Friday, June 16, 2006

Here we go again

Schmidlap asked recently what he should do to celebrate the 4th of July parade in his neighborhood. Well, I've got a more detailed answer for him.

Burn an American flag. Put one on the front stoop of your house and walk on it. Revel in free speech.

Senate committee approves flag amendment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a nod Thursday to a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from desecration, moving it to the Senate floor where vote-counters on both sides say it could be within one vote of passing.

The 11-7 vote sent the amendment to the floor. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said the measure will get a Senate vote this month.

To be considered during the patriotic season between this week's Flag Day and the Fourth of July, the amendment's substance and timing is designed to appeal to veterans during this year of midterm elections.

"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States," the amendment reads. To become the Constitution's 28th amendment, the language must be approved by two-thirds of those present in each chamber, then ratified within seven years by at least 38 state legislatures.

The House a year ago passed the bill 286-130, more than the required two-thirds of those present to pass. Vote-counters on both sides of the issue say the amendment has commitments of support from 66 senators, one fewer than the required 67 votes if all 100 members of the chamber are present.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was the lone committee Democrat to vote for the measure, saying its language was designed to both protect the flag and First Amendment free speech protections.

The committee also rejected an amendment by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., to replace "desecration" with specific types of defilement. Using the word desecration, he said, would leave the government too much power to define the term.

So, they're one vote short of sending it to state legislators and forcing this debate to go on all over the country. One more Dianne Feinstein, who somehow thinks that the amendment as proposed somehow protects freedom of speech, and we'll have blood red states all over the country going nuts approving this. And if they get to 38...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if this amendment passes, I will go to the store, buy a flag, bring it home, and burn it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cost to take a life in Baghdad? $2.40

From the Financial Times (subscription required)

Cheap, high-quality ammunition is becoming widely available on the Baghdad black market, much of it smuggled in from eastern Europe, according to a report published on Thursday by Oxfam.

In a section of a report on the global ammunition market, the charity says the price of bullets for AK-47 assault rifles has fallen to an average of $0.30 (€0.24, £0.16) in Baghdad. This compares with $1.50 a round in Somalia during recent fighting.

Given that victims are killed by between four and 12 bullets, the cost of taking away a life in Baghdad is now $2.40, the report says.

An analysis in the UK of bullets bought in Baghdad by Doctors for Iraq found that ammunition for 9mm semi-automatic pistols and for AK-47s originated from factories in China, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Serbia. There were also pre-2003 Iraqi-made bullets.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What an unrestricted present from FEMA will buy you

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A $200 bottle of champagne from Hooters and $300 worth of "Girls Gone Wild" videos were among items bought with debit cards handed out by FEMA to help hurricane victims, auditors probing $1 billion in potential waste and fraud have found.

The cards -- given to people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- also bought diamond jewelry and a vacation in the Dominican Republic, according to the Government Accountability Office audit.

The GAO uncovered records showing that $1,000 from a FEMA debit card went to a Houston divorce lawyer; $600 was spent in a strip club and $400 was spent on "adult erotica products," all of which auditors concluded were "not necessary to satisfy legitimate disaster needs."


I had a friend of mine who diaried and chronicled his escape which was harrowing, expensive and just unbelievable. He's STILL fighting for legitimate money for cleanup for his home and is living in a FEMA trailer in his yard. Obviously there's going to be misuse, but on the scale that is alleged is almost unbelievable.

For some reason it reminds me of the line from comedian Jeff Foxworthy: "You can't give Rednecks money." But that was more geared at garish taste in decor, a la concrete deer in the front yard.

Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup Befuddlement and Patriotism?

The three-headed Disney monster of ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 are carrying all the games, and they're doing so in high definition. Good for them; high def was designed for sports, as evidenced when I could see blades of grass flying after a corner kick.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of soccer (translated in every other country on the planet to 'football'). Maybe it's the fact that I work globally for a living and all my partners around the planet are enthralled and lost for the next thirty days. Whatever.

Somebody help me understand this one: England's match on Saturday morning is important enough to bump Lilo & Stitch back a couple of hours to give it to us on ABC. Mexico and Iran were important enough to be on ABC yesterday. Let's face it, anybody of Mexican persuasion was probably watching it on a Spanish-language channel; unless ABC offers an SAP button (which I honestly don't know).

Team USA, our own NATIONAL team, isn't important enough to bump Oprah, The View and whatever soap opera pablum is being pandered at 11:00 CDT on a Monday morning to give our national team the widest distribution? Let me guess: Soccer moms only take their kids to games because they have to but don't want have to watch it on TV? They prefer to live their Desperate Housewives lives while their charges are at summer camp?

While the World Cup and the Olympics share the major trait of being a quadrenial event, there are only sixty four games and thirty two teams. This isn't like having curling shunted to MSNBC at 4:30 in the morning because they've got figure skating to cover in prime time, dammit. There's sixty-four games. They're commiting to show them all in high definition which is an investment.

I don't want to be mistaken for a flag waving, sycophantic idjut, but isn't this just one of those things that you do because you're supposed to?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New category of Republicans for Schmidlap

It's not just Evil, Greedy, or Stupid anymore - how about Suicidal?

In response to, among other things, Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth," the College Republican National Committee has suggested that students host "Global Warming Beach Parties" and "Global Cooling Day" events, where you too can ignore the effects mankind has on the world and assist the environment in killing you:

Run a “Global Cooling” Snow Cone Stand

Freeze out cataclysmic environmental scare tactics with a little humor. The Oklahoma University College Republicans gave out free snow cones to students for an event they called "Global Cooling Day."

Stage an event like this one to grab the attention of your campus and raise awareness on the real facts of the global warming phenomenon. Engage with students and debunk some of the myths and cool the hyperbole surrounding the issue.

OU CRs simultaneously used the event to promote their first meeting, sign-up members, and sell CR shirts. A tent and tables were set up at the busiest spot on campus, and OU CRs gave away nearly 1,000 snow cones each day.

Prior to your "Global Cooling Day" event, arm your College Republican chapter with solid talking points on the issue, and then kick-back and enjoy the sun. The facts are on your side.

The page has a link to another page, entitled "Global Warming Myths Debunked", where they attempt to "debunk" exactly three things:

1) Not all scientists agree on what kind of threat global warming poses. They tell us that "Many reputable" scientists think that any rise will be "well within the range of human adaptability". Names? References? How will we adapt? If half the population died, but the other half adapted, would that qualify as being within the range of human adaptability? They, of course, answer none of these.

2) The Kyoto Protocol would not help. They go on to say that it's a bad idea, because other countries' businesses might benefit. There's lots of "facts", and little or no data.

3) They make fun of people's concerns that polar bears are losing their habitats. This has happened before, due to natural causes, they say. Well, sure, but just because I know people who die from natural causes doesn't mean I can kill others, does it? And nice to know that "compassionate conservatism" is going strong.

That's it. That's all they got. Hundreds and hundreds of articles, in peer-reviewed journals, reams and reams of data, and scientists around the world say otherwise, and that's their counter-argument. And in some places, it wins.

For a much more informative response to the movie, read Salon's piece on the issue. (Day pass required.)