Starting a Fight - The Scorpians are better than the Rolling Stones?

As I work around the house today, I have had on in the background 'VH-1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.'

Growing up, if you want to start a fight, the way to do it is say what bands are better than others. I know noone can ever agree on this, but there are some real travesties to this list.

Supposedly the list came from surveying artists and journalists. Who are these people.

Lets just look at the pre-Scorpians (#46 - I am having trouble thinking of a band worse that the Scorpians) part of the list. According to VH-1, the Scorpians are better than:

Band - VH-1 Rank
Primus - 97
Fugazi - 95
Tool - 88
Whitesnake - 85
Queensyche - 82
The Pixies - 81
Green Day - 80
Bon Jovi - 76
Foo Fighters - 72
Living Colour - 70
Megadeth - 69
Husker Du - 68
The Rolling Stones - 67 (how the heck is the Rolling Stones #67!?!?!?)
The Cult - 65
Ministry - 62
The New York Dolls - 60
Anthrax - 58
Sonic Youth - 54
Faith No More - 52
Slayer - 50
The Smashing Pumpkins - 49
Janis Joplin - 48
The Rollins Band - 47

According to VH-1, the Scorpians are better than everyone of those bands. Yea, and Iraq had WMD - no wonder no one trusts the media anymore.

So, to keep the fight going, here are my top 20 (from the list):

My Rank - Band - VH-1 Rank
1- the Sex Pistols - 12
2 - the Clash - 19
3 - the Doors - 32
4 - Faith No More - 52
5 - Living Colour - 70
6 - Led Zepplin - 1
7 - Soundgarden - 14
8 - Metallica - 5
9 - Guns N Roses - 9
10 - the Rollins Band - 47
11 - Pantera - 45
12 - Anthrax - 58
13 - Iron Maiden - 24
14 - Rolling Stones - 67
15 - Megadeth - 69
16 - The Cult - 65
17 - Primus - 97
18 - the Pixies - 81
19 - Queensryche - 82
20 - MC5 - 38

I am only including band that were on the list, I would have includes Black 47, Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Danzig, Fishbone, Nick Cave or Social Distortion, somewhere in the top 100.

What do you think?


Rep. Pocan: Hate is Hate - A must read

Rep. Mark Pocan gets it 100% correct on his blog by comparing the funeral protesters to the no-gay-marriage amendment supporters. Click here to read it all:

What I find most interesting, however, is that Phelps and his ilk are the same people who so aggressively want to place a discriminatory amendment to our state constitution making civil unions and marriage illegal in Wisconsin, which are already not legal in our state.

There’s no way to sugar coat this for my vociferously anti-gay colleagues, so here it is; hate is hate. The hate Fred Phelps represents when he protests military funerals is just as inappropriate as the introduction of hateful legislation like the constitutional amendment banning civil unions and gay marriage. This hate doesn't become any less tolerable just because it's preached by the legislature while wearing suits and ties instead of carrying signs and using a bullhorn.

Funny Thing About Republican Elections...

Best overlooked news story yesterday:

Election Update: Do-Over on First Ballot
By Ben Pershing
Roll Call Staff
Thursday, Feb. 2
House Republicans are taking a mulligan on the first ballot for Majority Leader. The first count showed more votes cast than Republicans present at the Conference meeting. Stay with RollCall.com for updates.

Not Political - This was just too odd not to post:

From NBC 26:

Naked Man Runs Into 2 Moving Cars

Authorities in central Wisconsin had no trouble locating the suspect after getting a call about a pedestrian attacking two moving cars. He was the one with no clothes.

The Shawano County Sheriff's Department says the first complaint came in just after 9:30 Thursday morning after a woman driving on the Wittenberg-Birnamwood Townline Road encountered a naked man walking in the road.

As she drove around him, he charged the vehicle, hit the right fender and jumped on the hood, smashing the windshield and breaking off the passenger side mirror.

He slid off and was laying on the road but got up into a football-type stance and charged a second vehicle as it approached, damaging a fender.

He then opened the door, climbed in the vehicle and sat down.

The sheriff's department says Wittenberg Ambulance personnel got to the scene ahead of sheriff's deputies and had no trouble with the man.

The 42-year-old man, who lives in the Wittenberg area, was taken in for medical treatment and psychological assessment. His name was not released.

The motorists were not injured.

Here's to hoping he gets some help. And that his name doesn't get released.

Good Point:

From 'What's Left' by Carrie Lynch:

Keeping kids safe, so they can shoot guns

Governor Doyle is set to sign a bill passed by the Legislature that would require all kids ages four through seven to be in booster seats while riding in a car. This is a smart thing to do since car seat belts are not designed to protect small children and too many kids end up hurt or dead every year because they are not in booster seats.

So why does the legislature also want to let these kids carry a load gun right after they get out of a booster seat? Doesn't that seem odd to anyone else?

Ouch! Another Good One!

Also Cagle

Kinda Says it all...

From Cagle's


Condi Caught in a Lie...

Here is a follow-up to this post on Condi once again saying that she could never have forseen something...

Here is Condi on her shock on Hamas' victory in the recent Palestinian elecions:

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."


Ms. Rice pointed out that the election results surprised just about everyone. "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing," she said on her way to London for meetings on the Middle East, Iran and other matters. "Some say that Hamas itself was caught off guard by its strong showing."

Yet look here:

Harari, who served as an intelligence officer in the West Bank and then as the adviser on Palestinian affairs to the Israeli Defense Ministry, is still closely connected to his former colleagues, and he said he had heard that, some weeks ago, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who was afraid of a Hamas rout at the polls, begged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to exert United States pressure and postpone the scheduled elections. Rice refused, Harari said, and told Abbas to go forward.

Administration: "Just Because Bush Says Something, Doesn't Mean He Means It"

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.

Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.

Even the people who work for him admit he lies.

Charity Begins in the Middle Class...

Working-age Americans who make $50,000 to $100,000 a year are two to six times more generous in the share of their investment assets that they give to charity than those Americans who make more than $10 million, a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

The least generous of all working-age Americans in 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available, were among the young and prosperous - the 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million. The top group had on average $101 million of investment assets while the other group had on average $2.4 million of investment assets.

On average these two groups made charitable gifts equal to 0.4 percent of their assets, while people the same age who made $50,000 to $100,000 gave gifts equal to more than 2.5 percent of their investment assets, six times that of their far wealthier peers.

Press Release: Petri Votes Against Winnebago County,

Here's our press release in response to Petri's vote yesterday:

Winnebago County Democratic Party: Petri Votes Against Winnebago County, Cuts Medicare, Medicaid and Student Aid.

“Today, Rep. Petri voted to gouge important programs for Winnebago’s most vulnerable as well as those student programs so valuable to ensure our youth prepare themselves for today’s job market.” responded Winnebago County Democratic Party Chair, Jef Hall.

“In the face of widespread support of these programs, Rep Petri decided instead to continue George Bush’s giveaways to the wealthy. Now, when Winnebago County taxpayers wonder why local tax bills increase, when Winnebago County’s most vulnerable wonder where are the programs on which they rely and when Winnebago County’s students wonder why their student debt is skyrocketing – they will have Rep. Tom Petri to thank.”

Hall finished, “Senior groups, student groups, labor groups, the Winnebago County Executive, and State Legislators joined the unanimous Winnebago County Board in
calling for Rep. Petri to support his constituents and reject George Bush and the Republican Congressional agenda of cutting vital health care and student programs for the poor and middle class in favor of continued tax cuts for the top 10% with no deficit reduction.”

“It doesn’t Help Winnebago County, and it doesn’t help Wisconsin”

And, as a special message to Scott Walker - who I enjoy picking on for mistake & typo filled press releases - I do realize that I have the date wrong. I went off a past template and did not update the date.

You got me!

Score One for 'Responsible Gun Owners'

This is out of hand:

A lawmaker who flipped his stanceand voted to sustain the governor's veto of a bill that would let people carry concealed weapons says his wife got death threatsafter the vote. Rep. John steinbrink, D-Pleasant Prairie, said his wife, Roberta, got two death threats via telephone shortly after the Assembly voted Tuesday afternoon to sustain Gov. Jim Doyle's veto.

He said his wife was shaken by the calls. "I know a lot of the gun owners in Kenosha and most of them are pretty good people and friends of mine," Steinbrink said. "This was an unfortunate incident by several people who apparently don't have the mental capabilities to carry a gun or possess one."

This does nothing to help your cause. I am against concealed carry for this reason alone. If everyone were a good person who was concerned about their neighbos well-being, we wouldn't need many of our current laws.

However, as this gentleman proved, we do need laws for the few destructive people in our society.

Had concealed carry passed, this guy would be at the grocery store fighting for the last christmas ham with you, packing heat.

Northwestern: Bush Is a Lame Duck

The OshNW deserves kudos today for this editorial. Some may be tempted to call it Bush-Bashing, but that is unfair. They are really just speaking the truth.

Here are some excerpts:

The moral platform of the American conscience also suffered in 2005. Our president openly supported wiretaps without clarity on how the privilege may or may not be abused against its own people. Even more heinous, secret prison torture camps have been allowed in Eastern Europe nations. We committed these acts and there has yet to be full accounting.

The hope for the nation now must be that Congress gets some new blood in fall elections. As we alluded, those elections will steal attention from presidential priorities. For President Bush, 2006 is looking like a very difficult year, indeed.

Further, a Republican-majority Congress with a Republican president decided to enact serious Social Security reform. Any president would call this a winning combination. Our Congress and president failed so badly that the issue has almost ceased to have debate in Washington, D.C.

Read it all here.


Does this seem suspicious?

Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.

Petri - Leadership?

Rep. Petri released this statement after the State of the Union:

U.S. Rep. Petri: State of the Union "Pre-action"
Contact: Niel Wright, Press Secretary 202/225-2476

"The President is making a fresh start after what has been a difficult year. I think that his proposal to expand health care savings accounts has merit. I don't think it will solve the problem of high medical costs and people without insurance, but it's a start and a step in the right direction.

"His support for hydrogen fuel research and for ethanol is important because we have to have alternatives to petroleum in the years ahead."

On the subject of, really, the international front, on Iraq and terrorism, I guess that the fact of the matter is that we have to hope for the best and deal with the situation as we find it."

Let's look at the statement: He admits that Medical savings acocunts will not help anyone that is not currently insured, or save any money whatsoever on health costs, but says they are a good idea?

Why exactly, MR. Petri? Is is because they do help the very wealthy? That is not leadership and problem solving.

And as for a vision for foreign policy - Petri says to "hope for the best..."

It seems someone might have had this job for a little too long...

Grover Norquist: Democrats Protect Civil Liberties...

I never thought I'd be agreeing with this guy on anything:

This is a must read - here's the money quote:

"For 40 years we always assumed the left would take care of our civil liberties," he said. "If there were problems, the Democrats were the ones who would push back. But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican in the White House, the ACLU can't get their calls returned."

And some other excerpts:

Grover Norquist is one of the most influential conservative Republicans in Washington. His weekly "Wednesday Meeting" at his L Street office is a must for conservative strategists, and he has been called the "managing director of the hard-core right" by the liberal Nation magazine.

"My view on the terrorists is that we should find all of them and kill them," said Norquist. "But we should also protect our civil liberties, which the terrorists are trying to destroy."

But, in fact, a number of prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have criticized Bush and the wiretapping without court warrants as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties. So have other well-known conservatives, including former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Bruce Fein, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Times last week that Bush should face "possible impeachment" if the practice is not stopped.

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says he knows some fellow conservatives have labeled him a traitor for condemning the same administration that instituted the biggest tax cuts in recent American history -- cuts for which Norquist vigorously lobbied. But an even greater disloyalty, Norquist responds, would be to allow what he regards as the trampling on civil liberties to go unimpeded.

"The president's friends are exactly who you want telling him this," said Norquist. "No one else has the credibility. We are being team players by telling him, not by keeping quiet."

Referring to what some see as a conflict between fighting vicious terrorists and upholding all civil liberties, Norquist said: "It's not either/or. If the president thinks he needs different tools, pass a law to get them. Don't break the existing laws."

Sara Vowell is a Great Writer...

Some witty thought from an inspired writer:

On Bush's 2004 re-election:

Thus the election unleashed four more years in which even a goody-goody nice girl, who was raised to believe that "shut up" is a curse, cusses at her morning newspaper with the foul mouth of a gangsta rapper who has stubbed his toe.

On warantless wiretapping:

But let us conclude by looking on the bright side. Some Americans used to waste their free time writing to the White House or phoning their Congressmen to inform government officials of their opinions. Now a concerned citizen may get her point across to Washington about the Iran situation by simply complaining via cellphone to her friend Brent, who called to brag that he met Ambassador Joe Wilson at a party at Sundance.

Dowd in the NYTimes on Injuries in Iraq:

She makes a good point here:

Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, being blown up by a roadside bomb has forced the media to focus on what the Bushies try to hide — all the injured and maimed coming home from Iraq.
Mark Landler's Times piece noted that the ABC journalists came to the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, "on a military transport plane carrying 31 wounded soldiers — about a normal daily influx for this hospital."
As Denise Grady wrote in The Times, the survival rate in Iraq is higher than in other wars, but the wounds are multiple and awful: "combinations of damaged brains and spinal cords, vision and hearing loss, disfigured faces, burns, amputations, mangled limbs, and psychological ills like depression and post-traumatic stress."


Hang 'em High!

This is a simple case,” Hueston told jurors, pacing slowly before the jury. “It is not about accounting. It is about lies and choices.”

“Accounting hocus-pocus,” the prosecutor concluded. “Corporate trickery. Cooked books.”

The Poor are Getting Poorer:

Wages up by smallest amount in nine years
Employee compensation rose by 3.1 percent in 2005

Wages and benefits paid to civilian workers rose last year by the smallest amount in nine years, the government reported Tuesday.
The Labor Department said that employee compensation was up 3.1 percent in 2005, an increase that was slower than the 3.7 percent rise in 2004. The slowdown reflected a big drop in benefit costs — items such as health insurance and pensions — which rose by 4.5 percent last year after jumping by 6.9 percent in

State of the Union in Cartoon

From the Center for American Progress:

A Bush Lie - Red-Handed Edition:

From Comments in Newsweek by Jonathan Alter:

No reporter managed to ask the president about his statement of April 24, 2004, when Bush told a Buffalo audience: "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." This statement was false, and Bush knew it when he said it. The president lied in Buffalo, just as surely as Bill Clinton lied when he said: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." Of course, Bush's Buffalo lie got a tiny fraction of the airplay of Clinton's Lewinsky lie.

Some Other Letters to Altercation - Condi Edition:

If you do not yet read Eric Alterman's Altercation (www.altercation.msnbc.com) everyday - you need to start.

Here is some wisdom from it:

Name: Don Dougherty
Hometown: Lynbrook, New York
Dear Eric: When Condi stated that she was shocked that Hamas won, it was because she thought that the Palestinians were voting on Diebold machines.

Name: Dwight
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
This is in response to Dan in Greer, SC who stated it was shocking to hear Sec. of State Condi Rice profess amazement at Hamas winning the election in Palestine. Actually Dan it is the only reaction she has ever professed since she has been in W's administration. I.e., "no one could have imagined we would be attacked with airliners" and also "no one could have predicted a catastrophic hurricane would destroy New Orleans." For all her supposed intelligence and education I find her to be quite frankly thick as a brick (no insult to Jethro Tull) and wonder why she tends to get the biggest pass when assessing the failures of the Bush admin.

Those Who Refuse to Learn From the Past are Destined to Repeat it:

Stealing another post from Altercation:

Name: Jerome Clark
Hometown: Canby, Minnesota
Thank you for your continuing "Thanks, Ralph" reminders. I know a few of your readers, who would like to perpetuate the hoary myth of Naderian innocence, don't appreciate them. One hopes that one day they'll grasp the elementary truth that a narcissist left is a self-defeating left. No way around an unpleasant fact: Nader's run and Nader's voters made possible the country's calamitous, blood-soaked course over the past five years. Al Gore would have been a good President (may still be, if we're lucky), and thousands of Americans -- not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqis -- now dead would have been alive to celebrate something that, courtesy of Nader and those who voted for him, never happened. Thanks always, Ralph.


Will Rep. Green Vote in Wisconsin's Interest, or in Bush/DeLay's

Petri should expect similar numbers:

According to a new AARP poll, a huge majority of registered voters age 50+ living in Congressman Mark Green’s northeastern Wisconsin district oppose cuts in Medicaid that will make it harder to qualify for the program’s financial assistance to help pay for nursing home coverage.

Representatives of AARP Wisconsin unveiled the results of the poll at a press conference on Mondaymorning at Green Bay’s City Center Holiday Inn.

81 percent of those polled oppose cutting Medicaid funding as a way of reducing the federal debt; 67percent were ‘strongly opposed’ to such cuts.

Opposition to cutting Medicaid funding crossed all political party lines: 72 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats, and 83 percent of Independents were united in rejecting cuts in Medicaid funding.

In the first week of February, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a budget reconciliation bill that mandates cuts in Medicaid funding and restricts eligibility.

FYI - the Winnebago County Board also unanimiously supported a resolution calling for this to be voted down.

Wolf in Charge of the Hen House = Oilmen in Charge of Energy Policy?

While we in Wisconsin are talking about how to fund heating for mid to low-income folks, and Chavez's Citgo is giving discounted heating oil to America's poor and Appleton Public Schools are cutting teachers to pay for bus fuel:

Exxon Mobil posts record profit of $10.7 billion

Fourth-quarter earnings top targets for world's largest oil company

Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and natural-gas prices and solid demand for refined products.

The company’s earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October-December quarter, up 27 percent from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.

Exxon’s profit for the year was also the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor’s. He said the previous high was Exxon’s $25.3 billion profit in 2004.

The company said its average sale price for crude oil in the U.S. during the quarter was $52.23 a barrel, compared with $38.85 a year earlier. It sold natural gas in the U.S., on average, for $11.34 per 1,000 cubic feet, compared with $6.61 during the same period a year ago.

Exxon’s results lifted the combined 2005 profits for the country’s three largest integrated oil companies to more than $63 billion.

ConocoPhillips said last Wednesday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 51 percent to $3.68 billion, while annual income climbed 66 percent to $13.53 billion. Two days later, Chevron Corp. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 20 percent to $4.14 billion, while annual income jumped 6 percent to $14.1 billion.

Petri on Medicare Part D Implimentaion:

Republican Rep. Tom Petri of Fond du Lac said, "It was unrealistic to think people could sign up Dec. 31 and have the system work the next day."

Except, Mr. Petri - you had 2 years to sort it out. You said it was the greatest domestic legislative accomplishment of 2003.

You had 2 years to make sure the kinks were worked out. When Medicare started through the government there were not these kinks. Why? It was through a single provider - the government.

You have not created an efficient system, you are costing taxpayers money.

Feingold: Gonzales Has to Explain Misleading Judiciary Committee

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has written Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in advance of the Attorney General’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for February 6th asking him to be prepared to answer questions about the testimony he offered on the topic of wartime executive power during his confirmation hearings in January 2005. After sending the letter, Senator Feingold made the following statement:

“Today I am asking the Attorney General to explain his misleading testimony during his confirmation hearings when I asked him whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. After trying to dismiss my question as “hypothetical,” he testified that “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do.”

Will Summerfest Become a Free-Fire Zone?

Mayor Barret & Rep Richars make a good point here:

With the concealed carry vote looming, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Assembly Assistant Minority Leader Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) issued a warning to the public regarding the potential threat of hidden weapons at Summerfest, State Fair Park and other outdoor venues under SB 403, the concealed carry legislation for Wisconsin. In the bill’s current form, Summerfest, State Fair Park, and other outdoor venues would not be allowed to protect its thousands of visitors from the danger of hidden weapons.


Assembly Democrats offered an amendment to SB 403 that would have allowed Summerfest and other festival and concert venues from banning concealed weapons on their property. The amendment was defeated along party lines. The Assembly is scheduled to take up an override attempt of Governor Jim Doyle’s veto of SB 403 on Tuesday.

State of the Union Study Assignment - Health Saving Account Facts

From the Center for American Progress:

The Truth about Health Savings Accounts
January 30, 2006

According to news reports, President Bush will devote a significant portion of his State of the Union address to talking about “health savings accounts (HSAs) as a solution to
America's health care crisis.” In general, HSAs are tax-free savings accounts combined with high deductible insurance policies that people obtain through their employers or buy independently from insurance companies. Numerous studies have shown that HSAs may increase the number of uninsured and increase health care costs, all while costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. It sounds like Bush is trying to do to health care what he did to Social Security – placing the burden on ordinary Americans while expecting them to take on the billion-dollar health industry. As such, it is another special interest policy that allows profits and health costs to continue to rise.

HSAs will do nothing to address the increasing number of uninsured Americans. HSAs will not help expand coverage among the uninsured because most uninsured Americans do not make enough money to benefit from tax breaks. HSAs would also encourage employers to either drop health insurance or reduce their contribution amounts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the number of people who would lose their coverage because of HSAs would be higher than the number of uninsured who would get insurance.

HSA users will be more likely to skip necessary treatments to avoid the high costs. Individuals who have either consumer-driven or high deductible plans (both are elements of HSAs) were more likely to avoid getting necessary health care because of costs. Users with high deductible plans were also more likely than those with traditional coverage to have problems paying their medical bills.

HSAs have failed to work in other countries. South Africa and Singapore both implemented versions of health savings accounts, and Americans should learn the pitfalls from these systems. The Harvard School of Public Health found that the Singapore plan "caused financial hardship for Singapore's citizens and ... adversely affected the cost-effectiveness of its health care system." In South Africa, "the cost of specialty care has increased 43 percent, the cost of hospital care is up 65 percent,” and uninsured rates have "continued to grow rapidly."

HSAs will do little to control rising health care costs. Approximately 70 percent of costs in the U.S. health care system are spent on 10 percent of the population – the most expensive patients with the most catastrophic and complex needs. The costs these individuals incur well exceed health insurance deductibles, even for high deductible health plans, and high deductibles won't change their health spending patterns. By their very nature, HSAs are trying to control health care costs by changing care-seeking behavior for people whose health care spending represents a small proportion of overall health care costs.

Bush Wasted Hundreds of Millions of Taxpayer funds in Failed Iraq Reconstruction - Helped Cause Insurgency

Here are some answers to people who say "What about all the schools we are building in Iraq?":

Iraqi money gambled away in the Philippines. Thousands spent on a swimming pool that was never used. An elevator repaired so poorly that it crashed, killing people.

A U.S. government audit found American-led occupation authorities squandered tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to be used to rebuild Iraq through undocumented spending and outright fraud.

Some details:

It describes one agent who kept almost $700,000 in cash in an unlocked footlocker and mentions a U.S. soldier who gambled away as much as $60,000 in
reconstruction funds in the Philippines.

“Tens of millions of dollars in cash had gone in and out of the South-Central Region vault without any tracking of who deposited or withdrew the money, and why it was taken out,” says a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is in the midst of a series of audits for the Pentagon and State Department.

The audits offer a window into the chaotic U.S.-led occupation of Iraq of 2003-04, when inexperienced American officials — including workers from President Bush’s election campaign — organized a cash-intensive “hearts and minds” mission to rebuild Iraq’s devastated economy.

But the corruption and incompetence documented in the reports reveal that much of the effort, however well-intentioned, was wasted.

The failure of the rebuilding effort has been borne out most vividly by the rise of a virulent anti-American insurgency that has claimed most of the 2,237 U.S. military lives lost since the war began.

“Those deficiencies were so significant that we were precluded from accomplishing our stated objectives,” the auditors said of U.S. officials in Hillah being unable to account for $97 million of the $120 million in Iraqi oil revenues earmarked for rebuilding projects.

An October 2005 audit found documentation for the spending of just $8 million of that money.

Read it all here for all the details.

A (semi-)Honest Politician:

"We never comment on security matters, except when we want to."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, declining to comment on reports that Russian authorities uncovered a large fake rock equipped with sophisticated electronics that allegedly enabled British intelligence to download and transmit information via handheld computers

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss - This time it's us edition...

This is from Al-Jazerra, but scoops like this that they have broken have been true in the past - and they are sourcing the Associated Press:

U.S. forces kidnap Iraqi fighters’ wives- Documents
U.S. troops detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in

The U.S. Army released documents that reveal that the American troops have in at least two incidents kidnapped and jailed the wives of Iraqi suspects in order to of "leverage" their husbands to surrender, The Associated Press reported.

The documents describing the two incidents which took place in 2004 are among hundreds the Pentagon was forced to release under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices.

In one memo, a Pentagon intelligence officer describe an incident that occurred on May 9, 2004 during a U.S.-led raid on what is said to be a suspect house in Tarmiya, northwest of the Iraqi capital, according to AP.

"During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," the 14-year veteran officer said, adding that "the 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing," wrote the intelligence officer, whose signature was blacked out on this for-the-record memorandum about his complaint.

The U.S. forces held the woman for two days and then released her after he complained, he further stated.

The second incident, described in sketchy detail in e-mail exchanges among six U.S. Army colonels, took place in June 2004. It involved a number of female detainees who were held in northern Iraq by the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

An e-mail sent by a military police colonel to staff officers of the U.S. northern command, stated that the Iraqi police would not take control of the women, held without charges being brought against them.

Another one sent by a command staff officer to an officer of the unit holding the women, stated that "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband — have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"

Two days later, the brigade's deputy commander advised the higher command, "As each day goes by, I get more input that these gals have some info and/or will result in getting the husband."

"These ladies fought back extremely hard during the original detention. They have shown indications of deceit and misinformation," he went on.

A U.S. intelligence officer reported that in one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, while in the second, involving another female detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the door telling him "to come get his wife."

Why Union?

This from a discussion of why unions may be failing in membership. Seems to me like a reason to be in a union.

In the United States, unions may have done their job only too well. Last year, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector workers who were members of unions typically made 23.1 percent more per week than their nonunion colleagues, up from a 22.4 percent premium in 2004.

A reason to buy American - protect good-paying American jobs:

Consider the ailing auto industry. In the past two months, the top two American automakers announced plans to cut some 60,000 jobs, most of them union positions. That's roughly the number of nonunion jobs created in the American transplants of the German, Japanese and Korean car companies who are dining quite nicely at the expense of the American companies once known as the Big Three, and at a table that used to be their exclusive domain.

The decline of unionization matched the decline of American manufaturing. I disagree with this author as to which is the chicken and which is the egg:

The number of representation elections in American workplaces has declined sharply. And the share of these elections won by unions is down to about half, from more than 70 percent in the 1950's. And even as employment in nonunion businesses has grown, union jobs have disappeared. Companies either moved them
overseas or, overwhelmed by competition, eliminated the work entirely.

I like that way it ends:
Despite the long odds, unions still have potential pockets of growth. In the public sector, where there is little competition, unionization rates remain at more than 35 percent. Mr. Bryson said that even in the private sector, there were still industries in which competition was modest and corporations could raise prices without fear of losing markets to rivals. On economic grounds, these industries would seem prime candidates for union expansion.

What kind of businesses are we talking about? Hospitals would be one place to look. Energy companies would be another. Or why not an even bigger prize? Perhaps the labor movement should forget about cars and focus instead on a company that has crushed much of its competition: Wal-Mart.

Krugman on Abramoff: It is a Republican Scandal...

He makes the points beautifully here:

Let's review who Mr. Abramoff is and what he did.

Here's how a 2004 Washington Post article described Mr. Abramoff's background: "Abramoff's conservative-movement credentials date back more than two decades to his days as a national leader of the College Republicans." In the 1990's, reports the article, he found his "niche" as a lobbyist "with entree to the conservatives who were taking control of Congress. He enjoys a close bond with [Tom] DeLay."

Mr. Abramoff hit the jackpot after Republicans took control of the White House as well as Congress. He persuaded several Indian tribes with gambling interests that they needed to pay vast sums for his services and those of Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay aide. From the same Washington Post article: "Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes ... have also become major political donors. They have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show."

So Mr. Abramoff is a movement conservative whose lobbying career was based on his connections with other movement conservatives. His big coup was persuading gullible Indian tribes to hire him as an adviser; his advice was to give less money to Democrats and more to Republicans. There's nothing bipartisan about this tale, which is all about the use and abuse of Republican connections.

Yet over the past few weeks a number of journalists, ranging from The Washington Post's ombudsman to the "Today" show's Katie Couric, have declared that Mr. Abramoff gave money to both parties. In each case the journalists or their news organization, when challenged, grudgingly conceded that Mr. Abramoff himself hasn't given a penny to Democrats. But in each case they claimed that this is only a technical point, because Mr. Abramoff's clients — those Indian tribes — gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans, money the news organizations say he "directed" to Democrats.

But the tribes were already giving money to Democrats before Mr. Abramoff entered the picture; he persuaded them to reduce those Democratic donations, while giving much more money to Republicans. A study commissioned by The American Prospect shows that the tribes' donations to Democrats fell by 9 percent after they hired Mr. Abramoff, while their contributions to Republicans more than doubled. So in any normal sense of the word "directed," Mr. Abramoff directed funds away from Democrats, not toward them.

There have been both bipartisan and purely Democratic scandals in the past. Based on everything we know so far, however, the Abramoff affair is a purely Republican scandal.

Today in History - Happy Birthday FDR Edition

Today in 1882 our Greatest President was born (I wish we could get him back)...

Other happenings of note:

Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany.

The Tet offensive began as Communist forces launched surprise attacks against South Vietnamese provincial capitals.

Thirteen Roman Catholic civil rights marchers were shot to death by British soldiers in Northern Ireland on what became known as ''Bloody Sunday.''

The civilian government of Iran announced it had decided to allow Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return from exile in France.

The first major ground battle of the Gulf War was fought at the frontier port of Khafji in Saudi Arabia; 11 U.S. Marines were killed, seven of them by friendly fire.

Oh yea, and it is this guy's birthday as well. I think we should pass a law forcing him to pick a different day so as not to sully FDR.

Mark Green's Campaign Manager's Memory Problems:

Great line from the MJS:

Interviewed Monday, Graul was asked about the game and informed by a reporter of the skybox rule. He responded: "The impression I had was the seat was less than $50 (and) the face value of the ticket put us in compliance with the gift rule."

By Tuesday, he said he was no longer sure he went to the

That pretty much sums it up - here is info on the game he attended:

Graul said last week that he probably attended a Feb. 22, 2000, Milwaukee Bucks-Washington Wizards game with Jennifer Calvert, then a co-worker of Jack Abramoff, who this month pleaded guilty to felony counts in a widening probe into public corruption that has spurred calls for reform.

This from the campaign manager of Mark Green - the man who said he spent the $30,000 DeLay money and therefore could not return it. Then followed that up with an excuse that it is illeagle for him to give it back. A little while later he said he would give it back, yet it is still in his account - he just says that he won't spend it.

What a joke.

More on what may or may not have happened:

Green acknowledged this month that Graul attended one basketball game with Calvert "nearly six years ago." He spoke at a Madison news conference on Jan. 11, saying that while Calvert had worked in the same firm as Abramoff, the media should not paint people "with the brush of corruption because of some 'six degrees of separation' connection."

Another former aide to the Green Bay congressman, Heather Weininger, said that she and Graul sat in a skybox at a Wizards game at the invitation of a lobbyist, although she said she could not remember when it was - or who was the host. She worked on Green's Washington staff from 1999 to 2003.

More details emerge in a series of e-mails - which Graul once dismissed as a "hoax" but now concedes are "legitimate" - involving Calvert, Abramoff and his former assistant. The e-mails detail Calvert arranging with these colleagues to get tickets for Graul to five events in 2000 at the MCI Center: two Wizards games, two pro wrestling events and a concert.

In one e-mail, she states that Graul asked her for seats to the 50th annual NBA All-Star game in 2001 and the slam-dunk contest held the day before the game. Under civil laws, federal employees may not solicit anything of value from people doing business with their employer. Graul denies ever asking and says he was in Wisconsin for all but one event mentioned in the e-mails: the Bucks-Wizard game.

Here's a good one:

When failing to come up with specific details, Graul gave various reasons for his memory lapses. He said he's "never kept much of a schedule" except for a "big desk calendar" and he'd long ago thrown out the 2000 version. He also said he regularly attended Bucks games in Milwaukee over 10 years, "further impairing my ability to remember specifics of one game."

Just tell the truth Marks Green and Graul - is it that difficult?