Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Cheap Shot

I know, I know, dear reader (singular). It is too easy….but I CAN’T resist…when two articles like this run back to back, you just have to take the shot. Even though you know they’ll do it better on the Daily Show, or Stephanie Miller later on today.


Yesterday’s big story from the Animal Kingdom concerned Happy, the Bronx Zoo Elephant who may have made history by becoming one of the few biological organisms shown to capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror.

Scientists have considered this ability a sign of “higher intelligence” and, to date, the phenomenon was observed only in humans, chimpanzees, and perhaps dolphins.

A sign of hope, eh?

Well, not quite.

Because that other great elephant, George W. Bush, was in Texas yesterday and told the huge, safely conservative crowd: "However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses".

Now, call me crazy, but with a mounting monthly toll of American dead, a dwindling list of allies, an Afghanistan slipping out of control, and a North Korea reportedly straining to turn its nuclear pop-guns on the West Coast of the United States, I just can’t follow his argument.

After all, the Republicans are solidly in power now, and it would seem that the terrorists are having a pretty good game. Bush keeps looking into the mirror of failure, but failing to recognize himself.

Oh well, perhaps that is only to be expected. After all, according to the Associated Press article, the other two elephants in the test displayed only mixed results when it came to being able to identify themselves in the mirror.

It could be that some elephants are more advanced than others.

Perhaps, Happy is simply a superior type of Republica…..oops, I mean elephant, after all.

Monday, October 30, 2006

For Vermonters Only

I chose the title, not because I'm an exclusive snob, but because, if you don't live in Vermont, you probably don't have a clue who "Martha Rainville" is. And despite what she is telling us about the earth shattering impact she will have on "The Way Congress Does Business" when she arrives in Washington...trust me...you never will hear of her, either.

In case you are curious, she is the Republican Candidate for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat, and she is positioning herself as a courageous moderate in the Jim Jeffords tradition who will bring the Republican party back to it's common-sense-center self.

And yet, these self-same Republican Radicals that she is working so hard to distance herself from are pouring money into this campaign.


Blogger Phillip Baruth (Thanks, Kate, for bringing him to my attention) thinks he might have a piece of the answer.... I strongly urge you to read his recent posts on Martha...Particularly the one about her early days at a Southern, Christian Military Academy. Whoopee!

Find it at: http://vermontdailybriefing.com/?p=449

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rip And Read for Monday

Good Day, and welcome to this week's edition of Rip and Read with Walter Wrenchall. Snakes, knives, and a stolen bus: How could we resist this week's stories?

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Snakes On a Bus? Not quite.

P.S. I seem to have found out how to fix the "comment" problem, so PLEASE, dear reader, drop me a line!

Comments- Checkmate?

Dear Reader

(Note: this in not a typographical error, I know there are only one of you!)

For some reason, comments were blocked on the "Checkmate?" post. So I wanted to include some. Not just because this person was really nice to me about my essay, but also because I would love to see some intelligent discussion sprout up somewhere.


Wow Alex,
That is a great little essay. Scary though. You raise some really important points. I don't want to even imagine a US that has drained its treasury fighting a losing battle that it has no choice but to fight; and I agree with you, this is a battle we have to fight. We can't morally, or safely, leave now. The solution? Again, I agree with your statement: "To me, it seems that we must stay, but turn control over to other nations: allowing, forcing even, the World to take a hand in helping us creating a stable Iraq." I think that our solution will come by some perhaps unforeseen force (a modern day Ghandi?) and/or by a carefully planned coalition of nations. While we have no control over the former, we can plan the latter. We can elect a new leader, who can humbly but with dignity, call an emergency meeting of nations to discuss this problem. The Middle East is a threat to many, and not just the United States. I'm not sure what the solution will be. But I think it will take more than what we can provide at this point. Clearly, our sophisticated weaponry was been virtually useless in controlling Iraq. A multi-nation approach is needed.

Your other point (which I have, admittedly, heard before) is also spot on. We HAVE to stop our reliance on oil. I still get upset just thinking about our current president's short sighted statement that he made years ago: "The American people deserve all of the oil that they want". How utterly small minded. We need our next leader to think beyond their own (and their friends') monetary concerns and plan for the future. I'm honestly not sure that a Republican candidate could do this. It will go against what they believe in: no big government, and free capitalism. But Capitalism will continue to do what's easy, not what's right. And without government incentives and oversight, it will be impossible to effect such a radical change in our fuel usage.

So, we are left with a need to work WITH the rest of the world, instead of in defiance of it, and we are also left with the crucial need to optimize a viable alternative to petroleum. Let's hope there is someone out there with the gut, smarts, and ingenuity to do the job.


PS. I couldn't find a "post a comment" spot after this article.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Yesterday, I received a query from an occasional email correspondent of mine. In it, he took me (and others) gently to task for fulminating about George W. Bush.

“Frankly,” he writes, “I hear repeatedly about all the mistakes made…all the campaign rhetoric. I’m not hearing any answers, especially to [the following] very real ‘what-ifs’…"

Those "what ifs" can, I think, all be boiled down to one question- a very real, and very perplexing question:

What is the U.S. response if, after we withdraw from Iraq, chaos (in the form of internal genocide, increased freedom of operations from terrorists, or an encroachment by one of the “bandit nations”—or “axis of evil”, if you will) results?

This essay is my attempt to answer that question. I will say, right off the bat, that, aside from a BA in history from a small Vermont State College, I bring no particular expertise to the table. I am simply an American citizen trying to think intelligently about the problems that I (and 300 million of my fellow citizens) have been collectively asked to solve.

Because of my shortcomings, I welcome intelligent, well thought out points of view that differ from my own current thinking.

As far as premature withdrawal from Iraq goes, I agree with Colin Powel: You break it, you bought it. I’ll return to this a little later, but right now I just want to say that I, personally, do not believe that we can simply walk out of Iraq at this stage. We must solve the problem of stability before we disengage and return our focus to the real War on Terror.

You asked me to consider the tasks I would assign the next Chief Executive, and I will do so in a moment.

But first, let me say that, thank the lord, we don’t have to worry about that just yet. This year, the job is simply to elect a new Congress which will put the breaks on the current executive team; forcing a return to checks and balances on an administration run wild.

To that end, what the new Congress collectively thinks is not so terribly important in the short run. What is important is that they, and the executive leadership, enter a period of gridlock, replacing one-party rule, and allowing us, as a people, to concentrate on building the political will to do the job right...

You can read the rest by clicking here: Checkmate?

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Plug For A Friend

New York City Stories

Well, he's not in Kansas anymore (nor Maine, nor Vermont neither). Friend Russell has done gone and moved to the BIG CITY, and lives in Chelsea, where you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone that would make a Kansan really uncomfortable.

Not content to just live there, soaking in the ambiance; reveling in the fact that he is no longer amongst the greenteethed yokels; and occasionally appearing in the national media; Russell also provides us with a boid's eye view of the Big Apple.

So, if you want to know where to get great German Beer, find out what it's like to sit in the SPLATTER ZONE of Evil Dead: The Musical, or simply listen to him welcome a baby blogger into the world (like the doctor's slap, it's not gentle!), then I suggest a Visit to NYCStories.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Liberal Media?

The Rush Limbaugh fiasco still continues to roar on. What is amazing is that the so-called "Liberal Media" is bending all over itself to make sure that poor Rush gets a "fair" shake.

If you can stand it, without throwing up, I suggest a trip to Media Matters. There you will find a clip from CNN excusing Rush by making the argument that "he's just trying to fire up a base" and that "many liberal voices are doing just the same thing."

We are? Are we picking on the physically handicapped or mentally impaired (I mean, besides the President?) to ram our point home? I don't think so.

Check out the full exchange below, or visit Media Matters for more garbage.

Oh yeah, and the next time some conservative complains about the Liberal Media go ahead an pop 'em in the mouth.

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the October 25 edition of CNN Newsroom, which also featured CNN anchor Tony Harris:

KING: Well, Rush Limbaugh is trying to fire up a base, like many conservative voices are in this country. Many liberal voices are doing just the same thing. His last statement, where he says Michael J. Fox is out shilling for a Democratic candidate, shilling is perhaps a word some would take as a pejorative. But that fact is, that's a true fact. Michael J. Fox is out supporting Democrats and Rush Limbaugh has every right and every reason, if you do what he does for a living, to point that out.

I think we should take Rush at his word. He has issued this apology.


KING: But, look, Tony, it does two things. It reminds us that in the final two weeks, there's going to be some heated, pointed, some would say inappropriate and distasteful rhetoric. And it also reminds us, though, of the issue, the stem cell debate. It's important in Missouri. It's important in the Maryland race, a few other races around the country. It's a very emotional and divisive issue. And when you have issues like that, sometimes people say things that they later want to take back and wish they had closed those lips.

HARRIS: Well said.

I guess everybody wants to work for Faux News these days.

Welcome Home Walter

Good Day. Today, Rip and Read welcomes Walter Wrenchall back for a special command broadcast. I commanded him, because the current Rush Limbaugh brouhaha seemed to demand Walter's unique blend of common sense. I hope you enjoy him as much as I do.

If the player on this site doesn't work, you can also hear Walter by clicking this link: Wrenchall vs. Limbaugh: The grudge match

A NOTE ON WALTER WRENCHALL: Wrenchall was the star of a short lived webcast called "Rip and Read" I produced back in 2004, in which the old school nuts and bolts reporter investigated some of the strange, but true, news stories living on the internet. His tag-line was (and is again, I hope): We didn't make ANY of this up. We found it on the Internet. So There.

To hear Walter weigh in on God Hates Shrimp Dot Com- click here

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Which Proven Strategy?

Here We Go Again...

The Republicans are in trouble. We read in today's Washington Post ("The GOP Leans on a Proven Strategy" -free, but registration req.) the extent of the trouble:

Some conservatives said it is too late. "They honestly need a baseball bat against the head," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) take over Congress in the 1990s. "Because if they don't change the lexicon immediately, as bad as this election is going to be, they're going to lose the presidency in 2008. I've given up on 2006. They've already made so many mistakes, there's no way they can fix it in two weeks. But I'm worried now they're going to lose all the marbles."

And so the White House invited a veritable mob of slathering, slobbering right-wing nutcases to broadcast conservative comentary from a "Big Tent" on the White House grounds.

This appeal to the zombie-like base is what the Post was referring to when they spoke about "A Proven Strategy".

However, I think the REAL GOP fallback is better outlined in a seperate Post article which also appears today: Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States.

The report cautions that the Nov. 7 elections, which will determine which political party controls the House and Senate, promise "to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 elections -- a divided body politic, an election system in flux and the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide."

If we wake up on Wednesday, November 8th, and find that despite the American Public's best efforts to administer that baseball bat to the head, we are still infested with radical righties...I'll be crying...but I'm not sure I'll be surprised.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Please Make Haste


It is so rich, it is like eating double chocolate chocolate cake. There is only one problem. It's not as enjoyable. Because the dark stuff in this cake came from the back end of a bull, not a cocoa bean.

In an article today, published by the AP and written by Andrew Taylor, we read the following headline: "Hastert urges quick action on Foley". This after the man allegedly swept the page abuse case under the rug for, not weeks, not months, but years...according to the article:
Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl and Rep. Jim Kolbe (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., learned in 2001 or 2002 of an episode in which Foley sent an ex-page inappropriate e-mails.

How's that for "Quick Action"? They've been sitting on this since '02? You go, Denny.

Not only do these people have the temerity to urge "quick action" but they also continue to allege that this is all just a plot to make them look bad before the election:

Hastert and some other Republicans have suggested revelations about the messages were timed to hurt the GOP in next month's elections.

Of course I don't believe it. If the Democrats were capable of the that kind of concerted, coordinated action, we wouldn't be in this mess. They would have timed the revelations to screw up the 2002 midterm elections.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Close to Home

With the disappearance and death of UVM Student Michele Gardener-Quinn last week, Burlington has suffered what still is, thank god, a most UNVermont-like tragedy.

The loss has got me thinking about the questions of "law" and "order" and, yes, of course, party politics.

Yesterday, I got a chance to speak with a representative of the Vermont Troopers Foundation (the State Police Union). I was curious to know why this organization chose to support Democrat Peter Welch.

"Well", was the answer, "Republicans talk tough on crime but Peter has always been there for us in the state house backing us up."

You mean, I wondered, that Republicans talk, but Democrats actually come up with the funding?

I wonder why there are so many people out there who just don't get it?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


There is, as always, an embarrassment of riches from which to choose today. Apparently, Ken Lay's conviction has been "vacated" by a judge. His death before his appeal process was complete makes him "not guilty". This means that the Government can't seize his ill gotten loot! How damn convenient.

Also, NPR reported in a news broadcast this morning, that Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) blamed the FBI for conducting politically motivated searches in their quest for evidence that he may have helped his daughter land government contracts.

"What I find ironic, if there is an investigation, is that no one would tell me until three weeks before the election," Weldon said. "This incident was 2 1/2 years ago."


I find this soooo easy to believe. The Republicans, known for their devotion to Fair Play and Ethics (Florida 2000, Lay, Abramoff,Foley, Hastert....), have obviously allowed their own Attorney General to trash yet another Republican for "Political Reasons"

I mean, it MUST be that....the only OTHER reason that the FBI would act now was that the whole thing stinks in such a putrid fashion that they had no choice.

But it couldn't be that....could it?

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Frightening than Funny

I don't have a lot of time to write today, but I haven't been able to get this cartoon out of my head. Especially as I listen to this morning's news. Pacific nations are beginning to put sanctions in place against North Korea. Certainly the right thing to do, however, thinking about what North Korea may do in retaliation keeps me awake nights.

I think this cartoon is probably going to be the most accurate assessment of George W. Bush's foreign policy legacy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Peeing In the Shower On You Tube?

The world is divided, I think, between those who admit to peeing in the shower, and those who do not. (There does exist a statistically insignificant portion of people who actually don’t pee in the shower. But these individuals are very sick persons who suffer from a compulsive disorder and they need not be accounted for in a general discussion such as this.)

But while plenty of very good people pee in the shower, those who admit to doing so are in a minority. Why? Almost everybody does it. Why not admit it?

Because once you’ve been caught peeing in the shower, whatever else you do, you will be identified as a shower pee-er for the rest of your life. If people see you feeding the homeless they say: “Nice Guy, but he’s a shower pee-er, you know.” If you are helping school kids to win top science prizes, they say: “Very Inspiring, but I’m not so sure about her. She pees in the shower, eh?”

And if you are offering yourself up for public service…forget it.

In an article published today, Reuters, notes that:

“Experts predict that video-sharing and "social networking" sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com, which are just starting to be used by politicians, will play an even bigger role in the 2008 presidential election.”

Many herald this as a positive change, a chance to get the discussion of politics and the control of image away from the “elite” and “the media” and into the hands of “the people”.

But I find myself wondering all the same. Effective leaders do not spring up over-night, nor do they rise from the ashes of horrific lab experiments gone wrong, like super heroes.

Leaders learn their craft step by step: making mistakes along the way; learning what leadership techniques work, and what leadership techniques do not; which phrases move people to action and which leave people cold. This is done, not in front of the nation, or even the entire state, but in front of college classrooms, town meetings, and in the cafeterias of senior centers.

If our leaders are to be deprived of their training ground, if they are to be filmed, blogged, and dogged mercilessly, will they suffer the fate of the exposed “shower pee-er”?

Or will we as a society simply learn the lesson that leaders are only ordinary people (hence ordinary people can be leaders), and that leaders have faults, and that if they don’t, they are probably much more like the man who actually gets out of the shower to pee- actually much abnormal than the one who just lets it rip from time to time.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What the Definition of "Is" Is.

Ah, how Mark Foley must be longing for the good old days when he was solidly accepted into the Radical Right Wing pack, howling for Bill Clinton's.....(ahm, how do I get myself in these situations?) .....head. His Politcial Head, I mean...during the impeachment hearings.

The hypocrisy is unreal, of course, but Slate Magazine has an interesting article today-- in our fear of cybersex predators, like sicko Republican Mark Foley, will we go to far in making laws governing internet contact?

Check this out:

What do you do with snakes like Foley? Some states pursue them into cyberspace and outlaw dirty messages. Georgia, for instance, forbids any "Internet contact" with minors involving "explicit verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexually explicit nudity" or even of "sexual excitement." Actually, the recipient doesn't have to be a minor. He can be anyone "believed Â… to be a child residing in this state." You can charge Foley under this law even if he never goes to Georgia or writes to anyone there. All you have to do is meet him in a chat room, pose as an Atlanta teenager, and wait for him to say something gross.

If a pervert won't act on his words, you can criminalize the words. If he won't utter them, you can prosecute him for writing them. If he won't come to your state, you can go get him. If he has no victim, you can invent one. This is no joke. In almost every state, laws specify that you can be convicted of an Internet sex offense against a child
even if you contact no child and commit no physical crime. In fact, the most recently analyzed data, published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggest that more people are arrested for using the Internet to solicit cops posing as kids than for using it to initiate relationships with real kids. The unnatural has been surpassed by the artificial.