you? Well, you will once you give it some thought.

I thank Rick for the invitation to join the Cafe, and especially for the opportunity to be self-referential and self-indulgent to an audience of tens. And growing.

My postings are actually likely to be extremely self-indulgent, as I don't think I would make much of a warblogger. It isn't that I don't have opinions on the war. I do. They are very good opinions, in fact. I know they are good opinions because they are mine, and even though I hate myself, I fancy myself a pretty smart fellow. (By the way, the general contours of my opinion are: I was for the war at the beginning for all of the reasons Bush is pretending to be for the war now. This puts me in a curious intellectual position. But I am not asking you to reconcile my position for me. Read on.) I don't intend to blog about the war much because I just don't have the drive or the energy to do the research to back up my opinions. And if reading the blogs of others has taught me anything, it is that other bloggers and readers of blogs use a lot of links to support their opinions and I just don't care enough to do that. So I will keep most opinions that require sourcing and corroboration and in-depth analysis to myself.

Instead, I will probably be blogging about stuff that is of special concern to me. Some of it will be unadulterated hackery. Like when I spend way too much time dissecting that insipid "raised by wolves" Quizno's commercial. I hope to provide comedy genius, but will usually settle for comedy not-too-stupid.

But the really self-indulgent stuff will be about Cornell hockey and my burgeoning poker "career" and assorted crap like that. I'll try to keep it interesting.

More interesting than this, anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2003
Hackery? You want hackery?

I am not all that versed in the world of blogdom, so I can only assume this was already typed by thousands of other monkeys on their own typewriters, but...

The Blogger spellcheck flags "blog" and "blogger." What's up with that!

Note the effective use of HTML. Comedy gold, man. Comedy gold.

Please Welcome Sam and Ugarte to Rick's

You may have noticed that the post below was made by "Sam", and not by "Rick". Rick's Cafe Americain is pleased to welcome two new bloggers to the Cafe: Sam and Ugarte. Hopefully, you'll be reading a lot of their posts in the weeks and months to come, and each will bring his own distinctive voice to Rick's.

Drink up!


Bush's first television campaign ad is scheduled to appear on television this week and the New York Times reports it will "portray Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping." In Mr. Bush's defense it is only fair to note that this potentially negative-minded ad is being run not by the president's campaign committee, but instead is sponsored by the fiercely independent Republican National Committee, thereby keeping Mr. Bush hands as clean as his Energy Policy Act .

Bush and his media team have turned the fight against terrorism into one of the cornerstones of his re-election campaign. This is ideal for a president who loathes the color gray, as the fight against terrorism is easily (if incorrectly) portrayed as a Black and White issue. It seems, according to Bush's party, that Republicans hate terrorism, whereas Democrats love it, or at the very least want to walk away from the battle against terrorism because of their "short memory and even shorter attention span".

Accusing Democratic members of our Congress of being unmindful of the importance of the war on terror and of supporting the terrorists by undermining the political process to me seems a ridiculous affair. I find it difficult to believe that anyone who has taken our Democratic system seriously enough to have devoted their careers to its workings would not, at the very least, hold the ideals of Democracy and the lives of its citizens at a premium. Alas though, I may be too naive. Fine then, lets cut through the idealistic claptrap and get to the brass tacks: policy. (Credit for information and quotes in the following two paragraphs go to Al Franken and Team Franken and are taken from his incredible book Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them: A fair and balanced look at the right. Please do yourself, and your country a favor and buy this book, now with ten times more blotchiness. Anything short of purchasing this book would be un-American)

During his eight-year reign as our last legitimately elected president, Bill Clinton "tripled the counterterrorism budged for the FBI and doubled counterterrorism overall. His first crime bill contained stringent antiterrorism legislation. His administration sponsored a series of simulations to see how local, state and federal officials should coordinate their responses to a terrorist strike. He created a national stockpile of drugs and vaccines. He coaxed, cajoled, and badgered foreign leaders to join in the fight internationally..."

Clinton also appointed Richard Clark as the first national antiterrorism coordinator and assigned him to come up with a comprehensive plan to take out...guess who....that's right....Al Queda. This plan was completed right before the inauguration of GDubya and handed over to that administration. This plan and Clark's entreaties were summarily ignored (for more on how Clark begged the administration to crack down on Al Queda, warned them that this type of terrorism should be considered the "greatest threat to American National Security", and how his concern that Al Queda might be trying to break into the American AVIATION industry were all ignored please read Al's book).

Well, considering Democrats' clear history of having a "short attention span" for terrorists I can fully understand that Republicans would be on guard for Democratic tomfoolery after the events of 9/11. Lets take a look at the ways in which the Democrats undermined the fight against terrorism post 9/11.

Democrats voted unanimously (with one exception) to authorize Bush to (among other things) invade Afghanistan and overwhelmingly approved the USA PATRIOT Act, as well as supported the invasion of Iraq, which, as an aside I will not get into here, the American public was fooled by the Bush administration into believing had ties to Al-Queda.

Well, fine you might be saying, but what about all that Democratic brouhaha over passing Bush's Pro-America, anti-terror 87 billion dollar bill? Democrats did not disagree with sending money to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, instead they disagreed with the particulars of the inefficient, special interest ridden document that Bush proposed. Is it any surprise, after the Bush administration's costly misestimating of Post-war Iraq that Democrats are a bit concerned with doing things RIGHT? Unfortunately the Bush administration seems to equate doing things right with not doing things at all. It's the wrong way or no way!

But what about the Democrats' anti-American, pro-old Europe stance of wanting a coalition? Well its seems that old Bushy is finally accepting defeat there and has begun to accept that America cant go this alone and in an administrative about face, has admitted that perhaps American aren't being welcomed with open arms by the Iraqi people. So the administration now is agreeing to push for Iraqi self rule as soon as possible, something Democrats had been pushing long ago.

Well I have gone on for a lot longer than I intended, and to those still reading this, thanks for listening. I guess I just hope that while watching Bush's propaganda drivel about Democratic anti-Americanism, you can see through his roguish cowboy good looks and gigantic "mission accomplished" flags to the truth that lies somewhere behind.

What is CVS Trying To Hide (other than the condoms and pregnancy tests)?

The other day, my wife e-mailed me after visiting our local CVS:
. . . they have now locked up condoms and pregnancy tests behind glass and you have to ask a clerk for permission -- this strikes me as REALLY bad policy -- teenagers are already scared enough of buying contraception.
I thought this was an odd move, and agreed that it seemed like a bad policy, so I did a little Google search to see if CVS had announced this new policy, but found only this very angry young woman. So I called the store (158 Blee[c]ker Street, 212.982.3111), where they told me that I would have to get authorization from CVS Corporate before they would answer any of my questions. So I called CVS Corporate (1.800.SHOP.CVS) and asked to whom I needed to speak in order to get authorization to ask the Blee[c]ker Street Store Manager some questions about this new policy. I was told to speak with Mike Deangelis in Corporate Community Relations (401.765.1500, or call 1-800-SHOP-CVS and ask to be connected). I left Mike several messages this week, explaining that I wanted to do a piece for this website on what appeared to be a new policy of putting certain items in locked cabinets. He returned my call today, asked me to repeat the name of the blog, and then, when I did, hung up. In case anyone from CVS is reading, here are some of the questions I was going to ask him:

1) Was the decision to put condoms and pregnancy tests in locked cabinets a national, regional, or store-based decision?
2) What is the reason for the new policy?
3) What are the most commonly stolen items in CVS stores, and which account for the greatest lost revenue? (and where do condoms and pregnancy tests fall on that list?)
4) Which is a bigger problem for CVS: employee theft or shoplifting?
5) Who has access to the key to the condom cabinet?

And, of course, I was going to ask for authorization to speak to the Blee[c]ker Street Store Manager. But that never happened, because CVS' Community Relations guy apparently has no problem being totally rude to a customer who also happens to write for a pissant little website. So, without benefit of CVS' input (but not without trying to get it), here's my theory: CVS, or at least the management of the CVS at Blee[c]ker Street, is attempting to impose restrictions on its customers' ability to purchase certain products in an attempt to regulate their behavior based on a particular view of morality. Stupid, ineffective, and offensive. Feel free to call them and tell them how you feel. Just don't expect them to be courteous.

Thanks to Ugarte and Pen-Elayne for the spelling correction.

What's so special about marriage, anyway?

In the wake of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, I keep hearing about the "sanctity" of marriage, and how fundamental that institution is to a working society, yadda yadda yadda. Last month, George W. Bush declared "Marriage Protection Week," stating that "Marriage is a sacred institution, and its protection is essential to the continued strength of our society." (He also gratuitously defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman".)

As a happily married man who supports the rights of same-sex couples to be married, I have to ask: What's so special about marriage, anyway?

Sure, I believe that kids who grow up with two loving parents have a better shot at not being totally fucked up, but does the institution of marriage really have anything to do with that? Aren't two unmarried, loving parents of the same sex better than a pair of dilettante, absentee parents who are legally married? And does marriage change the way you feel about a person? I know couples who have been together for years, and have no intention of ever wavering in their commitment to each other, who are not married and don't plan on getting married. And I know people who are married and hate each other, and would be terrible parents, and I know people who were married for a relatively short period of time before it blew up, and being married made it that much harder for them to extricate themselves from each other without unnecessary additional pain.

In short, the heart wants what it wants, and people are what they are. How does marriage change that, and why do we care whether it exists at all, much less whether gays want to do it, too?

Seems to me, despite all those krazy konservatives harping about its sanctity, Marriage is just another way for the Nanny State to bleed us of our hard-earned capital.

Sweet Freedom

Read about the Canadian the U.S. sent to be tortured in Syria for 16 months here.

This Week's New Weblog Showcase Votes

The following blogs get drinks on the house this week:

Anarchy Xero: Winding the Iraq Deathwatch

This Lousy T-Shirt: The Stupidest Slumber Party Ever

And don't forget to enter (or follow) the first-ever King of the Blogs Tournament!

Just like Japan!

Dobbs at Screaming Points reports on an interview with Gen. Tommy Franks in this month's Cigar Afficionado magazine. Apparently, Franks believes that "if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government."

Well, thanks, fearless military leader. That is certainly food for thought. Here I was thinking that every time we tear away at our Constitutional freedoms in response to terrorist threats, we are giving the terrorists what they want. But Franks makes sense. Clearly, the only way to stop the terrorists (who, Bush never tires of telling us, hate us because of our freedoms) is to get rid of those freedoms. Then they won't have anything to hate! It's crystal clear, now that Tommy has spelled it out:
β€œIt means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”
Like when you have termites -- the thing to do is to destroy any part of your house that is made of wood. Or when your house is burglarized -- sell all your posessions and live on the street. If you lose one arm to infection, have the other one removed. In fact, to be safe, you should probably have both legs amputated too.

Y'know, it really burns me when I get called "anti-American" for questioning or criticizing my [non-]elected representatives, but Tommy Franks will probably be called an American hero by the same people for suggesting that it is our Constitution that is responsible for terrorist attacks.

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Don't send an Oberwetter to do a diplomat's job

Here's something that hasn't gotten a lot of press: President Bush's nomination of a new ambassador to Saudi Arabia (see if you can find it here). The Nominee is James Curtis Oberwetter, an oil industry lobbyist and good friend of Dubya's. What foreign relations experience does Oberwetter have? None. But he is a member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the Dallas Metropolitan YMCA. And did I mention he's an oil lobbyist?

But then again, given the important (though still somewhat unclear) role Saudi Arabia played in 9/11, our dependence on them for oil and investment dollars, and the rising instability within and near their borders, how important is it to have an ambassador there who knows a damn thing about foreign relations or diplomacy? Much better, certainly, given the shape of things in the Middle East, to have an ambassador to Saudi Arabia who has devoted his life to furthering the interests of American oil companies. It's also a great way to dispel that vicious rumor that all we care about in the Middle East is their oil.

But who knows. He'll probably do just as well as the last guy, a Texas oil lawyer with no prior diplomatic experience who defended George W. Bush against allegations of insider trading in 1990, and who, in 2000, received the Mentor and Allies Award by the Dallas YWCA for his role in assisting women's career advancement.

As you can see, Oberwetter may not be the right choice, but he is certainly a consistent replacement. And, really, when you think about it, what better place to send oil industry shills with a strong commitment to Christian youth and absolutely no diplomatic experience than post-9/11 Saudi Arabia? If only we had some sort of agency or department that recruited and trained skilled diplomats for careers in international public service, from where our presidents might pick qualified candidates for critical ambassadorial positions . . . we could call it the "Department of State". Think on it.

Separated at birth?

Can you guess which one is Laura Bush and which one is Minnie Mouse?

But don't take my word for it . . .

Democratic Veteran reports on Richard Perle's admission that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone". Perle is a former chairman of the Defense Policy Board.

Dork Logic

Dobbs at Screaming Points points out Bush's latest bit of anti-logic: "In some cases the massive use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force." GW Bush, in London, November 17. 2003

The weird thing is, I agree with that statement. There is no doubt in my mind that sometimes, to avoid oppression and rule by force, force is a necessary and appropriate reaction. I just wonder which side of that equation the U.S. is on most of the time?

Outgrown the New Weblog Showcase? Maybe you're ready to be King of the Blogs

How good is your blog? Good enough to go head-to-head withe five other blogs in a two-week competition for the title "King of the Blogs"? Good enough to defend that challenge every two weeks? How long will you wear the crown? Test your blogtitude at Patriot Paradox by entering the King of the Blogs Tournament. The first-ever competition begins today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
When the Turkey does the Pardoning

This Thanksgiving, President George W. Bush will pardon a Turkey. It's a yearly tradition the point of which escapes me, but I bring it up because I noticed that the White House is sponsoring a "name the turkeys" contest, in which visitors to the White House website can pick from six pairs of preselected names for the two turkeys that will be presented to the President (don't fret, I'm pretty sure they both get to live). The choices include:

  • Lewis and Clark
  • Plymouth and Mayflower
  • Harvest and Bounty
  • Hope and Glory
  • Pumpkin and Cranberry
  • Stars and Stripes

  • My first thought, of course, was that this year will be the first year that the Turkey is not pardoned. Instead, our President will ceremoniously deny the turkey a pardon, limit its right to appeal, and preside over its "execution". But of course, that won't happen. Compassionate conservatives only kill people, not animals (what does it say about us as a society that many of us would probably get more upset at the thought of the "pardon turkey" getting slaughtered and eaten for Thanksgiving dinner than we do at the thought of human beings being electrocuted or finalinjectioned or hanged by the State?). Anyway, as I said, that was my first thought.

    My second thought was that we should all cast our votes for a 7th option: "Pilgrim and Pioneer". It's alliterative, it fits with the Thanksgiving spirit, it's as cute as the others, and -- most importantly -- it contains an ironic reference to Bush's more nefarious turkey connections.

    Here's something you may not know: "ready-to-eat" turkey ain't.

    Last year, poultry processor Pilgrim's Pride recalled 27.4 million pounds of food products (mostly turkey) as potentially infected with listeria, a potentially fatal food-borne bacteria. The recall, which was prompted by an outbreak (linked to Pilgrim's Wampler plant by the CDC) that caused, by one account, at least 120 illnesses and 20 deaths, went back five months. That's right, the second-largest poultry company in the country had likely been putting listeria-contaminated turkey into the market (including our children's schools) for at least five months by the time the body count led to an investigation, which led to a recall. This despite the fact that the top USDA official at the Wampler plant has stated that the company was aware of heightened levels of listeria in the plant at least four months before the recall, but did nothing. USDA inspectors also have revealed that the USDA aided and abbetted Wampler in its reckless endangerment of its customers by refusing to sufficiently inspect the plant or enforce the regulations. One inspector "accused his supervisors of giving Wampler managers advance notice of USDA's 'random' listeria tests, which allowed the company to conduct 'special cleanups' that ensured negative listeria findings. He said USDA managers downgraded the severity of his reports for sanitary violations, refused to let him file other reports altogether, and quashed his efforts to summon compliance officers to the plant for a compulsory cleanup."

    The CDC recommends that "persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems . . . not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot." So why does the USDA allow companies to label these items "ready-to-eat" or "fully-cooked"? Why? Because the USDA, the agency charged with regulating the meatpackers, is in bed with those meatpackers. Because what drives policy in the USDA is not always public health, but often dollars from the meat industry. Lonnie Pilgrim, owner of Pilgrim's Pride, is a "Pioneer" contributor to the Bush campaign. How much do you think the hundreds who die every year from listeriosis contributed?

    So join me, won't you, in honor of this Thanksgiving's two biggest turkeys, George and Lonnie, in asking the White House to include "Pilgrim and Pioneer" on the ballot. How fitting it would be to see Dubya pardoning two turkeys whose names represent the administration's perpetual pardoning of poultry purveyors whose poorly-labeled products and putrid plants make us puke (and sometimes die).

    Well Who the Hell Let THAT Happen?

    I just ran accross the October 2, 2003 Interim Progress Report of the Iraqi Survey Group (the group investigating WMD's in Iraq), and noticed that one of the "principal factors" hindering their investigation was:
    Post-OIF looting destroyed or dispersed important and easily collectable material and forensic evidence concerning Iraq's WMD program. As the report covers in detail, significant elements of this looting were carried out in a systematic and deliberate manner, with the clear aim of concealing pre-OIF activities of Saddam's regime.
    Before you get all indignant, though, keep in mind that this is not the only factor. The tiny size of potential WMD's is also making the search quite difficult. According to the report, "Any actual WMD weapons or material is likely to be small in relation to the total conventional armaments footprint and difficult to near impossible to identify with normal search procedures." Wow. Sounds like a needle in a haystack! So the key evidence supporting our (former) primary justification for the invasion could be anywhere? In a glove compartment, under someone's mattress, or in a safe? Perhaps even concealed as common household products? Well, not quite:
    It is important to keep in mind that even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in the quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two car garage.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2003
    First Plame, Now This?

    The Pentagon said Tuesday it has uncovered remains from the site in Laos where Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's younger brother was believed to have been killed nearly 30 years ago.

    Well, how convenient that the Democratic front-runner's brother's dead body is found by the very Pentagon whose war in Iraq Dean has gone on record as opposing, just as Dean's campaign is picking up steam. Anyone familiar with this Administration's shameless tactics of lying and intimidation knows what this really means: Oppose Bush or his policies, and your family members' bodies could be "found" in some third-world hellhole. "Outing" Valerie Plame was one thing, but killing Dean's brother and making it look like the Laotians did it over 30 years ago? Sorry, Karl, we ain't buying what you're selling.

    What's next, a severed horse head in Wes Clark's bedsheets?

    New England Gays Can Marry, Have Extramarital Sex

    This morning, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under that state's constitution. On Friday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that gay sex is not adultery (because it is not "intercourse").

    The Massachusetts Court based its decision on the state constitution, and fundamental human rights and public policy concerns. The New Hampshire Court based its decision on Webster's dictionary.

    One small step for gay rights. One giant leap into Wonderland for New Hampshire.

    *N.B.: If the new Hampshire Court is right, the Clenis did not commit adultery with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.

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